Worship Connection: March 31, 2019

January 24th, 2019

Fourth Sunday in Lent

COLOR: Purple
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

CALLS TO WORSHIP

Call to Worship #1

L: Come, let us celebrate the forgiving, reconciling love of God.
P: For once we were lost and felt so far away; now we have been found and welcomed home.
L: Know that God’s love is lavished upon you forever.
P: We rejoice at the news of forgiveness and hope!
L: Come, let us celebrate and praise the God of Love.
P: AMEN!

Call to Worship #2

L: How blessed we are that God forgives us and loves us!
P: For all those times when we have fallen short of what God would have us be, we have been forgiven.
L: God makes us new in God’s Spirit!
P: Now is the time to joyfully accept the newness of life which God offers to us.
L: Come, let us worship and be thankful.
P: Let us open our hearts to the peace and joy of God. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3

[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2055, “You Are My Hiding Place”, offer the following call to worship as directed]
Choir: singing the song through one time.
L: From darkness and despair, from being lost and lonely, God calls us home.
P: Even though we have been selfish and let God down, we are still called beloved.
L: Remember the eternal love of God which has been poured out for you.
P: Our hearts rejoice at the wondrous ways in which God loves and forgives us.
L: Remember that in all your ways you can trust in God’s compassion.
Congregation: singing the song through one time.

Call to Worship #4

L: We have been given a ministry of reconciliation and sharing.
P: God reconciled us to God’s self through the witness of Jesus Christ.
L: No longer do we need to fear.
P: Hope has been given to us.
L: So we are now ambassadors for Christ. God is making God’s appeal to all humankind through us - in all that we say, think and do.
P: Praise be to God who has placed God’s trust in us. We will strive to serve God faithfully. AMEN.

PRAYERS, LITANY, BENEDICTION

Opening Prayer

How incredible is your love, O God! We have been made new in your love and reconciled to you and to each other in peace and joy. Be with us this day as we hear your words of comfort and hope. Guide our lives that we may serve you more fully all of our days. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession

Lord, it is interesting that it is easy for us to identify with today’s scripture about the “Prodigal Son”. Some of us are easily reminded of our own selfishness and stubbornness when we willfully sought our own way. Others are reminded about how angry we were when others were not held accountable for their actions, when we have been so careful not to displease anyone. Still others can identify with the father who, feeling the loss of his son, welcomes him home again, reminding the brother that he has always been in the love and care of the Father. We hear this story and it’s a pleasant memory. But do we really understand what it is about? Do we know that we have also been stubborn and selfish, angry and unforgiving, sorrowful and caught between two conflicting factions? We are no different from these characters, in our own unique way. Yet, in God’s infinite love, we also are forgiven and healed. We are called to turn our lives back to God’s care, which is always extended to us. Forgive us and heal us, gracious God. Open our hearts and our spirits to truly receive the blessings of your healing love. For it is in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, that we pray. AMEN.

Words of Assurance

Once we were “dead” to all the things that God hoped for us; but in God’s love we are again brought to life. Rejoice, dear ones, you are forgiven!

Pastoral Prayer

Gracious Lord, we have set aside this day to celebrate One Great Hour of Sharing, a time in which we can offer our help and our substance for the work of your kingdom in helping others. We have created a special day for this offering, yet you would have us adopt this attitude of sharing all of our days. Bring us to the understanding of the joy of sharing all that we have with others; of reaching out to others in compassion and love as you have done for us. We hear the words of scriptures about the Hebrew people who had wandered long in the wilderness. They were fed on the manna which you provided for them; at last they were able to provide for themselves. Help us to realize that you have given us all that we need to be those who would bring peace and hope to others. Let us place our trust in you so that our sharing is a reflection of your forgiving and reconciling love. In Jesus Christ, we offer this prayer. AMEN.

Litany/Reading

[It will be important to have the readers practice their lines, seeking to determine the attitude and stance of each of the characters. In each instance the first speech is one of anger, self-reliance, disrespect; however, in each of the second speeches, the tone is one of contrition. The “voice” reader should be the same person, reading in an even, and compassionate tone. Don’t over-dramatize the first lines following the first speeches of each of the readers. The power comes at the end when the message of hope and reconciliation is given equally to each one.]

Reader 1: I’m going to do whatever I want! I have the right to my own life. Even though someone wants to control me and run my life, I’m going to go far from here and make my own way. I know that I can do it.
Voice: Even though you will be far away, know that my love goes with you.

Reader 2:
Listen! There are so many things happening to me right now. I don’t have time for the “love, peace, and joy” stuff. You’ve got to make in the world on your own. Do unto others before they do unto you - that’s my motto. Look out for number one, and I’m number one in my life.
Voice: When you reject all the love that I have poured on you, I will still love you.

Reader 3:
I’ve always been responsible, taking care of things when no one else would do it. I never asked for much, not much in the light of what has been given to others who are less appreciative. I have stayed and done the job. It’s about time someone could see how faithful I have been. I deserve something for that.
Voice: Beloved one, you have my love and my thanks for all that you have been and continue to be. Know that you are never out of my love.

Reader 1:
I’ve failed miserably. I thought that I knew everything, that I could make it on my own, that I didn’t need your love and care. How can I face you now?
Voice: Come home. Come to me. Forgiveness and welcome await you always.

Reader 2:
I kept my focus on myself and all the so called “things” that were important to me, but they just proved to be shadows. What I really needed all along was to let myself feel your love, your trust, your forgiveness. How can I face you now?
Voice: Come home, Come to me. Forgiveness and welcome await you always.

Reader 3:
I stand here proclaiming myself to be so righteous, but the truth is that I am also selfish. I couldn’t look beyond my own needs and see the joy of the reconciliation of others. I thought the only thing I needed was to be appreciated, to be told that I was important, but I wanted that in light of diminishing the importance of others. How can I face you now?
Voice: Come home. Come to me. Forgiveness and welcome await you always.

Benediction

Forgiven and Beloved Ones of God, go now in peace, sharing with others the Good News of God’s love. Help those in need. Give and receive from each other the joy of peace. Amen. 

ARTISTIC ELEMENTS

Note: I recommend putting a brief paragraph describing or explaining the symbolism used in your visual display in the worship bulletin. This a good teaching tool for the congregation.

The traditional color for this Sunday is PURPLE.

The theme for Lent is JOURNEY INWARD/JOURNEY FORWARD. The idea is that discipleship is a journey that is first lived inward, introspectively, reality-check, and then lived forward in service. The worship center will remain covered with the base cloth of burlap or other neutral rough material. Each week something will be added to the worship center and perhaps other things removed, until all are placed at the foot of the cross. I recommend that you have someone construct an “old, rugged Cross”, about 6-7 feet tall, on a free standing base. This cross will be used during Holy Week, but you want to plan far enough ahead to have it ready.

The theme for today is forgiveness, with the gospel‘s focus on the story of the Prodigal Son. This is a theme which is difficult to symbolize. I have used a sign which says “Welcome Home!” and added a traveling cloak and the walking stick beside it. Again the cloak represents the journey both inward and outward, but also moving away from something and returning to something

Remember that you also may have the walking stick and back pack from Lent 1, the rocks/bricks from Lent 2, the gnarled branches from Lent 3 remaining in your worship center. If you feel that is too crowded, only use the theme for the day. A lot depends on your space.

SURFACE: Place several risers on the worship center. The tallest riser, approximately 1 foot above the main level of the worship center, should be placed to the upper left as you are facing the worship center. The other risers, about 4-6” high, may be placed, one at the center and the other slightly to the right of the middle one.

FABRIC: Cover the worship center in burlap or other neutral colored, rough fabric. Under the welcome home sign, place a 15” square of yellow fabric.

CANDLES: On the middle riser, place a white pillar candle, about 10” high, representing Christ. Place a back pack and a walking stick against the worship center. You may place a canteen and walking shoes on the worship center, if you wish - there is no map, no compass, only what you bring with you (Note: you may want to make this part of the statement about this particular journey during Lent). To represent the concept of welcome, you might consider a lantern or a special candle to be placed by the welcome home sign.

FLOWERS/PLANTS: No plants or flowers on the worship center

ROCKS/WOOD: Some rocks and wood may be placed on the center and at the base of the worship center.

OTHER: No cross on the worship center at this time. Create a special “Welcome Home” sign which can be read from just about anywhere in the sanctuary. Make it bright and welcoming. This will be placed where it can be seen and tied into the theme of reconciliation and renewal.

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