Worship Words-Prayer using 1 John 4:11

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God, you taught us to love by first loving us and today as we join together in prayer-we will pray for others.

God,we pray for your children we hear about on the news. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for those living in the public eye-our elected officials, famous people, others who fascinate us. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for your children living around the world. People we will never meet. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for our classmates and colleagues. They are the people we see regularly. Some we know well and others we don’t. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for your children who we overlook. People who are in prison or struggling to find a job after being released. People who are underemployed or homeless. People who seek safety and security after being denied it. We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for our neighbors. They are the ones who live closest to us. We wave as we pass by. We may even say hi over the fence. Do we invite them into our home? We never know their whole story but you do.

God, we pray for our friends and family. These are the people we know the best. We pray that our relationships are ones of honesty, love, and compassion. And yet, we never know their whole story but you do.

God, we want to live out these words from 1 John 4:11, “Beloved, since God loves us so much, we also ought to love one another.” So open our eyes to your children today. Open our hearts to your children reaching out to us today. For your love, Gracious God, we give you thanks. Amen.

Worship Words-Prayer for Illumination (Good Shepherd)

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Good Shepherd,

Open our hearts as we open your book today. Help these ancient words to be made new in our lives. May the Good Shepherd be real for us today. We trust you. Speak our names and we will follow where you lead. Amen.


As I heard these words and these words, I see the story come to life in the Joy Journeys classroom at St. Giles. Using Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman’s book, Young Children in Worship, stories like the Good Shepherd are told weekly to some very special children. And after years of hearing the stories and seeing how the stories lived in the children, youth, and adults who heard and told the stories, I see the Scripture when it is read. Of course, the sheep followed and trusted the Shepherd-he kept them from danger, found them cool water and green grass, and knew them by name. In Joy Journeys, ancient stories became new again and I wanted to be a sheep following the Good Shepherd.

Worship Words-Psalm 4 as a Confession

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Today’s call to confession, prayer of confession, and assurance of God’s forgiveness come mostly from Psalm 4. I am putting the words of Psalm for in italics and words that I have added are not.

Let us be called to a time of confession-Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.

How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? God, too often, we say the wrong thing and spend our time on things that do not honor you. Forgive us, we ask.

But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. We take great comfort in knowing that you hear the honest prayers of hearts.

When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. The psalmist is right that we need more silence in this world. For all the times when we said too much and should have listened, we ask for forgiveness. And now we come to you in a time of silent prayer listening for your voice. (time of silence).

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”


Our time of confession gives us the opportunity to place a priority on our relationships with God and each other. Even though our confession has ended and we are about to hear a reminder of God’s unfailing love, keep these words of confession in your hearts so we may all see each other as loved and worthy of forgiveness. You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety. Amen.

Worship Words-Call to Worship

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One- Peace be with you!

All-Peace be with you!

One-Blessed are those who have not seen and believe.

All-Blessed are those who have seen and believe.

One-Blessed are you when your belief in God is strong.

All-Blessed are you when all seems lost and you have nothing left but to believe.

One-Blessed are you in your doubts, fears, and certainties.

All-Peace be with you!

One-Peace be with you!

This call to worship was inspired by Sunday’s gospel reading from John.

Worship Words from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time in San Diego. I highly recommend everyone take a trip to San Diego. The weather was wonderful. It is a very walkable city. It is also a heartbreaking city with so many homeless sleeping on the sidewalks and asking for money. While I was there a tour I took and a friend I met up with both recommended that I stroll down the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade. After taking this walk, I recommend this to anyone who visits San Diego.

Along the sides of the paved walkway are quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

photo 3-25“I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one…should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth, and your own somebodiness…always feel that you count. always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.”

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“As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich…As long as diseases are rampant…I can never be totally healthy…I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”

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 “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

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“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgement. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”

 

And my favorite part (a huge thank you to my friends for sharing the secrets of this place with me) is the labyrinth. Although the city calls it a hedge maze, there is only one way to enter and one way to exit which means I’ll be calling it a labyrinth. If you look closely as you walk through the labyrinth, you’ll see suggestions for changes you might make in your life. You’ll be asked to shed the cloak of things that are hurting yourself and other, and you’ll be asked to don the cloak of behaviors and attitudes that remind us to love each other. I will include these words at the end of the post as a closing prayer or benediction. As you reach the sculpture in the center, you’ll see beautiful shininess inside of the sculpture placed there. Be sure to spend a few minutes looks for the words hidden on the sculpture. And then you can go back the way you came in. Hopefully, you’ll remember to shed what needs to be shed and don what needs to be donned.

 

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Shedding the cloak of oppression and Donning the cloak of recognition.

Shedding the cloak of fear and Donning the cloak of trust.

Shedding the cloak of prejudice and Donning the cloak of respect.

Shedding the cloak of malice and Donning the cloak of compassion.

Shedding the cloak of bitterness and Donning the cloak of forgiveness.

Shedding the cloak of despair and Donning the cloak of hope.

Shedding the cloak of weariness and Donning the cloak of courage.

Shedding the cloak of ignorance and Donning the cloak of wisdom.

Shedding the cloak of darkness and Donning the cloak of light.

Worship Words-A Sermon on Psalm 13

My best friend died of colon cancer three years ago today. She was 39 years old. Each year I make an extra effort to honor her memory on her birthday and the anniversary of her death. Today for the  worship words I am sharing the sermon I preached about my reaction to her diagnosis and the gift of lament found in the Psalms. This sermon was originally preached on June 26, 2011 at St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and is shared today in loving memory of my buddy, Kristi.

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 Remember Me

To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I bear pain* in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 and my enemy will say, ‘I have prevailed’;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

How do we pray when our hearts are broken? Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel recounts this incident from his experience at Auschwitz: “Inside the kingdom of night I witnessed a strange trial. Three rabbis, all erudite and pious men, indict God for having allowed his children to be massacred. An awesome conclave, particularly in view of the fact that it was held in a concentration camp. But what happened next is to me even more awesome still. After the trial at which God had been found guilty as charged, one of the rabbis looked at the watch which he had somehow managed to preserve in the kingdom of night and said, ‘Ah, it is time for prayers.’ And with that the three rabbis, all erudite and pious men, all bowed their heads and prayed.”

How do we pray when our hearts are breaking? When I got a call last month that my dear friend, Rev. Kristi Foster, had stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 38, I prayed and cried and questioned God. This has been especially hard for me because Kristi devotes her life to helping others, does whatever she can to stay healthy-exercise, vegetarian, etc-and should be in better healthy than most of us. In the following weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time praying while gardening. This isn’t new for me. What has changed is the tone of my prayer. Somedays I pray why Kristi and God how could you let this happen. Woe, to the weeds in my garden on those days. And other days, I’m able to pray for her healing, thank God for her life and mine, and feel blessed by the trips we’ve taken together and the adventures we’ve had and am hopeful that we might have more time together.

I share my story not because it is unique. I share it because we have all had pain in our lives. We have all had the opportunity to pray while our hearts are breaking. We have all had tragedy, loss, sadness-times where we ask God, how long? [Read more…]

Worship Words-Benediction for Palm Sunday

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As I was writing, I keep moving from a joyful Palm Sunday benediction to a benediction that attempted to convey the variety of emotions present on Passion Sunday. I wanted to stay with Palm Sunday and focus on the gospel lesson. On Palm Sunday, I like to wave a palm, join in a procession of palm brach wavers, and be joyful. I am not against Passion Sunday where the whole Holy Week story is read. It just wasn’t what I wanted as the focus for this benediction.

This is a responsive benediction with palm waving!

One-Blessed in the One who comes in the name of the Lord!

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Blessed are all God’s children.

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Blessed are we to hear God’s word and share God’s love with each other.

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Blessed are we as we journey through Holy Week.

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Feel and know the love of God this week as we walk with Jesus and experience the Holy Spirit moving among us.

All-Hosanna! (wave palms).

One-Amen!

Worship Words-A Prayer using Psalm 51

This prayer uses our Psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 51.  The words in italics are from the Psalm and the other words are mine. Pray with me.

Loving God, when we cannot find the right words to say, it is okay to say what others have said. The psalmist provides us with words that work no matter what we are feeling. We are thankful for the words of the psalmist and we turn to you with these ancient words. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Forgiving God, there are days when we are overwhelmed with our lives. It seems like we cannot make a good decision. We cannot love others as you love us. We cannot find the good in your world as we only see sadness and grief and greed. In these moments, we cry out to you asking for forgiveness for ourselves and for all your children. [Read more…]

Worship Words-A Prayer

In Sunday’s Scripture from Numbers, we meet the Israelites at a point where they are beyond frustrated, and so they complain. This Scripture might have hit me a little too close to home. For all those times I have been frustrated about things that really didn’t matter and overlooked things and people who did matter and need my attention, I ask forgiveness. If any of this applies to you too, please pray with me.

Faithful God,

Just like our ancestors in the faith, we are impatient. They did not want to wander in the wilderness. We do not want to wait in traffic. Help us to turn our impatience into action. Focus our frustrations on the things that need to be changed. God, we do not want to wait any longer for an end to war. We do not want to wait any longer for an end to homelessness and hunger. We do not want to wait any longer for everyone to have enough. Kindle our righteous anger, O God, and move us toward acts of justice, so all may experience the saving love of your Son, our Savior. Amen.
Published on liturgy link on March 4, 2015.

Worship Words-Call to Worship (10 Commandments)

One of Sunday’s Scriptures is the 10 commandments from Exodus. If you haven’t read them in awhile, it might be a good time to read them again.

One-Let us be called to worship. God has given us the ten best ways to live.

All-It is hard to live as God commands.

One-God’s ways bring fullness of life.

All-We know we should follow God’s commands.

One-We are all God’s beloved. God’s commandments help us treat each other as beloved.

All-We are ready to hear God’s word and work together to follow our God.