Updated: Dec 24, 2020
We are still family even while we are apart, so while we are unable to gather because of the ongoing health crisis, I will be sharing material on the blog each Sunday morning, and posting notes to those unable to access the internet. Of course you are free to use this material at any time, but my hope is that as many of us as possible will be reading these words during our usual service time - Sunday at 10:30 if you're new or need a reminder! - gathering in time if not in space.
We would ordinarily be sharing communion on this first Sunday of the month, so I have included a brief liturgy which I adapted some years ago from that found in the Didache, an early church manual. The closing prayer about the church being scattered and gathered seemed particularly appropriate at this time. The church has often had to get creative in times of great difficulty, and so while an unbroken loaf and non-alcoholic wine may be hard to come by, I believe it is perfectly acceptable that we use whatever we have, and it may help to set it aside before you start the service. If you are able to use this liturgy with others in your household, or share with another over the phone or online, you may wish to alternate reading the words in ordinary type and speak together the words in bold type.
Call to worship
Begin by holding in your mind all those you would normally be worshipping with, and others that you love and are currently distanced from, and say this prayer: Lord, thank you that though apart we are held together in love and prayer; draw especially close to us in this time and comfort us. Amen.
This feels like a time to learn new rhythms and invest deeply in prayer, so I offer a number of suggestions, which you may find helpful as you pray on your own or with other members of your household. I also offer a recording of 'a prayer for grief', written by Leslie Roberts and shared by Sanctuary Ministries. However you choose to pray, I invite you to end by praying the Lord's Prayer.
PRAYING IN CONCENTRIC CIRCLES This is a way of praying in ever widening circles. Start by praying for yourself, so that you might lay down any distractions. Then pray for your loved ones, then your community, then our country, then finally the world.
IN-OUT-UP-DOWN Focus inwards to pray for yourself, then look outwards to pray for those in the communities around you, then up to think of heaven and pray for the church, then down to think of the earth and pray for all its people.
PRAYING WITH YOUR HANDS Open your hands to offer God all that pains and troubles you, then close your hands to take hold of the peace that God wants to give you. Or use your fingers to guide you through different forms of prayer - the little finger for confession, the ring finger for petition (asking help for yourself), the middle finger for intercession (asking help for others), the index finger for thanksgiving, and the thumb for praise.
IMAGINATIVE PRAYER WALKING Current advice is that we can go out for exercise once a day, which may be an opportunity to pray for our communities as we walk/run/cycle through them. But we can also engage in imaginative prayer walking, taking a ‘walk’ through our neighbourhoods in our minds, and praying for the homes and schools and businesses and so on that we ‘see’.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Leas us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever.
Reading: John 12:12-19, read by Steve Martin
Reflection, by our minister Leigh Greenwood
Almighty God who created all things, you gave us food and drink for our enjoyment, that we might ever praise you, but you also gave us spiritual food and drink, that we may have abundant and eternal life through your son. Before all things, we give you thanks that you are both powerful and loving. Yours is the glory and the power for ever and ever.
[lifting the cup] Father, we thank you for the salvation and blessing which you made known to us through your son Jesus, who shed his blood to write a new covenant for the forgiveness of sins. Yours is the glory for ever and ever.
[breaking the bread] Father, we thank you for the life and knowledge which you made known to us through your son Jesus, who came in flesh and gave that flesh to show us your great love. Yours is the glory for ever and ever.
[after the bread and wine have been consumed] Lord, we thank you for your holy name, which you have made to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and eternal life, which you have made known to us through your son Jesus. May the bread and cup be a sign and a reminder of these things. Yours is the glory for ever and ever.
Remember your world. Deliver it from all evil and perfect it in your love, that it may be sanctified into your kingdom which you have prepared for it. Yours is the glory for ever and ever.
And as the broken bread was scattered upon the mountains to feed the people and then gathered again to reveal your abundance, so may your church which is now scattered for the protection of all be gathered together again in safety and in celebration. Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.
Close your time of worship by again holding in your mind those you love and would be worshipping alongside, and use the words of the grace: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit remain with us all evermore. Amen.