Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Congregational Cantata--Holy Ground

We no longer have a choir so special services like cantatas or musicals or choir festivals are not within our experience. Yet, the message and feeling of worship that one receives from a service centered on music, readings, prayers, and reflections can still be enjoyed by inviting a small ensemble to lead the congregational 'choir' in a service. I call this a Congregational Cantata.

Here is the service. I use Seasons of the Spirit out of Canada as my worship curriculum. I like it for its inclusive language, wonderful imagery, and creative ideas for theological learning. I used the curriculum's reflection questions as a basis for the service. The words in italic were my notes to further encourage people to ponder. 


August 31, 2014
12th Sunday after Pentecost

PREPARATION Living God, burn in us a deep understanding of the ways you move through words, through others, through bushes, through us. May we be open to you and the things you are stirring in us. Amen.

PRELUDE
ANNOUNCEMENTS
SHARING THE LOVE OF CHRIST WITH NEIGHBOR

LIGHTING THE CHRIST CANDLE
*CALL TO WORSHIP from Psalm 105
ONE:               Give thanks to God, Call on God’s name
MANY:          We sing praises to God. We tell of all God’s wonderful works.
ONE:              Give thanks to God, Call on God’s name
MANY:          We glory in God’s holy name. We seek God and rejoice in God’s strength.
ONE:               Give thanks to God, Call on God’s name
MANY:          We remember the wonderful works that God has done. We seek to the Lord and rejoice.

*HYMN Lord We Come To Ask Your Blessing       2230

Reading from the story of Moses-Exodus 3:1-6
God speaks to Moses through a burning bush, which has become a focal symbol in many of our traditions, often seen on crests and banners. The symbol of an inconsumable burning bush, speaks to God’s everlasting love and purpose.

REFLECTION
·      If you saw a bush that was burning but not being burned up, and then thought you heard voices, how would you feel?

PRAISE TEAM                     Holy Ground

READING FROM THE STORY OF MOSES--Exodus 3:1-6

REFLECTION QUESTIONS
·      When have you felt that God was near to you, did you experience a sense of deep peace and calm?

READING FROM ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING:        
Earth is crammed with Heaven
And every common bush afire with God;
But only the one who sees takes off their shoes;
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

HYMN           Jesus We Are Here     2273

PRAYER OF RESPONSE (unison)
God, you meet us where we are, and gently guide us to where we will be.
When we miss one sign, you send us another until we are compelled to respond in wonder and awe. In our time together we know that you will continually guide and lead us in surprising and unexpected ways, for we know that you are with us always, as we dream dreams of a new heaven and earth. Amen.

READING FROM THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW 16:21-26

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
·      Can you relate to Peter’s response?
·      How do you think you would respond?

*HYMN         Lord Whose Love Through Humble Service               581      vs 1&3

READING FROM THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW 16:21-26
Jesus teaches Peter and us about the call to discipleship. Where we are in the journey of faith isn’t as important as listening to the word of God as it comes to us wherever we are. Hearing the word of God and doing it are often holy moments in the midst of difficult times. We want things to go well, God wants us to be willing to live as disciples in all times and in all places. Every where we are with God is holy ground.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
·      What has been your experience of God speaking to you in unexpected ways in unexpected places?

READING FROM C.S. LEWIS
We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade,
the presence of God.
The world is crowded with God.
God walks everywhere incognito
And the incognito is not always hard
to penetrate.
The real labour is to attend.
In fact, to come awake.
Still more, to remain awake.

HYMN                       Holy Ground 2272

PRAYERS OF THE CHURCH/SHARING OF JOYS AND CONCERNS
Who are we, to offer praise to you God, when we often call on your name in vain?
Although we lack the words to describe our gratitude for all that you have given us,we know that it is good to praise you.
So we offer our thanks to you now, both silently and aloud…
(Share joys within your community, or invite people to offer their prayers of thanksgiving.)
Who are we, to offer our concerns for others, when what we think they need is not what they truly need,  and our inability to provide comfort and peace scares us?
Although we may not know what to pray, we offer our prayers of concern to you,
knowing that the Spirit will intercede on our behalf…
(Share intercessory prayers.)
Who are we, to offer prayers to you, God?
We are your children. Your beloved.
So with confidence we share with you our prayers for ourselves and our ministries,
knowing that you will cherish our prayers as precious offerings…
(Share prayers of supplication.)
LORD'S PRAYER

READING FROM ROMANS 12:9-15
Romans 12 teaches us how to live in authentic relationship with one another.

QUESTION FOR REFLECTION
·      What might we learn from Paul about responding to the call to live in authentic relationship with God and others?
·       
READING FROM LEONARD NATHAN
            So?
So your aren’t Tolstoy or St. Francis
or even a well-known singer
of popular songs and will never read Greek
or speak French fluently,
will never see something no one else
has seen before through a lens
or with the naked eye.

You’ve been given jus the one life
in this world that matters
and upon which every other life
somehow depends as long as you live,
and also given the costly gifts of hunger,
choice and pain with which to raise
a modest shrine to meaning.

READING FROM ROMANS 12:16-28
What would happen to our world if this passage of scripture became the norm for our lives? What would happen in our own lives if this passage of scripture became the norm for our lives? Would we experience more of the holy? Would our lives become holy ground?
Why would we not want to live this way?

QUESTION FOR REFLECTION
·      What might we learn from Paul about responding to the call to live in authentic relationship with God and others?

*HYMN         Let There Be Peace on Earth 431

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND DEDICATION
For all the ways we hold fast to what is convenient, easy, or agreeable instead of what is good.
For all the ways we love for personal gain and satisfaction instead of mutuality.
PRAISE TEAM                                  Sung response          KYRIE           

When we lag in zeal, are poor in spirit, and undisciplined in our prayer instead of being persistent in prayer and hope.
When we judge those who rejoice, and chastise those who weep instead of showing compassion.
Sung response

When we seek vengeance and strife instead of understanding and love.
When we fail to be Jesus for our neighbor.
Sung response

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
In all we do, let our love be genuine; for if we love, as God has taught us, we will not be overcome by evil, but we will, by the grace of God, overcome evil with good.

HYMN                       Holy Ground

PRESENTATION OF TITHES AND OFFERINGS
OFFERTORY
            *DOXOLOGY # 2041 Thou Art Worthy
Thou art worthy, thou art worthy, thou art worthy, O Lord To receive glory, glory and honor, glory and honor and power.
For thou hast created, hast all things created; thou hast created all things. And for thy pleasure they are created; thou art worthy, O Lord.

            *OFFERTORY PRAYER (unison)
We love because you first loved us. We share because you first blessed us.
We pray because you first believed. May what we love, what we share, and what we pray for help to build your great commonwealth of love. Amen.

RELFECTION QUESTIONS
As seen through these readings, God calls us to places of deep need for our specific gifts. God calls us not to be who we aren’t but who we are. Afraid and inadequate, like Moses. Doubting and afraid, like Peter. Needing constant reminders that we are to live as people of love not hate, hopeful rather than hopeless, Peace filled rather and vengeful. This is also the place where we begin to live into our truest selves. This life of ours is holy ground.

·      To what is God calling you, individually and as a church?
·      How are you living into your truest self?


*HYMN  Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service         581 vs 2 &4

*BLESSING
May the Holy Spirit light a fire within your heart:
a fire that burns hot and bright, but that does not consume;
a fire that illumines your path, without scorching the eye.
May the Holy Comforter journey with you: pouring the waters of welcome over your tired feet, and sharing the feast of love, bread and wine for the journey.
May the Great Creator sustain you: smoothing out narrow and bumpy roads, to lovingly guide your pathway home.

*BENEDICTION
            CHORAL RESPONSE
We are standing on holy ground
And I know that there are angels all around
Let us praise Jesus now
For we are standing in God’s presence on holy ground

POSTLUDE

Litany and reflections question adapted from Seasons of the Spirit http://www.seasonsonline.ca


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