Worship Elements: November 8, 2020

October 2nd, 2020

23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Color: Green
Scripture Readings: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Theme Ideas

We will tell about the Lord from generation to generation, says the psalmist; but the truth is sometimes our passion for the story wears a bit thin. We start taking God for granted. Today's scriptures remind us that we need persistence, patience, and faithfulness for the long haul. Joshua's people promised long ago to witness to God; there was no stop date on that covenant. Reading the Matthew passage, we realize that we've been hearing this "Christ is coming" stuff for years — but do we live as if we still believe it? As Advent approaches, our worship can help us reclaim our passion.

Invitation and Gathering

Call to Worship (Joshua 24, Psalm 78, 1 Thessalonians 4)

The God of our ancestors has led us to this place.
We are witnesses.
We have sworn to teach God's promises
to all generations.
We are witnesses.
The time is coming when Christ will come again in glory.
We are witnesses.
Let us tell the world of God's faithful love.
We will worship and witness together!

Opening Prayer (1 Thessalonians 4, Matthew 25)

Your love has brought us together, O Lord,
and it is your love that sustains us through each day.
We pray that you would keep us faithful.
Even as we watch for signs of your kingdom,
strengthen us to work with you
to bring about, here and now,
your reign on earth.
Give us the courage
to witness to your presence in the world,
today, tomorrow, and into the future.
We pray in the name of the One who comes,
Christ our Savior. Amen.

Proclamation and Response

Prayer of Confession (Joshua 24, Matthew 25)

God of Mystery,
we want to stay awake
and be ready for your surprises,
but we are tired and overcome
with the usual routine.
We want to wait patiently
for the fulfillment of your kingdom,
but we are frustrated by our need
for immediate gratification.
We want to believe your promises from ancient days,
but we are overwhelmed with postmodern doubts.
Come to us again, O God.
Awaken us with your unexpected grace.
Shock us with your daring mercy.
Lift us up from lethargy
and set our feet on your path once more.
(Prayer continues in silence.)

Words of Assurance (1 Thessalonians 4)

Encourage one another with these words:
"We will be with the Lord forever."
God's promises are never forgotten.
Do not grieve as those who have no hope.
Our hope is in God,
and not even death can overcome that hope.
Enter into God's mercy and love!

Invitation to the Word

(A dialogue for two readers)
Hey, wake up! It's time for the sermon.
What do you mean, wake up?
This is prime nap time!

How can you sleep at a time like this?
You might miss something important!
Nah, I've been hearing this same old stuff all my life.
But this is God's word!
Don't you know this could change your life?
Change my life?!
Uh . . . . I must have missed that part.
Exactly! We've promised to serve God,
to be witnesses with our lives.
How can you witness when you're asleep?
Well, I guess it might not hurt to pay attention. . .
just this once.

Pay attention today and every day!
This is the word of God!
And you never know what might happen.

Thanksgiving and Communion

Prayers of the People (Matthew 25)

O Lord,
we wait for you to come again into our midst.
Sometimes we wait patiently, sometimes not.
Always we are aware of how much the world needs you.
We pray today for those in our community
who need your healing and comfort.
(Pause for silence.)
We pray for persons in leadership across our country,
that together we might make wise decisions.
(Pause for silence.)
We pray for brothers and sisters around the world,
whose lives are torn apart by war.
(Pause for silence.)
We pray for the saints who have witnessed to your love.
(Pause for silence.)
We pray, knowing that you are with us now,
and that you will strengthen us to keep awake,
to keep the faith,
to keep working for the time
when Christ will come again to surprise us anew
with love and justice on earth. Amen.

Offering Prayer (Joshua 24)

We dedicate these gifts to you, Generous God,
even as we dedicate our lives to you.
Keep us true to our promise,
that we may witness to you
with all that we are and all that we do. Amen.

Sending Forth

Benediction (Matthew 25)

Go out to stay awake! Go out to keep alert and be ready!
We do not know the day or the hour,
but we do know that God goes with us at all hours, on all days.
Go with the love of God, the peace of Christ,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit.
We go to witness and serve! Amen.

Contemporary Options

Contemporary Gathering Words (Matthew 25)

(Each line could be read by a different voice.)
It is time to wake up,
for God is about to surprise us.
It is time to prepare,
for God's love is about to change the world.
It is time to get ready,
for God needs us to proclaim the good news.
It is time to start planning,
for God's invitation will fill our church.
It is time to worship,
for God is here now!

Praise Sentences (Joshua 24, 1 Thessalonians 4)

It is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors
up from the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery,
and who did great signs in our midst.
It is the Lord our God who has protected us
and loved us through all the years.
It is the Lord our God whose own Son, Jesus Christ,
died and rose again, conquering death.
It is the Lord our God whom we worship today. Amen!

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

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