Tag Archives: lectionary

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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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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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.

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“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.

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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.  

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Baptism of Christ: Matthew 3:11-17

This coming Sunday is one of my favorites: Baptism of Christ Sunday. It’s an occasion to reflect on who we are, whose we are, and how we are called to live. It’s a reason to remember that we are washed and claimed by a God and a community who love us, and we are marked with an irreversible sign of God’s grace.

"This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."

“This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

The lectionary text for this week is Matthew 3:13-17, but I’ve chosen to include verses 11-12, as well. Those two verses give us John the Baptist’s words about Jesus, and they remind us that Jesus was not what the world expected. He wasn’t even what John expected. John predicted a Messiah who would bring fiery judgment. Instead, Jesus was a Messiah who would bring living water.

Matthew 3:11-17  ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and to you come to me?  But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’

Below is some liturgy I’ve written for this text. May it remind you of the flowing abundance of God’s grace in our lives.

Call to Worship                                                                                

Hear these words from Scripture. “And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” (Gen 1:6)

“Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.” (John 4:14)

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev 22:1)

“And early in the morning Jesus came walking towards them on the water.” (Matt 24:25)

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isa 43:2)

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the waters were divided.” (Ex 14:21)

Let us worship the God of living water.

Let us worship the living God!

Prayer of Confession

God of grace and mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have heard your words of justice rolling down like waters, and yet we often ignore our neighbors’ cries. We have felt the presence of your spirit among us, and yet we are afraid to listen to your voice. Have mercy on us, O God. By your grace, cleanse us. By your providence, help us to learn from our mistakes. By your Holy Spirit, equip us to love and honor you. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Children of God, hear the good news: The grace of the Lord quenches our thirst, and God’s mercy satisfies our hunger. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

Baptismal Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

We truly praise you, almighty God, for your faithfulness to creation through the gift of water.

In water, you provide, nourish, and sustain all life. In water, we are born, and in water we are claimed.

Through water we are connected to one another and to all creation. Through water we are reminded of your covenant promise.

The scriptures tell us the stories of your faithfulness—your faithfulness expressed through the gift of water.

In the time of Noah, you sent a cleansing flood which offered renewal;

through the sign of the rainbow, you gave us a covenant.

In the days of Moses, you led your people Israel out of Egypt through the waters of the sea;

through the parting of waters you gave them freedom.

In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus was baptized and proclaimed as your son;

through the waters of the river, you gave us new life.

Through the baptism of his death and resurrection, you set us free.

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon this water, that it may be a sign and seal of your abundant grace.

May the ones who passes through this water find new birth.

May we know that we are cleansed and redeemed, washed and claimed.

May these waters move us all from sin to righteousness as we seek to live as your faithful people.

All praise, honor, and glory to you, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God who lives and reigns forever. Amen.

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