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Seasoned Justice: Resources for Remembering the Whole Family of God

These resources were submitted by Wendy deJong and the Worship Committee of Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, Saint Catharines, Ontario. For more complete service plans, contact her at wendy@jubileecrc.org.

During the fall, our church traditionally designated certain Sundays as “World Communion,” “Refugee Sunday,” “All Nations Heritage,” “World Hunger Sunday,” and so on. Some were denominationally recommended and accompanied with good resources. But these services can be a real challenge for worship planners because there is no sense of cohesion or flow from these specially designated days and whatever sermon series or lectionary preaching a particular pastor and church may be following.

A few years ago our church decided to designate a number of Sundays between Canadian Thanks-giving (the second Monday in October) and American Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November, and often the final Sunday before Advent) for a set of related services. We moved all the specially designated Sundays into this time frame, along with a few others that focus on world social issues, and called this new season “Free to Serve.” The pattern and number is somewhat flexible, but has come to include the following weeks and designations:

  1. Refugee Sunday
  2. All Nations Heritage
  3. Native Canadian Ministries
  4. World Hunger Sunday
  5. Persecuted Churches
  6. Disability Concerns, Race Relations, Jubilee, or other justice ministries

The services followed the same pattern throughout the six weeks. Using some repeated elements has given the entire series a very focused approach to the church’s call to reach out to our neighbors with the good news of justice and mercy through Jesus Christ.

—Wendy deJong

EVERY SUNDAY
God Calls Us to Act Justly
and to Love Mercy

This section each Sunday included a responsive reading for the designated Sunday theme. We also had a young child sing “Sent by the Lord Am I” (SFL 249; see p. 33) each week, which added continuity to these services.

One year we included testimonies from members who were involved in local ministries or had gone on service or mission trips. If you choose to do so, you’ll want to make sure that each person’s presentation is very brief.

Our Commitment to Justice and Mercy

Reader 1: Jesus Christ is the bread of life and the living water, nourishing all who follow him.

Reader 2: Receive his grace, learn from him, and follow where he leads.

People: Thanks be to God! We will follow where our Lord leads.

Reader 1: Loose the chains of injustice.

Reader 2: Set the oppressed free and break every yoke.

People: Thanks be to God! We will follow where our Lord leads.

Reader 1: Share your food with the hungry and provide shelter for the poor wanderer.

Reader 2: When you see the naked, clothe them.

People: Thanks be to God! We will follow where our Lord leads.

Reader 1: Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear.

Reader 2: Your righteousness will go before you and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

People: If we spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then our light will rise in the darkness! Thanks be to God! We will follow where our Lord leads.

REFUGE SUNDAY
First Call to Worship

God calls us together, one people, gathered in this place,
while we gather ’round the world.
We speak in many tongues,
yet we proclaim the same faith.
We come in many colors, sizes, and shapes, and we are drawn from diverse cultures and circumstances.
O Lord . . .
in common, we have your love;
in common, we have your peace;
in common, we have your hope.

We lift our hearts to your grace, our hands to your service, and our voices to praise your Holy Name.

All: Now and with each new day, let us worship God in hope!

Second Call to Worship

Reader 1: In a world of violence and war, we face daily reports of atrocities and human wrongs.

Reader 2: But we hear God’s call to reconciliation.

Reader 1: In a world of doubt and despair, we see pictures of the sick and needy.

Reader 2: But we hear God’s call to care for our neighbor.

Reader 1: In a world of sin and decay, we know the outcomes of ethnic cleansing.

Reader 2: But we affirm that God’s Spirit breaks down walls and replaces hatred with love.

Reader 1: In a world of death on every side, we see the growing abuse of weapons and power.

Reader 2: But we confess that God can change the hurts of all.

All: For Christ Jesus is Lord! Let us worship him.

Call to Confession
and Assurance of Pardon

Reader 1: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Reader 2: Hallowed be your name in all the world.

People: May your kingdom come. May your will be done.

Reader 1: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Reader 2: May your will be done also in the ways the free world responds to people who have fled from home and country in fear for their lives.

People: May your kingdom come. May your will be done.

Reader 1: Give us this day our daily bread.

Reader 2: And when you hear our prayer, give us hands and minds eager to share your generous provisions with people who have no land or food or home.

People: May your kingdom come. May your will be done.

Reader 1: Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Reader 2: We have caught ourselves sometimes blaming the victims of oppression; we have tried to shut them out of our minds. And we have not given you, Lord, full credit for our health and happiness.

People: May your kingdom come. May your will be done.

Reader 1: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Reader 2: The evil one often would have us believe that some people don’t count. The evil one desensitizes us to the suffering masses who walk across our TV screens.

People: May your kingdom come. May your will be done.

[Moment of quiet reflection]

Reader 2: Listen now to the merciful voice of God.

Reader 1: reads Isaiah 43:1-3a

JUBILEE SUNDAY
A Voice Calling for Jubilee

Free me, O Lord, from the heavy burden under which I labor.
Protect me from the insatiable greed of other nations.
They exploit and make unjust demands.
They poison my rivers and lakes.
They destroy the animals and vegetation.

God, lead me beside green pastures and quiet waters.
Lift my yoke.
Restore to me my dignity.
Hear the call of the weary.

I grieve that a billion people in the poorest countries are weighed down by debt.

I grieve for the Central African countries, for the Middle East, for Iraq, and so many other places hit hard by disaster and poverty. Many of them spend more on debt repayment than on health care.

I know that you secure justice for the poor and uphold the cause of the needy.
You, O Lord, are always generous.
You open the floodgates of heaven and shower your people with blessings.
Surely, the righteous will praise your name and the upright will live before you.

—Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools

WORLD HUNGER SUNDAY
The Voice of Hunger

Save me, O Lord, from this never ending hunger,
protect me from the constant pain.
I am weak, no longer able to concentrate.
I speak words that make no sense.
Free me of this burden—
my stomach retches and my head aches.

I pray God, you are my God.
Listen—have mercy!

Do you not open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing?

Look around and see—is any suffering like my suffering?

Don’t allow this hunger to pull me down and make me weak.

Don’t let me fall.

You, O Lord, see all my needs.
You will answer me in grace.

Others withhold comfort and pass by on the other side.
They feed themselves and avoid me.
Let their heads hang with shame [pause] and forgive them.

Teach me to pray always and not to lose heart.

I know that you, O God, are on the side of victims,
you are not blind to the state of the poor.

The eyes of all living things look hopefully to you, O Lord.

And as I look with hope, I am convinced that I am secure in your presence and will therefore praise your name.

—Christian Reformed Office of Social Justice and Hunger Action

NATIVE CANADIAN MINISTRIES
The Voice of the First
Nations Christian

O Great Spirit
whose voice I hear in the winds
and whose breath gives life to all the world,
hear me! I am small and weak,
I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes
ever behold the red and purple sunset.

Make me wise so that I may understand the things
you have taught my people.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every
leaf and rock.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother and sister,
but to fight my greatest enemy—myself.

Make me always ready to come to you with clean
hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit may come to you without shame.

—Traditional Native American

PERSECUTED CHURCH SUNDAY
The Voice of the Persecuted Church

I am the voice of the persecuted church, the voice of one who is being persecuted because I love God and Jesus Christ and because I want to worship with God’s people.

Rescue me, O Lord, from evil people; protect me from people of violence who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day.

Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry.

Give ear to my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips.

May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing. I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.

But those who hate you, those who hate your Word, have tracked me down, they surround me with eyes alert to throw me to the ground. They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a great lion crouching in cover.

O Lord, by your hand save me from such people.
For I have kept your ways; I have not done evil by turning from you;

O my God, all your laws are before me, I have not turned away from your decrees.
I have been blameless before you and have kept myself from sin.

O Lord I call to you, come quickly to me.
I lift up my voice to the Lord for his mercy,
I pour out my complaint before him.

I cry to you, O Lord. You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need. Rescue me from those who pursue me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.

May my prayer be set before you as incense, may the lifting up of my hands be as the evening sacrifice.