You can watch the service here.
If you are watching our live stream this morning, you are invited to find a candle, so that we can all light candles at the same time.
CALL TO WORSHIP (written by Sarah Are for A Sanctified Art LLC)
God of mystery,
You called Ananias by name, and he responded,
“Here I am.”
You called Paul to the work of your Church, and he responded
By giving his life to your Word.
Similarly, you call us into community and faith,
So we respond with love and time, energy and hope.
We respond with worship.
Let us worship the God of transformation and grace.
Let us pray: Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your Word. By your Holy Spirit, help us to receive it with joy, and live according to it, that we may grow in faith and hope and love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
CALL TO CONFESSION (written by Sarah Are for A Sanctified Art LLC)
What would we give to have God appear with a flash of light and a clear voice like what Saul experienced? Maybe then, our doubts would disappear. Maybe then, we would live as God called us to live.
Please join me in the prayer of confession, followed by a silent personal prayer.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Lord, too often we speak without pausing to seek your wisdom. We assume our own goodness and fail to question our limited knowledge and understanding. We hurt others with our hasty, often well intended, words and actions. We falsely believe our ways are your ways and condemn those who disagree with us. In this tumultuous time, turn us toward you. Remove the scales from our eyes and give us ears to hear your guidance. Do not let our need for earthly approval sway our commitment to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Forgive our failings. Take our faltering attempts at faithfulness and use them to lead us to your paths of righteousness. Amen.
Moment of silent prayer–people of God, what do you confess this week?
Assurance of Pardon (Romans 8:1-2)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Friends, believe this astounding good news, through Jesus Christ we are forgiven!
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Lord Christ, you teach in parables, telling stories in ways that draw us in and reveal God’s will. As we crowd around you this day, eager to hear your word to us, we ask for the ears to hear and not only hear, but understand and not only understand, but act on that which you long for us to know in the depths of our being. Amen.
FIRST SCRIPTURE READING
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’
‘Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
This is the word of the Lord.
What strikes you when you read this parable and Jesus’ explanation of it at this time in your life and at this point in the life of the world?
How much agency do we have over the soil in which the seed is scattered? Can we help create the conditions for the gospel to grow?
What does it mean to you to understand God’s Word?
- How do you go about sowing gospel seeds in your daily life?
SECOND SCRIPTURE READING
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’
You can listen to Pastor Leia’s sermon, “Unraveled and Rewoven Into the Way,” here.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (JILL DUFFIELD)
Lord, we come to this time of prayer with the intention to set our minds on you and on the Spirit. Even as we are tempted to give in to worldly priorities and earthly idolatries, we yearn to know the peace that comes from surrendering to your will. Like the crowds so long ago, we want to hear the transformative and life-giving message that Jesus came to proclaim. We are eager to know your saving Word and we are bold to share our most pressing needs and deepest hopes with you.
People of God, what names are on your hearts this week?
Hear us as we pray for those hard paths in our lives and in your world. When we grow weary of walking the same direction and wondering if painful circumstances will ever change, help us to find small fissures in our hardened hearts that can still shelter gospel hope. Do not let our communities become inhospitable places for your presence, worn down by treading the same way and unwilling to leave what we know. Show us now, Holy Spirit, the paths of righteousness and lead us in the way of Jesus Christ.
People of God, what do you pray for this week?
Hear us as we pray for those rocky places in our lives and in our world. Where we settle for shallow understanding, give us the courage to go deep into your Word. When we want to maintain surface relationships, give us the trust to commit to truly knowing one another. When we settle for enthusiasm instead of substance, give us the tenacity to stick with each other, stay close to you and work for real, lasting, long-needed change. Show us now, Holy Spirit, the cornerstone and place our feet on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
People of God, who needs your love this week?
Hear us as we pray for those thorny fields in our lives and in your world. When the cares of this world threaten to obscure our vision and render us unable to hear your call, burn away the chaff and leave only the wheat that nurtures your beloved world. When we value wealth more than people and worship the idols of safety and security instead of our servant Savior, cut away those dead branches so that we can dwell again near the vine that sustains us. Show us now, Holy Spirit, the wheat from which the bread of life is made so that we may be fed and satisfied by the body of Christ.
People of God, how are being called to follow God this week?
Hear us as we give thanks for the good soil only you can create, Lord God. We rejoice that despite all that threatens to silence your Good News, it still resounds through all creation. We praise you for your generosity and grace, your mercy and steadfast love that is new every morning. We give thanks for the abundant, life-giving harvest you freely offer and call us to cultivate.
People of God, what do you give thanks for and rejoice in this week?
May the good fruit we bear bring relief to the suffering, comfort to those who mourn and peace to those who have no peace. May our sowing of the seeds of your Word heal the sick, bind up the brokenhearted and strengthen the weak. May our daily scattering of the gospel help spread justice, kindness and mercy all over your beloved world. We make our prayer in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, who taught us to say when we pray:
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
1 Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes; illumine me,
2 Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear.
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears; illumine me,
3 Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere.
Open my heart, and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart; illumine me,
INVITATION TO OFFERING
We are to sow gospel seeds, scattering them lavishly everywhere we go, trusting that God will give the growth and bring forth an abundant harvest. Knowing that God is generous, loving and faithful, we seek to be so as well. Anticipating the joy of God’s over-the-top grace, we give our gifts of God’s tithes and our offerings.
If you are able to, please consider mailing your offerings to the church (210 Smith Street). Alternatively, there is a link at the top of this page that will take you directly to a secure page where you can make a one-time donation. We appreciate your generosity as we seek to continue our mission and ministry throughout the community during this difficult time.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Let us pray: Gracious God, we present to you a portion of the resources you entrust us to steward. We give them rejoicing in the promise that you will take them, bless them, multiply them and use them to do your will on earth as it is done in heaven. May all that we do be done with exuberant generosity in response to your overflowing goodness to us. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (written by Sarah Are for A Sanctified Art LLC)
I believe in God, the Great Tailor—
Who weaves us together in community,
Collecting our loose ends and turning them into belonging.
I believe in the Holy Spirit—
Who hems us in before and behind,
Catching us when we fall and writing us into God’s holy narrative.
And I believe in Jesus Christ—
Who loved and claimed the people society had thrown out, refusing to disregard anyone as scrap.
I believe God has woven part of God’s self into the fiber of our being,
Making us inherently worthy of love and belonging.
I believe the fabric of my life is weak,
That I am prone to error and need God’s handiwork to remind me of love.
I believe in the Church, and that like a quilt of different fabrics,
She is designed to be as diverse and beautiful as God’s creation.
And I believe that when life unravels,
God is there to stitch my wounds together,
To hold me in the palm of God’s hand, to tell me of love,
And to invite me into a new journey.
CHARGE AND BENEDICTION
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May God’s countenance be lifted upon you and give you peace.
Remember that Jesus will always offer you a second chance
no matter how unlikely it may seem.
Remember that Jesus will always love you
no matter who you are, or what you are,
or where you’ve been, or what you’ve done.
God has seen us through times of transformation before,
and God will see us through again.
From wherever you are, serve the Lord: Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit.
VIRTUAL COFFEE HOUR
If you are using this page to follow along with today’s worship service while it is being live streamed, please join us for virtual coffee hour! Turn on your video camera and join us after the benediction with this link. You could also join over the telephone by dialing (312) 626-6799 and entering the meeting code 146 874 134, followed by the password 075003.