Worship Elements: April 2, 2017

March 1st, 2017

Fifth Sunday in Lent

COLOR: Purple
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45

THEME IDEAS

Hope is not only a life and death matter, hope is a life in death matter. Hope finds its greatest challenge, and shines its greatest light, when life stands in the face of death and affirms that God remains trustworthy. Ezekiel is called to prophesy such hope in a valley of dried bones and lost dreams. The psalmist proclaims hope from the depths, as one who waits for the gift of a morning yet to dawn. And Jesus, stricken with a grief born of love, speaks hope into Lazarus’s tomb, calling his friend forth as a sign of God’s glory and of our hope.

INVITATION AND GATHERING

Call to Worship (Ezekiel 37, John 11)

Coming from places that have seen better days,
God bids us to celebrate this day,
a day full of new possibilities.
Coming with our breath taken away by grief,
the Holy Spirit breathes new life within us,
renewing our connection with God
and with one another.
Coming to worship seeking a hope that will endure,
Christ unbinds the fetters that hold us in death,
speaking in word and sacrament,
and building community for holy service.

Opening Prayer (Psalm 130, John 11)

God of life, present and promised,
you are the One to whom we call:
for you are the One who hears,
and you are the One who acts,
bringing us new life
with your grace and love and power.
Lead us in our time of worship,
that we may be prepared to follow your lead
in places where life is at risk—
places where hope seems far away,
places where dreams die during sleep.
When we leave these walls,
help us live the teachings we proclaim
within this place of worship,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

PROCLAMATION AND RESPONSE

Prayer of Confession (Ezekiel 37, Psalm 130, John 11)

Forgive us, O God,
when we see the world
through rose-colored glasses
rather than as it really is,
much less the way you seek it to be.
Forgive us, Holy One,
when we forsake lively and risky faith
calling us to be agents of change in our world
for the bland conviction that all will be well.
Renew us with your grace
and ground us with your Spirit,
that we might be empowered to live,
in word and deed,
as testimonies to the power
of your love over the grave.
In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Words of Assurance (Ezekiel 37, Romans 8)

The God we serve is the God of life,
the God of hope, the God of new beginnings—
even for dried-up bones and shattered dreams.
That rattling of bones in Ezekiel’s vision
may be heard as the shackles that once held us down
in fear, sin, prejudice, and guilt.
God defies these deadly entanglements
with the power of life.
This we trust, and by this we live.
Thanks be to God!

Response to the Word (Ezekiel 37, John 11)

In the midst of a valley filled with bones, amidst the stench of a tomb’s death and decay, a voice cries out in the name of life. And in holy mystery, life comes forth. These are the stories we are told. But are these the stories we will trust? Are these the stories we will live by?

THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION

Offering Prayer (Ezekiel 37, John 11)

From your hands, O God,
come the blessings that make life possible,
even the very gift of life itself.
In gratitude and thanks,
receive from our hands this portion of our labors.
By your Spirit’s leading,
may we use these gifts to bless the life of others
with the assurance of love,
the promise of hope,
and the course of justice.
This we do to your glory. Amen.

Invitation to Communion (Ezekiel 37)

Ezekiel prophesied life to broken and scattered bones.
Jesus offered the bread of life
to soon-to-be-scattered disciples.
In a field where life had been poured out,
Ezekiel promised the outpouring of God’s Spirit.
At this table, in a cup poured out,
and in bread broken, Jesus promises
new life in God’s kingdom.
Let us gather at God’s table, and remember.
Let us gather at God’s table, and hope.

SENDING FORTH

Benediction (Psalm 130, Romans 8)

We are a people loved by God.
We will live as signs of this love.
We are a people blessed with hope.
We will live in light of this hope.
May the love of God, the grace of Christ,
and the courage of the Spirit, strengthen our faith
and set us loose to share God’s love with all.
Amen and amen!

CONTEMPORARY OPTIONS

Gathering Words (Ezekiel 37, John 11)

God says: I will put my Spirit within you,
and you shall live. Will you believe?
Lord, we lift your name on high.
Lord, we love to sing your praises.
Jesus says: I am the resurrection and the life.
Will you live as if this were so?
Lord, we lift your name on high.
Lord, we love to sing your praises.
Jesus called: Lazarus, come forth!
Jesus still calls: (name of congregation), come forth!
Lord, we lift your name on high.
Lord, we love to sing your praises.

Praise Sentences (Psalm 130)

Hope in God, whose love is steadfast,
whose power redeems.
Hope in God, whose love is steadfast,
whose power redeems.


From The Abingdon Worship Annual edited by Mary J. Scifres and B.J. Beu, Copyright © Abingdon Press. The Abingdon Worship Annual 2017 is now available.

About the Author

John Indermark

John Indermark is a writer and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He is the author of a numerous books read more…
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