Reaching Out to Others (Matthew 9:35—10:1, 5-8)

Gracious God, we confess we completely relate to the phrase,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”
The needs of our world can be overwhelming.
Our lives are overbooked and the demands on our time grow exponentially.
Remind us to stop, take a breath,
and choose where we spend our time and energy.

Lord, you saw the needs of the people in your time and
sent out your disciples.
We are your disciples today.
We gather here today as your community.
We make up the body of Christ in today’s world.
We are the laborers who are to make this world your world.
Remind us to stop, take a breath,
and choose where we spend our time and energy.

We have received the gift of your grace and the gift of your love,
and we have made no payments for these gifts.
You offered them to us freely because we are your children.
You freely offered these gifts to us,
as you also offered to us the gift of your Son.
Open our eyes to your plan here on earth.
Use us to fulfill that plan.
Give us the strength to share the good news of your teaching.
As we support those among us who are in need of healing,
we ask that you be with those among us who need your strength.
We name _____.
We are the laborers who are to make this world your world.
Remind us to stop, take a breath,
and choose where we spend our time and energy.

As your followers, and as your children,
use us as your disciples.
Send us out to proclaim the good news and to share your teachings.
Send us out to feed the hungry.
Send us out to speak for those without a voice.
Send us out to shelter those who have no home.
Send us out to protect those who are in danger.
Send us out to listen for the needs of those around us.
Send us out to embrace those who feel unlovable.

As you send us out, we lift up our voices as one,
using the words your Son taught us,
“Our Father…”

Respect, Peace, Encouragement, Thankfulness and Prayer (1 Thessalonians 5: 12-24 )

Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.

These are words that may not occur often in our daily lives.
Our political climate highlights mistrust with our elected officials.
Financial institutions have failed us.
Corporations seek profit over environmental safety and
short-term profit over job security for employees.
Even our religious institutions have caused pain rather than
building peace and unity.
Fear seems to be the strongest emotion in today’s world.

As we come together this morning, here in this sacred place,
remind us, Gracious God, that we are your people, your children.
Each of us has a role to play in this body, in your church.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
May these be the words that we think of when we think of our church,
when we look around at the faces of those around us.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
May these words describe how we treat others in our daily lives.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
May these be the words that we inspire in those we encounter.

Be with us, all loving and powerful God.
Remind us to always seek to do good for others,
help us to resist returning evil for evil.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
May these words be our daily mantra,
here within our church and outside in our community.
We have come together, as your followers, as your believers.
We trust in your teachings and we lift up our worries,
our fears and our concerns to you, Gracious God.
We ask that you be with ___ and to share your strength and
healing grace with them.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
Open our hearts and minds so that these words become our habits of behavior.
Respect, peace, encouragement, thankfulness, and prayer.
Your son modeled these behaviors for us and now we use the words
he taught us, lifting our voices up in prayer to you,
“Our Father…”

The Sense of Human Touch (2 Kings 5:1-14)

We fear what we do not understand
and pull away in an attempt to protect ourselves.
In Naaman’s time, a disease to be feared was leprosy.
In our recent history, we have treated AIDS victims as lepers,
and before that, we whispered the word cancer using
other terms instead.
In today’s world, we hide diagnoses of addiction and mental illness.

Help us to be giving and healing people, Lord.
Open our eyes to the needs of those around us,
and when we are in need, bring a loving touch to our lives.
Remind us that the human touch and the smallest act of caring
can make a huge difference in someone’s outlook on life.
We can make eye contact and say good morning
to the homeless man on the corner of the street
rather than walking past him as if he doesn’t exist.
We can listen for the answer, spoken and unspoken,
when we ask someone how they are doing.
We can offer assistance without judgment to a family
impacted by a child’s mental illness.

We fear what we do not understand
and pull away in an attempt to protect ourselves.
We want easy answers and
don’t want to take the time to understand a different point of view.
We want to blame others for their situation in life.
If they had been more responsible, they wouldn’t be homeless.
If they had worked harder, they wouldn’t have lost their job.
If they had taken better care of themselves, they wouldn’t have gotten ill.
Remind us that finding reasons for others’ failures will not keep us safe.
Remind us that we are your community of believers and
we are to act as your body in Christ.

Help us to be giving and healing people, Lord.
You showed us in your teachings how to model that behavior.
Help us to act as you did, giving respect to all,
treating everyone with love without judgment.
Help us to touch the lives of those around us with kindness and acceptance.
As you shared our world, we know that you are still with us.
We ask that you be with those among us who need your presence.
We name __.
As your followers, we lift up the words you taught us,
“Our Father…”

I Believe in Grace

The mystery of God’s Grace, the mystery of Christ.
The mystery of the Christmas story, the gift of God’s Son, .

Our world is full of mystery and wonder.
We marvel at the world you have provided for your children.
Sometimes we think we have the answers,
but all too often, we are asking you, “Why?”

The mystery of God’s Grace, the mystery of Christ.
It was not a secret that the Jewish world was waiting for a Messiah.
The mystery that was revealed to us in Christ is the
joining of the Gentiles and the Jews
into one body, the body of Christ.
The mystery that was revealed to us in Christ is the boundless riches
of the gifts You have given us,
the gift of Your grace and
the gift of Your Son who allows us
to approach You Father
with the confidence of a child who knows their parents love them.

The mystery of God’s Grace, the mystery of Christ.
We are your children, Lord.
Together we are the body of Christ, members together of one body.
We share in the promise of Christ Jesus
equally without favoritism, without division.

As the Magi provided gifts to Jesus, remind us Lord,
to share our gifts with others.
Together we are the body of Christ, members together of one body.
Remind us to strive to work together
to share your love and your grace with others.
Remind us of those among us who are hurting and in need of comfort or healing.
Remind us to celebrate often and to have fun in your world,
to laugh with each other
and to lift each other up in spirit and in prayer.

We are your children, Lord.

Bread and Wine, Body and Blood

John 6: 51-58
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Take a piece of bread from the Table. Hold it in your hands and consider its texture – the hardness of the outside compared to the soft inside; smell it and remember the welcoming smell of baking bread and the feelings that evokes; taste it and as you eat the bread, consider the life-giving force contained within the bread. As you chew and swallow the bread, it becomes one with your body providing nutrients, energy and sustenance to you.

Meditation phrase:
“…abide in me, and I in them.”

Consider these words and what it means to abide in Jesus and to have Him abide in you.

Prayer of Confession:

Lord, those words imply a spirit of oneness, complete intimacy.
I long for that closeness, but I confess I don’t always strive for that closeness.

I let myself get distracted by the shiny things in life not recognizing that
what appears attractive and inviting to me may not be part of your plan or will.

I let myself get distracted by my fears and worries
not recognizing that I should be focusing on living within your spirit of love.

I let myself get distracted by the day to day demands of my life
not recognizing those in need that you place in front of me.

Help me remember always that the gift our Father gave us in You is an eternal gift.
The one who eats this bread, who abides in You, is one with You eternally. Remove
my distractions and help me recognize that spirit of oneness and to openly
share in the complete intimacy You offer to me.

We Are Your People (Revelation 7:9-17)

The body of Christ is made up of people
from every nation, tribe, people and language.
We are your people, Lord.
We stand before you, offering our praise and thanks.
We are the believers dressed in white robes.

We come to your table as one.
Our background is diverse,
our skin color varies,
ourlanguage choices differ
But we are one, we are your people, your children,
created in the image of God.

We are the body of Christ,
we are your children.
You wipe away our tears and serve us the living water.
We stand before you, offering our praise and thanks.
Remind us to share your story with those around us.

We celebrate your story, your teachings, your deeds.
Remind us to put your teachings into action,
to make earth as it is in heaven.
We are your people,
we are your hands here on earth,
we are your eyes here on earth, and
we are your ears here on earth.

We are the believers, it is up to us to praise you,
to share your story with others.
Give us the strength to share that story.
Give us the strength to be your advocates.
And give your strength and your grace to those
among us who need your care today.
We ask you to be with __ today.

As your children, we celebrate the uniqueness of each other,
we feel your love and cherish that love.
As members of the body of Christ, we use the words that Christ taught us,
“Our Father…”

We Are Not Alone (Esther 4:1-17

We are bombarded with bad news every day.
Children die.
Houses burn.
Jobs are lost.
Cancer strikes.

We think we are in control of our lives
and then the unexpected happens.
But we are not alone
and we are not helpless.

We are your hands in this world.
As a member of the body of Christ,
I can write a note to someone
who is unable to join us in worship this week
and tell them I missed them.
I can donate my money to organizations
who try to fulfill your plan on earth.
I can march in the street
to say we are all equal in God’s love.

We think we are in control of our lives
and then the unexpected happens.
But we are not alone
and we are not helpless.

We are your hands in this world.
As a member of the body of Christ,
I can serve breakfast
the first Saturday of the month at First Reformed.
I can donate food to the Food Bank.
I can vote for social programs and government policies
to protect those who have no power.

We think we are in control of our lives
and then the unexpected happens.
But we are not alone
and we are not helpless.

We are your hands in this world.
As a member of the body of Christ,
I can forgive those who hurt me and refuse to hold a grude.
I can speak up for those who have no voice.
I can recognize those who are feeling alone and ignored.
We are not alone. You are with us always.
We ask that you grant your grace and peace to ___

As your children and as members of the body of Christ, we use the words you taught us,
“Our Father…”

No Prophet Welcome in His Hometown (Luke 4:21-30)

There is no one who knows us better than our families.
And, yet, do our families really know us or do they know who we used to be?
Do they know how we have changed over time?
Or do they only know us how they want us to be?
You know us, Father, you knew us before we were born
and you know how we have grown since then
and you know how we still need to grow.

As we grow in this life, help us to see what is important in life.
Give us the strength to speak up as Jesus did when he spoke up for inclusion.
Today, many say that being inclusive is a sign of political correctness,
something we should not tolerate, something that makes us weak.
Remind us, Father God, that your Son taught us to include everyone,
to value everyone, without judgment.
Remind us, Mother God, that we are all your children,
each of us loved and each of us uniquely cherished.
When we respect each other, when we celebrate and accept our differences,
we are respecting you and acting as you taught us.

We may not have the strength or the character to live our entire lives as did Nelson Mandela,
but we can stand up in individual moments of oppression and speak up for the powerless.
When we see a bully taunt their victim,
encourage us to stand up in protest.
When we hear a racist joke,
encourage us to stand up and say we will not listen to hate.
When we notice inequality in social programs,
encourage us to ask our politicians why and to demand change.
When we see someone being ignored,
encourage us to reach out to that person and raise them up.
When we see a child without the ability to receive a quality education,
encourage us to ensure that all receive an education regardless of their school district.
When we see cities without safe drinking water,
encourage us to ask ourselves why lower-income populations are treated less fairly than those with wealth.

Give us the voice to speak for those without a voice.
Give us the ability to hear the cries of those around us in pain
and to find ways to provide comfort to them.
Give us the strength to be your children, to be your body of Christ.
Give us the courage to stand up to the majority
when we know that the minority is in the right.
As your children, we support those among us who are in pain and in need of your healing touch.
We ask that you be with ___ in particular.

We are your children, Lord.
We are your family, the body of Christ.
As your family, open our eyes to see each other,
to see each other as we really are.
And as your children, we use the words that your Son taught us,
“Our Father…”

Year of the Jubilee (Luke 4:14-21)

This is the year of the Lord’s favor,
the year of the Jubilee,
when captives are released,
and debts are forgiven.
Help us to see, Lord, where we are held captive.
Where in our lives are we feeling bound?

*silence*

What debts do we owe to others?
What debts do we owe to ourselves?

*silence*

Are we able to forgive ourselves
as easily as we forgive others?

*silence*

This is the year of the Lord’s favor.
What would he say to us today?
As we look at our lives,
are we living our lives the way we should be living?

*silence*

Are we walking in your footsteps, Lord?
Are we making this world your world?

*silence*

Help us to see, Lord, where we are held captive.
Help us to see when we choose not to act
because we think that we cannot make a difference.
Help us to realize that we can make that difference.

*silence*

This is the year of the Lord’s favor
the year of the Jubilee.
Forgive us our debts as we forgive others.
We start afresh from this point forward.
As we move into the world feeling free from our burdens,
how will we change the world?
As we forgive those among us,
how does that free us?

*silence*

Help us to see that freedom.
Help us to use that freedom.

*silence*

This is the year of the Lord’s favor.
The Scripture has been fulfilled in our hearing.
We are your people, Lord.
We gather here each week to fulfill your promise.
We make up the body of Christ and carry out your teachings.
As the community of believers we support each other in our trials,
and we ask that you be with ___in particular as they need your healing grace and strength.
Remind us that in most cases, the chains that are holding us prisoner were created by ourselves.
Give us the strength to free ourselves,
give us the strength to achieve your plan.

This is the year of the Lord’s favor.
As your people, we listen to your teachings.
We follow your teachings, and we use the words you taught us,
“Our Father…”

Come Follow Me (John 12:20-33)

You said, “Come follow me.”
We know that whoever serves you, must follow you.
What does that truly mean?

You said, “Come follow me.”
That means perhaps
being asked to love someone we don’t really like
being asked to help someone we think needs to take responsibility for their own situation
being asked to give our money or our time to support the church and our community.
You said, “Come follow me” and we are drawn to you.

As we are drawn to you, we feel the comfort of your presence.
We celebrate the joy we feel in your presence.
We share with others your teachings and
dedicate ourselves to building that sense of community with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We ask ourselves what you would do, and we stretch ourselves to try and do the same.

You said, “Come follow me.”
Did your original disciples really know what it meant to follow you?
We ask that you open our eyes to your plan.
We ask that you open our ears to the cries of those around us.
We ask that you use our hands and feet to fulfill the needs around us.
More importantly, we ask that you show us our value within the body of Christ.
How are we making a difference in this world?

We are drawn to you. We follow you willingly.
Help us to understand what that really means.
Help us to understand that no matter what beliefs we speak,
we are to act out your teachings in this world.
It is not enough to say love one another as you love yourself,
if we do not act as if we love each other fully and completely.
It is not enough to say we are followers of Christ,
if we do not spend time in prayer.
It is not enough to say we seek to make this place on earth the same as heaven,
if we do not seek justice for each other.

You said, “Come follow me.”
We are here, Lord, here in this sacred place.
We return each week to learn about you,
and to build our community as you have taught us.
We have followed you to this place.
We look around, and we lift up and celebrate those who are with us.
We are the body of Christ.
We are your brothers and sisters.
We learn from each other and we have learned the most from you, Lord.

You said, “Come follow me.”
We are here, Lord, and we use the words you taught us,
“Our Father…”