Exodus 17:1-7: The Israelites complain that they have no water, and Moses takes their complaint to God. God instructs Moses to strike the rock at Horeb with his staff and water flows out for the people to drink.
Psalm 78: 1-4, 12-16 A teaching psalm reminding God’s people of all that God has done, bringing God’s people out of Egypt, leading with a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, and splitting open the rock to give them water to drink.
Philippians 2: 1-13  The apostle encourages the Philippian Christians to be united and to be like Christ in their humility, service and self-sacrifice, quoting the ancient hymn of the Church. He reminds them that they are to live out their salvation, trusting God who gives them the will and the power to do it.
Matthew 21: 23-32  The religious leaders question Jesus’ authority, but Jesus refuses to answer them because they can’t answer his question about John’s authority. Then he tells them a parable about two sons whose father asks them to work in the vineyard. One says no, but then does, and the other says yes, but doesn’t. Jesus explains that like this, religious people are missing out on the kingdom, while outcasts are finding their way in.
(Summary of Bible readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Opening prayer/praise
We praise You, Lord God,
that Your Way is found
not by travelling an exclusive highway,
or in secrets preserved only for some,
but in the open field of love and grace,
where all who choose may come and play.

We praise You, Lord God,
that Your Truth is heard
not only in the words of scholars and authors,
or in brittle, inflexible ideas,
but in honest questions
and difficult conversations,
in the courageous attempts of simple people
to live lives of integrity.

We praise You, Lord God,
that Your Life is discovered
not just in the predictable places of beauty and wealth
or within the confines of clearly demarcated norms,
but in the unexpected generosity and pride
of those who have nothing,
in the creativity and risk
of trying new things,
and defending the vulnerable.

We open ourselves again to Your call,
determined to do what we promise,
to follow Your Way,
to embody Your Truth
to share Your Life.
And to do it all with thanksgiving and praise. Amen.
(Source, John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Call to worship
Here, in this place, we set apart time for worship,
and to encourage each other in Christ.
It is God who is at work in us,
enabling us both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure.
God, source of life,
 Jesus, firstborn of creation,
 Spirit, living breath in all that is:
we come to be thankful for life in all its fullness.
Let us worship God.

Gathering words
What patience to endure
the squabbles of your people;
what humility, to take
our doubts and disbelief.
What faithfulness you show,
through desert thirst and fear;
what miracles inspired by you,
the very, precious, gift of life.
What wisdom we hear from you,
if we will listen – we are here to listen.
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

Prayers of who we are (based on Matthew 21: 28-32)
(written in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic)
You who turned the tables,
continue to turn us upside down and inside out.
You ask us still, “What do you think?”
Keep us off balance with your parables and positions,
your queries and questions.
We confess we are sometimes a rebellious, resistant first son,
sometimes a hypocritical, disingenuous second son.
Often, we say one thing and do another.
We confound speaking and muddle acting.
We know the horrors of climate change and
we respond with denial or answer with apathy.
We understand the enormous impact of poverty and
we reply with poor bashing or counter with tokens of charity.
We recognize the face of injustice and
we shrug with indifference or react with defensiveness.
We realize the reality of pandemic and
we whine about the whole thing or ignore the need for protocol.
Help us to be and do better.
You who taught and lived with authority,
unmask our false priorities and unreliable obedience.
Lead us to deep discipleship and commitment.
Teach us to live our faith with integrity.
Guide us toward your profound way of righteousness.
Help us to be and do better,
for the sake of your vision of
love of God, love of neighbour, and love of self.
In your grace, Amen.
(Source: Diaconal Minister Ted Dodd, United Church of Canada)

The prayers of who we are
This poem/prayer by John van de Laar could be used as a ‘prayer of confession’ or a gentle meditation for the ‘prayers of who we are’.
Can it be that easy, Jesus?
Can it be that hard?
That what you want for us is just to love, and be loved?
Is it possible that even those who have tried the hardest,
signed on the dotted line,
sat for years in classes
and strained their eyes from reading,
dressed in all the most appropriate garments,
and spoken with only the most measured words…
that these can miss You?
How can it be when those who have hardly tried at all,
who have damaged themselves and others so much,
that in the end they have no where else to turn
but to throw themselves on your grace…
that these are the ones you search out?
How do we make sense of this, Jesus?
How do we love so scandalously, so inclusively?
How do we allow ourselves to be loved enough,
that all our hard and sharp edges grow soft and round?
Help us to find the humility and courage,
the boldness and grace,
that in our loving and being loved,
we may somehow ignite our world with a compassion so fierce
that violence and abuse,
rejection and condemnation,
neglect and greed
become unthinkable. (May it be so). Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Words of Assurance
Our life together as followers of Christ overflows with reasons to be thankful:
our fellowship, the challenges and joys we share,
losing ourselves together in service to others.
Underneath everything is the astonishing and simple truth: God does not abandon us.
There is nothing we can do that puts us beyond God’s love.
Our joy can be complete, when we are of one mind,
having the same love and being in the same spirit.
We give thanks for the presence of God,
enabling us to be God’s love in the world
and for the possibility of unity in every moment. Amen.

For reflection (could be used for the ‘prayers of who we are’)
This reflection is based on Exodus 17:1-7, where God provides water from a rock in the wilderness.
In such a place I could only long for the future
for wilderness was all there was
an ordinariness that ate my soul
and spoke only dry, thirsty words to me
that even as I tried to hold them back
deliberately broke through
to open dreams of still waters
and feasts of plenty
of cups running over
and a tables set with banquets
For in my everyday-ness
I find I live a wilderness life more than a kingdom life
I live not looking for water in the desert
nor with expectation that it is willing to flow
if only I ask for it
I walk through my days
expecting nothing more
than today’s happening
repeated tomorrow
not daring to hold out for
nor expecting
the rocks to break open
and for water to gush
or for flowers to bloom
in the desert places
or a word to crack apart
the everydayness and reveal a new story
or bread to fall open
and reveal the feast of the kingdom
in every crumb
Give my soul the longing, Lord
that I might expect
in all the everydayness
the light of justice will break through
and the word of promise will be heard
and the act of kindness will be recognized
and then celebrated
as a gift from you
that changes that wilderness moment
into a kingdom event
like water flowing in the desert
that will feed my hungry soul
with promise and delight
where the ordinary wilderness
becomes the birthing place
of your promises
yet to be.
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, New Kilpatrick Parish Church website)

Prayers of who we are
Inspired by the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness, this prayer would be helpful for reflection in the ‘prayers of who we are’.
Holy One,
We pray for the wanderers.
We have been among them,
seeking your path,
wondering where to turn next.
Like the Hebrew people of old,
we find ourselves in the wilderness.
How will we survive?
We pray for the discarded.
We have been among them,
not chosen for the team,
left behind by the friends,
rejected by the one we loved.
Like Hagar with her child,
we have wondered how we will live.
Where will we find a way to quench our thirst?
We pray for the lost.
We have been among them,
unsure of our direction,
unwilling to ask for assistance,
or unable to find a guide.
Like the Israelites,
lost for 40 years,
we need your law of love to lead us.
We pray for the restored.
We have been among them,
at long last welcomed
in the place for which we longed,
secure in our identity
as your beloved children.
When we come into your home,
let us share our joy
tempered by the knowledge
that we would be nowhere
without your grace and mercy.
Grant that grace and mercy to us continually, we pray. Amen.
(Source: Martha Spong, Rev GalBlogPals)

A prayerful meditation on Philippians 2:1-11
(could be used for the prayers of who we are)
God, grant me encouragement in Christ.
Give me the consolation of love,
the Spirit’s sharing,
and compassion and sympathy.
Make my joy complete,
and my harmony with Christ.
Help me do nothing from selfish ambition or deceit,
but in humility regard people with honor
and look to the interests of others.
Let the mind of Christ be in me:
no to attain status
but to empty myself
and take the place of a servant,
trusting your presence in my humanity.
May I become obedient in self-giving.
May Christ rule my life in grace.
May my humility, love and service
be your glory.
I pour myself out
and find you in me.
(Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Prayer of confession
As pilgrims on a journey, we confess to not travelling as hopefully as we could, given your grace and presence, Loving God. Within this fellowship, there is the hope of new life and fresh ideas, company on our journey and grace to travel hopefully; outside of this fellowship, hope abounds in the love others share with each other and with those in need. Give us eyes to see hope wherever it is found, like a tiny flower growing amidst the stones; like water in the desert, God gives us grace to travel hopefully. 
A silence is kept.

Words of assurance
Friends, drink deeply from the well of grace and know the mercy of God at work within us. Our burdens are able to be lifted and our hope is able to be restored. We can know ourselves to be beloved, and blessed. 
Thanks be to God. Amen.

Prayer of confession (inspired by Exodus 17: 1-7, also John 4: 5-42)
God of Living Water, you call us to come and drink.
So why do we sit here and complain that there is not enough water?
You call us to strike the rocks of our world and let your Living Water flow.
But we do not trust enough that the spring is there.
We want to find the water on our own, using our own wisdom.
You call us to share the Water of Life with the world around us.
But we believe that the water is limited,
not abundant and so we are tempted to save it for ourselves.
For all the times we turn away from your Water,
for all the times we sully the Water by misusing it,
for all the times we let others go thirsty instead of offering a drink,
Forgive us we pray. (A silence is kept)
The Water of Life flows with abundance to fill us with hope,
to cleanse us of our guilt, to float us to a new life.
Washed in the Living Water,
we are forgiven and set free to live abundant life.
Thanks and praise to God. Amen. 
(Source: Rev Gord, Worship Offerings)

Praying Philippians 2.1-11
God, grant me encouragement in Christ.
Give me the consolation of love,
the Spirit’s sharing,
and compassion and sympathy.
Make my joy complete,
and my harmony with Christ.
Help me do nothing from selfish ambition or deceit,
but in humility regard people with honor
and look to the interests of others.
Let the mind of Christ be in me:
no to attain status
but to empty myself
and take the place of a servant,
trusting your presence in my humanity.
May I become obedient in self-giving.
May Christ rule my life in grace.
May my humility, love and service
be your glory.
I pour myself out
and find you in me.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

More prayers of confession/prayers of who we are/reflections here.

Prayer of openness/ Prayer for illumination
Open our hearts and ears, O God, to the wisdom of your word.

Prayer for illumination
We come to hear the stories
of other people
in another world
long ago.
We come to hear the stories
that are also about us
in this place.
God, give us ears to listen.
eyes to see,
hearts to accept.
(Source: Joanna Harader, Spacious Faith)

For reflection
When the chief priests and elders of the people ask their deadly question, Jesus outmanoeuvres them. He agrees to answer their question— he recognises the numbers— if they will answer his question. And then asks a question of great topicality, a question which plays to the crowd’s sense that John spoke truth and that there is something hollow about the teaching of the authorities, something which stinks about their closeness to the Herods. So they cannot refuse to answer, but because either answer that Jesus allows them will undermine their power, they retreat to, “We do not know,” and are humiliated.
They have no authority of their own. And, suddenly, they don’t have the numbers. They have to weather the storm and wait for another opportunity to take him down. They can only concede that at this moment Jesus holds the power. He has the numbers. For all their privilege and prestige they are mere humans, just like the rest of us, always at the mercy of the crowd. Like all of us, they live in fear of the crowd.
They see Jesus push home his advantage. He asks another question. The answer is obvious; it has only one possible answer, such a transparently obvious answer that, again, they cannot refuse to answer him. Because he has the numbers— the crowd is on his side, they have to answer.
And they can see only that the trap is sprung. They are the sons who did not obey the father, and therefore the tax collectors and prostitutes enter the kingdom of heaven before them. They experience condemnation, and live in fear of the mob which might at this moment explode. Because they live by the numbers they can see no hint of grace in what Jesus has said to them… although grace is there, writ large (read more here).
(Source: Andrew Prior, One Man’s Web)

Commentary on Exodus 17:1-7 by Anathea Portier-Young on Working Preacher: One hundred hours. That’s the oft-cited statistic for how long a human body can typically survive at “average” temperatures without access to water. Claude Piantadosi writes: “(in the extreme summer heat in the Sinai Peninsula), with limited activity, the timeline for survival can easily be decreased by a factor of two.” Now we’re down to fifty hours. Exertion – such as walking long distances in the day time, carrying one’s belongings, tents, and small children, and wrangling livestock along the way (compare Exodus 17:3) – shortens the timeline further. Piantadosi offers this sobering calculation: “under extremely hot desert conditions of at least 49°C … during forced marching … sustained high sweat rates can reduce estimated survival time without drinking water to as little as seven hours, or approximately the time it takes to walk twenty miles.”3 One long, day’s march on an unusually, but not impossibly, hot, June day was all it would take to finish God’s people. Because they had no water. (I’m mindful of the plight of many of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people walking and fleeing in difficult terrain and challenging heat).
So if God is with them, in the midst of their inmost parts, the very organs, blood stream, and cells that require water for nutrition, metabolism, temperature regulation, waste removal, shock absorption and more – why is there no water? Would not God’s presence among us mean that providing for this most basic human need is our own first priority? I think the people of Israel were right to complain to, contend with, and test their leaders and their God. We would be, too. (more on Working Preacher website)

Prayer of intercession (based on the Exodus, Matthew and Philippians readings)
God, you are a God of compassion and love.
Time after time we have experienced your care and provision.
Time after time you’ve answered our prayers and met our needs –
often in ways we could never have dreamed possible.
We praise you for your faithful love toward us.
Because we have known your love,
we come to you with confidence,
offering our prayers for the world that you love.
We see so much pain and suffering.
so much violence and poverty and despair.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the needs around us.
But we continue to bring our prayers to you in faith,
because we know that nothing is impossible for you.
You are the God who rained down bread from heaven,
and made water flow from a rock in the desert;
and who brings new life and hope to all who believe.
Hear our prayers.

We pray for those suffering the effects of recent  natural disasters:
in (name countries and places)
and elsewhere.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the people of (name countries and places)
without food,
without water,
without shelter,
without hope.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the regions of our world caught up in violence and threats of violence:
for (name countries)
and elsewhere.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who live with serious illness,
those with chronic pain,
those without access to proper medical care,
those for whom treatment is no longer an option.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.

Merciful God,
You sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to show us a different way to live –
the way of deep humility and obedience.
You’ve called us to love one another,
and to work together with one heart and mind,
balancing our needs with the needs of those around us.
Give us courage to follow faithfully, and with integrity –
with actions that bear witness to the words we speak,
and worship that overflows into our daily tasks and relationships –
so that our lives will bring glory and honour to You,
our Redeemer and Lord. Amen.
(Source: Christine Longhurst, re-worship, adapted)

Prayers for others: God’s provision
God, like the Israelites in the wilderness,
we too have known your love,
and experienced your care and provision.
You invite us to extend that love to the world around us –
to care for others as deeply as we care for ourselves.
And so we bring the needs of our world before You now.
In Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for the many who do not have enough:
enough food to eat, or shelter to keep warm;
enough employment, or money to pay their bills;
enough medicine or medical care.
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We also pray for those who have more than enough,
but who still struggle to find meaning and purpose in life;
who indulge in dangerous or self-serving activities
to dull their pain or loneliness.
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
God, Your grace reaches out to all of us.
You call us to live as citizens of heaven,
working together with one heart and mind.
Strengthen us to live in a manner worthy
of the Good News we have received,
offering our lives in service of Your kingdom,
where the last are first, and the first are last,
and there is grace enough for all.
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, Amen.
(Source: Christine Longhurst, re-worship)

More prayers for others – see ideas here

Prayers of dedication (offering)

Prayer of commitment: United in Humility
(A reflection on Philippians 2:1-13)
We are your Church,
May we find encouragement in you and your way,
May we find consolation from love,
May we share in the Spirit,
May we embrace your compassion and sympathy,
So that we might work for unity,
Not dividing ourselves against each other,
But being of the same thinking, Having the same love,
Being in full accord
And of one mind.
Help us through the Spirit to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
But in humility, may we regard others as better than ourselves.
Remind each of us to look not to our own interests,
But, instead prompt us again and again to always look to the interests of others.
As the embodiment of your word, will and way, may we your Church let your mind be in us,
Always being mindful that you, who was the human form of God,
Did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
Instead you humbled yourself in loving service,
Becoming a servant to all,
Living in full obedience to God,
Loving us completely, even into death, and that being death on a cross.
So Jesus,
The living one,
May we find encouragement in you and your way,
May we find consolation from love,
May we share in the Spirit,
May we embrace your compassion and sympathy,
May we work in unity with you and with each other,
As your communion for the common good,
Until all and everything is as it should be.
This is our humble prayer. Amen
(Source: Jon Humphries, 2017)

More suggestions for Benediction/sending out

All are welcome (Marty Haugen)

Jesus is Lord: a new song by David MacGregor (from Philippians 2:5-11)
Let the same mind be in you as in Christ Jesus
Though he was God freely emptied himself
Taking the form of a servant
in human likeness
Humbled himself in obedience
– to death on the cross

So God exalted him
his name high over all names
At Jesus’ name every knee should bow down
In all of heaven
and on earth around and under
To the Father’s glory
every tongue cries, “Jesus is Lord!”
“Jesus is Lord!”
“Jesus is Lord!”
“Jesus is Lord!”
(Source: David MacGregor © 2017  Willow Publishing)

Resources – Pilgrim UC

Readings: COCU58A.Readings.PDFversion2

8am 2014 COCU58A.8am.2014

11am 2011 COCU58A.World Communion Sunday.2011.11amSunday

About admin

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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