a community creating for the relentless return of Sunday

Maundy Thursday: Surely Not I?

a prayer to be placed right after the part of the reading where the disciples ask if they are the one to betray, and Jesus answers Judas with “you have said so.”

Surely not I, Lord? Surely not us? Surely not.
Surely I am not the one who will betray you.
Surely we are not the ones.
It’s someone else who denies knowing you,
someone else who uses you for their own gain,
someone else who wants to control you.
Surely not us.

For the times when we protest too much…
For the times we point fingers to cover up our own wrong…
For the times we think of ourselves more highly than we ought…
Forgive us.
For the times we have betrayed you with our words—
speaking thoughtlessly,
hurting someone to get a laugh,
denying that your call extends to the parts of our lives we would rather keep to ourselves…
Forgive us.
For the times we have betrayed you with our actions—
living as if you are confined to the sanctuary, leaving us free when we are not here,
acting as if we have ben given domination over, rather than stewardship of, your creation,
walking away from those in need, literally and politically…
forgive us.
For the times we have betrayed you with our hearts—
putting you far down our priority lists,
loving our ideas about you more than we love you,
longing for our way to be the one you choose…
forgive us.
For the times we have lived contrary to our baptism,
dipping our hand in the bowl but keeping our whole selves out,
believing we can earn grace…and that they should work for it too,
Forgive us.

Surely not I, Lord?
You have said so.
The truth rings in our ears…and it hurts, O God,
to admit it: it is us.
We follow other gods, we are a poor reflection of your glory,
we use our wealth, status, and power in ways contrary to your will,
we imprison you in our understanding of your word,
we refuse to create justice or to love mercy,
and walking humbly with you would mean letting go of our way.
The truth hurts us, Lord, even as we hear you say: you have said so.
And yet we believe—
we believe that you have the power to transform us and through us to transform the world.
We believe that your grace is enough.
We believe that we have received more love than we can imagine.
We believe that you are the Way, the Life, and the Truth—
the truth that sets us free.

Submitted by Rev. Teri Peterson, the Presbyterian Church of Palatine, IL

confession: huddled inside

God of shalom, do we resemble your disciples? Here we are, huddled inside our sanctuary – a place of safety from all that might harm us. Our fears loom large, putting up walls between us and your gift of peace. We are fearful of being found out, of being shown for who we are. We are ashamed of our mistakes and afraid of making more.  Forgive us for staying inside where we presume it’s safe. Forgive us for being hesitant to proclaim your resurrection. Allow us to breathe deeply from your stores of peace, that we might be brave enough to shout our “Alleluia’s” even outside these doors. Amen.

Submitted by Rev. Emma Nickel, Member of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery

confession: your path, your way

God of all creation, following your path is not easy. It seems to us that you never take the easy way – indeed, your Way is always surprising. Forgive us our blind stumbling, and guide us back to your path. Call out to us, as you have to our ancestors in the faith. When we see you, do not run up ahead, but enfold us in your arms, even if just for a moment. O Dearest God – even when we are turned away from you, we yearn for your love and peace. 

A time of silence for reflection and prayer


When we read in the scriptures that heaven opened, and God spoke to Jesus, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased,” it is good for us to hear these words as though God were speaking them to us, too. Because we are God’s beloved children – and God has sent Christ into the world that we might experience eternal life, eternal love, and eternal peace. Let us follow the Way ever more closely, knowing that God loves us dearly with every step we take.

submitted by Rev. Lucus Keppel, Ancho + Corona Presbyterian Churches, New Mexico

confession: forgotten prophets

Your Prophets call us!
Your Promises invite us!
And yet we have forgotten our prophets and we no longer believe so many of Your promises.  Have mercy upon us O Lord of Love…
(Silence is kept)
Be with us as we journey through Advent.  We confess to you our doubts, worries and fears that hold us back….
(Silence is kept)
Be with us as we prepare for the birthing of the Christ Child into this world.  We confess to you our failings as we seek to follow him alone….
(Silence is kept)
O Lord our God, hear our prayers of confession this day.  Remind us of your love and the high calling you place on the live of discipleship we seek.
Have mercy upon us this day and send us out from this place refreshed and renewed.
Submitted by Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church, North Plainfield, NJ

confession: crimes of indifference

Forgive us, Lord, when our pocketbooks get in the way of your justice. Let our hearts melt like the candles we light in your name. Absolve us from closing our eyes to the injustices around us, empower us to speak up breaking free from the chains that shackle us. Exonerate us from the crime of indifference towards the systematic dehumanizing of our neighbors. Strengthen us to stand with the oppressed even though we might already be free. Open our hearts and our minds to the truth that none are free until we all are free.

Submitted by Rev. Greg BoltFirst Presbyterian Church, Nebraska City, Nebraska

confession: when we don’t want to get up

Loving and patient God,
forgive us when we don’t want to get up,
when we would rather hide under our covers of fear and security,
when we wait for others to help
and turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to your call,
when we refuse to respond because we are afraid that we might succeed.
Forgive us and make us new.
Give us the strength to take the gifts that we have been given and use them for your glory.
Lift us off our mats of brokenness, and help us walk in the light.


confession: pointing the finger

God, we come to you recognizing that we often forget that you made the world and all that it is in it. We so quickly point the finger at the other, the neighbor, the outcast, the one who is different from us. Forgive us for expecting to be forgiven without forgiving others. Forgive us for rash decisions and hateful words. Forgive us for projecting our fears onto those whom we fear. Help us to see past our differences, past the barriers that we have created, and remind us to love others as you have loved us.


Submitted by Rev. Greg Bolt, First Presbyterian Church, Nebraska City, Nebraska

confession: holding on

God of the old and the new,
we want to embrace your new way,
but we like the old just fine.
We repeat tired ideas and resist new possibilities.
We hold on to old grudges
and resist your word of reconciliation and new life.
We are too afraid of the unknown to step out into something new.
Forgive us, loving Lord.
Help us to see the way of your new creation in our lives and our world,
that we might be reconciled to you and one another in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Submitted by Rev. Andy James, First Presbyterian Church, Whitestone, New York

confession and assurance: not enough

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

We confess that we are no longer seeking anything because we believe we can longer be surprised.  As those who live in a place of security we do not understand what it means to faint or to thirst.   Have mercy on us.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

We have come into this sanctuary today with not enough reverence, not enough praise, and not enough awe for You.  Have mercy upon us.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

We are afraid to make a spectacle of ourselves when we sing, or pray or praise You.  Our worship is too clean, organized and so stay an arm’s length away from You.  Have mercy on us.

But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword, they shall be prey for jackals.

We look for revenge, we gloat and we rejoice when some around us stumble or fall.   We have lost sight that we have participated in the destruction of life and are in danger of Your disappointment, wrath or anger.   Have mercy on us.

Silent Confession

Words of Assurance

O Lord, You have been our help.  In the shadow of Your wings we sing for joy.  Our souls cling to you.  Your hands hold onto us.  We are reminded of Your forgiveness and Your mercy.  We are reminded that in You we have new life.  Alleluia.  Amen.

Passing of the Peace

(Can be read responsively with the leader reading the scripture and then the Congregation responding, or by two voices, or by voices sprinkled throughout the Congregation.)


Submitted by Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church, North Plainfield, NJ

liturgy for the fourth Sunday of Advent

Prayer of Approach and Confession for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Most High, we sing your praises, for your love endures forever. The Virgin Mary bore the ultimate revelation of your divine love, the baby Jesus. And now we thank you for the privilege of bearing your love in the world. We confess that often we have failed you in this commission. At times, we have questioned this call, saying “How can this be?” Other times, we have failed to offer love out of fear of rejection or self-involvement. Send your Holy Spirit upon us. Strengthen us and show us where revealing your love can bring new life. Amen.


Words of Assurance

When Mary found that she would bear God’s love in the world by giving birth to a baby, she asked the same question: “How can this be?” And the angel answered: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Nothing is ever impossible with God. Be therefore assured that by the power of the Holy Spirit we, too, shall carry God’s love into the world. Amen.


Prayers of the People for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

God of Wonder,
We come before you in anticipation of what is to come;
We are excited
We are fearful
We are relieved
We are uncertain
In all these emotions, you are here with us.

God of No Limits,
We give you thanks for the boundless gifts you have given us:
This universe which you have created with its infinite mystery;
This earth that sustains us with its resources and beauty;
This created life, with all its relationships, of which we are a part;
For all these acts of love, we give you thanks.

God of Love,
We give you thanks for your Church
The community of those who came before, are here now, and are yet to come.
Help us to work together in the building of your kingdom here on earth
That we might live in justice, peace and harmony with all.

God of Many Blessings,
We call to mind all the ways in which you have blessed us individually,
With family and friends that fill us with belonging,
with studies and ministries that challenge and excite us
with good health and happiness.
In silence, O God, we give you are thanks for other blessings that you have laid before us….

God of Wisdom and Understanding,
As we give thanks we also hear the words of Scripture, urging us to bring all the concerns of our hearts to you.
And so we come with prayers of petition and intercession:
For a time when all this world might know peace
When hunger and oppression might end
When those who suffer might know freedom from pain
In our individual lives, O God, we name and offer the sighs of our hearts.
Hear them now as we call out these prayers to you……….

God of Patience and God of Surprises,
Teach us, in this time of waiting, to be open to let go of all those things
That hide your presence from us.
Catch us by surprise, catch us with wonder,
Fill us with the gift of your grace and your love
In this time of Advent and all the days to come.

In the power of the Spirit and in the name of Jesus, your wonderful gift to us,
we pray the words he taught us to say: Our Father…


Commissioning for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

May you be strengthened as you go forth
To carry God’s love, as Mary did.
A love that is radical, powerful, and life-affirming.


Submitted by Rev. Daniel Hayward, Trinity Ingleside and Newington United Churches, South Stormont ON Canada. Written by Karen Boivin, Daniel Hayward and Maggie Melanson while MDiv students at Queen’s School of Religion, Kingston ON.