Jan 24

5th Sunday After the Epiphany (Year A)

saltWorship Ideas

  • Isaiah 58:1-12 is a wonderful passage to use if you are wanting to emphasize the importance of genuine worship and sacrifice. It isn’t about rites and rituals. It is all about justice, service to others, and humility.
    • Want to do something daring? Center your entire service around service to others:
      • create Valentines’ Day cards for your shut-in members, and deliver them
      • collect items for your local food pantry
      • clean and organize your local food pantry or shelter
      • organize a letter writing campaign for a special cause your congregation champions
      • host a free meal for the homeless
  • It is never too early in the year to start talking about stewardship. Psalm 112:1-10 celebrates (in part) the generosity that is inspired by the Lord. Remember that the wealth that we are able to share is not limited to money. We are able (called, even) to share our skills and our passions. Celebrate and honor the many gifts and skills that exist in your congregation, blessing them through prayer.
  • Matthew 5:13-20 practically begs us to be creative in worship, since there are at least 2 great objects to use: salt and light.
    • Get a variety of salts from your local grocery store to display in jars and bowls. You may even want to invite people to taste the salt.
    • There are countless ways that you can represent “light” in a worship display: candles, lamps, light bulbs, glow sticks, etc.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Isaiah 58:1-12)

Shout out, O people of God!

We raise our voices like trumpets.

Let us fast as the Lord would have us fast:

let us be humble, work for justice, and share what we have.

Together, let us worship God.

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Matthew 5:13-20)

Lord, you  have called us to be the light of the world, but we hide our light under our sinful actions and words. Forgive us, we pray, and guide us to shine more brightly. Help us to let your light shine through us, so that the world may give glory to you, O God.

Jan 21

4th Sunday After the Epiphany (Year A)

feetWorship Ideas

  • The words from Micah 6:1-8 may be familiar to many in your congregation. To help people hear the Word in a new way, you may want to read this lesson from a different translation (or, perhaps, several different translations). You could have different voices read each verse from a different translation – giving the scripture reading an “echo” effect as you read it.
  • Do we strive to be the person/people described by the psalmist in Psalm 15? Due to our sinful nature, it is impossible for us to be perfect. Still, these words do describe Christ very well – and they are certainly words for us to live by.
  • The 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 passage is a fun one to play with in a worship setting. The repeated theme of “foolishness” lends itself to a playful service that embraces humor and whimsy.
    • Borrow a jester’s outfit from a costume shop or theater. The fool is often the one who speaks the truth in classical literature. Present your sermon as “the fool”, if you dare!
    • God calls the imperfect and unqualified. The Lord uses that which is silly and foolish to make God’s plan and kingdom known. Celebrate the foolishness that exists in your congregation, inviting people to see their weaknesses as strengths. (This could be especially interesting if you are recognizing church officers or leaders.)
  • Matthew 5:1-12 presents us with some of the most familiar words in the New Testament: The Beatitudes.
    • Who are the “blessed” ones in your church or community? Create a collage for each of the “blessed” statements (poor in spirit, those who mourn, etc). Use pictures and images to illustrate each one.
    • Create banners for each of the “blessed are” statements. Invite the congregation to use fabric markers to write their prayers and pledges for how they can strive to embody/celebrate/honor each of these.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Micah 6:1-8)

What does God want us to offer as an offering?

God wants us to do justice.

What does God want us to offer in service to the Lord?

God wants us to love kindness.

What does God want us to offer as a gift of thanks?

God wants us to walk humbly with the Almighty.

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Psalm 15)

O Most High, we long to dwell in your presence. But, we confess that we are far from worthy. We speak falsehoods, hurt our friends, and insult our neighbors. Forgive us, we pray. Teach us to love as you love. Guide us to value one another as you value each of us.

Jan 12

3rd Sunday After the Epiphany (Year A)

lightWorship Ideas

  • If you haven’t gotten enough of the Isaiah 9:1-4 passage (which was used quite a bit during Advent), you could celebrate the gift of light by decorating your worship space with items that provide light: lamps, light bulbs, glow sticks, flashlights, candles, etc.
  • The theme of “light” continues in the reading from Psalm 27:1, 4-9. The psalmist uses images of light and shelter to describe God and God’s saving grace. Collect materials that could be used to build/provide shelter, protection, and/or light for those who are in need: blankets, backpacks, flashlights, candles, gift cards for home supply stores, etc. Check with local shelters for what their most urgent needs are right now.
  • Are there quarrels between people in your church or community? Use 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 as the inspiration for a service of healing and reconciliation.
  • When Jesus met the fishermen in Matthew 4:12-23, the fishermen would have been using a dragnet to catch fish. What sort of people does Jesus plan to catch with his dragnet of grace? I would suggest that he intends to catch every type of person possible – never tossing anyone back into the waters of chaos.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Psalm 27:1, 4-9)

The Almighty is our source of light and life.

We have no fear, for God is our salvation.

Th Holy One is our fortress and shelter.

We have all the strength we need, for God is with us.

Come, let us worship the Lord!

Prayer of Confession (inspired by 1 Corinthians 1:10-18)

Forgive us, O Lord, for our quarrelsome ways. Forgive us for creating divisions when you call us to live and work together as sisters and brothers. Remind us of our unity in Christ. Guide us to live the Good News together, so we may be faithful witnesses to your unconditional grace and love.

Jan 12

2nd Sunday After the Epiphany (Year A)

cross shieldWorship Ideas

  • What if we were to read Isaiah 49:1-7 as if the words were written about us? Each of us have been called to be a light – reflecting the Light of Christ, the Light of the World. Say these words as a blessing to one another.
  • Speaking of blessings, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 could also be used as a personal (face-to-face) blessing given to each person in worship. The words of Paul are incredibly encouraging – especially for those who may see themselves as being powerless or weak in various situations in their lives.
  • This week’s text from John 1:29-42 calls many of us out of our comfort zones. The subject of evangelism is not one that many people tend to enjoy. And yet, it is really as simple as saying “come and see” to others. Challenge your congregation to invite others to worship in the days and weeks (and months) ahead.
  • Everyone in your congregation knows at least one person who could come with them to worship. Challenged by the Gospel lesson, offer blank invitation cards to your congregation and have them create personalized invitations for each person they can think of who could “come and see” your worship service.

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by John 1:29-42)

Look! Listen! Here, we learn of the Lamb of God!

Here, together, we seek the Teacher.

Come and see, people of God,

Together, we will find the Messiah.

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Psalm 40:1-11)

Holy God, we confess that we do not trust as we ought to trust. We know that we should rely fully on you, but we tend to only rely on ourselves. Open our hearts to your life-changing Spirit, O God. Guide us to depend on you, that we may celebrate your faithfulness and know your steadfast love.

Jan 06

This Week…

It is with the deepest regret that the Worship Closet is unable to publish the regular blog this week.  We anticipate returning next week, however.

baptism bowlIn the meantime, please be sure to check out these previously posted materials related to Baptism of the Lord Sunday:

Also, you may want to check out this blog post by Rachel G. Hackenberg (author, speaker, and ordained minister). Her reflections and ideas are really spot-on!

Peace, friends – and we’ll see you next week!

Dec 31

2nd Sunday After Christmas (Year A)

poinsettiasWorship Ideas

  • The Jeremiah 31:7-14 text could be used as the basis of a service of healing and reconciliation.
  • Offer prayerful blessings for each and every member and friend of your congregation, inspired by the psalmist’s words in Psalm 147:12-20 that God “blesses your children within you”. What will we give birth to this year – and how can God bless it and us?
  • Ephesians 1:3-14 provides a wonderful word of hope for us as we begin a new year. Reflect upon how you will utilize the inheritance we receive through Christ.
  • John 1:1-18 uses poetic language to describe the amazing Good News in a beautiful way. God – the Creator of All that is – became one of us. This is news that should give us chills…
  • Preaching Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21? Consider how “Woman Wisdom” would be welcomed by your community?

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (inspired by Jeremiah 31:7-14)

Sing out, O people.

Shout with praise for the Lord of All!

The whole world comes to find comfort in the Creator.

God-with-us grants peace and healing to all who gather in his name.

Together, let us praise the Lord!

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Jeremiah 31:7-14)

Blessed Redeemer, we confess that we have strayed from your path. We have neglected your ways. Gather us together, by your Spirit, and set us straight by your grace and love. Transform us to once again reflect your glory, that we may dance and sing with gladness once more.

Prayer for Illumination (based on John 1:1-18)

Almighty God – source of all that is – shine in our lives this day. Banish the darkness of misunderstanding and confusion. Illumine our reading of your Word, that we may encounter the Word-made-flesh and receive him and believe.

Dec 23

1st Sunday after Christmas (Year A)

poinsettasWorship Ideas

  • If you have not enjoyed a “carol sing” at your church yet, this is a great Sunday to do so. What a wonderful (and easy) way to “praise the Lord” (as the psalmist sings in Psalm 148)!
  • Isaiah 63:7-9 invites us to “recount the gracious deeds of the Lord”. Since this is the last Sunday of the year, why not invite the congregation to reflect on all of the ways that God has worked in and through their lives over the past year? You could use fabric markers and decorative fabric to create a banner that lists all of the “gracious deeds” that the congregation shares.
  • The Matthew 2:13-23 text could be presented as a dramatic reading. Recruit people from the congregation to act out the story – including a grumpy/angry Herod, a weeping Rachel, and a worried Joseph and Mary.
  • Don’t forget – the Christmas season is not over yet! Leave your Christmas decorations up in your worship space until after next Sunday’s worship services!

Liturgy Suggestions

Call to Worship (based on Isaiah 63:7-9)

Let us celebrate the wonderful deeds of the Lord.

Let us rejoice at the mercy and never-ending love of our Savior.

The Promised One has come to save us.

The Lord of Love carries us safely from this day forward.

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Hebrews 2:10-18)

Emmanuel, you came to live among us as a brother, and you proudly claim us all to be part of your family. But, we confess that we are reluctant to welcome and accept the same people you count as sisters and brothers. Forgive our dismissive ways, O Lord. Teach us to show your mercy and love to all people, that we may live as one family in your name.

Prayer for Illumination (inspired by Matthew 2:13-23)

Appear to us now, O Lord, in the hearing of your Word. Call us and guide us, that we may be saved.

Dec 16

Christmas Eve/Christmas Day (Year A)

I have posted about the various Nativity of the Lord readings in previous posts. The one that I posted last year has a plethora of ideas, as well as links to other posts that could be helpful.  You can also find liturgy suggestions from previous years here.

NativitySetWorship Ideas

  • Celebrating that the Light of the World has come to all, invite your congregation to distribute small candles to those who live near your church. Include a message of hope (based on Isaiah 9:2-7), as well as an invitation to your next worship service.
  • Most congregation rarely have the opportunity to sing through all of the many Advent and Christmas carols that are in their denomination’s hymnal. Be sure to sing as many of the songs (even those that may be considered “new songs”) during the service.
  • Christmas pageants are not only meant for the services before Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Present the Christmas story as a dramatic reading (with or without costumes).  Since the story is familiar to many, you may be able to simply recruit volunteers on the day of the service.  Have fun with it — this is a story that is meant to bring joy!
  • Using pre-cut shapes of fabric and fabric paint markers, invite the congregation to create banners proclaiming that the Christ is born. Decorate the sanctuary with the banners (which can be created by sewing the fabric pieces together, or simply joining the pieces with safety pins) throughout the Christmas and Epiphany seasons.

Liturgy Suggestions

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Titus 2:11-14)

Wondrous God, we celebrate this day that your grace has come in the person of Jesus, bringing salvation to all. Yet, we confess that we have a lot to learn about how you want us to live and who you call us to be. Forgive our impiety and ill-placed desires. Teach us to focus on you. Inspire us to serve you faithfully

Prayer for Illumination (based on Isaiah 9:2-7)

Lord, we have walked in darkness for long enough. Shine brightly through your Word, by the power of your Spirit. Multiply our faith. Increase our joy. Establish your everlasting kingdom, that we may praise your name forevermore.

Dec 16

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A)

christmonsWorship Ideas

  • The Isaiah 7:10-16 passage mentions that the one named Immanuel will “eat curds and honey”. Set up a station that allows people to taste curds and honey as they contemplate this reading.
  • The Isaiah reading indicates that the sign of the Lord will be a young woman who bears a child.  Would we consider an un-wed pregnant teenager to be a sign from God?  What sort of sign or signs are we expecting?
  • The Matthew 1:18-25 text offers us a portion of the Christmas drama from the perspective of Joseph.  You may want to consider offering the sermon as a first-person narrative (as Joseph).  Or, if you would rather not pretend to be Joseph, you could present the story from the perspective of the Angel.
  • The Psalm reading (Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19) could be read as a prayer offered in unison.

Liturgy Suggestions

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Matthew 1:18-25)

Holy God, there are times when we shy away from your calling. Forgive us for wanting to wander from your ways when we are faced with challenges. Guide us, by your Spirit, to follow your will and celebrate your love for us all.

Prayer for Illumination (inspired by Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19)

Shepherding God, stir up your inspiration and guidance and save us by your Word. Shine your face on us as we hear your Word proclaimed, that we may be restored to you and have the gift of new life.

Dec 09

Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)

waters in wildernessWorship Ideas

  • Isaiah 35:1-10 mentions waters and streams appearing in the desert and wilderness.  Encourage the congregation to support a mission project that provides clean drinking water to those who need it.  Be sure to decorate the worship space with fabric that looks like streams of cool water.
  • Psalm 146:5-10 echos much of what Mary sings in Luke 1:46b-55. Use these two passages to focus on issues of social justice and equality in your community and the wider world.
  • Do your part to “fill the hungry with good things”, and collect food items for a local food pantry or shelter.
  • As we approach the halfway point of the season of Advent, we may find ourselves becoming less patient as we wait for the arrival of the Christ.  James 5:7-10 encourages us to be patient — patient as we wait for God and patient as we deal with one another. You may want to use this reading as your benediction.

Liturgy Suggestions

Prayer of Confession (inspired by James 5:7-10)

Almighty Lord, in this season of waiting, it is hard to be patient. We are anxious for you to come to us. We are impatient with one another. Encourage us, Lord, and forgive our grumbling. Teach us to wait with patience and work with each other with grace..

Prayer for Illumination (inspired by Isaiah 35:1-10)

By your Spirit, God of majesty, guide us as we travel your Holy Way. Open our blind eyes and unstop our deaf ears, that we may leap with joy as we encounter your Word.

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