Worship Resource based on Ruth 1

* Call To Worship (from Psalm 146)

One: Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.

All: The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.

One: The LORD watches over the strangers; God upholds the orphan and the widow.

All: The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!

* Gathering Prayer

God of the widow and orphan, God of the oppressed and imprisoned, God of the overlooked and overburdened, hear our prayer. Give us eyes to see strangers as friends. Give us ears to hear new voices. Give us minds open to fresh perspectives. Give us hearts made whole by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

God who provides in every circumstance, we thank you for all you have given. Teach us to live with open hands ever ready to receive, ever freely giving. Amen.

Worship Resource: Mother’s Day

* Call To Worship (from Deuteronomy 32)

Leader: As an eagle stirs up her nest and hovers over her young . . .

           All: As she spreads her wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on her pinions . . .

          Leader: God guides and protects us. She sets us atop the heights of the land . . .

          All: And nurses us with honey from the crags, and milk from the flocks.

* Gathering Prayer (Unison)

Mothering God, God of our mothers, we thank you for the gift of life and those who gave it to us. Give us the grace to embrace our mothers in all their complexity. Bless our mothering so that those who are entrusted to our care might grow healthy and strong. May they remain safe and happy long after their need for our continual care has passed. We remember those who have cared for us and are gone. May we honor their sacrifice by following their example. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

We dedicate our lives to your service and our hearts to your worship, Holy God. Amen.

Worship Resources for Easter, Year C

Call To Worship (based on Isaiah 65)

Leader: For I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.

All: But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy and its people as a delight.

Leader: Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.

All: The wolf and the lamb will feed together, the lion shall eat straw like an ox; but the serpent–its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.

Gathering Prayer
God of resurrection, we thank you for your child, Jesus, who died and rose again that we might have abundant life now and eternal life in the world to come. In every moment you make us anew. With every breath your Spirit sustains us. Teach us to breathe out the past–hurts that hinder us, traumas that haunt us–and breathe in fresh possibilities, wild dreams, new hopes. This is the day of resurrection. Today we find our freedom. Amen.

Dedication of the Offering

God whose generosity knows no bounds, we give with humble gratitude for your gift of abundant life. Amen.

Worship Resources for the 4th Sunday in Lent, Year C

Rimmington, Eric; The Return of the Prodigal Son; Bradford Museums and Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-return-of-the-prodigal-son-23177

Call to Worship 

Leader: The God of boundless compassion waits for us with patient expectancy.

All: The God of our ancestors stands in the doorway and continually calls us home.

Leader: God’s unconditional love cannot be earned, only accepted.

All: May our worship reflect God’s infinite embrace.

Gathering Prayer (Unison)

God of our aimless wandering, God of our longing for home, with a broken heart you patiently await our return. Teach us to see ourselves and each other as you see us: your children, made in your image deserving of unconditional love. We don’t always show each other the same love you show us. We have a tendency to sort people into categories of those who deserve love and those who don’t. Shake us out of our limited perspectives. Give us the courage and the skills to listen deeply, to speak the truth in love, and to embrace our brothers and sisters even when it’s difficult to do so. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication

We offer our lives in service as we offer our gifts to you, Holy God, in gratitude for the gift of your child, Jesus, who died and rose again that we might have abundant life now and eternal life in the world to come. Amen.

Worship Resources based on Isaiah 55:1-9

Call to Worship (Isaiah 55:1-2)

Leader: Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. 

All: You that have no money, come, buy, and eat!

Leader: Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

All: Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves with rich food.

Gathering Prayer (Unison)

Holy God, in a place of so much wealth, why is there so much need? In a land that affords every available comfort, why do we find ourselves uncomfortable, discouraged, depressed? What is this food you spoke of through your prophets? Where is this promised land of milk and honey our ancestors sought? Open our hearts to the only true satisfaction our hearts will ever know: your boundless love. 

Worship Resource 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

Opening Prayer

Holy God, you sent your child, Jesus, to open new ways of understanding Scripture. Our Pilgrim forebears believed that there was “yet more truth” to “break forth” from your “Holy Word.” So we open our hearts to hear anew the word beyond all words. We train our ears to hear the still small voice that arises from the sound of silence. We settle our bodies into a stillness from which the movement of your Spirit arises. Amen.

Worship Resource based on Philippians 2:1-14

God of all creation–earth, sky and sea–teach us the way of humility, of “humus,” of earth, soil, and growing things, root us in this very place, nourish us with your boundless love, which meet us in this and every moment. God of every perfect gift, we thank you for your Son Jesus who emptied himself for our sake. Teach us the way of open hands and open hearts. Teach us the way of peace. Amen.

Worship Resource: Mark 12:38-44

Holy God, your Scripture points beyond conventional understandings to the heart of the matter. Who is rich? Who is poor? How is it that your abundant life is often so apparent among those who have relatively little and so hard to find among those who have so much?  And who are we? Rich or poor? Like the widow who “put in everything she had,” teach us to step past conventional understandings of poverty and wealth into the limitless provision of your boundless love. Amen.

Worship Resource: Daniel 2, “Dreaming Together”

“Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream” by Marten Kuilman

Holy God, we deal with powers beyond our comprehension. Algorithms shape our preferences. The ebb and flow of international finance affects our economic well being. Time and chance determine our social location. Changing weather patterns can damage our lives, livelihoods, and shelter in a matter of hours.  A global pandemic can alter our habits and harm our health. In the face of these faceless powers we turn to you timeless creator, boundless benefactor, source of all that is. We entrust our lives to your abundant provision and matchless wisdom. Amen.

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 8-13-21

What’s Up with Pastor Todd 8-13-21

As First Church and South Church face another autumn season with the coronavirus I’m reminded of a time someone jokingly said, “These are the good old days.” This is an important reminder both for us personally and for organizations in transition. As meditation teacher Ram Dass famously said, “Be here now.” Jesus said, “Keep awake!” (Mk. 13:35). Human beings have a tendency to cling to the past and fantasize about the future. Meanwhile, our lives are happening right here, right now. 

When the Israelites were journeying through the wilderness they longed to go back to Egypt even though it meant enslavement. They complained to Moses about his leadership. Moses, in turn, complained to God. Yet, generations later when the prophets found themselves facing the decadence aarnd corruption of an established Kingdom of Israel, they wrote with longing about the simpler times when the Israelites wandered through the desert and worshipped in a tent. “Oh, how close our ancestors were to God!” So, if we find ourselves in a bit of a wilderness time, remember, these are the good old days!

How can we “be here now” in the midst of the pressures and pulls of transition? In a recent article “It takes faith to resist the attention economy,” by Rev. Katherine Willis Pershey writes about the search for groundedness in the midst of a sabbatical in the midst of a pandemic. Her answer is to return to those practices that keep her attention on Jesus, worship being one of them, even when there might be more exciting alternatives to give her attention to. In fact, in this “attention economy” in which social media companies have developed sophisticated algorithms to capture our attention and sell it, devoting our lives to the simple practices of prayer, Scripture, song, and service are courageous acts of resistance to a culture that incentivizes exploitation for profit. Worship, devotion, prayer, and meditation in their many forms can return us to the present moment. Let’s enjoy the good old days while we’re living them!