September 10, 2023
“Love Does No Wrong” (Communion Service)
Following Jesus Courageously: Week 2
Romans 13:8-14 (Living Honorably) | Matthew 18:15-20 (Relationships in the Church and Beyond)
Opening Words (Liturgist)
As we continue “Following Jesus Courageously” we wonder what it means to love one another as we are commanded to by Christ. In the letter to the Romans, we will hear Paul say that we cannot go wrong when we are living in the ways of love. And so, we are called to wake up to the times we are in, to pledge ourselves to living honorably and to letting go of bickering, self-indulgence, and jealousy.
Then, we hear Jesus’ call in the book of Matthew regarding relationships with our fellow folx who are journeying together with Jesus. (Because, sometimes we have disagreements and frustrations, even in our faith communities.) But listen carefully to the Gospel! Remember how Jesus interacts with those who are considered outcasts from the faith communities of His day. What is the Good News that we can glean from these teachings? And how are we to respond?
Let us join together in the Call to Worship.
Call to Worship (Liturgists)
Leader: Pilgrims on the way, when we feel lost and ask for a sign to show us the way out of our confusion,
All: We remember that when we gather to worship, we find God in our midst.
Leader: When we face obstacles and barriers that keep us from the life God has called us to,
All: We remember that God is always at work among us, protecting and tending our well-being.
Leader: When cannot find our way out of conflict and discord,
All: We remember that God calls and equips us for the work of reconciliation.
Leader: When we struggle to pay attention to how God is at work all around us,
All: We remember God’s call to sit, eat, and tell one another the stories of God’s faithfulness.
Leader: Pilgrims on the way, when we watch for signs of God among us,
All: Let us remember that we too are signs of God’s presence for others! Amen.
Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, March 2023.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
(Led by Liturgists)
Liturgist: The act of confessing our sin is not simply a recitation of our faults and wrongs, but also an opportunity to receive God’s mercy and share in that abundant grace. Confident of God’s love for us, let us offer our prayers, first in silence. (Silent prayer.)
All: Holy God, we ask for your help, your power, your Spirit, so that we can amend our lives and grow more each day into the image of Christ.
We confess that we fear what is different. We confess that it’s easier to lock the doors of our community than to receive those who don’t look like we look, love like we love, or vote the way we vote. We confess that we have not lived out your call to share in abundant life and unconditional love.
We believe that you have the power to turn us around to a more inclusive way of living, so we ask you to do that. We ask you to give us the courage to change. We ask that you give us the energy, intelligence, imagination, and love to be your people in all we say and do.
Written by Beth Merrill Neel on her blog, ‘Hold Fast to What Is Good,’ https://holdfasttowhatisgood.com. Used with permission.
Romans 13:8-14 (The Message)
8-10 Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.
11-14 But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!
*Choir Music Between Readings *
Matthew 18:15-20 (The Message, adapted for inclusivity)
Opening Notes: Jesus is speaking in response to a question about who is greatest in the Kingdom of God, and what forgiveness looks like in real time practice:
15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell them—work it out between the two of you. If they listen, you’ve made a friend. If they won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If they still won’t listen, tell the church. If they won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront them with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.
18-20 “Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”
Prayer Following Scripture
Leader: We give you thanks, O Lord, we call on your name. We will make known your deeds among the peoples.
All: We’ll sing to you, we’ll sing praises to you; we’ll tell of all your wonderful works. We glory in your holy name; let the hearts of those who seek you rejoice.
Leader: We seek you, Lord, and your strength; and your presence continually. We remember the wonderful works you have done, your miracles, and the judgments you uttered.
All: You are the Lord our God; your judgments are in all the earth. Amen and Amen.
Written by Tony Peterson, The Africana Worship Book, Year A (Nashville: Discipleship Ministries, 2006), 93.
Reflection by Pastor AJ Wolff-Lynne
A cup of coffee or tea can be a wonderful thing! Sharing time together in loving kindness, with our intentions set on listening deeply to one another is an excellent pairing with a warm beverage. As we enter into the cooler nights and mornings that come with this time of year, please know that I am available to listen, to share a cup of coffee or tea, and to ponder with you what the movements of the Spirit are like.
This superman sweatshirt is one of my favorites. Throughout my life, I have enjoyed the realm of superheroes, especially those who are focusing their energies on bringing justice, mercy and steadfast love to the world in which they find themselves. We all need someone to look up to, especially in days like our own, in a culture that has other intentions, most notably the self-centeredness and the stratification of humanity.
What if we imagined a different world? Our readings today bring us to an inquiry like that. Can we act in ways that bring about more justice, more equity, and more acts of selflessness, charity, and steadfast love and kindness? We need companions along the journey, if we are to accomplish such a task. And we need to cultivate our Sacred Imagination together. That’s one of the gifts of a loving community of faith. We work on this when we come together in church, and when we sit together around the table of grace.
Let me know if you would like a home visit, or if you would enjoy getting together over a cup of coffee somewhere near the shore! This is one of the ways we can cultivate that Sacred Imagination together, with the intention of bringing healing and hopefulness into a hurting world.
May the Love of Christ flow with strength and resiliency through your veins, and may you be clothed with Christ this week!
Prayers for Anti-Racism
Your children are hurting, God. With hearts aching and spirits broken, with emotions overflowing, we don't know what to do. For centuries, we have faced adversity, hardship, and pain. False promises are made that things will change, but they don't.
My God, The Preamble of our Constitution of the United States of America promises justice, an assurance of domestic tranquility, provide for common defense, provide for general welfare, and secure the liberty to ourselves and our prosperity. This has proven not to be true for Your Black and Brown children.
We are bound by the injustices of hatred and meanness. The injustice of unsanitary living conditions. The injustice of poor health care. The injustice of poor education. he injustice of lack of jobs and employment. The injustice of a biased judicial system against us. The injustice of little food to eat and lack of clean water.
How long, God, must we suffer? Your Word says I am in you, and you are in me. Every time they kill one of your children, You die also.
During this Pentecost season, we need the strong, powerful winds of Your mighty power to blow through our world to bring about a change that must change, or we will be lost.
We humbly come to you, O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing and illumination. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Excepted from “Prayer for Comfort: I'm Tired!,” (June 2, 2020). The Rev. Linda Bell, member of the Metropolitan New York Synod 50-40-10 Taskforce.
Travelers on the journey of faith, pay attention! God is at work all around you. May you go ready to witness the signs of God’s love in your midst and to be a sign of God’s love wherever you go. Amen.
Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, March 2023.