Rooted and Established in Love

A Series on Faith Practices with Resources for World Communion, All Saints, and Christ the King Sundays

Washington, DC Christian Reformed Church presented a twelve-part fall worship series titled “Rooted and Established in Love.” Using a tree as a metaphor, the series led the congregation through the journey of God’s creation, the brokenness of humanity, redemption in Christ, and the call to mission. What follows are highlights of six services that can be used as is, shortened, or expanded to include one or more of the other weeks listed below.

Reformed Worship chose to publish this series because of its clear connection to faith practices, our focus for this issue. To help strengthen that connection, we have included a faith practice note for each service. We hope the notes will help inform the message, but they can also be adapted for bulletin notes, to prompt reflection time following the sermon, or for individuals, households, or small groups to discuss together.

Series Outline

The entire series is as follows, with the weeks in bold appearing in this print issue. Notes on the additional services are available at

Week 1

Genesis 2:4–25, “The Living Tree” (Formation)

Week 2

Genesis 3, “The Dying Tree” (Forgiveness and Grace)

Week 3

Exodus 3, “The Calling Tree” (Obedience and Discipleship)

Week 4

Judges 4, “The Justice Tree” (Community, Unity and Solidarity), World Communion Sunday

Week 5

Isaiah 55, “The Witness Tree” (Witness/Evangelism)

Week 6

Luke 13:1–9, 18–21, “The Patient Trees” (Patience)

Week 7

Luke 23:26–49, “The Saving Tree” (Sacrifice and Storytelling)

Week 8

Hebrews 11, “The Family Tree” (Spiritual friendship/Mentoring), All Saints / Reformation Sunday

Week 9

Psalm 1, “The Giving Tree” (Generosity)

Week 10

Galatians 5:16–26, “The Fruitful Tree” (Rule of Life)

Week 11

John 15, “The Abiding Tree” (Rootedness)

Week 12

Revelation 22:1–6, “The Healing Tree” (Hope), Christ the King Sunday


Two artists from our congregation helped us envision ways to integrate visual components into this series. One taught a painting class during church school and used the tree theme to inspire students’ pieces. We hung the paintings on one wall of the sanctuary.

The other artist created a piece based on photographs of her “family tree.” This piece was also hung in the sanctuary, and the artist shared its story with us on All Saints / “Family Tree” Sunday.

The front of the sanctuary during this series featured greenery. a basket of leaves, and a thematic banner in addition to the usual liturgical furnishings.

Also appropriate would be an adaptation of the ideas for projection described in the sidebar to “Worshiping with the Psalms” that features an image of a tree (RW 120:10).

The Living Tree


Genesis 2:4–25

Faith Practice: Formation

What does it mean that God breathed life into humanity and formed us? What does it mean to grow in the Lord, to be alive in God? How does that connect with our call to care for creation and to be creative, growing, and living children of God?

Call to Worship

Psalm 8

Consider a dramatic reading of Psalm 8 involving intergenerational members of the congregation.

Call to Confession

Consider adapting paragraph 10 of Our World Belongs to God.

Prayer of Confession

Creator God, we thank you for the beauty of your creation and for giving us the privilege of caring for it. We turn to you in prayer as the Maker, Creator, Author of all, acknowledging not only your sovereignty and lordship over all, but also praising you for your creativity, your providence, and your ongoing sustaining work in the creation.

God, you saw the mountain ranges, outlining the peaks and the valleys and dusting them with snow, before they came into existence. You imagined the bright colors of the fish in the ocean before the waters teemed with life. You knew the composition of a single human cell, the intricacies and delicate balance of our bodies before they were formed from the dust.

You knew each and every one of us long before we were conceived. You knew our thoughts and our actions, and you had a vision for how our lives would flourish and grow. We praise you as the one who is Lord over the big and the small, the vast expanses and the miniscule particles, the big picture and the daily details.

We confess that so often we lose sight of the myriad ways you created and continue to create: through scientific advancement, through minds enabled to think and reason, through ways to cultivate farmland to feed both human and animal, through the gifted minds and hands of those who have the ability to teach young and old alike. For the times we forget that your hand is at work in all these things, continuing your good work of creating, forgive us, Lord.

For the times we waste, destroy, or apathetically let go, we ask for forgiveness. You created all things and then pronounced them good. You created us from the dust, yet in your own image—your image that is beautiful and perfect and good. You desire flourishing for creation and for all humankind—but how often we fail, underestimating your plans. Instead of flourishing, we hide, we feel unworthy, we do not feel equipped enough or loved enough to do what you are calling us to do. Forgive us, Creator God.

We pray that in your creation and in our lives as those made in your image we would flourish and grow in the grace and knowledge of you, our Lord and Savior. May your Holy Spirit fill us so that we might serve you with our whole heart, mind and strength. May we with all creation submit to you as Lord of all.

—Kathryn Roelofs


“Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” Pollard, LUYH 737 (vs. 1, 2, 4), SSS 626, PsH 287

Assurance of Pardon

Isaiah 51:1–3

Choral Anthem

“Grow Me, Lord” Schram

Children’s Message

One of our members grew an avocado pit ( and brought pits for kids to grow during the series so they could watch the avocado put down roots.

The Dying Tree


Genesis 3

Faith Practice: Forgiveness and Grace

What does it mean to live forgiven? How might that reality shape our living and our relationships with one another?

Call to Worship

On this Lord’s day, we, as beloved and chosen people of God,

      are graciously called into this place for worship.

Christ, who is our Redeemer, our Savior, healer, and giver of life,

      beckons our community of faith to come together

      and lift our individual and corporate voices to our Lord.

It is by God’s gracious invitation that we are called to worship.

So, people of God,

      we are invited to come to worship not because we ought to,

            but because we may;

      we come and worship not because we are righteous,

            but because we acknowledge our own sinfulness;

      we come and worship not because we are strong,

            but because we are weak and in need of God’s grace;

      we come and worship not because we are whole,

            but because we are broken and long for Christ’s restoration.

—Kathryn Roelofs

Choral Anthem

“Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” Helvey

Prayer of Confession

Refrain: “Your Mercy Flows” Sutton, LUYH 700, SNC 68 (refrain only, repeating as indicated)

Hear our cry, O Lord, for we are a broken people desperately in need of your grace and mercy. We are a broken people whose sins overwhelm us like a flood—some sins blatant, and some so secret we dare not think about them or acknowledge them before you. Hear our cry, O Lord. Hear our silent prayers, our silent longings, our silent confessions before you, laying bare our guilt and sin.

We confess our personal sins, the ones we try so hard to hide from others but which are so known to you. We confess all the things that stand as a barrier between us and your gracious desire for our lives. Hear our prayers.


We confess systemic sins, the troubles and the sufferings in this world that seem so vast and oftentimes so far removed from our daily lives. But we are guilty before you for the sins of this world. Hear our prayers.


We confess the sins committed against us and our response to those sins. We lament the brokenness we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Hear our prayers.


We call out to you as those who are broken by our own inability to fix our own problems and by our ever-present propensity to make a mess of the beautiful world you have so graciously given us. Take these broken pieces of our lives and our souls and restore them with your mercy.

—Kathryn Roelofs


During the sermon, Pastor Meg Jenista Kuykendall held up a large terra-cotta pot. She talked about how the previous Sunday was all about human flourishing in the garden and God’s good creation. Then she held the pot over her head and smashed it to the floor. This week was about brokenness and sin, and the destruction was a stunning visual and auditory representation of that. We “pre-broke” several other large pots and handed out rough-edged pieces of the terra-cotta for people to hold and feel during the sermon. During the response time after the sermon, people brought their pieces forward and placed them in a basket. See “Broken Pieces, Henry, and the Holy Spirit” ( for more about this; see “From Brokenness to Beauty: The Parable of the Clay Pots” (RW 120:23) for yet another possibility.

The following Sunday, we had a repaired pot in front of the sanctuary, where it stayed for the rest of the series. We had very carefully broken a pot so the pieces could be glued back together. We tried kintsugi, the Japanese technique of using gold or silver resin both to repair and to highlight the cracks, but the substance didn’t stick well to terra-cotta.


“Amazing Grace” Newton, LUYH 691, GtG 649, SSS 523

Assurance of Pardon

Psalm 103:8–14 followed by verses 1–4


“And Can It Be” Wesley, LUYH 695 (vs. 1, 2, 4), SSS 540

Parting Blessing


“To God Be the Glory” Crouch, LUYH 956

The Justice Tree: World Communion Sunday


Judges 4

Faith Practice: Community, Unity, and Solidarity

What does it mean to be united in Christ with people around the world whom you’ve never met? What does it mean to be united in Christ with people in your own community, some of whom you might not agree with? What does it mean to be united in Christ with people of different socioeconomic categories, cultural backgrounds, races, or genders?

Call to Confession

On this World Communion Sunday, we are cognizant that there are many around the world—many of our brothers and sisters in Christ—who are on the margins. They gather around the table to celebrate, but some do so in fear of persecution. Some do so with true physical hunger plaguing their bodies so their “feast at the table of the Lord” is only something that is hoped for and longed for. In our broken world, God gathers us all: the marginalized, the powerful, the weak, the strong, the broken, and those seemingly put together. God gathers us together as God’s one church, as brothers and sisters, which means that when they suffer, we suffer with them. So we turn to the Lord in prayer—for them, for us, for all—asking for forgiveness where it is needed and for grace that can always be found.

—Kathryn Roelofs

We grieve that the church,

which shares one Spirit, one faith, one hope,

and spans all time, place, race, and language,

has become a broken communion in a broken world.

When we struggle

for the truth of the gospel

and for the righteousness God demands,

we pray for wisdom and courage.

When our pride or blindness

hinders the unity of God’s household,

we seek forgiveness.

Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 40

Let us pray for the world that God so dearly loves.

Let us pray for the troubles and the sufferings of the world.

Prayer of Confession

“Pelas dores deste mundo / For the Troubles” Neto, LUYH 663, GtG 764, SSS 579

Lord, we pray for your kingdom to come. While we see glimpses of that kingdom that is already before us, we long for the day when your kingdom and your reign will be complete and all will acknowledge your rule and praise your name.

Lord, we pray for your kingdom to come in areas of our world that so desperately need your grace. We pray for all who are on the margins: for those without adequate food and water; for those who have been affected by natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and flooding.

Lord, we pray for your kingdom to come and your peace to reign in areas of conflict: for the fear of nuclear development in North Korea; for the ever present tensions in the Middle East; for terrorist attacks and constant clashes of power. We pray for all the people who live in the shadow of these conflicts, people whose very lives are destroyed because of them.

Lord, we pray for your kingdom to come to a world so rich in resources, yet so unfairly distributed; for a world so beautiful, yet cared for so poorly, with waste and little care for creation.

Lord, we pray for your kingdom to come to our country: to our government, to our leaders and local officials, to our schools, to our cities and our farmlands.

Lord, we pray for your kingdom to come to our city, a hub of political power where many important decisions are made daily that affect not only the city and the country, but the world; a city that struggles with inequality and poverty, a city that needs you.

Lord, we pray for your kingdom to come to our own lives, with whatever we face: financial struggle, illness, depression, lack of enthusiasm for our work, boredom, major life transitions, parenting, “adulting,” grieving.

For all these things and more, we pray for peace, the blessed peace that comes from seeking justice in your world for all the people you love so dearly.

—Kathryn Roelofs

“Pelas dores deste mundo / For the Troubles” Neto, LUYH 663, GtG 764, SSS 579

Assurance of Pardon

Poem: “And the Table Will Be Wide,” Jan Richardson (see RW 138:32)


The Saving Tree


Luke 23:26–49

It may seem odd to preach the crucifixion in the fall, but every sermon is a proclamation of the gospel, and the crucifixion is central to that story. Indeed, this service was all about telling that story, and it was the turning point in our series.

Faith Practice: Sacrifice, Storytelling, and Testimonies

Do you know your spiritual story? We all have one. We sometimes think that the pinnacle of our testimony is the moment we declared we believed. The reality is that the climax of the story happened about 2,000 years ago, when our God sacrificed himself on a tree. It was that moment that made all salvation moments that followed possible.


Call to Worship

“The Story and the Song”

We bookended the service with excerpts from

The Jesus Storybook Bible read by our oldest member from a rocking chair up front.

Scripture Reading

John 1:1–5, 14


“The First Place” Westerholm, LUYH 15, RW 83.13

Greeting from God

Colossians 1:15–19

We Greet Each Other


“Jesus Messiah” Tomlin

Scripture Reading

Isaiah 53:1–6


“What Wondrous Love” Mead, LUYH 164, GtG 215, SSS 177

Children’s Message



Prayer of Confession

Refrain: “Jesus, Remember Me” Taizé, LUYH 169, GtG 227, SSS 175 (repeated as indicated)

Father of all creation, before the world began, you were there. Before there was time and before there was space, you—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—dwelled in perfect unity, in perfect harmony, in perfect knowledge of all that would be in this world and in the world to come. You called this world into being from nothing, filling the earth with the beautiful, the strange, and the unique, the cosmic and the particle. From the dust of the ground you formed us in your own image. Father of all creation, you knew us, you remembered us, you loved us from the very beginning.


God our redeemer, in the garden, through Adam and Eve, sin entered our world. Your desire for human flourishing and delight was marred and destroyed by sin, and that sin continues in us today. We prove each day that we are guilty sinners through our actions, our inaction, our words, our thoughts, our motivations, and our very lives. Forgive us. Have mercy on us. Remember us.


Emmanuel, God with us, you did not turn away from a world bent on destruction, but instead you turned toward it in love. You are the long-awaited Messiah, the Word that became flesh and dwelled among us in our brokenness and sin. On that night in Bethlehem, you entered in, you chose the path of love, you remembered us.


Jesus, Emmanuel, you came into this world for us. You endured trials and temptations for us. You suffered and cried at the last, “It is finished!” for us. For us you rose to newness of life to prove that death no longer has the final word. For us you were victorious, you were obedient, and you are now crowned Lord of all, and now you stand before the Father interceding for us. In the midst of all these things, you remembered us—from death to life, you remembered us.


Holy Spirit, Breath of God, given to us so that through true faith we may share in Christ and all his benefits: you are our comfort, and you promise your presence will be with us through our joys and our sorrows, our fears and our rejoicing. Forgive us for the times we doubt and lose sight of your presence working within us. Forgive us when we ignore your prompting, favoring our own competency and will. Like the wind, you blow through our hearts and our lives, unseen yet ever felt, ever moving, ever changing us, ever challenging us to trust and obey. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God, you remember us and continue your ongoing work in our lives as we bring forth your kingdom here on earth.


We praise you, God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—for the multitude of ways you remember us, from the beginning of time through your life, death, and resurrection. Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.

—Kathryn Roelofs

Turning Point

Responsive Reading

Is it significant that he was “crucified”

instead of dying some other way?


By this I am convinced

that he shouldered the curse

which lay on me,

since death by crucifixion was cursed by God.

What further benefit do we receive

from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?

By Christ’s power

our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him,

so that the evil desires of the flesh

may no longer rule us,

but that instead we may offer ourselves

as a sacrifice of gratitude to him.

Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 39, 43

Scripture Reading

Luke 23:26–49


“The Saving Tree”



“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” Wesley, LUYH 351 (vs. 1, 2, 4), GtG 366, SSS 353


“The Story and the Song” (see Call to Worship)


“I Love to Tell the Story” Hankey, LUYH 262, GtG 462, SSS 569

The Family Tree: All Saints Sunday

Since this service fell on All Saints Sunday, instead of a traditional service we invited several members of the congregation to share their faith stories around particular themes. You can find those themes interspersed throughout the service. Feel free to adapt the service to fit the stories from your community. Each story was three to five minutes.


Hebrews 11

Faith Practice: Spiritual Friendship, Mentoring, and Faith Stories

Can you name the people who have impacted you spiritually? Whom do you have in your life who is helping you grow in the faith? Are there individuals whom you mentor, either formally or informally? Each of us needs people to accompany us on the journey of life, and we need to do the same for others. We are all members of the same tree.

The Family Tree


This service began with a short personal story about a tree. You are encouraged to begin by telling your own story in just a few sentences before moving on to the following text.

Every tree can tell a similar kind of tale if you look at the etchings in its bark or listen to the whisperings of its leaves. It belongs to generations of people, telling stories from decades of living, climbing, and tending. It might be yours for only a short period of time, but it doesn’t make it any less a part of your story, and you are not any less a part of its story.

This morning we turn our attention to our family tree—not your personal, great-grandparent/parent/sibling kind of family tree, but the broader family tree that is our community of branches rooted in Jesus Christ, ingrafted by our shared unity and faith in him, and called to spread wide our branches to grow God’s kingdom. In our worship this morning we will go back to our roots, remembering and celebrating where we began. We will take time to pray for and tend to the weaker branches of the tree. We will commit ourselves once again to being part of a community of believers, and finally we will gather together to share a meal where life-giving words are spoken, where we are fed, sustained, and nourished by the grace of God and called once again to go and live into the stories of our faith.

On this All Saints Sunday, it is so right and fitting that we celebrate our family tree, one made up of those on earth and in heaven who call this tree their own. These are the ones who cared for this tree, who handed it down to us in faith. And here’s the thing about this family tree: it is not so much a part of our individual story; rather, we have the unique and wonderful privilege for a short time to be a part of its story. Along with all of God’s people on earth, in heaven, and yet to come, we find ourselves in the branches of this tree, lifting our voices in praise to the heavenly realms. It is a tree that holds the whole of God’s beloved ones, from the fruit in Eden to the final springs of eternity in the New Jerusalem. It is the tree that holds the cloud of witnesses described for us in Hebrews 12:1–2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

So together, we join our voices with saints of all times and all places to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”

—Kathryn Roelofs


“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” Heber, LUYH 538 (vs. 1, 2, 4), GtG 1, SSS 450

Greeting from God


“O Christ, the Great Foundation” Lew, GtG 361, SNC 177 (vs. 1, 2, 4)

We Return to Our Roots

Choral Anthem

“Psalm 28” Ivory

Scripture Reading

Psalm 46


“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” Luther, LUYH 776, (1, 2, 4), GtG 275, SSS 651

Declaration of Faith

Here, we worship God as one Church:

The Church Reformed and always Reforming.

Here, the Holy Spirit pours over us:

Reforming us into the Body of Christ.

Here, we return to our roots:

Seeking the beginnings, middles, and ends of our faith.

—Rev. Lucus Levy Keppel 2013 © Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. Rev. Keppel is currently serving Trinity Presbyterian Church in Bixby, OK. (From Used by permission.

Faith Story: “Rooted”

Caring for All Parts of the Tree


We adapted a prayer from a previous issue of Reformed Worship (“I Was Hungry: A Litany of Remembrance and Confession,” RW 75:21). During the prayer we paused for several seconds of silence as facts about poverty in our community, state, nation, and world were projected.

Faith Story: “Nourished”

Morning Prayer

Consider using a prayer based on the Beatitudes such as the one found at

The Tree Thrives in Community

Responsive Reading

What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”?

I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.

Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 54

Faith Story: “Communal”


“Beneath the Cross” Getty, LUYH 825 (vs. 1, 2), SSS 138

Prayer of Confession

We stand beneath the cross, confident that God hears our prayers and has already accomplished the great work of redemption for us. But as we look up at the cross and remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we acknowledge the sin and brokenness in our world and in our own lives. Please pray with me.

Life-giving God, Creator of all things good, Redeemer of the cosmos, breath of life for all living things, we praise you for the many ways you are at work in this world. At your word, creation came to life—vast oceans with unfathomable depths, mountain peaks reaching up to the heavens, golden prairies that reach as far as the eye can see, trees of every variety and size providing us with shade, air to breathe, colors to stand in awe of. You, O Lord, have also created us in your image and called us to be good stewards of your creation. You call us to tend the earth, to bring forth your kingdom through our vocations, to be your body here on earth, united with your church in doing your will. We confess that in so many ways we fall short of these mandates. Instead of seeking unity, we seek conflict. Instead of seeking community, we choose to isolate. Instead of seeking peace, we tolerate dysfunction. You do not call us to a life of relying on our own selfish pride and independence; you call us to be your body: joined together, working together, seeking you together. Forgive us when our own actions have a negative impact on your world—creation and people alike. May we and all your children strive to bring you all the honor and glory and praise you deserve, until we as your people are united with each other and all the world in singing an unending hymn of praise to you, our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord. Amen.

—Kathryn Roelofs


“Beneath the Cross” Getty, LUYH 825 (v. 3), SSS 138

Assurance of Pardon

Hear these words of assurance from Ephesians 2:19–22: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

We Greet Each Other

Thanks be to God that God forgives our sins and calls us to unity with Christ and all God’s people. In response and in gratitude we greet one another in peace and love.


“Koinonia” McKay, LUYH 258

Our Family Tree Has Many Members

Faith Story: “Whole”

Annie Kotowicz, the creator of the image on p. 6, shared the story of the painting.


“One Bread, One Body” Foley, LUYH 835 (vs. 2, 3), GTG 530, SSS 678

The Tree Is a Foretaste of the Creation to Come

Communion Celebration

The Healing Tree: Christ the King Sunday


Revelation 22:1–6

Faith Practice: Hope

When we know our roots, find ourselves firmly established in God’s story of redemption, and declare Christ as King and Lord of all, then we also know the rest of the story. Wherever we find ourselves, even in the midst of the darkest valley, we can take the long view, knowing that there will be a day when all will be well. We have hope because one day there will be a tree of life once again, “and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).

Call to Confession

We come before God to confess our lack of trust. We sing “Jesus is Lord” and declare him King of kings over all creation, but too often we act as though he is powerless in the face of the events in our world today. Our broken world and our broken lives are in need of Christ our King. The war-torn countries and poverty-stricken cities are in need of Christ our King. Our groaning planets and our aching hearts are in need of Christ our King. In this silent time of confession, let us acknowledge this need.

Prayer of Confession

Mighty and tender God, voice of the voiceless, power of the powerless, we praise you for your vision of a community of wholeness, a realm of peace in which all hunger and thirst are nourished, in which the stranger is welcomed, the hurting are healed, and the captive is set free. Guide us by your truth and love until we and all your people make manifest your reign of justice and compassion. Open our minds and our imaginations to see and participate in your kingdom already at work in this world, and help us to dream and continue to long for a kingdom yet to come. We pray in the name of your anointed one, our King and our Savior, to whom, with you and the Spirit, be honor, glory, and blessing, this day and forever. Amen.

—Kathryn Roelofs


Consider creating a responsive reading from Our World Belongs to God, paragraphs 1, 2, 27, and 55.


“Rejoice, the Lord Is King” Wesley, LUYH 224 (vs. 1, 2, 4), GtG 363, SSS 213

After the sermon we prayed for the “healing of the nations.” People came forward to put leaves on the countries of the world where prayer was needed (see picture on facing page). During this prayer time we sang “Pelas dores deste mundo / For the Troubles” Neto, LUYH 663, GtG 764, SSS 579 and “Salaam/Peace.” Samir, LUYH 298

Kathryn Ritsema Roelofs is a commissioned pastor in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and serves as a worship specialist with Thrive, a ministry of the CRC. She is also the managing director of the Worship for Workers project through Fuller Seminary. 

Reformed Worship 140 © June 2021, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.