Our kids hang out on a quilt in the front of our worship space during the summer. They gather for a Children’s Sermon that may or may not introduce the activity they will share in that day. Often, it’s a coloring sheet related to the RCL. But, there are also books and playdoh and other good things for busy hands. This week, they will take the names gathered on the table during the first hymn and add those many names to a tablecloth that will set upon the table just before communion begins. Then, they will stand with me as we serve communion together.
One: We come as people filled with great expectation.
All: We come filled with hopes and dreams.
One: We come with serious questions.
All: We come with doubts that weigh us down.
One: We long for the heavens to open.
All: We need to hear the voice of God,
One: Whispering our names,
and telling us again,
All: You are Beloved with whom I am well pleased.
Submitted by the Rev. Elsa Peters, the United Churches of Olympia, WA.
We have come asking for the child —
Wondering where that love might be born,
Seeking that joy that might satisfy our thirst,
Wandering through the darkness of so many mistakes.
We have come to this place where
wisepeople and shepherds and young women met.
We have come to this place called Bethlehem.
To this place where our hearts rise like yeast.
To this place where we meet our newborn hope.
To this place where we taste our deepest joy.
In Bethlehem, where we assumed the worst,
Imagining that no good can come,
We somehow missed its name.
Lehem meaning bread.
Bethel meaning house.
There is something here that will satisfy our hunger.
No matter how long we have wandered,
Here our hearts arise. Our light has come.
In this bread and in this cup,
We celebrate something we can’t quite understand.
Because God has made a house at this table.
Because God satisfies our hunger in the most unlikely places.
Because God comes to be with us.
Now and always.
It is with this expectation that we come to the table
to taste and see that God is here.
Let us pray:
Holy Spirit, come into this bread and this cup.
Transform these ordinary objects
As you change our hearts
To shape and form your world
With the joy you promise.
Pour your grace upon us,
so we overflow with your love.
Help us to remember how
An newborn baby might grow
Into a little child that would one day
Turn to his hope-filled friends
In an upper room…
Submitted by Rev. Elsa Peters, the United Churches of Olympia, WA.
Charge to All Stewards
PASTOR: Today is a day of celebration in the life of (church name) because today we remember that each and every one of us — young and old — is called by God to be stewards of justice, stewards of creation, stewards of peace, stewards of this family of faith. Stewards give from all aspects of their lives. As we accept this call to be stewards, we each become a living example of Christ’s gospel, proclaiming faith through all that we do and all that we give. As it is written in I Peter, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” (I Peter 4:10) And so, people of God, I ask you now, do you promise to enter into this covenant together to be God’s stewards with all your mind and heart? If so, please answer, “I do.”
Litany of Commitment
(Invite the congregation to stand.)
PASTOR: Gracious God, you have made a world for us and given us incomparable gifts: air and water, family and friends, your steadfast love and forgiveness, and your son Jesus the Christ. For all the gifts and wonders you have bestowed on us.
PEOPLE: We thank you and worship you with renewed gratitude.
PASTOR: O God, you created us to love one another as Christ has loved us. We are concerned about all your children, those who live near us, and those who live far away. We are eager to participate in the work of the whole church and to further the ministry and service of this congregation.
PEOPLE: We are called to be your stewards. We thoughtfully shoulder our personal share of responsibility, and we pledge to witness to the good news of Christ with our hearts and hands and voices.
PASTOR: We are confident in your love and care for us.
PEOPLE: We gladly give back to our Gracious God our whole lives, our time, our talents, and our financial resources.
O God, throughout the ages you have challenged your people to step out in faith and follow you. You have put purpose and direction in the lives of your people. We have before us a new direction and a new purpose. We have set our feet on the pathway. Be our guide. Whisper in our ears when we need to make decisions. Hold us up if we start to stumble. May your Holy Spirit lead us in joyful song and fill us with eager anticipation. You are our vision, O God; lead us on our journey. Amen.
Submitted by Rev. Elsa Peters, The United Churches of Olympia, WA.
We call ourselves together in worship through the words of James 5:13-20.
If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you are invited to rise in body and spirit to hear the church respond to your needs.
One: Send us, Holy Spirit, to speak and to listen.
All: Send us, Holy Spirit, to hear your still speaking voice clearly above the babble of the world.
One: Send us, Holy Spirit, to find that we are never alone.
All: Send us, Holy Spirit, to be the assembled together even when we are apart.
Submitted by Rev. Elsa Peters, First Congregational Church, South Portland ME
One: Come Holy Spirit. Come.
All: Come Holy Spirit and move through the babble of our worship words.
One: Come Holy Spirit. Come.
All: Come Holy Spirit so that we might clearly hear your still speaking voice.
One: Come Holy Spirit. Come.
All: Come Holy Spirit and blow through our hearts today.
Submitted by Rev. Elsa Peters, First Congregational Church, South Portland ME.