Monday 5/22 Prayer

O God, as you know, I spent all of Saturday in a meeting working toward awareness of systemic racial injustice counseling recognition of realities I already see in the context of an organization that is already trying to make a difference.

So I find myself asking, “How long, O God? How long before talk results in action?” Because I realize it is now about 25 years since I got it that I’m white. A looong time ago, really. And I’m not sure what-all I’ve done with that knowing.

Before that I primarily identified as female, (although now I understand better that cys-female is a more complete descriptor).

And for a female growing up in the 1960s, things were just beginning to open up, as evidenced by my guidance counselor saying I could be not just a teacher or a nurse, but a guidance counselor or a physical therapist. Not, according to my youth pastor during some of those years, a pastor. Not, according to the good-old-boy network I encountered after seminary, a pastor with a church call. At least not a pastor with a full-time church call.

But there we have it. My awareness of having been discriminated against leads me to digress, O God. Falling rather easy prey once again to the siren call to center myself and my experience. Emphasizing once again my affinity with those who struggle rather than the group with privilege that, as a white woman, I am unwillingly but no longer so unwittingly a part of.

And so back to my original question, how long, O God? When do I move beyond recognition and reflection to action? I’ve been part now of an extended reflection group and then several one-shot racism awareness groups. I’ve heard–want to heed–the call to move from “not racist” to “anti-racist.” From Mary to Martha, or even Amos or Peter. But so far these gathering, these groups, don’t seem to result in action.

I know I am not such a good process person, God. I am often ready to move into action, to get going, to grow legs onto our plans so that we walk like we talk, at a pace that seems to alarm some folks. My last list of what we could do was met with stunning silence, and then a bit of buy-in for one possibility. The second meeting about that one action, which was planned for 3/4 of a year from now, was renowned for “how much we got done,” indicating such move to action is not so familiar or frequent. But we have yet to have a meeting #3.

A recent intra-church meeting of black and white churches in my town resulted in participation by 6/8 churches–much better than efforts to just gather pastors together has garnered. And we planned another meeting, less then a month away, to pray about what to do next. Help me, O God, to honor prayer and process and persons as well as–or even over–program and product, while continuing to also honor the call to action.

So here I am again-still-yet, God, asking “How long?” Maybe now is the time? Maybe enough talk, time for action? Or maybe, better yet, “How?!?”

Am I called to take the bull by the horns to make action happen? to hear someone else “into speech” and action? to keep looking for a group/sub-group ready to talk and walk at the same time?

Make me diligent in prayer–now and toward and at that next meeting, O God. Amen.

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Narrative Lectionary 4/23/23 Acts 10:1-17, 34-35 Sermon and Worship Resources

This pericope invites thinking about who is “in” and who is “out” and who decides.

Discussion of a painting of the Last Supper with odd revelers and the changing of its title to “Feast in the House of Levi” when artist confronted by the  Inquisition about including strange characters in a painting of this holy, solemn occasion

See also in Wikipedia:

HYMN Come, Brother, Sit with Me                                                                                     Written music:

Audio on youtube


Fullsome exploration of hospitality, including references to Peter/Cornelius  in six lessons or sections with links to further resources and all that is listed above at                                                                   

New Yorker cartoon about hate as a family value/holding hate in common

This pericope lends itself to resources dealing with issues of inclusion and exclusion, a topic dealt with in the Belhar Confession of Faith. Link to the Confession as accepted in the PC(USA) Book of Confessions at

See original liturgical resources inspired by Belhar below.

Call to Worship

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl.

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

Leader: We share one faith. We have one calling. We are of one soul and one mind.

People: We are one people. We have one God and Father.

Leader: We are filled with one Spirit. We are baptized with one baptism.

People: We eat of one bread and drink of one cup.

Leader:  We are one people. We confess one name.

People:  We are obedient to one Lord. We work for one cause.

ALL: Thanks be to God!

Prayers of the People:

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl.

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

All: We share one hope; together coming to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ

[Prayers of thanksgiving and joy/petitions for love and hope]

All: Together we know and bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; and that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness.

[Prayers for those in need] 

All: Together we are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity. We pray together. Together we serve God in this world. Together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity.

[Prayers for the Christian community to live up to its calling]

Leader: In the name of Christ Jesus, who unites us in the prayer that he taught us….

[The Lord’s Prayer]

Confession of Sin #1

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl.

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

Call to Confession: God calls the church to follow him, standing by those who suffer and are in need, so that justice may roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Let us confess the ways in which we do not follow God’s call.


One: O God, you bring justice to the oppressed and give bread to the hungry.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You free the prisoner and restore sight to the blind.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You support the downtrodden and protect the stranger.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You block evildoers and help orphans and widows.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You stand against injustice. You stand with the wronged.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You condemn those who seek their own interests, controlling and harming others.

All: Forgive us when we do not follow you.

One: You bring about justice and true peace among people.

All: God, forgive us when we do not follow you.

Grant us your grace. Embolden us that, as your people, we may stand where you stand.

Assurance of Forgiveness

One: God’s life-giving Word and Spirit enable us to live in a new obedience, opening new possibilities of life for society and the world. Thanks be to God for the Good News:

All: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven

Prayer of Confession #2

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl.

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”


The gift and obligation of unity is given and commanded by God for the Christian church, 

yet the one worldwide community of believers is not visibly and consistently united. Let us confess our need for God’s grace.

Prayer of Confession: God, forgive us. Our communion is not always visible to the world. We allow threats to unity to enter the church, making it hard to see that we are your community. At times we act as though we do not need each other. We do not always love one another. Sometimes we do not know and bear one another’s burdens. At times we fail build each other up. We do not always give ourselves willingly and joyfully to one another.  Forgive and strengthen us so that we may live in the unity that you grant us.

Assurance of Forgiveness

One: By Christ’s work, we are reconciled and united with God and with one another. Thanks be to God for the Good News:   All: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of Confession #3

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl.

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

Call to Confession:

One: God has given the church the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ, but we fall short of God’s call to be salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Prayer of Confession:

All: God, our fears and prejudices run deep. Sometimes we can only see our own point of view.

We stick with those who are like us, rarely venturing outside our comfort zones. We do not hear

those crying for justice and true peace. We blame those who are suffering and in need instead of standing by them. We deny the power of your gospel to unite us with those who are different from us.

Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Use us to open new possibilities of life for all of your people.

Assurance of Forgiveness

One: We are reconciled with God and with one another through Christ’s work. Thanks be to God

for the Good News: All:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

Statements/Confessions of Faith

Confession of Faith #1 from article 1 and the beginning of Article 2 of the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl.

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

We believe in God–the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

who gathers, protects and cares for the church.

We believe the church is one worldwide communion of saints,

called from the entire human family.

We believe the church is the single community of believers,

reconciled with God and with one another.

We believe that through the working of God’s Spirit,

unity is a binding force and also that we must seek this unity,

which must become visible to the world. We believe that the sin of division, separation and hatred between people and groups has been conquered by Christ.

We commit ourselves to protecting the unity of the church universal.

We pledge to make this unity active in all of our words, thoughts and deeds.

Confession of Faith #2

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl.

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

It is through Christ’s reconciling work that we are the church united to God and to other believes.

As the church, we are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world.

   We are entrusted with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ.

As the church, we are witnesses by both word and deed.

    We proclaim the new heaven and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

As the church, we proclaim that God’s life-giving Word and Spirit has conquered sin and death.

     God conquers irreconciliation, hatred and bitterness.

As the church, God’s life-giving Word and Spirit enable us to live in a new obedience,

    God opens new possibilities of life for society and the world.

We declared ourselves ready to venture out on the road of obedience and reconciliation,

     servants of God, who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people.

Confession of Faith #3/Litany

Developed from the Belhar Confession  Please include these words if using/adapting:

“By Barbara Hedges-Goettl.

Permission given to use or adapt for use in faith communities”

The three parts of this litany may be used separately or in flexible combinations.


One: We believe that unity is both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ.

Many: Through the work of God’s Spirit, unity is a binding force.

One: At the same time, unity must also be earnestly pursued and sought.

Many: We must be continually built up to attain this unity.

One: Our unity must become visible to the world.

Many: Separation and hatred between people and groups is sin, already conquered by Christ.

One: Anything threatening our unity has no place in the church.

Many: We commit ourselves to resisting anything that threatens our unity.

One: The unity of the people of God is active and made manifest.

All: Thanks be to God.

b. (Here it works well for the two groups to make the proclamations below to each other.)

Group One: The communion of saints called from the entire human family is united by God.

Group Two: As the people of God, we love one another.

Group One: We experience, practice, and pursue community with one another.

Group Two: We give ourselves willingly and joyfully to one another.

Group One: We are a benefit and blessing to one another.

Group Two: We share one faith and have one calling.

Group One: We are one body, and are of one soul and mind.

Group Two: We have one God and Father.

Group One: We are filled with one Spirit.

Group Two: We are baptized with one baptism.

Group One: We eat of one bread and drink of one cup.

Group Two: We confess one name and are obedient to one Lord.

Group One: We work for one cause and share one hope.

All: Thanks be to God.


All: Together we confess that God unites us in faith.

Together we come to know the height, and the breadth, and the depth of the love of Christ.

Together we are built up to the full stature of Christ.

Together we know and bear one another’s burdens.

We admonish one another. We comfort one another. We suffer with one another.

We need one another and we build up one another.

Together we pray. Together we serve God in this world.

Together we fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity.

Thanks be to God for drawing and keeping us together.

Eucharistic Resources from The Confession of Belhar                                                                           by Catherine J. Purves

Invitation to the Lord’s Table (See Luke 13: 29)

Friends, this is the joyful feast of the people of God! They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.                                                  All will be together there at the table; all will be reconciled.                                                       God’s justice will be established, and we will be at peace in Christ.

This is the Lord’s table.                                                                                                                        Our Savior invites all those who trust in him to share the feast which he has prepared.

Invitation to the Lord’s Table (See Ephesians 4: 4-5)

This is the table of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here the community of faith gathers.                           United in baptism, we eat of one bread and drink of one cup, we confess one name,                    are obedient to one Lord, and share one hope. Come to the table where our unity in Christ becomes visible, and where the triune God gathers, protects, and cares for the church.

Great Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you. And also with you.                                                                                       Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.                                                                              Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.                                    We praise you O Living God, by whose purpose and will all things came into being.                            In a gracious act of love you formed a people, gathering, protecting and caring for them through Word and Spirit. You called us to be the light of the world, a reflection                                      of your glory and compassion, your justice and your love. When we allowed prejudice, fear, selfishness, and unbelief to lead us from the path of obedient faithfulness, again                     and again you sent prophets who called for justice and reconciliation.                                               When our need was greatest, you did not abandon us, but sent us your Son,                                       our Lord and Savior, so that we might be reconciled with you and with one another,                            one church, united in worship with all the faithful of every time and place singing forever to the glory of your name:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.                          Hosanna in the highest.

We praise you, O God, for your grace embodied in Jesus Christ. In him,                                    humanity has been restored and we are a new community. In him,                                                 the powers of separation and division and hatred have been defeated. In him,                                            the reign of righteousness and truth, freedom and justice has drawn near.                                 

Through his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, his ascension and his lordship, we are now certain of our hope and live in anticipation of his kingdom of peace                          and justice. Remembering all that you have done for us, and knowing that you are still                           at work in the world, we take this bread and we share this cup, giving thanks                                       for our redemption and reconciliation now complete in Jesus Christ.                                                And we offer up our lives as a proclamation of his lordship, celebrating his promises                            of unity, reconciliation, justice and peace. Praise to you, Lord Jesus:

Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.                                                        Lord Jesus, come in glory. Come, Holy Spirit.

Let these gifts of bread and wine be for us the body and blood of Christ.                                         In this sharing may we be united with him and with one another.                                         Reconciled, forgiven, united, and fed, send us out to live in obedience and sacrifice,                       until that day when all will gather at your table in glory, proclaiming: Jesus is Lord! Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, in the holy church, all glory and honor are yours, almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer After Communion

Holy and just God, at this our Lord’s table we have known the power of your promises and the mystery of his presence. We have seen that we are one in him, reconciled                     with our sisters and brothers, united in praise and in service. Being fed and fortified,                       lead us now into the world to proclaim your justice and to work for your peace,                             that all would come to see and know that Jesus is Lord and Savior.                                                  To himbe honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

Hymns Related to the Themes of the Belhar Confession

Taken from The Presbyterian Hymnal, Glory to God


   “In Christ There Is No East or West”  # 317, # 318

   “The Church’s One Foundation”   # 321

   “What Does the Lord Require of You?”   # 70

   “We Are One in the Spirit”   # 300

   “We Are One in Christ Jesus”   # 322  (Latin American tune) *

   “Help Us Accept Each Other”   # 754

   “Come!  Live in the Light!”   # 749  (Micah 6: 8)

   “Called as Partners in Christ’s Service”   # 761

   “Faith Begins by Letting Go”   # 684  (familiar tune)

   “Let Us Build a House:  All Are Welcome”   # 301 *

   “O Christ, the Great Foundation”   # 361

   “O for a World”   # 372

   “O God, We Bear the Imprint”   # 759

   “We Gather Here in Jesus’ Name”   # 501  (Communion) *

   “We Shall Overcome”   # 379


   “Come Now, O Prince of Peace”   # 103  (Korean)

   “Dream On, Dream On”   # 383  (Korean – difficult tune, good words)

   “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive”   # 444 *

   “I Come with Joy”   # 515  (Communion)

   “O Day of Peace”   # 373  (tune:  Jerusalem)

   “When God Restored Our Common Life”   # 74  (not completely sure about this one)  


   “For the Healing of the Nations”   # 346

   “Lord, You Give the Great Commission”   # 298

   “My Song Forever Shall Record”   # 67  (Psalm 89, familiar tune)

   “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout:  Canticle of the Turning”   # 100 

              (Magnificat, Irish Ballad tune)

   “My Soul Gives Glory to My God”   # 99  (Magnificat)

   “Show Us, O Lord, Your Steadfast Love”   # 449  (Psalm 85)

   “Sing Praise to God, Whose Mighty Acts”   # 356  (Psalm 9)

   “The Days Are Surely Coming”   # 357

   “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”   # 435

The above liturgical resources related to the Belhar, plus others from the PC(USA), may be found at

Other Belhar resources may be found at

Exegetical resources

This story is more about the conversion of Peter than about that of Cornelius                                         Gives historic background regarding Cornelius as a centurion, and then addresses possible themes of where the spirit is leading us today and how to have genuine dialogue across differences. Calvin’s Commentary on Acts Detailed analysis of the Greek (1930) Acts challenges the assumptions of the early Christians regarding who the gospel is for, shocking those who are already in the church                           Examines the story in the context of the larger narrative of Acts and Peter’s ministry overall.                                                                                                                                    Christians of Jewish descent are “astounded” that the Holy Spirit of God is being given to “even” the Gentiles.                                                        In usual circumstances Peter, as a Jew, would never have gone into Cornelius’ home.

The practice of welcoming travelers was a tactic to neutralize potential threats;

here hospitality changes how Jewish Christians see Gentile converts.

How is Christian community blocked today?

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Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources Matthew 28:16-20

Offering prayer from Sunday by Sunday, on the Lutheran Church of Australia website.

Call to Worship uses categories derived from a prayer by John Birch, and posted on his Faith and Worship website


ALL: O God, by your word and by our worship,

shine through us as your light in the darkness.

By your word and by our worship,

speak through us as your voice in the wilderness.

By your word and by our worship,

embolden us to be your hope in the face of hopelessness.

By your word and by our worship,

strengthen us in our weakness, and fill us with your peace.

Through your word and through our worship,

make us more and more your resurrection people. Amen.

*HYMN #107 Celebrate with Joy and Singing



O God, you call us to be your voices in this world and we stay silent.                                                                                                    You call us to be your hands in this world and we keep them hidden. 

You call us to be your feet in this world and we go our own way. 

When we meet those who are doubting and we say nothing, forgive us. 

When we meet those who need your touch and we do nothing, forgive us.  When we are called to take up your cross, and we carry our own  baggage instead, forgive us. 


ASSURANCE of FORGIVENESS  (Romans 12:2 New Living Bible )  God transforms us into new people by changing the way we think. Then we learn to know God’s will for us, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 

Thanks be to God for the Good News:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.    


PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION                   Pat Hudson

GOSPEL LESSON  Matt. 28:16-20              NRSV pp. 806/NIV p. 1550 

                    The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

HYMN #371 Lift High the Cross

SERMON Our Resurrection Responsibility             

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (Confession of Belhar)

We believe that God has revealed God’s self as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged. We believe that God calls the church to follow God; bringing justice to the oppressed and giving bread to the hungry; freeing the prisoner and restoring sight to the blind; supporting the downtrodden, protecting the stranger, helping orphans and widows and blocking the path of the ungodly. We believe the church must stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

*CLOSING HYMN #429 Lord, You Give the Great Commission


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Easter Sunday bulletin April 9, 2023 Matthew 28:1-10

This service begins with Good Friday images and readings for those who didn’t have/attend a Good Friday service.

Image from

INTROIT: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded       Pick-up Choir

OPENING LITANY (from Matthew 27)

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. Were you there?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (Were you there?)

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (Were you there?)

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until 3 in the after- noon. And about 3:00 Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. Were you there? 

Were you there when the sun refused to shine? (Were you there?)

Were you there when the son refused to shine? (Were you there?)

O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when the sun refused to shine?  (Were you there?)

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” Were you there?

Were you there when he rose up from the grave? (Were you there?)

Were you there when he rose up from the grave? (Were you there?)

O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when he rose up from the grave?  (Were you there?)

ANTHEM Up from the Grave He Arose Pickup choir


Lord Jesus Christ, the light of your love shines on! Your light has come into the world, And neither darkness, nor evil, nor even death itself can overcome it. Help us confess our weakness and sin assured that you will overcome it.


We confess that we remain captive to doubt and fear, bound by the ways that lead to death. We overlook the poor and the hungry and pass by those who mourn. We are deaf to the cries of the

oppressed and indifferent to calls for peace. We despise the weak and abuse the earth you made. Forgive us, God of mercy. Help us to trust your power to change our lives and make us new, that we may know the joy of life abundant, given in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.



(moment of silent personal confession) Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

How much does God love us? Enough to send the divine heart, hope, and spirit to us, not to condemn us, but to save us. Not by our speaking or doing, but by God’s good and precious grace, we are saved.

Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.      



PRAYER for ILLUMINATION             Jennifer Ryman
GOSPEL LESSON  Matt.  28:1-11                 NRSV p. 806/NIV pp. 1549-50 

EPISTLE LESSON     I Cor. 15:19-26                        NRSV p. 932/NIV p. 1790

                    The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

HYMN of PRAISE #119 The Strife is O’er

SERMON   He Is Going Ahead     Rev. Barb Hedges-Goettl    

 WE RESPOND TO GOD                         


After the instruments play this through once, please join in singing:

I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the roses;

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses. 

Chorus: And he walks with me, and He talks with me, 

And He tells me I am His own, 

And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.    

He speaks, and the sound of His voice Is so sweet the birds hush their 

singing; And the melody that He gave to me Within my heart is ringing.  

I’d stay in the garden with Him Tho’ the night around me be falling; 

But He bids me go thru the voice of woe, His voice to me is calling.

AFFIRMATION of FAITH (from the Brief Statement of Faith)

We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, teaching by word and deed and blessing the children, healing the sick and binding up the brokenhearted, eating with outcasts, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel. 

Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, Jesus was crucified, suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world. God raised this Jesus from the dead, vindicating his sinless life, breaking the power of sin and evil, delivering us from death to life eternal. 

With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.



The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

…who forever sing the glory of your name:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might; heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!

… Great is the mystery of faith:

Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.

WORDS of INSTITUTION (Matthew 26:26-30)



OFFERING                                                                                                       *Doxology                           Hymnal #592 *Prayer of Dedication


*CLOSING HYMN #123 Jesus Christ Is Ris’n Today                  

 CHARGE and BLESSINGPOSTLUDE                                                                                                           

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Narrative Lectionary Sermon: Matthew 22:1-14

Last week we were in Matthew 20 talking about the Kingdom

In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard

All of whom were paid the daily minimum wage

whether they deserved it or not

And today those invited, those presumably deserving, refuse to come

          So that, ultimately, everyone everywhere

          From the highways and the byways

From the margins and the back alleys

          Are invited instead, and they come—the bad and the good

          Mingled together, like the wheat and the weeds growing together until the harvest

          Mingled together, present at the feast

          Until the king sorts them out

This is one of those passages where the “Thanks be to God” following the reading of the Word

Might have a bit of incredulity, a bit of thanks-a-lot to it.

We do not have a story with easy and accessible Good News

We don’t have a meek and mild Jesus

We don’t seem to have a reasonable or merciful king

And this reflects Jesus being really-and-truly enroute to the cross

In fact, he tells the disciples this for a third time in Matthew 20

And our passage today comes after Palm Sunday in Matthew 21

And while that passage is frequently termed the “Triumphal Entry,”

Jesus is entering Jerusalem to die

And Jesus’ sayings are not calculated to please the Scribes and Pharisees

Who eventually realize that he is talking about them in his parables about judgement

And likely didn’t please some others in his audience as well, including the disciples

          In addition to touting unpopular labor practices by paying everyone the same

          Jesus declares that the last will be first and the first will be last

          He tells James’ and John’s mom that they will drink the (bitter) cup that Jesus drinks

          That the one who wants to be great must be a servant

          And tells them again that he came to give his life as a ransom for many

          And he answers the authorities’ questions about his authority

                  by asking his own questions about the authority of John the Baptist

                 (which they can’t answer.)

Jesus tells two other parables about people who don’t do what they should

One about the son who said he’d do his father’s bidding and doesn’t

And the one who said he wouldn’t do it, and then did

Illustrating the ages-old saying that actions speak louder than words         

That sometimes our behavior speaks so loudly that  can’t hear what they are saying

That we know—and show—who we really are through our behavior

          And one about tenants left in charge of the vineyard

          Who kill the servants sent to collect the vineyard’s produce for the vineyard owner

          And, when he sends his son thinking they will respect him, they kill him to

And Jesus’s actions are not calculated to please either

          He calls attention to himself by healing and then healing again

He turns over the tables of the moneychangers and sat the temple

An action that some commentators say is the motivation for his crucifixion in Matthew

So these chapters of Matthew illustrate human, not-godly, behaviors

          From grumbling when grace is shown to others

          To not doing what we should

          To rejecting God’s invitation

Did you find yourself saying, “I am here! I have responded to God’s invitation…?
Note that once the people the servants have invited come in the door

the story isn’t over yet

There’s apparently a dress code

                                   some special clothing they should be wearing

                                   something appropriate to the wedding banquet that they need to have

Commentators note that this is like the “Jackets Required” sign at restaurants

back in the day/time when restaurants actually had a jacket you could borrow

Or perhaps like cathedrals that have something for women to cover their heads/bare shoulders

          for sightseers who come unprepared

The king would have had a stash of clothes appropriate to the occasions available to borrow

The host would’ve provided what his guests needed

All he needed to do was accept what the host offered

This is us, too—

We are here not just to be at the feast

                                      to be more than present

We are invited to do more than just show up

                  to participate

        to receive what God offers

       to have our clothing—and our lives–changed

Because being a Christian means to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior

To live differently because of that belief

And to invite others to do likewise                                        

Even when

Especially when faith


                              religion is no longer common

                                     the norm

                                     the most typical way of life

The community that Matthew writes to is most likely a group of Jews-turned-Christians

Whose conversion is marked by enough change to their practices and beliefs

That they are thrown out of the Jewish community

And have to make their own way.

And so the people Matthew is writing to know a lot about rejection

          Rejection of God—God’s directives, God’s calling, God’s invitation

          Rejection of the Gospel, especially in its inclusiveness

          And rejection of the Christian community itself

So these were people who had lost their space and place

          They were no longer part of the stable establishment they’d known

          Which, even though under Roman rule, at least was a band of like-minded people

          Who had worked out how to live under those difficult circumstances

They are now even more on the outside

          More fragile


                     uncertain and

                     hurting than when they’d been part of the Jewish community

And on both these fronts, both as a small community going against the tide of dominant society

And a community experiencing itself as less stable and established than they had been

          We have a lot in common with those Matthew is writing for

                                                                             Jesus is teaching by his words and actions

We are no longer full of people who are here to advance their careers or their community standing

Instead, we are more like a faithful remnant of those who seek to follow God

Even though it’s less accepted, less popular than it used to be

But we are, nonetheless, guests sharing together in

A bounteous feast

Rich foods

Well-aged wines

The wiping away of tears and disgrace

By the God we’ve been waiting for

This is the experience we share!

Can we find a way to make that sharing more tangible?

Our sharing can take us beyond those who are already here

Beyond those who usually (or sometimes) come

Beyond those who are part of the answer when we ask, “Who will be there?”

Our sharing should take us to

Those highways and the byways

          Those alleyways and the margins beyond where we usually live

                                                                                     what we usually see

                                                                                     where we usually are

A while ago I went to a conference on church growth

And the presenter told the story of a church whose context had changed around them

And, it turned out, the church pretty much hadn’t even noticed

People stuck to their same habits, their same walks, their same businesses

And they missed it that there were new people in the neighborhood

In fact, they were surprised to hear how diverse their neighborhood had become

They hadn’t even seen it. I’m not sure this happens in Snow Hill,

but are we in touch with our neighbors, new and old?

Likely you know about the new neighborhood behind where Miss Alice lives on Washington St.

Almost 50 “affordable” 3 and 4 bedroom homes in the upper 2-lower $300’s that sold out

Homes that likely have two working people in jobs like police, teaching, etc.

Homes that don’t even touch the need for “affordable” housing for minimum wage workers

And there’s new construction in Greenbackville and Pocomoke

Some of which may house new people working at Wallops

We did a mailing to that new neighborhood on Washington Street

but no one came out to church to meet us.

Maybe because, like the people here this morning.

folks are looking for personal connection, not a generic greeting.

People are looking for something more like inviting people to Soup Sunday!

(Did you know personal invitation is still the most effective way to get church visitors?)

Are these our highways and byways?

We say we want new people

Are we ready to meet and greet them if they come?

Because this brings us to the question of what we say to them when they come!

          Do we greet them, or are we busy talking to those we know?

          Is taking care of church business on Sunday morning interfering with our hospitality?

Are there people here this morning whom you’d be hard-pressed to name?

with whom you might not have ever said more than “Good morning,” if that?

Would you be able to help us look through our members & friends directory

to see who is coming out and who we aren’t seeing?

Or would you be unable to name the faithful remnant here today?

Thank God the festivity


        banquet doesn’t depend on us

Nope, this is all dependent on the host with the most—on God

In Bible study the other day we talked about this end of crying and lamentation

And spent a little time in the rabbit hole of what heaven would be like

          Who we’d see/recognized

          What we’d know/do

          What it will all be like

But the real depiction of heaven is the presence of God

          The one who loves us

The one who can provide what we need

          The one who can take care of us and all the others who went before us

          And those who will come after us

As on songwriter put it as she reflected on trying to bring comfort to a friend facing mortality

          What do I know….? What do I know…?

I don’t know there are harps in heaven, or the process for earning your wings

I don’t know of bright lights at the end of tunnels, or any of those things  

But I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord,

And from what I know of him, that must be pretty good—

And from what I know of him, that must be very good.                                Let us pray…

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Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources March 12, 2023 Matthew 22:1-14


We are invited to God’s house.

Come now, for everything is ready.

You are invited to God’s house.

Come now, for everything is ready.

I am invited to God’s house.

Come now, for everything is ready.

Everyone is invited to God’s house.

Come now, for everything is ready.

*HYMN #382 Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door   

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (unison)                                                                                 

Open our ears and hearts to respond to your invitation.

Disrupt our busy-ness with your joyful feast.

Enable us to put away our old clothes of sin and sadness

Clothe us in the wedding clothes of your Kingdom.

Keep us from doing the same thing over and over

  while expecting different results.

Replace our everyday meals with your festive feast.

Throw wide open our tables, our hearts, our arms

  that all may be invite, and welcome at the feast of your love.

–Silent Confession–


How priceless is God’s unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings. We feast on the abundance of God’s house;

God gives us drink from God’s river of delights. For with God is the fountain of life; in God’s light we see light.

Thanks be to God for the Good News:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                           

Isaiah 25:6-10         NRSV p. 565 /NIV 1095-6

GOSPEL READING   Matthew 22:1-14        NRSV p.797-8/NIV pp. 1534-5

HYMN #333 Seek Ye First

SERMON   You’re Invited                          

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH  (from the Confession of 1967)                                 

We believe in the Kingdom of God: the heavenly city, the household of God, a new heaven and earth, an unending day, and the marriage feast. In the Kingdom, God triumphs over all that resists the divine will and disrupts God’s creation. The Kingdom is already present as ferment in the world, stirring hope in all people and preparing the world to receive its ultimate judgment and redemption. Therefore, we the church apply ourselves to our present tasks, striving for a better world. We do not identify limited progress with the Kingdom of God on earth. We do not despair in the face of disappointment and defeat. No, in steadfast hope, we look beyond all partial achievement to the final triumph of God.

*CLOSING HYMN #510 Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts


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3/6/23 Prayer: Loss and Empty Words

O God,

My husband is practicing his German, and I realize

there is language that I used to use

that I don’t use anymore.

I don’t have anyone other than you to refer to as Father or Mother—

No Grandmother or Grandfather.

No Aunts or Uncles. Only one cousin.

There are ones I’ve never had.

No nieces and nephews.

No brothers (but a sister).

No granddaughters (but four grandsons.)

And there are the ones I’ve moved on from—

No boyfriend or fiancé (traded in for a husband).

What does it mean when our language has holes in it—

When someone we used to have is no longer there?

What does it mean when we have a word but no person to go with it—

or when someone we wish we had never shows up?

I am at the coffee shop and there is a man here fighting back tears.

Has he lost a child? A sister or brother? A parent?

Is he without someone to call wife, sweetheart, honey?

Did they die? Is the relationship broken? Are they sick?

O God,

when there are holes in our lives

in our hearts

in our souls

Call our attention to you

to your ever-present love

to your understanding of human pain and loss

to your healing presence

Call our attention to those whom you send us

in all kinds of roles and relationships

to accept that love and support that comes in

all kinds of shapes and sizes.

Call attention to those whom you send us

open us to all kinds of roles and relationships

to offer that love and support that comes

in all kinds of shapes and sizes.


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Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources March 5, 2023 Matthew 20:1-16

The Late Arriving Workers by Jesus Mafa.

Call to Worship adapted from prayer found on the UCC webpage.

Prayer of Confession adapted from Rev Gord’s Worship Offerings website..

FOR EUCHARISTIC PRAYER related to this text, see Thom M. Shuman’s work at


One: God calls all the laborers–            All: The laborers who woke early.

The laborers who came late.                     The laborers who feel wronged.

The laborers who feel overlooked           

The laborers who can’t feed their children on their wages

The laborers who use their wage to serve you..

God calls us all to do God’s work, and to praise & worship God. 

*HYMN #467 How Great Thou Art    


PRAYER OF CONFESSION (unison)                                                                                 

God of Grace, you call us to be different from the world.

But the world is seductive, and we need your strength and grace.

God of Vision, you hold before us an alternate way of life:

different priorities, different loyalties, different values.

But the world is powerful, drawing us to follow its priorities,

accept its values, and show loyalty to its gods.

Forgive us when we misunderstand our role in the world.

Forgive us when we lose sight of the work you call us to do.

Forgive us, and remake us to be more and more your people.

–Silent Confession–


No one who believes in him will be put to shame…The Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  

Thanks be to God for the Good News:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

OLD TESTAMENT READING  Deuteronomy 24:14-15

GOSPEL READING: Matthew 20:1-16        

EPISTLE READING Ephesians 3:14-22

SERMON Not What We Deserve   Rev. Barb Hedges-Goettl                               

HYMN ##366 Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the Scots Confession)

Our faith and its assurance do not proceed from flesh and blood.                     Our faith and its assurance do not come from natural powers within us.  Instead, our faith and its assurance are the inspiration of the Holy Ghost…who brings us into all truth by his own working. Without the Holy Spirit,  we should remain forever enemies to God and ignorant of his Son, Christ Jesus. By nature we are dead, blind, and perverse without  the Spirit. We cannot feel when we are pricked. We cannot see the light when it shines. We cannot assent to the will of God                 when it is revealed. The Spirit quickens that which is dead. The Spirit removes the darkness from our minds. The Spirit bendsour stubborn hearts  to the obedience of God’s blessed will. 

God the Father created us before the beginning of life. God’s Son our Lord Jesus redeemed us when we were enemies to him. And without respect to any merit proceeding from us–before or after our regeneration–the Holy Spirit sanctifies and regenerates us.  So we disclaim any honor and glory for our own creation. We disclaim any credit for our redemption. We disclaim any honor and glory for our regeneration and sanctification. By ourselves we are not capable of thinking one good thought. But God, who has begun his work in us, continues that work in us, to the praise and glory of his undeserved grace. Thanks be to God.

*CLOSING HYMN #101 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross


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Transfiguration Sunday Worship Resources February 19, 2023 Matthew 16:21-17:13

Cover image from

Some phrases in the Call to Worship are  from Transfiguration “Entry into Worship” by Bruce Prewer found at

Prayer of Confession inspired by a prayer by Laura Murray found at


One: First light of all creation, ALL: reveal yourself to us.

Transfusing and transforming light, reveal yourself to us.

Light of all peoples from the very beginning, reveal yourself to us.

Light that the darkness cannot comprehend or overcome, 

reveal yourself to us.

Divine light flooding out the shadows, reveal yourself to us.

Light of the world, light of life, reveal yourself to us.

Light that turns us into lanterns, reveal yourself to us.

*HYMN #138 Holy, Holy, Holy 


All-gracious God, you promise that your light drowns out darkness,               yet the darkness is so persistent and familiar. Instead of living as people changed by your power, we fall back into old habits and ways of being. Instead of getting close enough to you to see your glory, we find other things to glory in. Forgive us and transform with your light.                                                                   


If we walk in the light, as he is in the light we have fellowship 

with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Thanks be to God for the Good News:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                                                            

MUSICAL MEDITATION O Wondrous Sight, O Vision Fair  Pickup Choir

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Nicene Creed (ecumenical)  Hymnal p.15 


Eucharistic Preface

(Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-9, Luke 9:28-36)

Let us lift up our hearts.
….We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
….It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is indeed right to give you our thanks and praise, O God,
for your transfiguring light has overcome us
and is restoring within us the image of your glory.

When you created the universe you said,
“Let light shine out of darkness,”
and the heavens lit up in testimony to your justice.
Through the law and prophets your light has shone forth,
and your Word has never fallen silent.

On a high mountain you pulled back the veil of heaven
and, as Moses and Elijah passed on their mantles
to the one in whom your saving Word is fulfilled,
you allowed the incomparable glory of your Son
to be seen by his terrified disciples.
He was killed by those who would not listen to you,
but after you raised him from the dead,
you sent the winds of heaven upon us
with an extravagant outpouring of your Holy Spirit.

Therefore with …..

© 2003 Nathan Nettleton

OFFERING I Love Thee Edvard Greig     Jayne Canterbury & Pastor Barb                                                                                                     PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE/THE LORD’S PRAYER (traditional) Hymnal p.16

*CLOSING HYMN #525 Here I Am, Lord (by request)

CHARGE and BENEDICTION                                                                              .                                                                                             

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Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources February 12, 2023 Matthew 13:24-33

Prayer of Confession by Michelle Jantzi Dueck (Canada), 2014. Creative Commons: Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0  International (CC BY-4.0)

Prayers of the People adapted from a prayer by Teri Peterson,

*CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 104: 1-5 The Message)      

One: God, my God, how great you are! beautifully, gloriously robed,

Many: O my soul, bless God! 

Dressed up in sunshine,   and all heaven stretched out for your tent.

O my soul, bless God!

You built your palace on the ocean deeps, 

O my soul, bless God!

You made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings. 

O my soul, bless God!

You commandeered winds as messengers,

O my soul, bless God!

You appointed fire and flame as ambassadors.

O my soul, bless God!

You set earth on a firm foundation  so that nothing can shake it, ever.

O my soul, bless God!

You blanketed earth with ocean,   covered the mountains with deep waters.


*HYMN #473 For the Beauty of the Earth



O God, we confess we focus on the weeds in our lives, in our lawns, and in our neighbors’ lives. We search them out, tugging relentlessly, and in so doing we damage the good that was growing there. Give us the courage and grace to let go, to see the beauty that is present,                  if not planned. Give us the restraint to sow only love and compassion in others, and to cultivate it in ourselves, leaving the rest in your discerning hands. 


ASSURANCE FROM GOD (Isaiah 12:2-3) The LORD, the LORD himself, is our strength and our defense. He has become my salvation.” With joy we draw water from the wells of salvation.

Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                              



HYMN #454 Blessed Jesus, At Your Word

OLD TESTAMENT READING Psalm 104:10-18   NRSV p* /NIV pp.Insert page #s

NEW TESTAMENT READING  Matthew 13:24-33  NRSV p.789/NIV p.1518

            The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

OBJECT LESSON  #304 Jesus Loves Me    

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (Confession of 1967)

We believe that God created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. God breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic or other difference, real or imaginary. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize others, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess.

As the church, we are called to bring all people to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, as the church we labor for the abolition of all racial and other discrimination and minister to those injured by it for, in reconciling love, God overcomes all barriers between us.   


For all the blessings of this life,
we give thanks to You, Creator God.
For families, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and strangers,

who nurture us, that your love grows within.

that your Word, like a seed,

grows to produce in us, good fruit,

we pray, O God:

Make the seed of your love take root and grow strong.

For the leaders of various nations and cities,

for the leaders of the churches around the world,

for the leaders of the PC(USA) and of its churches,

for you to empower them with strong hearts and gentle hands and generous spirits,

engendering in them compassion and mercy, with wisdom and grace.
guiding all their actions and decisions to reflect thy will.
we pray, O God:

Make the seed of your love take root and grow strong.

For those who serve in harm’s way,
those who live in dangerous places,
those who live in areas of war and strife,
those who live in fear,

those who worry about employment, bills, food,

and struggle just to find dignity in life.,

that you grace will fall upon them in peace and safety
we pray, O God:

Make the seed of your love take root and grow strong.

For those who suffer from any illness or dis-ease—of mind, body, or spirit.
that you will restore them to fullness of health—
health as only you, O God, can bring.
for your mercy to shower us all with healing and love

we pray, O God:

Make the seed of your love take root and grow strong.

For those who are dying,

for those who have died.

and for those who mourn,

that you will send forth your comforting love,

giving solace and consolation.

Surround us with your grace

like a mantle upon our heads,
a shawl upon our shoulders,
a hand, to hold our hand.
we pray, O God:

Make the seed of your love take root and grow strong.

*CLOSING HYMN #441 I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord

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A Prayer for the Idiots for Monday, 1/30/23

O God, forgive the idiots.

And forgive us when we are the idiots–

when we talk without thinking,

speak without praying,

judge without giving grace.

Narrow the gap

between who we claim to be

and how we act.

Drive us to repentance

when we think our point of view is excused from judgment,

when we’d rather be right than be in relationship,

when we want to impose our list of do’s and don’ts on others—

forgetting all the times you forgive,

offering grace in the place of judgment,

and calling people to task for doing otherwise.

Remind us of the woman caught in adultery,

whose accusers had to admit their own sinfulness.

Make us remember the criminal on the cross next to you,

forgiven and joining you in paradise.

Bring to mind Saul, killer and persecutor of Christians,

who found, and became an agent of, grace.

Convert us.

Make us your new creation.

Transform us from servants of hate into workers of love.

Pour your grace over us

that it may overflow to everyone.

Open our eyes to how it feels to be someone else.

Take the log out of our eyes

that we may assist one another to see better.

Forgive us when we are idiots.

And help us to forgive others

when they are idiots as well.

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You make me to lie down in green pastures…

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

I don’t wanna!

I don’t hafta!

You can’t make me!

You’re not the boss of me!

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

But, but, but there’s so much to do.

Whaddya mean I’ve been doing too much?

Whaddya mean I have to rest?

Whaddya mean I should take a break?

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

La-la, I can’t hear you!

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

I can’t take it all lying down.

Don’t I have to soldier on?

Don’t I have to keep it all going?

Don’t I have to keep going?

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

I can’t lay it all down.

They’re my burdens and I gotta carry ‘em.

I can’t trust anyone else to do it (right).

It’s just my cross to bear.

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

You are always with me.

You guide and comfort me.

You direct me to sabbath rest.

You sleep amidst the storm.

You calm the sea.  

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

You take my burdens upon you.

You offer me your light and easy burden.

You give me peace.

You make me safe.

You call me to come aside and rest.

You make us to lie down beside still waters…

Thank you, God.

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A Prayer for Looooong COVID

Prayer for Loooooong COVID

Dear God,

Encourage us as we continue to deal with looong COVID—

with the after-effects of COVID

for those who have had it but are somehow not yet over it

and the after-effects of COVID

for all of us who have lived through these past three years.

Strengthen our commitment to maintaining health—

ours and everyone else’s.

Open our ears to hear what we may not want to hear

about how to stay safe from the triple-demic:

from COVID, and RSV, and the flu.

Forgive us for wanting to dehumanize those who don’t agree with us

about what is best for us, for them, for our communities.

Forgive us for thinking that any of our choices affect only us.

Forgive us when we are angry with those

who left us too soon due to choices they made,

who are taking up healthcare space again-still-yet

that is needed by others for other things

and forgive them as well.

As we face a(nother) new variant, the most contagious one yet,

we give thanks for the ways we know to reduce the risk

to ourselves and others—

for vaccines and new treatments,

for home tests and quick PCR tests

and also for tests for flu and for RSV,

and even for masks and distancing.

Re-enervate our commitment to paying attention

to our health,

to the health of those we love,

to the health of those we know but find it hard to love,

and to the health of those we do not know.

Comfort those who have lost loved ones

more than a million and still counting, although more slowly.

Heal those who have been oh-so-careful

or even oh-so-careless

and who are now infected

or infected again.

Make them pay attention to their own health.

Make them get treatment.

Make them protect those around them in every way they can.

O God, encourage us as we continue to deal with looong COVID. Amen.

For info on the latest variant, see

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Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources January 1, 2023 Matthew 1:1-17 plus A New Year’s Prayer

Image from the

*CALL TO WORSHIP (Venerable Bede, 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16)

One: Christ is the morning star, who, when the world’s night is past,

All: gives us the promise of the light of life and opens everlasting day.

God, open us to your light shining in a dark place

until the day dawns and your morning star rises in our hearts.

For Christ is the root and descendant of David,

the bright morning star. 

*HYMN #69 O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright


Let us open our hearts to God and offer the truth of our lives. 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (unison)                                                                                 

O God, we offer up to you

The fear that stifles us; the prejudices that blind us,

the ignorance that hobbles us; the doubt that plagues us.

Forgive us and make us anew.

Prayer of Confession adapted from a prayer by Beth Merrill Neel on her blog, ‘Hold Fast to What Is Good’.  Used with permission.

–Silent Confession–

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS (2 Corinthians 5:17-18

New Living Bible) Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. 

The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift 

from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. 

Thanks be to God for the Good News:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                              

SCRIPTURE READING Matthew 1:1-17 NIV pp. 1496-7/NRSV p. 777

            The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Apostles’ Creed (traditional)  Hymnal p.14

HYMN #525 Here I Am, Lord

*CLOSING HYMN #265 Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand

CHARGE and BENEDICTION                                                                              .                                                                                                     

                     Prayer for the New Year

Almighty and Eternal God

In the midst of all that is dark and icy

In the midst of a winter’s day that grabs our senses

with a cold beauty and yet fear of accident,

we your people,

brought together because of our love of Jesus Christ,

come to proclaim light in the darkness

life in the presence of death

warmth in the midst of cold and

love in the face of hate.

For it is out of darkness that you bring light

out of chaos you bring order

out of despair you continue to bring hope

even to people like us.

Lord God

no matter what has happened in the past

no matter what the last 52 weeks have brought

your love has reigned supreme.

Your love has reigned supreme

while our response

has wilted and faded

like the leaves on an autumn tree.

Bring us back to the hope of a winter’s day, Lord God.

Bring us back to the brightness of a blue sky

   that reminds us of warmer days of summer.

Bring us back to the evergreen trees that stand tall and proud

   in the frost signs of hope to come.

Bring us back to the white not of snow and ice

   but to a purity of heart and mind,

for your love unlike the snow and ice does not grow cold.

Lord God, forgive us for failing to appreciate all your gifts

   in the cycle of your created order.

Even when we think all is dead you are providing signs of life.

Even when we believe all is finished

   you are sowing seeds for a harvest still to come

Forgive us for failing to see them.

As we stand on the threshold of a New Year

so allow us to grasp the picture you have for us of all that lies ahead.

It is a picture full of hope, full of purpose and full of love

and forgive us for ever thinking what might suggest otherwise.

All this we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

— written by the Rt Rev David Arnott, and posted on the Church of Scotland’s   Starters for Sunday website. 

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Wreath Themes.xlsx

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Gathering for Healing: Sermon on 2 Kings 5:1-16, Narrative Lectionary for 11/6/2022

How’s your geography?

I have to admit mine’s not too good

In fact, when Bush was running against Clinton and made a gaffe about the location of Arkansas

my own geographical knowledge was being similarly tested

as we had just moved to Arkansas, a state I’d never been to before

and couldn’t really locate on a map…!

But geography is important to today’s story

By the time of today’s passage, Israel had become divided following the death of King Solomon

(The king whose wisdom was the focus of last week’s passage)

It was divided into a southern kingdom (Judah)

      and a northern kingdom,

which kept the name of Israel

but was also called Samaria

And Aram is what has become modern-day Syria

And these neighboring countries had been at war

Thus, the encounter between Naaman and Elisha

        is a confrontation between enemies

        two people from warring countries

        representatives of kings of warring countries

So that, in today’s story, we witness that countries at war are still in contact


This is true in Ukraine where, alongside of (despite?) the war,

conversations and negotiations are still happening

          From negotiations regarding Brittney Griner

the basketball player sentenced to prison in Russia for smuggling hashish oil

to the grain deal, in which Russia is (again) allowing grain exports from Ukraine 

In our story today, the kings are involved

The king of Aram readily agrees that Naaman should go to Israel to seek healing

                                sending him with a kingly letter of introduction

Naaman adds to this intro his own pomp and posturing

                                taking with him great riches, perhaps as presents

                                and a military entourage of horses and chariots, perhaps as a threat

And the king of Israel,

who receives Naaman with his pomp and posturing, presents and power,

                                suspects that, since he is “not god” and cannot grant Naaman’s request

                                                          this all a pretext for more warfare

But Elisha can. And Elisha does.

Hearing of Naaman’s request, Elisha tells the king to send Naaman to him.

(We are not even told of how that message gets to Naaman)

          Just that Naaman goes, with his presents and his power,

          To Elisha’s house

But his presents and his power do not gain him immediate access to Elisha

Instead, the great commander with his great need, is met by a servant and a message

          Go wash seven times in the Jordan River

          And Naaman is incensed by both the messenger and the message

By the way, it is likely true that Aram’s rivers were better than those of Jordan

          As the Jordan was more of a muddy creek than a river

          Kind of a backwater in a country that had been bested by Aram and Naaman in war

But once again the servants come to the rescue

Counseling Naaman in ways that combat his power, pride and position

So that he does go and wash seven times in the Jordan River

Likely feeling vulnerable and foolish and possibly dirty in that water

Stripped of power and presents and left just at the mercy of God

A (lack of) status further solidified by Elisha’s refusal of his gifts

Leaving him a great man in debt to an enemy and that enemy’s God

Resulting in Naaman’s vow to serve Israel’s god

                                         asking for some dirt from Israel to help him in that worship

                                         and for forgiveness when accompanies his king to worship other god

Over a year ago we had a worship/sermon series about gathering

                                                                                                    why we are here

This morning’s texts suggest that one reason we gather is in order to heal

And that, like raising a child, it takes a village to accomplish this healing

From the Israeli slave girl to the wife of the king of Aram to the king himself

From Naaman to the king of Israel to Elisha and the servants in Naaman’s entourage

          People of great, and no, status

          People who are considered important and people who tend to be ignored

          And people who are enemies

                    All participate in the healing of Naaman

Where are you hurting?

Where are you in need of healing?

From church conflicts to conversations gone wrong or not held

From losses due to COVID and its restrictions to divisive politics and policies

From physical illnesses and pains to emotional shocks and shudders

          We are in need of healing

And so we come with Jesus’ letter of introduction to

the King of healing

                 One with the power and compassion to heal

We come at the direction of a lowly carpenter

descended from glory to live among us

          as servant and washer-of-feet

We come into the presence of God

as those who have been enemies of God

          participating willingly or unwittingly in what wounds and deals death

                                                                                          works against love and compassion

                                                                                                                    mercy and justice

In need of healing as and with and through the community of faith

That stretches from a slave girl through kings to prophets to God Godself

In need of the healing, living water that forever slakes our thirst

In need of the water of baptism that makes us citizens

not of this party or nation, but of God’s kingdom

In need of the bread of life that confounds death

In need of the fruit of the vine that connects us to the giver of life

An ancient communion formula reads

O God, I am not worthy to receive you,

But only say the word and I shall be healed.

Let us pray…

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Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources: 2 Kings 5:1-16 November 6, 2022

Different cover image (with Naaman)  can be found at

Call to worship adapted from a prayer written by Katherine Hawker, 2003. Posted on Liturgies Outside. 


We gather together for God’s healing

like the slave girl, the army commander, the religious zealot, the servants.

We gather together for God’s healing–

differences suspended, doubt superseded.

We gather together for God’s healing

through ordinary water and a cube of bread.

We gather together for God’s healing

through simple ritual and extraordinary presence

We gather together for God’s healing

across the power lines that divide us.

We gather together for God’s healing

acknowledging our need for help and direction.


*HYMN #372 Lord, I Want to Be a Christian  (by request)



When we let fear and favor take the place of love and justice, 

heal us, O God.

When we wish for retaliation rather than reconciliation, 

heal us, O God.

When we forget that the “other side” is made up of people who are all made in your image, heal us. O God.

When we allow our differences to divide us from each other, 

heal us, O God.

When we do not tap in to your power to love, heal, and forgive,

heal us O God. 


ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS (concepts from 2 Kings 5:14)

God washes us clean, healing us inside and out. We  become good as new, spanking new, soft and clean and sweet as a just-washed newborn baby. Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                              

SCRIPTURE READING 1 Kings 5:1-16           NIV p.**/NRSV p.** 

The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

HYMN #399 We Walk by Faith (tune of The Lord’s My Shepherd )

SERMON   Gathering for Healing          


*CLOSING HYMN #521 You Satisfy the Hungry Heart (by request)

Cover image

Call to worship adapted from prayer written by Katherine Hawker, 2003. Posted on Liturgies Outside. 

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Narrative Lectionary SERMON: Discernment 1 Kings 3/October 30, 2022

Cover image from

As we continue on our way through some of the highlights of the OT via the Narrative Lectionary

we come today to the wisdom of Solomon

the best-known story having to do with Solomon

emphasizing his desire to be a good leader

despite the political intrigues that led to him becoming king

and the excesses that will subsequently characterize his kingship

The passages we have read this fall could serve as a litmus test for leadership—

          an important question as we prayerfully approach voting in the mid-term elections

because, while we live in a nation of many religions (and no religion at all)

          the question of what candidates represent the values of God’s kingdom is still of import

And while the church cannot be partisan, the church is called to address

Power—and therefore politics

          Ethics–that is, right and wrong

          and the well-being of all people

For the Gospel calls on us, in all we do,  

          to be representatives of Jesus

          to stand for what is right

                           and for the good of all people

          and to be the people of God in all we say and do

So we are called on to ask similar questions of our leaders  

Going beyond any religious claims made by candidates

to discern what—and who—potential leaders represent

         what—and who—they stand for

         and who they are                                       

And while we can also see that the biblical leaders are far from perfect

And that their wrongdoings have consequences both for them

                                                                                        and for the people they lead         

At their best, they not only seek, trust and obey God, but provide biblical examples of

the use of power and blessing to serve the people, all nations

       from God’s proclamation to Abra(ha)m that he is blessed to be a blessing

       to Solomon’s motivation in seeking wisdom, which is to govern God’s people well

transformative leadership in tough circumstances leading to salvation/new life

       Noah in the time of the Flood

       Joseph unjustly imprisoned

       Moses in slavery and in the wilderness

and just last week we saw David taking responsibility/being held accountable—and repenting

Now, if you find yourself less-than-hopeful

          cynical about our leaders and our elections

          uncertain that there is much a regular citizen can do

          let me point you to something else found in this passage—and those preceding it

That is, throughout these stories that we’ve read, (not just in Joshua as highlighted by Cindy)

          the focus is actually on God and God’s actions

          –and this is where we find hope

In the Flood narrative, we talked about turning the picture upside-down

                                                                        seeing things from God’s perspective

                                                                        participating in God’s hope

         God’s transformative action

In the promise made to Abram, it is God who swears to use Abra(ha)m’s leadership

                                                                        the blessing of Abram and his family

                                                                        to bless all people

In the story of the crossing of the Re(e)d Sea,

                                                                        God acts to free the Hebrew people

                                                                        acting on the behalf of the oppressed

                                                                                    against the oppressor

                                                                                    through Moses

In the giving of the manna in the wilderness, we ask with the Hebrews, “What is it?”

                                                                       “What is God doing?

                                                                        and “How can we become a part of what God is doing?”

In Joshua, we heard the litany of what God did for the people

                                                                      culminating in the question of who the people will serve

And it is God who made it possible for Nathan to call David to account

In today’s passage, although it begins by talking of Solomon

          of his sacrifices and burnt offerings

          in short order, God takes center stage

Moving the narrative focus from what Solomon is doing

                                                      to what God does

Making the story less about what Solomon does for God

                                and more about what God does for, and through, Solomon

This is the question we, as individuals and as the church, are called back to over and over again

          What is God doing?

          Where are we called to participate in what God is doing?

And while, for me, the most current, loudest application of this call is the upcoming election,

when Len read this sermon, he heard a call to the people of the church he is working with

to the hard work of truth and reconciliation.

The reality is that the call to find and join what God is doing is a larger lifelong call

A call that is both gift and obligation

(as the South African Belhar Confession puts it with regard to the call to unity)

a call to join God’s work that is made alive in us by the Holy Spirit

“yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought:

one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain—”

a building up that we seek to do as we gather together each week

When we gather, we proclaim and celebrate that

God never leaves us

                  never forsakes us

                  comes alongside us

        and is ever-present with us and among us

But the Christian life is not just about God being with us

        It is about us being with and following God

                                saying, in answer to Joshua’s question to the Hebrew people, we will serve God

                                vowing, in front of witnesses, to serve and obey God

                                                                                           have no other gods

Joining with God means taking up the cause of God’s kingdom

          A Kingdom where the rich and powerful serve the poor and the powerless

                               where every gift and advantage that we have is used to serve all people

                               where wisdom means hearing the grievances of those who are often unheard

Can you imagine a king hearing the case of two prostitutes?

          Talk about hearing from the voiceless, the powerless, those who are looked down on!

Who is denied a hearing today?

          Who do we cut off from discourse?


The lack of listening has reached epic proportions today

          Making us forget that others are people

                                                  their experiences have shaped them

                                                  just as our experiences have shaped us

          And that we are, all of us—leaders and ordinary citizens, us and them—are both

made in God’s image—and flawed

          And none of us can see the whole picture

          So that we need community

to hear from, to listen to, one another

And not just from those who are suffering here in the U.S.  (I’m sure you can make a list…)

but those who are unheard throughout the world, in places and spaces where the US continues to have an effect, an influence—sometimes by our lack of attention to their plight

So we’re talking not just about the big ones that we are aware of—

          Great Britain and Ukraine and Iran

But ones that are in our news for just a brief moment, for example:

          Pakistanis suffering severe floods

          Yemeni people experiencing war

          Somalians threatened with starvation

          Haitians at the mercy of gangs that have taken over

Today we have come, like Solomon before God

          Offering our sacrifice of praise and worship

          Reviewing what God has done for us

                    God’s great and steadfast love to us as God’s servants

                    Making us part of God’s kingdom



What do we ask for God to give to us?

          Solomon sought a discerning heart/an understanding mind

                                         the ability to distinguish right from wrong

                                                                                     good from bad, from evil                                 

We seem to have lost a national consensus regarding the questions of right and wrong

We no longer agree as to what behavior has occurred

           much less what is wrong

           and how to respond to it

And while it is tempting to point fingers of blame as to why that is—or who is responsible

As Christians we are in a position to ask God  for a discerning heart/an understanding mind

  to know good from evil

  and what it is we are to do

                                and who we are called to be

To not only see the good, but to do it

To not only recognize evil, but to resist it

To take responsibility for ourselves

And to practice holding ourselves—and others—accountable.                                            Let us pray…

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Narrative Lectionary Resources for 10/30/22 1 Kings 3: The Wisdom of Solomon

Cover image from

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Barb Hedges-Goettl

CALL TO WORSHIP (from Colossians 2:2)

People of God, we are encouraged in heart and united in love and so

we sing God’s praises.

God give you the full riches of complete understanding,

in order that you may know the mystery of God and so that

we sing God’s praises.

In Christ, the mystery of God, are hidden all the treasures

of wisdom and knowledge, given to you, so that

we sing God’s praises.

With those who listen and understand,

with those who seek a discerning mind,

we sing God’s praises.

*HYMN insert  My Life Flows On 


When we do not discern your ways and paths for our lives,

forgive us, O God.

When we do not ask for your discernment in order to understand and love others, forgive us, O God.

When we do not treat all human beings as made by–and loved by–you, forgive us, O God.

When we practice judgment and condemnation rather than love and compassion, forgive us, O God.

When we let fear and favor take the place of faith in your faithfulness, forgive us, O God.

When we do not have faith that you will use our small actions for great good, forgive us, O God.

–Silent Confession–                                                                                              

Assurance of forgiveness (1 Corinthians 1:30 NRSVUE)

Because of God we are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

 Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                              

SCRIPTURE READING 1 Kings 3:4-28  

HYMN #327 O Word of God Incarnate 

SERMON   Discernment                                              

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (Proverbs 2:6-12) The Lord gives wisdom. From God’s mouth come knowledge and understanding. God stores up sound wisdom for the upright. God is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of God’s faithful ones. Then we will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path. Wisdom will come into my heart. Knowledge will be pleasant to my soul. Prudence will watch over us. Understanding will guard you. It will save us from the way of evil. Thanks be to God.

*CLOSING HYMN #420 God of Grace, and God of Glory

Cover image from

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A riff on the hymn “O God of Earth and Altar”

(Feel free to use/adapt, crediting Barb Hedges-Goettl)

Photo view from hotel room at Hilton, Ocean City MD by Barb Hedges-Goettl

O God and Lord above us

O God of sky and sea

You never cease to love us

To ever present be

You live and dwell among us

And call us to your side

To join you in your purpose

Of healing what divides

Designer of creation

And maker of the earth

You call for re-creation

Another, better birth

You know our ev’ry action

Our sorrows and our joys

And when our own inaction

Turns promises to noise

God, give us grace to follow

The path that Jesus trod

To take our lives and hallow

Them unto you, O God

O heal and reconcile us

To others and to you

That we may be your children

In all we are and do.

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Narrative Lectionary Sermon 2 Samuel 11-12 “You are the Man” October 23, 2022

Like the crossing of the Re(e)d Sea, this story has been the subject of several movies

In the 1951 Gregory Peck/Susan Hayward film,

     Bathsheba and David have a consensual adulterous affair

In the 1985 Richard Gere King David film,

     Bathsheba appears before King David in court claiming abuse by Uriah before becoming involved with him

Interesting how neither film wants to tell the biblical version of the story

Preferring to tell of an illicit and steamy romance

Do you remember the rest of the story?

That David’s response to Bathsheba’s pregnancy

is to bring her husband Uriah home from the front so the baby will be seen as legitimately his

but Uriah will not go home to sleep with his wife while his men are in the field

and so David sends a message with Uriah himself

to direct David’s commander to put Uriah at the front of the line

and then withdraw, so that Uriah will be killed by the Ammonites.

Of course others with Uriah are killed as well, but David brushes this away as the cost of the plan

And then, after her period of mourning, David marries Bathsheba.

And although later in the story of King David,

Bathsheba will stand up for their second son, Solomon, in his successful bid to become the next king

In this part of the biblical story, the only recorded words of Bathsheba are “I am pregnant.”

And, indeed, it hardly matters what she said or thought

The king sent for her and took her, and that was that

Meaning that, although the NRSV(UE) entitles this story “David Commits Adultery with Bathsheba,”

The story is really that of the abuse of power, of “Me Too,” of rape

David’s abuse of power more than fulfills Samuel’s prediction of how the Israelite king will act (I Sam. 8:10-17)

In fact, Samuel stops short of naming such sexual taking of women

While noting that the king the Israelites request will

take their sons and daughters to serve him in war and in agriculture and in his household

demand their labor and commandeer their lands

and make them serve him

And of course we still see this behavior among those with power today

Those who abuse their positions in a variety of ways

Hiring friends and cronies and family

Showing favoritism to those who can benefit them

To the detriment of those they are sworn to serve

And those who use their positions to force themselves on others sexually

From movie moguls to politicians to bosses

But instead of everyone turning a blind eye to this abuse of power, David has someone who holds to account

Of course the wily Nathan tells the story in a way that David can hear

Asking him to apply ethical principles to the behaviors of others

Which he readily does—apparently even without any prompting

He is outraged by the way the rich man exercised power over the poor man and his lamb

Taking the sheep (just as David took Bathsheba) and killing it for his own benefit

How often have we heard leaders apply ethical principles to those whom they consider their “enemies”

But changing their tune when asked to apply those same principles to themselves?

But here, in this passage, David actually listens to Nathan

Not excusing his own misconduct by somehow claiming that the rules are/should be different for him

Instead, David recognizes what he has done

Confessing and repenting of his sin

       Both in our passage

       And likely also in Psalm 51, used in our Call to Worship and Prayer of Confession

Perhaps Nathan had the king’s ear because he had been on the scene earlier in the account of King David’s rule

Responding to David’s desire to build a house for God

With the promise that God will build a house, that is a dynasty, for David

A dynasty that stretches so far forward

that “the wife of Uriah the Hittite” is named in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew

alongside other suffering women whose are listed in the lineage of the One

who himself would suffer and die and then rise again

A dynasty that goes forward, but is disrupted and dysfunctional after David’s actions

For, despite his confession and repentance, Nathan tells David his actions still have consequences (v.10-12)

       “The sword will never depart from your house.”

Your wives will sleep with those who are close to you “in broad daylight.”

And the child you conceived with Bathsheba will die.

As we wish for more Nathans

And have the opportunity to use elections as a way to hold our leaders accountable

  to elect leaders who can recognize their own faults as well as those of others

We are also called upon to do the same—

Not only to hold others responsible, but to be accountable ourselves

There’s this challenging little thing called “agency”

A fancy way of saying that we are actors in our own stories

That being responsible for what we do means that we are in charge of our own changing

That we are called by God, with God’s help, to be the subjects of our own lives and actions

Were you taught in English class to avoid write in active, rather than passive, tense?

While we may have learned this about grammar, we sometime miss it in regular life

 If we say, “The glass broke,” we avoid the reality that someone (likely the speaker!) broke it

            I was talking to Len about this sermon and noted that this was something my mother tended to do

            He pointed out that was an understatement!

            Good, bad or indifferent, she had a hard time making “I” statements

            Instead, the world revolved around what others did

                       and what had somehow just happened

The newspaper article about the pickup truck that landed in our side yard was masterful in this

            Beginning with police finding the driver about 500 feet from the crashed vehicle

And saying things like “The crash happened” about 2:30 pm

And “two homes were evacuated.”

But there were agents for all these action—

There was a driver to whom one could say, “You are the man”

            A driver who was no longer with the truck when it crashed

            But who is not thereby absolved of any responsibility for what happened

We are called on to take the log out of own eyes before we take the speck from our neighbor’s eye (Mt 7:5)

Where is it that we might be blind to our own actions?



                                                                                        part in the problem?

Where can we take responsibility


                                      be accountable

Makemie is a “Matthew 25” congregation

This PCUSA initiative focuses has three foci:

Building congregational vitality by deepening and energizing our faith and growing as joyful leaders and disciples actively engaged with our community as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed

Eradicating systemic poverty by acting on our beliefs and working to change laws, policies, plans and structures in our society that perpetuate economic exploitation of people who are poor

Dismantling structural racism by fearlessly applying our faith to advocate and break down the systems, practices and thinking that underlie discrimination, bias, prejudice and oppression of people of color

Now the first response to the question of racism is frequently to state that one is not a racist

And, while this can be a great starting place, our Matthew 25 commitment means this is not enough

Matthew 25—the initiative and the Scripture itself asks for greater action than not being racist

Matthew 25—the gospel overall, asks us to take action for those who are hungry






Meaning that it’s not enough to refrain from being racist

Calling us to go beyond that to be anti-racist

To take actions, to be active, in combatting racism

I’m taking a class on combating racism sponsored by the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice

Last week a new person showed up to our class

And it turned out he was there to see if we were the real deal or if we were full of [fill-in-the-blank]

He himself was full of examples in his own life where he had gotten along fine with black people

And didn’t buy that there was racism in the world, much less in him

But this is as if David held the parable of the sheep at arm’s length

Blaming the problem on that rich man

Demanding justice for that situation

But not seeing the parallel to his own situation

This kind of attitude belies the Christian gospel, which is predicated on the understanding we are sinners

So that we are asked to see our own part in it all

            Do we hear those crying out for justice?

            Do we see how our lives have been easier because of who we are

            And harder for others because of who they are?

            And how are we working to change this?

Because, when it comes to change, we are the ones God works through to make  a change

            A change that can then radiate beyond us to our church




Let us pray….

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Narrative Lectionary Resources 2 Samuel 11-12 October 23, 2022

*CALL TO WORSHIP (from Psalm 51 The Message)

O God, enter me; conceive a new, true life in me.

Set me to singing.

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs;

set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Set me to singing.

Make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Set me to singing.

Breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile,

put a fresh wind in my sails!

Set me to singing.

Unbutton my lips, dear God;

I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. I’ll let loose with your praise. COME, LET US SING TOGETHER TO GOD.

*HYMN Purple Hymnal #821 My Life Flows On


PRAYER OF CONFESSION (Psalm 51, The Message)

Generous in love—God, give grace!

My sins are staring me down. I know I’ve fallen short.

You’re the One I’ve violated. You’ve seen it all.

You have all the facts before you–how I’ve been out of step with you. Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.

Scrub away my guilt. Soak out my sins in your laundry.

My sins are staring me down. I know I’ve fallen short.

What you’re after is truth from the inside out.

Enter me, then. Conceive a new, true life in me.

–Silent Confession–

Assurance of forgiveness God soaks us and we come out clean. God scrubs and cleanses us. God gives us a clean bill of health. God commutes our death sentence, and grants us salvation.

Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

SCRIPTURE READING 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 12:1-7

HYMN #361 How Firm a Foundation

SERMON You are the man!


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the Confession of 1967 9.25, 9.31)

As the church, we are emissaries of peace. We seek the good of all in cooperation with powers and authorities in politics, culture, and economics. But we have to fight against pretensions and injustices when these same powers endanger human welfare. Our strength is in our confidence that God’s purpose rather than human schemes will finally prevail.

To be reconciled to God is to be sent into the world as God’s reconciling community. Our community, the church universal, is entrusted with God’s message of reconciliation. We share God’s labor of healing the enmities which separate people from God and from each other. Christ calls us as the church to this mission. God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. We maintain continuity with the apostles and with Israel by faithful obedience to this call of God. Thanks be to God.

*CLOSING HYMN #562 Eternal Father, Strong to Save

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Sing a New Song Prayer

Dear God,

I would like my church to sing a new song,

but it’s not as easy as it sounds–

possibly because what I’d really like to do

is have everyone else sing the new song I’ve already learned–

the one that touches my heart

and is hard for me to sing because I am tearing up

making me want to share it with others.

But what works for me may not work for others–

that is, what is on the “growing edge” for me,

what is just a little ahead of where I am

but still within the realm of the possible

may be beyond the reach of others,

just as what some people sing—way out there                                                            

is beyond what I can reach from my place/space/time.

And then there are the logistical challenges

that mean that even if we sing it all month—

or especially if we sing it all month—

it may not really become our/your new song.

Instead, we may just end up alienated from worship,

distanced from one another and you

by too big a challenge,

a challenge complicated by logistical constraints–

How we all sit so far away from each other

retrained, perhaps, by COVID

How we don’t really have a song leader,

but just me, the pastor with the loud voice,

And while the first week we had a piano player

who could do it justice,

Figuring out how to use a recording

(do we have the copyright rights?)

or using the organ, which really deadens this one,

seems likely to kill it as well.

So, God, please help me to do better in learning your new song—

a song we can all learn and sing together

a song that will be meaningful to most, if not all

a song that is within our growing edge

a song that stretches us without tearing

a song  we may sing together

joining our voices with angels and archangels

and with all the faithful of every time and place,

who forever sing to the glory of your name,

not just in tried-and-true moldy oldies,

but in the new songs, the new ways, you teach us.


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A Prayer of Great Thanksgiving for World Communion

O God, who holds the whole world in your hands,

for dividing the waters at creation

creating order out of chaos,

and a place and space for your creatures,

we praise and thank you.

For the renewal of life on earth following the Flood,

for the salvation of the Israelites through the Red Sea,

for our renewal and redemption by Baptism,

we praise and thank you.

For allowing us to be part of the work of recovery

from devastating floods

and from disease and drought, wars and divisions,

embodying your love and presence,

we praise and thank you.

For working with and through your people,

from Noah to Abraham and Sarah

from Joseph to Miriam and Moses;

For working with and through us,

we praise and thank you.

For always pursuing your people,

and blessing us that we may be a blessing,

we praise and thank you.

For the many ways you call, convict and care for us,

we praise and thank you.

For sending Jesus to live as one of us,

to share in our sorrows and joys,

to lead us from death and destruction to resurrection and rejoicing,

we praise and thank you.

For our participation in Jesus’ very life blood,

in the Spirit that hallowed and ordered the waters of chaos at creation,

with you who cradles the whole world in your hands,

we praise and thank you.

Pour out your Spirit upon us and upon these gifts of bread and cup,

that we may share our very life blood with the world,

hallowing and ordering the waters of chaos,

cradling and bathing the whole world in your love.


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Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources Exodus 14:5-29 October 2, 2022

Cover image from

*CALL TO WORSHIP (Exodus 15)

Moses and Miriam led the people in song:

I will sing unto the Lord, for God has triumphed gloriously;

Horse and rider God has thrown into the sea.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

In steadfast love you led the people.

You brought them and planted them on your own mountain.

You made your home with them,

Your people are your sanctuary.

The Lord will reign forever and ever.

*HYMN #281 Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (by Barb Hedges-Goettl)

God, sometimes we would rather go backward than forward.

Forgive us, O God.

We would rather stick with the known instead of pursuing the new.

Forgive us, O God.

We are not sure we can trust and fully rely on you.

Forgive us, O God.

We would prefer not to have our lives wholly transformed.

Forgive us, O God.

We want the world as it has always been instead of converted by you.

Forgive us, O God.

We worry and fear and flail and resist.

Forgive us, O God.

–Silent Confession–

Assurance of forgiveness (Exodus 14:13-14 Good News Translation) “Don’t be afraid! Stand your ground, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today…The Lord will fight for you, and all you have to do is keep still.” Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.  


HYMN #334 When Israel Was in Egypt’s Land

SERMON  Different Kinds of Resurrection         

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the Scots Confession)

As God’s chosen people, we receive the Spirit of the Lord Jesus by true faith. Once received, this Spirit moves into each of our hearts, regenerating and renewing us. The result is that what was previously loved is now hated. What was previously hated now begins to be loved. This is the source  of  that  constant  battle  between  natural  impulses

and the Spirit in the children of God. Human nature and reason yearn for personal pleasure and delights. We do things like complain in adversity, be  arrogant in prosperity, and cause offense to God’s majesty. However, the Spirit of God bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God. The Spirit causes us to resist base pleasures. The Spirit causes us–in awareness of God– to long for release from this bondage of decay. The Spirit eventually conquers sin to prevent it from triumphing over our mortal bodies. Thanks be to God.

*HYMN #118 The Day of Resurrection

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Narrative Lectionary Resources September 25, 2022 Genesis 39:1-23

     Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church

                                    Image from

*CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 139; Genesis 21:22)

 God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.

You are with me whatever I do.

I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, 

you know what I’m thinking. You are with me whatever I do.

You know when I leave and when I get back;  I’m never out of your sight.

You are with me whatever I do.

You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.

You are with me whatever I do.

I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—

    your reassuring presence, coming and going. 

You are with me whatever I do.

This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! 

You are with me whatever I do.

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?

You are with me whatever I do.

If I climb to the sky, you’re there!  If I go underground, you’re there!

You are with me whatever I do.

If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon,

You’d find me in a minute— you’re already there waiting!

You are with me whatever I do.

Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!

    At night I’m immersed in the light!”

You are with me whatever I do.

It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;

    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

You are with me whatever I do.

*HYMN #457 I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art



PRAYER OF CONFESSION (categories from the Gen. 39 Joseph story)

God, at times it is hard to believe that you are with us. 

When all is well, we can forget that we are still dependent on you.

Forgive us, O God. 

When others seek to do us harm, we may lose faith.

Forgive us, O God. 

When we our fortunes drastically change, and we doubt your presence. Forgive us, O God. 

When we are captive to our circumstances and do not believe you free us, Forgive us, O God. 

When we are falsely accused and we question your righteousness,

Forgive us, O God. 

When we prosper and forget that all we have and are is yours,

Forgive us, O God. 

–Silent Confession–

Words of forgiveness (Romans 8:38-39)  God is always with us. Nothing fazes us because Jesus loves us and nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.


HYMN # 179 God Is My Strong Salvation

SERMON  Wherever You May Be               Pastor Barb Hedges-Goettl


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the Confession of Belhar)

We believe God has revealed God’s self as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. In a world full of injustice and enmity, we believe God  is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged. We believeGod calls the church to follow God in this: to bring justice to the oppressed and give bread to the hungry; to free the prisoner and restore sight to the blind; to support the downtrodden, protect the stranger, help orphans and widows and block the path of the ungodly. We believe that, for God, pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering. We believe God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right. Therefore, we musttand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

*HYMN # 332 Live Into Hope

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Genesis 12:1-9 Worship Resources Narrative Lectionary for 9/18/22

Cover picture from

Prayer of Confession by Dorothy McRae-McMahon; found at

*CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 105:1-6)

 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness!

 Let the whole world know what he does.

Sing praise to him.

Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.

 Praise God’s holy name!

 Let all who seek the Lord rejoice.

Search for the Lord and for his strength;

look for signs of His presence at all times.

All you children of Abraham, his servant,

remember the wonderful things he does,

all his marvelous work,

and the justice he demonstrates.

*HYMN # 26 Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim



We own our humanness, O God. We know that there have been many moments when we have failed to be true to the hope of your reign and the unity we know is found in you. We have not always received the gifts which lie within our differing human journeys or in the insights which we could share. We have been tempted by the power and realities of our own stories rather than the wonder of new life with each other. Forgive us, loving God, and call us on to truly walk with you.                                               –Silent Confession–

Words of forgiveness

God, in Christ Jesus, holds us in love and will lead us into a new journey together and a future filled with hope. In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. 

Thanks be to God.


SCRIPTURE READING  Genesis 12:1-9  

HYMN # 54 My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less

SERMON Being Great                                 Barb Hedges-Goettl


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the Brief Statement of Faith)

We trust in God, whom Jesus called Abba, Father.  In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God’s image, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community. But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.  Ignoring God’s commandments. we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care. We deserve God’s condemnation.      Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation. In everlasting love, the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people to bless all families of the earth. Hearing their cry, God delivered the children of Israel from the house of bondage. Loving us still, God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant. Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child, like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home, God is faithful still.     

*HYMN # 435 I Love to Tell the Story

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Sermon: A Rainbow Perspective Narrative Lectionary for 9/11/2022 Genesis 6:11-22, 8:6-12, 9:8-17

Photo by Barb Hedges-Goettl, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. August 10, 2022.          

We are now entering into the fall cycle of the Narrative Lectionary

In the fall, this lectionary always makes its way through the stories of the Old Testament

          This year beginning with the Flood narrative

                           then taking up the call to Abraham

                                                             imprisonment of Joseph

                                                             the Israelites crossing the Re(e)d Sea and so on

          In Advent, the Narrative Lectionary picks up one of the gospels—this year, Matthew

          And in the spring, it provides us with passages from Paul’s letters and/or Acts

The Flood story is likely one of the best-known stories of Scripture

But teaching of the story of the Flood to children is a bit like the reality of fairy tales

In that the original Grimm fairy tales were, in fact, quite grim

Containing blood and lust, infanticide and incest

Recently expurgated and Disney-fied to be more child-appropriate

In recognition that the originals are not as fitting for children as we assumed

This is pertinent in that the Flood is actually a violent story

          The near-total destruction of humanity by God

          Has been occasioned by the destructiveness of humanity

In fact, the Hebrew word for what humanity had done and what God does in response is the same:

          A word meaning to destroy, to do something with violence, to harm, ruin, lay waste 

         So that what the people have done and what God subsequently does make a complete circle

         Bookending the Flood itself in violent, destructive actions on both sides of the equation

As a friend of mine puts it, “It was going good until human beings got involved.

                                                   Then things just get messed up.”

This is the reality of our world—in the time of Noah and in our times

That our hopes for ourselves, for our families, for our world

Are frequently disrupted by things that humans do, by how humans are

Especially in these politically fraught times, it is difficult to have—and maintain—hope

          Signs that seem to portend change for the better

          Come alongside of signs that indicate otherwise

          A turn in what one views as a positive direction

          Is rapidly followed by a turn in the opposite direction

And we will see through our OT readings this fall (and likely our NT readings as well)

          That this reality continues

          That despite the Flood’s almost full-stop cessation of human activity

          It is not long before humans are back at it again

          Although God vows never again to take this kind of action in response

And so where does this leave us? Where is our hope?

Our hope is, our hope remains, in God

Our hope lies in understanding God-at-work no matter what

This means that our hope is a matter of our perspective

          That our hope comes from believing that God can redeem any situation

          That what looks to be our demise, our death, our crucifixion

                   Can be turned on its head by new life, by rising-from-the-ashes, by resurrection

At the Makemie lunch on Wednesday, pastors had a real conversation about faith


                                                                                                                                          life in Christ

Where we asked one another, and ourselves, if we really believe in resurrection

That when we think we can’t do it

                                     it’s over

                                     it is–we are–dead-and-gone

God offers us resurrection

          Not just pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by, but here and now

          Belief that the death of the way we’ve always done it can result in rising again

          So that when we think we are can’t do it, we hold onto the resurrection that’s already begun

          Knowing ourselves to be children of God’s promise

                                                                            the earth washed by flood

                                                                             sins washed away by baptism

And God’s promise is signified to us in multiple ways

          Not only in the rainbow

                  but in baptism

                  and in the Lord’s Supper

Giving us not only the spoken promise, the Word, but something more tangible to hang onto

And this hanging onto the promise can make all the difference

        re-framing our reality in small ways that have big results

        cracking open our tired old stories to offer a new ending

Much of the work of therapy can be encompassed under the category of “reframing”

This means learning to see the glass as half-full instead of half-empty

                                          look for the “silver lining” (or the rainbow) in the cloud

                                          rather than the cloud in the silver lining

On our recent trip to Niagara,

Len had (as he usually does) researched what was there

                                                                                           open when

                                                                                   could fit together on a single day’s road trip

                                                                                   and how much it all cost

And one of our party liked to raise possible impediments to our plans—

          Maybe it will rain

          Maybe we won’t find parking

          Maybe we’ll get there too late

As you can imagine, this was exasperating to Len, who’d put a lot of time and effort into planning

But eventually he learned to respond, “Or it could all work out!”

And the person raising the objections was able to laugh and say, “Yeah, it could.”

It could all work out

Of course, God’s promises are even better than this

It’s not a question of whether it will all work out, but how and when

Of finding the chink in the fog

                   the rainbow in the storm that allows us to trust God

Recent storms have given us some chances to look for rainbows

During one of them, the people I was with were looking for a rainbow

But the storm was at noon and so the rainbow was nowhere in sight

This is because the rainbow shows up in the sky opposite the sun

                                      and at noon there is no sky opposite the sun

                                                             only the ground is opposite the sun

That is, the ingredients of the rainbow are there, but they cannot show themselves

Feels a bit like how life is sometimes, doesn’t it?

                           when we have to wait for hope, for the rainbow, to show itself

                           because it’s the wrong part of the storm to see it

When we cannot see the rainbow

 When it’s not visible

we can nonetheless hang on to the promise of the rainbow

This “promise of the rainbow,” this rainbow perspective, is twofold

          we can remember the last time we saw this symbol of hope

                                                                   we found hope amid storms

          and we can remember its accompanying promise

                                                                            the promise that we will see it again

                                                                                   once again we will find hope despite the storm(s)

Sometimes the rainbow perspective comes from others

bucking us up with their testimony of hope and of God’s faithfulness

          holding us in hope and faith and prayer when we can’t do it ourselves

Sometimes hope comes from letting go

          turning our cars into the skid instead of against it

          swimming with, instead of against, the tide

          riding things out instead of fighting them

My husband tells of a client whose perfectionism threatened to overwhelm her other values

          This was a woman who, after the kids decorated the Christmas tree

                                                      with the younger child covering the lowest branches

                                                      and the older one decorating the mid-level branches

                                                      re-decorated the tree after the kids went to bed

                                                      resulting in a hew and outcry for them when they saw it the next day

Len invited the client to gain some perspective on this by asking what kind of tree it was

Upon discovering it was a live tree, he asked the woman to think about what it means

          That we take a live tree and cut it down, killing it

          And drag it indoors to put stuff all over this dead piece of wood

                    Given all this, what does it mean to have the “perfect tree”?

                    Maybe it has more to do with the joy people take in it than the tree itself

When storms come (and go), remembering the covenant of the rainbow

          Offered not just to Noah and his family but to the whole world

          Every living creature that is on the worth—you and me and all that lives on earth with us

          Giving us a chance to take God’s perspective on it all

The perspective of the rainbow, making beauty out of storms

          Offering hope amid disaster

          Believing in resurrection in the face of death, even death on a cross

          Knowing that the God of the rainbow can—and does—overcome it all

          Even when it is the wrong time of the storm for us to be able to see it clearly.

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Narrative Lectionary 9-11-22 Genesis 6-7-8

Cover picture from DXLyEXh18Aq7mdn4cTJYxDDPP3cURb6LHFrQQ5wG8wbXRRt2l

The cover picture is a real, unedited photo. All of its parts are real. 

The stone is real. The trees are real. The soil is real. The sky is real. 

The only thing you have to do is change your point of view. 

Look at the photo upside down!


As in days of old, Creator God,

we come to look for signs of covenant promises. 

Like the rainbow days of Noah, we see and know your signs

and hear your voice again, directing us to the place of preparation

and transformation in our lives and in our world. 

Thank you, O God, for your covenant signs. Amen.

*HYMN # 276 Great Is Thy Faithfulness 


God, we confess that sometimes it is hard to hope for rainbows. 

We do not believe that every storm will run out of rain. 

When people who call themselves Christians scream hate, we have trouble remembering that you are the God of love. 

Stop the hate–theirs and ours.

Protect us, and help us to see the rainbow we pray. Amen.

–Silent Confession–


Nothing can separate you from the Love of Christ: Not height nor depth nor floods nor hate. Know the truth and affirm it to one another: In Jesus Christ we are always beloved and always forgiven. Thanks be to God, Amen.  

SCRIPTURE READING  Genesis 6:11-22, 8:6-12, 9:8-17

SERMON   A Rainbow Perspective                             Barb Hedges-Goettl


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the 2nd Helvetic Confession)

To be baptized in the name of Christ is to be enrolled, entered, and received into the covenant and family. Through the water, we have entered into the inheritance of the children of God, and so in this life  we are to be called after the name of God. We are called children of God. We are cleansed also from the filthiness of sins. We are granted the manifold grace of God, in order to lead a new and innocent life. Passing through the water in Baptism, therefore, calls to mind and renews the great favor God has shown to the race of mortals. For we are all born in the pollution of sin and are the children of wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy, freely cleanses us from our sins by the blood of his Son, Jesus, in whom God adopts us to be God’s own children. By a holy covenant God joins us to himself, and enriches us with various gifts, that we might live a new life. All these things are assured by our passing through the waters in baptism. For inwardly we are regenerated, purified, renewed by God through the Holy Spirit; and outwardly we receive the assurance of the greatest gifts. These great benefits are represented to us as we pass through the water, as Noah did, and so they are set before our eyes to behold.

*HYMN # 388 O Jesus, I Have Promised

Call to Worship from  from Prayers for the Journey: Service Prayers for the First Sunday of Lent, written by the Rev. Rosemary McCombs Maxey from the United Church of Christ’s  Worship Worship Ways website.

Prayer of Confession by Rev. Katy Stenta,

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A Prayer for Memorial Day in the USA

Photo Armenian Azerbaijan War Memorial by Barb Hedges-Goettl, taken August 2021 (before the more recent war)

O God, on this Memorial Day, free us to practice remembrance.

Free us from the illusion that this weekend is just the start of summer, a time for family and friends, for barbecues and beaches.

Remind us that liberty and freedom are not free. Open our eyes to the continuing battles for freedom not just for some, but for all.

Free us from assuming sacrifice is someone else’s job. Inspire us beyond words to actions, dying to old ways to live lives of resurrection.

Remind us that you are not just our God, and that we are not your only people. Open our hearts and arms wide to your whole wide world.

Free us from the myth that freedom is only for us. Embolden us to defend the rights of others: to speak their truth and be heard, and to be who they are.

O God, on this Memorial Day, remind us to practice freedom.


A Bully Prayer 3/20/23

O God,

you made each of us

and you love each of us.

But from the playground to politics,

we witness to behavior that defies this truth—

big kids who pick on little kids,

popular kids who pick on those who are different,

leaders who serve only their followers,

powerful people who use their power on for their own ends

and not for the good of the people.

Open our blind eyes.

Unstop our deaf ears.

Take our heads out of the sand.

When we encounter those who use

their position

or their power

or their talents

to abuse and bully others,

empower us.

Toughen our backbones.

Invigorate our voices.

Renew our resolve.

Enable us to see through excuses.

Prevent us from excusing the inexcusable

in others or in ourselves.

Intensify our commitment to acting in love

and requiring others to do likewise.

Embolden our leaders with leadership.

Bolster in our church boards an intolerance for bullying.

Teach us how to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves

as we go about your business in a godly way.

Engender in us love for those who are so hurt

that they hurt others in turn.

Empower us to claim your power

and to use that power so that

our actions limit the hurt they cause.

Extend your love through us in this way

for their good

and our good

and the good of all of your people


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