Pentecost 15 – September 13

Service Prayers
for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost
September 13, 2020

Genesis 50:15-21             Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13        Romans 14:1-12               Matthew 18:21-35     

US elections happen on November 3, 2020.  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 UCC’s Our Faith Our Vote has prepared a series of one page issue education papers and webinars to assist with voter education:

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

Meditation on Community Life: Romans 14: 1-12 (paraphrase)

           Paul took the “Jesus Movement” all across the Roman Empire in the First Century CE.  He brought the message of the Risen Christ to people and places far away from the Jewish communities where Jesus lived and taught.  People of diverse practices and backgrounds around the Mediterranean world were drawn to new communities founded by Paul.  Conflicts often arose in those communities about what constituted faithful practices: was it necessary for a Gentile follower of Jesus to first become a Jew, and follow Jewish Law? Or, could a Gentile follow Jesus without first adopting a Jewish way of life, including dietary practices and Sabbath observance?  These conflicts were serious, and could potentially tear communities apart.  In his letter, Paul does not take a side.  Instead, he encourages all in the community to keep eyes on what is important:  faithfulness to Jesus, thanksgiving to God, leaving judgment to God.  Within this view, many different ways of following Jesus are possible.
           Our issues may be different in the 21st C, but Paul’s process still has much to recommend it.

One:Welcome those who differ,
but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions:
Some believe in eating anything,
while others eat only vegetables!
Those who eat must not despise those who abstain,
and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat;
People:Out loud, but muted
for God has welcomed all.

Some judge one day to be better than another,
while others judge all days to be alike.
People: Out loud, but muted

All:Let all be fully convinced in their own minds.

Those who eat, eat in honor of Christ,
while those who abstain, abstain in honor of Christ:
People:Out loud, but muted
All:And all give thanks to God.

One: We do not live to ourselves,
People:Out loud, but muted
All and we do not die to ourselves.

If we live, we live to Christ,
and if we die, we die to Christ:
People:Out loud, but muted
All:So then, whether we live or whether we die,
We belong to Christ.

One:For to this end Christ died and lived again,
to be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your family or friends?
Why do you despise them?
People:Out loud, but muted
All:For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

One:For it is written, “As I live, says the Holy One, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
People:Out loud, but muted
All:So then, each of us, accountable to God.


Call to Worship    (Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13)

Bless GOD, O friends: with all our strength, bless the holy name.
Bless GOD, O friends, and never forget God’s gifts—
People:         Out loud, but muted
Bless GOD, O friends: with all our strength, bless the holy name.
            Bless GOD, O friends, and never forget God’s gifts–

Forgiveness flowing into healing,
Tireless goodness and joy:
Strength and youth of the Eagle’s flight.
People:         Out loud, but muted
Bless GOD, O friends: with all our strength, bless the holy name.
           Bless GOD, O friends, and never forget God’s gifts–

Vindication, justice for all those oppressed;
Liberation from bondage, and guidance for the way;
Unending mercy, steadfast love.
People:         Out loud, but muted
Bless GOD, O friends: with all our strength, bless the holy name.
            Bless GOD, O friends, and never forget God’s gifts–

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is GOD’s love toward those who are faithful;
As a parent has compassion for children,
so our GOD has compassion for us.
People:         Out loud, but muted
Bless GOD, O friends: with all our strength, bless the holy name.
           Bless GOD, O friends, and never forget God’s gifts.


Compassionate-One, Lover-of-Goodness, Patience-with-Sinners,
Draw near to us. 
          Surround us with confidence in your good news:
          that you love us as parents love their children;
          that your mercy is boundless and generous,
          that you beckon us always and will wait forever
          as we find our way back to you.
Open our hearts to receive your compassion;
And then show us how to forgive,
So that we may be vessels of resurrection hope in our troubled world.
In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Prayer of Confession  

Friends, in the scriptures, “Seven” is often seen as a perfect number,
a mystical number, a number that points to infinity.
So when Jesus tells his disciples to forgive “seventy times seven”,
(or “seventy-seven times” depending on translation),
he is inviting people into a never ending, expansive dance of grace. 

Confession, repentance, turning one’s life around to a transformed future;
Forgiveness, resilience, opening one’s life to a new moment in relationship:
all this may seem impossible, and yet Jesus calls us to profound,
ever-evolving change.

          Let’s take a few moments to ponder our lives,
          personal, and in wider community.
          Where do we need forgiveness?  Where do we need to forgive? 

          Where do our lives intersect in the wider community
          with structures, practices, attitudes that deeply hurt our neighbors? 
          Where must we seek forgiveness?
          Where must we seek to effect change?

           How have we been wounded with structures, practices, attitudes
           of the wider community that need transformation?
           How may we begin to forgive?

Assurance of Grace

Holy One,
You call us into this ever expanding dance of grace;
Turning “seventy times seven” is not too much when we follow your lead
into a future of hope and peace.
Glory be to the One who, working in us,
can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  Amen.

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.  Themes of forgiveness and acceptance, even delight in difference, stand out in today’s readings. In what ways do these scriptures guide communities in  the challenging ways of life together, interpersonally, and on a larger, societal level.  What kind of resilience does it take to forgive “70 times 7”?

  • 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 To Offering

Like Paul, who was showered with an abundance of mercy from God,
we too have been blessed.
Like Paul, we are called to go forth
and witness to the presence of Christ in our lives
in so many diverse ways.
One of the ways in which we tell the story is through the giving of gifts to God. 
In our gift-giving we participate with God
in providing for the needs of God’s people.


People:          Out loud, but muted
May our gifts become symbols of our intention
to minister with God to
satisfy the needs of those whom God loves.


Let us go forth to forgive as we have been forgiven: seventy times seven!
freed of the paralyzing burden of sin in order to
do justice, love mercy, walk confidently, and humbly, with God.


Service Prayers for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost are written by the Rev. Susan A. Blain, Minister for Worship and Gospel Arts, Faith INFO Ministry Team, UCC.

Copyright 2020 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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