Arise, Shine

A Mission-Focused Service of Scripture and Song for the Season of Epiphany

Too often, church leaders bifurcate worship and mission. But worship—the enactment of the gospel story in community—is inherently missional, for the gospel of Jesus Christ is missional. Hearing the gospel compels us to live in light of this good news (Christian Reformed pastor Kevin Adams has recently written a delightful book on this very topic: The Gospel in a Handshake: Framing Worship for Mission (see page 39)). The season of Epiphany (or if you prefer, the season of Ordinary Time that follows Epiphany Sunday) recognizes that God’s power became visible and touchable in the incarnation of the Son. Moreover, Jesus brings salvation not only to the Jews but to the whole world, making his work visible across the nations. Evangelism, then, is a fitting emphasis during Epiphany. If Jesus has been revealed as Lord, then we must respond as those who have seen his glory. By the power of the Spirit who enabled Jesus’ ministry, we are sent to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth. This service of Scripture and song borrows its structure from Isaiah 60:1–3. It moves from the revelation of God’s light to the recognition of our darkness to the hope that God’s light will spread through all the world. This service is driven by a missional impulse, a vivid awareness that worship itself embodies the redemptive work of the triune God and catalyzes worshipers to participate in this ongoing mission.

Your Light Has Come

Greeting
The Lord be with you.
And also with you!
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth!
—Psalm 124:8

Call to Worship
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.

Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

Arise, shine, for your light has come!
—Isaiah 60:1–3

Lighting of the Christ Candle
[The liturgist lights the Christ Candle.]

We light the Christ Candle as a reminder that, although the risen and ascended Jesus is physically absent, he is somehow present with us by the power of the Spirit. And it is Jesus, our great high priest, who intercedes for us, both receiving and mediating our worship to God.

Passing of the Peace
As God has greeted us, let us now greet one another in God’s peace.

Sung Response
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” Heber, LUYH 538, GtG 1, SSS 450 (st. 1)

[The English and Spanish stanzas can be sung independently, in alternation, or together (perhaps by singing one English verse and one Spanish verse from each stanza). This hymn can easily transition musically into the version of “Arise, Shine, For Your Light Has Come” suggested below.]

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;
holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

¡Santo! ¡Santo! ¡Santo! Señor omnipotente,
siempre el labio mio loores te dará.
¡Santo! ¡Santo! ¡Santo! te adoro reverente,
Dios en tres personas, bendita Trinidad.
—Reginald Heber, 1826, alt., tr. Juan Bautista Cabrera, 1916, P.D.

Song
“Arise, Shine, for Your Light Has Come” McKenna

Alternative songs
“El Señor es mi luz/The Lord Is My Light” Spanish, LUYH 774, PfAS 27G
“Way Maker” Egbu
“As with Gladness Men of Old” Dix, LUYH 105, GtG 150, SSS 106
“Light of the World” Tomlin
“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” Traditional, LUYH 26, PsH 457
“Unstoppable God” Elevation Worship
“God of Wonders” Byrd and Hindalong, LUYH 4, SSS 9
“Indescribable” Story

Darkness Covers the Earth

Reading
Mark 9:2–9

[The reader extinguishes the Christ Candle or obstructs it from view. Although this is powerful imagery, it may be practically difficult to relight the candle later in the service. A variety of solutions exist, such as hiding a lit candle behind the altar, from which one can easily get another flame.]

Sung Response
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” Heber, LUYH 538, GtG 1, SSS 450 (st. 3)

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye made blind by sin
thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

¡Santo! ¡Santo! ¡Santo! por más que estés velado,
e imposible sea tu gloria contemplar;
Santo tú eres soló, y nada hay a tu lado
en poder perfecto, pureza y caridad.
—Reginald Heber, 1826, alt., tr. Juan Bautista Cabrera, 1916, P.D.

In-Between Words
The irony of the transfiguration story is that the disciples were blinded to seeing one of the greatest spectacles of light to shine on the earth. Even though the light shines, how easy it is for us to shield ourselves from it! Like the shepherds guarding their flocks, we become afraid of the dazzling angels. Like Peter, we get confused and see only what we want to see. We see the light . . . and close our eyes. We see the light . . . and attempt to extinguish it. It takes new eyes to see the world as God sees it: a place where the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1). Arise, shine, even when it seems that the darkness is overtaking the light.

Prayer of Confession
Let us confess the times when we’ve closed our eyes or looked away from the light, choosing instead to look at our own delights:
Awesome and compassionate God,
you have loved us with unfailing, self-giving mercy,
but we have not loved you.
You constantly call us, but we do not listen.
You ask us to love, but we walk away from neighbors in need,
wrapped in our own concerns.
We condone evil, prejudice, warfare, and greed.
God of grace, as you come to us in mercy,
we repent in spirit and in truth,
admit our sin, and gratefully receive your forgiveness
through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.
—Adapted from Book of Common Worship, 2018 edition. © 2018 Westminster John Knox Press. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Song
“Wait for the Lord” Taizé, LUYH 480, GtG 90, SSS 580

Alternative songs
“Gracious Spirit, Heed Our Pleading” Niwagila (Tanzania), LUYH 320, GtG 287, SSS 245
“Give Me Faith” Elevation Worship
“Open the Eyes of My Heart” Baloche, LUYH 537, GtG 452, SSS 378
“Be Thou My Vision” Irish, LUYH 859, GtG 450, SSS 640
“Lord, I Need You” Maher
“I Need Thee Every Hour” Hawks, Lowry, LUYH 322, GtG 735

Silence

Assurance of Pardon
To all who turn from sin in sorrow,
to all who turn to God in hope,
this is God’s Word of grace:
we are accepted, we are forgiven, we are loved.
This gift we have from God.
Thanks be to God.
—Paul Fayter in Worship for All Seasons: Selections from Gathering for Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Thomas Harding, ed. United Church Publishing House, 1993. Used by permission.

But the Lord Rises Upon You

Reading
Mark 10:46–52

[The reader relights the Christ Candle and moves it to the communion table if it is not already there.]

Sung Response
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” Heber, LUYH 538, GtG 1, SSS 450 (st. 4)

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth
and sky and sea;
holy, holy, holy! merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

¡Santo! ¡Santo! ¡Santo! la gloria de tu nombre
vemos en tus obras en cielo, tierra y mar;
¡Santo! ¡Santo! ¡Santo! te adorará todo hombre,
Dios en tres personas, bendita Trinidad.
—Reginald Heber, 1826, alt., tr. Juan Bautista Cabrera, 1916, P.D.

In-Between Words
Isaiah offers the hopeful promise that, although darkness seems to cover the earth, God’s “glory appears over you” (60:2). The Greek word for epiphany means “manifestation,” a reminder that we are commemorating the appearance of God in human form. Jesus—the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, the image of the invisible God (Hebrews 1, Colossians 1)—has come to be with us. When we encounter God in all God’s glory, it changes how we live, just as Bartimaeus chose to follow Jesus along the Jericho road. Arise, shine, for God is with us.

Song
“God With Us” All Sons & Daughters

Alternative songs
“Great Are You, Lord” All Sons & Daughters
“Tú has venido a la orilla/You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore” Gabarain, LUYH 116, SSS 599
“More Like Jesus” Passion, Stanfill
“Tama ngakau marie/Son of God, Whose Heart Is Peace” Traditional New Zealand, LUYH 619, GtG 425
“Here I Am to Worship” Hughes, LUYH 567, SSS 395
“His Mercy Is More” Papa

Reading
[This contemporary testimony from Our World Belongs to God could be omitted or replaced with another, such as the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 32, Our Song of Hope VII.20–21, or an ecumenical creed such as the Apostles’ Creed.]

Our world, fallen into sin,
has lost its first goodness,
but God has not abandoned the work of his hands:
our Maker preserves this world,
sending seasons, sun, and rain,
upholding all creatures,
renewing the earth,
promising a Savior,
guiding all things to their purpose.

God holds this world
with fierce love.
Keeping his promise,
he sends Jesus into the world,
pours out the Holy Spirit,
and announces the good news:
sinners who repent and believe in Jesus
live anew as members of the family of God—
the firstfruits of a new creation.

Our World Belongs to God, Articles 4 and 5

Ideas to consider:

  • Use pushpins to represent the different locations of each of the ministry partners mentioned earlier in the service, or whatever global connections your congregation has.
  • Use differently colored candles to represent the national colors of your ministry partners’ countries.
  • Arrange tea lights to represent the number of countries or ministry partners, perhaps stretching horizontally across the front steps, sitting on windowsills, or trailing toward the communion stations or exit doors. These tea lights could flow from the Christ Candle to represent the gradual spreading of light. This would be an excellent way to involve multiple volunteers.
  • It would be especially fitting to have communion stations representing the different cultures of the congregation. Stations can be decorated using traditional elements and the words of distribution spoken in the native languages.
  • Worshipers could pick up a candle after partaking in communion and light it from the Christ Candle to
    represent how “nations will come to (God’s) light.”

Nations Will Come to Your Light

In-Between Words
We are fooling ourselves if we believe that the gospel is only for one culture, one race, one nation, or one group of churches. Indeed, the good news goes through all the world, and as God’s light spreads, it transforms everything it illuminates. No corner or shadow will remain untouched by the light. This is the hope that drives how we spread the gospel. Evangelism is about more than winning individual souls to Jesus; it is a cosmic upturning, a redemption of the entire created order. And somehow, by his grace, God chooses ordinary people like you and me to accomplish this extraordinary work of bringing light to the world! We who once wandered in darkness have seen the light, and now we are invited to serve as beacons of God’s love and grace, illuminating the pockets of the world wherein he places us (Isaiah 9, Ephesians 5). Arise, shine, for we are children of light.

Testimonies from Mission Partners
[Here is an appropriate place to share stories of God’s work from both local and global partners. This could be done through any combination of in-person interviews, videos, or other means. It could include a call for congregants to become involved in these ministries.]

Pastoral Prayer

Readers’ Theater: Philippians 2:1–11
Reader 1: Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love,
Reader 2: if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
Reader 1: then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
Reader 3: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Reader 2: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
Reader 3: rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Reader 1: And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
All: even death on a cross! [pause]
Reader 1: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
Reader 2: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
Reader 1: in heaven
Reader 3: and on earth
Reader 2: and under the earth,
Reader 1: and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Reader 3: ¡Jesucristo es el Señor!
Reader 2: Kyrios Iesous!
All: Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Invitation to God’s Table
Isaiah envisions a reality in which the gates of God’s community will always stand open (60:11), a place where people from every tribe and nation will gather to proclaim that Jesus is Lord. This is where forgotten people like Ruth and Naomi are embraced with hospitality. This is where wanderers like the prodigal son are shown extravagant generosity. This is life in God’s kingdom. God calls us to notice others and to open our gates, accepting people with love. As we come to God’s table, we celebrate our unity, which is enriched by our diversity. Though we are as many as the grains in a field, we eat from one loaf. Though we are as many as the grapes in a vineyard, we drink from one cup. Those who earnestly seek to follow Jesus and who are ready to make room for more guests at the table are invited to participate in communion.

Service of Communion
[The reader lights a candle (from the Christ Candle) next to a world map or globe.]

Communion Songs
“Enseñame a amar” Leeland
“God of This City” Kernaghan and Boyd, LUYH 277

Alternative songs
“Give Thanks” Smith, LUYH 358, GtG 647, SSS 489
“Heal Our Land” Jobe
“Somos pueblo que camina / We Are People on a Journey” Nicaragua, LUYH 141, SSS 683
“Blest Be the Tie That Binds” Farrell, LUYH 257, GtG 306, SSS 701
“As We Gather at Your Table” Daw, SSS 411

Closing Sentences
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.

We will live as children of light! (Ephesians 5:8).

Benediction and Charge
God’s light is here, and we have seen God’s glory! Sisters and brothers, God has gathered us together, and now God sends us into the world to be witnesses of God’s light—from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. May our God bless you in all that you do, giving you the strength to keep your eyes open and the peace to believe in God’s works, both seen and unseen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen.

Closing Song
“Amen siakudu misa/Amen, We Praise Your Name, O God” Molefe, LUYH 921, GtG 598, SSS 596

Alternative songs
“キリストの平和が / May the Peace of Christ Be with You” Japanese, LUYH 949
“My Friends, May You Grow in Grace” Meaney, LUYH 938, SSS 704
“Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow” Ken, LUYH 964, GtG 606. SSS 696
“Only King Forever” Elevation Worship
“O Church, Arise (Arise, Shine)” Getty and Townend
“Now Thank We All Our God” Rinkart, LUYH 543, GtG 643, SSS 485
“Amen” People & Songs

Benjamin P. Snoek is the Assistant Chaplain for Worship at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky.