Worship Elements: September 3, 2017

13th Sunday after Pentecost

COLOR: Green
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

THEME IDEAS

Just when we think we have God figured out, God overturns our expectations once again. God takes an inarticulate, excuse-riddled murderer and turns him into one of the greatest leaders of the Hebrew people. Writing in Romans, Paul (who has a life-changing story to rival that of Moses) gives us an upside-down recipe for living in Christ: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Meanwhile, Jesus reminds us of one of the greatest, and most difficult, paradoxes of Christianity: to save your life you must first lose it. So we find ourselves once again surprised by the limitless and inexplicable nature of God’s love, and we rejoice to stand together on holy ground.

INVITATION AND GATHERING

Call to Worship (Psalm 105)

Give thanks for all the wonderful works of God.
Praise the Lord!
Sing a new song of praise to the God of all peoples.
Praise the Lord!
Proclaim God’s name to all the world.
Praise the Lord!
We are God’s chosen people; God is with us always.
Praise the Lord!
Let our hearts rejoice, for the Lord is God.
Praise the Lord!

Opening Prayer (Exodus 3, Romans 12, Matthew 16)

Surprising God,
you have an uncomfortable habit
of showing up where we least expect you:
in a burning bush,
in the face of an enemy,
in a livestock feed trough,
on a rough wooden cross.
Turn our lives upside down
with your radical love.
Help us fully embrace your surprises,
even as we revel in the joy
of being fully embraced
by your all-encompassing grace
and mercy.
We pray in the name
of your most amazing surprise of all:
your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

PROCLAMATION AND RESPONSE

Prayer of Confession (Exodus 3, Romans 12, Matthew 16)

God of Mystery,
we are constantly amazed
by the depth and breadth of your love.
Over and over again,
you turn our expectations inside out
and upside down.
And still we don’t understand
the radical nature of your grace.
We play by our own rules of justice,
even when it means excluding those
we are called to love and defend.
In our darkest moments,
we doubt if we are worthy of your trust.
God, help us remember
that you give us all the tools we need;
that through the solid foundation of your love,
we find the strength to follow your call
as true disciples of Jesus Christ.
Surprise us again, O God.
Surprise us again.

Words of Assurance (Exodus 3, Psalm 105)

The God who brought our ancestors out of slavery
will not desert us.
God has promised to be with us
throughout all generations.
Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice,
for God is with us!

Passing the Peace of Christ

Rejoice, for you are standing on holy ground.
Praise the Lord!

Response to the Word (Exodus 3, Romans 12, Matthew 16)

Moses was a murderer,
yet you turned him into a hero
who led his people to freedom.
Moses couldn’t speak well,
yet you put words in his mouth
to argue his people’s cause before Pharaoh.
We are taught to attack our enemies,
yet you teach us to bless those
who persecute us.
We are overcome by evil,
yet you tell us to overcome evil with good.
Jesus is the savior of the world,
yet the crucifixion tells the story of a man
who could not even save himself.
We desperately want to save our own lives.
God of Paradox, help us understand
how to lose our lives in order to save them.

THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION

Offering Prayer (Matthew 16)

Dear God,
we offer you now these gifts.
Take our money and use it
to bring comfort to those in need.
Take our service and use it
to bring justice to those who are oppressed.
Take our witness and use it
to bring good news to those who hunger
for hope.
Take our lives and use them
for our very salvation.
We pray through Jesus Christ,
the one whom we follow
even to the cross. Amen.

SENDING FORTH

Benediction (Exodus 3)

God promised to be with Moses, and we are here to witness to the fulfillment of that promise. From generation to generation, the God of Israel is also the God of (your community’s name). The God of the burning bush is waiting even now to encounter you, call you, challenge you, and change you. Go out to be sustained and surprised by the love of God. Amen.

CONTEMPORARY OPTIONS

Gathering Words (Exodus 3, Matthew 16)

God calls us from a burning bush.
We are standing on holy ground!
The Spirit calls us to proclaim God’s name
to all generations.
We are standing on holy ground!
Jesus calls us from the cross: come and follow me.
We are standing on holy ground!

Praise Sentences (Exodus 3)

God declares, “I AM WHO I AM.”
The God of our ancestors is with us today.
God is our God, from generation to generation.
Let us worship God on this holy ground!
Let us worship God on this holy ground!

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

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