Online Easter 4 – May 4

Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10.

Call to Worship  (after Psalm 23)
You may wish to invite different leaders to take each stanza, or invite a unison reading, with everyone speaking the words out loud, but muted, so that there is no distortion or problem with timing.  If done in unison, the main worship leader should stay on the mic and lead in that way.


Leader:         Let us pray these familiar words,
recognizing in the Risen Christ our Good Shepherd:
People: out loud, but muted
Jesus, you are our shepherd. 
We shall never want. 

You make us lie down in green pastures;
you lead us beside the still waters.
You restore our souls.

You guide us in the paths of righteousness for your name’s sake.
Even though we may walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
we fear no evil, for you, Christ, comfort us.

Jesus has prepared a table for us
in the presence of our foes;
Jesus has anointed us with the oil of salvation;
our cup runs over! 

Surely, goodness and mercy will follow us
all the days of our lives,
And we will dwell in the house
of our Holy Savior forever and ever.  Amen.  



  Incarnate God, in the midst of our sheltering-in-place:
You are the one who comes to us in Jesus Christ.
Holy One,
You are the one who comes to us in the Holy Spirit.
Sovereign of Earth and Heaven,
You are the one who calls us to recognize you today and every day
As splendid Mystery.
People:  loud, but muted
Gather our hearts and minds this day.
Kindle our awareness of you.
Let us worship you in awe and wonder!



One Merciful and Loving God, we ask forgiveness
because our consciousness of you
may be dimmed by the anxieties and isolation of this time.
People:  loud, but muted
Let us know your presence, O God. We forget that we are a reflection of your image. 
Each day, all day, let us know the face of the one we mirror
in resilience, in creativity, in hope.
People:  loud, but muted
Increase our mindfulness of you, O God.
Help us to a greater common awareness
of your deep mystery and infinite presence
surprising us with Grace all around!
People:  loud, but muted
Rouse our awareness of you, God.
Open our eyes from surface focus to depth perception. 
Lead us to wisdom and courage.
People:  loud, but muted
Awaken us from faint-heartedness, O God.

Forgive us for our too-narrow vision. 
Save us from cheap grace with your amazing grace. 

People:  loud, but muted
Forgive us, O God.  We ask in Jesus’ precious name.  Amen.

Words of Assurance    

Holy, Forgiving God, we are your sheep. 
You keep us awake and aware. 
You can increase our  awareness of your loving presence
every day of our lives. 
Bless you and praise you for forgiving us
when we are barely mindful enough to ask. 
Help us to enter by the door
when we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. 
We hear your voice of pardon.
Through Christ’s grace we are forgiven this morning, and we go in. Amen. 

Scripture, Sermon, Prayers of the People  

Notes for the worship planners in 2020:

  • Consider inviting several voices to read the Gospel narrative aloud. The dialogue between Jesus and the forlorn disciples on the road has dramatic possibilities. Invite folk several days in advance so they have time to practice. If you are meeting via Zoom, rehearse in advance so that any mute/unmute issues are worked out. If you have the ability to have the readers record themselves in advance and put the pieces together in a single video, that is another adaptation.
  • Consider a simple message or even an  interactive Bible Study that engages people  in Acts 2: 42-47.  Although this Sunday is generally thought of as “Good Shepherd Sunday”, it may be worth lifting up the idealized picture of the gatherings of the earliest Christian communities meeting at home, sharing table fellowship, and integrating their new understandings of the presence of Christ into their everyday lives.  Are there connections to be made between the experience of sheltering in place, and  the formation of the earliest churches? 
  • 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.

Offertory Prayer

Good Shepherd of the Sheep,
you have opened the door to new life for us
through your dedication and your sacrifice. 
May we reflect your love for us
by opening the doors of our hearts to you and your church
in the act of giving our tithes and offerings.
Include instructions on the method of giving, either on line or by mail

Offertory Dedication

Thank you, Risen Christ,
for moving the hearts of the people to give of themselves.
May our offerings of service and financial support
give voice to your work for justice and peace in this world.
May we grow more mindful of you through our giving and our living.  Amen.

Benediction (from 1 Peter and John 10)


One You are called for a purpose:
for the sake of knowing and drawing close toward God
a person bears up under sorrows.
People:  loud, but muted

We are not here by chance.

One You are choice and precious in the sight of God,
and as living stones, your lives are being built up
into a spiritual sanctuary where the justice and mercy and peace
of the Risen  Christ may dwell.
People:  loud, but muted
We are not here by chance.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,
and they follow me;
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;
and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
People:  loud, but muted
Jesus, we are the sheep of your pasture.
You have chosen us.  We have chosen you.  
We are not here by chance.  Amen

God-Consciousness: Service Prayers for Easter 4 was written and arranged by the Rev. Marilyn Kennedy Levine, a United Church of Christ pastor in the Northern Plains Conference

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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