COCU14A.Epiphany6A.16thFebruary2020

Readings:
Deuteronomy 30:15-20: Moses offers the people a choice between life and death, challenging them to love and remain faithful to God and God’s commandments, and promising them prosperity and blessing if they do.
Psalm 119:1-8: Because a life of integrity is blessed, the psalmist pleads with God for the ability to live a life of obedience to God’s commands.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9: Factions among people of faith are a sign of immaturity. Paul calls the Corinthians to be mature and to recognise that those who serve God’s people are equal, and insignificant. It is God’s work in the believer to bring growth that matters.
Matthew 5:21-37: Continuing the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches that righteousness is not just about following externals, but is about what happens in the heart. He challenges his hearers to true integrity, goodness and compassion with regard to dealing with anger, lust, adultery, divorce and making promises (vows).
(Lectionary readings summary from John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Resources: Textweek, Re-Worship,

The Sermon on the Mount: A Worship Service of Lessons and Songs

This worship service by Carolyn Gillette is a wonderful way for a congregation to celebrate all of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from Matthew’s gospel in one worship service. Jesus’ most famous sermon is powerful when heard in one service, coordinating Jesus’ deep words with contemporary music and prayers. It could be done on any of the weeks when the Sermon on the Mount readings are included – perhaps as an introduction or summation.

Gathering Prayer: Approaching the altar (Matthew 5:21–37)
we approach the altar,
this sacred space of gathered worship, bring our gifts of sacrifice,
our time, our money, our talent.
we approach the altar,
thinking it a sacrifice, a burden
or a duty, and seek to be
reminded of the gift it is to gather here.
we approach the altar,
this sacred time of prayer,
of hearing once again the gift of grace you freely offer.
we approach the altar,
without taking time to bury
our anger and our hurt,
without forgiving or saying sorry.
we approach the altar,
children of the Sacred, welcomed each, precious all,
sisters and brothers in your love.
we approach the altar
having looked with lust or with disgust,
or looking past with wilful blindness, not looking with your eyes of love.
we approach the altar
seeking healing for our wounds inflicted by a world overgrown
with thorns to bind and tangle.
we approach the altar
grasping firmly the keys that would unbind our former lovers
and the strangers our world rejects.
we approach the altar with words of praise
and stories rich and for the living full and free.
we approach the altar
with tongues that swear false and shallow promises,
throats that cut and maim.
we approach the altar
full of promise, full of hope;
we approach as broken people
falling far from all your dreams.
take our approach and bid us welcome; let us reproach endure
for hopeful cure of ills we lay
down and grace we receive with joy.
affirmation:
Approach the altar, faltering or courageous, broken or in wellbeing:
for God receives us all, meets us all with love,
and forgives: so be at peace. Amen
(Source: Sarah Agnew, praythestory)

Inside Out 
(can be used as a Prayer of Confession with silence in between the two sections)
It’s not always comfortable, God,
but it is certainly good,
that you go straight for the heart.
You do not allow us to skate over the surface of life,
filling our days with dry legality,
and pretend righteousness;
No, you come at us from the inside,
challenging our thoughts and attitudes,
our motives and perceptions;
and shaping them into the fuel for change
that gives us hearts like yours,
and lives that are lived from the inside out.
We praise you, O God,
for your uncomfortable grace,
your transforming Spirit,
and for the gift of lives
lived with integrity and compassion
from the inside out. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Prayer of Confession
(inspired by Deuteronomy 30:15-20, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37)
Loving God,
you call us into community,
teach us your ways,
and bless us with abundant life.
Yet we turn aside to follow other paths:
we take the easy way out,
listening to the world’s call
rather than your call to commitment;
we quarrel with one another,
letting differences divide us;
we cherish our resentments,
shutting off our hearts
from forgiveness and reconciliation;
we cling to petty jealousies,
feeling we deserve more than we have.
Forgive us when we wander from your love.
Draw us into community with each other,
and feed us with the milk of your grace,
that we may grow in faithfulness
and work together in peace. Amen.

Words of Assurance
(inspired by Deuteronomy 30:15-20, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9)
God is at work, nurturing our growth
and showing us the ways that lead to life.
God is at work, reconciling us to one another
and teaching us the paths of love.
God is at work, hearing our confessions,
forgiving our disobedience,
and blessing us in love.
Thanks be to God!
(Source: Ministry Matters).

Law and Love
The law is easy, Jesus:
lists to be made, items ticked as each is fulfilled;
Love is messy:
people to be heard and seen,
consequences and compassion to be considered;
But we’ve lived too long by law –
the law of the sword, taking lives to achieve our goals;
the law of the market, seeking gain without thought of the impact
the law of religion, handing out judgement in your name;
But, the poor and the weak,
the diseased and the lonely,
the rejected and the sinful
find no healing in our laws;
So teach us to love, Jesus, as you do:
enough to defend the helpless and overturn the tables of the powerful;
enough to sacrifice ourselves so others may live
Teach us to love, Jesus, as you do. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Praying the Sermon on the Mount
(inspired by Matthew 5-7)
Lord and Creator,
let us embrace the costly blessings which you desire for us,
blessings that confound the wisdom and strength of this world.
Teach us to be your agents of preservation in a world touched by death,
and beacons of hope in a world shrouded in darkness.
Transform us into your image through the crucible of the cross,
writing your mandates upon our hearts, made pure by you perfect love.
Embolden us to be your ambassadors,
Living as representatives of your holy kingdom,
stirring in us your love for others,
especially for those who would seek to destroy us because of you.
Make us decrease so that you might increase,
as a watching world sees you, not us.
Daily we declare that your priorities are ours,
even before our own needs and desires.
Every moment we live, we live for God’s glory
Free us of any distraction, craving or anxiety
that would keep us from fully following you.
For we acknowledge that everything we could possibly need
is yours to give us.
Remind us of our sinful brokenness and your gift of grace
as we encounter brokenness in others.
You are the answer to our every question.
You are the treasure that we desperately seek,
and it is you who invite us into your salvation,
as prodigals returning to the Father’s embrace.
Keep us upon your path of righteousness and justice,
bearing the good fruit of your Spirit,
for it is on you, Lord Jesus, that all hope is built,
For all of creation, now and forever more. Amen
(Source: Jamie Arpin-Ricci, in The Cost of Community, posted on Godspace)

Prayers for others
God our Father, in whose eyes all life is precious,
help us to value the worth of every individual,
whom you have created in your image.

We pray for victims of violence or hatred,
especially people who have suffered innocently.
May they find the healing of body, mind or spirit which they need.

We ask that the causes of division and hatred may be brought down.
Where there is prejudice because of colour, language, religion or culture,
help us to see things through the eyes of others,
and act towards them as we would like to be treated ourselves.

We also pray for people who have been the cause of hurts to others.
Enable them not only to admit their mistakes,
but also to use their time and energy for the benefit of others
and the welfare of society.

We pray for family relationships in our society.
Thank you for those who are our own families,
or who have been like family to us.
Bless them with the love in return which they themselves have shown.

We ask for your healing and reconciling love
in family disputes or misunderstandings.
We especially pray for children and young people
caught up in problems not of their making,
and for the anxiety and tensions this may cause.
Give them good friends and wise counselors,
and support from their peer group and schools.

Loving God,
as we have promised you our devoted service in words and prayer,
give us the strength of your Holy Spirit
to enable us to keep our promises,
for you are the source of our lives and our strength.
(Source: Starters for Sunday)

Prayers for ourselves and others
(inspired by Psalm 119: 1-8, 1 Corinthians 3: 1-9, Matthew 5:21-37)
God, you set before us commandments that affect our very lives.
We can only obey you by loving you above all others.
Give us the will and the skill to love you
with all of our hearts, minds and strength.
Let us walk: In the light of the Lord.
Lord Jesus,
we know we are too often mere infants in the faith.
We argue over big things and little things,
and justify our points of view as faith.
Forgive us when we do this
and fail to remember that our growth in the faith
is a matter of being your servant,
working together with all other servants,
in this world which is your mission field.
Let us walk: In the light of the Lord.
Holy Spirit,
help us understand the hard teachings of Jesus
about anger, name calling, bearing false witness,
fidelity and marriage.
Even before we come to understand,
give us the strength to obey.
Let us walk: In the light of the Lord.
We bring before you the needs of all countries and communities
who seek to care for one another.
Help us to not merely rely upon governments for justice,
but to seek and do justice in our own daily lives.
Let us walk: In the light of the Lord.
For those among us who need care,
help us be the caregivers.
When we name their names before you in prayer,
help us also to be a real presence to those we know _____.
Make all our petitions selfless, like those you taught us to pray. Amen.
(Source: Richard Bansemer, Lutheran Forum)

PRAYERS FOR OTHERS
The choices between life and death
are scattered all around us,
like grains of sand or stars in the sky.
It can be overwhelming to face the fact
that every choice we make means life or death
for ourselves or someone else.
Set the choices before us gently, Loving God,
and give us wisdom to choose life. 
We pray for those for whom the choices 
between life and death are not very clear.
There are people caught in every manner
of compromise, where there seem to be
no choices that lead to life. 
Set the choices before them gently, Loving God,
and give them the wisdom to choose life. 
Many people in the world today are not free to choose
between death and life for themselves.
Death is choosing them all the time:
in the form of hunger and thirst,
in the form of persecution and fear,
in the form of natural disasters and preventable disease.
Set the choices to help before us gently, Loving God,
and give us the wisdom to choose life on behalf of the most vulnerable.
This freedom to choose life is to be cherished,
and we commit ourselves to working together,
trusting you to guide us,
to claim these choices for all. 
Great is your wisdom, Loving God,
O that our ways may be steadfast in following you!
(Source unknown)

Commission & Benediction
(inspired by Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Matthew 5: 37)
God has placed before you life and death, blessings & curses.
Therefore choose life, follow God’s way.
Go now, and be a people of reconciliation and integrity.
Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” “no”.
And in all the paths you walk
may God hold you steady and close.
May Christ Jesus bless you and every place you enter.
And may the Spirit give you length of days and fullness of life.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ. Amen.
(Source: Nathan Nettleton)

Communion liturgy for this Sunday – Thom Shuman

Call To Worship
L: As we offer a welcome to stranger and friend,
as we are embraced in their kindness,
P: we choose to be people of life and blessing.
L: As we serve others in God’s name,
as we receive blessings from those we do not know,
P: we choose to walk in God’s way.
L: As we forgive those who have hurt us,
as we reach out to those we have harmed,
P: we choose to be reconciled to our sisters and brothers.

Prayer of the Day
You do not stand there
with a ruler in your fist,
ready to smack our hands
whenever we do wrong,
but are that gentle Parent
who wants only the best
for your children always.

You do not look at us
through the lenses of judgment,
Servant of all,
but see us as your
sisters and brothers
who have wandered away,
and so you reach out
and take our hands so
we might walk together.

You do not hold anything back,
Spirit of goodness,
but you fill our empty lives
with the waters of grace and peace,
so we might overflow with
love, wonder, joy, and hope,
true blessings to the world.

God in Community, Holy in One,
may we choose always and in all ways
to be your people, even as we pray,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
With every choice we make, we show how faithful we are to God’s hopes for us. Yet, despite the mistakes we make, the missteps we take, God remains forgiving and gracious. Let us come to our God, speaking honestly about our lives, as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
How often we make the wrong choices, God of our lives! We look at others through the prism of lust, distorting who they really are. We let our ‘mad’ feed us with bitterness and hurt. We toss about harmful words like so many snowballs on a winter’s day. We would rather insult those around us, than to lift them up.
Have mercy on us, God who is everywhere. May we set aside our quarreling natures to be united in common worship, common service, and a common purpose, as we follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
L: Christ came, so we might be healed by God’s tender touch. Christ came, so we might be reconciled to one another.
P: Thanks be to God! As risky, as hard as it may be, we will choose to be God’s people. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
When we could choose to be selfish, may we share from our abundance;
when we could choose to be hoarders, let us give away all we have;
when we could choose to be broken, let us be reconciled with those around us.
Bless our lives, as well as these gifts, we pray. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L: May our reconciling God be with you.
P: And also with you.
L: Come to the One who loves you always.
P: We choose to offer our hearts to God.
L: Come to the Table with glad hearts.
P: We will offer God praise in these moments.

Heaven and earth are witnesses
to your creation, God of forever,
as you chose to bring forth
life, goodness, and beauty
out of the empty canyons of chaos.
Soft winds rippled grains in meadows,
thunder and lightning echoed your praise,
insects chattered away in hidden places.
All these were blessings – for us, those
who have been crafted in your image,
but we turned away from you,
led astray by sin to worship false gods.
You commanded the prophets to speak,
your words inviting us back to you,
but we chose not to listen.
You sent Jesus to us then,
the One who walked that path called Blameless,
so we might know the way.

So with those who are mature in the faith,
ad those who are just starting the journey,
we lift our songs of thanksgiving:

P: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God who is everywhere.
All creation offers praise to you.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who reconciles us to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Seeking to be obedient to you,
God of every good choice,
Jesus came,
so we might walk
in his footprints on
that path to life.
He came,
so we could pay
attention to you,
yet not neglect our
sisters and brothers.
He come,
choosing to confront sin
and death on the cross,
so we might receive the
blessing of resurrected life.

As we seek to mirror his faithfulness,
as we would choose to follow him,
we proclaim that mystery called faith:

P: Though he did no wrong, Jesus died for us;
though we thought him dead, Jesus has risen;
though we have our doubts, Jesus will come again.

It used to be that we had no hope,
but now, at this Table of bread and cup,
your Spirit of grace and joy is poured out.
Filled with the bread which
symbolizes your brokenness,
may we choose to be
reconciled to one another,
honoring all relationships.
As we are transformed by the cup,
may we choose to work together,
so all may be blessed
by your love and peace.

And when you choose to end time,
gathering us together around your Table,
we will join with all those around us,
forever singing your praises,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

Sending
L: Go now, with God’s love,
P: we will choose to be a blessing to others.
L: Go now, with Christ’s hope,
P: we will choose to serve all in need.
L: Go now, with the Spirit’s peace,
P: we will choose to share life in every moment.

© Thom M. Shuman

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.
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