Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25:
Joshua challenges the people to turn from their idols and serve only God, and they commit to doing so.
Psalm 78:1-7:
A call for people to hear a message of God’s greatness and goodness, remembering how God gave the people laws and instructions so that they and their children could remember God’s deeds and hope in God.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
A word of encouragement to remind the believers that death is not the end, but that believers, both dead and alive, will enjoy life eternal in union with Christ, which is our Christian hope.
Matthew 25:1-13:
Jesus tells a story about bridesmaids who are waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom at a wedding. Some have extra oil and are able to wait for as long as it takes, while others, who do not have extra, have to leave to find more and so miss the groom’s arrival. Then, when they return, they are shut out and not allowed in. Then Jesus encourages his hearers to be alert.
(RCL readings summary by John van de Laar, Sacredise)
Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom….Matthew 25.1
Jesus tells a story: bridesmaids await a groom who is delayed. Some run out of oil. The others won’t give up their oil, so those who are short go out to buy more. When the groom comes, they’re off at the hardware store. They return to the party too late to be admitted.
We think the maidens are “foolish” because they didn’t plan for the groom’s long delay (as if that’s a spiritual issue). And we suppose they had no choice but to dash off to get oil, and, sadly, they miss the groom. But is that really the point? Were they really just the lighting crew? Does it occur to them (or us) that maybe they could just run out of oil, and the groom will be glad to see them because he’d rather have their company than their flashlights? Their purpose is to meet the groom—but right when he needs them most, they’re off taking care of their own worries. They aren’t there for him.
But they’re not alone. Everybody in the story fails to be there for each other. The “wise” maidens could have shared. It wouldn’t have killed them. But they make their sisters go shopping at midnight— and are happy to go to the party without them. They’re not willing to be there for the others.
And the groom—in what way is he not a jerk? He won’t let his friends come to the party—because they’re late. After he himself has made them wait all fracking night?? And on top of that he insults them, saying, “I don’t know you!” He vaporizes his friendship over tardiness? Wow. What a prince of selfishness.
So what’s Jesus up to in this story? I think he’s setting us up. We’re so anxious to “get” the story, to believe something pious about it, to judge between wise and foolish, we miss the actual relationships—like the maidens out buying moral-of-the-story oil instead of just being there. Sometimes we’re obsessed with our lamps instead of with each other. It really doesn’t matter what we think, or how much “oil in our lamps” we have, or how well others meet our expectations. What matters is that we’re there for each other.
Pray that you might run out of oil, having given it away to be there for someone in need. Trust the Bridegroom will be happy for you to be there.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

General resources: Centering prayers/gatheringCall to Worship, Prayers of Confession/words of assurance, Prayer for Illumination, Prayers for Others, words to conclude Prayers for others, Lord’s PrayerOffering Prayer, Words of Mission/Blessings and benediction)

Call to Worship
(based on 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, Matthew 25: 1-13, Amos 5: 18-24)
Are you awake? Are you alert?
Christ is coming into our lives in a new way.
Are you watching the signs?
Are you interpreting what is happening today?
Christ is coming into our lives in a new way.
Do you see opportunities for ministry?
Do you see the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the needy?
Christ is coming into our lives in a new way.
Come, let us worship and let us work in the reign of God.
Christ has extended the invitation:
let us work together in the reign of God on earth.
(Source: Rev. Mindi, Rev-o-lution)

Call to Worship
God has gathered us to this place,
where we hear those stories which show us
what the kingdom of God is like.
God summons us to this place,
where we can learn how to serve our God
without reservation, or hesitation.
God will send us from this place,
to tell others of God’s hopes and dreams,
so they, too, can choose to follow God.
(Source: Thom Shuman)

Call to Worship (based on Psalm 78: 1-7)
We gather here to remember God’s glorious deeds –
recorded for all time by people
whose lives were touched by divine grace.
As people of hope, they affirmed the great works of God,
and the importance of keeping the commandments of God.
We are heirs of their faithfulness
in witnessing to the greatness of God’s wondrous acts.
Let our witness be as convincing,
so that generations to come
will continue to honour God’s holy name.
(Source: Moira Laidlaw)

Prayer of Praise and Adoration
We worship you, O God, as the one in whom we have placed our hope.  We share the desire of your people of old to tell of the blessings you have effected in our lives. When we think about the greatest blessing of all – the gift of yourself in human flesh -Jesus Christ -we joyfully acknowledge that our hope in you is not misplaced.  We choose to serve you because you chose to touch our lives so graciously in Christ.  May our faithful witness and the service of our lives reveal the depth of our love and gratitude as we worship you, O God, and as we praise and adore you in Jesus’ name and in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
(Source: Moira Laidlaw, Liturgies Online website)

(this would make a good meditation for the ‘prayers of who we are’/prayers of confession – it describes the reality of tiring from ‘waiting and watching’)
Waiting and Watching
You call me to wait on You, Lord,
but I get tired of waiting.
Your answers to my prayers,
Your call for me to serve You,
the promise of Your coming Kingdom,
they all seem to take so long.
You tell me to watch for Your coming, Lord,
but I’m not sure how to prepare for…
a thief in the night,
an undisclosed time,
and Your disconcerting habit of secrecy and mystery.
Yet, something inside whispers
that You’re not all that hard to find;
That You’re always coming to me,
and that both the waiting and the watching,
are more about being open to You now,
than about trying not to be surprised in the future.
And so I will keep waiting,
and I’ll try to stay alert,
so that I can catch the glimpses of Your glory
that fill my day, every day. Amen.
(Source, John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Litany of Confession and Assurance (based on Matthew 25: 1-13)
Ten lamps gathered, with oil enough for all.
Ten lamps gathered,
But five are empty showing careless disregard.
Ten lamps gathered,
Five blaze with oil abundant enough to share.
Ten lamps gathered,
Five lifeless when laziness and greed collide.
Ten lamps gathered…
How many will burn tonight?
Creator God, giver of oil, hear us as we pray…
For generous hearts to share oil with our neighbors.
Creator God, giver of oil, hear us as we pray…
For the vision necessary to leave our comfortable seats in search of oil.
Creator God, giver of oil, hear us as we pray…
For forgiveness for the ways our selfishness and our apathy collide.
Ten lamps gathered, with oil enough for all.
Come children of God, into a sacred circle
Where sharing creates abundance
And no one leaves hungry. Amen.
(Source: Katherine Hawker, Liturgies Outside the Box)

(this could be used to introduce Prayers for Others)
We really would prefer it, Jesus,
if the big problems of our world
could be resolved quickly;
we don’t mind the effort,
the hard work,
or even the sustained hours
over a few weeks or even months;
It’s the years of faithful commitment that we struggle with.

But, from the perspective of eternity,
a lifetime of commitment to your reign
is really not that much to ask;

And so we pray that you would help us to stay faithful –
to love ones in our homes and families,
who need to know they can depend on us;
to our brothers and sisters in faith,
who need us to strengthen and welcome them,
even as we need their companionship;
to the people of our neighbourhood and city,
who need us to be good citizens,
and conscientious justice seekers;
to the people of our nation,
who need our constant prayers,
and our commitment to participate
in political, economic and social systems;
to the people of the world,
who need us to embrace them and care for them,
even though it may offer us no benefit,
and have no real impact on our lives.

(prayers may be offered here by individuals in the community….could finish each one with a short phrase that the community echoes back eg ‘give me courage/give us courage; give me strength/give us strength; give me grace/give us grace, etc)

Teach us the love that stays faithful for the long haul, Jesus:
the persistence that will not give up,
and the grace to trust your faithfulness,
even when we cannot see results.
We offer our prayers in the name of Jesus, Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Commission and Benediction
Go now, and follow in the footsteps
of those who have gone before us in Christ.
Revere the Lord.
Serve God in sincerity and faithfulness.
Teach those who come after you to trust in God.
And may God protect you along the way;
May Christ Jesus keep you alert and prepared;
And may the Holy Spirit fuel the lamp that guides your path.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
……..In the name of Christ. Amen.
(Source: Nathan Nettleton

David MacGregor’s music suggestions for this week in the lectionary.
Natalie Sims’ music suggestions for this week in the lectionary.

Communion liturgy – Thom Shuman
Call to Worship
L: If we will but listen,
P: God will speak to us in parables,
God will tell us stories lived out by our grandparents.
If we will but remember,
P: we will discover all we have heard and known,
all the wonders God has in store for us.
L: If we will but share,
P: we can tell our children and grandchildren –
even those not yet born –
the glorious stories of our God.

Prayer of the Day
We stand at the crossing,
Holy God,
arms, hearts, souls
full of the burdens
the gods of this world
have placed on us.
You remove them,
throw then to one side,
taking us by the hand
to lead us into your kingdom.

As we turn to you in our despair,
Holy Friend,
you come and fill our emptiness
with the holy oil
of your compassion,
so we might always
be ready to serve
those who come to us.

Holy Wisdom,
you would not leave us
uninformed of God’s love for us,
so you whisper in our ears
of wonders beyond imagination;
you remove the blindfolds from our eyes
so we may  behold the grace
flowing all around us;
you open our hearts
to the family God has given us.

God in Community, Holy in One,
hear us as we pray as Jesus teaches us,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
How quickly we forget – our faith, our calling, our hope.  All because we try to do everything our way, rather than God’s.  But God is quicker to forgive, and to restore us to new life.  Let us confess to our God, as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
It is never easy to admit how foolish we are, Approaching God.  You have chosen us for yourself, and we continue to shelter false gods in our hearts.  You promise to be with us in every moment, but we can find little time for you.  You send your Word to us, but we are too busy listening to the noise of our culture to pay attention.
Have mercy, Eternal One, and forgive us.  Speak to us, so we might listen, and in hearing be transformed into your people.  Fill us with holiness, so we might give ourselves wholly to others.  Enable us to serve you faithfully and completely, even as did our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
L: This is our assurance: God forgives us.
This is our hope: God’s love is everlasting.
This is our truth: God is with us always.
P: We will speak the truth;
we will live the hope;
we will share God’s mercy.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
We can stand at the edge and watch while you seek to bring hope, healing, peace, and joy to everyone in the world.  Or we can take that step, of committing our lives as well as our gifts, in working with you in this ministry of grace.  Bless our gifts, bless our lives, bless our service, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L: May the Lord be with you.
P: And also with you.
L: People of God, lift up your hearts.
P: We lift them to the One whose faithfulness never ends.
L: People of God, give thanks to the Lord.
P: We offer our praise and thanksgiving to the One whose love is eternal.

How good and right
it is to praise you,
God who gathers us
around this Table!
You opened your mouth,
and creation’s glory sprang forth;
you appointed the stars
to glitter in the night;
you established the waters
to nourish the earth.
You shaped us in your image,
calling us to be your children
to live with you in harmony and joy.
But we chose to serve sin,
crossing the River back into chaos,
hugging our false gods to our hearts.
But you would not give up
on your hope for us,
sending us the prophets
so we might pay attention
to the words of your heart.
When we would not forsake
our reliance on the world’s idols,
you sent Jesus to us,
who died and was raised for our sake.

Therefore, we join with those
who await us there in heaven,
as well as those who witness to us here,
singing forever of your glory:

P: Holy, holy, holy are you, God of all wanderers.
All creation cries out in praise to you.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes that we might have hope.
Hosanna in the highest!

You alone are holy,
God of all time,
and blessed is Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior.
When we had walked away
from your gracious love,
you turned to us in Christ
to save us.
When we no longer
were willing to listen,
your Word of hope
came among us
to live your love in our midst.
When we foolishly clung
to sin’s deadly ways,
Jesus reached out to pull us
from the grasp of death,
and showed us the Kingdom.

As we remember his death and resurrection for us,
we tell those who come after us
of that mystery we call faith:

P: Christ died, the witness that love is stronger than hate;
Christ was raised, the witness that life is stronger than death;
Christ will witness to us that hope is stronger than grief.

As we come to this Table
of healing and gentleness,
we pray that you would
send your Spirit upon the gifts
of the bread and of the cup,
and on your children gathered here.
As we reach out our hands
for the bread which has been broken for us,
we seek to encourage others
to discover you love;
as we drink of the Spirit of Christ,
may we no longer plead ignorance,
but with full awareness,
and open hearts, go forth
to serve all your children.

Then, when we gather at
the Wedding Banquet in your kingdom,
we will praise you,
Creating God,
Jesus of the poor,
Healing Spirit –
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.

L: Go now to tell the stories of our God.
P: We will listen to the lives of those around us as we do.
L: Go now to discover the gifts of everyone you meet.
P: We will remember Jesus, who blessed us with hope and life.
L: Go now to share all that is within you.
P: We will tell everyone – from the smallest child to the oldest person –
of the Spirit who longs to shape us into one community.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Thom M. Shuman
Transitional Pastor
Galloway Presbyterian Church, Columbus, Ohio
Associate Member, Iona Community

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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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