Worship Connection: November 3, 2019

October 1st, 2019

21st Sunday after Pentecost

COLOR: Green
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; Psalm 119:137-144; 2 Thessalonians
1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10

CALLS TO WORSHIP

Call to Worship #1:
L: For all those who have paved the way for our freedom of worship, we give thanks, O Lord.
P: For those who have taught us about witness and the power of love, we give thanks, O Lord.
L: For those who work in our church that we may come to know what it means to serve, we give thanks, O Lord.
P: For all the saints, those who rest from their labors, and those who labor still, we give thanks, O Lord.
L: Praise be to God, who continually inspires and guides workers and witnesses.
P: Open our hearts and spirits, O Lord, and help us to become good workers for you. AMEN

Call to Worship #2:
L: Our hearts are filled with joy when we think of those who have framed our faith.
P: We appreciate all those people who have taught us the great lessons of faith and life.
L: We offer our love and support to those who labor diligently in the world, helping those in need.
P: We give of our substance, our prayers, and our support to their work.
L: Lord, encourage us in our work, that we might bear witness to your love.
P: Keep us ready to serve you in all that we say and do. AMEN.

Call to Worship #3:
[Using THE UNITED METHODIST HYMNAL, p. 378, “Amazing Grace,” offer the following call to worship as directed.]

Soloist: singing verse 1 of “Amazing Grace”

L: How many times in our lives have we felt lost, alone, abandoned.
P: Yet there is One who will never leave our side. We can depend upon God’s loving presence to rescue us and to heal our brokenness.

Soloist: singing verse 3 of “Amazing Grace”

L: Even though we have been battered and blown by storms and struggles, we still can place our trust in God’s abiding presence.
P: It is the grace of God that has brought us through and will continue to be with us all our lives.

Soloist: singing verse 6 of “Amazing Grace”

L: Our lips shall sing and shout forth our praise of God.
P: Let our hearts and spirits rejoice and continually be praising God for all God’s mercies. AMEN.

Call to Worship #4:
L: Sometimes we feel too small and insignificant to be of any notice to Jesus.
P: Yet the Lord provides a tree for us to climb so that we can see Jesus.
L: That tree is faithfulness, compassion, love, hope, joy.
P: We are given the opportunity to witness to the Savior’s presence in our lives.
L: Lord, help us when we forget how much we are loved by Christ.
P: Open our hearts to receive his invitation this day. AMEN. 

PRAYERS, LITANY/READING, BENEDICTION

Opening Prayer
Lord God of love and peace, open our hearts today to receive the invitation of Jesus to come and be present in our lives. Release us from our smallness and create an atmosphere of confession and healing love in our hearts and our spirits. For we ask these things in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Prayer of Confession
Lord of mercy, forgive us when we make excuses for our lack of faith. We let our selfishness and apathy get in the way of illumination and peace. We find ways to duck out of our opportunities for service and witness, claiming that we are too small or too ill-equipped to be effective witnesses to Jesus Christ. How foolish we can be! All of our lives God has been present to us, whether or not we knew it. God’s love is always surrounding us. Yet we have not taken the time to recognize it. We whine and complain about the misfortunes that have befallen us and wonder where God is. We want immediate release from our struggles. And when release comes, we again move off in our own realms of self-centeredness. Help us, O Lord. Stop us from being so faithless. Open our hearts with your forgiving spirits that we, having been healed and forgiven, may actually be effective witnesses to your love and compassion. For we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Words of Assurance
You have always been loved by God. Know that you are healed and forgiven, that God has placed a special blessing in your life. Rejoice! For God is with you. Serve God in all that you say, think, and do. AMEN.

Pastoral Prayer
God of trees and pathways, you stand ready for us to gaze in your direction. As Jesus walked down the Jericho path, observing Zacchaeus, help us to remember that you are continually present to us, watching and guiding our steps. When we falter, you pick us up, dust us off, and place us back on the path. When we run in directions that are harmful, you are ready to rescue and redeem us. When we shout our disbelief, you offer to us your love and are ready to receive us. Today as we have gathered, remembering all those who have gone before us, who have paved the way for our faith, help us to be aware that we stand in that same long line of witnesses to your love. Give us courage and strength to serve you in all that we do. Remind us again that you are not looking for us to be perfect before we come to you, for you will take our rough edges and make them smooth. You will find the sparkling gem in the rough stone. You will help us learn to serve and witness to your love. Let us place our trust and our lives in your loving care. For we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Reading
[This reading is done effectively as “Readers’ Theater"--it may be done with one person present, within view of the congregation, and the “voice” offstage, using a microphone, if one is available. Or it may be done with both characters in front of the congregation. I recommend that if both characters are in front of the congregation, Voice should be seated to the side and slightly behind Reader 1. This will need to be rehearsed. Each participant should think about the strength of his/her lines.]

Reader 1:
How can I see him? Nobody will let me through the crowd! They won’t move for me! It’s just not fair! I have as much right as anyone to see Jesus.

Voice:
Hey, Zacchaeus, why don’t you climb up that sycamore tree?

Reader 1:
It’s always this way. They are just jealous. I got the job as tax collector and worked my way up to chief tax collector. They don’t like it. They say I’m a traitor and so that’s why they are keeping me out. And then they wonder why I don’t associate with them, the scum of the earth!

Voice:
Hey, Zacchaeus, why don’t you climb up that sycamore tree?

Reader 1:
You know, even if I saw Jesus, I don’t know what I’d be looking for. They say he’s some sort of miracle worker, that he likes everyone. Ha! I’ve heard that before. He probably won’t like me. No one does. Just because I’m small of stature doesn’t mean that I don’t matter. But I probably won’t matter to him. I’m not one of the obedient faithful.

Voice:
Hey, Zacchaeus, why don’t you climb up that sycamore tree?

Reader 1:
Still, maybe there’s a way to see Jesus. I just want to get a look, you know. Not that it will matter to either him or to me. Perhaps if I just climbed up into that sycamore tree over there. It’s an easy climb, and it would certainly give me a vantage point to see Jesus. Ha! They can’t keep me from seeing him after all.

Voice:
Zacchaeus, hurry and come down from that tree. I want to visit you in your home today!

Reader 1:
Who, me? You want to visit with me? You want to come to my house?

Voice:
That’s right. Are you going to come down?

Reader 1:
Yes. Yes, I’m coming. I can’t believe this. Look at all those others. He’s not going to their house. He’s coming to my house.

Voice:
Zacchaeus, I am pleased to spend some time with you.

Reader 1:
Lord, I don’t really deserve this visit. You probably know all about me. How I have lied and stolen from my own people. I have lined my pockets anttheir expense.

Voice:
What do you want to do about this, Zacchaeus?

Reader 1:
Well, I will give half of all that I have to help the poor, and I will make restitution to all those whom I have defrauded, paying back four times as much as I have stolen. Please forgive me for my greed and my selfishness.

Voice:
Salvation has come to this house today, Zacchaeus, son of Abraham. For you were lost to greed and avarice, but now you have been found, forgiven, and healed.

Benediction
Do not be afraid to witness to the love of God through Jesus Christ. Go in peace, knowing that God’s peace and love go with you. AMEN.

ARTISTIC ELEMENTS

The traditional color for this Sunday is GREEN.

Note: Today is an interesting mix of emphases. If you are celebrating All Saints Sunday or celebrating the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, there is a way to create a worship center that may encompass either focus.

SURFACE:
Place four or five risers on the main worship center. The tallest riser should be about 8” above the level of the table; the other risers should be shorter, heights of your discretion. The tallest riser should be placed on the center back of the table (a cross will rest on that riser). The other risers should be “staggered” across the table, not in a straight line, with shorter risers in the front.

FABRIC:
Cover the entire worship center in green fabric, making sure that it drapes down over the front and “puddles” on the floor. Take a strip of brown or tan fabric; place it under the riser on which the cross will be setting, and weave it across the worship center, draping it down onto the floor with the green fabric (this represents the path). This brown fabric may be about 12” to 14” wide.

CANDLES:
I recommend a cluster of 35 votive candles on each of the risers on the worship center, with the exception of the cross riser.

FLOWERS/FOLIAGE:
I have used a small, potted artificial tree to represent the sycamore tree on which Zacchaeus climbed. I placed it at the side of the table, covering the pot with fabric that matched the main color (in this case, green). Other plants, which are leafy and of moderate size, may be used on either side of the cross and in front of the worship center.

ROCKS/WOOD:
Not recommended for this setting.

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