Worship Resources for June 6th, 2021—Second Sunday after Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: 1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) and Psalm 138; Genesis 3:8-15 and Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Jeremiah, 18:1-11 Potter and the Clay

In the season after Pentecost, there are two selections for the Hebrew scriptures paired with a psalm. The first selection is continuous each week, and for year B, follows the rise of the kings of Israel, from Saul to Solomon, from June through September. In September, following Solomon, the first selection moves into wisdom literature, with Job, and ending the season with Ruth, from just before the time of the kings: the story of David’s great-grandmother.

The first selection begins with the prophet Samuel, for the people have come to him and are demanding to have a king. This wasn’t what God desired—God desired to be their king, but they insisted on having a human king. Samuel warned the people what would happen if they have a human king—a king would exploit their labor, tax their goods, and enslave the people. A king cannot save the people the way God can. But the people will not listen to Samuel, because they want to be like other nations and have a king rule over them. In chapter 11, Samuel anoints Saul as the first king over Israel.

The psalmist leads worship in the temple in Psalm 138, praising God, who has answered their prayers with steadfast love and faithfulness. The psalmist declares that all the kings of the earth will praise God. Even though God is king of kings, God knows the humble and lowly. God is with the psalmist in the midst of their persecution by their enemies, and God will be faithful to God’s intention for the psalmist in this world.

The second selection of the Hebrew scriptures in the season after Pentecost doesn’t follow a consistent pattern or theme but tends to be paired with the Gospel lesson. In Genesis 3:8-15, God has taken a stroll in the garden of Eden, but Adam and Eve, having given into temptation from the serpent, have hidden from God’s sight. Because of what the serpent has done, God curses the serpent. Later interpretations suggest the serpent as Satan at work in the garden, but the story in Genesis doesn’t necessarily imply this.

The psalmist cries out for God’s help in Psalm 130. The psalmist knows their help comes from God, and that God will forgive them of their sins. They patiently wait for God, knowing that God will answer. The author calls upon the people of Israel to put their trust in God and wait patiently for God’s deliverance and redemption.

The Epistle readings for the next five weeks are from 2 Corinthians. In 4:13-5:1, Paul, speaking from his faith experience, knows that Jesus who was raised from the dead will also raise them from the dead. Even though they face struggles now, they know that God renews their spirits. Paul encourages the church to focus not on what is temporary and visible, but on the eternal and internal, what cannot be seen: the hope of resurrection.

The Gospel readings in this season turn back to Mark, picking up from close to where they left off during the last season of Ordinary time after Epiphany. In 3:20-35, right after Jesus called the first disciples, the crowds gathered near to hear him while he was at home. His family believed he had lost his mind, and scribes from Jerusalem came and said he had a demon. Jesus asked them, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Jesus had been casting out demons before them, healing people with the power of the Holy Spirit. If they insulted him, that was one thing, but to insult the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus—the good works he was performing—that was a sin that was unforgivable in Jesus’ view. His mother and his brothers let some of the crowd know that they were looking for Jesus, but Jesus asked the question “who are my mother and my brothers?” Speaking to the crowd, he said that everyone who did the will of God was his family.

The Narrative Lectionary continues its series on Jeremiah in 18:1-11. As with many of the prophets, God often used metaphors in conversing with the prophet to explain what was happening or what is was to come. Isaiah also used the image of God as the potter and the people as clay, molded by God. Jeremiah was sent to the potter’s house by God and observed the potter working on his wheel. The piece developed flaws, so the potter reworked the clay into another object. God spoke to the people through Jeremiah, using this metaphor, that God can also rework the people, deciding to build up a nation one day, or tear it down the next. If a people forsake God’s ways, God will shape the clay differently. God warned the people to turn from their evil ways, or God would shape their future into something else.

God’s desire for all of us, from Moses to the early church, is to live faithfully into God’s ways. We do not need human authority over us to determine this—in fact, human authority is often corrupt and leads people astray from God’s intention. The people wanted a human king even though God and the prophet Samuel knew no king would be perfect. Some religious leaders in Jesus’ day wanted Jesus to work within their understanding of what God would do for the people, and when he didn’t, they determined he must be working for evil instead, despite the healing miracles and other good works he performed. The prophets warned the people to turn back to God’s ways, especially the kings and priests of their day, but all too often, they chose their own way, and fell apart because of their actions. Instead, if we do God’s will, and love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, we live into God’s intention, becoming children of God, siblings of one another.

Call to Worship (adapted from 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1)
We do not lose heart,
We are being renewed day by day.
We look at what cannot be seen,
For what cannot be seen is eternal.
We know we are from God,
In whom we have eternal life.
Come, follow Jesus, who leads us into life.
Worship God and trust the Holy Spirit, among us now.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Sovereign God, we confess that we have placed other powers ahead of You. We have turned to the power of wealth over Your generosity and abundance. We have given in to the power of fear. We have placed human authority above Your commandment to love one another. Forgive us for turning to the kings and rulers of this world that we have made, and not to the ultimate authority of love found in Your commandments from Jesus Christ, who lived and died for us. Forgive us for our selfish ways, and call us into Your ways of love, mercy, and peace. Amen.

God’s steadfast love endures forever. God’s mercy is far beyond what we can imagine. While we have wandered astray, God remains true, and when we turn back, God is waiting for us with open arms. You are forgiven. Trust in God’s commandments to love one another, and know that grace and mercy are with you, always. Amen.

Beloved Creator, You are always making something new, shaping life out of dust and breath. You made the universe, an ever-expanding canvas of atoms and molecules and particles we are still learning about. You molded the planets and set fire to the sun. You drew an atmosphere upon the earth and breathed life into its living creatures. You continue to mold and shape our hearts as we learn and grow, expanding our understanding of human beings and of all life. Shape us as we are needed, O God, to live into Your ways, to practice Your justice, to seek Your reconciliation, to love one another. You have made us in Your image. As creator, You made us to be creative. Guide us to shape new ideas, new ways of living, new hope for us now and in the time to come. Amen.

Worship Resources for May 30th, 2021—Trinity Sunday

Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17

Narrative Lectionary: Series on Jeremiah, 1:1-10, 7:1-11, Call and Temple Sermon

The prophet Isaiah experienced a vision of the heavenly realm of God in the year King Uzziah died. However, Isaiah did not perceive himself to be worthy of this vision. Stating that he was a man of unclean lips, how could he dare to speak in the presence of God? However, one of the seraphs, the six-winged creatures that attended God in this vision of the heavenly throne room, touched a coal to Isaiah’s lips, purifying him. The voice of God asked, “Whom shall I send?” and Isaiah, full of a new boldness from the act of purification, spoke up. “Here I am, send me.”

The psalmist describes the power of God through creation in Psalm 29. God’s glory is made manifest through thunder and rain, the downpour of mighty waters, the lightning that strikes the tallest trees. God’s voice is heard through the rumbles and lightning that quakes the wilderness, the wind that strips the trees bare. God is more powerful than even floodwaters. The psalmist calls upon God to bless the people with peace, for God alone has power and authority over the earth.

Paul writes that all people—Jews and Gentiles—are children of the Spirit in Romans 8:12-17. Those who live as children of the law will still die, but those who are children of Spirit will be heirs with Christ and glorified with him. By the Spirit, we are to put to death the works that lead to worldly ends, and instead live by the Spirit as children of the Spirit. The Spirit works in us as a witness that we are children of the Spirit and not of the world.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee who came to see Jesus at night in John 3:1-17. Nicodemus knew that Jesus was sent by God, but did not understand when Jesus told him he must be born from above. Nicodemus took Jesus’ comment quite literally, so Jesus had to explain to him that all must be born of the Spirit, that all must believe in the Son of Humanity. Jesus referred to Numbers 21:9, when Moses placed a bronze serpent on a staff, and the people of Israel who were bitten by poisonous snakes would lift their eyes to the bronze serpent and live. In the story in Numbers, the people were complaining and acting venomous toward one another—by lifting their gaze up, they were saved. By lifting our gaze from the ways of this world—the ways we harm one another and creation—and turning to Jesus, we find new life. It’s not our own life that will save us, but by turning to the way of God, being born into a new way of life of faith, that will save us. For God loved the world that he sent the Son of God so we might have eternal life that begins now, and he sent the Son not to condemn the world—but in order to save it.

The Narrative Lectionary begins a six week series on Jeremiah, beginning in 1:1-10 with the call of the prophet Jeremiah by God. He was a boy when God spoke to him and appointed him to be a prophet to the nations, following the end of King Josiah’s reforms of worship and implementing God’s law in Jerusalem. Though Jeremiah protested because of his age, God told him that he had the authority to speak with the words of God, that his words would destroy and overthrow as well as build up and plant.

In 7:1-11, Jeremiah spoke from the gate of the temple and preached against the injustice he had seen against foreigners, orphans, and widows—the marginalized of society. He preached against those who worshiped other gods for their own gain. Jeremiah called the people to repentance, to “amend” their ways. The words they spoke in the temple were empty if they were to continue their wickedness by committing adultery, murder, and stealing, along with worshiping Baal. He questioned whether they had turned the temple into a den of robbers, and warned them that God was watching.

On this Trinity Sunday, we are invited into the mystery of the Triune God. The one who created the heavens and earthy, whose power is known through creation. The one who lived and died and lives again, Christ Jesus our Lord. The Spirit who comes forth into our world and turns everything upside down. This is the same Spirit present at the beginning of creation and in our very breath, the Word that was in the beginning with God and made flesh to dwell among us: God beyond our understanding. God who speaks to us, even though we are so small and lack understanding. God who called Isaiah, though Isaiah thought he was unworthy. God who called Jeremiah, though Jeremiah was so young. Our Mysterious, Triune God continues to work through us, and in us, and among and beyond us, and even despite ourselves.

Call to Worship
We worship God, shaper of creation,
Who was and who is and who is to come, the Almighty.
We follow Jesus, Love incarnate,
Who was and who is and who is to come, the Almighty.
We trust in the Spirit, breathing life into us,
Who was and who is and who is to come, the Almighty.
We believe in God our Creator, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
Almighty God, in whom we have eternal love and life.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Triune God, we come to You not fully understanding the Mystery of Your nature but knowing that throughout human history You have been made known to us. Though we grow in new understandings, You are the same God who breathed life into us, who stirred over the waters of creation, who made the ever-expanding universe that we barely comprehend. We confess our short-sightedness, our misunderstandings, our selfish ways that hold us back from a deeper knowledge that is present before us. Guide us into Your ways of wisdom, so we might grow our hearts to love You and one another more deeply. In the name of our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, we pray. Amen.

Though God is far beyond what we can comprehend or imagine, God knows us. God knows you. And God has chosen you to be part of this world and you have an important part to play. Without you, it cannot be done. You are needed and very much loved. Turn to God’s ways, and seek God’s wisdom and insight in your daily life, through prayer, reading of Scripture, spending time in nature, or however else you connect with the Divine. God loves you, and desires you to know them. Go and share the good news of God’s love, wonder, and awe.

Mystery of Mysteries, shed light upon the shadowy places of our lives. Open unto us new insights, ideas, and understandings. Remind us that despair does not have the final word, and that light will always overcome the shadows of difficulty. We do not fully understand You, but we know You are with us, and that You do not abandon us. While we may at times struggle to know You are there, Your Mysterious Presence is in the very air we breathe, in the last slant of light at day and in the starlight at night. You are among us, always, and we cannot be forgotten. Help us to turn to You, Mystery of Mysteries, in our groaning and aching for justice, for mercy, and for forgiveness, with the knowledge that love shall overpower all. Amen.

Worship Resources for May 23rd—Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

Narrative Lectionary: Pentecost, Fruits of the Spirit, Acts 2:1-4; Galatians 4:1-7 (5:16-26) (Luke 11:11-13)

For more ideas for Pentecost, see the Pentecost page under Special Resources.

The arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts takes place on the day of Pentecost, the spring festival of the first fruits of harvest. It was one of the pilgrimage festivals in which Jewish people from all over the Roman Empire would come to Jerusalem. Many of them only spoke a little Hebrew that was needed for worship and were native speakers of the local languages from where they lived. When the disciples began speaking to them in their own languages, they were astounded. For the disciples had experienced the Holy Spirit while they were gathered together, like the rush of a violent wind, and divided tongues as of fire had rested on their heads. Peter proclaims to the crowds, some of whom are grumbling that the disciples are drunk, that this is the work of the Holy Spirit, prophesied by the prophet Joel, and that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

The prophet Ezekiel was told by God to prophesy to a valley of dry bones in 37:1-14. Ezekiel lived during the time of the Babylonian Empire’s attack in Judah and later siege of Jerusalem. All he could see was death and destruction, probably an old battlefield. God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, and they rose up. However, there was no breath in them. Then God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath, and they became alive. God declared that though the people of Israel had been without hope, God would bring them hope. God would bring them back to live in the land they were promised, even if God had to open the graves to do it.

Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise to God, giving thanks for creation. In vs. 24-34, 35b, the psalmist sings of how all God’s creatures are made from God’s wisdom, and how God provides for them. However, when their breath is taken from them, they die and return to the dust. When God sends forth the spirit, they are renewed. The psalmist sings praise for all of creation and rejoices in God the creator.

Paul writes of all creation groaning in labor pains, until now, in Romans 8:22-27. All of humanity and creation has been waiting for redemption. Paul reminds the church in Rome that while they are groaning, they are waiting for a hope unseen, and the Spirit intercedes in their prayers with “sighs too deep for words.” God knows our hearts because of the work of the Spirit in us.

(If Ezekiel is chosen as the first passage, then Acts 2:1-21 is used instead of Romans 8:22-27).

Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as the Advocate to come in John 15:26-27, and 16:4b-15. Jesus spoke to the disciples before his arrest and death, and he knew some of them are afraid and full of sadness. Nonetheless, Jesus told them he must die in order for the Advocate to come. The Holy Spirit as Advocate would prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment, and the spirit will guide the disciples into the truth and declare what is to come.

The Narrative Lectionary also focuses on Pentecost, with Acts 2:1-4. In these first four verses, we know that the disciples gathered together for Pentecost in one place, and the Holy Spirit came upon them like a rush of a violent wind, and divided tongues like fire rested upon each one of them. They were full of the Holy Spirit and had the ability to speak different languages.

Paul continues his argument to the Galatians in 4:1-7 that Gentiles are also heirs of the promise. Those who were born under the law also needed redemption, the same as those outside the law, and through Jesus, gentiles are children of God and heirs of the same promises of God. Because of the Holy Spirit, we all call God our Abba, our Father, our Parent. In 5:16-26, Paul speaks of two different ways of living. Living by the flesh, living by the world, means satisfying one’s desires through whatever feels good, including hate, fighting, adultery, idolatry, jealousy, and other things. These things go against God’s teachings and harm others. Living by the Spirit, however, produces the fruits of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There’s no law against those things. To live with the Spirit means to live by the Spirit.

In Luke 11:11-13, Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit gives good gifts to those who ask of the Spirit, for even people who are evil give good gifts to children. So God also gives good gifts to God’s children through the Holy Spirit.

Ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek are the words for wind, spirit, and breath. God breathes life into creation, and that life is the Spirit. When breath ceases, the Spirit goes on. We know the work of God through the Holy Spirit in the good works we do, through the gifts of God that we use and share, through the fruits of the Spirit that we bring forth—in our very way of life. People will know we are faithful followers of Jesus by the way we live. This is more of a testimony to our faith than a spoken or written confession. Our lives are examples of our faith.

Call to Worship
God’s Spirit has poured out on all flesh,
All our children shall prophesy.
Young people shall see visions,
Seniors shall dream dreams.
Even upon those whose voices are marginalized,
God’s spirit is poured out, and they will prophesy.
Rejoice, and worship God!
For the Spirit of God has come upon us all!

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Spirit of God, we confess that we have failed to live into Your ways. We have failed to trust You in our lives. We have failed to use the gifts of the Spirit to further the reign of God in this world. Forgive us for our shortcomings. Forgive us when we have focused on our own personal gains, on our own security and well-being, and neglected the call of the Spirit for the sake of the world. Forgive us, call us into accountability, and move us into Your ways of love, justice, and mercy. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

The Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. God knows our hearts. God knows our prayers. God hears us when we confess our sins, and when we turn back to God. God knows we desire to set our lives right. Receive these words of assurance: you are God’s beloved child. Whenever you turn back, God is waiting with open arms. You are forgiven, loved, and restored. Go and share the Good News. Amen.

Holy Spirit, come into us as a cleansing fire. Purify our hearts from the blemishes of this world: the desires for wealth and notoriety, the consuming of vital resources, the lust for power. Burn in us so that we might live into the ways of the Spirit: love and kindness, mercy and peace—ways that live for others and not only for ourselves. Holy Spirit, dwell in us, burn brightly in us, and help us to shine Your way into the world. Amen.

Worship Resources for May 16th, 2021—Ascension Sunday, Seventh Sunday of Easter

Revised Common Lectionary
Ascension of the Lord: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

Narrative Lectionary: One in Christ, Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29 (Luke 1:68-79)

Acts 1:1-11 contains the first of Luke’s account of Jesus’ ascension (the first is the gospel lesson, Luke 24:44-53). In this version in Acts, the author of Luke begins with a similar introduction to the Gospel in his name, speaking of Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, in which Jesus “presented many convincing proofs” and stayed with the disciples for 40 days. Jesus speaks to the disciples before his ascension that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit soon. The disciples, however, ask the question about the kingdom being restored to Israel. It seems they are still focused on worldly concerns. Jesus tells them it is not for them to know, but they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and be witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth. Then Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Two angels ask them why they are still looking up toward heaven, for Jesus will return in the same way they saw him go. In other words, Jesus has told them what is to happen soon, the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and they are to go to the ends of the earth—not stuck, staring up at nothing.

Psalm 47 is a song calling the congregation to praise God. God chose the people to be God’s heritage. God is the one who reigns over all the nations of the earth, and the people praise God as their king.

Psalm 93 is similar to psalm 47, belonging to a group of psalms that are songs of praise for God who is the people’s king, the ruler over all the earth’s nations. In this psalm, God also rules over creation, and God is greater than the roaring floodwaters. Creation praises God, who is everlasting and reigns from ancient times. The psalmist concludes by proclaiming God’s law as trustworthy and true.

In the introduction to the letter to the Ephesians, the writer (purporting to be Paul) prays for “a spirit of wisdom and revelation” for those coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord. The writer declares that Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God, and all power and authority and dominion falls under his feet. Christ is the head of the church, which is his body, and the fullness of Christ is known through the church.

In Luke’s first account of the ascension of Jesus, Jesus explains the scriptures from the Torah, prophets, and writings, so that the disciples understand who he is as the Messiah, that he was to suffer and die and on the third day rise. The disciples are witnesses of what Jesus has done, and Jesus tells them to wait until they have “been clothed with power from on high” (received the Holy Spirit). In this account, as he was blessing them, he withdrew to heaven and the disciples returned to the temple in Jerusalem to praise God.

For the seventh Sunday of Easter, the Revised Common Lectionary readings also begin in Acts 1, just a few verses later, when Peter speaks in front of the gathered believers. At this time, there are only one hundred twenty left. Peter declares that they need someone to replace Judas. Two names were brought forward, and they cast lots. Matthias was chosen to be added to the disciples to be among the twelve (and Matthias is not mentioned elsewhere in the scriptures).

Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm, reminding the listener/reader that those who meditate on God’s instructions and find delight into living into God’s ways are blessed and happy, trees who are nourished by streams of water. Those who are foolish and wicked are like chaff blown about in the wind and will not stand in the congregation of the faithful. God watches over those who live into God’s ways; the foolish will fall away.

The Revised Common Lectionary concludes its epistle series of 1 John with 5:9-13. Those who believe in the Son have testimony in their hearts: God’s love. God’s testimony is greater than human testimony. The testimony is this: God has given us eternal life that is found in Jesus. Whoever has Jesus has life, and whoever does not have the Son of God in their life does not have this life. The writer states this so that those who have Jesus in their life will know that they have eternal life.

Jesus prays for his disciples in John 17:6-19. He prays for God’s protection to be with them as he is returning to God. Jesus prays that they would be one, as he is one with God. Jesus has sent them out into the world with God’s word, and the world has hated them, but they do not belong to the world, they belong to God. However, Jesus prays that they might be sanctified in truth and protected, for he knows his own betrayal, arrest, and death are coming.

The Narrative Lectionary continues in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, where he turns his attention to the members of the church, who are Gentiles but have been led astray believing they were not fully included. Paul’s argument is that faith is what makes a believer part of God’s family. Faith is what makes a believer a descendant of Abraham, not blood. In vs. 23-29, Paul declares that all who believe belong to Christ, and therefore are heirs of the promise given through God’s covenant to Abraham. There is no division or distinction between Jew and Greek, slave or free, male or female—any division created on earth dissolves in the new creation in Christ.

The secondary passage is from Zechariah’s song in Luke 1:68-79. Zechariah, who was unable to speak until his son John was born, now sings this song praising God who has raised up a mighty savior, one who fulfills the covenant promised to Abraham. To his own son, Zechariah sings that he will be the prophet of the Most High, the one who goes before the Messiah to prepare the way. Salvation comes to the people through the forgiveness of their sins, and they will be guided into the way of peace.

The ascension of Jesus is a funny story to tell, because it’s based on an outdated understanding of heaven above the earth—and yet, that’s exactly the point the angels make when they ask the “men of Galilee” why they are standing around looking up? They’re supposed to do Christ’s work on earth. Christ has told them what to do: not to spend time worrying about worldly things such as when the kingdom will be restored, but living into God’s beloved community on earth as it is in heaven. Later, the disciples will learn that this new beloved community is made up of all of God’s people, Jew and Gentile and everyone. Paul will go from, in his own words, being a Pharisee to one of the strongest voices for Gentile inclusion in the early church, that it is faith that makes us God’s people, heirs of the promise of Abraham. Belief in Jesus is what is required, and Jesus requires us to go and share the good news, God’s love for the world, with all; for Christ is at work in us now.

Call to Worship
We worship God, who created the heavens and earth,
God’s reign endures forever.
We follow Jesus, who made God’s love known to us,
Through his life, death, and resurrection
We listen for the Holy Spirit, who breathes in us,
And grants us wisdom and insight.
Come, worship our God together,
Celebrate all the ways God is made known to you, now.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Creator God, we confess that at times we are stuck. We are unable to move forward, and only can look back on what once was. We wonder where You are leading us, as it seems we are alone. Help us to become unstuck. Help us to move by faith, to trust that You are with us, guiding us along the way. Call to us so we will follow Your ways. Encourage us to live into hope instead of frozen in fear. Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, help us in this journey of life and faith, now and always. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (from Philippians 4:7)
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Know that the peace of God is with you. You are loved by God. Sink into that knowledge, and allow God’s wisdom and insight to fill your mind so that you might live into faith. Go in peace. Amen.

God of Resurrection, we are grateful that the new life You have promised through Jesus Christ is made known to us now. We rejoice that we are a resurrection people, and that there is nothing, not even death, that can separate us from Your love. At times we have become complacent with the worldly life of our own making, but You are the creator of heavens and earth. We rejoice, because You are the one who made us and makes us new! Help us to leave behind the ways of this world and live into Your ways of restoration: love, justice, mercy, and peace. Amen and Amen.

Worship Resources for May 9th, 2021—Sixth Sunday of Easter (Mother’s Day U.S.)

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17

Narrative Lectionary: Living by Faith, Galatians 1:13-17; 2:11-21 (Luke 18:9-14)

Following Peter’s bold declaration that God shows no partiality in the preceding pages, after meeting Cornelius the Centurion, the Jewish followers of Jesus were amazed at the Holy Spirit working through Gentile believers in Acts 10:44-48. The Holy Spirit showed Peter and others that there ought to be no prevention of baptizing anyone with the Holy Spirit, and Peter orders them to be baptized. Baptism becomes the symbol of conversion of faith, not circumcision, in the account of the early church in Acts.

Psalm 98 is a song of praise after battle. The people have survived and are victorious, and the psalmist invokes images of the Exodus. All of creation sings praises to God, and the psalmist calls upon the people to make music to God with their instruments and voices, and creation to clap with the floods and for the hills to sing. God is the one who judges the earth, and the people with equity.

The writer of 1 John reminds the reader/listener that they are children of God and that they are called to love one another. The love of God is to live out the commandments of God, for God is love, and faith conquers the world. The writer alludes to a sort of trinity of birth: water, blood, and Spirit. The waters of birth and baptism, the blood of birth and sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit testifies to the truth of who Jesus is, the Son of God.

In Jesus’ final discourse to the disciples in John 15:9-17, Jesus leaves them with his commandment: that they love one another. Our joy is complete because God’s joy is in us when we love one another. If we love one another, we are Christ’s friends. We are no longer called servants because we willfully fulfill the commandments. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another, and that love is exemplified in Jesus. Jesus chose the disciples, and chooses us, and appoints us to bear fruit in this world by loving one another.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on Paul’s own testimony in Galatians 1:13-17 and 2:11-21. Paul shared his experience of the Son of God being revealed to him when he was trying to destroy the church. In his own words, he was “far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.” Paul understood this revelation of Jesus as a call by God to proclaim Chris to the Gentiles. Skipping ahead to 2:11, Paul wrote about the hypocrisy he experienced. He himself was a Jew and was appalled that Cephas (Peter) used to eat with the Gentiles but stopped after members from the Jerusalem church sent by James came to visit, keeping up a tradition of separating themselves from Gentiles who were considered unclean under the law. This is not the true Gospel that Paul knew through Jesus Christ. In Paul’s view, if the law was enough for salvation, Christ died for nothing, for justification comes through faith in Christ.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 18:9-14 of a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed out loud, using his prayer as a time to boast of everything he had done and compared himself to others, that he was better than even the tax collector. The tax collector, however, beat his chest and simply prayed for God to have mercy on him. Jesus declared the tax collector, in his humility, went home justified more than the Pharisee in his boasting.

Any religious tradition can turn into an insider’s club. While in Christian scriptures we read of Jesus and Paul calling out those who adhered to the law in ways that were restrictive of others, Christians have done the same thing. We have been concerned about church membership instead of inviting others into the life of Christ. We have created hurdles to becoming a member of the beloved community instead of recognizing that everyone is a child of God. When the Ethiopian Eunuch declares, “Look, there is water! What is to prevent me from becoming baptized?” those of us inside church life might ask, “What are we doing to prevent others from joining into the life Christ has promised?” When those with Peter were amazed that Gentile believers had the Holy Spirit, Peter ordered the Gentile believers to be baptized. If the Spirit is present, who are we to try to stop God?

Call to Worship (from John 15:9-12)
As God our Parent has loved us, so Christ has loved you;
Abide in Christ’s love.
If you keep Christ’s commandments,
We will abide in Christ’s love.
Christ said these things to us so that God’s joy may be in you,
And that our joy may be complete.
This is Christ’s commandment:
That we love one another as Christ has loved us.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God Who Breaks Open, we confess that we have closed in, boarded up, and cut ourselves off from others. We have made churches into boxes that only allow certain people in, all while stating that we welcome everyone. We’ve placed requirements on people who need help, that they prove it to us first, that they show us their need, their vulnerability, while we hold the power. Forgive us, O God, for we might not recognize Jesus if he came to us. Forgive us, O God, for not being open to the power of the Spirit that blows through windows and doors. Forgive us, O God, for hardening our hearts. Open unto us Your love and forgiveness. Break open our hardened hearts to receive one another graciously. Break us open, O God, to Your ways, made known to us through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our God is the God of dawn, the God of breaking open, the God of the empty tomb. Our God continues to do a new thing that springs forth—can you not perceive it? You are made new. You are loved. You are forgiven. Go and share the good news, that God is making all things new.

Parent God, You are the one Jesus called Abba. You are the one who has nurtured and cared for us as a good parent. You call us as midwifes to aid what You are bringing forth. Mother, Father, Parent, Abba: Your love knows no bounds, and we are all Your children. We thank You and praise You, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Help us to grow in Your love, to live out Your commandment through the Son to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to continue to hold holy Your image in all of us, which is love. Amen.

Worship Resources for May 2nd, 2021—Fifth Sunday of Easter

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:25-31; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8

Narrative Lectionary: Council at Jerusalem, Acts 15:1-18 (Luke 2:29-32)

The reading from Acts beginning the Revised Common Lectionary is the same as last week’s selection from the Narrative Lectionary about the Ethiopian Eunuch. Philip was told by an angel to go south of Jerusalem, and on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, he met a court official of the queen of Ethiopia, who was a eunuch. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home, reading from the prophet Isaiah. There were non-Jews who believed there was one God, and who read and studied the scriptures. Non-Jews were allowed to worship in the outer court of the temple, but not all were able to convert. A eunuch would have been prevented by tradition. Instead, Philip explained the passage of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:7-8 and interpreted it through the lens of Jesus. When they found water near the road, the eunuch asked Philip what was preventing him from being baptized, and Philip baptized him. The eunuch was one of the first converts, and church tradition holds he was the first missionary to Africa.

(As I shared last week: we must know that Jewish tradition has long interpreted the Suffering Servant passages of Isaiah as referring to the people of Israel and their suffering in exile. Early Christians, who were Jewish, resonated with those passages because of what they had witnessed Jesus experience in his death on the cross. We can hold both interpretations as Christians, in our struggle to understand Jesus’ suffering, as the people of Israel were challenged to find meaning in their suffering, as long as we do not erase the experience of Israel.)

The end portion of Psalm 22, a prayer for help, turns to praise in verses 25-31. God has remained faithful despite the hardships the psalmist has faced, and the psalmist calls upon the people to praise God, vowing to declare God’s goodness before the congregation. God is the one who has dominion over all the nations, over the earth. Even the dead are part of God’s congregation of praise, and those living shall live for God, even the generations yet to come.

The writer of 1 John declares that God is love in 1 John 4:7-21. If you know love, you know God, and if you do not love, you do not know God. God’s love was revealed through God’s Son, and he has called us to love one another. No one has seen God, but we know God through the love we have for one another—that is how God is made known to us. We love because God first loved us. “Fear has to do with punishment” the writer declares, but love casts away fear. There is no fear in love. Note that this is not the same use of “fear” as often in used in the term “fear of God,” for that word fear in the Hebrew scriptures might be better translated as “trembling awe.” Instead, perfect love from God as known through Jesus is not about a fear of hell or punishment, but instead mirroring the image of God’s love in us. If we do not love our neighbors, we do not love God, for this is God’s commandment through Christ. If we cannot love those we have seen (or known by other senses), we cannot love God whom we have never seen.

Jesus uses the example of being a vine and we are the vine branches in John 15:1-8. God is the vine-grower, and through Christ we are called to bear fruit. We cannot bear fruit if we do not abide in the true vine, which is Jesus. Branches that do not bear fruit are useless. We must live out our faith, otherwise, we are useless branches.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the Council in Jerusalem as told by Luke in Acts 15:1-18; however, Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a different account of the event. Luke’s account in Acts gives a more favorable view to Peter of what happened in the controversy surrounding whether Gentile Christians needed to be circumcised. Paul and Barnabas came bringing good news of conversions of Gentiles, but some of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem believed that the Gentiles must fulfill the law of Moses. Peter describes this action as placing a yoke upon the Gentiles backs that neither they nor their ancestors were able to fulfill (vs. 10), and that it is Christ who saves, not the actions of people. James agrees with Peter in that the fulfillment of scripture is to include the Gentiles as they are, remembering Simeon, who gave a blessing for Jesus in Luke 2:32. This contrasts with Paul’s version of events in Galatians 2, that Peter used to eat with the Gentile believers, but once James and others came from the church in Jerusalem, he stopped, and would not eat with Gentiles. Paul calls out Peter’s actions in Galatians.

The blessing of Simeon in Luke 2:29-32 foretells that Jesus will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” James reminded the Christians gathered at the Jerusalem Council of this blessing during their question of how to welcome in the Gentile converts.

Love calls us away from drawing borders and building walls, to erasing lines and building bridges. Loving one another calls us to see the burdens we have placed on others that excludes them: the burdens of racism, sexism, ableism, the burdens of homophobia and transphobia. Perfect love casts out fear, and the love we know of God calls us to grow beyond what we have known ourselves. When we grow, we bear fruit. When we include others, we extend the love of God beyond what we have experienced. For God is love, and we cannot love God unless we grow and expand our love for one another.

Call to Worship (from 1 John 4:7-8, 11-12)
Beloved, let us love one another,
Because love is from God;
Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Beloved, since God loved us so much,
We also ought to love one another.
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another,
God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.
Come, worship God, who is love,
And follow Jesus Christ our Lord.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Loving God, we confess that we have not loved as we ought. We have used love as if it was to be hoarded rather than shared freely. We have set limits on something that not ought to have borders. We have guarded how we love others instead of sharing Your grace. Forgive us for not loving as You have first loved us—without condition. Forgive us for determining who is and who is not worthy of love, when You are Love. Forgive us for not following the example of our Savior, who became last of all and servant of all, who laid down his life for us all in the name of love. Call us into Your way, that by caring for the most vulnerable, we care for all. By loving those who are different than us, we love ourselves best. By sharing in this love, we reflect Your image in us. In the name of Jesus Christ, who came to us in the name of love, we pray. Amen.

The steadfast love of God endures forever. There is no limit to God’s grace. You are God’s beloved. You are forgiven and restored. Love one another deeply as God has loved you, and you will know the peace of Christ in your hearts. Amen.

Author of Life, You have written love into the beginning of our stories. You have written love into the blood that flows in our veins, into our very DNA, for we are made in Your image and You are love. We have strayed from the story You intended for us, so help us find our way back. Open our hearts to love more deeply. Open our minds to seek Your wisdom and to grow beyond what we know. Open our lives to recognize that Your Beloved Community is beyond the people of our family unit, beyond our friends and neighbors and churches, but the whole world. Help us to live into ways that sustain and nourish this planet and all Your children, and remind us that You are the Author of our lives, in whom we find our beginning and ending. Amen.

Relief and Grief: A Prayer

God of our ancestors,

We cry out in lament.

There is no justice when life is lost, for it cannot be replaced.

There is no accountability when one police officer is taken away to prison while another shoots and kills a young Black girl.

There is no equality when time and again it is Black bodies who suffer en masse.

There is no sacrifice.

There is a brief moment of relief, the release that our senses did not deceive us and what we heard and saw and felt was real and Black voices were believed.

For once.

Not for always.

Until there are no more murders of Black bodies by police officers, there is no justice.

Only grief.

God of our ancestors, hear our prayer.

Call us into repentance.

May we seek not to repair a broken system but to dismantle and build something new

For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.
Amen and Amen.

And God of our Ancestors, an addendum:

For those of us who are white, O God Almighty, call us into accountability. Open us to our privilege.

Convict us when we easily join in protesting one day and take a day off the next because it’s too much for us, when it doesn’t cost us anything, and costs our Black neighbors everything.

Hold us responsible for our complicity in systems of sin.

Guide us into the work of justice and help us to listen to our Black and Indigenous neighbors, whose labor we have exploited and land and voices we have stolen.

Move us into the work of reparation.

For You, our Savior, came to us from an oppressed people, dying on the instrument of the empire’s criminal justice system, and overcame sin, death, and hell through Your resurrection. If we do not understand the power of the system, the power of sin and death, the power of hell on earth, we will never understand what our neighbors go through.

Convict us, O God, and send us into this holy work, even when it is painful for us to understand and accept our role in this. Even when we want to deny we are racist, convict us, O God.

For only through repentance and reparation will we know Your kingdom. Amen.

Worship Resources for April 25th, 2021—Fourth Sunday of Easter

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Narrative Lectionary: Ethiopian Eunuch Baptized, Acts 8:26-39 (Luke 24:44-47)

The selection in Acts is a continuation of the same story from the previous week. Peter and John, after healing a man who used to beg at the temple gate, and after speaking to the people at Solomon’s Portico on the east side of the temple after that miracle, were arrested and held until the next day. They came before the high priest and his family and questioned them about the healing miracle. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke to all assembled, recognizing that he and John were arrested because they did something good. He answered their question about the power behind the miracle: the man who used to beg stood before them was healed by the name of Jesus Christ, the one crucified and now raised from the dead. Peter concluded with quoting Psalm 118:22, which Jesus quoted when he was questioned in the temple, and Peter declared salvation is found in no other name.

The shepherd’s psalm of Psalm 23 has long been attributed to David and understood as a song of comfort in the face of death. God is the shepherd who leads the faithful, the sheep, to safety and security, restoring those who are downtrodden. Even in the face of death (the valley of the shadow), the shepherd comforts the sheep, their rod and staff are there for protection and assurance. Switching metaphors, the psalmist understands God as the one who justifies those who have been wronged, preparing a banquet table and anointing the faithful before their enemies. The psalm concludes with a blessing of goodness and mercy for all the life of the faithful, and that they will live with God forever.

This section of 1 John 3:16-24 echoes John 15:12-13, that one who loves lays down their life for their friends. There is no greater love than this, for Christ laid down his life for us. Love must be lived out, to meet the needs of others. Lived-out love is greater than words. Our hearts will let us know when we’ve let down one another, but God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. God will forgive us and restore us to the work of loving one another. For the commandment that the faithful must obey is to believe in Jesus Christ, and to love one another.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd in John 10:11-18, the one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired hand runs away when the wolf comes, but the Good Shepherd cares for the sheep and knows them. The Good Shepherd knows there are sheep not of this fold but will bring them together (alluding to Gentiles). In John’s account, no one has the power to take Jesus’ life—only Jesus has the power to give it up, and Jesus does so by laying down his life for all, so that life may be taken up again.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26-39. Philip was told by an angel to go south of Jerusalem, and on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, he met a court official of the queen of Ethiopia, who was a eunuch. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home, reading from the prophet Isaiah. There were non-Jews who believed there was one God, and who read and studied the scriptures. Non-Jews were allowed to worship in the outer court of the temple, but not all were able to convert. A eunuch would have been prevented by tradition. Instead, Philip explained the passage of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:7-8 and interpreted it through the lens of Jesus. When they found water near the road, the eunuch asked Philip what was preventing him from being baptized, and Philip baptized him. The eunuch was one of the first converts, and church tradition holds he was the first missionary to Africa.

Luke 24:44-47 contains Luke’s account of Jesus explaining that the proclamation of what he has done must be shared with all nations. Jesus, in this passage, also interpreted the scriptures, especially the prophets, to the disciples, specifically the passages about suffering.

For the Narrative Lectionary, we must know that Jewish tradition has long interpreted the Suffering Servant passages of Isaiah as referring to the people of Israel and their suffering in exile. Early Christians, who were Jewish, resonated with those passages because of what they had witnessed Jesus experience in his death on the cross. We can hold both interpretations as Christians, in our struggle to understand Jesus’ suffering, as the people of Israel were challenged to find meaning in their suffering, as long as we do not erase the experience of Israel.

The teaching of Christ to lay down one’s life for another is the greatest act of love: to set aside our own desires to meet the needs of others. 1 John 3 teaches us we cannot be faithful to Christ if we do not meet the needs of others who are suffering. The love from Christ is meant to be an example in how we love one another. Our faith is lived out, “not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (1 John 3:18). Jesus’ love for us not only saves us in his laying down his life and dying for us, but in that it transforms us to do the same for others. If it doesn’t transform us, then it is meaningless.

Call to Worship
The call of Christ is this:
Love one another.
The law and the prophets teach this:
Love one another.
The world calls us to fulfill our desires,
But Christ commands us to love one another.
We do this best not in word or speech,
But in truth and action.
Beloved, let us love one another,
For Christ first loved us.
Come, worship God, who is Love.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, we fail to love one another, because we love the things of this world more. We love having possessions, because they make us feel valued. The more possessions we have, the more we feel safe and secure. We worry that we will not have enough, while others go hungry and homeless. Forgive us for being possessed by our possessions. Forgive us for turning to wealth instead of love. Call us back into Your commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we live this out, we know there will be enough for everyone, for You have provided an abundant Earth for us all. Call us into mutual love, understanding, and care. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When our hearts condemn us for failing to love one another, we remember that God is greater than our hearts. God knows us, and loves us still, and forgives us for our shortcomings. You are forgiven. Extend that same grace and forgiveness to others. You are loved, so share this love with one another. You have no condemnation in Christ Jesus our Lord. Go and share the good news. Amen.

God of Love, we mistake many things in this world for love. We still worship idols, believing that having more is a symbol of blessing and love. We envy the wealthy, believing they have all happiness. We look to those who are famous, believing if they take notice of us, it is love. Call us into the truth of love: the heartbreaking work to make sure one another’s needs are met. For if we all lay down our lives for one another, not a one will be forgotten and left out. If we all love one another, all needs can be cared for. If we all love one another, we know Your love is present with us. Fill us with Your love and call us into this work of mutual care and understanding. Amen.

Worship Resources for April 18th, 2021—Third Sunday of Easter

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

Narrative Lectionary: Stephen’s Witness, Acts 6:1-7:2a, 44-60 (Luke 24:33-34a, 46)

For the Revised Common Lectionary in the season of Easter, passages from Acts replace the Hebrew Scriptures lesson. In Acts 3, soon after Pentecost, Peter and John were going to the temple at the hour of the afternoon prayer and encountered a man, who couldn’t walk from birth, being carried in. He would beg from the temple gates every day, because in that time, if you were disabled, the only way you could survive was to beg. However, Peter called out to the man and told him to look at him and John, then told him in the name of Jesus to stand up and walk. The man leaped up, praising God, and all the people recognized him and were amazed. In vs. 12, Peter addressed the people, declaring they didn’t heal the man, but it was Jesus. He continues sharing that Jesus was the servant of the God of their ancestors, the very one rejected by the people and crucified by Pilate, while a true criminal was released. Peter assures the crowd that they can repent and turn to God so their sins may be wiped away, for God fulfilled what had been foretold through the prophets about the Messiah, according to Peter.

The psalmist cries out for God to answer their prayer in Psalm 4. The psalmist addresses the ones who have spoken against them, who have gossiped and lied. God is with the faithful, the psalmist sings, and God hears the psalmist’s prayers. They instruct their enemies to turn to God’s ways instead. The psalmist knows that the faithless are still seeking, but as a faithful one, the psalmist rests assured in God’s presence and safety.

The writer of 1 John speaks of the love God has for all of us who are faithful, all of us called children of God in 3:1-7. We are God’s children now, but are to become something new, something yet to be revealed. We live into this hope, so we live into God’s ways. Everyone who lives into God’s ways is righteous, for that is right-living. Sin, however, deceives us, leading us astray; but in Christ there is no sin, for Christ removes our sin. Instead, we are called to flee from sin, and live into God’s ways.

The resurrection account continues in Luke in 24:36b-48. Jesus appeared before the disciples, and they were frightened. Jesus shows them his hands and feet (similar to John 20:19-31). The disciples, while full of joy, continue to struggle with their doubts and disbelief, but Jesus asks them for something to eat, and has some broiled fish (similar to John 21). Repeating the discourse with the two travelers on the road to Emmaus in 24:13-35, Jesus goes through the scriptures with the disciples, to understand that the Messiah was to suffer and die, and on the third day rise again. The disciples are witnesses of his death and resurrection, and the proclamation of repentance of forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name. They are called to go forth from Jerusalem to proclaim what they have seen and heard.

The Narrative Lectionary moves away from the resurrection accounts to the early church, and its first martyr after Jesus: the apostle Stephen, who began his ministry serving the Greek widows among them, after a controversy in which only the Hebrew widows were being cared for. However, when Stephen’s reputation grew, some members of a synagogue in Jerusalem made up of immigrants from outside of Jerusalem accused Stephen of speaking against Moses and God, so Stephen was arrested on the false charge that he said Jesus would destroy the temple. Stephen explained himself, testifying that the temple was built by Solomon through God’s instruction. However, Stephen also said that God does not dwell in houses made by human hands, quoting the prophet Isaiah, and accused those charging him of not keeping God’s ways. The council became angry, but when Stephen shared the vision he beheld of Jesus standing with God, that was too far. Stephen was stoned to death, but before he died, he called for God to not hold the sin against the people.

In Luke 23:33-34a, Jesus calls upon God to forgive the people who are crucifying him, for they know not what they are doing, and in verse 46, Jesus prays to God, giving up his spirit. Stephen echoes these same acts in his martyrdom.

Both the Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary respond to the question of how do we witness to the resurrection of Christ in our lives? How do we experience the risen Christ? Peter declares the risen Christ in every good act he accomplishes, even if it gets him into trouble. Stephen, participating in the ministry he was appointed to, boldly declares who his savior is, even if what he says defies what others teach to the point of his own death. Jesus, in Luke’s account, appears to the disciples, and though he asks them why they still have doubts in their hearts, he understands that they still harbor some unbelief and questions, even in the midst of their joy. Instead, Jesus leads them through the scriptures, to connect his own death and resurrection with the greater narrative of God’s story. This is how we live out our witness: declaring that new life is available, here and now, as Peter did to the man begging at the temple gate. We live out the new life, here and now, by serving the most vulnerable among us like Stephen did. We live into the new life, here and now, despite our doubts and questions, by assurance through the scriptures of who Jesus is and the faith that our sins are forgiven.

Call to Worship
The Good News is proclaimed to the world!
We are witnesses of these things.
Hope is Alive, in the acts of kindness we share with one another;
We are witnesses of these things.
Joy is palpable, in the celebration of the Risen Christ!
We are witnesses of these things.
Your sins are forgiven, and you have new life, now and always—
We are witnesses of these things.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we confess that we lose faith. We become comfortable with the things wrong in this world. We become content with systemic sin when it benefits us. We accept that there are things we cannot change without striving for justice. Forgive us. Call us back into right-living: to remember the commandments, to work for justice in loving-kindness, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Remind us that Your way of life is not simply a ticket to heaven but a transformation of our very selves. Forgive us of our sins, and love us into Your way. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Repentance and forgiveness of sins have been proclaimed in the name of Jesus throughout the world. Hear the good news! Your sins are forgiven. Yes, you too! You are very much loved by God, and God desires for you to live into the way exampled by Christ, to become last of all, servant of all, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Repent, and turn back to God, and know that you are forgiven, loved, and restored. Amen.

God of Holy Wisdom, guide us in this season of Easter to proclaim Your Good News in all we do, as well as what we say. Lead us in the ways of Your loving-kindness. Remind us to ponder the scriptures and reflect on Your teaching. Open our hearts to receive what You have to share with us. Show us how to live into Your ways of justice and mercy. May Your wisdom be apparent in our lives, living into the Gospel as a way of life, rather than simply what we preach. Spirit of Wisdom, remain in us, now and always. Amen.