Liturgy with Communion (may be adapted for use without
Caroline Hamilton is a religion major in her senior year at Texas Christian University. She is a Higher Education and Leadership Ministries Fellow through the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.
Call to Worship
“I am, you
anxious one. Don’t you
sense me, ready to break
Don’t you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surrounding you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?”
From Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
God of Grace, from You abundance springs and righteousness blossoms. You breathed life into the dust, bringing us forth from the earth with your spirit. We continue to find life in You, through the love of Christ. Breathe again your grace into us. Cultivate in us hearts of gratitude, of generosity, and of increasing joy. Make us mindful of your holy presence, as we join together to worship You in spirit and truth. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
Maker of all things, creator and sustainer, we come before you a wilted people. We confess that at times we are like the dry and barren earth, unwilling and unable to let your word grow in our hearts. We can be distracted and passive people, God. Have mercy on us. We confess, too, O God that we have failed to share your abundance. We have kept your gifts without scattering new seeds. We can be selfish people, taking your love for granted God. Have mercy on us. We confess to You that we are often ungrateful for your grace. Have mercy on us, we pray. Cultivate the God-seed in us and make us bearers of Your fruits, sharing the blessings You give us. Amen.
Words of Assurance
We praise You, O God, for all you provide. You shower us with grace like rain upon the parched earth of our souls. You assure us with your promises that we can through Your Spirit produce good fruits. We thank You and praise You for You have taught us of Your grace, compassion, and generosity. Amen.
LEADER: As fruits contain the seeds for new plants, let our hearts hold seeds of compassion, kindness, patience, and love.
PEOPLE: Let us spread those seeds, so that JOY might increase.
LEADER: As God offered the abundance of the Garden to Adam and Eve, delighting them with creation,
PEOPLE: So let us offer others our best, so that JOY might increase.
LEADER: As God offered the bread of heaven in the wilderness, God offers us the bread of life in Jesus.
PEOPLE: Let us share that bread with the world, so that JOY might increase.
LEADER: God sends the rains and sun so each seed is able to grow and blossom.
PEOPLE: So may the Spirit of God fall upon us, that we may grow into God’s people who care for the world, so that in ALL THINGS the JOY that comes from heaven might increase.
We come to this table in thankful praise! Here, we receive freely the bread of life and the cup of a new covenant. Here we receive extravagant gifts from God. At this table we receive and we remember. We remember the hands that scattered seed and gathered grain, that tended vines and plucked fruit. We remember the freshness of the rain and the warmth of the sun that made seed and fruit swell and ripen. We remember those who have prepared this feast for us, yet have been excluded from the tables of plenty. We remember Jesus, who shared bread and wine in joy at a wedding feast, in hospitality among the multitudes, and among his friends in an upper room. In gathering together, in remembering, in sharing the abundance of the open table, we give thanks with great joy for God’s remarkable gift. Come, share bread. Come, share the cup. Share the feast God prepares for all.
Thanks and praise to you, God. Your gifts are extravagant. We thank you for inviting us all to this table of Your grace. May the bread of life inspire us. May the cup of the covenant renew us. May we be filled with your spirit of generous hospitality and love. Amen.
Invitation to the Offering
In a world where millions are hungry, thirsty, displaced from their homes, or suffering because of injustice, we can feel so helpless. Today’s scripture reminds us, though, of the power of small things. The seeds we sow grow and produce a bountiful harvest. Not because what we give is great, but because God’s grace is sufficient. Each small seed brings an abundance of life; likewise, each small gift brings an abundance of Joy into this world. Our gifts today will support One Great Hour of Sharing providing aid and relief to our neighbors affected by poverty, war, and natural disasters, locally and globally. Give with thanks and with Joy, each as you are able.
Blessed are You, God, maker of heaven and earth. We offer these gifts, fruits of what You have planted in us. May they be seeds of hope, of grace, and of love. We pray that the joy we have in offering our gifts to You pleases you. We pray these gifts serve those in need, and that in all things Your will be done. Amen.
Charge & Benediction
As you go forth from this place, may the God-seed in you grow and ripen. Spread seeds of hope in our world. Rejoice in the abundance of God’s grace. Go now in joy until we are together again. Amen and Alleluia.
Seed, Scattered and Sown
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Adorn the altar with seeds and fruits.
Have a prayer area with bowls of seeds available as tangible reminders of God’s gifts and our call to share.
*these elements may be omitted for a service without communion
Nancy Ellett Allison
Rev. Nancy Ellett Allison, Ph.D. has served as pastor of Holy Covenant United Church of Christ in Charlotte, NC since 2004. Dr. Allison currently serves as the Recording Secretary for the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ. She is a popular retreat leader and preacher and has been published in The Abingdon Women’s Preaching Annual, as well as other books of collected sermons.
Paul is calling on the Corinthian Christians to make sacrifices for a greater cause. Paul knows what we know: when great gratitude abounds, great generosity is abundant as well. When we are grounded and secure in God’s love, we are free to stretch the boundaries of our imagination, to explore the wideness in God’s mercy, to give our hearts and lives over to generosity in all our living.
When a child offers us a gift – such as a 2 year old giving a dandelion – we are enriched when we receive that gift, even as the giver is pleased in our accepting it. Receiving that gift of love, our work as stewards begins when we put the dandelion in a tiny vase. Stewardship is the care of all we have been given; it is not what we give.
Far too often, we hear stories of scarcity. And we react likewise. When scarcity thinking ensnares our lives, we no longer see things as they are, but we begin to see things as we are: limited, anxious, cautious, dependent.
Looking back in this passage, Paul describes a truth. What is the gift you can give which brings great joy and makes your heart sing? Working for justice? Bible studies with students? Playing an instrument? Every time we sow our gifts bountifully, we reap a harvest that lifts our hearts, enriches our life and community and overflows with the grace of God.
He is encouraging these early Christians and us to trust in the knowledge of God’s abundance rather than in the fear of life’s scarcity. With a stalled economy, reduced pensions, flat salaries, and just plain old fear and conservatism all around, we are at risk of withering from these attitudes, allowing our streams of sharing and mercy to be cut off. Is Paul only describing faith that fits within a prosperous society? Or can the stewardship, the nourishing of our soul, our being, always be the starting place of generous living?
Tending to what we have been given, sets us free, to bless those around us. Our “When we learn to trust God’s generosity, We will be able to give to something larger than ourselves; to something that will make our hearts sing, creating joyous new chords of connection and love in this world.