Easter 6B-May 9

What is Possible Through Love

Easter 6
May 9, 2021

Acts 10:44-48  • Psalm 98  • 1 John 5:1-6  • John 15:9-17

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

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

Leader: God speaks to the heart,
People: Speaking out loud, but muted
Offering compassion and hope.
Leader: God enlivens the mind,
People: Speaking out loud, but muted
Inviting curiosity and wonder.
Leader: God awakens all spirits,
People: Speaking out loud, but muted
Fostering sacred connection.
Leader: God nurtures our strength,
People: Speaking out loud, but muted
Creating unimagined possibilities.
Leader: God calls the whole world,
People: Speaking out loud, but muted
Inspiring extravagant love.

Creating Spirit,
we join with the chorus of all of creation
to celebrate your wonderous deeds.
Fill us with your joy and train our ears for harmony,
so that we may contribute to the world You are already creating.
All this we pray in the name of Jesus,
who revealed what is possible through love. Amen.

Reader 1: Unwavering God, we keep asking what is it that you most want us to do with our lives in hope you might tell us something easier. Instead, You offer the same answer every time: Love one another as I have loved you.
Reader 2: We confess that our love for others is not always what we hope it would be.
Reader 1: We are quick to judge and slow to offer grace.
Reader 2: We are swift to anger and resistant to make amends.
Reader 1: We are prone to suspicion and resistant to build trust.
Reader 2: We hear the greatest commandment, and if we are honest, we are filled with hesitation because it means we must change. Unwavering God, in these moments of stillness, hear our struggles with the love you call us to practice…

Silence; leave space for people to examine their hearts, and, if it seems appropriate, to voice what struggles they are holding on to that may inhibit their connection to God.

Reader 1: Friends, hear the good news. God’s love is so extravagant and inclusive that it knows no bounds. It transcends borders and speaks a universal language. Abide in that love. Find joy in that love. Be renewed by that love. Replicate that love in the world. Amen.

Notes for the worship planners in 2021:
In the liturgical calendar, Easter 6 is Rural Life Sunday. In the medieval church the days between Easter 6 and Ascension were called “Rogation Days”—Rogation being from the Latin word meaning prayer.  Parishes dedicated time to pray for the earth and their fields as they prepared for sowing the season’s crop. In some places the whole parish would walk the boundaries of the fields and pray for blessing. Whether a church is located in a rural, suburban, or urban context, Rural Life Sunday is an opportunity to explore the interconnectedness and interdependence of humans and creation and to wonder together about right, loving relationship between people and the land. In Prayers of the People, you might continue the theme by offering prayers for the land, as well as all those who farm the land and grow, pick, and transport our food.

In the cultural calendar, May 9 is also Mother’s Day. Though not specifically a church holiday, many congregations have a tradition of observing it in some way. However, worship planners would be wise to approach this day with pastoral sensitivity since for some it is a day of celebration and for some it is a day marked with grief. Additionally, in the midst of the global pandemic, Mother’s Day may be filled with the raw emotions that accompany having been separated from parents/children/grandchildren for long periods of time or the difficulties of parenting children while working from home or while schooling from home. Worship planners wanting to engage the cultural calendar and aware of its complexity, may consider drawing a connection to the Gospel reading and the transforming power of unyielding love, wherever we have found it, and to call to cultivate that love within our own lives. Alternatively, worship planners may consider utilizing 2-3 co-preachers or storytellers to join them during sermon time so there is a diversity of stories and experiences represented. When asking co-preachers to prepare to share, be sure to provide a specific prompt to the theme from scripture you are exploring so that the co-preachers can prepare their part well. For example a co-preaching prompt for this day might be: Tell us about a time when you experienced the transformative power of love.

In Prayers of the People, worship planners are encouraged to pray for the diversity of experiences of mothering and parenting, including also those who are struggling; those remembering children who have died; those who have experienced miscarriage; those who decided to let their children be adopted and those who adopted children; those experiencing infertility; those who chose not to raise children of their own but have helped shape the next generation; those healing from parents who did not show love; and those remembering mothers or children they are not in contact with.

For the Prayers of the People, you might also 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 for worship 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 those gathered online to be careful in the information they offer during prayers. For example, encourage them to follow a form such as “For First name only, in need of healing” or “For First name only, comfort in grief”. Then, encourage people to contact the pastor directly with news or further details regarding those in need of pastoral care.

It is one thing to memorize the words of Jesus. But it is another thing to let those words transform us and rearrange our priorities and our lives. In these moments for quiet and reflection, what is it that God is inviting you to rearrange about your priorities? What is it that you want to offer to the Church and to the world as a practice of God’s love?

Leader: Friends, imagine what is possible. Imagine what our community would feel like if our own hearts embraced the unconditional love God has for us. Imagine what the nation would sound like if our words echoed the inclusive love God has for us. Imagine what the world would look like if our actions reflected the unwavering love God has for us.

Go forth from this place, to transform possibility into reality and to join alongside God in transforming the world through love.

Service for Easter 6 Year B is written by the Rev. Ellis Arnold. Ellis’s energy for ministry in the UCC gets channeled into collaboration with people of faith who strive to transform not just the three feet around them, but also their communities and the world into a more just, generous, liberated place.

Copyright 2021 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.

Easter 6 B–May 9