Worship Connection: October 8, 2023

August 1st, 2020

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

COLOR: Green
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

Call to Worship #1

L: Welcome to God’s house, a place of faith.
P: From our homes, we come seeking God’s word.
L: Here you will find nourishment and hope.
P: May we learn lessons of courage and peace.
L: Here you will find rest from your struggles
P: Lord, prepare our hearts to receive your words that we may leave this holy house of faith and return to our homes, encouraged and challenged to be your people. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2

L: From dens of slavery, through burning deserts, people of faith came forth.
P: From lives encompassing both wealth and impoverishment, we come to this place of worship.
L: Hear the great lessons of faith, offered to you through the centuries. We have not hidden the struggles from you, but invite you to place yourselves on the pathways of hope.
P: Though our individual lives may differ, we all come seeking God’s loving guidance and forgiveness.
L: Welcome to this house of God, a place of continuing hope and courage.
P: Bless each one of us, O Lord, that we may fully receive your word and seek your will for our lives. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3

[Using THE UNITED METHODIST HYMNAL, p. 661, “Jesus, We Want to Meet”, offer the following call to worship. The congregation should sing the parts listed as “All”. Either a soloist, the pastor, or a duet, may sing the “leader” portion]

L and All: singing verse 1 of “Jesus, We Want to Meet”
L: Bring your word to us, O Lord.
L and All: singing verse 2 of “Jesus, We Want to Meet”
L: Open our hearts to your healing love, God of mercy.
L and All: singing verse 3 of “Jesus, We Want to Meet”
L: Challenge us to be your people, God of courage and hope.
P: Be with us this day, O Lord. Create us anew as people of courage and love. AMEN.

Gathering Prayer

Gracious God, you have called us to be your faithful witnesses. We struggle with this because so often we are caught up in our doubts and our despair about this world. Help us to turn again to you, living in your household of freedom and peace, of reconciliation and witness. We offer this prayer in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Opening Prayer

Lord, from the mountaintop in ancient Israel, you gave your people ways in which to live in harmony with all creation. As time has progressed the power of those words seems to have faded in our lives and we often succumb to base temptations of power and greed. Bring us back to your words of compassion and hope, offered to all creation by your Son Jesus. Open our hearts to receive your love and your direction in our lives. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession

We keep slamming into walls, O merciful God, when we are left to our own devices. Throughout our faith history, your Son offered words of healing and hope to people who dwelled in darkness. In the brilliant light of his love, people grew and flourished. But now, Lord, we find that this world dominates our lives. We are troubled, angry, and fearful. We want to see your presence in the world, but we spend far too much time looking for the “big picture” rather than seeing the myriad of ways in which your love and healing power is shown. Forgive us when we grow impatient with you and with the course of things in our lives. Heal our wounds and put us back on pathways of peace and service. Enable us to speak your words of hope in this darkened world. We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Words of Assurance

Hear the words of hope! Though the days seem to darken quickly, the brilliant light of your love and presence will always be a guide and comfort to us. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Morning Prayer

We stand in awe of your creation, magnificent Lord. We gaze at the autumnal leaves and the indicators of change that is coming. We begin to think about the winter ahead and make preparations for the differences that come with changing seasons. Help us to turn our hearts to you, Lord. As we begin to settle down into more predictable routines, let us always be mindful of the needs of others. This morning we lift in prayer the names of loved ones who struggle with illness, grief, alienation, and sorrow. We share aloud in this congregation some of these names and their situations which weigh heavily on our hearts. Let us pray: [People may offer prayers of concern at this time.]. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. We also share those things which make our hearts and spirits dance with joy. Let us pray: [People may offer prayers of joy at this time.]. Lord, in your spirit of joy, hear our praises! The light of God shines on us as we offer these names in concern and joy, illuminating our way and guiding our lives. For in all things, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Benediction/Sending Forth

Let the light of God’s love shine on you, in you, and through you as you go into God’s world to serve God’s people. Go in peace. AMEN.

Children’s Time

A long time ago, more than 2,000 years, a wondrous event occurred. The Israelites, the Hebrew people, had been slaves in Egypt for many, many years. God called a young man, Moses, to go down to Egypt and convince the leader, known as Pharaoh, to free the slaves and let them return to their homeland. Pharaoh was not interested in losing his workers, especially since he did not have to pay them. When Moses, directed by God, brought what they called “plagues” on the whole nation, Pharaoh was done with the whole thing. He told Moses to take the people and leave. And Moses did. He gathered all the people, told them only to bring what was absolutely necessary and follow him back to the homeland. This was not an easy trip because it was through rough territory and after a while the Hebrew people got impatient with the trip. They complained and whined to Moses about everything. One day Moses went up on the mountain top, near where they all had camped. While he was there, God spoke to him and gave him some special rules for the new community of faith to live by. These would be an important way to keep the community together. These were engraved on large stone tablets and Moses lugged them down the mountain to show to the people. Meanwhile the people made a statue of one of the Egyptian gods and began to worship it. Moses was very angry. He told the people to listen closely because the God that led them out of slavery had sent a very special message for all of them. Some thought “Rules, I hate rules.” But others listened closely and thought about what God wanted them to do. Eventually they agreed to follow God’s rules.

Many of you don’t like rules! It’s true, isn’t it? But in order for us all to live in peace we have to have some rules about how we will behave with each other; how we will express our faith; how we will work together. Everyone needs some rules, some guidelines. When my daughter was little, she got mad at me one day and stamped her foot and said, “I don’t want to do it” [I don’t remember what the it was, but she wasn’t happy about the rules] I said to her, “You don’t have to want to do this, you just have to do this.” Eventually she was glad that I set down some expectations for her because it helped her to know her special place in our family. We all work together, for the common good. That’s what good rules should do. They should remind us that we must work together, always.
God’s rule – given through Jesus – was that we should love God and love each other as we would like to be loved. We should treat the world and people with respect and tenderness. That’s what I like! How about you? I’m asking God to give you a special blessing as you grow up that you may know how important cooperation, working together is. But for now, I’ll just say “God bless you all.”

Art for the Altar/Worship Center

Place “risers” of varying sizes on the altar/worship center. Cover the whole worship center with about 10 yards of landscaper’s burlap (it is coarse and resembles ground/dirt). On several of the lower risers to the right and left of the center of the altar/worship center, place small cacti and other succulent plants. Add some rocks throughout the scene and down in front of the altar/worship center. Made of several layers of cardboard, create two tablets of the commandments, five on each tablet. Make sure that these can be stood up so that they may be seen by the congregation.

Scripture into Script

[Loosely based on the Matthew lection]

Narrator: The Pharisees thought that they might trap Jesus, so they gathered to ask him some questions. He told them a parable, hoping they would understand.

Reader 1: A landowner created a special vineyard. He placed a protective fence around it, dug a spot for the winepress, and built a tower. He was very pleased with his work. Knowing that working in a vineyard was too much for one person, he decided to hire tenant farmers to do the work. He prepared a house for them. He made special barns for the tools, which he also provided. Then he met with the tenant farmers and they agreed to work for the man for a portion of the proceeds. Knowing that the harvest time was near, the landowner sent some of his employees to collect the fruit. He knew that he could sell it and would be able to provide even better for the tenant farmers, improve the vineyard, and probably do good for some other people. But when the employees arrived to collect the fruit, the tenant farmers grabbed them and beat or stoned them to death.

Reader 2: When the landowner heard about this, he was very concerned and saddened by the loss of his employees. So he thought that a larger delegation might just be the trick. However, the tenant farmers did the same to them as they did to the first group. “What am I going to do,” worried the landowner? How can I gather my harvest and sell the goods for the benefit of my family and the tenant farmers also? Perhaps I should send my own son. They will show respect for him. He is a good lad and a good friend to all people”. But when the Son arrived they grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Reader 3: Jesus turned to the Pharisees and asked them what they thought the owner of the vineyard would do when he comes to collect the fruit. Of course, they said, he will kill those wicked tenants and rent the property out to some better tenants, ones who will live up to the bargain they had made with the owner. Well said, Jesus replied. Do you understand what I am saying to you? You have been charged with a responsibility to God to be faithful in your administration of your duties, to honor God, to live up to the agreement you spoke when you took on the job. I tell you sincerely, that you are like the wicked tenants and that God will not put up with your faithlessness. God will give God’s kingdom to those who will produce good fruit and live up to the bargain they made.

Narrator: The Pharisees knew that they were in trouble. They had been faithless, more impressed with their standing in the community than in doing God’s work. They walked away. They would not be able to trap Jesus this time. But, rest assured, they would try again.

Message Movers

No message movers for this Sunday, but I recommend using the Scripture into Script passage as a lead-in to a meditation on “Respect and Responsibility”.

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