United Church of Christ

Lent 2 - March 8

Midwife our Spirits
Service Prayers for the Second Sunday of Lent
March 8, 2020

Genesis 12:1-4a    Psalm 121    Romans 4:1-5, 13-17    John 3:1-17

Color: Purple
Theme: Born Again
Scripture: John 3: 1-17 (Note: have scripture recited, not read)

Call to Worship (Genesis 12: 1-4a; John 3: 1-17)

Leader: We are in the presence of God.
Leave the places you have known and walk with God.
Leave behind thoughts of limitation and imagine.
People: But we are secure where we are.
Ahh, but New ways of being in this world is possible for each of us.
Can’t God bless us where we are, and as we are?
If you trust enough to move from the places you have known,
and question the systems around us,
you will be blessed.
God is our light and our salvation.
Lord, we open ourselves to you. 
Direct our paths and open our hearts and minds.
In this place, in every place,
for this time, for all time.
All: Let us worship our God.   

Gathering Prayer:
O God our Creator, your kindness has given us a new morning.
Help us to leave yesterday,
not be anxious about tomorrow,
and appreciate the unique gift of today.
Open us to the movement of your Holy Spirit
that we may desire to bring new order, new possibility,
and new hope in this land,
and new life in the depths of our being. Amen.

Call to Confession
May we confess, as Jesus did in the wilderness.
Gracious God forgive those things we have done which have caused you
sadness,
and those things we should have done that would have brought you joy.
In both we have failed ourselves, and you.
Bring us back to that place where our journey began,
when we said that we would follow you.

Silence

Let us confess together…

Unison Confession
Holy One, who is able to make all things new,
we are thankful for the gift of each day 
being an opportunity to do better, to be better.
We ask forgiveness for wanting new life
without being willing to die to old ways of being.
Forgive us for doubting that new life, rebirth is possible.
Midwife our spirits,
that we may be born into a new state of consciousness;
that we may be born from above.

Words of Assurance
Even in our reluctance, even in our brokenness,
God provides a path to wholeness and renewal.
When we confess our shortcomings,
God has mercy on us and is generous with forgiveness.
Through Jesus Christ we are forgiven….and that is good news. Thanks be to God.

Notes Toward a Sermon—at the end of the service

Dedication of Offering
May these gifts indicate our gratitude for our many blessings.
May the spiritual nourishment we receive today
strengthen us for continued service. Amen.

Benediction/ Sending Forth
God of our past. God of our future. God of this present age.
As we leave this place, but not your presence – we pray that you
         Take us not away from dangbut give us the courage to face it.
         Take us not away from difficulty,    but give us strong hearts to bear it.
         Take us not away from evil,                             but give us the power to
overcome it.

May the love of God surround you,
the peace of God dwell in you,
and the justice of God compel you. Go in peace. Amen

Notes Toward a Sermon: 
In the essay by Rodney Hunger of Emory’s Candler School of Theology entitled Preaching Lent he begins by saying:

Preaching Lent is something of a countercultural challenge. No other season of the church stands in quite such marked contrast to the style and spirit of American life or presents Christians with more culturally problematic demands…   To preach the values and disciplines of Lent in a nation obsessed with values opposite from the gospel requires a bit of imagination and probably a fair dose of courage for challenging dominant cultural imperatives and assumptions.  

After I read this essay...I began think…Birth is messy, inconvenient, agonizing, bloody and loud: 
But this is how life enters this world.

How can you be born again?

I wonder how much do you have to grow - so that - Like a child in a mother’s womb 

your place of nurture can no longer contain you

How much do you have to grow that you have to be propelled into a different reality

For not to do so means the very place that formed you  might become the place of your death.

In a world where our being is presumed to be fixed by 

  • Social location -
    • Within the empire
    • Colonized by the empire
    • Enemies of the empire
    • Or allies of the empire
  • Ethnicity
    • You have to pick a box that identifies region and ancestry
  • Wealth
    • You are either advantaged or not
    • You are encouraged to mimic wealth - literally at all costs

Our lives are fixed...our point of entry into this world...a permanent stamp upon our being…

But…Here Jesus points us to another option “To be born again””

To enter into this world with a consciousness
         that propels us into a reality 
         beyond the constraints on one’s physical...political...socio-economic birth.

Lent offers us a challenge and an opportunity to invite our congregations into new ways of being...and new way of thinking 

    • “Ways of thinking that offer a profound universe of meaning and values that push against the values our secular, materialistic and stratified world has to offer,

Lent is a time of reflection and for many a time of denial …

I wonder what would I need not to take into myself that I might move and grow my spirit?

What could I abstain from, what am I willing to withdraw from,

       ..that would position me for the new life that is possible..?

Are we willing to withdraw from an imperialist world view?
Are we willing to abstain from being right...in order to be more just?
Are we willing to suspend our disbelief...that a better world is possible...
that we can be different…that we can really make a difference?


Midwife our Spirits: Service Prayers for the Second Sunday of Lent were written by the Rev. Michelle Hughes, Designated Associate Conference Minister for Stewardship, Transformation, and Vitality, Illinois Conference, UCC.

Copyright 2020, Justice and Local Church Ministries, Faith INFO 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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