Worship Resources 2: The Generous Spirit of Oneness

Liturgy without Communion
(About the author: Frank Ramirez is the pastor of the Everett , PA Church of the Brethren. He and his wife Jennie share three children and three grandchildren.)

Call to Worship (based on 1 John 1:1-4)
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Creator and with the Savior Jesus Christ. In gathering, not only with each other, but with believers sharing one purpose, our joy is complete.

Opening Prayer
Living Word, you sought us and found us as a worshiping people, called together to witness to your love through our shared witness in living, giving, and action. As we seek to know you better through our worship, we come to see you more clearly in the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the homeless, the hurting. As you, God, are one—as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer—so we would be one with our sisters and brothers the world over. As we answer your call, move in our midst, inspire us with your love, send us forward in your name—one people, one in your will, unified with your purpose, generous with your love. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Jesus, Savior, Redeemer, though you prayed that your disciples might be one as you are one with God, in the eyes of a suffering world we are splintered, we are divided, and the witness of the good news seems to be shattered. Yet it is not so. We are one in our resolve to be your hands, your heart, your arms, your legs, your face to a world that is suffering physically and spiritually. Forgive us for failing to be one in purpose and generous in love. May we today, demonstrate through our shared time of offering our resolve to be one in you, in your world, for your people. Amen.

Words of Assurance
As Christ is loved, you are the beloved of God. Christ assures us: we are forgiven.

Litany (based on Micah 4:1-4)
One:    When all shall sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, when no one is afraid, then the words spoken by the God of hosts shall come to pass.
All:    In those days all nations shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of all people, so that we may be taught the ways of God and walk in God’s paths!”
One:    People shall stream to the mountain, the highest of the mountains, raised above the hills, so that God may be worshiped by all people.
All:    And we shall at last beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.

Invitation to Offering
Chronicles depicts an aging King David as engaged and active, preparing for the future. In his last years, as he consecrates an offering given to the work of God, David draws all the people together to share in the great giving. This great offering came not from one person but from the representatives of all the tribes and clans, giving together as one on behalf of all the people. David’s prayer is especially instructive, because he acknowledges that giving to God’s work is a great privilege. The scripture notes that the reaction of the people was joy: “Then the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with single mind they had offered freely to the LORD; King David also rejoiced greatly” (1 Chronicles 29:9).

Today we give to One Great Hour of Sharing not as individuals, not as an individual congregation, not even as one denomination among the nine which gather the offering. Rather, we give as one people, one in Christ, as Christ is one with God. Take hold of the life that is real life. Receive and give in God’s name!

Dedicatory Prayer (based on the offering prayer of King David in 1 Chronicles 29:10-17)
Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors, forever and ever. Yours are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours. We give thanks to you and praise your glorious name, for who are we that we should be able to make this freewill offering? All things come from you, and from your own have we given you. We dedicate these gifts and this One Great Hour of Sharing to your glory and to caring for your children in need worldwide. Amen.

Serve the Savior, see the Savior, proclaim the Good News of the Savior in word and in deed.

Receive the blessing of God as you go forward. As you have been blessed by God, bless all. As you have been loved by God, love all. As you have been served by God, serve all, that we may be one in purpose, vision, and action.

Hymn suggestions
Heart and Mind, Possessions, Lord, I Offer unto Thee
Move in Our Midst
We Give Thee but Thine Own
We Plow the Fields and Gather
God, Whose Giving

Liturgy with Communion
(About the author: Pam Auble earned a Masters of Christian Education from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and has served as a Diaconal Minister in the United Methodist Church, as well as a Licensed Pastor in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ).

Call to Worship
O God, after our having been dispersed this week throughout your world, we are finally gathered now in this one place. And yet, some present this day may be far from feeling united as one body in Christ. We may still feel scattered, disconnected, and unrelated. So, come O God, here … now. Quiet us, center us, and reconnect us with our church family. Let us begin worship aware of the truth that we are united with our church, united with you – our God, and united with members of your family even those we’ve not yet met.

Opening Prayer
God of covenants, you want us to be in relationship with you, with our church family, and with others. Although you have created us as uniquely individual, you never planned for us to live isolated, solitary lives. We have been made to be one with you, with your son, with our neighbor, even with the seemingly unrelated neighbor. In this hour, prod us to look beyond ourselves and see you in the faces of our church family and in the lives of those in need. Bind us with one another that we might experience holy kinship. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Loving God, when have we not seen you this week? When have we overlooked you this week? When have we chosen to look the other way so as not to feel the pang of discomfort at seeing you in pain, in need? You were alone, forgotten, and vulnerable, yet we denied that it was really you we saw and we chose not to involve ourselves. Now we feel ashamed by our negligence and perhaps a bit vulnerable ourselves. We had experiences of abundance and chose not to share with you, with your children. Now we feel deficient and wonder if we can be reunited with you. You called to us, and we turned up the noise of our activity so as not to hear you. Now we feel overwhelmed by our insensitivity. O God, we are ready to turn down the noise, ready to be reunited with you, ready to see you in the lives of those around us. Forgive us and prepare us to be fully one with you.

Words of Assurance (loosely based on Romans 8:1-2 and John 17:22-24)
For now there is no condemnation for us, as ones united with Jesus Christ. The heavy weight we have felt due to our own sinful, arrogant ways has been lifted by Jesus’ loving, sacrificial ways. Jesus lived among us, knowing the temptations we experience daily. He came before God as our advocate. Jesus prayed to God that we might all be one, that we too might know the glory of God’s unconditional love. And so, we are forgiven.

One:    We are not called to be one, alone.
Many:     We are called to be united for those who are left alone.
One:     A singular voice calling out for justice may not be heard.
Many:     Our voices, united for the voiceless, will grab the world’s attention.
One:    One standing alone can feel cold and vulnerable.
Many:     Standing with one another, we will know the warmth of God’s family.
One:    Focused on differences, I may feel like the only one.
Many:    Embracing our similarities, I can see God’s full family of which I am part.
One:     Alone on the cross, Jesus suffered and died that we might not ever be alone.
All:    Thanks be to God! We are one with God, with God’s family, and with Jesus.

Invitation to Communion
Jesus told a parable of a dinner party whose invited guests were too busy to attend. So the host invited more people—those outside his regular circle of acquaintance. Then he invited still more—those thought to be unsuited for such a dinner party. So, all were invited. Only some came.

To this table, also, the invitation has been made to all. This bread and this cup are offered by Christ to those who are too busy, to those outside our circles, to those we may find unsuitable, to those who may have chosen at one time not to come to the table. Today and every day, let this sacrament be a sign to the world that Jesus makes us one—united, forgiven, and loved.

Communion Prayer
God, united at this table may we fully know your extended guest list and embrace the kinship brought on by faith. May we never be too busy to celebrate here with the ones left out and the ones deemed unsuitable. May we be the ones ready with a heartfelt invitation to all that they may commune with Christ and with us at this table. Stretch us to extend such hospitality to all corners of our daily lives. Amen.

Invitation to the Offering
Shalom is a Hebrew understanding of peace as wholeness. When all are fed, when all are safe, when all are respected, when all have safe drinking water, then we shall know wholeness; we shall experience shalom. It was Jesus’ prayer that we would recognize that what is needed for peace is an acknowledgement of our responsibility to one another. As an expression of this responsibility, no, this yearning in our hearts for wholeness, let us give generously to those with whom we are united as one through Christ.

Dedicatory Prayer
Gracious God, we present these gifts given from our hearts that long for a world of wholeness. In giving the gifts we do not absolve ourselves of all future responsibility toward those in need. Rather, these gifts are a token of our commitment to give what would not fit in the offering plate: to give of ourselves, our time, and our attention to the least of these in your family. We will work to be fully one, fully whole in you. Amen.

Charge and Benediction
Empowered by the hope that never fails us, let us scatter into the world to spread the good news. We are one in Christ. We are called to care for all. We are ambassadors for shalom, wholeness for all. We are not alone; God goes with us. Amen.

Suggested Hymns:
They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love
One Bread, One Body
Help Us Accept Each Other
In Loving Partnership

Sermon Starter: We Are One

John 17: 22-24

In John 17, Jesus concludes a lengthy farewell that leads into his Passion journey. In this prayer, we get to overhear much of Jesus’ theology according to John, illuminating both for his followers then and for disciples in our own day.

Verse 22: “… so that they may be one, as we are one”
In Christ, we find our unity with each other and with God. Our unity follows the flow of “glory” from God to Jesus and Jesus to us. John’s text offers a call to unity along every plane, each interlocking layer of unity binding us all closer together. The oneness between Jesus and God is the model for our oneness with Jesus, and our oneness with each other.

God is bound to Jesus and Jesus to us, creating a vertical connection that invites a connection horizontally as well, a unity among Christ’s followers in every age. The work of One Great Hour of Sharing embodies a union among Christians that connects us to our Creator and our Christ.

In Jesus’ view, we are also bound together chronologically. The unity of God with Jesus and Jesus with us spans history: from Creation (“before the foundation of the world”) to this very hour.

Verse 23: “I in them and you in me…”
We are also bound together from the inside out. Verse 23 starts out with concentric circles of divinity, radiating compassion. It’s almost like a Russian nesting doll. What looks like one doll can be opened up into two halves, revealing a smaller doll inside. Open that doll up, and you find yet another doll nesting in it. The pattern continues until the tiniest doll inside, small but indivisible. In John’s view, when we open up ourselves, it is Jesus we find within, and within Jesus, we find God’s love.

This runs counter to so much of how we see ourselves. We are often fearful of opening up, being vulnerable, or letting others find out what’s really inside of us. We are scared that when we’re open, something negative will be exposed, and we’ll lose the love of those who know us. Yet how opposite is Jesus’ prayer for us! He yearns for us to risk opening up, knowing that what will be revealed is only deeper love—God permeating our every layer of being. From this vulnerable openness, we may find true oneness and share our gifts with confidence with the world that needs us.

Verse 24: “I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am.”
Jesus wants us to be with him, not by his coming to us, but by our coming to him. We do this by our giving, becoming like Jesus, following the generous spirit by which he gave so much to us.

Why should we share? The answer is simple: because we have received. We have received so much from the One who shares every moment with us. As we claim our oneness with all God’s children, we are invited to see the glory of the One who has loved us from the beginning.

About the author: Rev. Audrey deCoursey is ordained in the Church of the Brethren. She has served in congregational and hospital ministry in Elgin, Illinois, and Portland, Oregon. She is currently the pastor of a new online church, the Living Stream Church of the Brethren.
Children’s Sermon: The Treat of Sharing

(About the author: Rachel Witkovsky hails from Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, and studied theater at Elizabethtown College. She spent two years as a Brethren Volunteer Service worker, serving at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in the Youth and Young Adult Office.)

Materials needed: Rice Krispies Treats® to give out at the end if you’d like.

This can also be used as a children’s activity, adapting it by actually making the Rice Krispies Treats® with the children in the church kitchen. Materials needed then would include butter, Rice Krispies®, and marshmallows in the proportions needed to make the number of batches you desire; plus spatulas, pots, and pans. The recipe can be found at www.ricekrispies.com/en_US/recipes/the-original-treats.html#/en_US/recipes/the-original-treats. Make sure you have enough adult/youth supervision to ensure the safety of the children around the hot stove and ingredients.

Good morning everyone. Do you all know what Rice Krispies Treats® are? Maybe you’ve even helped make them before? (Wait for responses.) Yeah? I love Rice Krispies Treats®. I like making them but I mostly like eating them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rice Krispies Treats® lately. Do you know what goes into them, what ingredients you need? (Wait for responses.) Butter, Rice Krispies®, and marshmallows. Right! You put them all into a big pot on the stove and mix them together.

Let’s think about this. You can eat Rice Krispies® by themselves as a cereal, but they’re not as good as when they’re in treat form, right? (Unless you add some sugar to them.) And you can have marshmallows by themselves, though they don’t taste like a Rice Krispies Treat® without the other stuff, right? And we don’t eat butter by itself. Yuck.

When we put them all together, though, we get this fantastic treat when we’re all done! Isn’t that amazing? It’s only by putting all these ingredients together that we get Rice Krispies Treats®.

That’s what it’s like for us as a congregation and as a global family. When we work on our own to help others it’s good like the cereal or the marshmallows by themselves, but when we work together, it’s like combining all those ingredients.

There are lots of boys and girls all over the world who don’t get treats very often. In fact, sometimes they’re hungry. They don’t even get to eat dinner because their families don’t have enough food to eat. But you and I can give what we have to share with them, so we all have plenty to eat! Doesn’t that sound great? It’s kind of like we’re all ingredients—cereal, marshmallows, and butter, all mixed together to make something wonderful. And when we pull together and lend a hand to others, we all get the sweet treat of knowing that God loves us, will take care of us, and will use us to change the world.

Let’s pray. God, help us to go out into the world in your name and be like Rice Krispies Treats®, sharing joy and love with those we meet. Help us to work together to continue the sweet work of your son Jesus Christ. In your name we pray. Amen.

(Give out treats if you have them.)

Children’s Sermon: The Math of Sharing
(About the author: Frank Ramirez is the pastor of the Everett, PA Church of the Brethren. He and his wife Jennie share three children and three grandchildren.)

In Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Alice becomes a pawn in a great chess game played on a giant chessboard spread across miles of fields, forests, rivers, and streams. When she finally reaches the eighth square, she becomes a queen. The White Queen and the Red Queen quiz her to see if she’s ready to become one of them. Anxious to see if Alice can do addition, the White Queen asks very quickly: “What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?” Alice admits she doesn’t know because she lost count. The Red Queen concludes that Alice can’t do addition.

It is easy to lose count! The answer to the White Queen’s question is ten. There were ten ones. Now I’d like to ask a similar question: what’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one? Some of you who are quick may be ready to answer “Nine!” but the answer this time may surprise you. It’s “One!” That’s right. Nine ones equal one—when it’s the nine communions (that is, kind of churches like ___ and ___*) that work together on One Great Hour of Sharing! That’s because, as Jesus told the disciples, it is his prayer that we all be one. We are nine denominations acting as one in One Great Hour of Sharing. And if we were to add up one and one and one and one and one and so on until we counted every person sitting in each of the thousands of congregations preparing to share in this one great hour, the answer would still be one! We’re one in Christ.

Jesus prayed in John 17:20-24 that all his followers be one with him. When we love like Jesus did, helping everyone we can, people who are hurting will feel God’s love. We can change one life at a time through our shared Christian witness, and those ones can add up until they equal all of God’s family.

Remember, when our gifts spread out as one into all the world to feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort those in pain, and bring hope to the suffering, the number is still one—each single individual whose life we touch, whose life we change, is some one very important in the eyes of God!

One body, one Jesus, one with God, one with every one throughout the world. See! Arithmetic is not as hard as Alice, the White Queen, and the Red Queen made it. The answer is wonderful one.

* Mention two denominations the children will probably recognize—your own and another. The nine denominations participating in One Great Hour of Sharing are:
•    American Baptist Church
•    African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
•    Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
•    Cumberland Presbyterian Church
•    Church of the Brethren
•    Presbyterian Church (USA)
•    Reformed Church in America
•    United Church of Christ
•    United Methodist Church