Categories
Affirmation of Faith Call to worship Confession and Pardon Liturgy Opening prayer

Liturgy for a service exploring God’s place in our suffering

Leader:

We gather here and now, 

All:

separated in space
and joined in one Body,

fractured by discord

and united by love,

to worship God,
to open ourselves to God’s voice,
to grow towards God’s will

together.

Come, let us worship God!

Opening Prayer

O high eternal Divinity,
You who are both
Unknowable, Other, utterly Beyond all sense and space —

and Presence itself, 
pervader of all things, 
glimpsable
in every human face,
in the wheeling of the stars
and the miniscule machinations of ants —

Remind us of your vastness.
Make room for our littleness.

Through this time of worship,
stoke in us a burning desire
not for easy answers
but for grace to guide our questioning;
not for light that forces out all shadow
but for the wisdom encountered only
by those who brave the stormy night. 

Amen.


Another prayer (read after reading Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32)

God whom even the seas obey,
All praise belongs to you,
for you journey with us
into troubled waters
and guide us out again.

As we ride the perilous waves together,
Surround us in your Spirit of wisdom and courage —
a whirlwind stronger than the gusts of any storm,
a breath that stills the most agitated soul —
to carry us through.

Amen.


Call to Confession

We have come to worship the Creator
not only of ourselves, but of all peoples,
all creatures, all the cosmos;

Yet we fall into self-centeredness,
becoming so lost in our own hurts, our own desires, our own needs, 
that we fail to look around to see how we might attend
to the hurts and needs of others.

Only in acknowledging our complicity
in the continued wounding of the world
can we join in God’s restoration. 

So let us confess our failings,
first in silent reflection,
and then as one.

Silence

Prayer of Confession

Borrowing from the words of Thomas Merton, we confess together,

Lord God,
We have no idea where we are going.
We do not see the road ahead of us.
We cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do we really know ourselves,
and the fact that we think we are following your will
does not mean that we are actually doing so.

When we fool ourselves into certainty
in our own rightness,

Remind us of how limited we are, Infinite God,
how prone to calling evil “good” and good “evil.”

When we favor being right over accepting truth,
cheap grace over the long hard road to justice and reconciliation,

Jolt us from our egotism, self-giving God.
Help us let go of our defensiveness.

When the way seems too hard
and we nearly succumb to despair,

Surround us with support, sweet Trinity;
suffuse us with wisdom and courage.

Returning to the words of Thomas Merton, we rejoice because…

We believe that the desire to please you, o God,
does in fact please you.
And we hope we have that desire in all that we are doing.
We hope that we will never do anything apart from that desire.
And we know that if we do this, you will lead us by the right road,
though we may know nothing about it.

Therefore will we trust you always, 
though we may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
We will not fear, for you are ever with us,
and you will never leave us to face our perils alone.

Assurance of Pardon 

In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven!
By the Holy Spirit, we are empowered 
to strive ever deeper into God’s will!

Thanks be to God!

Passing the Peace of Christ

In Jesus Christ, we know God’s forgiveness and peace — 
not an easy peace, nor a halfhearted peace,
but a peace entwined with justice, 
a peace that empowers us to survive all discord.


Affirmation of Faith / Responding to God’s Word

Ours is a God who makes room for our demand for answers,
hears us out and guides us into wisdom
as far as our finite forms can go.

Our God affirms our cries for justice,
for in the cries of the oppressed and despairing
Holy Wisdom cries for justice too.

Rejoicing in God’s welcoming of questions,
let us use poetry as a medium for framing some of our deepest doubts,
with all the messy human emotions that come with them:

my God, you better be ready when i come
and stand before you face to face at last
because you know how many questions i have for you
and you know the very first that will
burst from my lips will be

why?

why did you conceive and birth a world
roiling with so much pain?
why did you make human beings
capable of such atrocities?

why did you make our skin so frail, our stomachs
so prone to hunger and thirst, our minds
so quick to judge and scheme and place ourselves first?

and why, why do you seem to watch passively
as we raze forests into barren dust
as we pour poison into rivers
as we tear flesh from each other’s bodies with our teeth?

…i don’t know, yet. 
but when i think of you
cradled in the arms of a single mother 
with calloused brown hands

and of you
walking miles between towns to bring
healing on tired feet,
your stomach eating itself with hunger, 
your tongue parched

and of you
being nailed to a cross
by hands that have shed their compassion for gain
as you cry out “my God, why! why have you forsaken me!”

…then, i feel a little better.
i still do not understand
but i trust.

we trust because you do not watch us suffer from
some lofty throne high above,

but rather
wherever a child sobs with hunger
a woman aches with grief
a whole community is being trampled into the mud
you are there. 

your face is tear-tracked too. your wrists
and feet and torso bear wounds, too.
so i question, constantly.

and i will demand answers. 
but also, i trust you.

truly, truly
our hope is in you.


These pieces were written for a service centered around Job 38 and Mark 4:35-41, with themes of God’s bigness and God’s co-suffering with us.

Categories
Affirmation of Faith Call to worship Confession and Pardon Liturgy Opening prayer

“God of the cedar tree, God of the mustard seed” – Liturgy for grafting ourselves to the God who makes the dry tree flourish

Call to Worship

Leader:

We come to worship
the God of Justice,

All:

who lifts the oppressed up
and pulls the oppressor down
till justice and equity come to all.

Come, let us graft ourselves to one another
and to this binary-breaking God.

It is good to grow together
amid all that keeps us apart!

It is good to grow in gratitude
for the God who gathers us!

Opening Prayer

O God the Nurturer, God the Transplanter,
God who brings flourishing to those 
whom the world would see wither,

we wonder and delight in your great upturning
of human norms and expectations. 
Let us sing your praises loud and strong!

Amen.


Prayer of Confession

Leader:

God calls us to gather as one grove,
to spread our roots deep in a foundation of justice and love,
to bear fruit that lasts.

All:

But our roots are often disconnected,
shallow, easily uprooted.

Often the soil we settle into
is poisonous, toxic to ourselves and the whole community.

The world is full of conflicting messages
and claims that what is poisonous is nourishing;
what is nourishing, poisonous.

We label God’s children our enemies
to be removed and eradicated,
while enabling cruelty and greed to thrive.

God our Gardener, Spirit of Life,
Uproot what is rotten in us.
Enter our deadness and blossom it into life.
Transplant us from any soil that does not nourish.

Graft us to one another
so that together we may root ourselves in you.

Only in you.

Amen.


Responding to God’s Word (Affirmation of Faith)

Leader:

As one, let us affirm the faith that grafts us together
while lifting up the wisdom of some of our fellow witnesses.

All:

We believe in God the Conceiver of the Cosmos,
who with a Word and a Breath
burst the universe into expansion
from one small seed.

We believe that God pervades and sustains
all that She created
with Her all-embracing love.

As Julian of Norwich wrote in the twelfth century,

“[God] showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I…thought, ‘What may this be?’ 

And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ 

I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. 

And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”

We believe that this God of love is the God
of David the overlooked son
and of Ezekiel the exile;
the God of the mustard seed
and of the cedar tree.

In deep love for us, God grafted Themself to us,
joined us in the beautiful frailness of our flesh
in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Catherine of Siena wrote in the fourteenth century:

And you, high eternal Trinity,
acted as if you were drunk with love,
infatuated with your creature.

When you saw that this tree could bear no fruit
but the fruit of death
because it was cut off from you who are life,
you came to its rescue
with the same love
with which you had created it:
you engrafted your divinity
into the dead tree of our humanity.

O sweet tender engrafting!
You, sweetness itself,
stooped to join yourself
with our bitterness.

In joining with our bitterness,
God transformed it into sweetness!

Jesus proclaimed good news
for the despised and discarded of the world.

Having been lifted up himself,
Jesus drew all peoples to him;

And we remain engrafted to Divinity
through the Holy Spirit who dwells among us still,
breathing life and wisdom into us
so that we might do God’s will
as many branches reaching from one tree,
many members enriching one Body.

Amen.


I wrote this liturgy for a service centered around Ezekiel 17:22-24, a parallel text offered for Mark 4:26-34 (the parable of the mustard seed). In the Ezekiel text, God proclaims that Xe makes low the high tree, and makes the dry tree flourish — an upturning of expectations, indeed!

Categories
My poetry

poem: glory to the God who tires

Glory be to the God who tires, rests.

Jesus, you felt the world’s weight across your shoulders
even heavier than the rest of us.

the lepers whom most of us can choose
to let our gaze slide over
ran after you, calling, clinging at your hem:
there was no denying them.

there is never
cessation of need.
the earth is one mouth gaping
hungry, groaning, calling
never filled, never silent, never closed.

yet
you took the time

to row yourself into the sea’s dark belly
and let her cradle you.

you knew the crowds were teeming on either shore,
that they would coalesce upon you,
waves replacing waves as soon as you rowed back —

and there would be time
for them.

for now, you let the croon of wave lapping at boatwood
lull you to sleep.

God, will you be the sea
and i the boat
rocked to sleep in your lap?

slow my breathing
until it matches yours.
still, still.

promise me:
there will be time, there will
be time

 but for now
there is only rest.

rest.


This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at queerlychristian36@gmail.com for that permission, or just to chat!

Hear Avery read this poem on YouTube.

About this poem: I wrote this poem while I was serving for a semester as a hospital chaplain – a time in which I was inundated with grief and need, both my own and that of others. It’s inspired by Psalm 131 and stories in the various Gospels where Jesus withdraws from the crowds that seek his healing and wisdom to pray and rest (e.g. Matthew 14:13, Luke 5:16, Mark 4:35-41).