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, 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.

Light Blessings

A Call to Worship/Candle-lighting prayer, including a responsive reading of Psalm 147:1-11, 20c (NRSV) 

Blessed be you, O Holy Light-fitter,
who set the sun in its proper place
and scattered the stars across the skies
to brighten up our way
(the first candle is lit).

Blessed be you, Bright Morning Star,
the hope of our salvation,
dawning in our lives,
drawing nearer in this very moment.
(the second candle is lit).

Blessed be you, O Sacred Flame,
who gives us life
and tends our growth
through Your constant, gentle presence
(the third candle is lit).

Blessed be You,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
light with and within us:
~ in a world torn apart by hatred, fear and greed;
~ in a time governed by self-made truth and wealth-mad leaders;
~ in the rubble and ruin of cities and countries in which conflicts rage
and in the panic and pain of those who have no place to call home or safe haven;
~ in the broken hearts of those who no longer feel loved or who find themselves alone,
and in the bleeding wounds and bruised faces of those harmed by loved ones;
~ in the barrenness of the earth, burned and blasted, to make space for our ever-growing population and in the widening gap between those with too much to eat and those with nothing;
~ in the darkness of our delusions of grandeur and in the relentless drudgery of our pursuit of power, popularity, and plenty.

In the midst of all our troubles,
we gather together this day to proclaim
to gift of God-with-us:

“How good it is to sing praises to our God;
for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.

The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
The LORD lifts up the downtrodden;
he casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre. 

He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry. 

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Praise the LORD!”

Gathering in


A simple call to worship for a multicultural, multigenerational gathering which involves participants wrapping a ball of string around their wrist or waist before passing on to the next person until the entire community is literally joined together.

The “gathering” words below can be prayed repetitively until the binding is complete or once followed by a chorus such as “Bind us together, Lord,” or similar.

Father, we come from different places,
with different names
and different faces.
As we pass this piece of string:
gather us in.
Gather us in.

Jesus, we come with different creeds,
with differing opinions
and different needs.
As we pass this piece of string:
make us all kin.
Make us all kin.

Spirit, we come with different stories,
with different joys
and different worries.
As we pass this piece of string:
let peace begin.
Let peace begin.


A few necessary notes on “detangling” ….

Depending on the intent of the entire service (and length), you could keep people connected for it’s duration with untangling happening with twirling or turn-taking or careful scissor work – often with much accompanying laughter outside the gathering afterwards. This works best with participants attached at the waist during the service and can illustrate quite practically how inconvenient community can be and how intentional we have to be about maintaining our connections with one another.

If there are lots of little ones who might need toilet breaks or concern about people’s comfort or the connection interfering with other parts of worship, then the string should be wrapped in a single loop around people’s wrists. They can easily slip their wrist out at the desired point in the service. These can be replaced by prayer cards with thanksgivings or requests that they write but that requires a lot of extra preparation – punching holes in the cards for the string to be slipped through, providing pens etc. but it can be a tangible reminder of the experience if hung in the foyer or sanctuary afterwards.

To the God who dresses dandelions …

Inspired by Philippians 3:17-4:1

O Divine Seamstress,
who dresses dandelions in dainty white
that with the wind’s gentlest caress
they might dance into the light;

who decorates the peacock
with a thousand gleaming eyes
that glisten in moss and midnight hues
whenever he’s surprised,

who gives the elephant her trunk,
the cheetah grace and speed,
that they might forage or endure the hunt
according to their need,

who pins the stars upon the sky –
piercing the velvet night,
and hems in the ocean’s awesome power –
creating land and life,

who dreams of a love vast and wide
and all that it can be,
and then – within my mother’s womb –
so tenderly knits me,

help me to see the pattern
when life is just a mess
of You at work for my own good
with care and tenderness.




God’s love will never fail us

An adaptation of Psalm 136 for personal or corporate prayer.
Works well as a call to worship.


Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.
God’s love will never fail us.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
God’s love will never fail us.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
God’s love will never fail us.

For God alone does that which we thought impossible,
creating by hand the heavens,
charting the rivers and the seas,
raising up snow-capped mountains and liveable land,
setting the rhythm of our days and seasons
by the light of the sun and moon and stars:
God’s love will never fail us.

Indeed God alone does not leave us
in places of darkness and desolation
but stretches out child-embracing, leper-touching, sight-restoring hands
to rescue us from our despair
and bring us safely through insurmountable obstacles,
and unbearable, inhospitable circumstances.
God’s love will never fail us.

God alone remembers us at the lowest point of our lives
and humbles those who seek to keep us there.
God reignites our hope,
promising us not only the comfort of heaven
but also the provision of daily bread –
to us and every creature.
God’s love will never fail us.

So give thanks to the God of heaven
and Lord of earth;
God’s love will never fail us
the Keeper of your life and mine.
God’s love will never fail us
In God’s love we are made,
God’s love will never fail us
in God’s love we are set free,
God’s love will never fail us
in God’s love we find hope and comfort.
God’s love will never fail us.