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Posted by on May 21, 2016 | 0 comments

Be the Church

In 2016, The United Church of Christ has a lively new call to action, listing nine ways we are called to “BE THE CHURCH.” You can get banners and other materials to promote this vision of faith made visible in the world at www.uccresources.com.

I explored the theme in a five part worship series, and these are the materials I wrote for the series. I have included the scriptures used, some of which are referenced in the worship materials.


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#1 – Be the Church: Care for the Poor  (John 21:1-19, Acts 9:1-9)

(NOTE: For this first week I used Iona resources and other sources for prayers etc. There are more resources in subsequent weeks.) 

ASSURANCE OF PARDON – Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people have the power to change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”  And Jesus said, “If you have faith, even as much as a mustard seed, you will be able to move mountains. For with God, nothing is impossible.”


#2 – Be the Church: Forgive Often, Love God  (Rev.21:1-6, John 13:31-35, Mtw. 5:43-38)

 

PRAYER of INVOCATION (unison)

Show us, God, a new heaven and a new earth,

   Show us the blessed wideness of your mercy.

       Show us the stunning the beauty of your creation.

         Show us how to live in your light, today and forevermore.  

For you alone have the power to remake us and our world.  

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (unison) – God, we confess that our hearts are hard.  We fail to weep at the deep sorrows of our brothers and sisters. We fail to reach out in compassion to one another. We get caught up in petty arguments, and care too much about being right.We glimpse your peaceable kingdom, but it seems very distant. Forgive our hardness of heart. Break our hearts open as we feel the pain of the world, and feel the gift of your forgiveness. Then show us the new world that is possible.

 

BENEDICTION – God go with you—  to your home, to our school, to your work. God go with you.  Shine in your face. Live in your heart. Speak through your life.


#3 – Be The Church: Protect the Environment, Enjoy this Life (Rev. 21:10,22, 22:1-5, Psalm 67)

CALL TO WORSHIP 

Leader: When we breathe fresh clean air, and see sunlight dancing on the lake,

People: Our souls sing: How great you are, O God!

Leader: When we enter sacred space, and find ourselves welcomed and loved,

 People: Our souls rejoice: How great you are, O God!

Leader: When we discover a still place inside of us, and let you fill it,

People: Our souls whisper, how great you are, O God!

Leader: When we reach out to you, and find you already reaching out to us,

People: Our souls sing, how great you are! How great you are!

 

PRAYER of INVOCATION (unison) –  O God, we have come to celebrate the greatness of little things: insects hatching, and bulbs sending up their leaves and blossoms, out of the soil. We have come to celebrate the greatness of big things: the starry sky and the climate change agreement signed by many nations. We have come to celebrate the greatness of lovely things: friends greeting one another, and sharing food together. We have come to celebrate your own nearness, within each of us, and in our midst.   

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (unison) – Holy God, you promise us a new heaven and a new earth. Meanwhile, we live in a world stained by violence, out of balance with nature’s rhythms, depleted by our greed and waste, a world where your gifts are distributed so unevenly, that some starve,  while others feast. Let your vision of a renewed creation become clear to us. Then renew our hearts and minds and wills, so that we may participate in its dawning.        

 

ASSURANCE OF PARDON – For as surely as springs follow winter, so does God’s forgiveness follow our sincere desire to change. God’s heart is as big as a river, flowing with loving kindness.

 

COMMUNION HYMN – “Shall we Gather at the River”  (alt. words Martha B. Peck)

Shall we gather at the river, hungry, thirsty, dusty, tired?

Shall we find a feast prepared there, for the whole of humankind?   

           Yes! We’ll gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river,

           Gather with the saints by the river that flows by the throne of God.

 Jesus meets us at the river, beckoning us to come and dine.

Shall we gather at the river, tasting fruit and sharing wine?   

           Yes! We’ll gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river,

           Gather with the saints by the river that flows by the throne of God.

 


#4 – (Pentecost) Be the Church: Reject Racism, Embrace Diversity (Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:14-17)

CALL TO WORSHIP      

Wait. Hold your breath. Let it out and listen.

Where is Jesus now?

How will we know his presence?

What are the signs that he is near?

An invisible spirit moves the world.

Flames dance. Voices speak.

And once again, we are called, to be the Church.

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (unison)

(Note: Julian Ibarra Zapata, 20th c. Mexican pastor, adapted by MBP)  in Chalice Hymnal  

Lord, I want to be counted among those who are in the upper room, waiting, contrite of heart, singing together, and unanimous in prayer. I want to be counted among those who are ardently desiring that on this day of Pentecost, (friends, I hope that you are also yearning) that the burning flame of the Spirit of God descend upon you, upon me…that both our hearts be entirely burned, and thus purified. Free from anger, hatred and passion, free from ill will jealousy and envy, Free from transgression, criticism & gossip, free from malice, animosity & grudges…Lord, here are my knees, my heart and my tears. So here I will wait, that with your Spirit you may light my life.

 

ASSURANCE OF PARDON – Jesus promised: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses. The power belongs to God, and not to us. We are merely grateful—to let it flow through our lives, to receive it and pass it on.


#5 – Be the Church: Fight for the powerless, Share Earthly and Spiritual resources (Acts 2:43-47, Mtw, 5:1-16)

 CALL TO WORSHIP    

Leader: Where is the church?

People: Here, wherever people protect the environment.

Leader: Who is the church?

People: Those who care for the poor and who forgive often.

Leader: Where is the church?

People: Where brave ones reject racism and fight for the powerless.

Leader: Who is the church?

People: You and I, when we share earthly and spiritual resources, and embrace the gift of diversity.

Leader: Where is the church?

People: Right here, where we love God and enjoy this life together!

 

PRAYER OF INVOCATION (unison) – Glad and generous God, we thank you for the world you have made, and for all the people in it. Holy and tender God, we thank you for sending Jesus, to show us the way to abundant life. Righteous and fierce God, we stand with you in your concern for the poor of this world. Gifted and giving God, we ask your bright blessing on all who gather in this place today.  Amen.

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (unison) – Forgive us, God, for failing to treat your creation with awe, and for ignoring the wonders all around us. Open our eyes to your presence, and infuse our lives with your power. Forgive us, God, for following the ways of the world instead of your Way. We cling to what is “ours”.  We are stingy with our time and money. Our hearts are guarded and full of grudges. Give us a new vision for a new day. Help us to fight, not for our own share, but for those who have been left out, or pushed aside. Give us glad and generous hearts as we awaken to the joys of life lived in community.

 

WORDS OF ASSURANCE – Friends, God sees deep into your heart and mine, God knows where we are broken, and where we need help. God sees what we are capable of, and gives us courage for the fight, strength for the journey,  and joy, sufficient for each day.

 

PRAYER OF DEDICATION

Leader: Holy God, when we meet people who are lonely,

People: We will offer our gifts and ourselves, to be the church.

Leader: When we have extra food, extra love, extra time,

People: We will offer our gifts and ourselves, to be the church.

Leader: When we see someone being bullied, or excluded,

People: We will offer our gifts and ourselves, to be the church

Leader: When our communities suffer from indifference or hostility,

People: We will offer our gifts and ourselves, to be the church.

Leader: God of many signs and wonders, here and now, with glad and generous hearts,

People: We will offer our gifts and ourselves, to be the church.


© Rev. Martha B. Peck, 2016

Rev. Martha Beckwith Peck has served three churches in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, beginning in 1981, and is currently pastor of the Westmore Community Church, UCC on beautiful Willoughby Lake. She is a singer, quilter, pie baker, and ping-pong enthusiast. She loves to write worship materials and finds scripture an inexhaustible well.

 

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