The idea for this service began in late November 2007. As a congregation we were not planning to hold a New Year’s Eve or a New Year’s Day service. So we asked the question, “How will we begin the new year on Epiphany Sunday?” The idea that stuck was to ask members of the congregation to submit Bible texts that had sustained them, given them hope, and challenged them in the past year or two. The members responded with nearly one hundred submissions!
We placed these submissions (some of which were duplicates) in a PowerPoint presentation. The idea was to craft a liturgy around them to draw worshipers into quiet meditation and reflection. Once we knew how many PowerPoint slides we had, we divided them into three parts. We introduced the presentation following the children’s blessing, beginning with the song “Ancient Words.” The first slide was presented and read by a reader from the balcony, as was the last slide in that first segment. Following each segment the whole congregation sang the refrain from “Ancient Words.”
The three segments were accompanied by a meditative melody unfamiliar to our members. Why? We didn’t want familiar words creeping in to crowd out the congregation’s reading and reflecting as the slides were presented.
We decided to include two short homilies, one focusing on the past and another on the future. These two homilies sandwiched a reading from Matthew 5:1-16, 43-48, using The Message by Eugene Peterson. A member of the worship team presented this reading. Pastors Harvey Stob and John Groen presented the homilies.
Pastor Stob focused our attention on Mary’s praise to God for being “mindful” of her, and how this remains one of God’s posture toward us. God has been mindful of us, is mindful of us today, and will be mindful of us tomorrow. We responded by rejoicing and praising God as we also determined to be mindful of him. Pastor Groen reminded us that because of Jesus’ resurrection, we live in a world into which God’s future has already come. He invited us to dedicate our lives to advancing God’s kingdom.
The theme of Epiphany was a thread introduced in the opening words and songs and woven throughout the service—in the song “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” (see Songs for the Season, p. 18) and in the imagery found in Matthew 5 where Jesus urges us to be a light on a hill.
The service was extremely powerful. People responded with praise to God, tears of joy, and a deep sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence. The service evoked a real sense of unity among the congregation. People realized that they were sharing in each other’s relationship with God as they read what was meaningful to them through the Bible verses they submitted.
As worship planners we pray for the presence of the triune God in our planning, but we can never anticipate how that will be realized. God was in this service, and we are still in awe of what happened there. Praise be to God!
Celebrating Past, Present, and Future
Gathering to Worship Jesus, the Light of the World
Improvisation on “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” (Paul Manz)
Welcome & Call to Worship: Isaiah 60:1-3
Carol: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” CH 277, PH 31/32, PsH 345, TH 203
[Spoken transition: The infant Jesus has become the human in which people recognize the very essence of God.]
Song of Praise: “Jesus Christ Is with Us/Yesu Azali Awa” SWM 7 [led by worship team]
Words of Longing
Our spirits hunger for your love, O divine maker of hearts, for the taste of your joy and the aroma of your peace.
May this time of worship fill us with the whisper of your presence, and let us feel the touch of your hand upon our hearts.
We long for the depths of your love, to know your quiet faithfulness, the feast of your friendship that feeds us without end. Our souls long for you.
Hymn: “Hear Our Prayer, O Lord” CH 641, PsH 624, TH 728, WR 490
We Receive God’s Greeting and Greet One Another
[Children up to and including fourth grade come forward to bless the congregation with the words, “The Lord be with you” and receive the return blessing, “And also with you” from the congregation.]
[Spoken transition: Let us celebrate the Word of God that still speaks to us today.]
Song of Celebration: “Ancient Words” [led by worship team]
Words of Light for the Journey: a media celebration
Read slides, segment 1
Sing refrain: “Ancient Words”
Read slides, segment 2
Sing refrain, “Ancient Words”
Read slides, segment 3
Silent prayer asking for God to sink his word deep into our lives.
Our Response: “Ancient Words” [refrain led by worship team]
Meditation on Luke 1:46-55
The Sermon on the Mount for Today, Matthew 5:1-16; 43-48, The Message
Meditation on 1 Corinthians 15:58
Song of Response: “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” SNC 77, SWM 207, WR 248
Prayers of the People
The Lord’s Supper
We remember the past, are nurtured in the present, and move forward into the future.
Our Offerings and Gifts
Offertory: “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” arr. Timothy Hoekman
The Lord’s Supper
Song of Praise: “Holy, Holy, Holy Is the Lord of Hosts” CH 142, SNC 251
God Sends Us Out as Children of the Light
God’s Parting Blessing
Closing Doxology: “My Friends, May You Grow in Grace,” SNC 288, SWM 234