a community creating for the relentless return of Sunday

Maundy Thursday: a complete service

Call to Worship             (based on Psalm 26:3-12)

God’s steadfast love is before our eyes.
We walk in God’s faithfulness.
We wash our hands in innocence.
We go around your altar, Lord.
We sing a song of thanksgiving
And tell about your wonderful deeds.
O Lord, we love the house in which you dwell.
We love the place where your glory abides.
In the great congregation, let us bless the Lord.
God’s steadfast love is before our eyes.

Hymn                  Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts (or Communion hymn focused on body/blood)

First Lesson                    John 6:1-14

Reader 1: After Jesus healed a paralyzed man near the Temple and argued with the Jewish authorities, he went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival.

Reader 2: Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Reader 3: Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.”

(Communion elements are brought forward by an adult and a child.)

Reader 1: One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?”

Reader 2: Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.”

Reader 3: So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.”

Prayer of Confession

Holy One, forgive us. We believe only the things we can see. We want to be faithful to you, but we get caught up in the numbers. A year’s salary will only go so far. Our time gets spent just as fast as our paychecks. We look around and see “not enough” instead of rejoicing that you have given us more than enough. We hold onto what is ours for fear it will all disappear.

Bend back the fingers we have clenched tight shut around the last piece of bread or the last bit of fish. There is more left over than we can calculate. Help us to see it.

(Silent confession)

Assurance of Pardon

Our God is not a cruel parent. Our God seeks to be in relationship with us. Our God loves us enough to take on our form and live among us.
God will not turn us away when we have come confessing with open hearts.
God offers forgiveness and welcomes us to the table of grace and plenty where all the faithful gather. This is the Good News that brings new life.
We thank God for it.

Communion Invitation           

The same people who ate the loaves and fishes followed Jesus the next day, all the way to the other side of the lake. Did they follow him hoping for more signs that he was God? No. Jesus said to them, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

Friends, we gather at this table not to fill our stomachs but to be fed by spiritual food. Jesus told the people, “The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!”

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Believing in him, we come to this table to share a holy meal.

Communion Prayer  

Let us pray. Lord, we come to you looking to be fed. We remember the stories of miraculous feeding, of manna in the wilderness, and the abundance of loaves and fishes, and the miracle of the wine at the wedding in Cana. We ask your blessing on these ordinary elements, the bread and the juice. We believe you feed us in ways that go far beyond our literal understanding. Through the awesome wonders of creation to the joy of human love and the power found in a group of people working on your behalf, you have blessed us. You became present to us in Jesus and blessed us further with your grace and mercy. You remain present to us in the working of the Holy Spirit. We give thanks for all the ways you show your love for us as pray together using the words Jesus taught us:

Our Father, etc. Amen.

Words of Institution

Jesus said to them, “I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. It isn’t like the bread your ancestors ate, and then they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Sharing of the Bread and Cup

This is the bread. This is the cup. These are the things of God for the people of God. Come, for all things are ready.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Holy and gracious God, for the meal we have shared, for the nourishment of the spirit and for the life of this community, we give you thanks. Help us to see miraculous signs wherever we see you. Help us to work always for the food that endures, in Christ’s name. Amen.

Anthem/Hymn                             Ah, Holy Jesus (or similar hymn)

Second Lesson                              John 19:23-24                (Reader Three)

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and his sandals, and divided them into four shares, one for each soldier. His shirt was seamless, woven as one piece from the top to the bottom. They said to each other, “Let’s not tear it. Let’s cast lots to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill the scripture, They divided my clothes among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing. That’s what the soldiers did.

Lord Jesus, we divide you. We claim you belong to us. Others claim you belong to them. Help us to see you in your wholeness, pouring out your love for all people.

(Reader Three leaves during hymn, to be followed by choir members, Deacons/Elders w/ chancel items.)

Hymn                                  When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (or similar hymn)

Third Lesson                                  John 19: 25-27               (Reader Two)

Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Lord Jesus, some of your followers stayed with you to the end. We want to have that kind of faith. Give us the strength to see things through, even in the midst of darkness, danger and despair.

(Reader 2 leaves as hymn begins, to be followed by remaining choir members, Deacons, etc.)

Hymn                                  Beneath the Cross of Jesus (or similar hymn)

Fourth Lesson               John 19:28-30                                (Reader One/Pastor)

After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.

Lord Jesus, you showed us God’s abundant hospitality and turned water into wine. We showed you human hospitality and let things go sour. We showed no mercy, and yet we ask for your mercy, Lord.

When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life.

(Reader One closes Bible, carries it out of sanctuary.)


Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong, Reflectionary.

confession: the condition of our hearts

Call to Confession

Some people say the great addiction of our age is busy-ness. Being busy confirms our importance in the world. Sitting still leaves time to consider the things we have done and the things we have left undone. This is hard work, but it is necessary for our relationship with God. Let us open our hearts in prayer.

Prayer of Confession
All-seeing God, You know the condition of our hearts. You know the words we never should have said and the words that might have helped but remained unspoken. You know the ways we spend our time. You know the things we leave undone and the things we did but wish we hadn’t. You know the reasons our lives spin apart. You know the ways we hold on too tight to what we don’t need and let important connections slip through our fingers. Have mercy on us. Have mercy on us.

Silent Prayers of Confession
Words of Assurance:
Minister: All things are held together in our Lord Jesus Christ. That includes every one of us. No matter what has happened in the past, those who turn to God are forgiven. This is the Good News that brings new life.
ALL: We thank God for it.
Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong

invocation: root us

Gracious God, we gather to worship You and to consider the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He existed before all things, and all things are held together in Him. Root us in faith. Keep us secure in the Good News. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong

CTW: dwell with God

a call to worship based on Psalm 15

One: Who can live in your tent, LORD? Who can dwell on your holy mountain?
Many: People who do what is right, and speak the truth sincerely;
One: People who do no damage with their talk;
Many: People who do no harm to a friend, and don’t insult a neighbor;
One: People who despise those who act wickedly, but honor those who honor God;
Many: People who keep their promises even when it hurts;
One: People who use their money ethically and do not hurt the innocent.
Many: Whoever does these things will never stumble.
All: Whoever does these things will dwell with God.
Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong.

invocation: the road with Jesus

Holy One, as we take to the road with Jesus this summer, send Your Spirit to accompany us. When we tire, give us renewed strength. When we flag, breathe deep into us. When we meander, bring us back to the path. When we question, grant us clarity. When we hunger, feed us with the bread of life. When we worship, enter our hearts. Amen.

Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong.

CTW: lifted me up

One: I will praise God with all I have, because God has lifted me up.
Many: We have cried to God for help, and God has healed us.
One: When we are at the lowest point, in the absolute depths, God has restored us to life.
Many: Weeping may linger for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
One: Do not be silent; let us praise God!
All: We will give thanks to God forever.
Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong.

confession: caught up

Call to Confession
There are many ways to get out of relationship with God, and when we do life can feel like a set of tires with all the air gone out of them. We are flat and friendless, limp and lifeless, lost and loveless. Our loving God wants to hear from us, wherever we are stuck on the side of the road. Let us confess the things standing between our hearts and God’s mercy as we pray together.
Prayer of Confession (Unison)
Gracious God, forgive us. We get caught up in the demands of the world and forget You. We run out of time to pray. We convince ourselves we know what is best. We doubt that You care about the details of our lives. We break down where we could build up. We forget You love us. We do not remember You can bring new life even when it seems all hope is gone. Forgive us for the ways we have broken our ties to You.
Silent Prayers of Confession
Words of Assurance (Responsive):
Minister: Sisters and Brothers in Christ, hear the Good News: all is forgiven.
ALL: Our loving God has heard our prayers.
Minister: We who felt dead are now alive in God’s grace and mercy.
ALL: We thank God for it.
Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong.

prayers for Trinity Sunday

Prayer of Invocation (Unison)

Sovereign God, we look at the things You have made, the works of Your hands, and we stop to consider them with awe. From the intricate immensity of the universe to the specific singularity of a flower, Your works astonish us. Who are we mortals that You pay attention to us? We wonder at your love for us and rejoice in your presence, praying in the name of the Creator, the Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Call to Confession

The book of Proverbs tells us that from the beginning of time, since before the creation of the Earth, there has been wisdom. Wisdom cries out to all people. But we do not always listen. We do not always care to listen. We do not want to know wisdom’s way. Let us bring our confessions to God together.

Prayer of Confession (Unison)

Great Wisdom-Maker, You arranged the world in beauty and brought humankind to life upon it. You want what is best for us. You provide us with guides and examples. You even came to be among us in Jesus Christ. We confess that we do not always pay attention. We admit that we do not always listen. We own up to taking the shortcuts and the easy ways because sometimes we cannot handle the truth. Forgive us, we pray, for the things we can acknowledge and especially for the things we try to hide from ourselves and You.
Silent Prayers of Confession

Words of Assurance (Responsive)

Minister: Beloved Children of God, the Maker of all Beauty, Goodness and Wisdom offers forgiveness to each and every one of us.
ALL: Amazed and relieved, we breathe in the Spirit of Forgiveness.
Minister: God is ever and always healing us, renewing us and preparing us for deeper understanding through the Holy Spirit. This is the good news that brings new life.
ALL:  We thank God for it. 
Submitted by Rev. Martha K. Spong, Sabbatical Pastor, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

dedication: full and open, empty and low

Holy One, sometimes we come to you with hands full and hearts open. Sometimes we come to you with pockets empty and hopes low. However we bring our gifts today, we ask you to bless them and bless us. Use us and use this church to make the living Christ known in this community and the world. Amen.


Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong, First Congregational Church, North Yarmouth Maine.

invocation: hard to live new life

Heavenly Parent, you have called us your children.
And you have called us to new life.
Sometimes that makes it hard to live in this world, where other people are so separate from you.
Help us to find the inner resources to stay in touch with you.
Help us to find our source in Christ Jesus, who taught us to pray saying…


Submitted by Rev. Martha Spong, First Congregational Church, North Yarmouth Maine.