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.

comp-henry-ossawa-tanner-nicodemus-jesus-at-night-academy-of-fa-phila

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under call to worship, liturgy, prayer, Uncategorized

Transfiguration: Prayers of the People

These Prayers of the People were written for Transfiguration Sunday and are framed by the New Testament lectionary reading from Matthew 17. Throughout the prayer, a second voice reads excerpts from the text.

May these words bring you a glimpse of the light of God’s glory.

7bac3e35-23b8-4cea-ae61-1b5df6b8e8da

“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.”

As we hear your story of transformation, O God,

we pray for your Spirit to transform us.

Transform our eyes to see the light of your glory.

Transform our hearts to feel the goodness of your presence.

Transform our minds to understand a fraction of your will.

Transform our world to recognize the ties that bind us to one another.

“Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’”

We give thanks, O Holy One,

for the goodness of your words, the goodness of your world,

and the goodness of your Spirit who beckons us to follow.

Give us the mind of Peter, to recognize that we stand on holy ground.

Give us the humility to proclaim, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

Like Peter, we want to built a tent on the mountain top,

away from the problems and distractions of the world.

Just as you did for Peter, O God,

let us sit in your glory just long enough to recharge for the journey,

and then send us out for your service in your world.

“While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;  with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’”

Holy one, you sent Christ, your son, your beloved,

to show us that we, too, are your children.

Make us know, O God, that our worth does not come from our work.

Our performance on tests or tasks or job interviews does not determine our value.

Our worth, our identity, our very being, comes from you, O God of grace.

In your image, we are created.

In your grace, we are redeemed.

In your community, we are loved.

In your spirit, we are called.

“When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’”

As the disciples were, O God, we are overcome by fear, anxiety, grief, or sadness.

Pour your healing into our wounds.

Breathe your goodness into our doubts.

Touch us, heal us, and bring us peace.

We lift before you the people in our church and in our world

who are hurting:

[Name the prayer concerns of your community, and allow room for silence.]

 

“And when the disciples looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.”

Give us the hope and faith, O holy one,

to look and up and see your presence around around us.

Give us the strength to know that we are not alone.

We join our voices with your disciples across all times and places as we pray, “Our father…” 

Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under liturgy, prayer, Uncategorized

In Step With The Spirit: A Prayer After the March

img_7919

Atlanta Women’s March, January 21, 2017

This prayer was written for worship at Central Presbyterian Church the day after the international marches for women and social justice, inspired by the gospel lectionary for the day: Matthew 4:17-23.

Holy one and holy three,

We give you thanks for your presence in this place,

For your call in our lives,

For your gifts in this world.

 

We pray, O God,

That we may hear and follow your voice.

Guide us as we seek to walk toward love and away from hate;

Toward freedom and away from oppression;

Toward justice and away from mere comfort;

Toward community and away from isolation.

Move us, O God, to walk in step with your spirit.

 

Keep us humble, O Christ.

Remind us not to walk alone,

For you never called the disciples to walk alone.

Lead us to walk together, hand in hand,

Supporting one another and reminding one another

To walk in step with your spirit.

 

We pray for our nation’s leaders,

And all who have great power in this world.

Move them, O God, to walk in step with your spirit.

 

We pray for all who feel the tug of your calling

After the weekend’s marches.

Challenge us, O God, to continue to march for a new way,

Not only in organized crowds,

But in our daily walks in and out of the workplace,

The bank,

The voting booth,

And the school.

Move us, O God, to walk in step with your spirit.

 

In the name of one who called us to follow in his steps,

Amen.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under liturgy, prayer, Uncategorized

Call to Worship for Ordinary Time

Hear, people of God!

God is speaking through winds and voices,

Calling us to follow and serve.

See, people of God!

God is moving through the church and the world,

Showing us how to love and lead.

Believe, people of God!

God is working through all creation,

Drawing us into the warmth of the spirit.

Worship, people of God!

Let us worship God together.  

Leave a comment

Filed under call to worship, liturgy

Do Not Let Us Miss It: A New Year’s Prayer

God of new life,
We give you thanks for this day: the first in a new year of life and faith.

If we have learned from the lesson of years past,
We can guess what this year might hold.
There will be joy, and there will be heartbreak.
There will be mistakes, and there will be achievements.
There will be hands to hold, tears to dry, stories to tell, and grace to receive.
Do not let us miss it, God.

Open our eyes, that we might recognize your presence around us.
Open our ears, that we might hear your voice in the words of our neighbor.
Open our hearts, that we might feel the depth of your love for this world.
Open our minds, that we might discover more of who you are.

On this day of New Year’s resolutions,
Forgive us the promises we make and do not keep.
Remind us of the eternal promises spoken at our baptisms:
You are our God, and we are your beloved.

When we look back upon this year,
May we remember more than the services we planned,
The lessons we taught,
Or the to-do lists we tackled.
May we remember the glimpses of your reign:
The holy moments when you broke in around us,
And filled our lives with your grace.

God of this new year,
Do not let us miss it.

Amen.

This prayer was featured on the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators’ online journal, The Advocate

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Advent Candle Litanies, 2016

This is my third Advent as a pastor at Central Presbyterian, and I’ve had the joy of writing advent candle litanies every year. I am glad to share this year’s litanies with the church and the world. As the words build and change each week, I pray that they guide you on your journey toward the manger.

First Sunday of Advent:

As we light the Advent candles,

We awaken our spirits to the coming of God.

Remembering the shalom of God,

We light a candle for peace.

In peace we pray, and in peace we sing,

Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

 

Second Sunday of Advent:

As we light the Advent candles,

We awaken our spirits to the coming of God.

Remembering the shalom of God,

We light a candle for peace.

Leaning on the promise of God,

We light a candle for hope.

In hope we pray, and in hope we sing,

Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

 

Third Sunday of Advent:

As we light the Advent candles,

We awaken our spirits to the coming of God.

Remembering the shalom of God,

We light a candle for peace.

Leaning on the promise of God,

We light a candle for hope.

Basking in the presence of God,

We light a candle for love.

In love we pray, and in love we sing,

Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent:

As we light the Advent candles,

We awaken our spirits to the coming of God.

Remembering the shalom of God,

We light a candle for peace.

Leaning on the promise of God,

We light a candle for hope.

Basking in the presence of God,

We light a candle for love.

Awaiting the coming of God once more,

We light a candle for joy.

In joy we pray, and in joy we sing,

Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

 

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day:

As we light the Advent candles,

We awaken our spirits to the coming of God.

Remembering the shalom of God,

We light a candle for peace.

Leaning on the promise of God,

We light a candle for hope.

Basking in the presence of God,

We light a candle for love.

Awaiting the coming of God once more,

We light a candle for joy.

Living the Christmas story again,

We light the candle of Christ.

In Christ we pray and in Christ we sing,

Glory to God in the highest!  

Alleluia! Amen.  

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, liturgy, Uncategorized

Write Songs and Help Us Sing Them: A Prayer for Election Season

 

This prayer was written for worship at Central Presbyterian on October 23. The prayer is inspired and shaped by Luke 18:9-14–an exaggerated parable about the exalted and the humble–and by our current election season–a lived experience that feels like an exaggerated parable.

As you read the prayer, I pray that you feel the words in the core your being, and know that the words as true for you as they were for the tax collector in Luke 18. God is love, and you are beloved.

O God of justice and mercy,

We give you thanks:

For your spirit breathing life into the world,

For your Word bringing hope into our hearts.

You alone are God, and we are not alone.

You are Love, and we are beloved.

You are Creator, and we are created.

You are our God, and we are your people.

 

Give us a glimpse of your vision for the world:

Where the humble are exalted,

The exalted are humble,

And mercy flows like water.

 

Motivate us to reflect your love to all we meet:

Even those who we are sure are wrong.

Challenge us to see the good.

Convict us to hold ourselves accountable.

Inspire us to work for your peace and justice.

As we hear the reports on battleground states,

Remind us of people for whom “battleground” means something different.

We pray for your children in Yemen, in Aleppo,

And for the ones seeking refuge around the world.

 

Where there is war, O God, plants seeds of peace,

and help us water them.

Where there is violence, O God, write songs of compassion,

and help us sing them.

Where there is suffering, O God, paint banners of hope,

and help us carry them.

We remember the people in our church family

Who are in special need this day:

(Name your own prayer concerns.)

 

 

Breathe peace, deep peace, O God,

And empower us to care for one another

With a compassion that comes from you.

We join our voices now with the faithful across time and place,

Praying the prayer that Jesus taught us, saying,

Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.

Amen.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized