Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
SCRIPTURE READINGS: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25–5:2; John 6:35, 41-51
CALLS TO WORSHIP
Call to Worship #1
L: Out of the depths of our struggles, we cry to the Lord.
P: Lord, hear our cries!
L: In the inner darkness when we feel so alone, we cry to the Lord.
P: Lord, hear our cries!
L: We wait for the Lord with patient and hopeful hearts.
P: Lord, be with us today. AMEN.
Call to Worship #2
L: We are hungering and thirsting for hope and peace.
P: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
L: Our hearts long for the nourishing presence of God.
P: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
L: Give to us the living bread of your peace that we may hunger no more.
P: Open our hearts to joyfully receive your life-sustaining love. AMEN.
Call to Worship #3
[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2136, "Out of the Depths", offer the following call to worship as directed]
L: We are caught up in the trials and tribulations of our everyday lives.
P: The world seems to swirl around us, as a whirlpool, pulling us downward.
L: Bad news blasts us from every direction.
P: We need God’s healing touch right now.
Choir: singing verse 1 of "Out of the Depths"
L: Help us to believe in your healing love, O Lord.
P: Help us to focus our lives on your redeeming presence.
L: Enable us to reach out to each other and to our community.
P: Give us the strength, determination, and commitment to speak your word of peace.
Choir: singing verse 3 of "Out of the Depths"
L: And the people who seek the Lord shout:
Call to Worship #4
L: Hungering and thirsting, we come to the Lord.
P: Jesus is the living bread!
L: Feed us with your love and healing power, O Lord.
P: Give u s the bread of hope and compassion that we may also feed others.
L: Praise be to you, O Lord, for your compassion for us.
P: Praise be to you, O Lord, for your steadfast love. AMEN.
PRAYERS, READING, BENEDICTION
Lord, we come to you this day with so many things going on in our lives. Some of these things are wonderful and cause us to rejoice. However, there are far too many things that cause us fear and anxiety. Humbly we wait for your presence with us. We need your healing touch. Feed us with the bread of life, that we may hunger no more. Strengthen us to do your will, for it is in Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Lord, we want the easy way out! When things go wrong, we want to find who to blame for our misfortune. When we don’t get what we want, we want to punish whoever prevents us from our goals and desires. We don’t want to look at the ways in which we have perverted your love for us. We treat you as though you are a puppet who will dance to our demands. We act like spoiled children who want everything immediately, and who will become sullen and spiteful if we don’t get what we ask for. We stopped listening to you. Systems of greed and injustice replaced your command to "love one another". And now we come to you, asking for forgiveness and healing. Our hearts and lives are empty without your love. Our spirits wither and die in this greedy wasteland. Give to us your life-sustaining bread. Heal our souls. Help us to truly worship you and to willingly work for healing and hope in this world. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
L: God has heard your cries and knows your anguish. In Jesus Christ, you are loved and forgiven.
P: Praise be to God who forgives us all in the name of God’s beloved Son! AMEN.
Do we really dare to believe in Jesus Christ? That is a question that often goes unspoken but does rest in our hearts. Lord, help us in our unbelief. Help us to be courageous enough to accept the love that you have for us and the power you have to forgive and heal our souls. We live in a time of great hostility, fear and strife. It is easy for us to succumb to the terrors and forget that you are with us at all times, seeking peace and hope. You have asked us to be instruments of peace and justice. To do this we need to change our attitudes and practices to reflect your love and compassion and not be vehicles for our greed or need for approval. Jesus, the Bread of Life, has taught us the importance of serving others, and in that service we will do honor to you. Create in us hearts that are eager to serve and witness to your love. Open our lives this day and pour your healing mercies into them, that we may be messengers of hope to all whom we meet. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.
Reader 1: Bread. I like bread. I like the image of bread that Jesus used when he spoke with his disciples.
Reader 2: When I think of bread, my mind wanders to: Oatmeal, Wheat, White, Cracked Oat, Banana, Cranberry.....
Reader 1: You know, they say "Bread is the staff of life!"
Reader 2: Well, I surely could enjoy my fill of bread.
Reader 1: What do you think Jesus meant when he said he was the Bread of Life.
Reader 2: I don’t actually know. I kind of just gloss over that part of the scripture. It’s a nice phrase and all but I don’t quite get it.
Reader 1: Well, when I think of bread, which as I said I love, I think of being nourished, filled up.
Reader 2: You mean, that we should think of Jesus as "nourishing"?
Reader 1: Yes. All the things that he taught us, remind us of God’s life-sustaining love, right?
Reader 2: That’s right. He did teach us about forgiveness, and hope, and mercy. All those things would make someone’s life more fulfilled, fuller!
Reader 1: When we come to learn about Jesus, we learn more about our own relationship with God. We learn about the many ways in which God sustains us, giving us life.
Reader 2: Yeah, and when we think about this in relation to a loaf of bread, we are reminded that when we consume the loaf, we will be hungry again; but when we rely on Jesus for our nurture and sustenance we won’t ever hunger or thirst. Jesus is all we need!
Reader 1: I think that may be it. Jesus IS our life-giving, soul-sustaining Bread!
Reader 2: I know that I need this bread of life. Through the witness of Jesus, I come to the Father who renews and sustains me.
Reader 1: Thank God for bread!
Reader 2: Thank God for Jesus Christ, our Bread of Life!
Having been filled by the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, go forth into this world where hunger and thirst persist. Bring the healing, life-sustaining, nourishing word of God and the peace and love of Jesus Christ. Offer the transforming witness of the Holy Spirit to all you meet. Go in peace and may God’s peace always be with you. AMEN.
The traditional color for this Sunday is GREEN.
Note: I recommend putting a brief paragraph describing or explaining the symbolism used in your visual display. These become good teaching tools for a congregation.
Note: The image of Bread is used liberally in John’s gospel. You may want to consider a display using bread as the main image. For many of the people, the true emptiness in their lives was exposed in their actions and attitudes. They wanted a sign. The authorities could only think of Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary, a child of their own community. They had little faith that God would give them hope through someone they knew. Jesus reminded them that they were drawn by the Father to him, and through him they would receive life-sustaining "bread". Today’s focus is on the Living Bread - Jesus Christ. The image offered is the Bread of Life come down from Heaven, into the wildernesses of our lives. The praying hands picture centered on the worship table is a pleasant change from the traditional brass cross.
SURFACE: Place three risers on the worship center. The first riser should be placed in the center of the worship center, and the other two, lower risers, should be placed somewhat diagonally on each side and to the front of the center riser. Place a riser in front of the worship center.
FABRIC: You may wish to cover the entire worship center with green fabric, which is the color of the season, but my preference would be to use landscaper’s burlap to cover the worship center and all the risers, puddling on the floor in front of the riser. Green fabric, 12" square may be used on each of the risers. Using white netting, approximately 3 yards, gather it so that it bunches across the back of the worship center, somewhat reminiscent of clouds (heaven).
CANDLES: Place one white 10" pillar candle in the middle of the worship center.
FLOWERS/FOLIAGE: It is not necessary to use flowers for this setting. Although a small bundle of wheat may be placed in front of the candle at the middle of the worship center.
ROCKS/WOOD: Scatter bunches of small stones here and there in the worship center to give texture.
OTHER: Often in the Sunday School Curriculum there is a picture of "The Praying Hands". You might consider placing it on the center top riser on the worship center. Otherwise, the Brass Cross would suffice. If the bread you used on the worship center is still good, remove it from the baskets and pile it up on and near the other two risers on the worship center. On the lower riser, place an empty basket, and several other baskets, empty and tipped over at the base of the worship center.