On Mondays I am sharing liturgical writing focused on the Luke passages for each Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s contributors share more reflection than straight forward worship resources. These will engage and energize the sermon or homily in a service. I finish by sharing some of my own liturgy.
Patricia Wood of Los Gatos, California, offers a poem shaped as Call to Worship and Invocation — “Who is the Stranger?” Her first two stanzas are very personal and the third more generic. Consider in your context whether hearing these might invite folks to share aloud some of their own experiences. It might work better in small contexts — it would in mine. In a larger congregation people might turn to neighbors and share a memory as a passing of the peace with depth.
Martha Spong of Mechanicburg, Pennsylvania follows with a reflection on the Boston Marathon bombing that continues with the memory of a particular teacher’s gifts to her entire school. This is a wonderful illustration for a sermon but may well also begin interactive sharing as people consider their own call.
Gift of Patricia Wood
Who is the Stranger?
Climbing temple steps in Thailand,
American white woman alone
trying to count 173 steps in
just-learned Thai. Buddhist
monk forbidden to touch
or be touched by woman
all the way
Who is the Stranger?
On a mission to Haiti halted at the airport gate
by the worst hurricane in history.
Making plans to go weeks later–
Filling tiny vials with oil blessed by congregations
Love offerings for
heart-broken parents, orphaned children, lost dogs,
homeless and churchless
almost every one.
Work and anointing done for now
Preparing to leave with tears exhausted, hands crusted
Encircled in Haitian worship time:
Now, you take this, the oil we have not used,
Consecrated again in our hands,
back to your congregations and break it open for them.
Bless them for we have no poverty
It is what we have
that they need.
Who is the Stranger?
Is it the one lost in the pain of chemo?
The one dirty by the grocery door?
The one entrapped by dementia?
The one no longer pretty to look at or easy to understand after a stroke?
Or could it be the one afraid to make a call,
ask a name, answer endless questions, or spend one hour to hear one sentence?
Could it be me,
stranger to these places and bodies,
afraid to follow the path of fear and helplessness?
Jesus, help us in our strangerness. Help us to be neighbors, offering what we have to those who need our mercy and care. Amen.
Gift of Martha Spong
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. His classmates at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School called him “Jahar,” because his name was too hard to pronounce. In the 24 hours after the FBI released his picture, those classmates took to the airwaves, declaring him a nice, regular guy. He was captain of the wrestling team, a good student and city scholarship winner, well-liked, maybe a bit of a stoner at college. They made him sound normal, one of them.
He took on the name they used as the identity on his Twitter handle. Jahar.
How did it sound in his ears? How did it feel to be renamed, to be changed for the ease of others?
He couldn’t have felt left out, said a classmate and friend, because the school is so diverse. Many languages are spoken at home. Most classes had students from multiple countries and differing backgrounds.
At Portland High School in Maine, the student body is similarly varied. In a given year, three dozen different languages may be spoken in the homes of the thousand or less students. Waves of immigrants over the past thirty years have come from Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Robo-calls with special news come in a wide variety of tongues. An ELL teacher, Marge Sampson, realized that students’ names were being mispronounced regularly, in classes and hallways and even at graduation. She volunteered to read the names each year at the ceremony, taking the time to be sure she knew the correct pronunciations whether the students came from Cambodia, Somalia or Iraq. Sampson says she learned that, “how your name is pronounced is how you say it’s pronounced.”
Jesus tells a story of people too important, too religious, too afraid, too much in a hurry to stop. He tells a story of someone who takes time and trouble to help, anointing the wounds ignored by others. It’s a lesson his followers sometimes forget, but not Marge Sampson, who put in the effort to show mercy and anointing, one name at a time.
Gift of Maren Tirabassi
Call to Worship
Let us come to worship God.
We come with bright spirits.
Love God with your spirit –
shine on your neighbors.
We come with lonely hearts.
Love God with your heart
and discover the many gifts of your neighbors.
We come with open minds.
Love God with your mind
and welcome all your neighbors—
every one of your neighbors.
We come with our strengths …
and our weaknesses,
successes and failures, hopes and doubts.
Love God with your strengths and weaknesses
and recognize yourself
in the mirror of your neighbor.
We come for worship
to be surrounded by God’s love
by the neighbors God gives us.
Invocation: O God, we come not to test you or justify ourselves but to ask for your three precious gifts – recognition of the neighbors that lie hurting on our everyday paths, the courage to give with compassion when it is needed, and the openness to receive compassion when we most have need. Amen.
Prayer of Confession: O Holy God, we confess our lack of love. We do not love ourselves or our neighbors. We pass by suffering and misfortune because of fear or busyness or preoccupation. We hold prejudices against people as deep as those against the Samaritans. Heal our pains, amend our faults, and guide us into dangerous compassion, for we pray in the name of Jesus, our most beloved neighbor, who cared for us even to the cross. Amen.
Assurance of Grace: Our lovelessness is past. Rescued by forgiveness no one can ever be foreign or frightening or foolish to us ever again. Our wholeness within turns us into God’s first responders.
Luke for Sharing – A Community Resource
A Collaboration of Forty-four Writers on the Scriptures from Luke
June – November, 2013
edited by Maren C. Tirabassi
All of these resources were given freely and they may be used in worship contexts. They may be adapted to fit your context. Please cite the original author when you reprint them or share them orally. For any other use please contact me so that I can put you directly in touch with that particular author.