Tag Archives: liturgy

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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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.

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Witnessing to the Resurrection: Prayers of Thanksgiving

Yesterday, I had the honor of leading a memorial service for a beloved Central member named Catherine who died peacefully at the age of 93. She lived faithfully, she loved deeply, and she taught me what it means to be thankful. In gratitude for her life and her witness, I wrote and led this prayer of thanksgiving. It is inspired by Psalm 136 and by Catherine’s life, and it could be adapted for any memorial service.

May it bring you peace, and may Catherine teach you what it means to be thankful.

Stained Glass from Central Presbyterian Church

O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good,

     God’s steadfast love endures for ever.

We give you thanks, O God,

even through teary eyes and weary souls.

We give thanks for your servant Catherine:

for the ways she touched our lives and hearts.

We are thankful for the time we had with her,

And we are thankful that we are wrapped in the warmth of your compassion.

O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good,

   God’s steadfast love endures for ever.

We are thankful, O God, for Catherine:

for the ways she reflected your light and your love.

We are thankful, O God, for the truth that Catherine knew:

You are the resurrection and the life, and you create all things good.

We are thankful, O God, for the truth that Catherine lived:

You are a God of love and justice, and we are called to be your servants.

O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good,

   God’s steadfast love endures for ever.

Catherine’s baptism is now complete in death,

for her journey of faith in this life has ended,

and she joins you in communion of the saints.

Catherine belongs to you, O God, and her life reminds us that we do, too.

We now join our voices with the faithful across time and place as we pray 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.

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Prayers of the People: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

I love the prayers of the people. Love them. To pray on behalf of a congregation–to bring the concerns of the people to God in prayer–is an honor, a privilege, and a task that I do not take lightly. Below is the prayer I shared on Sunday. May the grace and peace of Christ shine through these words and into your hearts and minds this day.


Holy one who came as a child, we pray for your children everywhere.

        For those who are hungry, we pray for nourishment.

        For those who are fleeing, we pray for safety.

        For those who are ill, we pray for your healing.

        For those who are grieving, we pray for your peace.

        For those who are suffering, we pray for your presence.

Holy three who pattern community, we pray for communities everywhere.

        For those who are divided, we pray for unity.

        For those who are isolated, we pray for connection.

        For those who are afraid, we pray for your courage.

        For those who are frustrated, we pray for new hope.

Holy one, holy three, we praise you for who you are, and we pray with all of who we are.

        Bless our work of faith, that it might be truly faithful.

        Nourish our labor of love, that it might show your love.

         Make our hope steadfast, that we might know your grace and your peace.

Amen.

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Liturgy for Ordination: Celebrating from Afar

You may not know it, internet, but the world and the church are becoming a significantly better place–a place more full of hope, loud laughter, corny jokes, and crocs-and-socks. Today, we celebrate the ordination of my dear friend Cam Thomas to the ministry of Teaching Elder.

Below is the liturgy I wrote for Cam’s service, as well as the declaration from the PCUSA directory for worship. Join me in praying these prayers for and with Cam as we celebrate his ordination from around the world!

Call to Worship
Thus says the Lord, the God who created you, O Jacob, the God who formed you, O Israel,
“I have redeemed you, and I love you.”

Thus says the Lord, the God who created you, O Barbeque, the God who formed you, O Myrtle Beach, (names of ordaining and installing churches)
“The waters shall not overwhelm you. The flames shall not consume you. “

Thus says the Lord, the God who created you, O Cameron, the God who formed you, O friends and family.
“I have called you by name. You are mine.”

Let us worship the God who has called us together.
Let us worship the living God!

Call to Confession
Friends, if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Confident in God’s grace, let us confess our sins together.

Prayer of Confession
God, we hear you calling our names but we doubt whether we are good enough, strong enough, faithful enough.
We hear you calling us to serve you, but we doubt whether we are young enough, old enough, brave enough.
You call us to lives of kindness, love, and justice, but we fall into patterns of apathy, hatred, and selfish comfort.
Forgive us, O God, for what we have done and what we have left undone.
Wash us in the waters of your grace, and empower us to share those waters with others.
     Silent prayers of confession

Assurance of Pardon
See what love God has given us, that we should be called children of God. The good news of the gospel is this: the waters of grace are ever-flowing, and the love God is abundant. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven!

Prayer of Illumination
Holy God,
Fill these words with your spirit, that we may know your will.
Fill our hearts with humble silence that we may hear no voice but your own.
Fill this space with your presence, that we may see you in one another.
In the name of Christ, our rock and our redeemer, Amen.

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7

Scripture Reading: 1 John 3:1-2

Laying on of [Virtual] Hands 

Cam, you are now ordained a teaching elder in the church of Jesus Christ. Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

And the people of God say Amen!

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