Pentecost 12 – August 23

Conspiracy of Hearts
Prayers for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
August 23, 2020

Exodus 1:8-2:10 and Psalm 124  •  Romans 12:1-8  •  Matthew 16:13-20

A short time remains before the US elections on November 3.  While the churches can take no partisan stands, we can pray and work for a just common life as a natural extension of our faith.

The scripture readings today offer a number of images and metaphors for a good, common life. Resources to assist with this are available at Our Faith Our Vote:

Since Congregations are returning to “in-person” services at different paces, Worship Ways for Summer 2020 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

Call to Worship  Matthew 16:13-20; Romans 12:1-8 

Who do you say I am?
People:     Out loud, but muted
Some say Moses, some say Elijah,
Prophet who comes with a word from the Holy.

Who do you say I am?
People:     Out loud, but muted
Some say Messiah, some say “Human One”
Healer who shares the life of the Holy.

Who do you say I am?
People:      Out loud, but muted
Some say Emmanuel, God-with-us,
Some say Wisdom, teacher of truth
Some say Ruler of Peace, Bringer of Justice.

And you,  Congregation’s name ,Who do you say I am?
People:      Out loud, but muted
You are the Body to which we belong;
We are your members, each needed, treasured.
In you we are transformed
into your Hope,  your Love, your Vision, <
You are the One we long for, the One we seek here today,
The One who empowers our lives.

Come, Let us worship!

Invocation  Exodus 1:8-2:10

Holy One, we tell your story today as a conspiracy of hearts;
The defiant midwives,
the laboring women,
the daughter of power
and the daughter of poverty
join forces to protect the children of Israel
and so set the stage for liberation.
Meet us here today and show us the gifts we have
to offer  in the service of your kin-dom–
resilience, clear-sightedness, courage, compassion—
setting the stage for a Just World for All.
In Jesus’ name we pray,  Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Mother God, stand on the birthstool with us.
The pain is too much to bear.
Our world has dealt so “shrewdly” with your people
that your renewal seems impossible.
Fears of economic uncertainty confront us all
and seem to limit our choices;
Fears of immigrants and strangers in our midst
seem to require walls;
Fears about changing traditions
seem to require blocks to new family expressions.
We lament, Mother God, but we don’t push through the fear.
Let us open ourselves to labor with you.
Stand on the birthstool with us.
Push us to labor in your love, as we pray in the way of our Savior:

The Prayer of Our Savior  

Words of Assurance

The God of Moses and Miriam, “I AM WHO I AM”,
makes a way for you.
She holds your hand and insists upon life.
You are a channel of her love, now and always.
Praise be to the God of life who is, now and forever!

Scripture, Sermon, Prayers of the People 

Notes for the worship planners in 2020:

  • Consider a simple message or even an  interactive Bible Study that engages people with the Scriptures for today. Below we have highlighted the story of the Midwives in Exodus, but a rich conversation may be invited based on the Romans passage of the Body of Christ as well.

On the Birthstool Exodus 1:8-2:10

In this pericope, countless women stand upon two bricks to bring forth new life.  In their labor, there is pain, sweat and tears but these women also stand upon these bricks looking forward to the hope that new life brings. In our worship together,  imagine posture of these women.  Wonder about the renewal of life that our world needs.

You may plan this moment in worship to invite members to prepare in advance:

  • expectant parents to share a few words of what new life they are looking forward to
  • activists in the community working for social change in movements such as Black Lives Matter—what hope do they articulate
  • without engaging in partisan support, invite church members to reflect on the importance of civic engagement in voting as an extension of faith, to give birth to new structures of justice in society. 

Look to “Our Faith Our Vote” materials at

After the congregation hears the Biblical account of the midwives, ask these prepared speakers to  take their turn to share the “birth pangs” of their individual perspective. Allow these testimonies to serve as the New Testimony to the Ancient Testimony in Exodus before the sermon is heard.  You may also allow these testimonies to serve as the sermon itself.

  • 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

Call for the Offering

With praise and thanks, we create new life.
With vigor and sweat, we deliver our love.
With care and hope, we stretch out our hands.
We give our gifts of tithes and offerings to renew the world again.

Dedication of the Offering

People:      Out loud, but muted
Mother God,
with praise and thanks,
vigor and sweat, care and hope,
we bless these gifts in your love.
In Christ Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Benediction(inspired by Psalm 138, Romans 12:1-8)

One:   We go into the world as parents of your love.
People:         Out loud, but muted
          We will be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

One:   We will not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
People:         Out loud, but muted
          We will go to remember we can’t do it alone.

One:   We stretch out our hands.
People:         Out loud, but muted
          Our Midwife God delivers.

Written by the Rev. Elsa A. Cook, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, a budding spiritual director and wandering interim minister. She writes liturgies and shares her thoughts on Adapted for online use by Susan A. Blain.

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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