Pentecost 8–July 18
The Whole World our Neighborhood
Service Prayers and Worship Ideas for
The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 18, 2021
“It seems to me that in joining a church you leave home and home town to join a larger world. The whole world is your new neighborhood and all who dwell therein – black, white, yellow, red, stuffed and starving, smart and stupid, mighty and lowly, criminal and self-respecting, American or Russian – all become your sisters and brothers in the new family formed in Jesus. By joining a church you declare your individuality in the most radical way in order to affirm community on the widest possible scale.”
William Sloane Coffin, from Credo (pages 142-143)
CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 23, adapted)
One: As God is our shepherd we need nothing else.
Many: We rest in green pastures and walk by still waters,
which renews and refreshes our spirits.
God guides us along paths of righteousness
And walks with us through shadowed valleys so we are not afraid.
The shepherd’s staff comforts us.
God set the banquet table for us in the presence of our enemies.
There, we’re anointed with oil and our cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy shall never depart from us
as long as we dwell in the house of God.
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Caring and Gracious God, you are the shepherd who gathers us together today to celebrate with grateful thanksgiving the community in which we live. We are nourished by its diversity, brought about by the unique gifts each person contributes. Be with us in this time of worship and encourage us to never cease welcoming the strangers we meet and accepting the gifts they bring. Grant that they will enrich our lives and will be a reminder of the joy that comes when all will be one in you. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
O God, we live in a diverse community. There are people of different colors and abilities. There people with different sexual orientations. There are people on the left and the right, young and old, rich and poor. Yet, our church doesn’t reflect this diversity. We would love others as you do, but we can’t. We’ve erected walls built upon our biases, fears, and insecurities that keep us apart. Forgive us that we cannot love as unconditionally as you. Help us to take down those walls so we may welcome the stranger and truly be one community together. Amen
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
We know we fall short in our discipleship.
We’ve confessed our sins before God.
We look to God to repent of our sins and transgressions.
By God’s overflowing steadfast love and mercy we are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
Think of the beginning of the 23rd Psalm and the words we pray every week, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Taken together, God promises to provide us with what we need to live today so we may see tomorrow. When we think of what we actually have, though, we have more than enough. We give honor and thanks to God when we make our generous offering from our abundance.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
Thank you, God, for the ministries of the people of your church.
Thank you, God, for the bounty of your blessings you have poured out upon us.
We have taken a portion of our abundance and given it to you in grateful thanksgiving.
Consecrate this offering. May it help to support the ministries of this church that will dismantle the walls that divide us so all people will be one in the new family gathered in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Jesus taught us that when we welcome the stranger we create a new community where all are one in God. Let us continue the work that Jesus started by welcoming the strangers who cross our paths knowing that God is with us and protects as we pursue our ministries of healing and hope. Proclaim God’s glory through your work. Go in peace.
“We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this. Now, I’m sure that if the church had taken a stronger stand all along, we wouldn’t have many of the problems that we have. The first way that the church can repent, the first way that it can move out into the arena of social reform is to remove the yoke of segregation from its own body.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his 1963 speech at Western Michigan University
Citing the studies of Michael Emerson of Rice University and Mark Chaves of the University of Arizona, John Dart wrote an article in The Christian Century that noted the remarks that Dr. King made in 1963 substantially remained unchanged.1 Defining a “mixed” congregation where at least 20% of the members are racially or ethnically diverse, both studies found that less than 90% of the congregations in the United States could be classified as “mixed.” Emerson found the congregations with the poorest record were mainline Protestant churches, about 2 – 3 %.
While the scope of Emerson’s and Chaves’ studies concentrated on race and ethnicity, our communities are far more diverse than that. While not ignoring race and ethnicity, we could broaden our understanding of diversity to include: physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, economic class, immigration status, and theological/political perspectives. Our life together as a community becomes richer for its diversity.
King’s words express the current reality of diversity within our congregations. Coffin’s offers a vision of possibility. Which describes your church? Which do you prefer? Why?
Consider using the sermon time as a way to discuss the richness of possibility that comes with true diversity.
1. Introduce the topic using a short film clip, available on YouTube (www.youtube.com), from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Gus Portokalos (Michael Constantine) offers a toast to his daughter and son-in-law at their wedding during which he explains the derivation from Greek of both family names. (Search using “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” for the search term.)
2. If you can eat in your worship space, offer two types of fruit salad, one that is made only with various melons and the other with different types of fruits, such as melons, berries, and seasonal fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots.2 Let people sample both salads and comment about them, noting flavors, textures, and appearance.
3. Move the discussion towards diversity in congregational life and the benefits and blessings it would be. Also, cover the difficulties that increased diversity might pose. Finally, have the congregation identify the first steps it should take to increase diversity.
The Whole World our Neighborhood: Service Prayers for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost was written by the Rev. Quentin Chin, member of Church on the Hill in Lenox, MA.
©Copyright 2021, 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.
1 Dart, John. Hues in the Pews. The Christian Century. February 28, 2001. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_7_118/ai_71949662/
2 For information about the four rules for creating fruit salad, see http://www.slashfood.com/2006/01/27/four-rules-of-fruit-salad/