Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20: Having a vision, strengthens and guides people, especially in times of uncertainty and chaos.
Psalm 50: 1-8, 22-23: God is not silent, and God makes fierce demands.
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16: Faith inspires new journeys, and new lives; faith is enjoying having a hopeful imagination.
Luke 12: 32-40: Spiritual living is being alert, moving in the flow, and being constantly ready to light our lamps.
Hebrews 11.1 (to have faith, is to be sure, of the things we hope for, to be certain, of the things that we cannot see). Faith is a way of looking at what there is to be seen in the world and in ourselves and hoping, trusting, believing against all evidence to the contrary that beneath the surface we see there is vastly more that we cannot see.
(Source: Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons)

Singing from the Lectionary

Call to Worship
We are people who have been called
to follow where God leads us.
By faith we can obey,
even when asked to walk into
an unknown future.
We are people who have been challenged
to tell God’s story to others.
By faith we have the ability
to share the good news.
We are God’s children who are invited
to feast at the Table of grace.
By faith we will embrace
our sisters and brothers in Christ.
(Source: Thom Shuman)

Opening responses
O God, who called all life into being,
the earth, sea and sky are Yours
Your presence is all around us,
every atom is full of Your energy
Your spirit enlivens all who walk the earth,
with her we yearn for justice to be done
For creation to be freed from bondage,
for the hungry to be fed
For captives to be released,
for Your kingdom of peace to come to earth.
(Source: Iona, quoted on Church of Scotland)

Approach and confession
O God, You are always true to us in love
And we are left wanting to say sorry
For our faithlessness to you and to one another,
For our forgetting of the poor and broken
For our failure to cherish creation
Give us life, O God, to change
And enable us to change, that we may live
(Source: Iona, quoted on Church of Scotland)

A contemporary expression of the prophets’ ancient call to turn again to God
(see Isaiah and Psalm this week)
We offer to God our piety,
our flagellation of evil selves,
our stones and candles
and flaming confessions.
God says – enough! –
I do not delight in your blood.
We offer to God our pretty praise,
banners and flowers, fancy
words and the heart rehearsed
right out of our excellent music.
God cries – enough! –
I am weary of your burdened festivals.
We offer to God our outstretched hands,
empty, dirty, trying to pray –
but God will not listen,
until we turn from evil, learn
the ways of goodness,
live love and kindness,
care and justice.
Then – then – God says, I will listen,
I will see, I will make you clean.
Heed, then, the word of God.
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

Affirmation of faith
In the midst of hunger and war
we celebrate the promise of plenty and peace.
In the midst of oppression and tyranny
we celebrate the promise of service and freedom.
In the midst of doubt and despair
we celebrate the promise of faith and hope.
In the midst of fear and betrayal
we celebrate the promise of joy and loyalty.
In the midst of hatred and death
we celebrate the promise of love and life.
In the midst of sin and decay
we celebrate the promise of salvation and renewal.
In the midst of death on every side
we celebrate the promise of the living Christ.
(Source: Iona, quoted on Church of Scotland)

Faith is the Assurance of Things Hoped for
(A reflection on Hebrews 11:1-3 and Luke 12:32-40)
In whom we have faith,
Assure us of the hope we have in you,
That our being might be transformed into the way of Christ.
In faith may we unclench our souls,
And let go of having not.
Disabuse us of our petty hopes
The hope of ‘more for me’ driven by the fear of not having enough.
Free us from our addiction to stuff
So that we might want more,
Not of the material things of life,
But more good,
Not only for ourselves but for the whole communion of humanity.
In faith may we unclench our souls,
And seek to let go of our wealth,
The love we have to give,
The homes we have for hospitality,
The money which can change the world,
The relationships which encourage us in life.
The gifts and talents to give to others,
Letting go of our fear of losing all
By giving it for others,
Just as you have given it for us.
Help us have the faith to unclench our souls,
We hold the wealth of the Christ,
The riches of the reality of heaven,
The Kingdom of God which is the Commonwealth for all,
We hold it within us,
As stewards of a better way to be,
Shown to us in Jesus.
Help us have the faith to unclench our souls,
To release the good we hold,
To bring good in the world
Working for the common good of all,
The power of choice of giving what have,
The power of choice which saves us from the fear of losing what we’ve got
By receiving your truth and call.
In whom we have faith,
Assure us of the hope we have in you.
In faith may we unclench our souls,
That we may give of all in you.
In faith may the weakness of our will be transformed into a strength to share.
This we seek to pray into our being.
Through faith may it be truly so.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

‘The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; 
the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; 
the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring; 
these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings’. 
(Source: Parker J. Palmer)

A Big Confession About Stuff
…A prayer to go with this Sunday’s lectionary Gospel reading, Luke 12:32-40

We have this thing.
About things.
We like them
Things with labels
Things with tags
Things for us
Things to make us comfortable
Things to make us feel good
Things to make things easier
Things to make things more efficient
Things to put things in
Things to put things on
The list is endless of the things we can think of.
we have a thing for things
We like things
We like lots of things
We like stuff.
We like lots of stuff
We can’t seem to get enough.
More seems to be better.
We like stuff that we can own
We like thinking about stuff
The list is endless of the stuff we can think of.
We like worrying about stuff
The list is often endless of the stuff we can worry about.
Some of the stuff we think and worry about are things
Some of the stuff is about people and relationships, our jobs and our life
We talk about a lot of stuff
We think and talk about stuff like religion and faith, politics and entertainment.
Some of the stuff we talk about relates to those who suffer
Some of the stuff we worry about relates to those who don’t have enough
We are sorry for stuff like war and famine and violence and poverty.
We are sorry that others don’t seem to have enough things like food or health care.
We are sorry when people are stuffed around because of the problems in the world
We try to do things to help.
We’re sorry we can’t do enough
We admit that we even stuff up sometimes
But Jesus,
You say some stuff that makes us uncomfortable.
You seem to have a thing about our stuff.
You say these things about our things
You say this stuff about our stuff and our things.
Did you really mean that stuff about camels and needles?
What’s with that thing about Ananias and Sapphira?
Do we really have to give away our stuff?
Do we really have to sell all our things and give the money to the poor?
Surely you were just exaggerating to make a point.
Does that really apply to us?
The thing is that we don’t think we’re all that rich.
Certainly there are others far richer than us.
Surely there are other things and other stuff that we should think about and deal with first.
The thing is that we want to follow you
We love all that stuff about love and grace and forgiveness
But we find it hard to really grasp that stuff about giving.
Our spirit seems willing, but our resolve seems quite weak
What’s the answer?
All this stuff about our things plays on our conscience.
It make it a thing to just pray about the poor and the hungry
We feel like we should do more.
Justice, mercy, compassion and generosity start taking on intimidating reality.
It makes us feel uncomfortable.
It is hard
But, we will try to follow you
What seems impossible for us, surely is possible for you.
Mould us and change us.
Challenge and convict us.
Help us to face our fears.
Help us to overcome our discomfort
Help us to catch your vision and see things with the passion that you do.
We want to say “let it be so” and “not our will, but yours,”
But if we are honest, we can probably only manage to say “if we have to” for now.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Bless you for your grace and mercy.
Be with us and guide us.
This we ask in the name of Jesus.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

Prayers for others
God of all creation who has come to us in Jesus,
Lead us in Your way of love and fill us with Your Spirit
Choose us to bring good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
to bring sight to the blind and set free the oppressed.
So shall Your new creation come and Your will be done
Spirit of truth and judgment who alone
can cast out the powers that grip our world
At the point of crisis, give us Your discernment,
That we may accurately name what is evil
And know the way that leads to peace.
Spirit of integrity, You drive us into the desert to search out truth.
Give us the clarity to know what is right,
that we may abandon the false innocence of failing to choose at all
but may follow the purpose of Jesus Christ.
God of history, You share our joys and crushing sorrows.
You hear the cries of the afflicted,
You fill the hungry and You set free the oppressed.
We pray for the end to all injustice.
Inspire us with the all-embracing love of God
Challenge us with the sacrificial love of Jesus
Empower us with the transforming love of the Spirit
That we and all God’s children may live and be free.
(Source: Iona, quoted on Church of Scotland)

Reflections on hope (Hebrews 11)
Hope is not always comforting or comfortable. Hope asks us to open ourselves to what we do not know, to pray for illumination in this life, to imagine what is beyond our imagining, to bear what seems unbearable. It calls us to keep breathing when beloved lives have left us, to turn toward one another when we might prefer to turn away. Hope draws our eyes and hearts toward a more whole future but propels us also into the present, where Christ waits for us to work with him toward a more whole world now.
What are you hoping for these days? Who helps you hope when it is hard to hope? How does your hope call you to see what is here and now?

Blessing of Hope
So may we know
the hope
that is not just
for someday
but for this day
here, now,
in this moment
that opens to us
hope not made
of wishes
but of substance
hope made of sinew
and muscle
and bone
hope that has breath
and a beating heart
hope that will not
keep quiet
and be polite
hope that knows
how to holler
when it is called for
hope that knows
how to sing
when there seems
little cause
hope that raises us
from the dead
not someday
but this day,
every day,
again and
again and
(Jan Richardson, The Painted Prayerbook)

Closing responses
A blessing on you who are poor,
Yours is the kingdom of God.
A blessing on you who mourn,
You shall be comforted.
A blessing on you who hunger for justice,
You shall be satisfied.
A blessing on you who make peace,
You shall be called children of God.
A blessing on you who are persecuted for the cause of the right,
Yours is the Kingdom of heaven.
(Source: Iona, quoted on Church of Scotland)

God, lead us, that we may stand firm in faith for justice
Teach us love. Teach us compassion.
Above all, out of love and compassion, teach us to act. Amen

May the God who shakes heaven and earth
Whom heaven could not contain,
Who lives to disturb and heal us,
Bless you with power to go forth and proclaim the gospel. Amen
(Source: Iona Abbey Worship Book, 2001)


For music suggestions, see Natalie Sims’ website, Singing from the Lectionary (link at top of this post)

“Don’t Fear, Little Flock!”
ASH GROVE (“Let All Things Now Living”) (MIDI)

“Don’t fear, little flock!” Jesus lovingly told us,
“For it is your Father’s good pleasure to give.”
While fear, greed and hatred might seem now to hold us,
God offers a kingdom— a new way to live.
So sell your possessions, give gifts to the needy,
Make purses that nothing on earth can destroy.
God’s treasure can never be bought by the greedy;
It’s made out of justice, compassion and joy.

Don’t fear, little flock, don’t be filled with distraction,
When powerful people cause suffering and hurt.
Light lamps for God’s kingdom, be ready for action,
Seek new ways of serving; O Church, stay alert!
Show kindness to all and show love to your neighbor,
Help children who need you and cherish the old.
God gives us the kingdom and calls us to labor
In ways that are fearless and loving and bold.

Don’t fear, little flock, but take notice around you,
For right where you are, there is work you can do.
So sell what you have! With no wealth to confound you,
You’ll find, undistracted: God’s claim is on you!
In this world of suffering beyond human measure,
In this world of lying and violence and strife,
God gives us the kingdom; God gives us the treasure.
God gives us the Way and the Truth and the Life.

Biblical Texts: Luke 12:32-48; Matthew 6:19-21; 24:42-45; 25:1-13.
Tune: Welsh folk melody
Text: Copyright © 2016 Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: Web site:

Communion Liturgy – Thom Shuman

Prayer of the Day
Creator of the light:
when our sins
stain our lives,
you dissolve them
with your mercy;
when our souls become calloused
by the hardness of our hearts,
your grace makes them as soft
as a cashmere sweater,
so we can be dressed
to serve others.

Creative Word:
when you had enough
of our hollow words
and empty promises,
you came to listen
to the echoes of your hope
deep within our hearts.
When you became bored
with our endless meetings
and petty squabbles,
you took delight
in our willingness
to follow you.

Breath of Creation:
when we could be sitting
at home watching television,
you encourage us
to rest in stillness with the grieving.
When we could be out shopping,
you nudge us to share our abundance
with the poor and needy.
When we could be relaxing
in our achievements,
you sit us down next to a child,
struggling to read.

God in Community, Holy in One,
as we seek to grow in our faith,
hear us as we pray as Jesus has taught us,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We would like to keep our sins hidden and our failures a secret. But God would not have us keep silent, but speak our confessions out loud, so we may be blessed with God’s mercy and grace. I invite you to pray with me, saying,

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
You have a vision of all people as your beloved children, Imaginative God, but we see folks whose language, dress, and skin make them different. You have a vision of a universe filled with goodness and beauty, and we damage it with litter, with violence, with poor choices. You have a vision of a Table where we can feast on your grace and hope, but we line up at the fast food counters of sin and greed.
Forgive us, Visionary of Mercy, as we confess that we are not “insiders” but immigrants searching for our true home. By faith, may we be willing to be as gracious, as compassionate, and as hopeful as you are. You love us enough to want us to be with you forever, so may we take the hand of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who leads us into your kingdom.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
L: There is nothing to fear. God’s hope is more tenacious than our despair; God’s joy is more resilient than our grief; God’s love is more compelling than our hate.
P: By grace, we are gathered to God. By faith, we rest in God’s promises of forgiveness and restoration. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
It is by faith that you bless us, hopeful God. So, it is by faith that we offer back to you a portion of what we have and who we are, trusting that you will take these gifts and use them in the work of that kingdom of justice and hope, of grace and wonder, which is yours. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
L: May God be with you.
P: And also with you.
L: Open your hearts to God, followers of Jesus.
P: We open them, so the Light of Love shines through us.
L: People of God, give thanks to the Lord our God.
P: It is our greatest joy and honor to offer thanksgiving to God.

You called the heavens and the earth
out of the deep emptiness of chaos:
soft breezes caressing our cheeks,
songbirds caroling your glory,
children tap dancing through mud puddles –
all that we see, hear, and feel
have sprung from your imagination,
Creating God.
All that you thought, dreamed, and wondered
was shaped for us
that we might live with you in peace and hope.
But we wondered what we would do with your glory and power;
we dreamed of being divine and thought we were your equal.
So we reached out for wealth and power,
those false idols who enticed us
even as they ensnared us with their lies.
You sent the prophets
to remind us of your vision for us,
and to assure us of your hope for us.
But we took no delight in their words.
Then, your Word took on flesh
and came to us as Jesus the Christ,
to summon us out of the empty lives
we had created for ourselves.

Therefore, we gather with your faithful ones,
in this time and in this place,
joining our voices with the heavenly choirs
who sing of your justice and grace:

P: Holy, holy, holy are you, God the Creator!
mountains sing your praises,
the valleys echo your glory.

We welcome the One who comes in your name,
who comes to call us to life.

Holy are you, God of infinite imagination,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son,
our Hope, our Lord and Savior.
He should have been clothed
in royal robes of purple and gold,
but put on the uniform
of a condemned prisoner,
so we could be clothed in your grace.
He should have been given
every honor the world has,
but was cursed
so we might receive your blessings.
He should have had a long and healthy life,
but was put to death at an early age,
so we might live forever with you.

Remembering that is not our words which save us,
but your imaginative Word of beauty and love;
remembering that it is not our achievements,
but our hope in Jesus Christ which assures us of your love,
we celebrate that mystery we call faith:

P: Lord Jesus, you call us:
open our eyes that we may see you,
open our souls that we may long for your presence,
open our hearts so we may follow you.

God of Gentleness:
pour out your Spirit of grace and peace
upon these, your simple gifts,
which become the Bread of Heaven
and the Cup of Salvation for us.
As we taste the goodness of Christ,
and let his brokenness heal us,
may our eyes be opened
to the oppression and injustices
the world would keep us from seeing.
As the rich wine of hope and joy
refreshes our hearts and souls,
may we be ready
to share all we have been given,
to speak up for the voiceless,
to gather the lost into our family.

And when all time has stopped moving
and all the faithful have been gathered,
when we sit down at the feast prepared for all,
we will join hands to sing
the eternal anthem of your vision
of hope and peace for all creation,
proclaiming forever and ever your glory:
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

L: By faith, let us go out as God’s people.
P: We will gather others around us and dance into God’s kingdom.
L: By faith, let us go to follow Jesus to serve with compassion and grace.
P: We will share the good news of hope and peace with everyone we meet.
L: By faith, let us go to join the Holy Spirit in welcoming all of God’s children.
P: We will add as many chairs as are needed, so all may feast on God’s love.

© 2016 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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