God Leads Us into Life

Service Prayers for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost on the Occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the Attacks of September 11, 2001

September 11, 2011


Exodus 14:19-31 or Genesis 50:15-21, Psalm 114 or Exodus 15: 1b-11, 20-21 or Psalm 103:(1-7), 10-13, Romans 14:1-12 and Matthew 18:21-35

In preparing this liturgy for the anniversary of 9-11, I was struck by the contrast between the destruction of Pharoah’s army, and subsequent celebration, so that the Israelites could escape oppression and Jesus’ demand that his followers learn the difficult discipline of forgiveness.  If you’ve been focusing on the semi-continuous reading of Genesis, the theme of forgiveness is there as Joseph reconciles with his brothers.  The Romans passage admonishes us against narrow interpretation of what it is to follow Jesus, suggesting a wideness of toleration and radical openness.  We need to know ourselves rooted in God so that we can be secure enough to be generous.  The path God leads us on may not (probably will not) be easy, but God remains with us on the journey. 

Note: Congregational responses are in bold. 


One: +In the name of the Creator, the Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Many: Amen.


Come if you have a weak faith.

Come if you are convinced in the strength of your convictions.

Come so that you might be strengthened and challenged.

Lead us into life, O God!

Come if you are chased by the demands of others.

Come if you feel threatened by a loss of security.

Come so that you might be strengthened and challenged.

Lead us into life, O God!

Come if you need forgiveness.

Come if you need strength to forgive others.

Come so that you might be strengthened and challenged.

Lead us into life, O God!


God of smoke by day and fire by night, we gather to worship

even as we continue to respond and recover

from the events of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath.

We remember how we felt as we witnessed those attacks. 

We know how the mere mention of that date affects us still.

We grieve the loss of life, the families that have been torn apart,

the façade of national security cracked

and the wars which continue to wreak havoc upon your global community.

Your word tells us that we go on “not by might, nor by power, but by your Spirit.”

Strengthen us for the challenges of justice, forgiveness and community building; challenge us when we veer off course, guide our feet as you lead us on the journey into abundant life for all.

We pray in the name of Christ who lives and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 


PROCESSIONAL HYMN – Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer, New Century Hymnal # 18, 19

If you don’t usually have a processional, this would be a good week to include one in your worship.  You could have the full choir, acolytes, liturgists and clergy following a processional cross or a banner, dancers, or simply the pastor beginning in the rear and processing in to chancel during the processional hymn. Of course, after a processional leading the congregation into worship you will also want to have a recessional leading the congregation out into the world.


Jesus challenges us to seek forgiveness for ourselves and to forgive those who have sinned against us. 

Let us pray.

Holy God, when we seek security only in military and economic forces

and not in knowledge of your presence;

when we become concerned with our well-being only  

and so fail to see the consequences of our choices upon the lives of others:

Forgive our narrow worldview;

open our eyes to see others as persons

with whom we are connected in the web of life.

When we rejoice in the downfall and defeat of our enemies:

Forgive our misplaced loyalties;

open our hearts to see our enemies as our sisters and brothers in your family.

When we fail to forgive others,

and allow ourselves to be caught in the mire of grudges held:

Forgive our rancor; open us to reconciliation.

When we are faced with a sea of trouble, whether of our own making or cast upon us by the action of others:

God of Life, part the waters of regret and revenge and

lead us onto the dry ground of forgiveness.

(Time for personal reflection and confession.)

(At this point in, or in place of, the Confession of Sin you may want to have the congregation or choir sing, “If I Have Been A Source of Pain, O God,” New Century Hymnal # 544.)


God is compassionate and does not deal with us according to our sins, but casts them as far as far away from us as the east is from the west.

Free of the mistakes of the past, we can begin again.

Thanks be to God!




HYMN OF THE DAY – For the Healing of the Nations, New Century Hymnal # 576,

or In Egypt under Pharaoh, New Century Hymnal # 574,

or If I Have Been A Source of Pain, O God, New Century Hymnal # 544.

or O My Soul, Bless Your Creator, New Century Hymnal # 14


Depending upon the size and culture of your congregation you may want to provide some space at this point in the worship for members of the congregation to light candles in remembrance; say aloud what people remember about that day and their feelings and how their feelings may have changed about that day, or our country’s response to it; and to give voice to a hope for the future of our world.  You could do this by inviting a few members to come forward and share, or invite whoever would like to come forward to do so.  You may have surviving family members of victims, or parents of active duty military personnel, or active duty persons themselves.  Anyone over the age of 15 or so will have memory of this day so it shouldn’t be hard to find even one or two who can share something. You may choose instead to use the Candle Lighting liturgy below.


This liturgy is freely adapted from A Litany of Deliverance # 443 in The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ © 1974, United Church Press.  It includes lighting ten candles, one for each year since September 11, 2001.  You may choose to have a single reader for the entire liturgy or have one for each of the prayers.  The candles may be placed in the chancel or around the worship space; perhaps pew ends in the center aisle if you are able to do so.

(Light the first candle.)

One: Let us pray.

Almighty God,

you delivered your ancient people from slavery and, in the fullness of time,

sent Jesus the Christ to show us the path through forgiveness to newness of life. 

As we remember the events of September 11, 2001 and the decade of war since,

we find ourselves caught between memories that haunt us

and the hope that comes from you. 

Mere mention of the date launches a myriad of thoughts, images and emotions. 

For some the events are still very fresh, while for others there is a greater distance. 

Hear us as we pray deliverance for people whose lives were affected on that day or since.

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

One: Hear our prayer, O God.

Many: Let our cry come to you.

(Light the second candle.)

We remember the innocent victims who died that day or since

and our hearts are moved to grief. 

We are mindful of broken families, orphans, co-workers and friends who grieve still. 

We lift our prayers for all who grieve.

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

Hear our prayer, O God.

Let our cry come to you.

(Light the third candle.)

We remember the selfless women and men who bravely served as first responders,

some of whom died or were injured in the process of serving. 

We thank you for them and for all who contributed toward recovery

at Ground Zero in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C.,

in a field near Shanksville, PA or anywhere around the globe

where people gathered to comfort or to pray for others. 

We lift our prayers for their healing, safety and well-being, for their families,

and for their civic and faith communities.

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

Hear our prayer, O God.

Let our cry come to you.

(Light the fourth candle.)

We remember the selfless men and women

who bravely serve through the Armed Forces

in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe;

we remember the sacrifices of those who have died or were wounded

in the process of serving.  We thank you for them and their service. 

We lift our prayers for their healing, safety and well-being,

for their families and for their civic and faith communities.  

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

Hear our prayer, O God.

Let our cry come to you.

(Light the fifth candle.)

War is never an easy choice. 

We as a nation are still conflicted about that decision. 

Some of us believe that war is never justified,

others feel deceived,

some others believe a military response is exactly right  

and some of us just don’t know. 

Help us bring an end to war as we work for peace with justice

in ways that are peaceful.

Hear our prayer for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

Hear our prayer, O God.

Let our cry come to you.

(Light the sixth candle.)

In these ten years, much has been done

in the name of religious zeal or patriotic fervor

that makes a mockery of your name. 

Our actions have not always been the most honorable. 

We have killed non-combatant civilians

and sent others fleeing from their homeland as refugees. 

Deliver us from our own desire for revenge.

Deliver us from faith that fails to see your image in others,

from willing bondage to our own thoughts and desires

and from our reluctance to enter your beloved community.

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

Hear our prayer, O God.

Lead us into the land of promise.

(Light the seventh candle.)

We are conflicted internally. 

We pledge allegiance to our nation, while at other times we surrender all to you. 

Deliver us from fragmentary living, from divided aims and rival loyalties,

and from failure to seek and achieve wholeness in thought, word, and deed.

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

Teach us to remember the words of Jesus.

“Seek first the kin-dom of God and all else will be added to you.”

(Light the eighth candle.)

Deliver us from counterfeit humility, from the modesty that calls attention to itself,

from the arrogance which creates the world in our own image,

and will not bow to the authority of truth as it is revealed to us.

Deliver us from religious selfishness,

from the piety that is centered upon safety rather than service,

from seeking peace of mind instead of reconciliation with you and all people.

We lift our prayers for better understanding among all people,

especially Christian-Muslim relations.

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

Hear our prayer, O God.

Save us from ourselves.

(Light the ninth candle.)

While we cannot imagine what would cause persons

to commit such violent acts of terrorism,

we know you call us to forgive.

Move in our hearts to lead us to that place of radical generosity and love.

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

Teach us to remember the words of Jesus.

“Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

(Light the tenth candle.)

Most of all, dear God, move us from despair to hope,

from isolation to community, from war to peace, from death to life,

grounded in our relationship with you and your people in every tribe and nation,

every kindred and tongue

so that together we might build your beloved community on earth as it is in heaven.

(Time for silent prayer and reflection.)

Teach us to remember the words of Jesus.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself .”

All: To you, O God, be all glory, honor and praise, now and forever.  Amen. 


You are forgiven and free, but that does not mean that life will always be easy. 

What will you offer in thanksgiving for all God has done?

How will you grow as a disciple of Christ?

God is calling you to follow.

Will you commit your time, talent and treasure to the reconciling work of God through (Name of your congregation) here and around the world?

I invite you to use this time for prayer to consider your full response to God as the ushers receive the monetary portion.


God of Life, you have forgiven us and set us free. 

We respond with our whole lives, to follow your lead in forgiving others.

May these gifts we offer of our time, talent and treasure extend your beloved community until all your children, everywhere;

know they are forgiven and free.

We pray in Christ’s name.  Amen.



Go forth, strengthened to do the work of Christ,

sharing peace with justice,

offering forgiveness

building community;

and inviting others to embark the journey into abundant life for all.

Know that + the God who created you,

the Christ who redeems you

and the Spirit who empowers you

will be with you this day and ever more.



+ You may make a sign of the cross.

Written by the Rev. Dr. Bob Gross, OCC, pastor at Lake Avenue United Church of Christ, Elyria, OH. Rev. Gross is a member of the Order of Corpus Christi, (OCC), which is an ecumenical covenantal community that seeks to be a contemporary expression of the Mercersburg Tradition.