I was on a long airplane ride yesterday and started writing liturgy — some of which I will use and some of which …. nope, I probably won’t. It’s been a while since I offered some of my own liturgy. The following begins with a Transfiguration with just-a-hint of mardi gras invocation (which has a specifically U.S. touch) and a confession and assurance of grace for the same day. Next is an Ash Wednesday invocation, responsive confession and a description of the way we share ashes at Madbury United Church of Christ. Finally, not quite sure how to blend the first Sunday in Lent with St. Valentine’s Day, there are a couple possible calls to worship and a rather silly hymn adaptation. Enjoy!
God, we are on the pancake, bugle-bead brink
of forty days to prepare for Easter.
We reflect on Jesus as the party-guy,
the LED-on-the-mountain guy,
before we focus
on his teaching and healing,
his love and willingness to suffer.
We linger in our own
Super-Bowl commercial sentimentality,
before the journey of self-understanding
and honesty when the masks drop.
Thank you, God,
for the glitter and the grace.
Prayer of Confession
Gracious God, forgive us when we fail to notice the light of sunset, the light in a child’s eyes, or the reflection from anyone’s tears. Forgive us when we choose to ignore the spotlight on an injustice, the hazard lights flashing from the off-the-road crash of a friend’s life, the illumination from the selfie stick of conscience. Help us when we are momentarily blinded by a terrible situation, or when the batteries die in some guidance that has been keeping us on course for years, for we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Assurance of Grace
God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and a light upon our path. By the shining of the Transfiguration we briefly see all that is true and begin our journeys forgiven.
Invitation to Communion for Transfiguration Sunday
Leader: This is the Bread we come to share.
People: May God shine light on the farmers and the bakers.
Leader: This is the Bread we come to eat.
People: May God shine light on the truck drivers, and
those who stock the grocery shelves.
Leader: This is the Cup we come to pour.
People: May God shine light on grape pickers and factory workers.
Leader: This is the Cup we come to drink.
People: May God shine light those who translate
and print the Good News.
Leader: This is Bread and Cup and this is Body and Blood.
People: This is the Sacrament we share with God,
because others have stood in God’s light –
spiritually and physically — to give it to us.
Ash Wednesday – a prayer (John 7:53-8:11)
who shapes the letters of forgiveness
before the challenge to begin again,
you guide us through
our own dust and ashes,
avoiding the stones of condemnation.
Give us hope for this Ash Wednesday
and the Lenten days to come,
and turn our cinder-lives into embers.
Ash Wednesday Prayer of Confession
Call to Confession Joel 2: 12-13
Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord,your God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
O God, we confess the damage we may do our bodies by those things we eat or do not eat, drink or do not drink, by over-sleeping or sleep-deprivation, by failure to exercise or failure to seek medical attention, by life-destroying emotions and angers.
Forgive us, O God, and make us whole.
O God, we confess that we love ourselves too much or too little, ignore our families or smother them, fail to love our neighbors or fail to recognize that everyone is a neighbor.
Forgive us, O God, and teach us love.
O God, we confess our sins of hesitation – when kindness should be done, generosity or common decency shown, or risky justice pursued.
Forgive us, O God, and wake us up.
God, we confess our spoken sins – gossip or lies, betrayal of trust or exaggeration, hurtful criticism, prejudiced jokes, cheap agreements without commitment.
Forgive us, O God, and keep us quiet.
God, we confess the harm we do when we don’t think we will be caught.
Forgive us, O God, and brighten the mirror of our conscience.
O God, we confess our joylessness – not noticing the beauty of the earth or the sweet passing of time, staying aloof from people and animals, letting distractions eat our living.
Forgive, O God, every time we do not open our spirits, our minds, our emotional hearts, or our bodies to the blessings you are waiting to give us.
Assurance of Grace: Sung seated “Amazing Grace”
How we share ashes:
I believe the most significant part of our Ash Wednesday service is the sharing of ashes. I always have been uncomfortable as a clergyperson, which is not only a vocation full of sinners but specifically of sinners who commit many crimes – large and small — in churches, “imposing” ashes on others in the context of the community beginning of Lent. I also find many of the words chosen for this ritual to be well … discouraging. They don’t remind me of the essence of the story I recall when Jesus had his fingers writing in the dust rather than gripping stones, and forgiveness preceded the challenge to live a changed life, rather than following repentance.
So on Ash Wednesday, many come forward in a line. I hold a bowl of ashes from the burnt stems of last years palms and some newspapers. The first person places a finger in the ashes and crosses her or his own forehead or back of the hand. I say, “Remember you are forgiven.” Then I give the bowl to that person who turns and holds it for the next one in line to self-impose ashes and hear the words. I go to the end of the line. Each person offers ashes and forgiveness and each person receives it. After I have put ashes on myself, I too hear, “you are forgiven.”
Valentine’s Day — First Sunday in Lent
Responsive Calls to Worship
We enter the season of Lent – the season when we explore
God’s amazing love for us.
Let us love God with our hearts, souls, minds and strength.
All around us are people who need love –
lonely, crabby, hurting, hoping people.
Let us love our neighbors with a true depth of Spirit.
Often the last person we send a Valentine to is ourselves.
Yet God loves us without reservation and calls us to
self-love as well as compassion for others.
Sing it; say it; share it; post it to Facebook …
Our God is a God of love!
Remember it; trust it; hold on to it in hard times …
Our God is a God of love!
Don’t be selfish with it; don’t use it to be intolerant of others;
don’t think it makes you better that someone else.
Our God is a God of love for everyone!
Don’t ignore it; don’t think you aren’t worth it;
don’t put it off till “someday,”
don’t think that just because Lent’s here it’s not “serious” enough.
Our God is a God of love for you, for me, for all the world.
Be Thou My Valentine sung to the tune of “Be Thou My Vision” Slane
Be Thou my Valentine, fill me with love.
Help me to reach out
with bare hand not glove
to each of your children – the far and the near –
the ones filled with laughter,
and the ones bright with tears.
Thank you for moments of gentle romance.
Thank you for passion
that makes our hearts dance.
Thank you for giving spouse, partner and friend,
your promise in grieving
that the love never ends.
Praise to the God of brash Solomon’s Song,
Shepherd of those
who don’t think they belong,
Ring of sweet joy around all who engage,
and Guide in divorces
for those turning the page.
Be Thou my Valentine, teach me to tell
all of your children
who sit by dry wells —
your Water is Living, you are the true Vine,
and, when there’s a party –
You’re the One with the wine!