Joining the Spirit’s Work

Three Worship Services of Baptismal Remembrance, Healing, and Reconciliation

This series is a journey with the Holy Spirit in creating and renewing Christ’s church during the season of Pentecost. As long as there is brokenness and injustice in the world, the church should name those realities in worship and engage people through liturgies of healing and reconciliation. The following services can be expanded into a series surrounding Ascension and Pentecost or used as individual services at other appropriate times. The services aren’t limited to use on particular Sundays or in a specific order, so feel free to adapt them to your context. One idea is to incorporate a healing liturgy whenever the sermon text for the day speaks of healing. Your church may choose to have a special healing service once a year during Holy Week; others may offer “Blue Sunday” services during Advent for those who feel grief or loneliness as Christmas approaches. Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year, would be another appropriate time for such a liturgy. Whatever you decide, a good place to start is with an affirmation of our baptismal identity. In our baptisms, we are united with Christ and God’s people and called to join in the Spirit’s work.

The healing services may occur during weekday prayer meetings or in summer camps. Consider using a thematic approach to incorporate the Word with liturgical actions.

Designing baptismal remembrance and healing services is an art that requires pastoral discernment of what frees the congregation’s heart to live a worshipful life. Be sure to explain that the water and oil are symbols of the Holy Spirit, who comes to us and frees us to proclaim Christ as our redeemer and ultimate healer. In our brokenness, God comes to our world through the Holy Spirit and redeems us as God’s children. God’s sanctifying grace then sustains us and prompts us to be ambassadors of reconciliation.

The following worship services incorporate readings and prayers written by the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church and by scholar and hymnwriter Ruth Duck.

 

The Holy Spirit Regenerates Us Continuously: Remembrance of the Baptismal Covenant

In some mission fields, the work of the Holy Spirit includes casting out demons and evil spirits. Whether or not such practices are part of your tradition, it is wise for the church to emphasize the liturgy of renouncing evil when reaffirming the baptismal covenant. This liturgy may be celebrated on occasions such as a church’s anniversary, sending missionaries, or Pentecost Sunday.

In He Qi’s artwork “Baptism of Jesus”, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, who came to bear our weakness and embrace our humanity. We too bring our identities and expectations to our baptisms.

Water is a primary symbol in Christian worship because baptism by water affirms that we are sons and daughters of our Abba Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.

With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the service below is for those who have previously been baptized and who now seek to testify to the faithfulness of God’s promises by remembering their baptism with water. The theme of the service is to discover afresh the claim of Christ on our lives as we rededicate ourselves to him.
 

Gathering: The Holy Spirit Teaches Us Who We Are

Call to Worship
[Use a scriptural passage or opening line appropriate for the liturgical season.]

Opening Prayer
Holy God,
you spoke the world into being.
Pour your Spirit to the ends of the earth,
that your children may return from exile
as citizens of your commonwealth,
and our divisions may be healed 
by your word of love and righteousness. Amen.
—Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts, admin. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission. A complete edition of the prayers is available through Augsburg Fortress, tinyurl.com/RCLprayers. 

Opening Hymn
“Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling” Rees, Common Praise (1998) 655

The Declaration
[As the opening song suggests, baptism is a rebirthing, cleansing, anointing, nurturing, recreating, and transforming rite of initiation into God’s family, the holy church of Christ. Briefly explain how the congregation testifies to God’s faithfulness through remembering the baptismal covenant.]

In Christ, we are children of God who have been called by name,
called together in the one body where there is no lesser or unneeded part.
We are the community of the baptized, and through baptism
we are initiated into Christ’s holy church.

We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of saving power and justice
and given new birth through water and God’s Spirit.
All this is God’s gift, a gift that freely flows to all who will receive it, 
offered to us without price.

Through the affirmation of our faith
we remember the covenant declared at our baptism
and acknowledge who God calls us to be:
people who thirst for righteousness 
and who continually offer ourselves to God’s transforming action.

Through the affirmation of our faith
we acknowledge that God gathers us as one diverse and beloved community.
We acknowledge God’s transforming power and love within and among us.
We affirm our commitment to Christ’s holy church
as a people called to God’s kingdom-building work
of planting seeds and cultivating and encouraging growth that births new life.
—adapted from “A Liturgy of Reaffirmation of Baptismal Identity, to accompany ‘Front Porch Conversations’” compiled by Bishops Sandra L. Steiner Ball, S. Clifton Ives, William Boyd Grove, and Rev. Dr. Ken Ramsey, West Virginia Conference, The United Methodist Church, tinyurl.com/BaptismalReaffirmation. Used by permission.
 

Word: The Holy Spirit Teaches Us Who God Is

Scripture Readings
[Lectionary texts for the day or the following passages, from Day of Pentecost Year B:]
Acts 2:1–21 or Ezekiel 37:1–14
Psalm 104:24–34, 35b
Romans 8:22–27 or Acts 2:1–21
John 15:26–27; 16:4b–15

Prayer
Creator Spirit and Giver of life,
make the dry, bleached bones of our lives
live and breathe and grow again
as you did of old.
Pour out your Spirit upon the whole creation.
Come in rushing wind and flashing fire
to turn the sin and sorrow within us
into faith, power, and delight. Amen.
—Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission. A complete edition of the prayers is available through Augsburg Fortress, tinyurl.com/RCLprayers.

A Response of Washing: The Holy Spirit Renews Us

The Lord has done great things for us, 
and holy is his name.

We, together with [name] are here to give thanks for what the Lord has done for us 
and to declare our commitment to the one God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
in whose name we were baptized. 

[Those people who are testifying to God’s faithfulness by remembering their baptism are presented to the congregation, and the minister asks them:]

Have you been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?
I/We have.

Do you earnestly desire, with all your heart and mind, to acknowledge your place in this covenant faith and declare again your commitment to Christ?
I/We do.

The Decision and Profession of Faith
[The minister says to those remembering their baptism:]

I invite you now to remember God’s promise, to turn away from all that is evil, and to affirm your faith in Jesus Christ and your commitment to Christ’s church.

Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual
forces of evil that rebel against God?
I renounce them!

Do you renounce all sinful desires
that draw you from the love of God?
I renounce them!

Do you turn to Jesus Christ?
Yes! I trust in him as my Lord and Savior.

Do you intend to be Christ’s faithful disciple,
trusting his promises, obeying his Word,
honoring his church, and showing his love, as
long as you live?
Yes! God helping me.
—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources. 7.3.2.1

[To the congregation:]

In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
We are a people who renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin.
We are a people who realize these are not just words,
but a constant call to action.

Who are we?
We are a people who need to remember our baptism daily.
We are called to daily affirm that we are Christ’s representatives.
We are called to examine how we do what we are doing as Christ’s ambassadors: 
Who are we leaving out? Who is not present? 
Who is potentially harmed by what we think, say, or do? 
Is what we are doing and discussing truly about Christ?
Do our thoughts, words, and actions advance the mission of Christ and who we say we are as followers of Christ?

We are a people who will strive anew, this day and every day,
to remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church
and to serve as Christ’s representatives in the world.
—adapted from “A liturgy of Reaffirmation of Baptismal Identity to accompany ‘Front Porch Conversations,’” compiled by Bishops Sandra L. Steiner Ball, S. Clifton Ives, William Boyd Grove, and Rev. Dr. Ken Ramsey, West Virginia Conference, United Methodist Church. Used by Permission..

Testimony
[Those remembering their baptism may give their testimony to God’s grace and declare their commitment to Christ.]

Thanksgiving over the Water
Eternal Father: When nothing existed but chaos,
you swept across the dark waters
and brought forth light.
In the days of Noah
you saved those on the ark through water.
After the flood you set in the clouds a rainbow.
When you saw your people as slaves in Egypt,
you led them to freedom through the sea.
Their children you brought through the Jordan
to the land which you promised.
Send your Spirit and help us remember who we are.
Empower us to grow and live from God’s transforming love and power each day.

In the fullness of time you sent Jesus,
nurtured in the water of a womb.
He was baptized by John and anointed by your Spirit.
He called his disciples
to share in the baptism of his death and resurrection
and to make disciples of all nations.
Send your Spirit and help us remember who we are.
Empower us to grow and live from God’s transforming love and power each day.

Pour out your Holy Spirit,
and by this gift of water call to our remembrance
the grace declared to us in our baptism.
For you have washed away our sins,
and you clothe us with righteousness throughout our lives,
that dying and rising with Christ
we may share in his final victory.
All praise to you, Eternal God,
through your Son Jesus Christ,
who with you and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns forever. Amen.
—“Baptismal Covenant IV with musical response,” The United Methodist Hymnal, pp. 52–53. © 1989 The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[Invite the congregation to have a quiet moment of reflection. Those who are remembering their baptism could touch the water.]

Sending: The Holy Spirit Teaches Us How to Be Christ’s Church

Remembering Who We Are in and through Our Baptism
Who are we?
We are the community of Christ, the baptized!
Remember your baptism and be thankful!
We remember and are thankful!
The Holy Spirit works within you, that having been born through water and the Spirit, you may live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
May it be so!

Almighty God, today we rejoice with you who gave us love of neighbor as our vocation. 
We rejoice with one another as we remember who we are. 
We rejoice in the remembrance that we are your people, called to serve as Christ’s representatives in this world, called to intentionally move ourselves and the communities we serve toward anti-racist thought, behavior, and policy, called to work toward an equitable way of being and living that truly honors the Christ we follow and the body of Christ of which we are all a part.
Through your Spirit, help us to remember our baptismal identity daily.
Help us to live as Christ’s representatives in this world.
Help us to examine what we are doing and how we are doing as Christ’s ambassadors so that we, in faithfulness and joy, may better spread the good news and life-giving justice and joy of Christ to all people. Amen.
—adapted from “A liturgy of Reaffirmation of Baptismal Identity to accompany ‘Front Porch Conversations,’” compiled by Bishops Sandra L. Steiner Ball, S. Clifton Ives, William Boyd Grove, and Rev. Dr. Ken Ramsey, West Virginia Conference, United Methodist Church. Used by Permission.

Song Suggestions
“Baptized in Water” Seward, LUYH 790, GtG 482, SSS 666
“Come, Thou Almighty King” Anonymous, LUYH 492, GtG 2, SSS 388
“God Is One, Unique and Holy” Wren, PH 135, WR 139
“Here I Am, Lord” Schutte, LUYH 869, GtG 69, SSS 608
“Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling” Rees, Common Praise (1998) 655
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” Heber, LUYH 538, GtG 1, SSS 450
“Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” Medema, LUYH 896, GtG 469, SSS 577
“O Spirit of the Living God, Thou Light and Fire Divine” Tweedy, SSS 222
“Psalm 29: The Lord Will Bless His People” Canter, RitualSong 58
“Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above” Schütz, LUYH 572, GtG 645, WR 56
 

The Holy Spirit Anoints Us: A Healing Service

In worship, we remember and celebrate the work of Jesus Christ as our redeemer, sanctifier, healer and coming King. God heals us and anoints us through the Holy Spirit. The biblical imagery and the oil should not be restricted only to anointing the dead or dying. Rev. Philip Teng, a prominent Chinese church leader, author, and educator, tells us that oil has other symbolic meanings. It signifies joy, healing, consecrating, anointing, and the power of the Holy Spirit (a summary of his sermon, in Chinese, is available at hkbibleconference.org/session-message/view/1168). Participants in this service may choose to be anointed with oil, to share their needs for congregational prayer, or to express their desires to God in personal prayers while meditating on Luke 11:9–13.

This service of healing and reconciliation was first celebrated in an Advent during the pandemic at a seminary in Hong Kong. All seminarians, teachers, and staff took part in praying, anointing, and laying on of hands for each other. The second celebration was at Pentecost as a service of “unashing”—an action to symbolize God’s sanctifying grace in the process of healing and reconciliation.
 

Gathering: Holy Spirit, Come and Heal Us

Greeting
[Consider introducing here the idea of healing.]

Opening Hymn
“For the Healing of the Nations” Kaan, LUYH 289, GtG 346, WR 621

Confession
As we draw near to the fountain of grace,
let us lay down burdens of hurt and guilt
that we may receive with open hands
the gifts God intends for us.
—Ruth C. Duck, Worship for the Whole People of God: Vital Worship for the 21st Century, 2nd ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021), 251.

[Silence]

Prayer of Awareness
We lay down our need before you,
holy God of compassion and grace,
trusting in your great love for us and for all creation.
We bear wounds, and we ourselves have wounded others.
We open ourselves to the work of your Spirit among us
to free us from all that is not of you
and to recreate us in your image.
Praise and thanksgiving, honor and blessing be to you,
divine Fount of healing and love,
through your Word of grace made flesh,
and your Spirit of holiness and power. Amen.
—Ruth C. Duck, Worship for the Whole People of God: Vital Worship for the 21st Century, 2nd ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021), 251–52.

[Silence]

Assurance of God’s Love
Hear the good news:
Nothing in all creation,
neither what we do nor what has been done to us,
can separate us from the love of God made known in Jesus Christ
and poured out on the church through the Spirit.
Thanks be to God!
—Ruth C. Duck, Worship for the Whole People of God: Vital Worship for the 21st Century, 2nd ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2021), 252.
 

Word: Holy Spirit, Sanctify Us

Scripture Reading
[Use Lectionary texts with James 5 from Year B, Proper 21, or use the following passages:]
Esther 7:1–6, 9–10; 9:20–22
Psalm 124
James 5:13–20
Mark 9:38–50

Sermon or Testimony
[May conclude with the following prayer:]
O God,
our guide and help in alien and contentious places:
as many in the past prayed faithfully and worked courageously
for the deliverance of your people,
strengthen us to confront the oppressor
and free the oppressed,
so that all people may know
the justice and unity of your realm. Amen.
—Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts. Augsburg Fortress. Adapted. Used by permission. A complete edition of the prayers is available through Augsburg Fortress, tinyurl.com/RCLprayers.
 

Thanksgiving: Holy Spirit, Anoint Us

Prayers of Intercession and the Lord’s Prayer
Lord God, friend of those in need,
your Son Jesus has untied our burdens
and healed our spirits.
We lift up the prayers of our hearts for those still burdened,
those seeking healing,
those in need within the church and the world.
Hear our prayers
that we may love you with our whole being
and willingly share the concerns of our neighbors. Amen.
—Revised Common Lectionary Prayers, copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission. A complete edition of the prayers is available through Augsburg Fortress,  tinyurl.com/RCLprayers.

Invitation to Anointing and the Laying On of Hands

Prayer over the Oil
Holy Source of life and healing,
we give you thanks for the gift of oil,
sign of your Spirit’s power within and among us.
We thank you for Jesus, your anointed one,
who healed the sick, raised the dead,
brought good news to the poor,
and proclaimed the year of your favor.
Anoint us now by your grace,
that we may receive the healing and peace you intend for us,
and so be renewed to be your people in the world:
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
—Ruth C. Duck, Worship for the Whole People of God: Vital Worship for the 21st Century (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), 238.

Anointing and Laying On of Hands
[Minister reads Luke 11:9–13.]

[Have a few elders, pastors, or prayer leaders stationed at the front, each with a small vial of oil, to pray for and anoint those who come forward.]

[Individuals may come forward to one of the stations.]

Minister: “What do you want Christ to do for you?”

[Those coming forward may share their needs with elders, pastors,  or prayer leaders, or they may ask for a more general prayer. During anointing, hymns or Taizé songs may be sung.]

[Minister anoints the person and prays whichever of the following is appropriate:]

May the Holy Spirit anoint you with the oil of joy so that you may be full of joy and full of life.
May the Holy Spirit anoint you with the oil of healing so that you may be healed in your body and spirit.
May the Holy Spirit anoint you with the consecrated oil so that you may live for Christ and bear fruit.
May the Holy Spirit anoint you with the oil of knowledge so that you may be illuminated and teach others.
May the Holy Spirit anoint you with the oil of power so that you may be empowered to live for Christ.
 

Sending: The Holy Spirit Heals Us and Makes Us Whole

Hymn

Benediction

Song Suggestions:
“There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” Faber, LUYH 689, GtG 435, SSS 536
“There Is a Balm in Gilead” Spiritual, LUYH 706, GtG 792, SSS 340
“We Cannot Measure How You Heal” Bell, LUYH 446, GtG 797, SSS 341
“My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” Hewitt, TH 468, WR 406
“Healing at the Fountain” Crosby
“Heal Me, O My Savior, Heal” Thring, The Baptist Hymnal 300

 

The Holy Spirit Intercedes for Us: A Service of Reconciliation

The following service of reconciliation may be adapted for Refugee Sunday (the Sunday closest to World Refugee Day, observed on June 20). One may also use the suggested affirmation and intercessory prayer for the Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year.
 

Gathering

Song: “Your Mercy and Your Justice” Tel, LUYH 857, PfAS 101A

Call to Worship
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

You are no longer foreigners and strangers,
but fellow citizens with God’s people
and also members of his household.
—Psalm 95:6–7; Ephesians 2:19

Opening Hymn 
“O God of Every Nation” Reid, LUYH 282, GtG 756, WR 626

Prayer of Confession
“A Prayer in Times of International Strife” LUYH 215 or “Prayer of Indigenous Peoples, Refugees, Immigrants, and Pilgrims” LUYH 270

Affirmation
Christ didn’t leave us as orphans.
He is our advocate in heaven
in the presence of his Father.
We have our own flesh in heaven
as a sure pledge that Christ our head
will also take us, his members, up to himself.

Christ sends his Spirit to us on earth
as a corresponding pledge.
By the Spirit’s power we seek not earthly things
but the things above, where Christ is,
sitting at God’s right hand.

We have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor, 
Jesus Christ the Righteous. Therefore, let us rest assured in Jesus Christ our Lord, that
I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
—Adapted from Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 49, 1

Profession of Faith / Reaffirmation of Baptismal Identity
Who are we?
We are a people who accept the freedom
and power God does indeed give us
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves.

We are a people who are called to break down the walls of fear,
build bridges of appreciation and equity,
develop relationships with those who are not like us, and
encourage curiosity, listening, 
and learning among the rich diversity
of God’s peoples in this world.

We are a people who confess Jesus Christ as our Savior.
We are people who trust in the grace of Christ.
We are a people who promise to serve Jesus as Lord—not all by ourselves,
but in union with the whole church that Christ has opened, not just to a few,
but to people of all ages, nations, and races.
We are a people who recognize Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world, but
so that the world might be saved through him.

Who are we?
We are a people whose vocation is to love our neighbors.
We are called to love the neighbors we know and do not know,
the neighbors with whom we agree, and the neighbors with whom we disagree.
We are a people called to serve as Christ’s representatives in this world, working
intentionally on moving ourselves and the communities in which we live and serve toward
anti-racist thought, behavior and policy.
—adapted from “A liturgy of Reaffirmation of Baptismal Identity to accompany ‘Front Porch Conversations,’” compiled by Bishops Sandra L. Steiner Ball, S. Clifton Ives, William Boyd Grove, and Rev. Dr. Ken Ramsey, West Virginia Conference, United Methodist Church. Used by Permission.
 

Word: The Holy Spirit Directs Us

[Use the day’s Lectionary texts or choose from the following:]
Leviticus 19:33–34 (Foreigners must be treated as native-born.)
Leviticus 24:22 (Laws are the same for foreigners and the native-born.)
Deuteronomy 10:18–19 (Love those who are foreigners.)
Deuteronomy 27:19 (Anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner is cursed.)
Psalm 146:9 (The Lord watches over the foreigner.)
Matthew 25:31–46 (I was a stranger and you invited me in.)
Hebrews 13:1–2 (Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.)
Romans 12:13 (Practice hospitality.)
 

Prayer: The Holy Spirit Intercedes for Us

Litany: “The Lord’s Prayer” LUYH 918
or Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 119, 122–129
or Prayers for Refugees
[Prayer leaders may include specific events, countries, and people in the prayer.]

God of the exiles . . .
May your reign come; Lord, hear our prayer.

God of all nations . . .
May your kingdom come; Lord, hear our prayer.

God of our hearts . . .
May your dominion come; Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.

Profession of Faith
We believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. 

We believe in one holy, universal Christian church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family.

We believe that unity is both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ,
and that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity, and hatred between people and groups is sin that Christ has already conquered.

We believe that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ and that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Therefore, we reject any doctrine that sanctions the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color and thereby obstructs and weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.

We believe that the church must stand by people in any form of suffering and need—that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

We believe that, in obedience to Jesus Christ, its only head, the church is called to confess and to do all these things, even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence. Jesus is Lord.
—Adapted from the Belhar Confession

[Alternatively, use “The Immigrants’ Creed” from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/the-immigrants-creed.]

The Lord’s Supper

Sending

Closing Hymn: “God of the Prophets” Wortman and Daw, LUYH 853

Benediction

Dr. Kit Ying Law received her doctorate in liturgical studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She is an assistant professor in practical theology (worship and church music) at Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary.

Reformed Worship 151 © March 2024 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.