Advent 3C, December 16, 2018. Joy!

Call to Worship                                                                                              

Here at First Congregational Church of Stamford we wish you joy. Why? Because joy is a force for positive change. Joy gives us the energy to make things right. Joy is the moment when everything comes together. And if you have that joy energy moving through your body you become contagious. You naturally share that joy. Fear is contagious, too. Fear can lead to some pretty dark places. But joy is light. Joy is healing and healthy and whole. So let’s get infected with joy this morning.

Worship Resources for Advent 2C December 9, 2018

Call to Worship (in the form of guided meditation)

As we gather ourselves for worship this morning, I invite you to find a comfortable position in your pew. Sit up and imagine a string from the top of your head to the ceiling, as if you were a marionette. Place your feet on the floor. Hands in your lap. Feel yourself rooted in your hips and pelvis. Now take a slow breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel your belly expand and contract. Breathe again. One more time. Feel the peace the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Let’s worship God.

Prayer of Dedication

Prince of Peace, we dedicate our offerings to you. May they be a catalyst for justice so that all may be at peace. In your name we pray. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer for Proper 28B/Ordinary 33B/Pentecost 26 November 18, 2018. Mark 13, Little Apocalypse.

God of change,

Empires rise and fall, rulers come and go, temples are built up and torn down, but your pervasive, sustaining love is available to us in this moment and the next throughout time and space eternally.

We rest in that love. We open ourselves to your limitless energy to change ourselves and change our world.

There is so much suffering. Give us the courage to do something. Give us the patience and wisdom to discover what that something might be.

On this Stewardship Sunday we dedicate our pledges. On this Thanksgiving Sunday we offer our gratitude. On this Sunday we honor the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20. We remember transgender victims of violence. We pray for safety, welcome, and respect for all our transgender family, friends, loved ones, and neighbors. Amen.

Worship Resources for Proper 28B/Ordinary 33B/Pentecost 26 November 18, 2018

Call to Worship

Change is the reality of our lives. Sometimes we welcome change, when, for example, a grandchild is born or when we get that dream job. Other times, we find change frightening and difficult. Spiritual practices like worship, Scripture study, prayer, and devotion are tools for grounding ourselves in God’s boundless and unchanging love. Firmly grounded in God’s love, change is no longer a problem to be solved or a tragedy to be avoided but an opportunity to celebrate God’s steadfast faithfulness. Let’s worship God.

Prayer of Confession         

God we confess our tendency to embrace the changes we enjoy and resist the changes we dislike. Teach us to face life squarely, courageously, and with clear vision so that we can make choices that are in line with our commitment to follow you no matter what the cost. We trust in your boundless love to sustain us no matter change life might bring. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

*Dedication of Offerings and Pledges

Holy God, we pledge to you and to your church our time, talent, and treasure. We trust that you will show the place where our deep longings and the world’s deep needs meet. We trust that you will help us honor our pledges for the blessing of our lives and the building up of you kingdom. Amen.

 

Worship Resources for Proper 27B/Ordinary 32B/Pentecost 25. November 11, 2018

*Call to Worship

In ancient Israel most people were farmers. So worship included sacrifices of crops and livestock as a way of honoring the belief that all that we have and that life itself is a gift of God. Life is not ours to possess but ours to give is service of others. In this way sacrifice can be a path to a joyful, meaningful life. We not longer offer sacrifices of crops and livestock, but we do sacrifice our time, talent, and treasure. And in worship we are invited to lay down our hearts and lives before God. Let’s worship God.

Prayer of Confession         

Holy God, sacrifice is difficult. We clench our fists tight even though letting go would open us to blessing beyond measure. Forgive our mean-spiritedness. Teach us faith by giving us the courage to do faithful things. Teach us joy by giving us a spirit of sacrifice. Teach us love by helping us to follow the example of Jesus, who laid down his life that we might have abundant life now and eternal life in the world to come. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication

Holy God, on this Veterans Day we acknowledge the sacrifice of those who have served our country. Our offerings seem to pale in comparison. But we trust that you will bless what we now offer now and continue to grow our giving. Amen.

Worship Resources for Proper 26B/Ordinary 31B/Pentecost 24 November 4, 2018

Mark 12: 28-34

*Call to Worship                                                                                   

What is love for you? Jesus said the greatest commandment is love. Christians should love God above all and our neighbors as we love ourselves. But do you love yourself? What would it mean to love oneself in a Christian way? And how is that different from narcissism? How do we love our neighbors? Is being nice enough? And what about God? How are we supposed to love someone we can’t even touch or see? Love is the heart of who we are as Christians. Let’s open our hearts to God in worship.

Prayer of Confession     

Holy God, we confess we’re not always sure what love is. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking we’re behaving in loving ways when, in fact, we’re just serving our egos. Sometimes we cut ourselves off from love because we’re frightened it might change us. If we truly loved someone, if we truly loved you, would we lose our sense of who we are? If we truly made ourselves vulnerable, would we get taken advantage of? So we hold back. We make half-hearted gestures. We make grand sacrifices to show off our moral superiority. And all the while we miss the love we long for. Forgive us and heal us. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication

Holy God, the Apostle Paul reminds us that if we give away all our possessions but do not have love, we gain nothing. So we offer our money, but more than that, we offer our hearts. Bless our offerings. Amen.

 

Worship Resources for Proper 25B/Ordinary 30B/Pentecost 23 Mark 10:46-52

*Call to Worship       

Like Blind Bartimaeus, Jesus’ call puts a spring in our step and brings a jolt to our awareness. Even if we can’t see Jesus, we can confidently follow the sound of his voice. Worship is our calling out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Scripture tells us that when we call, Jesus responds. Let us worship our Savior.

Prayer of Confession                                                                              

We confess, Jesus, that we often assume we know what others need. We offer help that’s unasked for and sometimes unwelcome. In our zeal to do good, we fail to honestly examine our intentions. Is this truly about serving Christ’s mission or is this more about serving my ego? These are tricky questions, God. Give us the courage to open our hearts to the light of your love trusting that you accept even our imperfect offerings. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication

Holy God, we offer our hearts for healing and our resources for genuine service. Amen.

 

Prayers for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 23B

Text: Mark 10:17-31

*Call to Worship

We get attached to a lot of things. Our possessions, certainly. Also our time, our status. Relationships–whether they’re healthy or not. Dreams of the future, regrets of the past. Afraid of losing what we have, we refuse to open up to what might be. Worship is a time of letting go of everything that is temporary, no matter how deep our attachment, and opening ourselves to the eternal. Let’s worship God.

Prayer of Confession

Holy God, when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they immediately dropped everything and followed him. Too often, we’re more like the rich young ruler, who came to Jesus hoping to inherit the Kingdom of God only to turn away because we can’t let go. Teach us the wisdom of giving. Teach us the freedom of letting go. Give us the courage to entrust our lives and all we possess to you. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication

All that we have and all that we are we dedicate to you, Holy God. Amen.

 

Prayers for 17th Sunday after Pentecost Year B. “Who Do You Say that I am?”

Text: Mk 8:27-38

*Call to Worship

Who is Jesus? For two thousand years folks have been asking this question. We might ask ourselves Who is Jesus for me? Or Who is Jesus for my neighbor? Or Who is the Jesus we meet in the Bible? Who is Jesus for the gospel writers Matthew or Mark or Luke or John? Who is Jesus for the Apostle Paul? Who is Jesus? Faith is not just seeking an answer. It’s living the question.

Prayer of Confession   

O God, we confess we don’t know who Jesus is in any final way. He’s always out ahead of us inviting us to follow him. Give us the courage to follow despite our fear. Give us the strength to press on past the limits of what we think we’re capable of. Forgive us when we turn away. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

*Prayer of Dedication

We give, God, because Jesus taught us to give. We serve because Jesus taught us to service. We sacrifice because Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many. Just as you raised Jesus from the grave, we know that we, too, shall be lifted up. Amen.