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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.

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.

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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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