Worship Words-A Sermon for the Saints


Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.


Psalm 119:1-8

Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.

Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,

who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.

You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.

O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.

I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.



On All Saints’ Sunday, we usually spend our time thinking about faithful people who have died. We read out loud the names of all our church members who have died this year. We remember the gifts they have shared with our church. We remember famous Christians who have died and are thankful for all they did for the church. We remember people from around the world who died in the last 12 months-ordinary people like us whose names we will never know. We remember our ancestors in the faith who boldly proclaimed the good news. All of these things are important and good to do. We should remember all of these people. Absolutely. Yet, this is only ⅓ of what we need to do today.


We need to remember the saints of the past.  This is part one. Part 2 of our task for today is looking around and seeing the saints with us today…ourselves, our church family, and the faithful around the world. Too often, we think the saints are the perfect people and we would never put ourselves in that category. The saints of God are everyone who tries to follow God. So, look around at all the saints here this morning.


And, we need to hope and pray for the saints who are not here yet-those faithful people who will keep the good news alive and strong long after we are all gone. We are charged to plant seeds-to pave the way for the future and prepare for the future saints even knowing we may never meet them. This is part three. When we focus on the past, present, and future saints, our vision is expanded and is closer to how God sees. Unfortunately, we struggle to look to the past, present, and future. More often, we get stuck in one or maybe two of these places and fail to see the rest.


For some of us, we fondly remember the good old days when… In the article, Developing a Missional Mindset by Don Detrick, he said this about churches. “When our memories of the past are more exciting than our vision for the future, we have begun to die.” This article was not telling us to abandon our past and look only to the future. It was urging us not to live in the past. When we spend all our time reminiscing, there is little time left to enjoy today or plan for the future.


For others of us, we look too much to the future-worried or wondering what will happen in 5, 10, 20 years. What is our 5 year plan? Where will we be in 10 years? These are important questions and need to be asked. When we get so excited or terrified about what is coming, we can neglect to see what is happening now or where we have been.


And others of us live only in the now. The present is all that matters because it is happening now. It is exciting, challenging, and always changing. We have no use for the past because it is over and no need for the future because it hasn’t happened yet!


Story is one way to help us to keep this three-fold focus. What is your story? From whom and where did you come? When did your ancestors first settle in this land? How did your parents meet? When and where were you baptized? This is part of your story. From your past and the past of your ancestors, you have become the you of today.


Speaking of the you of today-your story now includes-What do you enjoy doing today? Who are your friends and relatives who make life sweeter for you? How would you describe yourself-electrician, grandparent, student, cat lover, comedian, friend, disciple of Jesus? What do you do with your free time? How do you spend your money? What makes you laugh? These are the now parts of your story.


The future part of your story is still unfolding. What will you do in the coming days and years? What are you doing or have you done that will live on after you are gone? Some answers to this might be easy like children you’ve raised or books you’ve written. We do not know all the times and ways we have left impressions on people. Our future is part of our story. Our past, our present, and our future combine to become our story.


What about God’s story? This is the story our ancestors were commanded to pass on in our reading from Deuteronomy. They were commanded to observe the commandments and keep God’s story alive. The 10 Best Ways to Live are not something we memorize and then forget. They are how we live. We live them by loving God all the days of our lives. By writing God’s story on our hearts, so it is with us always. Tell them to the next generation-those who will follows us in the faith. We tell the stories of God when we are here at church and when we are not here (which is the majority of the time!)


God invites the Israelites to a new way a living, so “It may go well with them and their days may be long.” God doesn’t say life will be easy or exciting-instead God offers community and relationship. All Saints’ Sunday reminds us we do not journey alone. God is with us. Also, we are not the first saints on this journey. We are surrounded by such a great multitude of faithful people who have journeyed before us.


We need these saints of the past to remind us that while much of our life feels ordinary, God is still with us. It is in the dish washing and lawn mowing times of life that we can share and remember these stories of God. In the carpool lanes and grocery store aisles, we can pray for those around us that they may know the grace of God. God’s presence in the regular lives of faithful is summed up in the great All Saints’ Day hymn-I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.


I sing a song of the saints of God,

Patient and brave and true

Who toiled and fought and lived and died

for the Lord they loved and knew.

And one was a doctor and one was a queen

and one was a shepherdess on the green

They were all of them saints of God

and I mean, God help me to be one too.

They lived not only in ages past

There are hundreds of thousands still

They world is bright with the joyous saints

Who love to do Jesus’ will

You can meet them in school or in lanes or at seas

In church or in trains or in shops or at tea

For the saints of God are just folk like me

And I mean to be one too.


I remember singing this song with a great group of women-all of them old enough to be my grandmother at the women’s fellowship meetings when I was a child. We sang together-many songs including this one and when our worship and program time was over, we ate delicious desserts together. Each of these women knew my name and my story. They were interested in me and in telling me the faith stories that meant so much to them. When I sing this song, I remember those women and am grateful for their faith that they passed along to me.


If your story and God’s story seem separate or far apart, today is a great day to begin to weave them together. As you focus on your past, present, and future, God longs to be a part of it. And the saints gathered here want to know you better and join their stories with yours. When we link our stories together as Christians, we add in not only our stories, but the stories with all who have faithfully gone before us and those who will follow after us. Where else do you have the opportunity to form relationships with so many different and interesting people?
So, please tell the stories of our faith, and live our faith as we continue in the amazing tradition started by God, followed by our ancestors in the faith that will be carried on by generations of faithful in the future.Thanks be to God for all the saints. Amen.


A version of this sermon was originally preached at St. Giles Presbyterian Church on November 4, 2012.





Two saints in Edinburgh, Scotland in October, 2005.

Worship Words-Our Offering


Presentation of Tithes and Offering

All that we have is a gift from God. This time is our opportunity to return back to God an offering of thanksgiving for the gifts we have in our lives. Give generously so that we may share God’s love with many.


Prayer of Dedication

Receive our best, gracious God, as we offer ourselves along with these offerings of thanksgiving. Establish your rule in our midst so we may proclaim your reign in the world. Send us where you need us most. Use our gifts to reduce alienation and to build community. Be to us a watchful Parent, and teach us to live as siblings who find you in one another and respond in love to each other’s needs. Amen.

Worship Words-Surrounded by Saints

To celebrate All Saints’ Day 2012, my congregation created memory pages. Each page had space for a picture, the name of the saint, one’s relationship to the saint, and a special memory. We hung purple ribbon on the walls of the sanctuary and affixed the memory pages to the ribbon. For a month, we were surrounded by pictures and memories of saints we had known and loved.





Here is the introduction to the hanging of the memory pages and the prayer we prayed together.

All Saints’ Day has always been one of my favorite church holidays. In recent years, it has become especially more important to me as more and more people I love have moved from saints on earth to saints triumphant. It is no longer an abstract holiday celebrating my ancestors in the faith. It is a day when I remember those who walked with me on my faith journey who are no longer walking with me on earth. Today is a day we remember those we love. Now, you are invited to go to one of the ribbons and hang up your memory page. When you are done, please return to your seat and we’ll pray together.
God of the ages, You know each of us and you know all who have ever lived and you love us all. Today, we give you thanks for those we love. For our family and friends still with us and the ones with You. For all your children remembered on the walls of our sanctuary, we say thank you. Thank you, God, for bringing them into our lives and us into their lives. Thank you for the laughter and good memories. Thank you for the friendship and love. Thank you for the time we shared together. Thank you, Gracious God, for giving us so many people who taught us about you, who loved us, who fed us your Word and delicious foods too. You know we love them and miss them. We remember and we say thank you, God. Amen.



Orange Chocolate Sweet Spice

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This tea sounds delicious. Orange, yum! Chocolate, yum! Sweet Spice, yum! It smells very chocolatey. The taste is mostly chocolate as well. However, it is not a rich, deep chocolate taste. Since I wanted some orange flavors, I added a bag of Orange Zinger. While I liked it better with the Orange Zinger, I’d rather just have a cup of Orange Zinger. So, I’m going to have to give this tea a thumbs down for not delievering the orange and chocolate goodness promised on the packaging.

Worship Words-Jesus, Have Mercy!

In our gospel reading for this Sunday, Mark 10:46-52, Bartimaeus who is identified as a blind beggar cries out to Jesus and asks for mercy. “Jesus, have mercy on me,” he shouts. When I read this passage today, I thought about the many times I need to shout, “Have mercy on me.” And, the many times I need to whisper to myself, “Have mercy on yourself. Be kind to yourself. You are God’s beloved and all those things for which you blame yourself are weighing you down. Jesus, have mercy on me as I try to have mercy on myself.”


What I love about this story is that people tried to get Bartimaeus to be quiet. Does he listen? No, he gets louder. He advocates for what he needs. Too often, I keep quiet when I need to speak out on my own behalf. If this applies to you too, I invite you to read this story, admire Bartemaeus’ bravery, his faith in Jesus, and his wisdom in knowing that he deserved to be heard. After reading this story, pray this prayer with me.


Jesus, have mercy on me.

Jesus, have mercy on us.

Give us the courage to speak up with strong voices when we aren’t being heard. Remind us that we all need to stand up for ourselves to ensure our basic needs are met and we are treated with respect.


(Louder this time)

Jesus, have mercy on me.

Jesus, have mercy on us.

Give us the courage to speak up with strong voices when we aren’t being heard as we shine light on injustice in the world. Remind us that we all need to stand up for each other to ensure everyone’s basic needs are met and every one of us is treated with respect.


(Even louder this time.)

Jesus, have mercy on me.

Jesus, have mercy on us.

Jesus, we are going to keep crying out until our faith makes everyone in this wonderful, unequal, hope-filled, and needy world well.


A Reflection on Wedding Month


This month I have the privilege of officiating two weddings. It is a joy to have a part in these special days and as I was preparing for their services I decided to reread my wedding service. Reading these words reminds me of all the people who came to support us as we entered into this covenant. Also, it reminds me (after more than 8 years of marriage) of the many people in my life who have only known me as married.

I am unable to give credit to those who wrote some of these words. I know they were picked and pulled from a variety of sources, written by us, and written by our officiant, the always amazing, Rev. Kristi Foster.

In the spirit of wedding month, I share these special words with you.



Selected music

The two mothers will be escorted into the church and brought forward to each light one of the candles, representing each of their children.  



Richard and his attendants will walk onto the altar with Pastor Kristi.  After the attendants are in place, the bridesmaids will process down the aisle: Elizabeth, Heather, Julie, Becky.  Then the music will change and Susannah will process down the aisle. After taking her place, Susannah will hand her bouquet to Becky and she and Richard will face each other and join hands.



I greet you in the name of Christ. My friends, we have come together from many places on this day, to join together the love of Richard and Susannah in the celebration of marriage. We witness, by our joy, that the happiness these two find in one another is unique. And yet, it is no more than the happiness which all people might find. For life is a dance, and marriage is the choosing of eternal partners for that dance. We are here, above all, to worship God—creator of both the dance and the dancers. We rejoice that God brings God’s people together as one in the Spirit. Love has brought them together, and so it will keep them together.


Opening Prayer

O Loving God, out of this complex world you have drawn together these two persons, and are binding them in love. As we contemplate these moments of worship with them, may we approach its mystery in reverence, its goodness with rejoicing, its meaning with celebration, and its holiness with respect. We thank you for the homes in which Susannah and Richard have been cared for. We thank you for the parents who have sacrificed on their behalf, and for families and friends who have loved them. Lord, we ask your blessing on these two partners, as they affirm the choice they have made of each other as life’s mate. Give them a seriousness of purpose, that they will be delivered from empty words and casual commitments. Increase their faith and love all the days of their lives. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.


Declarations of Intent

Recognizing that marriage is not the end of two people and the formation of one, but the joining of two individuals who, while they become one with another, are still one from another, I call on you both now, in the presence of God, and your families and friends, to give expression to the commitment which was long ago formed between you.  


Susannah, will you have Richard to be your wedded husband and live together in one love?  Will you honor and comfort him, share his joy and his sorrow, always endeavoring to understand his needs and will you cherish his love forever?  If so, please say, “I will.”


Susannah:  I will.


Richard, will you have Susannah as your wife and will you promise to love her always, not through duty or obligation, but through integrity, respect, and faithful consideration?  And do you promise to live, and especially to work, with her, in order to share and spread you love throughout your lives?  If so, please say, “I will.”


Richard:  I will


Family and Friends Support Time (From Kristi)

Pledge of Support

Will the families of Susannah and Richard please stand in support of this couple?

Do each of you offer your prayerful blessing and loving support to this marriage? If so, please say, “I do.”  I do


Please join me in prayer. God of our mothers and of our fathers, hear our pledges encouraging and supporting this union of Richard and Susannah.  Bless us as we offer our prayerful and loving support to their marriage.  Bless them as they pledge their lives to each other.  With faith in you and in each other, may this couple always bear witness to the reality of the love to which we witness this day. May their love continue to grow, and may it be a true reflection of your love for us all. AMEN




From the Non-Canonical Gospel of Philip:

Every plant my Father in Heaven does not plant will be rooted out. Those who are alienated will be united. They will be filled. Everyone will join in lighting the light of the Bridal Chamber. For the light shines in the marriages which are seen. The fire burns in the night, then it is extinguished. But the mysteries of this marriage are fulfilled in the day and the light. That day and its light do not set.


Ruth 1: 16-17

But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you

or to turn back from following you!  

Where you go, I will go;

Where you lodge, I will lodge;  

your people shall be my people,

and your God my God.  

Where you die, I will die–

there will I be buried.  

May the Lord do thus and so to me,

and more as well,

if even death parts me from you!”




The Lord’s Prayer

Susannah and Richard, please kneel together for our prayer.  Richard and Susannah invite all those present now to join in the prayer common to our faith, using those words which are most comfortable to you.

Our Father, which art in heaven. . .



Kristi to couple while they are kneeling:

I charge you Richard and Susannah, with the responsibility to keep alive: to grow, to change, to maintain the capacity for wonder, for spontaneity, for humor. To remain pliable, warm and sensitive. I charge you to give fully, to show your real feelings, and to save time for each other, no matter what demands are made upon your day. I charge you to see the meaning of life through the changing prism of your love. To nurture each other to fullness and wholeness, and in learning to love each other more deeply, learn to love the creation in which the mystery of your love has happened. And, above all, I charge you to keep God in your marriage. Not as an uninvited houseguest, but as an indwelling part of your relationship.


I invite the parents of Susannah and Richard to come forward for the charge.


Parents to couple:

Susannah and Richard: nothing is easier than saying words, and nothing harder than living them day by day. What you promise today must be renewed and rededicated tomorrow. At the end of this ceremony, legally you will be husband and wife. But you must still decide, each day that stretches out before you, that you want to be married. Getting married is really quite easy. Staying married is a life-long task. Real love is something beyond the warmth and glow and the excitement and romance of being deeply in love. It is caring as much about the welfare and happiness of your marriage partner, as about your own. But real love is not total absorption in each other. It is looking outward in the same direction together. Love makes burdens lighter, because you divide them. It makes joys more intense, because you share them. It makes you stronger, so you can reach out and became involved in life, in ways you dared not risk alone.



Richard and Susannah:  I invite you to stand now and repeat your vows to one another in the presence of those who are assembled to witness your covenant.


Richard, turn to Susannah, take her hands and repeat after me:  

I, Richard,

take you Susannah,

to be my wife.

And I promise

I will be faithful to you,

and at all times loving.

Whether in joy or sorrow.

I will share with you

and believe in you.

I will cherish you forever.

I give you my hand

and my love.


Susannah, repeat after me:


I take you

to be my husband.

And these things

I promise you:

I will be faithful to you

and honest with you.

I will respect, trust,

help and care for you.

I will share my life with you.

I will forgive you,

as we have been forgiven.

And with you

I will try to better understand ourselves,

the world, and God.

Through the best and worst

of what is to come,

as long as we live.


Exchange of Rings  Get rings from best man, groom, etc.

These rings, when placed on the other’s finger becomes a symbol of your pledge to one another, and to all of us here, that you are going to encircle each other with your love, your care, and your protection. You pledge that whatever happens you can depend on each other. We do not expect you to know all that this means now. But we do expect that you are pledging your will, so that whatever turns there are in the road ahead, we may depend on your being there, one for the other, supporting each other with your very lives.


Richard, place this ring on Susannah’s finger and repeat after me:


I give you this ring,

as a symbol of my vow,

and with all that I am,

and all that I have,

I honor you.


Susannah, place this ring on Richard’s finger and repeat after me:


I give you this ring,

as a symbol of my vow,

and with all that I am,

and all that I have,

I honor you.


Lighting of the Unity Candle

At this time, I invite Susannah and Richard to join together in lighting the unity candle. They asked their mothers to light each of their individual candles. These lights, which represent the faith, wisdom, and love they have received from their parents, are distinct, each burning alone.  As Richard and Susannah light the center candle together, they join their two lives to make one life together.


Richard and Susannah, As this one light burns undivided, so shall your love be one. From now on, your thoughts shall be for one another, not just for yourselves.  Your joys and your sorrows are no longer yours alone, but are shared. Keep the radiance of this candle in your hearts always, as a symbol of your commitment to the unity of your life together. I invite you to take this candle with you at the conclusion of this service and light it often, as a reminder of this day and the promises you have made to each other.


May the blessing of light,

Be with you always,

Light without and light within.

And may the sun shine

Upon you and warm your heart

Until it glows

Like a great fire

So that others may feel

The warmth of your love

For one another.


The Pronouncements

In the presence of these witnesses you have spoken the words and performed the rites that unite your lives. Richard and Susannah, you are now husband and wife in the sight of God, your family and friends, and your community.


You may now seal your covenant with a kiss.



Lord, hear us for a quiet moment as each of us contemplates what we are celebrating right now. Keep Richard and Susannah faithful to each other and to you. Fill them with such love and joy that they may build a home where no one is a stranger. And guide them by your word, to serve you all the days of their lives. Go in peace, as two, yet one. May your unity last through the trials and triumphs that lie ahead. So that at the end, you may feel just as you do now: very happy to be in love and to be married. Go, then, in peace. Amen.

Worship Words-We Are Forgiven


On Sunday, the Cooperative Youth Ministry will be talking about and practicing forgiveness. Since forgiveness is on my mind today, I wrote this prayer of confession. Whenever I write a prayer of confession, it is always a joy to write the assurance. This is the time in the service when you get to showcase God’s amazing mercy and forgiveness. May we all forgive as extravagantly as we have been forgiven.

Loving God, We seek forgiveness from you, from each other, and from ourselves. Our sins may be different. What unites us is our honest declaration that we have sinned as individuals and as a congregation. We come together as a community to confess our sins and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Hear now our silent prayers of confession.

Friends in Christ, Hear this good news. God hears our prayers. God forgives us. Now our work is to forgive ourselves and each other and strive to be a reconciling community of faith. Amen.

Book Review-Psalms for Young Children

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Psalms for Young Children

Marie-Helene Delval

Illustrated by Arno


I love how this book features child-friendly language and beautiful, diverse illustrations of God’s children from around the world. When I am preaching on a psalm, I turn to this book to see if that psalm is featured in these pages, and when it is I am delighted. The writers of the psalms articulated so many emotions, and they are present in this book in the words and illustrations.

My only criticism of this book is that the only pronoun used for God in this book is he. Because the psalms use such diverse language for God, this is only a problem in 10 of the psalms in this book. I raise this as a caution if this is a concern for you.

I highly recommend this book for children as a way to introduce them to the psalms and help them see that the psalms are applicable to their lives. Also, I recommend adults get a copy of this book to enjoy for themeselves.

A New Tea Set

As you know, I like tea. You may not know my Mom loves garage sales. I remember having garage sales with my family and searching for treasurers at others’ sales with my Mom and our amazing neighbor, Helen. Back then, we’d check the newspaper for the garage sale listing before setting out on our journey. You never knew what you might find that someone no longer wanted. I have acquired many books (and other treasures) over the years from garage sales. And I still enjoy stopping at yard sale today.

So what happens when you combine a Mom who loves garage sales and a daughter who loves tea? A new-to-me tea set. My Mom would want you to know she got it for the bargain price of $1.50. (Getting a good deal is an essential part of going garage saling).


I’m looking forward to trying out this new-to-me tea set after it makes its journey from Illinois to Maryland. When I do, I’ll think of my Mom and how she shared her love of garage saling with me. I know I will get her money’s worth out of this garage sale treasure.


Worship Words-A Prayer for When You are Feeling Overwhelmed



How do you do it? How do you keep everyone accounted for? How do you love us all? How do you find time to rest and renew too?

Some days, there is too much to do. The to do list gets longer and longer. (Feel free to insert the list of things that are currently overwhelming you). There seems to be no end in sight.

How can I possibly find time for Sabbath? If God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of the World takes Sabbath, who am I that I don’t need Sabbath?

So, I will try God! I will put down my to do list, cell phone, all that distracts me from you and I will just be. Amen.