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Charge and Benediction Christmas Invitation to the table Liturgy Opening prayer Prayers of the People

Liturgy for Christmastide – God of the manger, God of the stranger

OPENING PRAYER

Immanuel, God with us! 

You are indeed with all of us, wherever we are
across the many miles, under our assorted roofs.

In the birth that we celebrate this Christmas season,

You stripped off omnipotence,
burst through the border between Creator and Creation
to curl Your infinity into a finite form,
a frail, physical, form — an infant 

utterly dependent on others to survive.

You who choose
interdependence over self-reliance,
society’s outcasts over mighty kings,
abundance for every creature over excess for the few,
You are indeed worthy of our praise!

As we worship you today, 
may the same Spirit

who brought new life to Hannah and Elizabeth,
who came in dreams to change the mind of Joseph,
who took shelter in Mary and spoke through Simeon and Anna

come upon us all —

a rushing wind to stir up fainting spirits,
a gentle breeze to refresh the weary body.

Spirit of God! Here today!
Breathe new life into us
that we may join the ones who prepare Your way!


PASTORAL PRAYER / INTERCESSORY PRAYER

Like Simeon and Anna, we eagerly anticipate God’s restoration,
which is unfolding even now — yet is not fully here.

We look forward to the future in which all needs will be met,
all cruelty will be transformed into compassion,
all sickness and suffering will give way to flourishing 

for all of humanity, and all of Creation.

In the meantime, we pray for those whose needs we can name –
and for those whose needs we do not know,
those who do not know how to ask for what they need.

Join me now in offering our joined prayers up 
to the God who loves us, who is with us, who is bringing about abundance for all.

God of the Hope born anew at Christmas,

We pray for persistence as we continue to keep each other safe 
in this time of pandemic, even when it means keeping physically apart.

Make your warming Presence felt to all those struggling with loneliness or depression, O God,
and pour your blessing upon those who reach out to their fellow human beings 
in large ways and small.

Encourage and protect all who act in solidarity
with the lonely, the sick, the imprisoned, the oppressed.

We give thanks for protestors who continue to demand justice and equity,
For those who speak out against the violence we wage against this good world you created,
For those who dream of a better reality for all peoples, all creatures,
And who invite all of us into the hard, holy work of making those dreams reality. 

We pray also that those in positions of power will be moved
to take the steps that only they can to reduce sickness and suffering.
We pray for a major transformation of the heart 
in those who shrug off wearing masks,
And in those who perpetrate hate crimes — or who by their silence enable them.  

And God, we offer our deepest gratitude
for the vaccines that are rolling out:
Bless and hover over those who create them,
those who administer them,
those who have received them, those are still waiting to receive them.

As we live into this new stage in our long waiting, revitalize us.
Empower us to be your Presence in the world,
helping others where we can
And attending to our own spirits when there is little else we can do.

God of the manger, God of the stranger,
Carry the most vulnerable of us safely into the future that is coming,
that we can almost reach out and touch, and that we continue to wait and work for.

Amen. 


INVITATION TO THE TABLE

My siblings in the Living God,

The infant born to impoverished Jewish parents
is the one who invites us to his table today. 

He who knew poverty and homelessness
Welcomes you, even if you don’t think you have anything to bring to the table.

Having spent some of his youngest years
as a refugee far from home,
Jesus welcomes refugees and immigrants,
As well as spiritual wanderers, those who do not feel at home at church,
And those who deeply miss gathering physically in their church building.
Jesus welcomes you.

Jesus welcomes oppressors who strive to make amends,
The oppressed who seek sanctuary and justice.
Jesus welcomes you.

Whoever you are, whatever you believe,
Whatever hopes and fears, griefs and doubts you carry to the table with you,
You are welcome here.
Come. Eat. This table is for you. 


BENEDICTION

Siblings in Christ,

having been nourished by the Word made flesh,
by songs that welcome in God’s Kin(g)dom,
by bread offered to us from the one born of Bethlehem,

It is time for us to depart:
to carry our renewed hope out to the despairing,
and to seek the Spirit of God
in the most shunned corners of the world.

Let us go now in peace,
rejoicing that the God who creates, sustains, and redeems us all
goes with us.



I wrote these pieces for a virtual service on December 27, 2020 (First Sunday of Christmastide) centered around the story of the Presentation at the Temple as told in Luke 2:22-40. There are also some references to Isaiah 61.

Categories
Call to worship Charge and Benediction Holy Days Liturgy

Easter Sunday: call to worship and benediction

CALL TO WORSHIP

Today celebrate the joy that vanquishes grief,
the life that outlasts death.
Today we celebrate an empty tomb and full hearts.
Glory Hallelujah!

In rising, Jesus lifted us all up with him.
No longer is suffering, or oppression, or death the end of any story.

Let us worship the Living God, who lived and died and rose again for us, and who dwells among us this very day. 

Amen.


BENEDICTION

Through the Person of Jesus, God has redeemed the world –
yet we still have work to do.

Revitalized by our worship,
let us take the new life that Jesus gives us freely
out into the world – a world that is still hurting,
a world where pain and grief and death still pervade Creation.

There is so much work to do, but we rejoice to know that the God
who Creates, Redeems, and Sustains us
works alongside us, empowering us
to roll back the stones on every tomb.

Thanks be to God!

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Call to worship Charge and Benediction Holy Days Liturgy Opening prayer

Jesus of the Wounds: Call to worship and benediction for the Second Sunday of Easter

CALL TO WORSHIP

Today we continue our celebration of the Resurrection.
Today, we worship Jesus of the Scars.

Today, we reach out to touch his side –
by reaching out to those who are struggling around us. 

We come with our own small victories.
We come with our own wounds some scarred over,
some still bruising.

We come, still burdened by weariness
over the suffering we feel and see;
We come, because although we don’t yet fully see
the new life won for us, still we hope. Still we believe.

Let us worship Jesus Christ, God with us,
through whom we rise to new, abundant life.
Hallelujah!


OPENING PRAYER

Jesus of the Outstretched Palms,

Though your work is already complete,
though you have liberated us from Death for good and all,
still we dwell in a liminal space:
Already we are transformed,
but not yet do we see all the fruits of that transformation.

Instead, we see scars.

Jesus of the wounded hands and side,
we see your wounds reflected in the world around us.
we feel them on our own hearts.

Jesus, your side, your hands, your feet
bear the marks of your love for us,
your solidarity with every person across the ages
who has been condemned and tortured by human powers.

Glory to you, Wounded Healer.
Glory to you, God of those with wounds.

Amen.


BENEDICTION

Jesus,

You who heal all humanity, all Creation,
bear wounds that we can see and touch.

Send your Spirit to give us the courage to reach out,
to touch them on the bodies and hearts of those around us.

Emboldened by the Good News of your redemption,
we head out into your world. 
We will be your hands.

Though wounded ourselves, we join you in healing your wounded.

We rejoice to know that you will be with us –
Leading us ever closer to Fullness of Life.
Amen.

ALTERNATIVE BENEDICTION

In worship we have been nourished
by our Wounded Healer’s very body –
and now They send us out to be Their hands.

Though we too are wounded, we rejoice
that God empowers us to do this work
and does not leave us to do it alone.

So let us go now, into a bruised world
in desperate need of healing hands and listening hearts

rejoicing that the one who Bore us, who Heals us, who Sustains us
goes out with us.

Amen.

Categories
Charge and Benediction Liturgy Reflections for worship services

Benediction: the goodness of the body

Jesus, through your example you have shown us
that joy in banquets and good company can be a sacred thing.

We are ready to go out to expand the banquet of your love.

In the woman of the Song of Songs, we learn that passion and pleasure can unite us and lead us to God. 

We are ready to go out to learn to delight in our own bodies,
and to grow closer to one another, your people.

O Sophia, Holy Wisdom, having seen how you choose
to share your truth with the cast-offs of society,
with the naive and the ignored,

We are ready to go out to share the Wisdom the world calls foolish.

Let us go out with hearts transformed, with minds striving to improve while not fearing imperfection,
with bodies empowered for their share of work and of rest,
all for the glory of God our Beloved. 

Thanks be to God!

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Call to worship Charge and Benediction Confession and Pardon Holy Days Liturgy My poetry Reflections for worship services

Ascension liturgy (Acts 1, Luke 24, Jesus’s wounds)

Call to Worship:

Here we are, gathered in many spaces but in One Body.
Here we are, ready to worship God, ready to be transformed.

Today we remember Jesus’s ascension,
a rising up of human flesh to mingle with the Divine.

We praise the one who died and rose,
who lifts us all – body and spirit – in his outstretched, wounded arms. 

As we join in prayer and song and praise,
may the Holy Spirit fill us to bursting
both with anticipation of Christ’s return
and an irresistible urge to seek God’s kin(g)dom here and now.

Opening Prayer:

Great Creator,
You who crafted the cosmos and cradle it to your heart,
you who will the flourishing of all your creatures
and weave a tapestry of redemption for humanity –
these embodied spirits whom you fashioned in your image –

Teach us to be your hands, working for the liberation and restoration 
of the outcast and those who fear what they do not know,
of the oppressor and the oppressed.

In the name of your Child Jesus,
who rose in body to you
and who sent us the Holy Spirit to be the very heartbeat of the world,
we pray.

Amen.


Confessional Prayer

Risen God,

too often we live as though you abandoned us
when you ascended into heaven –
as though you are not alive and active in the world,
as though we could make up our own morality,
as though we should wait, dormant, for your return, watching the sky instead of being active vessels for your love and restoration.

When we fail to balance our hope in your return
with living out your already-present Spirit: forgive us. 

When anxiety holds us back: encourage us.
When apathy or resignation leaves us feeling powerless: empower us.

Amen.


Reflection

We are the Body of Christ.

Just like Jesus our God,
we are embodied spirits and inspirited bodies –
bodies of many colors, many (dis)abilities and shapes,
many desires and dreams.

When the world tells us our bodies are wrong,
that we are not the right color or size, that we are useless or broken,
that we love the wrong way,

may the vision of our embodied God –
Jesus of the wounded hands and feet,
Jesus of the brown and callused skin,
Jesus of the poor person’s belly
and kind person’s love of food and fellowship –
appear to us.

When we feel swayed to judge
the body of another and what they do with it
may the vision of Jesus’s table, set for
women and eunuchs, tax collectors and poor persons,
practitioners of many faiths, the Roman centurion and his lover,
deaf and blind persons, lepers and those with mental illness,
and ever other stranger and outcast
inspire us to expand our own table. 

When we feel anxious as the first disciples did
that Jesus arose in body, seeming to leave us on earth behind,
may his Spirit enfold us, a reminder that we were not abandoned
but empowered and transformed.

In the body and divinity of Jesus,
heaven meets earth –
thanks be to God!


Benediction 

The Risen One is here among us, here and now.
Jesus calls to us, not to look toward the sky,
but into the faces of those who surround us –

to listen to them; to commune with them;
to live peaceably with them whenever possible
and to disrupt injustice wherever necessary.

May we hear that voice and invitation as we go out into the world,
here and now, together,
to celebrate and cultivate the gifts of the Holy Spirit
whom we find wherever there is life.

Amen.

Categories
Call to worship Charge and Benediction Holy Days Liturgy

Pentecost – Call to worship and benediction

From many places, we come.
From many cultures and walks of life, we come.
Bearing unique gifts and unique burdens, we come
to worship the One God. 

Spirit of Life, who breathes and dances among us today,
Ignite us with your passion and power.
Stir us into joy and wonder as we worship now,
preparing us to go on our way renewed and ready to share your gifts.

Amen.


Benediction / Closing prayer

Spirit of courage and reverence, knowledge and wisdom,
right judgment and understanding, wonder and awe,

We praise you for whirling through the world
as a wind that blows where it wills,

stirring up all that you pass without showing partiality
and breathing new life into lifelessness. 

As you, Irresistible Wind, push us out into the world,
let us remember that unity is not uniformity,
that we may rejoice in your diverse gifts,
that we may share your richness with one another
whatever our gifts, whatever our creeds.

Filled with your fire, flame that consumes decay and corruption
and enkindles justice and new life,
we go forth boldly.

Hallelujah.

Categories
Charge and Benediction Liturgy

General benedictions – thanksgiving, joy, solidarity, lament

Below are several charges + benedictions that may be fitting for various worship services – some for general or joyful services, and others for services that focus on lament or solidarity with the oppressed.


Friends,
The Triune God whose self-sustaining love overflows into all Creation,
who whirls into our lives and sweeps us up in Their lively dance,

now sends us dancing out into Their world
to fill its empty aching with God’s love,
to subdue its pain with Their peace,
to make Their good news known far and wide
in what we say and what we do.

So let us go, glorifying the Source of life in all we do
and growing in Their love.

Let us go, following after the Redeemer of life
and striving to follow the example He set through His ministry.

Let us go, hand in hand with the Sustainer of life
allowing Her to use our hands to transform death
into new, radiant, abundant life for all creation.
Amen.


[referencing protests and activism]

Siblings in Christ,

Nourished by song and by scripture, by God’s Word proclaimed and Christ’s Body shared, it is time for us to go and be a nourishment to others. Whether at home or at work, at the park or at a protest, let us live out God’s good news of liberation and community for the world. 

Go in peace, go with courage, in the name of the One who creates, sustains, and redeems you.


[drawing loosely from Exodus 17:1-7]

Beloved community,

How can we thank God for the abundance that Xe has lavished upon us here? Only by responding in kind, by feeding one another as God has fed us. 

So let us go now, encouraged by the knowledge that we do not go alone:
we have each other;
and the one who Creates, Sustains, and Redeems us is in our midst,
blessing and empowering us for the work ahead.


[drawing from Psalm 23]

Shepherd God,

We have worshiped you and praised you for gathering us,
diverse as we are, into one flock.
Now, it is time for us to enter back into the world.

Lead us forth, guiding us through valleys and shadows,
protecting us as we dine not only with friends
but also with foes,
in the hopes of becoming one with them too.

Help us to be shepherds as well as your sheep,
guiding one another through valleys of shadow
to food, to water, to rest.

The way is not easy, but we rejoice,
because you guide us always
and because you give us to one another
to serve you and to be your church together.

Amen.


[suitable for services of lament / that address suffering, anger, etc.]

Comrades in Christ,
Here we have received good reason to believe
that the God of the Oppressed is with us in solidarity

– not only when we are content or joyful
but also when we are grieving,
when we are enraged,
when we feel disappointed in God,
when we cannot feel God.

Assured of God’s steadfast presence, let us go out
into a world full of grief and disappointment,
full of downtrodden spirits and tortured bodies,
and join God in Their solidarity with all who cry out for justice.

Amen.