Apr 01

Palm Sunday (Year A)

palmsWorship Ideas

  • I have posted ideas and suggestions for Palm Sunday in other years, so you will want to check out those posts:
  • The Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 reading is used every year on Palm Sunday. The good news is that this makes it a little more likely that the people in your congregation will be familiar with these words of blessing and thanksgiving. That said, you could try reading this from a different translation – just to allow the words to be heard in a new way.
  • The Matthew 21:1-11 version of the Palm Sunday story is probably my favorite. Why? It is all because of the comical imagery of Jesus riding on both the donkey and colt.  Don’t be afraid to dig into the text to explore why the Gospel writer mentions both.
  • If someone told you that the Lord needed something from you, what would you do? This is an interesting thing to ponder in light of what happens with the owner of the donkey and colt in the Matthew text.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (based on Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29)

Praise the Lord, for Christ is our salvation!

Christ provides the foundation for our hope!

God has created this moment – let us give thanks and rejoice!

The steadfast love of God is never-ending! Together, let us worship the Lord!

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29)

Blessed One, you invite us to enter a new life with joy, but we are slow to let go of our old ways. We confess that we reject you by our actions. We confess that we hoard your gift of love, and we fail to offer that gift to others. Save us from ourselves, O Lord. Forgive us and guide us to follow your Way.

Mar 26

5th Sunday in Lent (Year A)

wooden crossWorship Ideas

  • Most of us think of the Ezekiel 37:1-14 passage being read on Pentecost Sunday, but the life-giving work of the Spirit is not limited to only one day per year. You may want to teach the children the song “Dem Bones” during the Children’s Moment.
  • Psalm 130 could be read aloud in unison, serving as the Prayer of Confession.
  • John 11:1-45 is a wonderful passage that can be presented as a dramatic reading. You may want to consider and discuss how each featured character may have felt a key points in the narrative (Jesus, the disciples, Mary, Martha, the crowd, Lazarus, etc).
  • You could use unrolled gauze bandages in your worship display (inspired by the strips of cloth that bound Lazarus).

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Can your people live, O God?

Yes! The Lord gifts us with the Spirit and raises us to new life.

Do we have reason to hope, O God?

Yes! The Lord lifts us up and restores us and makes us secure.

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Spirit of God, we confess that we have cut ourselves off from you. Gather us together once again, O Lord. Reconnect us and resurrect us to be filled with the breath of new life, that we may dance and sing your praises with joy.

Mar 25

4th Sunday in Lent (Year A)

green pastures2Worship Ideas

  • 1 Samuel 16:1-13 is a story of hope. God does not only call the biggest and strongest and or oldest among us: God often calls those whom the world may otherwise overlook. Are there people or groups in your congregation that are often overlooked? Celebrate the gifts that they bring and offer a blessing (and perhaps an anointing) during worship.
  • Invite members of the congregation to pantomime the actions described in Psalm 23 (lie down, leads me, prepare a table, etc.) as you read it.
  • Ephesians 5:8-14 contrasts living in “darkness” with living as people of “light”. If you have the ability to adjust the lighting in your worship space, make the space brighter (use more light) as you offer the Declaration of Forgiveness or when you read the Scriptures. Also, use a variety of light sources in your worship display.
  • John 9:1-41 is a powerful story of healing and grace. It is also a story that demonstrates what happens when we start acting as though we know better than Christ: we end up driving out people whom Jesus loves and calls.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Ephesians 5:8-14)

In Christ, we are people of light.

We will shine, reflecting the light of our Maker.

Get up, children of God!

We are alive, and the light of Christ shines through us!

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Ephesians 5:8-14)

Radiant God, your Light has illuminated our lives. Yet, we confess that we often close our eyes and live in the dark. Expose the secrets that we try to keep, O Lord. Wake us up to live in Light of Christ.

Mar 17

3rd Sunday in Lent (Year A)

baptismal fontWorship Ideas

  • If you are preaching on Exodus 17:1-7, and you have the space and materials to do it, display a water fountain in the front of your worship space that features water that comes out of a rock. If you don’t have access to a pre-made fountain, you may be able to construct one with materials found at a craft store or landscape center. Or, display your baptismal font in such a way that it appears to be springing forth out of a rock.
  • In the Exodus reading, the people demand that Moses give them something to drink. Use this as an opportunity to talk about the importance of clean water and programs that promote that issue.
  • It may seem odd to “make a joyful noise” during the season of Lent, but Psalm 95 calls us to do just that. You may choose to avoid singing songs with the word “Alleluia” in them, but all other songs are certainly able to be sung right now. Letting your congregation sing some of their favorite hymns (and, perhaps, sharing some testimony about why they love that hymn so much) could be the perfect “break” for everyone during the otherwise grey and dreary weeks of Lent.  Remember: every Sunday in Lent is meant to be a “mini-Easter” — joy is still allowed, even as we reflect and repent.
  • Romans 5:1-11 may be somewhat familiar words for people to hear (they are used in some common Assurances of Pardon in worship services), so you may want to consider using a translation that your congregation doesn’t use all of the time.  If you do not regularly use these words in your Assurance of Pardon (Declaration of Forgiveness), this would be a perfect time to do so!
  • The narrative from John 4:5-42 simply begs to be presented in some dramatic way.  Children and youth would enjoy play-acting or doing some sort of pantomime as the scripture is read (and, to be honest, so would some adults).  Or, you may want to read it in the style of an old radio show (complete with sound effects).

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Psalm 95)

Let us raise our voices in song to the Almighty.

Songs of joy and words of praise will ring out from our hearts!

Let us rejoice and celebrate all that God has done.

Let us worship and honor the Creator of All!

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Exodus 17:1-7)

Providing God, we confess that we are demanding when we ought to be gracious. We confess that we make accusations when we ought to seek reconciliation. Forgive us for being so impatient and so ungrateful, Lord. Teach us to trust you, and show us how to love one another.

Mar 09

2nd Sunday in Lent (Year A)

crossWorship Ideas

  • Genesis 12:1-4a speaks of God blessing Abram. Use those verses as the inspiration for a service of blessing and dedication. You could say special prayers of blessing over anyone and everyone (and everything, really).
  • Psalm 121 brings a much-needed word of hope to many of the people in our pews. Invite the congregation to read the words with you, letting the promises of God sink in and take root.
  • The reading from Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 uses lots of “churchy” words: justified, righteousness, law, faith, and grace. If you are going to focus on this scripture passage, you may want to be aware of how these words will connect (or not connect) with your congregation — especially with those who are young or new to the faith.
  • John 3:1-17 includes one of the most familiar stories and – by far – one of the most familiar verses in all of scripture (John 3:16). Reading it from a different translation may help the words to fall on people’s ears in a new way. Or, you may want to present this text as a dramatic reading.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Psalm 121)

Look up! Scan the horizon! From where will we find our salvation?

Our source of all help and all hope is the Holy One.

The Lord keeps our feet secure; the Lord keeps a watchful eye.

The Savior is our Guardian and Protector, now and always.

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Romans 4:1-5, 13-17)

God of the Ages, forgive us for depending more on our own actions than we do on you. Teach us to rely on your grace instead of ourselves, that we may demonstrate our faith through our words, thoughts, and deeds.

 

Mar 08

Lent…

My apologies, worship leaders. I was simply not able to post anything this week. It is not my intent to give up the blog for Lent! It is my hope that the blog posts will resume this week.

Peace to all this season,
Amy

Feb 24

Ash Wednesday (Year A)

praying handsWorship Ideas

  • Let’s be honest: the RCL readings for Ash Wednesday are the same every year.  If you are anything like me, you may be feeling as though you have already tried everything and said everything.  Trust me, though — you haven’t.  There are still plenty of things to say and plenty of things to try.
  • Have you seen what The Worship Closet has posted in previous years?  Don’t forget to look at the notes on Year B and Year C.
  • Inspired by Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, invite the congregation to write their own personal confessions on paper hearts. Then, invite the congregation to “rend their hearts” (tear them) as an act of confession and desire to return to God.
  • Take your Ash Wednesday service to the streets, daring to offer the sacrifices that God really wants: sharing food with the hungry, giving clothing to those in need, and reconciling with one another.  Bring the words of Isaiah 58:1-12 to life as you serve free lunches to the homeless in your community and/or distribute handmade scarves to everyone you meet (offering to say a prayer with them, or including a note that the scarf has been prayed-over at your church).
  • Inspired by Psalm 51:1-17, wash one another’s hands (using a warm wash cloth and basin of water; or, moisturizing hand wipes).  This is an activity that you can do outside of your church, too.
  • How will you commit to “take on” the positive qualities described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10?  Invite the congregation to contemplate the practices they will “take on” during the season of Lent.
  • Considering how Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 emphasizes the importance of being modest when we practice our faith, conduct as much of the service as possible in silence (instead of making a “show” of things).

Liturgy Suggestions

Be sure to check the liturgy suggestions for Year B and Year C, too.

Call to Worship (based on Psalm 51:1-17)

O God, have mercy on us, we pray.

In your mercy, make us clean from our sins.

Wipe away every failing and make us new in your sight.

Restore us, deliver us, and re-create us, O Lord.

Prayer of Confession (inspired by 1 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10)

Wondrous God, we confess that we have not listened for your Word as we should. We confess that we have placed obstacles in the way of our neighbors. We are guilty of being proud and arrogant. Forgive us for our foolish and hateful ways. Forgive us for taking your amazing gift of grace for granted. Redirect us, by your Spirit, that we may be your faithful people once again.

Feb 19

Transfiguration Sunday (Year A)

cloud pillarWorship Ideas

  • The Revised Common Lectionary readings for this Sunday are full of imagery that you may want to feature in your worship display: bright clouds, devouring fire, tablets of stone, and broken pottery.
  • Exodus 24:12-18 tells us of Moses’ encounter with the Almighty on Mount Sinai.
    • Create your own cloud to “cover” your sanctuary with a large bunch of white balloons (you could cover them with cotton balls – using a spray adhesive – to make the cloud look fluffy).
    • The appearance of God’s glory is described as being like “a devouring fire”.  Use bright lights, flame-like fabric and paper/streamers, and fans to create a flameless “fire” in your worship space.
    • Moses is told that he will receive the tablets of stone on which the law and commandment will be written.  Create your own tablets using foam-board or styrofoam.
    • Moses enters the cloud and is there for 40 days and nights.  Since this is the Sunday before we begin our 40-day Lenten journey, this could be an interesting image to consider.
  • Psalm 2 reminds us that all of the plots and plans of the nations of the world are no match for the power and might of the Lord — the King of Kings.  God has the power to dash the foolish ways of the nations like someone who smashes an earthenware vessel.  Write your confessions on inexpensive earthenware plates; then, in a designated area, invite people to smash the plates.
  • Matthew 17:1-9 gives us one account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Again, you could make a “cloud” to cover your sanctuary.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by 2 Peter 1:16-21)

Listen and hear, O people of God:

The Light of God shines brightly in a dark world.

Let the prophetic Word of the Lord light our way.

May the Spirit of God move among us!

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Psalm 2)

Mighty Lord, we confess that we think too highly of ourselves. Forgive us for the ways we set ourselves against you, O God. Break us of our bad behavior. Dash our sins to pieces and guide us to find our refuge in you.

Feb 05

7th Sunday After the Epiphany (Year A)

heartWorship Ideas

  • Leviticus is not a book that we read very often; but Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 is a wonderful text to use when talking about our call to love one another. We are not holy because of anything we do. We are holy because God is holy. The directives that are offered in this passage do not merely describe how we are to act — they serve as a powerful description of who God is and how God acts in this world. God is generous; therefore, we are to be generous. God is honest and just; therefore, we are to be honest and just. God does not hate, therefore we do not hate. God loves all of us, therefore we are to love all others.
  • Psalm 119:33-40 could be read as the Prayer of Confession.
  • Inspired by Psalm 119:33-40 and Leviticus 19:9-18, set up a series of prayer stations that focus on each of the “commandments” that are named in the Leviticus passage. Invite the congregation to follow “the path” and explore each verse, one by one.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 speaks of the firm foundation of our faith: Jesus Christ. Use extra-large building blocks to create a “foundation” in the front of your worship space – clearly label the blocks with names for Jesus (Christ, Savior, Light of the World, Prince of Peace, etc). Invite the congregation to help build upon it.
  • Matthew 5:38-48 describes peaceful (but active – not passive) protests, as well as a clear call to love all people – neighbors, friends, and enemies alike. All that we ever do should be based in love – real love. These words are remarkably challenging, and we can be tempted to make excuses for our actions that do not show real love to our enemies. But, there is no stronger demonstration of love than loving those who do not love you. Jesus/God is the best example of this — unconditionally loving the world who does not always love God/Jesus in return.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18)

We are called to follow in the Way of God.

The Holy One is generous, so we are to be generous.

The Almighty is kind and just, so we are to be kind and just.

The Lord loves all, so we are to love all.

Let us offer our praise to the God of Love.

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Matthew 5:38-48)

We confess, O God, that we have listened to voices that encourage violence and greed instead your Voice which calls us to live lives of peace and generosity. We confess that we would rather hate out enemies than dare to show God’s love. Forgive us, we pray. Teach us to love as you love, that we may demonstrate your perfect grace.

Feb 04

6th Sunday After the Epiphany (Year A)

ShoesWorship Ideas

  • Deuteronomy 30:15-20 reminds us that God has given us the freedom to choose - either that which gives life or that which does not. In what ways do you (and your congregation) choose life? In what ways do you (and your congregation) choose death?
  • The suggested reading of Sirach 15:15-20 pairs well with the reading from Deuteronomy (and, really, all of the other readings this week). You could use this as an opportunity to introduce your congregation to a book that many churches (especially most Protestant churches) do not utilize in worship settings.
  • Psalm 119:1-8 – like the other readings on this Sunday – is focused on God’s Law and following God’s Way. You may want to decorate your worship space with images and items that remind people of the Ten Commandments and the law.
  • How do you ”walk in the law of the Lord”? Go on a prayer walk around your community. Or, collect new or gently-used shoes for a shelter or other community program.
  • The theme of “following God’s Way” is found in practically every one of the suggested readings in the RCL this week. Invite the congregation to participate in a game of “Follow the Leader” as an object lesson.
  • Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we aren’t like the people Paul is writing to in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. We still have a long way to go in our faith, too. And that is especially true when it comes to our working with people from other Christian-faith traditions. This scripture text could inspire you to have an ecumenical worship service.
  • Matthew 5:21-37 is a difficult text, so it may be tempting to avoid it altogether. However, the message that God values relationships and reconciliation more than the letter of the law is one that is quite hopeful. Instead of shaming those who are divorced (please be mindful of the reality of things like domestic violence and abuse!), emphasize the value of healthy relationships/friendships/partnerships.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Psalm 119:1-8)

True happiness comes from following God’s Way.

Our only delight comes in walking with Christ.

Let us praise our Maker by fixing our vision upon the Lord.

We will offer our praise through faithful action. Let us worship God!

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Matthew 5:21-37)

Holy God, we confess that we are more interested in following rules than we are in following Jesus. Forgive us for the ways we neglect the health of our relationships. Teach us how to reconcile with one another and love as you love.

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