Children's Sermon and Activity 1
BEAUTY IN THE BROKEN PLACES
THEME: Even in places that are broken and hurting, Jesus can do more than we can imagine.
PURPOSE: To help children think about how God uses the One Great Hour of Sharing offering to create new and beautiful things out of situations of destruction and pain, like the broken pieces in a kaleidoscope turn and reflect into beautiful images.
SUPPLIES: a kaleidoscope; you can have one as an example, or you can have smaller party-favor kaleidoscopes, so each child can have one.
[OPTIONAL: to use this lesson as an extended activity, have children to create their own kaleidoscopes.]
SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 3:20 (International Children’s Bible Version)
SCRIPT Gather the children and show them the kaleidoscope. Who can name what this is I have in my hand? Accept a few answers, until someone identifies it correctly or the answers slow down.
Yes! This is called a kaleidoscope. Who knows what we do with it? Accept answers, affirming correct answers.
LEADER: Have any of you ever played with one of these. What did you think of it? I’ll pass it around in a few moments so you can each take a closer look. First, let me show you the funny thing about how it works. If you look at it from the outside lens, it looks like you just have a bunch of pieces everywhere. Sometimes those pieces look broken! But here’s the trick! If you look at it through the proper eye lens and twist it, all of those shattered pieces turn into beautiful shapes and a new picture. Pass around the kaleidoscope, or pass out the individual ones to each child.
Before you looked into the kaleidoscope, could any of you imagine what the picture could look like? Could you imagine how beautiful it would be? Accept a few answers, as children keep passing the kaleidoscope.
As you twisted it, did you notice how the picture changed to a new shape? Did you have any idea beforehand what that shape would look like? Accept a few answers, as the children keep passing the kaleidoscope.
This kaleidoscope reminds me of our scripture verse today. The verse comes from our friend the Apostle Paul. A long, long time ago, Paul wrote letters encouraging people to follow and trust Jesus. Let’s listen to something that Paul wrote in his letter to members of the church in a place called Ephesus. Paul wrote? “With God’s power working in us, God can do much more than anything we can ask or think of.”
You can repeat the scripture a couple of times, if you want.
Today I want us to think of ourselves as God’s kaleidoscopes – And here’s how…
If we only look at all the scattered beads, it seems like the kaleidoscope was a mess. But when we turned the kaleidoscope, we saw beautiful pictures. This is what God’s power does with us! Sometimes the world can seem like a mess! There are people who feel broken because of disasters, or wars, or because they don’t have enough to eat. It can look like nothing good can happen. But God can make beautiful things, even when the world seems scary or broken. And our scripture verse today says God does that by working through us! When we used the power of our hands to turn the kaleidoscope, we saw a new picture. God’s power can help us be a part of a new picture for people who are in need of help, too!
Today is a special time in our church where we give money to help families and communities around the world whose lives have broken pieces. Our One Great Hour of Sharing offering helps people rebuild their houses and churches after floods and fires and earthquakes. It helps people create new homes when they have had to leave their homes because they weren’t safe. And it helps communities have clean water, healthy food, and schools for their children.
This offering helps us to do more than we can ever imagine to create a new picture for our neighbors around the world-- all through the power of God! Can you imagine how God might use YOU in a new picture for those who are in need?
Let’s close with a prayer-- Amazing God! Help us to be part of the beautiful world you imagine. When people are hurting, scared, or lost, use your power in us to help them. Amen.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Beauty in the Broken Places--Kaleidoscope Creation
Purpose: This activity is an extension of the Children’s Sermon in Children’s Church. Taken together, they can serve as a Sunday school lesson.
Toilet paper or paper towel tube (1 full tube and 1 partial tube per kaleidoscope)
Mylar paper or other reflective cardstock
Beads, sequins, or confetti
Clear plastic (a to-go container works well)
Instructions: For an instructional video on how to make a toilet paper tube kaleidoscope, visit:
1. Cut the reflective paper; width: 4.25”, length: 1/2” shorter than your tube Fold the reflective paper to create a triangular prism, with the reflective part inside.
2. Secure together with tape.
3. Slide the prism into your tube so that one end is even with the tube edge.
4. Use your tube as a template to trace 2 circles on the plastic. Cut out your circles--cut one to the outside of the lines so it is slightly larger and one to the inside of the lines so it is slightly smaller.
5. Slide the smaller circle into your tube so it rests against the prism.
6. Put beads, sequins, or confetti into he tube on top of the plastic.
7. Place your second plastic circle on the end of the tube. Secure with tape.
8. Decorate your kaleidoscope and enjoy!
Children’s Sermon and Activity 2
Gather the children in the space and welcome them.
LEADER: Let’s start with a game. Around the room are hidden some paper clouds. These are very special, and we need to find them and bring them all here! Can you help me?
Encourage the children to search for clouds, and give them to the leader. (Have a cloud for each child.)
LEADER: What do you notice about these clouds? Accept answers until the children notice that some have letters on them.
LEADER: Yes! Some of these DO have letters on them. I wonder what the letters might spell! You can have a child hold each letter in a line, having the rest of the class shuffle the order of the line until they are correct, OR you can put the clouds out on the floor or a table.
LEADER: These clouds spell “imagine.” What does the word “imagine” mean?
LEADER: Well it appears that we have a pretty good idea of what the word imagine means. So let’s agree, imagine means to think of a picture or story in your mind. Perhaps when you close your eyes you can see it. It is like dreaming, but you can see it when you are awake. Let’s give it a try. Let’s all close our eyes and think of something. When I count to three, we’ll open our eyes and share one at a time.
Invite responses from a few children.
LEADER: Those are some amazing things you visualized and imagined! I noticed that some of you imagined something positive and happy. Some of you imagined something [make other observations about their answers]. Some of you imagined something most people would say is impossible. Raise your hand if you think what you imagined can really happen. Those of you who didn’t raise your hands, why do you think what you imagined could not really happen?
Listen to responses.
LEADER: I have a story to share from the Bible about a guy named Paul who prays and tells us that God can do more than anything we can ever imagine. A long time ago, when the church was first beginning, people like Paul, who were called Apostles, shared the good news about Jesus and how we should put our faith in God. Paul liked to write letters to encourage people to be kind, and to put their trust in God. In one letter Paul wrote to the church in the city of Ephesus, Paul chose to add a special prayer to encourage people to trust in God. The prayer ends: “With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or think of. To [God] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, International Children’s Bible).
That sounds amazing to learn that if we trust in God’s power, God can do more than we can do on our own. God can do more than we can imagine, kind of like what we imagined earlier. Let’s imagine the amazing things God can do when God’s power is working in us to help others.
First, I am going to pass out a cloud to each of you. Then, I want you to draw a picture of something that you think people need help with, but not like putting your toys away. Let’s think about how people feel when it is too much rain, or maybe when they are hungry and don’t have any food.
Give each child a cloud and give time for them to draw.
LEADER: When you’re done flip your cloud over. Now let’s close our eyes and imagine how God’s power could help the people in that situation. Imagine how God could use YOU to do something to help them. I wonder how God’s power in you could do more for those people than they could ever imagine or ask?
LEADER: After you’ve thought about it, draw a picture on the other side. Begin with the sun shining. Next can you show what you could do when God’s power is working in you?
Allow children time to draw.
Once many are completed, invite them to share with the class the side of the cloud that has been affected by damage and then turn to the side where the children have thought of ways that God can use them. You might display the clouds in a prominent area in your church for adults to see how children can show the possibilities of God’s power working through them.
Close with a Prayer. Dear God, Thank you for allowing your power to work through us. Help us to look to you when we need help or when we see other people who need help. Help us to remember that with you we can do more than we could do on our own. Amen.
Mark 1: 29-39
Healing that is, and that is more than…
Jesus’ co-travelers figure prominently in this passage. Simon, Andrew, James and John have accompanied Jesus through Capernaum after their calling and have witnessed the healing and the teaching at the synagogue there. These disciples, like the others in Capernaum, were amazed and witnessing healing that not only cured body, mind and spirit; but also pointed to the deeper purpose and meaning of Jesus. The group’s next destination is the family home of Simon and Andrew where Simon’s mother-in-law lies ill. Here, Jesus’ healing actions and purpose get personal. And, in this place, the role of the disciples turns from observers to actors. Jesus takes the woman by the hand and lifts her up. The fever leaves her and she begins to serve them. She is not the only one whose life has been transformed though. This personal experience turns the disciples from observers of Jesus’ healing actions to participants in its purpose. They, too, begin to serve. At sundown, those disciples bring to Jesus all who were sick and possessed with demons. In the presence of the crowd that has gathered, Jesus cures people of various diseases of the body and demons of spirit. The illnesses are gone. A crowd gathers around the house with people jostling each other for a peak in the door at the action. Jesus’ actions at Simon and Andrew’s house change the lives of those real individuals and families who are healed. And, Jesus is more than a local healer. The crowd is witness to Jesus’ actions that point to his deeper meaning and purpose, the fullness of healing for the whole world. Jesus silences the outcast demons as they may draw attention to these particular events, but do so in a way that mis-interprets to the people the fullness of who Jesus is and of his purpose for the world. Jesus’ actions are both particular healing and the fullness and wholeness of healing. Jesus’ disciples are still on a learning curve to experience and understand the meaning of that both/and tension. From their personal experience of Simon’s mother-in-law and the hometown crowds, Jesus draws the disciples away to a deserted place of discernment and then on to Galilee and beyond to be part of Jesus’ message and healing actions.
Interaction with Text – Implementers and Shapers of Healing
This action in Mark 1 that is both concrete healing and that points to the shape and nature of that healing for the world is embedded in the work of the United Church of Christ’s humanitarian and development ministries made possible by the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering. These ministries in areas of disaster, refugees and global sustainable development are both concrete implementers and, through the methods of this implementation, are catalysts for shaping goals and outcomes.
Each of the UCC’s humanitarian and development ministries are small and flexible enough to fill gaps and leverage connections while being large enough to influence systems and shape outcomes. Therefore, the UCC, along with other faith communities, deliberately engages with secular, governmental and non-governmental systems in programs and projects that align with goals already identified in the faith communities. Experience demonstrates that faith communities and networks can be effective in this implementation - connecting with already established grassroots networks (congregations) and trusted community leaders (pastors and other church leaders). AND the church’s ministry is more than implementer. From engagement with faith resources and traditions, faith communities shape those very mechanisms and systems of response and development. With a liberation approach, the UCC engages in development from the starting point of long-term relationships that enable connection with the vulnerable and excluded. Engaging with these actors to identify community goals and accompanying them in figuring out how to get there is a healing journey in itself and also shapes the very goals of development toward wholistic healing for all.
Fatima and USHINDI in Democratic Republic of Congo
Sexual and Gender Based Violence as a public health crisis
Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, enable this joint particular concrete and wider catalyst approach to faith-based shaping of global sustainable development. Fatima (not her real name) is a participant in the USHINDI program for rehabilitation and reintegration of survivors of sexual and gender based violence. Fatima’s story is heartbreaking and heartening. She is strong and enables others to be strong. She sees the USHINDI program as important in her journey of survival.
The USHINDI program of IMA World Health of which the United Church of Christ is a member operates in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. USHINDI approaches Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) as a public health crisis and empowers a wholistic response and support system. USHINDI in Swahili means “to overcome.” Fatima is one of 1.5 million people in 10 health zones and 108 health areas in DRC empowered by this comprehensive approach to combatting SGBV in eastern DRC. A hallmark of USHINDI is the local implementing partners with long history of providing services for survivors of SGBV, increasing the numbers of people touched by the program. The other hallmark is its wholistic approach. USHINDI addresses SGBV as a public health crisis addressing the crisis through a combination of actions in areas of medical, psychological, legal, socio-economic, behavior change communication, capacity building and organizational strengthening. IMA World Health channels funds of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for this USHINDI program and now has multiplied its impact by influencing USAID to use this approach in other SGBV programs around the world.
Reflections by: Rev. Dr. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, UCC national setting Team Leader, UCC Humanitarian and Development Ministries (One Great Hour of Sharing) in disaster, refugee, development and volunteer ministries.
Mark 1: 21-28
Authenticity that Puts Faith into Action for the Sake of Embodied Wholeness
Jesus and his disciples begin their journey together with a tour through Capernaum. They stop in at the synagogue on the Sabbath, signaling the importance of the already established community of faith and where they gather. Jesus teaches here. The people are astounded at his teaching, rating him above the scribes on the scale of authority. Is it the confidence in his presentation or is there some other qualitative characteristic that triggers this reaction? The story continues.
As if on cue to this question of authority, a man with an unclean spirit bursts onto the scene. Mark’s gospel presents Jesus’ identity as a “messianic secret” whose cover continually gets blown by the most surprising of story characters. Here, it is the unclean spirit, the power of disruption and destruction, who identifies Jesus’ authority - publicly outing him as “the Holy One of God.”
This is not a welcome identification by that unclean spirit. The power’s tone is accusatory. It says to Jesus, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Jesus’ answer – yes. In the written text, Jesus’ response is “Be silent and come out of him!” And it does. The qualitative difference of Jesus’ teaching is that it is not just teaching ABOUT God’s good news, but that the good news of healing and wholeness is embodied in their midst.
Liberation theology points out that Jesus’ ministry, and ours, is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The embodiment of Jesus’ ministry and his very identity is to destroy the root causes of pain and destruction, to make the world whole for all. “The time is fulfilled; and the kingdom of God has come near.” (Mark 1:14) This is not welcome news for an unclean spirit of oppressive power.
In this narrative, Jesus demonstrates the convergence between what he says and what he does to embody who he is. The outcome is healing and wholeness. “The unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.” The process is not pretty or straightforward. The process is not painless or easy. Convulsing accompanied by loud crying is a strong event - for the man afflicted, for the synagogue-goers and scribes, for the disciples and even for Jesus himself.
The outcome: The afflicted man is rid of the unclean spirit, so no doubt his life is changed for the better. But, more importantly for this narrative, the witnesses to the event are impacted and empowered. The story repeats their reaction from a few verses previously. “They were amazed.” But this time, they express their glimpse of the meaning of this action. This is “a new teaching – with authority.” This healing and wholeness embodied in their midst – beyond what they could ever imagine - is who God is. And now they are now part of that unfolding action and embodiment.
INTERACTION WITH STORY
Interacting with this text through the lens of accompanying people who experience forcible displacement, poverty or natural disaster highlights several parts of that ministry. We all are involved in these Humanitarian and Development ministries as they are made possible through the UCC’s One Great Hour of Sharing Offering.
- The unclean spirit often is the first spotter of the Holy One in our midst. The chaos caused by disaster or violence, is often the disruption that put us in direct contact again with the presence of God in our midst. The reminder that people live without clean water or enough food or adequate health care can jolt us into more awareness that this situation is not who God is nor what God intends for the world.
- The powers and root causes of these destructive events and chronic exclusion do not welcome the awareness that this is not normal nor the goal of creation. Those events of disaster, displacement and poverty scream at the embodiment of wholeness in an accusatory tone – trying to deflect the intent and outcome of efforts toward a just world for all. “What have you to do with us? Have you come to destroy us?” Well, yes.
Such efforts toward wholeness and care for all live always in the shadow of accusations and the danger of falling into the trap that these actions are done for the sake of our own power and not for the outcome of well-being for all. Political parties rooted in extreme Hinduism in India, for example, accuse Christians of using education or health care to entice or forcibly convert people to Christianity. Public perception in the time of natural disaster or refugee displacement can easily wander into an assumption that communities of faith will care first for “their own.”
Christian Scripture and action, however, move us in the opposite direction. Jesus’ embodiment of new life draws us into relationship with all people, particularly those most excluded and vulnerable. The role of UCC Humanitarian and Development ministries is to walk with those most impacted or most excluded from access to resources. Some stories from early response to 2017 high attention disasters in the United States illustrate this commitment to exercise who we are as church through care for all.
Some stories of this theology in action:
Texas – Post Hurricane Harvey - Disaster Aid Distribution
Florida – Post Hurricane Irma – Hot meals, Ice and Electricity
US Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico – Clean Water
Northern California Wildfires – Connecting the Most Vulnerable with Fire-Recovery Resources
Southern California Wildfires “Be the Church”
- The convulsions and loud cries of the unclean spirit as it is uprooted are not easy to witness, but continued presence and engagement is absolutely necessary. For example, HIVAIDS has been an epidemic that once was thought unstoppable. Controversy has saturated responses to this epidemic, including the attitudes and action (or lack of action) by communities of faith.
But faith communities also have been at the heart of positive steps toward the elimination of this disease as an epidemic. The United Church of Christ has joined and led communities of faith around the world in actions from grassroots prevention efforts to shaping global policies and campaigns for HIVAIDS elimination. To help implement the United Nations’ AIDS strategy of 2016-2021,“Fast-Track: Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” the UCC and faith-based partners focus on ending stigma and discrimination. The UNAIDS strategy names the current moment as a tipping point. To not fast-track the AIDS response in order to reach targets for treatment, knowing HIV status and achieving zero discrimination would set back the current grasp on the epidemic as new infections and deaths would outpace the response . Eliminating the root causes of this epidemic – its stigma – can cause convulsions and loud screaming, but continued engagement offers a glimpse of the embodied wholeness that Jesus makes possible through his words and actions.
So - stay engaged. We, like the people in the people in the synagogue at Capernaum, are witness to and part of a movement for wholeness and a just world for all. Mark reports that “They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching – with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” We, too, are part of this journey to be part of Jesus’ work and identity in the world of healing and wholeness. In that journey, is where we too catch this glimpse and experience this awe of the new teaching – with authority. It is the authority of embodied wholeness, the authority of the Holy One.
MORE THAN WE CAN IMAGINE
INTERPRETING THE 2019 SPECIAL OFFERING THEME
It may seem a weak word when compared with all the need that we see daily in the world. We hear the word “imagination” and we may think to ourselves “fantasy.” We hear the word “imagination” and we wonder if it is truly helpful in a world where some would say, “clear-eyed realism is what is needed to face the challenges before us.”
Yet far from being a light, weak, or un-real thing, imagination is actually one of the most powerful engines for change that human beings have! Long ago, the philosopher Aristotle said that “Thinking itself begins in wonder, begins in imagination,” and he was right. Imagination, particularly when it is fueled by a vision of God’s hopes for all humankind, can keep us energized to do the good that is possible.
The theme for the 2019 One Great Hour of Sharing Special Offering is “More than we can imagine!” The theme, based on Ephesians 3:20, reminds us that we are not alone in our imagining a better world for all of God’s children. For it is God’s imagination that fuels and empowers ours! You see, God imagines a world where:
- No one is left to face the ravages of natural disaster alone - neighbor helps neighbor, stranger helps stranger - for we are the church together
- Even if things will never quite be the same after a disaster, God can work through all events to bring new life, new hope, and even more resilience
- Clean and abundant water and ample sanitation facilities are available to every person;
- Work brings security from hunger and the land is treated with respect
- Families displaced from their homes are able to build new lives
- Women are no longer subject to discrimination and gender-based violence
And God also imagines Christians of many traditions, coming together to help make these things ever more a reality for more and more people! For you see, our imagination of what might be is founded and grounded in what God envisions and hopes for. We can help – through our gifts of treasure and talent, prayer, and presence to make this world ever more like the way God imagine it would be!
Please, give generously to the One Great Hour of Sharing special offering, so that your imagination might indeed be ever more joined with God’s!
CALL TO WORSHIP (inspired by Psalm 46)
LEADER: God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.
PEOPLE: Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
LEADER: This morning we enlarge our hearts; we offer our prayers; we share our treasure with those siblings in our world who are dealing with tumult and disaster and injustice.
PEOPLE: We will not be discouraged. We shall remember that God’s steadfast love is always with us and the whole world, that God’s compassion is for each and all.
LEADER: We will celebrate that love and compassion can do far more than “we can ask or imagine”!
PEOPLE: May we always be inspired by our hope in God, to serve, care, and live in hope!
PRAYER OF CONFESSION & WORDS OF
ASSURANCE (inspired by Mark 9:24)
LEADER: Let us confess our sins before our God, who is slow to anger and keen to show mercy.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
LEADER: We confess, O God, that instead of believing in your goodness and mercy and love for all people, we have fallen prey to cynicism; we have looked for the worst in others instead of presuming the best; we have spoken words which demeaned instead of dignified.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
LEADER: We confess that we have presumed to draw the circle of your grace much more narrowly than you do, treating some as “the other,” not deeming them our brothers and sisters in Christ.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
LEADER: We confess that our attention has been too short-lived when tragedy has come to those you love in any part of the world, forgetting that you call us to be there for them in word and deed over the months and years.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
LEADER: We confess that we have sometimes allowed compassion fatigue to take root in our souls, closing our hearts to those who need our help.
PEOPLE: We believe; O Lord, help our unbelief.
Words of Assurance
Our God, whose imagination for the good of all people is always wider than our prejudices will empower and transform us. God will help us change our unbelief into faith, and our self-serving cynicism into love for “the least of these” who are also God’s beloved.
PEOPLE: Thanks be to God! Amen.
RESPONSIVE PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING AND HOPE
LEADER: God of grace and wonder,
PEOPLE: Be with us in this place.
LEADER: We love you, Holy God. We love you for the feast that is life: for friendships and laughter, intimacy and trust, moments of discovering deep truth, hidden potentials we never knew we had; for beauty—serene beauty and rugged beauty, the world you have crafted; and for the words, sounds, and colors with which people reflect and explore life. God of grace and wonder,
PEOPLE: Be with us in this place.
LEADER: We love you, holy God. We love you for the challenges of community: for moments of joy and celebration, for times of anxiety and questioning, for opportunities to listen deeply, for moments to start anew, for possibilities of reconciliation, for partnerships to work for peace and hope, for commitments to join
hands for justice. God of grace and wonder,
PEOPLE: Be with us in this place.
LEADER: Gathering God, we give thanks for the vision, adventure, and passion that have brought us together in this holy place. Help us to be open today: grateful to meet Jesus in each other and in our neighbors near and far; happy to do a new thing; thankful to be your church together, to do that which by your design cannot be done apart. Challenge us, inspire us, strengthen and renew us. God of grace and wonder,
PEOPLE: Be with us in this place; may our worship today strengthen us to do more than we can imagine, that your world might be healed, that your justice might come, that your hope might be spread. May it be so! Amen.
In a world so filled with brokenness and sorrow, it would be easy to lose ourselves in never ending grief, to be choked by our outrage, to be paralyzed by the enormity of suffering, to feel our hearts squeeze tight with hopelessness. Instead, this morning, let us simply breathe together as we hold our hearts open. (Breathing in) let our hearts fill with compassion. (Breathing out) let us pray for healing in our world and in our lives. (Breathing in) open ourselves to the transforming power of love. (Breathing out) As we pray for peace in our world and in our lives. (Breathing in) the knowledge that through Christ, we may know our strength and be filled with courage. (Breathing out) a desire to pour our love into the world through our gifts that provide hope and healing, showing God’s care near and far. Amen,
OFFERING DEDICATION PRAYER
We offer these gifts, O God of all people, in the hope and trust that you will use them to bring healing and hope where there is need. Where natural disaster has befallen, may these gifts help build new life. Where refugees seek
safety from violence and fear, may these gifts enable caring and welcoming hearts and hands. Where hatred sullies your hope for your human family, may our gifts be a sign and instrument of reconciliation. Thank you, God, for the privilege of this offering. May it indeed do more than we can imagine! Amen.
LEADER: This is the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ!
PEOPLE: As it says in the scripture, “people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.”
LEADER: We come, not because we must but because we may.
PEOPLE: We come to be nourished by grace that we might go forth to share the grace, the love, the justice of God with the whole world.
LEADER: We come with thanksgiving, grateful for who we are and whose we are.
PEOPLE: For we are God’s own people, called, fed, commissioned, and sent!
WORDS OF INSTITUTION
We recall that on the night that would be our Lord and Savior’s last earthly night, he gathered his disciples around him to break bread together. They surrounded him at that table – both the disciple whom he loved and the disciple who would betray him, along with all those disciples who had been with him through his ministry, witness to his teachings, bearers of his grace, ones who saw how he broke down the barriers that separated us from them, friend from enemy, neighbor from stranger.
And as they were eating, he took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them, saying “This is my body broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Do this and be reminded that life is in too many places broken and hurting, and you are my witnesses and ambassadors to bring the news of help and wholeness from a loving God. In the same manner, following their meal, he took the cup and blessed it and poured it out for each one of them and said “This is the cup of the new covenant, sealed in my blood, given for you and for all for the forgiveness of your sins,” for the transformation of your lives and the lives of all who hunger and thirst. “As often, then, as you eat this bread and drink this cup, do so in memory of me.” Do so in hope. Do so knowing that God will feed you and this whole world in ways that you cannot begin to imagine. For that good news, thanks be to God! The gifts of God for the people of God!
PRAYER FOR BREAD AND CUP
Gracious God of every time and place, every people and nation, we come to this Table to receive these symbols of your grace, your hope, your sustenance. We come grateful that you feed us and call on us to help feed one another. Thank you O God. We pray that you would bless these elements to our good that we might join you in doing good for this world. May we go from this Table refreshed and renewed, having drunk deeply from the cup of courage that we might confront hunger and injustice. In the holy name of Christ we pray. Amen.
PRAYER FOLLOWING COMMUNION
We eat and we drink in hope that one day, none will know hurt or hunger or hopelessness. We thank you, God, for the opportunity to be fed and for the commission to go forth into the world, seeking to be bearers of your Good News for all people. Amen.
Find all One Great Hour of Sharing Resources from www.ucc.org/oghs_resources.
(Communion is included, but optional)
In the midst of suffering, where is God? God is here. Where are you?
When you give to OGHS, you are here.
Scriptures: Matthew 25:31–46, Psalm 145:18, 1 John 3:11–24
We worship a God who gives generously and abundantly. God gives to all creatures their food in due season, and from God’s open hand the desire of every living thing is satisfied.
God has given us so many blessings. The food we eat, the friends and family we cherish, the precious gift of God’s love for us, a love that led Jesus to lay down his life for us.
When that love abides in us, we cannot refuse to help our brothers and sisters in need. Through our regular offerings we... [celebrate the work of your congregation, locally]. Through the special offering for One Great Hour of Sharing, we join with other Christians to make our presence known to people who might feel forgotten—the hungry, the hurting, the thirsty, the sick. Our gifts, together, provide food, shelter, comfort, and safety all over the world.
Gracious God, in our offering we return to you a portion of the blessings you have showered upon us. Bless these gifts, that they might bring comfort, food and shelter to those who need it. Bless those who will receive them. Let them know your love through full bellies, warm clothing, and safe places to sleep. Amen.
Charge & Benediction
We worship God in sanctuaries, in beautiful, holy spaces. But Christ has told us that if we want to find him in this world, we will seek out the lost, the least of his brothers and sisters—those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, in prison, naked and estranged. May we go forth this day with eyes open to seeing Christ in our world, and may we know God’s love by loving one another. May we love, not just in word and speech, but in truth and action.