Land Sunday in Season of Creation – Rex AE Hunt liturgy

Exodus 14:19-31
Moses stretches his hands over the sea and it opens a path for the Israelites to walk on dry ground. Then, as the sun rises and all the people have crossed, he stretches his hands over the sea again, and the waters return to their place, drowning the armies of Egypt.
(Alternate Hebrew Scripture is Genesis 50:15-21 – When Jacob dies, Joseph’s brothers, afraid that he might now exact retribution from them, tell him that Jacob asked him to forgive them. Joseph, weeping, assures them that he does not hold their actions against them, and that God brought good out of their sinful acts)
Psalm 114A celebration of the earth’s response to God’s mighty acts, and a call for the earth to tremble before God OR Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 – The song of victory and praise that Moses sang after the liberation of the Israelites OR Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13: A song of thanksgiving and praise, inviting worshippers to remember God’s mighty deeds, God’s grace and forgiveness, and God’s love and compassion.
Romans 14:1-12 Each believer works out how faith is to be lived for themselves and must decide between them and God how to practice their faith. Therefore, as people of faith we are not to judge one another, but to celebrate each one’s commitment to living out their faith before God.
Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells a story about a man who is forgiven a huge debt, but then refuses a small debt which is owed to him. When the master, to whom he owed his debt, hears about it, he is angry that the man did not show others the same mercy he received, and he instructs that the man be imprisoned until he has paid back his debt in full.

First Thoughts on the Old Testament – Exodus
First Thoughts on the New Testament – Romans
First Thoughts on the New Testament – Matthew

Nathan Nettleton (Laughing Bird) has paraphrases of the readings – definitely worth checking out.

A Taize-style contemplative service by St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Seattle, Washington.


Call to worship
(based on Exodus 15:1-11, 20-21; Romans 14:1-12)
No one is an island.
We are all joined in Christ Jesus.
Who else is like you, loving God?
Who is like you: beautiful in holiness,
awesome in all the things you do for us.
No one lives by themselves,
no one dies by themselves.
Whether we live or die
we are the Lord’s.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
(Source: Bruce Prewer)

Opening prayer
God we gather for worship,
here we sing and pray and listen, we might even dream.
God we gather seeking your comforting presence,
to remind us that we are not alone, to share a blessing.
God we gather to be changed,
to be moved from lives of fear to lives of love.
God we gather to be sent back out,
to share the blessings of life, and give witness to God’s presence, and to declare: “surely the Lord is in this place”.
(Source: Rev Gord, Worship Offerings)

Call to worship (based on Exodus 14)
The sea of apathy surrounds
enticing us with self promotion
luring us with greed.
The sea of apathy surrounds
bloated with decay
the remains of injustice and idolatry.
The sea of apathy surrounds.
Our task this day
is to cross the sea.
Our task today
is to say “no” to the stench.
Our task if we chose it
is to say “yes” to life and faith.
“Yes”. Yes.
Let us cross the sea together.
(Source: Katherine Hawker, Evangelical United Church of Christ, 1999) 

Call to worship
In sacred times of word, wonder, and awe,
in ordinary days of work and play:
in every moment, God is with us.
Whether we are stuck in doubt’s mud,
or standing on faith’s shoreline:
in every place, God is with us.
In those who teach us 
and those who trouble us;
in those who surprise us, 
and those who forgive us:
in every person, God is with us.
(Source: Thom Shuman)

O God of justice and love, You pardon us if we pardon our brothers and sisters:  Create in us a new heart in the image of Your Son, a heart ever greater than any offence it suffers.  May the world remember how much you love us?  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.
(Source: ‘Uniting in Worship’, Leader’s Book, p. 212)

Generous God, our creator and guide, may we serve you with all our heart and know your forgiveness in our lives. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
(adapted, ‘CanticaNova‘)

Creating God, you made us in your image and gifted us with the joy of creation. Teach us to discern your hand in all your works and to serve you with reverence and thanksgiving; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (adapted ‘Common Order’, Church of Scotland, p. 683)

Prayer of Thanksgiving
(based on Exodus 14:19-31; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35)
We give you all thanks and praise, O God, for in you is extravagant mercy and salvation from all that would destroy us.

In the first of your mighty wonders, you created the earth,
dividing the watery chaos and bringing forth dry land.
In the days of Moses you divided the sea again
and delivered your people from their oppressors,
leading them by fire and cloud to the land of freedom.

In Jesus the Christ, your reign of love and mercy has embraced all who live and even in our weaknesses you uphold us. He was killed but his risen life is amongst us even now. Now whether we live or die we belong to you and in gratitude we share your love and mercy with all.

Therefore, with our hearts lifted high, we offer you thanks and praise at all times through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Source: (adapted) Nathan Nettleton, Laughing Bird)

Prayer of Confession
Reconciling God, we would rather gossip about those who sin against us, than speak to them privately;
 we would rather parade our wounds for all to see, than quietly work toward forgiveness and reconciliation.
 Help us choose the harder road, the road that opens possibilities for real healing, real forgiveness, and real growth in your Spirit. Help us place the best interests of our community of faith above our own need for public vindication. Amen.
(Source: B.J. Beu, Ministry Matters)

Prayer of Confession
Our sins are fully in your view, O God, yet you do not punish as we deserve. We are foolish to think that you don’t notice. We are blind to miss your steadfast love. We are ungratefully living without regard to forgiveness. Still when we are wronged, we seek vengeance, even from you. We are heartless with our double standards. We are ruthless with our retribution. We are ridiculous to think you don’t care Again forgive us Lord for the sins we name. Save us Lord from the sins we hide.
(pause for reflection as we contemplate the words for ourselves)
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord does not deal with us according to our sins, or repay us in proportion to our iniquities. God’s loving ways are so great and good that they astound us. Love sends our Savior. For the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord our sins are forgiven. By the power of the Holy Spirit we may come to understand and live in that mercy. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
(Source: ConfessionRCL)

The Prayers of who we are
To forgive you will pass through the sea.
You will leave much behind:
what is owed, obligations,
the heavy chains of your master anger.
Just leave them.
You will be tempted to turn back and fight
but that is the slavery you are escaping,
the lie of superior and inferior,
the cruel economy of deserving.
It is a lie. Walk away from it.
You will be afraid of being overtaken
and hurt again
but God’s mystery will protect you.
Go, on foot, through the wounded sea,
your tears a wall on your left and on your right.
Take only your love with you.
You will find yourself on the far shore
unburdened, free,
in the wilderness of love,
never needing to go back.
You will do this
seven times seventy times.
(Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Prayer of Confession (based on Matthew 18: 21-35)
What if God paid us back in full for all the wrong we have done? (pause)
Gracious God, we seek your mercy…
Yet we ourselves look for payback when we are wronged. We think it “only fair” and “what is right” when we retaliate and use harsh words and withdraw from relationship. 
The forgiveness you offer on our account is larger than we can comprehend, still we withhold forgiveness and carry the grudge over petty items.
We are eager to do your judging. We conspire our inner thoughts to secure your forgiveness while avoiding honest repentance.
Forgive us Lord for the sins we know in our hearts.
Save us Lord from the sins we hide.
(pause for reflection as we reflect on these words for ourselves)
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and has not dealt with us according to our sins.
God’s forgiveness makes us able, with the power of Holy Spirit, to choose to forgive, renew and live again in right relationship with each other and with our God.
In the name of Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Source: Adapted, Bill Wessner, Confession RCL)

Prayer of Confession: The Tyranny of Vengeance
Here we are again, God, with all that makes us who we are, all that fills our lives;
Carrying into this place of joy and freedom the burdens we just can’t seem to lay down,
The weight of all the scores we long to have settled, the justice we want to demand for the wrongs we have suffered.
Yet we also know what would happen if you were to deal with us justly; with our greeds and violences, our betrayals and lusts. If justice was served in our lives we could not stand.
So forgive us our wrongs, God, forgive us as we do not deserve; forgive us against the demands of justice; and forgive our obsession that justice be done to those who have wronged us.May our worship lead us to the place where our hunger for grace and mercy may be filled, and where we may be freed from the tyranny of vengeance. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar

Prayer of Confession/invitation to pardon
The Pharaoh decrees death to the foreigner.
The power of fear and hate rage surround us.
In the face of evil
Forgive us our complacency.
The burning bush flickers beside us.
The presence of God invites us.
In the presence of the holy
Forgive us our lack of notice.
The Red Sea waters stand at attention.
The threshold of grace is breath-taking.
In the company of grace
Forgive us our reticence to embrace.

Prayer of Confession
Eternal God, we have learned so little since the ancient wisdom of Israel began to be articulated. You provide for us a way and we turn a deaf ear. As we recall the anniversary of 9/11 this week, we confess that we have not learned the futility of war and violence.  We still think we can resolve differences by brute force.  We project the worst of motives to our enemies and the best to ours.  We continue to demonize our enemies in order to justify killing them.  We speak of others as evil but forget or deny the evil which resides in each of us. Deliver us from this body of death, O God.  Save us from refusing to learn.  Help us to revise our lives and our culture so that we may gain a heart of wisdom and know you who are the beginning of wisdom.  Teach us the difficult spiritual act of learning how to forgive others and to forgive our enemies.  Take away from us the calculating spirit of Peter which resides in each one of us and which would measure out forgiveness with a careful and reluctant eye.
Transform us, O God.
Save us from growing weary in the steady and tedious task of keeping relationships cleaned up.
Save us from trying to set some artificial limits on how far we will go with those who offend us.
Save us from a calculating faith which tries to put another person outside the Christian circle.
Save us from being stingy of spirit and denying grace to others.
O God, give us generous and forgiving spirits which make room for the sins and foibles of others. Amen
(Source: Richard J Einerson)

Invitation to Pardon
Hungry bellies and grumbling souls
are not the final word.
Manna and quail and water
fill the bellies and calm the souls.
The gifts of God reign
o’er the people of God.
Come for all things are ready.
(Source: Copyright Katherine Hawker, 1999)

Words of Assurance (based on Psalm 103: 8-12)
People of God, hear the good news!
Our God is compassionate and merciful, full of endless love. God does not treat us as our sins deserve. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so strong is God’s love toward us. So be at peace: you are forgiven! 
Thanks be to God!

Seventy Times Seven
To forgive any more than the once sounds tough
and seven times seems crazy. Yet to stretch the score to seventy times seven becomes profoundly easy.
We only travel well on the paths of mercy, when we have made the choice to break from the prison of “our own rights” and to find pleasure in the unfenced grounds of love.
May it be so! Amen.
(Source: Bruce Prewer)

Readers Theatre – the Gospel for 2 voices
One: Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”
Two: You’ve got to be kidding! Seventy-seven times? You’re nuts!
One: That’s what He said.
Two: Listen! I’m no push-over. I’m willing to let bygones be bygones and all that other stuff, but I won’t be forgiving anyone seventy-seven times, I can tell you that!
One: Then you aren’t really forgiving them, are you?
Two: Well, sure I am. But I won’t be a doormat. What difference will it make if I do forgive seventy-seven times or even more?
One: Maybe then you will truly let go of the hurt and step out of the pain. That’s what forgiveness is all about, not just speaking the words, but actually letting go of the situation. It doesn’t mean that you will have to let the hurt happen to you over and over again; it means that you will lay it down. You will have learned something about yourself as well as the one who hurt you.
Two: You mean, I’m supposed to learn something from all of this?
One: Absolutely. Do you think God retains God’s disappointment over you when you fail and fall short? God forgives, wipes the slate clean, gives another chance, time and time again. That’s what God wants us to do: to live lives of forgiving love.
Two: But it’s not that easy, you know.
One: God is with you. You will always have help with this.
Two: You’re sure of that? Really sure?

Readers Theatre – the Gospel for 5 voices
Peter: Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?
Jesus: No, not seven times. Seventy times seven. To understand the Kingdom of Heaven, imagine this: Once there was a king who decided to settle accounts with servants who had borrowed money from him. One of the servants owed a huge amount of money—millions of dollars. There was no way he could repay the money, so the King ordered that he be sold—together with his wife, his children and everything he owed—in order to repay the debt. But when the man heard the King’s judgment he fell to his knees and begged for mercy.
Slave: Have mercy on me! Be patient, and I will pay back everything I owe you.
Jesus: The King was moved by his servant’s pleas. He took pity on the man, releasing him and forgiving his debt. But when the man left the King, he went to a friend of his who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. The friend fell to his knees and begged for mercy.
Friend: Have mercy on me! Be patient, and I will pay back everything I owe you.
Jesus: But his friend wouldn’t hear of it. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the King and told him what had happened. Then the King called in the man he had forgiven and said:
King: You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have shown the same mercy to a friend who was in your debt?
Jesus: Then the angry King sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid back everything he owed. And that is what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refused to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.

Thoughts on the gospel – ‘seventy times seven’
(Thom Shuman)
David Garland, in ‘Reading Matthew,’ makes some good observations on the numbers that appear in Matthew 18:21-35.
“In 18:21, Peter asks for clearly defined limits for the obligation to forgive another.  He generously suggests forgiving his brother up to seven times for sins against him.  It is generous because no mention is made of the offender’s repentance.  It is biblical, because that is the limit of transgressions God allowed Israel (Amos 2:4,6).  Jesus’ response consciously counters the Lamech principle of measureless blood vengeance (Gen. 4:24).  One must forgive seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven).  One has learned nothing if one keeps a tally of the number of times one has forgiven another so that when the magic number is reached, one can stop forgiving and mete out punishment.  Under Lamech there was no limit to hatred and revenge; under Moses it was limited to an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life; under Jesus there is no limit to love, forgiveness, and mercy.”
Then, talking about the parable in this passage, Garland observes that the servant owes his master ten thousand talents, “a deliberate exaggeration.  Ten thousand talents was the highest figure in arithmetic (like our billion), and the talent was the highest currency.  If one talent equaled ten thousand denarii, as some suggest, the debt would be equivalent to a hundred million working days for the day laborers mentioned in 20:2.”
Once again, Jesus reverts to outrageous hyperbole to make a simple point.

Frederick Buechner: To forgive somebody is to say one way or another, “You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you’ve done, and though we may both carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend.”
To accept forgiveness means to admit that you’ve done something unspeakable that needs to be forgiven, and thus both parties must swallow the same thing: their pride.
This seems to explain what Jesus means when he says to God, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus is not saying that God’s forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others. In the first place, forgiveness that’s conditional isn’t really forgiveness at all, just fair warning; and in the second place, our unforgiveness is among those things about us that we need to have God forgive us most. What Jesus apparently is saying is that the pride that keeps us from forgiving is the same pride that keeps us from accepting forgiveness, and will God please help us do something about it.
When somebody you’ve wronged forgives you, you’re spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience.
When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you’re spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride.
For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each other’s presence.
(Source: originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words)

Prayer of Dedication
God, you know the good that can issue forth from these gifts. We offer these gifts, that they may bring joy into the life of this community and into the lives of others, that they will cross boundaries to transform lives and to alleviate pain, that they may offer new beginnings and new life. And as we offer these gifts, lead us forward, O God, into your future. Amen.
(Source: Adapted, John H Will)

Benediction (based on Matthew 18: 21-35)
As you have been forgiven, now go into a world that needs your forgiving, healing touch. Bring peace and hope to others, sharing God’s love with them. Amen.
(Source: Nancy C. Townley, Ministry Matters)

Together to Celebrate, David MacGregor (Options for the RCL readings for this Sunday)


Thom Shuman Communion liturgy
Call to Worship
L: In sacred times of word, wonder, and awe,
in ordinary days of work and play:
P: in every moment, God is with us.
L: Whether we are stuck in doubt’s mud,
or standing on faith’s shoreline:
P: in every place, God is with us.
L: In those who teach us
and those who trouble us;
in those who surprise us,
and those who forgive us:
P: in every person, God is with us.

Prayer of the Day
When we look over our shoulders
at fear shadowing us today,
you go before us into tomorrow,
making a path through
the sea of yesterday’s doubts.
When our legs tremble
from the effort of standing up
for what you hope for all creation,
you are at our side,
offering your heart’s strength.
Cloud of Grace,
we offer our love to you.

When we turn our hearts
into deserts of stony bitterness,
you transform them
into oases of joy.
When we come up
with all sorts of rules
for those who come to us
seeking to find you,
you tear up the list,
stretching wide your arms
in welcoming grace.
Servant of all,
we offer our lives to you.

When we would clasp
old worries to our hearts,
you open our eyes to that hope
which paves the path ahead of us.
When we spend each day
consumed with doubts and fears,
you remind us that this day
is the time to honor God,
by serving God’s children.
Mist of Mercy,
we offer our hearts to you.

God in Community, Holy in One,
as you are all to us,
so we would offer all we are to you,
even as we pray as Jesus taught us,
(the Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
As we stand before God, we think of all the ways we bicker with others, all those times we have not shown mercy and grace to those around us. Let us bow our hearts and confess our sin to God, as we pray together, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
It is never easy for us to confess
but deep down inside, we know that
we have trouble
being grace-full to others;
we are eager to judge
and punish all who hurt us;
we find ways to put restrictions
on people we fear.

Forgive us, Servant God. You show mercy more often than we deserve; you pardon us more times than we can count. And why? Because we are the Lord’s – sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ, who died and lived again, so we might live beyond death with you.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
L: God’s hand of mercy is stretched out to us, making a way through all that threatens us, to touch us with grace and hope.
P: We stand before our God, singing praise to the One who turns our despair into joy, our fears into faith. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
We have a variety of intentions for offering these gifts to you, Loving God, but whatever the reason, whatever might be our purpose, we trust you will use them to bring healing to brokenness, hope to despair, and welcome to the forgotten. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L: May the God of hope be with you!
P: And also with you!
L: God, our God, leads us through the flood of fears
into the future of wonder and hope.
P: We open our hearts to the One who journeys
with us, in the past, in the present, into tomorrow.
L: God goes before us, preparing the Table piled high
with grace and peace.
P: We sing songs of glad thanksgiving to the One
who fills us with goodness and mercy.

You stretched out your hand,
Cloud of Glory,
parting a way through chaos,
so your goodness might come forth.
You looked, and laughed out loud,
as seas ran forth in joy,
mountains played leapfrog,
and hills hopscotched with valleys.
Creation became a sanctuary
for those created in your image.
But we decided to live for ourselves,
every day becoming one in which
we could turn your dreams to ashes,
your overflowing love into
dust bowls of despair.
Out of pity, you sent the prophets,
those pillars of faithfulness,
but we wrangled with their gentle words.
So, you sent Jesus,
to lead us through evil’s deeps,
to that freedom found only
in your kingdom of life.

Therefore, on this day,
when we stand in your grace
around your Table of life,
we join our voices with all
who offer praise to the One who saves:

P: Living, we serve others in God’s name;
serving, we die unto ourselves;
dying, we are given life eternal with God.

Blessed is the One who comes forgiving us more times than we can count.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, Cloud of Joy,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Servant.
When we were weak in faith,
he came to strengthen us
with your everlasting hope;
when we were slaves to sin,
he came to lead us into
the promised land of mercy;
when our hearts became like flint,
he softened them with compassion;
when we could only focus on ourselves,
he came to die for us.

As we gather at your Table,
we remember his love for us,
his patience with our failings,
his hope in our willingness to follow,
his trust in that mystery we call faith:

P: Baptized in Christ, we would live for him;
forgiven through Christ, we would emulate him;
putting on Christ, we wait for his return.
Alleluia! Amen!

Creator God,
send your Spirit in peace
upon us and these simple gifts
of the bread and of the cup.
As we share the bread,
we share the presence of Christ,
strengthened to go out
with forgiveness in our hearts.
As we pass the cup,
we share Christ’s Spirit
with our neighbors,
and are called to welcome all
as our sisters and brothers,
especially those held captive
by the bitterness of the world.

As you gathered your children
to lead them to that promised land,
so you will bring all your children
from the very ends of time itself,
to seat us around your heart,
where we will feast on your grace,
lifting our hearts to praise you forever:
God our Maker,
Christ our Brother,
Spirit our Compassion,
one God, now and forever. Amen.

L: In every person, God is with us.
P: We will welcome God in the family we know all too well,
and in the strangers we will meet in the coming days.
L: In every choice, Jesus is with us.
P: We will welcome the Christ who serves us unexpectedly,
and in those who will offer us forgiveness.
L: In every moment, the Spirit is with us.
P: We will welcome the Spirit who calls us to live
as well as calling us to give of ourselves without question.

(c) 2017 Thom M. Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies

Pilgrim 2017 – 8am service COCU56A.8amSundayFINAL.2017

Pilgrim 2017 – 11am service COCU56A.11am.2017

Pilgrim 2017 – 9.30am service (prepared for Season of Creation, with guest speaker Rev Dr Lee Levett-Olson)

170917 COCU56A 9.30 final 1d Order of service sheet

170917COCU56A 9.30 Service final 1d

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Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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