Forgive our sins we pray

While it’s been almost a year since we made the move to a new country and a different denomination, one of the constant thrills has been discovering new music (complemented by the comfort and familiarity of having many of the hymns I grew up with as a child included in our hymn book). Today’s treasure as I prepare for worship this week:

Sourced from youtube @ https://youtu.be/NRTLG7jPszA


Together in Song 635
“Forgive our sins as we forgive,”
You taught us, Lord, to pray,
but You alone can grant us grace
to live the words we say.

How can Your pardon reach and bless
the unforgiving heart
that broods on wrongs and will not let
old bitterness depart?

In blazing light Your cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew,
what trivial debts are owed to us,
how great our debt to You.

Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls
and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all in bonds of love,
our lives will spread Your peace.

Quote: Trinity

“What the doctrine of the Trinity is telling us is that God is fundamentally a relational being…

The Father, Son and Spirit live in conversation,
in a fellowship of free-flowing togetherness,
and sharing and delight –
a great dance of shared life
that is full and rich and passionate,
creative and good and beautiful.” 

Baxter Kruger

Glory

An opening prayer based on Psalm 29 (The Message)

Bravo, God, bravo!
All authorities and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before Your glory,
in wonder before Your visible power.

Yahweh Melek*,
Yahweh Tsebaoth**
,
Your voice rolls over the waters
like thunder tympanic: 

smashing the cedars,
skipping the mountain ranges,
shaking the deserts,
setting the oak trees dancing …

as we fall to our knees
and cry “Glory!”
“Glory to God
who rules and reigns
over everyone and everything.”

“Glory!”
“Glory to God
who gives his people
strength and might.”

“Glory!”
“Glory to God
who blesses her people
with peace.”

 

* King of kings
** Lord of hosts, of all

Trinity Prayer

by Richard Rohr, 2005

God for us, we call you Father.
God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
God within us, we call you Holy Spirit.
You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me.

Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see who you are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing –
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
Amen. (So be it.)

In harmony

*an opening prayer, responding to the harmony in Psalm 133*

Psalm 133 – The Passion Translation

A song to bring you higher, by King David

How truly wonderful and delightful
to see brothers and sisters living together in sweet unity!
It’s as precious as the sacred scented oil
flowing from the head of the high priest Aaron,
dripping down upon his beard and running all the way down
to the hem of his priestly robes.

This heavenly harmony can be compared to the dew
dripping down from the skies upon Mount Hermon,
refreshing the mountain slopes of Israel.

For from this realm of sweet harmony,
God will release his eternal blessing,
the promise of life forever!

Gracious Gathering God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

from the beginning, connected
and through the connection, creative
and in all creation, communing

with Your children –

fashioned in Your divine image,
woven together with Your own hands,
named “beloved” and called according to Your good purpose and plan,

how wonderful,
how truly delightful it is
to enter this day into the sweet harmony
of Your salvation song:

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

As we meet together in this moment and this place
with all our sisters and brothers across time and space,
may our togetherness be a source of blessing
and a sigh of our deep yearning
for the day when You will gather up all things
in heaven and on earth
into Your perfect peace,
forever and ever.
Amen.

From Sand to Stream

I’m captivated by the selection of Scriptures for this first Sunday in Lent  (lectionary readings) which have much to do with this sacred time of preparation for Easter being a period of promise as  God’s draws ever nearer in the acts of repentance, affirmation, retreat, and testing.

Below is an idea for entering a time of worship and fellowship with the call to worship being taken from the Gospel for a refreshing change and the Psalm being used later in the service as a responsive prayer of confession/promise after the sermon/meditation.

The altar/focal point should be set up with a tray or box (preferably perspex) of sand covered with small pebbles and a blue flowing scarf to resemble water or a jug and bowl into which water can be poured during the prayer of invocation.

Call to Worship: Mark 1: 9-15 (NCV)

Reader 1:
At that time Jesus came from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan River. Immediately, as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven open. The Holy Spirit came down on him like a dove, and a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with you.”

Reader 2:
Then the Spirit sent Jesus into the desert. He was in the desert forty days and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels came and took care of him.

Reader 3:
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, preaching the Good News from God. He said, “The right time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News!”

 

Prayer of Invocation

God.

God, You are.

God, You are everywhere.

God of sand,
God of stream,
God of everywhere
in between…

God of the dry places
where the sun beats down
and the rivers dry up
and the grasses brown …

God of the streams
where creatures meet
to quench their thirst
and escape the heat …

God of hearts
as hard as stone,
struggling through life
as though alone…

God of children
called by grace,
to meet You
in this sacred space …

bless us
in this time of Lent;
change our lives
as we repent;

give us eyes to see
and ears to hear:
the time has come,
our God draws near.

Transfiguring Worship

The texts for Transfiguration Sunday this year expand on last week’s reading concerning God’s constant presence and activity (light) in our lives, focusing on the dramatic interplay between light and dark, veiling and unveiling, sight and blindness: 

  • Psalm 50:1-6 – in both the rising and the setting of the sun, God shines forth – or “blazes into view” as the Message puts it; 
  • 2 Kings 2:1-12 – Elisha’s request to inherit the prophet’s mantle from Elijah is honoured when he watches his mentor ascend amidst whirlwind and fire until he disappears from sight;
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 – Paul proclaims that the brightness of the Gospel fills our lives up with light but is veiled from those look only for the god(s) of this age;  
  •  Mark 9:2-9 – as God’s glory is displayed in the transfigured radiance of his Son, a word of affirmation is spoken from deep within a cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

 

Setting up the altar/focal point:

Familiar symbols on the altar such as a Bible or candle can be transformed this week with the simple addition of a gauze or veil draped over the items, hiding them partially from view.

Additional items include a piece of dazzling white cloth, folded or draped down the altar, or a simple arrangement of bright white flowers like lilies, tulips, or even daisies in a clear vase.

A lovely idea which does require planning, practice, and precision is to set up prisms or mirrors on blocks (at various heights) around a large candle or electric lantern. During the course of the service/sharing, these could be unveiled and lit – resulting in beautiful refractions of light or multiple mirror images of the flickering flame.

A wonderful idea for children or more informal/experiential worship:

images

Scratch art is the term given to creating an image by removing a covering layer with a pointed object like a toothpick or kebab stick.

To prepare for the exercise, colour in a sheet of cardboard with oil pastels or wax crayons. This can be an actual picture or simply blocks of colour.

Next, cover the entire drawing with a layer of acrylic black paint or a thick layer of black wax crayon (painting is far more time efficient!).

Depending on the level of involvement that you would like, you could prepare a single sheet and scratch out images related to one of the Scriptures for the day (I like the idea of God blazing into view with the rising of the sun and its setting and can see a lovely picture of the sun emerging between two mountains or over an ocean in my head) or share around how the true nature of things are sometimes hidden.

Alternatively, you may like to give each child their own scratch sheet (or teach them how to make one of their own) and see what emerges as they create and explore.

I will be using my scratch pad to illustrate the story of Elijah being taken up into heaven – etching the watching Elisha and ascending chariot into the dark paint.


Gathering In/Call to Worship – based on Psalm 50:1-6 (NIV)
:

The call to worship below centres around the decreasing repetition of the Psalm’s first verse amidst the others, drawing a deeper attentiveness to the mighty One, God, the Lord who has summoned us to worship.   

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun …
Our God comes

and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
and around him a tempest rages.

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth …
He summons the heavens above,

and the earth, that he may judge his people.

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks  …
“Gather to me this consecrated people,

who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

The Mighty One, God, the Lord …
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,

for he is a God of justice.

A hymn/song of praise follows.


An encircling prayer:

An encircling prayer from The Carmina Gadelica III through which we enfold ourselves in God’s care. This can be used as a benediction or blessing or, even, in smaller groups as a prayer for healing or provision accompanied by wrapping the person being prayed for in a shawl or cloth.

My Christ! My Christ! My shield, my encircler,
Each day, each night, each light, each dark:
My Christ! My Christ! My shield, my encircler,
Each day, each night, each light, each dark.

Be near me, uphold me,
my treasure, my triumph,
in my lying, in my standing,
in my watching, in my sleeping.

Jesus, Son of Mary! My helper, my encircler,
Jesus, Son of David! My strength everlasting:
Jesus, Son of Mary! My helper, my encircler,
Jesus, Son of David! My strength everlasting.

 

Paying attention: a prayer of confession

In response to Isaiah 40:21-31

O True Light,
our Constant Companion,
we confess that we have not always paid attention to the signs of Your presence with us;
that, often, we have failed to grasp the immense gift of Your eternal love.
We spend our days scurrying after the insignificant and insubstantial –
worrying about how to get by,
how to compete
how to get ahead,
how to move on,
how to afford what we have,
how to get more,
how to find balance,
how to juggle it all
until we are burnt out, exhausted,
wondering where You are
and why You’ve lost track of us.

Great God who marches out an army of stars each night,
counts them off, and calls them by name,
forgive us for our foolishness
and set us in the firm foundation of Your faithfulness.
Remind us that You have not overlooked a single one of us,
nor a single moment of our circumstances.
As we wait upon You now, give us fresh strength
to persevere,
to hope,
to flourish
in Your presence
and through the power of Your love.
Amen.