Tag Archives: liturgy

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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A House Blessing

It’s that time of year. Moving time. As I write this, I look around and see boxes in every corner, signs that it is time to say goodbye to one home and hello to another.  Below is a “house blessing” prayer in the Celtic tradition–a ritual that aims to ask God’s blessing upon each room as well as dedicate the house/apartment/dwelling and all that takes place in it to the service of God.

May this prayer remind you to look for God’s presence in every place, from the kitchen sink to the baptismal font.

Opening: Gather in the entrance of the home, near the door.

Gather with Scripture: A Reading of Psalm 16

Move to the front door.

God of our coming and going, we ask that you bless this simple wooden door. Bless those who knock upon it,

And bless those who answer it.

Bless those who enter through it,

And bless those who exit.

May its locks provide protection and safety

But never exclusion or harm.

 

Move to the Living Room.

God of our sitting and standing, we ask that you bless this living room. Bless the friends and family who will gather here and the laughter that will be shared.

Bless the burdens and sorrows that will be carried here and the tears that will be shed.

O God, bless the movies that will be watched here and the drinks that might be spilled.

May this room soon be filled with happy memories and always with your presence.

 

Move to the kitchen.

God of our cooking and our cleaning, bless this kitchen and the meals that it will bring.

May we taste the goodness of God in every apple pie, the body of Christ in every loaf of bread.

Bless the pots and pans that fill the cabinets.

May their warm contents fill stomachs and soothe souls.

Bless the many dishes that will be washed, rinsed, and dried here.

May each drop of water be baptismal, cleansing, and claiming,

 

Move to the dining room or other table.

A Reading of Scripture: Luke 24:13-31

Place your hand upon the table.

God of our eating and our drinking, bless this table and all those who will gather here.

As we break bread together, help us to recognize Christ among us.

As we dine with friends and family at this table, remind us of the people with whom you dined:

The strangers, the sinners, the outcasts.

Help this table to be one of hospitality.

Help this table to resemble yours. Amen.

Close the ritual by sharing a meal around the table.

 

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A Prayer for the Valley, Based on Psalm 121

We lift up our eyes to the hills. From where will our help come?

Image

Oh Lord, as your psalmist once looked at the hills we look at the world around us.

We lift up our eyes to see violence, fear, hatred.

We lift up our eyes to see apathy, rejection, fear.

We lift up our eyes to see illness, anxiety, grief.

We lift up our eyes seeking hope, assurance, peace.

We lift up our eyes to the hills. From where will our help come?

Our help comes from you, Oh Lord—you who made heaven and earth.

For you will not let your foot be moved. You keep us, and you will not slumber.

 

Though the earth should quake with tragedy and war,

though our lives should quake with loss and stress,

your love and your presence are steadfast.

 

You, Oh Lord, are our keeper. You are our shade at our right hand.

When we feel nothing but alone, you are there.

When we know nothing but joy, you are there.

When we doubt ourselves, you are there,

and when we doubt you, you are there.

Remind us that you are there, Oh God—that you keep our going out and our coming in.

Bless us with faith to recognize your presence. Bless us with courage to respond to your call.

Amen.

 

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Remember that You are Dust: Ash Wednesday Reflection

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The quote is from Genesis 3:19, and churchy types will remember hearing it said on two occasions: funerals and Ash Wednesday. The phrase is often said during the “imposition of ashes,” when one person makes the mark of the cross on the forehead of another, often using ashes from burned Palm Sunday fronds. It doesn’t sound like the most uplifting of rituals, and it’s not. But, in my experience, it is one of the most honest.

Two years ago, I co-led an Ash Wednesday service at a local retirement community and nursing home. In a creaky, old, 1970s-style auditorium, my older adult friends and I called ourselves to worship, confessed our sins together, and sang of God’s forgiveness. It came time for the imposition of ashes, and, after saying a few words of introduction, my colleague invited those who wished to receive ashes to come forward or raise their hands, noting that we would be glad to meet them at their seats. Following her lead, I picked up my small, oily tin of ashes and made my rounds around the room. I stopped at every raised hand, and nearly every hand was raised. I dipped my smooth, twenty-something-year-old finger in the black muck and dragged it gently across more beautifully wrinkled foreheads than I can count.

“You are dust,” I told them, “and to dust you shall return.”

It felt strange, even hypocritical, saying those words to people in their late 90s, even early 100s. I felt certain that these people did not need a reminder that they were going to die. It felt awkward. It felt pretentious. And then, four or five people into the ritual, a tiny, 90+ year old woman shattered my selfish worries with four small words.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” I told her.

Thanks be to God,” she told me, with eyes full of both confidence and humility.

Thanks be to God. It’s not the response that I expected, but it’s the response we all need to hear. Thanks be to God for breathing life into dust. Thanks be to God for making us dust, and thanks be to God for being more than dust. Remembering that we are dust means acknowledging how very small we are, how very great God is, and how very much God loves us. Remembering that we are dust means recognizing that, ultimately, we are not in control.

Remembering that we are dust means remembering that we belong to God, in life and in death. and thanks be to God for that.

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Alleluia Cannot Always Be our Song

Calling all Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Catholics!

Recently, a Lutheran music minister, friend, and blog reader asked me to write a litany for his church–a litany for the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, when many churches engage in the ancient practice of bidding farewell to the word “alleluia” during the season of Lent. Without the word “alleluia” in Lent, the church is given space to explore a new vocabulary, one which is honest about the suffering of the world and the solemnity of Lent.

I wrote this litany with the Lutheran hymn “Alleluia Song of Gladness” in mind, and you can view the words and music here.

The litany is written to be said responsively during worship, but I hope that it speaks to all who read it individually as well. What word will replace your “alleluia” during Lent?

—-

We heard an angel speak to Mary, and we sang “alleluia.”

We saw Jesus heal a leper, and his gasp was “alleluia.”

We have seen grace. We have seen good. We have shouted “alleluia!”

But alleluia cannot always be our song.

We see Jesus betrayed and broken, and we hear no alleluia.

We see ourselves betrayed and broken, and we have no alleluia.

We know suffering. We see sadness. We shout out in silence.

Alleluia cannot always be our song.

In Lent, we journey towards the cross, and we leave behind our “alleluia.”

Today, we bury our alleluia, and silence fills its place.

     Silence

Silence will not always be our song.

On Easter, we will once again claim our “alleluia!”

We will hear that the tomb is empty, and we will shout out “alleluia!”

We will see our risen Lord, and he will look like “alleluia.”

But alleluia cannot always be our song.

Today, we bury our alleluia, and silence fills its place.

     Silence. 

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A Prayer for the Airport

Like thousands of other travelers, I’m spending today sitting in an airport–missing flights, rearranging flights, and trying to get from point A to point B with my sanity intact. Here’s a little prayer for the airport. Send it to someone who’s traveling today, save it to your phone for your next trip, or pray it from where you are!

A Prayer for the Airport

Lord, I pray for the airport–
For those coming, those going, and those just trying to do their jobs.

Bless the soul of the tired gate agent,
Bearing the burden of every cancelled flight.
Bless the hands of the patient flight attendants,
Serving up pretzels, Coke products, and grace.

Calm the nerves of the first time flyer.
Hold her hand during takeoff and landing.
Soothe the worries of the crying toddler,
And gift his seat mates with patience and earplugs.

Bless the journeys of those far from home,
Whether traveling for business, pleasure, or family.
May their seat belts click tightly, their meetings go smoothly,
and their welcomes be ones of warm embrace.

Amen.

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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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Calls to Worship: Ordination

I have been honored to write liturgy for two ordination services recently, one for my soon-to-be husband and one for the soon-to-be Reverend Mary Beth. The calls to worship from both services are included below, along with the scriptures used for the service.

Both use the phrase “gather” a lot, not because I couldn’t find a synonym but because I believe the word is so important. When we assemble to worship our God, we come from all places–physical, mental, and emotional–and we find ourselves intentionally gathered around a common word, a common prayer, and a common experience interpreted a countless number of ways.

May these prayers remind you of the God who gathers us all–an unlikely and unruly flock seeking to walk a journey of faith together.

——–

Isaiah 43:1-13 and Matthew 22:1-14

We gather together to worship God.

We gather because we have seen.

We have seen a bush aflame,

And yet it was not consumed.

We have seen the five small loaves,

And yet there is bread leftover.

We gather because we have heard. We have heard God’s voice in mighty thunder

And in sighs too deep for words.

We have heard God’s name on a mountaintop,

And we have heard God call our names.

We have seen. We have heard.

We are here. Let us worship God together!

———

Micah 6:6-8 and John 21:15-19

We are gathered together to hear God’s call,

And to help one another listen.

We are gathered together to feed God’s sheep,

And to allow ourselves to be fed.

We are gathered together to do justice, to love kindness,

And to walk humbly with our God.

Come! Let us feed and be fed.

Come! Let us worship God together.

Peace be with you. [And also with you.]

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Luke 10:38-42 Prayers of the People

Prayers of the People for Sunday, July 21, 2013 (RCL Year C)

Text

Luke 10:38-42   Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”  

Prayer

Like Martha, who welcomed Jesus into her home, we are worried and distracted by many things. Hear those worries, Oh God, and take them as our prayer.

We pray for those who are ill, healing, and grieving. Bring peace with your words; bring comfort with your presence.

We pray for those who are are longing and torn. Speak guidance through your spirit; bring patience through your peace.

We pray for those who feel powerless, and for those who hold power over others. Bring compassion through your commandments; bring justice through your love.

We praise you for the way you love us–a way that calls us to sit and to listen as well as to go and to serve. Remind us that we have not been left to do the work by ourselves, for you are with us along the way.

In your holy name, Amen.

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