Thursday, September 20, 2007

Can It really be true?!?

I'm not sure that I'm not dreaming, but the 6 weeks of classes are over!!! And, I'm not sure that I actually taught them anything. There was so much that got left undone and untouched, and Geeze - it's like that story of the Native American from Oklahoma who had never seen the ocean before. He was taken to California and saw it for the first time - after overcoming the shock he took a small glass jar and began to fill it with water. His companion asked him what he was doing, and he replied that his people had never seen the big water before. I feel like I've been trying to show these people the big ocean, but all I've got is this little mason jar full of water.

Oh well, one jar at a time, I suppose.

Anyway, Tuesday's class went really well. First the groups presented their "practicums" which were, honestly, a little predictable. The call to worship people did a responsive psalm reading, the proclamation people played a recording of a song, the response people had a children's sermon (which was really a proclamation instead of a response, but I'm not being picky) and the benediction was a responsive psalm reading. All stuff that we already do, but that's ok. I just wanted them to get started brainstorming as a group and planning something in a group. We talked a bit about other options we might have for each of the elements. Then, I touched on some major points that i wanted them to take away from the 6 weeks:

1. God ALWAYS acts first - God initiates any relationship with us
2. We respond - our worship should always have this basic movement of God initiating and us responding.
3. We have over 2000 years of rich worship resources from which to draw and to be informed by. Don't discount something because it's "too catholic" or because it's just not very presbyterian, etc. First be open to the option and then weigh whether or not it would effectively tell The Story in this current context, and if not, is there a way to make it so.
4. Because God's initiation demands a response, worship must be participatory and not passive. We cannot force people to participate, but we can certainly encourage or discourage it.
5. Worship is an act of the community - even private times of devotion and prayer happen in the context of community. It is important that our worship is a welcoming community - of all ages and types of people. We have to constantly be looking for how our worship might exclude people, and how we can fix that. It's not an easy task and one that requires vigilance (or "constant villigance", as my husband and I jokingly say).

Then, we were led to the Chapel by one of our group carrying the Christ Candle. I asked Jimmy to do it because he has always expressed how much the Christ Candle means to him in worship - watching it come down the isle, knowing that it represented the light of Christ in our midst, and watching it leave at the end, knowing that it represented the light of Christ leading us out into the world. Once at the chapel, we had a communion service that lasted about 40 min. Below is the transcript from that service. The intro to the Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Forgiveness, Prayers of the People, prayer after communion and the benediction are all taken from The Worship Source Book. (Copyright 2004 CRC Publications)

Call to worship Marlene
Leader: The Lord be with you
People: And also with you
Leader: Open our lips, oh Lord
People: And our mouths shall proclaim your praise
Leader: Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
People: As it was in the beginning, is now
and will be forever.

Hear the Word of the Lord: Genesis Dave
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water."
9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so.
11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so.
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so.
20 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky."
24 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so.
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [b] and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King 1, 4, 6

All respond: Thanks be to God, the Lord of all Creation

Hear the word of the Lord: Psalm 90:1-12 Susan
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn men back to dust,
saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning-
6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Prayer of Confession: The proof of God’s amazing love is this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Trusting in God’s faithfulness and compassion, let us confess our sin before God and one another.

Kerry and Marilee alternate on the verses of These I Lay Down (John Bell) with the group joining in on the last line and also singing the last verse.

(Jane) Hear the Good News: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Friends believe the good news of God’s grace: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Psalm 103:1-4; 8-10; 12; 20-22
All: Bless the Lord, O my soul,
Lectern side: And all that is within me bless his holy name.
All: Bless the Lord, O my soul,
Pulpit side: And do not forget all his benefits
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Lectern: Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Pulpit: He will not always accuse,
Lectern: Nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins
Pulpit: Nor repay us according to our iniquities.
Lectern: As far as east is from the west,
Pulpit: So far he removes our transgressions from us.
All: Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
Lectern: You mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word.
All: Bless the Lord, all his hosts
Pulpit: His ministries that do his will.
All: Bless the Lord, all his works,
Lectern: In all places of his dominion.
All: Bless the Lord, O my soul.


All respond: Thanks be to Christ, the redeemer of our souls

Hear the word of the Lord: John 14:15-17; 25-26 Debbie
15"If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 25"All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.


All respond: Thanks be to the Holy Spirit, the one who empowers our worship and sustains our faith.

Homily
You’ve received three items during this service. The longer stick, which you received first, represents God and God’s action in our lives. God initiates any and all relationships with us, and we respond to God’s call. When we heard the words of God’s creation at the beginning of our service, we responded with praise. But, we also responded with the realization that we are far from God. There is a vast chasm between us and God. But, once again, God acted first! God sent his Son Jesus on our behalf to bridge that gap. The shorter stick represents Jesus. Again, our response is required. We respond with our lives – not because it’s the right thing to do or because the law tells us, but because we are so overcome with thanksgiving. We responded in worship with our Psalm reading – blessing the Lord for the gift of grace and forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ. But, all this responding is empowered not by our own will and strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit – the Advocate that Jesus sent. The Holy Spirit is represented by the ring. (2 sticks are held together as a cross with the rubber o ring) So, we are empowered to give the thanks and praise to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that wells up inside of us. But, how do we show our thanks and praise? What does the Lord require of you, Micah asks. So, we cannot stop here in this room. We cannot come here to get filled up and comfortable – to be made to feel good and get our needs met. No, we must, if we truly are to respond to God’s love, grace and sustenance, we must go out in the world to Do Justice, Love Kindness and walk humbly with God. We must go out in the world to feed His sheep.

So we come to the table to be fed and nourished. Not so that we may become comfortable and content. Rather, that we may be strengthened to serve each other and the world, for the glory of God. And more specifically, that this group may serve this congregation in worship so that they may serve the world, for the glory of God. Let us join in prayer, offering our praise, thanksgiving, and intercession to God:

Prayers of the People

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Jimmy
we thank you for the gift of faith
worked within us by your Holy Spirit.
We thank you for having called us to yourself,
for consecrating us to your service,
for having set us apart to the sacred ministry of prayer.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Sue
we pray for the church
in all her breadth and variety,
gathered out of every nation, family, people, and tongue,
to be a kingdom of priests serving you.
We pray for the church in all the world,
for churches in North America, Europe, and the Middle East,
for churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,
for young churches and old churches,
small churches and large churches,
weak churches and strong churches.
Grant to the church true lowliness
and genuine humility where there is pride, unity where there is division.
Grant to her truth where there is error and wisdom where there is folly,
that you might fulfill your purposes for her.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Joyce
we pray for those stewards to whom you have
entrusted the affairs of your house,
for pastors, elders, deacons, lay leaders, volunteers, and committees.
Give them the spirit of willing service and true humility.
Give them a sense of spiritual devotion.
Give them delight in those whom they serve.
Grant that they may lead your people in the way of Christ,
that thereby we might all enter the land of our heritage.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Marlene
we pray for all peoples of all nations.
We pray that in every land there might be peace and true justice
(especially in [country] and other places of conflict).
Grant that in our own communities
those who are troubled,
those who suffer,
those who are discouraged
might find support in time of need
especially from your church.
Particularly we remember before you
the work done for the troubled, the suffering, and the discouraged
by the deacons in our congregations
and denominational and Christian agencies.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Matt
we pray for our nation and
those who lead the nation:
the president/prime minister and advisors,
the congress/parliament and the courts,
the diplomatic corps as they negotiate for peace and justice.
We pray for the leaders of all nations,
that they might know that you have called them
to serve their people in your fear and
for your glory and the good of the peoples.

O Lord and Father of the household of faith, Ann
we pray for those who have special needs.
To all who suffer any sickness or weakness [especially names(s)],
give health and strength.
To all who are disturbed or troubled, give rest and understanding.
To all who are lonely and alienated, give fellowship and love.
To all who grieve and sorrow [especially name(s)],
give comfort and assurance.
To all who are aged and frail, give homes of comfort and safety,
and others to help them, and a willingness to accept help.

All these requests we present to you, Amy
O Father of mercy, in the name of Jesus Christ,
who even now is seated at your right hand to intercede for us
and who taught us to pray, Our Father…..

Our Lord Jesus, told the apostles, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” We have the peace of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, which guides us toward the perfect unity of God’s kingdom. Let us share this peace with each other. (Peace of Christ, Susan…)

Communion
Bryan invites the group around the table for the words of institution. He offers a prayer and we hold hands as a family around the dinner table. Each person serves the next person, saying something like: “Sue, this is the body of Christ, broken for you, etc.”


Let us pray:
Lord God,
in gratitude, in deep gratitude
for this moment, this meal, these people,
we give ourselves to you.
Take us out to live as changed people
because we have shared the living bread
and cannot remain the same.
Ask much of us, expect much from us,
enable much by us, encourage many through us.
So Lord, may we live to your glory,
both as inhabitants of earth
and citizens of the commonwealth of heaven. Amen.

Hymn: Be Thou My Vision

Benediciton:
Go into the world: dance, laugh, sing and create
We go with the assurance of God’s blessing
Go into the world: risk, explore, discover, and love.
We go with the assurance of God’s grace.
Go into the world: believe, hope, struggle, and remember.
We go with the assurance of God’s love.
Thanks be to God.

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