United Church of Christ

Pentecost 3 - June 21

Growing in the Wilderness
Prayers for the Third Sunday of Pentecost
June 21, 2020

Since Congregations are returning to “in-person” services at different paces, Worship Ways for Summer 2020 will be edited for online use.  “Rubrics” for virtual services will be noted in red;  take and adapt as you need!

Genesis 21:8-21 and Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17  •  Romans 6:1b-11  •  Matthew 10:24-39

Leader should speak the lines of the people, along with the Leader’s lines

Call to Worship

One:     The sun shines more brightly.
            Its warmth stays with us for so many more hours.
All:       Out loud but muted
             So we shake free of our routines.

One:     In this new moment,
            We wander about the wilderness:
            Hoping God will open our eyes
            Praying God will make us worthy
            Wanting to grow with God.
All:       Out loud but muted
            Let us grow together in the
            wild ways of our God.

Invocation (inspired by Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17)

            Wild God, you do great and wonderful things.
            It’s what makes you our God.
            There is nothing else in this world like you.
            There’s nothing else like your love.
            Wild God, come and worship with us.
            Help us to grow in your love.

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Genesis 21:8-21)

Invite people to bring with them to worship some strips of fabric, large enough to write on  and to weave together.  Have four or five strips for each person.  Have them bring pens or pencils which can be used on the fabric. Invite each one to write their name on one strip of fabric.
The pastor or worship leader offers this invitation:
Abraham was very distressed.
Because his son, Ishmael, was cut out of the community.
Because Sarah could no longer tolerate Hagar.
So Sarah threw her out into the wilderness.
And this is distressing. We are distressed whenever relationships are broken.
Still, we confess to God that there are family and friends we have cast out.
Knowing this, you are invited to offer your silent confession to God by taking one of the small strips of cloth, writing the name of someone you have left behind in the wilderness and begin to weave or braid it together with the strip bearing your name.

Silence, while people write and braid

We also know that in times of crisis, such as Covid-19,
some communities are cut off from resources they need for survival,
---Work, food, healthcare--
They suffer disproportionately because of race, or poverty, or lack of health insurance.
We confess that all too often
we fail to look beyond the boundaries of our own communities. 
Knowing this, you are invited to offer your silent confession to God
by taking another of the small strips of cloth,
writing the name of a  person or a community that is suffering
because they are cut off from what they need. 
Weave or braid that piece of cloth onto the original strips.

Silence, while people write and braid

Words of Assurance

The God of Hagar and Sarah, the God of Isaac and Ismae
Continues to call us into community across  boundaries,
providing water in the desert and the promise of a future. 
Let us believe that grace is working in our lives,
Opening hearts, restoring justice, making all things new in Christ Jesus.
Sung Response                                               Blessed Be the Tie That Binds,  alt 2020

                                                                      Public domain

All:  out loud but muted

Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love;
The sharing of a common life is like to that above.
 
Before our God we come and pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our care.
 
We share each other’s woes, each other’s burdens bear,
and from our hearts the strength will flow for justice made and shared.

Scripture, Sermon, Prayers of the People

Notes for the worship planners in 2020:

  • Consider a simple message or even an  interactive Bible Study that engages people with the Scriptures for today.  Each in their way may have a word for people living in quarantine, or considering leaving quarantine.  The readings today deal with conflict in community; Jesus alternates between the comforting images of God’s notice of the sparrow, and the starker statement of bringing not peace, but the sword. Stories of trauma, such as that of Hagar and Ismael, end with unexpected grace—water in the wilderness, the promise of a future. What connections may be made between these scriptural challenges and the experience of communities coming through the profound trauma of Covid-19?  Where is God at work in our midst? To what kind of witness  is God calling the wider community?

  • For the Prayers of the People, you might use a bidding prayer (“God, we pray today for those who are sick, including ….”) and encourage folk to type in their prayers using Zoom chat or Facebook Live; allow for more time in silence for those prayers to be typed and read. Consider a collective response at the end of each bidding prayer.

  • A caution regarding prayers of the People online: Folks gathered in-person often recount a lot of detail in their prayers concerning other members or family (“Elderly Name, living alone, experiencing isolation…”  In  a private, in-person gathering, this information may be safe, but online, it can expose vulnerable people to harm, since we can’t control who will join the gathering or access it later online.  Invite people to be prudent in offering prayers:  “For First name only, in need of healing”; “For First name only, comfort in grief”  etc. 

    Encourage people to contact the pastor directly with news of those needed extra pastoral care.

Invitation to the Offering

Our Wild God has helped and comforted us.
And it is so good! We will not be distressed. Not anymore!
We will work in this goodness to mend every broken branch on our family tree.
We will use our gifts, tithes and offerings to rebuild the body of Christ.
Let us give to the family that nurtures us in new growth.

Dedication Prayer

Grow these gifts in your love, Wild God.
Bless our offerings, our hearts and our hopes in your love
To make us worthy of your work in this world.
Fill these gifts and each of us with your goodness. Amen.

Benediction

Beloved in Christ, into your hands God gives strength and worth.
Take another strip of cloth to weave into and to mend
the broken relationships in the body of Christ.
Trust that this wild world is full of God’s steadfast love.
For you, dear servant, were made for this love.
Go in this deep peace.

Written by the Rev. Elsa A. Cook, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, a budding spiritual director and wandering interim minister. She writes liturgies and shares her thoughts on cookingwithelsa.org.  Adapted for online use by Susan Blain.

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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