We Celebrate Creation
God looked into emptiness and created all that is.
God spread out the earth in its diversity
with mountains and valleys, rivers and fertile plains.
There were patches of flood and fire,
of dryness and of vivid green,
embraced by the wind and sea,
a sun-filled landscape of hospitality.
And threading through it all, like weavings of golden hope,
were dreams of justice and compassion
and gentle streams of peace.
God gathers all repentant people into communion,
gives a sigh of joy
and sets us free to choose our own path.
This is our God.
This is the wonder of our calling in faith.
Let us worship God together.
Call to Worship
Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; worship the Lord with gladness. Come into God’s presence with singing!
Songs of Praise
“Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” CH 64, WR 18
“Soon and Very Soon” CH 757, SNC 106, SWM 149, SFL 194, WR 523
O God, you are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, glorious in holiness, full of love and compassion, abundant in grace and truth. Your works everywhere praise you, and your glory is revealed in Jesus Christ our Savior. Therefore we praise you, blessed and holy Trinity, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
The Creation Groans
Lament and Confession
[Leader divides congregation in half to speak the parts of Voice 1 (the oppressed people of the world) and Voice 2
As we come together today, the voices of the people rise in lament and confession before the Holy God:
Voice 1: We weep, O God, for the lives of our people around the world. We toil day and night, and still our children go hungry. We sow the fields, planting your seeds of abundance and bringing in the gifts of your harvest. But this is torn from our hands, and all that is left are crumbs from the tables of the rich. The gap grows wider and wider as our children die from lack of health care, without education and without freedom. The gap grows wider and wider as our elderly are neglected, the disabled deserted, and the addicted left to waste away.
Voice 2: We bow our heads, O God, for our tables groan with plenty. Our only questions are about which good thing to eat, and how much is too much. We puzzle over what more we can choose to add to our wardrobe, our homes, and our style of living. As we hear the cries of the suffering people in the distance, we know that we have betrayed your dream. We have failed to live as your just community.
Solo: “Calvary,” stanza 1 PH 96, SNC 140
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Voice 1: Why have you deserted us, O God? We cry for help and you do not listen. The whole creation groans in pain with us as we wait for the children of God to emerge. Save us and help us, O Christ. Call to your children, O God.
Voice 2: O Christ, for whom each one is precious, we look at our daily lives, and we know all too well our privilege was built on the exploitation of others. We hardly dare to see what it costs them. We turn our faces away from their weeping, always waiting for another day, another time, another leader to bring about your justice.
Solo: “Calvary,” stanza 2
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
[ Drape the cross with a length of purple cloth] O God, in grief we cover your dream for creation with this purple cloth, the color of preparing, of waiting, of longing for the Christ to be seen among us. Hear our prayers, O God.
Hold in the hollow of your hand those who cry out to you. Forgive us who come to you in grieving confession. Bring us all to your abundant life, we pray, O God. Amen.
Song: “Calvary,” stanzas 3 and 4
Prayer of Confession
Our God liberates the soul that trusts in him. Let us pray:
Almighty God, you are rich in mercy to all those who call on you. Hear us as we humbly confess our sins and transgressions and implore your mercy and forgiveness. We have broken your laws by our deeds and words and by the sinful affections of our hearts. We confess before you our disobedience and ingratitude, our pride and willfulness, and all our failures. Grant that we may, from now on, serve and please you in newness of life, through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Coming of the Word
Assurance of Pardon
Come and behold, we are forgiven!
Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of Christ. God hears the cries of the people and gathers them into arms of love and justice. Those who come in repentance and faith are forgiven and invited to be part of the restoration of the reign of God.
Hold in the hollow of your hand those who cry out to you. Forgive us and bring us all to your abundant life, we pray, O God. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 24:13-35
The Response to the Word
Song: “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” CH 334, PsH 552
Affirmation of faith: Apostles’ Creed
Doxology: “In Christ Alone” (see RW 71)
Charge and Blessing
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord be kind and gracious to you;
the Lord look upon you with favor
and give you peace. Alleluia! Amen.
What’s the Big Idea?
As the body of Christ we are called to act when we see suffering in another part of the body of Christ. The church cannot let others starve while it has its fill. The church cannot sit idly by while others suffer the crippling effects of poverty. We are called to stand in the tradition of the prophets who spoke out against injustice. Like them, the church must dare to offer a vision of hope for a better future and be bold enough to take action.
I believe that it is in our worship that the church can be bold enough to take action. How? We can do this by incorporating hymns, Scripture readings, and prayers intentionally selected to attack the walls of racial bias; and by using a liturgy of confession, forgiveness, and biblical assurance that points us toward unity in Christ.
My first attempt toward this graceful movement is expressed in Voice 1 and Voice 2. It is our words that God listens to, and it is through our words and our hearts that we hear one another. We can begin to express the biblical ideal through our words in the safety and comfort of our worship, moving toward breaking down barriers and risking vulnerability corporately before God.
We are a visual society; we remember the things we see. Thus visual symbols that represent our hope to become a racially reconciled worldwide church may be woven into our worship. The big idea is to connect the colors and themes of the church year with our lives as we walk a path toward a more just life.
One way to incorporate visual symbols is through the use of color and fabric. The fabric should be visible to the whole congregation. It could be hung or spread from a focal point at the front of the church, down a central aisle, across a sanctuary area or stage, or hanging in parallel strips across a communion table.
The colors used have great significance as well. Green is symbolic of creation and the journey through ordinary Sundays. Purple represents the waiting periods of Lent and Advent. White is appropriate for Easter and Christmas or the coming of the life of God. Red symbolizes the coming of the Holy Spirit as our guide. Strips of gold or silver ribbon can be added, or bowls of fruit, or large baskets—the sky is the limit on creativity.
Using color and fabric along with biblical liturgies that promote unity in the midst of diversity will create lasting memories and give people hope. And if we can create an atmosphere of hope in our worship, I believe that a positive spiritual wholeness will manifest itself in positive actions that promote justice in everyday life.