Pentecost -- Ordinary Time -- Service of Worship

Courage for Justice:
19th Sunday after the Pentecost

Scriptures:
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

CALL TO WORSHIP (adapted from Hebrews 4:12-16)
One:    The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it can judge our thoughts and intentions of our hearts.
Many:    We cannot hide for we are naked and laid bare to the one whom we must render an account
One:    Let us hold fast to our confession before Jesus who was tested as you and I and yet was without sin.
Many:    We approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.

PRAYER OF INVOCATION
O God, you sowed the seeds of justice when you created this world.  Though your bountiful creation has enough for everyone, it is hardly divided fairly.  There are those who struggle to get their daily bread each day and then there are those who have more than they can use in their lifetime.  May we remember that all we have comes from you and that you have entrusted to us all that we have.  May we take your commandments to heart so we can do as Jesus asks of us.  Grant that we, O God, use this hour to work in our ministries to end this disparity.  Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Almighty and holy One, we cannot begin to count all our possessions.  We have things in our closets, our attics, and our basements.  We have things tucked away in boxes we haven’t opened in years, and still we acquire more.  We have so much stuff and yet, there are those in our communities who can fit all their worldly possessions in a shopping cart.  We know that you, O God, will defend the poor and come to them in their need.  But we, O God, need your forgiveness for we are more attached to our things than we willingly acknowledge.   Help us confront our attachment to possessions and things more honestly so we can share our own abundance more equitably.  Amen.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE
We draw false and fleeting comfort from our material things.  True comfort comes from God’s love for us and by responding with that same love to family, friend, neighbor, and stranger.   By God’s love we are forgiven.  Let us do likewise.  Amen.

OFFERING
We should not forget that our offering should be the first fruits of our labors which we dedicate to God.  Not only do we honor God by this offering, but it also helps us not to keep the best of what we have for ourselves.  By giving our first fruits to God, we help to ensure that those who have little will receive something and we who have much do not keep it entirely for ourselves.

PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Generous God, we thank you for all that we have – for all of it comes from you.  We gratefully return a portion of what we have to you.  May our offerings sustain and support the work of this church to close the disparity between those who have much and those who have little in this community.  Amen.

BENEDICTION (Based upon Psalm 90:12,14,17 adapted)
Let us count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
Let God satisfy us this morning with steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Depart in peace and let God’s favor be upon us to prosper the work of our hands.

Alternative Worship Idea

Let the congregation see how much extra stuff they have by asking them to bring their items to worship that morning.  If at all possible, hold the worship service in the same space where the congregation will leave them.  People can bring their items forward either at the start of worship or during the sermon time.  The following are two suggestions:

A.    Ask people to bring their excess household goods.  Even if everyone brings two or three items, the cumulative effect of all the items can make a dramatic statement about all the stuff we have acquired that we don’t need.  The church can use the goods for a tag sale later in the week or month or donate it to a community organization that can resell or donate the items to households where these items can be used.

B.    Set up a clothing drive especially for business clothes and invite the members and friends to bring them to church that day.   Having racks upon which to hang the clothes would be helpful.

    Give the clothes to people who are unemployed to dress for interviews or to people who need to have a basic wardrobe of business clothes to dress professionally for work.

The sermon time could be a general conversation about our relationship to possessions.  Why do we have so much?  What attachments do we have to them?  What is the difference between need and want?  If we had to put all our possessions in a shopping cart, what would we keep?


Ephphatha – Open! Service of  Holy Communion for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost  was written by the Rev. Quentin Chin, member of  Church on the Hill in Lenox, MA.
Copyright 2009 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH  44115-1100.  Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education.  All publishing rights reserved.

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CONTACT INFO

Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3869
blains@ucc.org