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Prayers from Matthew and Esther: For Such a Time as This

These prayers were written with Matthew 10:34-49 and Esther 4:1-17 in my mind and my transgender friends in my heart.

Let us pray.

Speak to us this day, O God,
and humble us to hear your word.
Make us still enough to notice your presence,
Quiet enough to hear your voice,
Brave enough to speak your good news,
and wise enough to follow your spirit.

So often we pray to you for life:
to preserve life, to prolong life,
to guard life, to begin life.
Today we pray something else.
We pray for courage to lose our life for your sake,
and we pray for the wisdom to find it.

As Mordecai challenged Esther to be faithful at all costs,
make us hear the voices of people oppressed,
whose stories challenge our way of life.

We pray for your children everywhere:

For your people who are suffering,
Discriminated against because of their race, gender identity,
sexuality, or religion.
For your people who are fearful,
Faced with losing their access to healthcare or treatment.
For your people who are isolated,
Living in the shackles of addiction or abuse.

Holy comforter, challenger, redeemer,
We know that you are in our midst.
Help us recognize your spirit on the move,
and empower us to join your work.

Help us be your church, reformed and still being reformed.
Help us be your people, formed and still being formed.
Help us boldly share the news of your love,
For such a time as this.

Amen.

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Holy Holy Holy: A Prayer from the Lips of Isaiah

Refrain: Holy are you, Lord of Hosts. Holy, holy, holy.

God of mercy we pray to you,
With all our joys and all our burdens.

Holy are you, Lord of Hosts.
Holy, holy, holy.

Your power is beyond our imagination;
Your grace is beyond our comprehension;
Your presence is beyond our senses;
Your goodness is beyond our wildest hope.

We give you thanks for the movement of your spirit:
In the church and in the world,
In the past and in the present,
In our lives and in our neighbors,
In our hearts and in our minds.

Holy are you, Lord of Hosts.
Holy, holy, holy.

Even as we praise you for your power and your might,
We carry the weight of a hurting world.
Where there is pain, breathe your comfort.
Where there hunger, help us share our bread.
Where there thirst, splash living water.
Where there is weakness, help us know your strength.

Hear the prayers of our hearts,
O God our maker,
and hear the prayers we dare not put to words.
Lift them into your being,
Lift our hearts to your presence.
Into our lives, breathe your love.
Into our silence, breathe your mercy.

Holy are you, Lord of Hosts.
Holy, holy, holy.

In the name of Christ,
In the love Christ,
In the grace of Christ, we pray.
Amen.

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Common Ground: Liturgy from the Garden

A few years ago, I planted my first vegetable garden. I fell in love with the way the soil felt under my fingernails, with the looks of surprise on neighbors’ faces when I brought them fresh vegetables, and, of course, with the taste of a freshly picked cherry tomato, still warm from the summer sun.

I often find metaphors in the garden, and, luckily for me, so did Jesus. This liturgy was written for Central Presbyterian Church, based on the lectionary gospel for this Sunday: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.

 

Garden

My happy place

Opening Sentences

Listen, O people, for the word of God,

Giving seed to the sower and bread to the hungry.

Listen, O people, for the word of God,

Growing trees in the desert and fruit in the wilderness.

Listen O people, for the word of God,

Planting faith in the weary and hope in the desperate.

Listen O people, for the word of God,

And worship God with gladness.

Prayer of Confession

God the maker of all things good,

Have mercy upon your creation.

We gather on Sundays to nourish our faith,

But we find the seeds scorched in the light of Monday morning.

We want to bear fruits of compassion and kindness,

But we  fall into selfish habits,

and our discipleship withers.

Forgive us, God of mercy.

Shower us with your grace, and free us to try again.

The Affirmation of Faith draws from several of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings. While his words are not explicitly about gardening, they ring in my head every time my hands are in the soil. Weeds in one corner of the garden mean weed seeds in every corner. Earthworms in one place means good soil in another. Pesticide in one place means poison in every place. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 

Affirmation of Faith Adapted excerpts from the writings of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

We refuse to believe that we are unable to influence the events which surround us.

We refuse to believe that we are so bound to racism and war,

that peace, brotherhood and sisterhood are not possible.

We believe that we need to discover a way to live together in peace,

a way which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation.

The foundation of this way is love.

We believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.

We believe that what self-centered people have torn down,

other-centered people can build up.

By the goodness of God at work within people,

we believe that brokenness can be healed.

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Immigration Sunday: Communion Prayer

ICS

Signs of support for the elementary school students at the International Community School in my neighborhood in Decatur, GA

Today is “Immigration Sunday” in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Especially this year, it feels important to recognize Immigration Sunday at the Lord’s table. The following communion prayer is inspired by Immigration Sunday and the lectionary gospel passage, Matthew 10:40-42, and was written for Central Presbyterian Church.

 

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

 

Thanks and praise to you, O God,

Creator of all that has been, all that is, and all that will be.

From the beginning of beginnings, you have been good.

You formed humanity from the earth,

Giving us life and purpose.

In you, we are beloved dust:

Children of a loving God,

Called, claimed, and redeemed.

Through the centuries you have shouted and whispered to tell us of your love.

You have spoken through prophets and teachers,

Through the life of your son Jesus,

Through the holy stories of scripture,

Through the history of the church,

And through the unpredictable winds of your spirit.

 

You are faithful, O God of Abraham,

And your grace is a cup of cold water,

Refreshing us to our core.

 

In Jesus Christ, you showed us your vision for the world you created.

You showed us that kindness is worth the risk,

And love never fails.

You taught us that compassion will free us if we help it,

And selfishness will bury us if we let it.

You told us that the lines we draw to separate people are ours, not yours,

For we are all beloved dust: no more and no less.

Through Christ’s death and resurrection,

You turned our power structures upside down,

For your love is stronger than death itself.

 

At this table, we are united with Christ and with one another,

through the power and presence of your Holy Spirit.

At this table, all are welcome,

For you are both host and guest.

 

Come, Holy Spirit, and fill this space,

Enliven our hearts, open our minds, and empower our bodies

To recognize you in this holy meal.

Pour out your presence upon these gifts of bread and wine,

And upon all who partake of them,

That we might taste the goodness of our God.

 

All praise you, God of welcome,

And to Christ who taught to us to pray:

Blessed One, our Father and

our Mother, Holy is your

name. May your love be

enacted in the world. May

your will be done on earth

as in heaven.

Give us today our daily

bread and forgive us our

sins as we forgive those

who sin against us.

Save us in the time of trial

and deliver us from evil.

For all that we do in your

love, and all that your love

brings to birth,

and the fullness of love that

will be, are yours, now and

forever. Amen. 

(Inclusive Lord’s Prayer from “A New Monastic Handbook: From Vision to Practice” by Ian Mobsby and Mark Berry.)

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Laughing with Sarah: Prayers of the People for June 18

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God of Abraham and Sarah,

We give you thanks this day for all that you created good.

You formed us out of dust,

Shaped us in your image,

Called us by your spirit,

Redeemed us by your grace.

You surprise us with your presence.

We laugh with wonder and amazement.

 

God of Hagar and Ishmael,

We bring to you the hurting of our world.

As you were present with your servants in the desert,

We pray that you will be present with us,

With the ones we love,

And with all who are in pain this day.

 

There was too much bad news this week, O Lord,

And we know that your tears were the first to fall.

For our world divided by false loyalties and harsh ideologies,

We pray for your uniting spirit.

For our siblings in Christ harmed by gun violence, assault, and war,

We pray for your spirit of peace,

For our neighbors who live in fear, grief, or pain,

We pray for your spirit of encouragement.

Empower us, O God, to be your hands and feet.

Move us to answer the cry of our neighbor.

Convict us to take responsibility

For our role in the violence of this world,

And lead us in shaping our lives to reflect your kingdom:

Where faith matters more than status,

Compassion more than comfort,

Peace more than calm.

 

God of Paul and of Chloe,

We give you thanks for the gift of your church,

And we ask that you make us faithful stewards of it.

We join our voices with the church far and wide,

Praying, Our father…

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New Life: A Eucharistic Prayer for Lazarus

This Great Prayer of Thanksgiving was written with today’s lectionary gospel in mind: John 11:1-45, the story of the raising of Lazarus.

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The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give God thanks and praise.

 

Thanks and praise indeed, O God.

Thanks and and praise to you,

For you created all things good,

You create all things good,

And you sustain our lives through the goodness of your spirit.

 

Through the ages, you have been the God of life:

You brought new life through Eve and Adam;

Covenant life through Abraham and Sarah;

Faithful life through the voices of prophets;

The fullness of life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

You are the God of life, O Holy One,

And you are the God of our lives.

When we are swallowed by grief and fear,

You comfort us with new hope.

When we are certain that hope is gone,

You surprise with the depth of love.

When we turn away from your love,

You call us back, again and again,

With words of forgiveness and a spirit of peace.

 

Therefore we offer our thanks and praise,

Joining our voices with the faithful of the all the ages,

Who forever sing of your glory:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord. God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. 

Hosanna in the highest, O triune God,

For the gift of this holy meal,

The gift of this holy community,

And, most of all, the gift of your holy son.

Through Christ, you came among us,

Lived with us, and suffered for us us,

That we might have life and have it abundantly.

As we celebrate this sacred meal, we remember the meals that Jesus shared,

The words that Jesus said,

The death that Jesus died,

And the resurrection that Jesus embodied.

 

This faith we proclaim is beyond our understanding,

yet we live in the light of its truth.

Great is the mystery of faith:

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

 

We gather at this table as the body of Christ,

Many members united in one faith, one Lord, one baptism.

We pray for your spirit of comfort, strength, and healing upon us and the ones we love:

[Name the prayer concerns of your community]

 

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us, O God of Life,

And upon these gifts of fruit and grain,

That they may be for us the presence of Christ through the power of your Spirit.

Unite us with you and with one another through the sharing of this meal.

Nourish us in faith, encourage us in hope,

And lead us more deeply into the fullness of life in You.

 

We pray now the words that Jesus taught us, saying, Our father… Amen.

Words of Instutition

Communion of the People 

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God So Loved: A New Liturgy for John 3:16

I have a complicated relationship with this Sunday’s lectionary gospel text, John 3:1-17. John 3 is a beautiful story of Jesus speaking with Nicodemus in the night. It is a witness to Christ’s invitation into communion with God, and it is a story that has been reduced to a catchphrase.

In worship at Central Presbyterian this week, we will reframe our thinking about John 3:16 and its surrounding story with words of love, invitation, and hope. Perhaps these words will resonate with you, too.

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Nicodemus by Henry Ossawa Tanner


This Call to Worship draws from scriptures about love, including quotes from 1 John 4:7, Leviticus 19:18, 1 Corinthians 13:8, Romans 13:10, Matthew 22:37, and John 3:16. 

Hear these words from Scripture:

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.”

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Love never ends.”

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

“God so loved the world.”

God so loves the world.

Let us worship the God of love and life.

 

Prayer of Confession

Holy one, holy three,

The winds of your Spirit beckon us to follow,

but we cannot hear the wind over the noise we have created.

Again and again, you call us to believe.

Again and again, we look the other way.

You offer us freedom, but we choose independence,

Pretending that we have ultimate control.

You offer us life, but we find ourselves perishing,

Buried under the weight of our own self-interest.

Forgive us, God of life.

Heal us, and bring us peace.  

Silence and kyrie

 

Assurance of Pardon

God so loved the world that God would come among us,

Become one of us, live with us, and suffer for us,

That we might have life and have it abundantly.

Hear this good news:

God loves us, God forgives us, and God calls us to try again.  

Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

Affirmation of Faith                  Excerpts Adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism (1562)

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own,

but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—

to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

What is true faith?

True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true

all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;

it is also a wholehearted trust,

which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel,

that God has freely granted,

not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins,

eternal righteousness, and salvation.

These are gifts of sheer grace,

granted solely by Christ’s merit.

But why are you called a Christian?

Because by faith I am a member of Christ

and so I share in his anointing.

I am anointed to confess his name,

to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks,

to strive with a free conscience against sin and evil in this life,

and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for eternity.

Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace through Christ without any merit of our own,

why then should we do good works?

Because Christ, having redeemed us,

is also restoring us by his Spirit into his image,

so that with our whole lives

we may show that we are thankful to God for God’s benefits,

so that God may be praised through us.

Amen.

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