Tag Archives: worship

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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In Step With The Spirit: A Prayer After the March

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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.

 

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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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