Opening Prayers

                For better or worse, I refer to the beginning prayer of worship as an "Opening Prayer" rather than as the more traditional "Invocation." Indeed, in worship we do "call" upon the Lord in worship, we lift up our "voices" to God - which is what "invocation" means. However, we shouldn't be tempted to believe our efforts invoke, conjure up, bring about God's presence. The truth is - "I am with you always, even to the end of the age;" (Matthew 28:20) "I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me;" (Revelation 3:20)  The voice of Christ is calling us. He is knocking upon our door.
                In worship, we are the ones who are invoked, the ones who respond to that call, that knock to open our door and greet the awesome presence of God. Thus the phrase, "Opening Prayer," has a double meaning. Pragmatically, it is the prayer that begins or opens worship. In this moment, however, we are awakening to God, opening our "door," our "selves," our very lives to the One who is with us always. One of my mentors, Rev. E. Paul Weaver, referred to this as the "Prayer for the Awareness of God's Presence." Whatever terms we use, that is what we mean.
                Below is an ever-increasing collection of Opening Prayers written by me over the years (unless otherwise noted). Some may have been pulled from other sources. Like many ministers, my record keeping has not always been the best. If you find one here which should be attributed to someone else, please let me know and I will do so. Feel free to borrow - "for the glory of God and my neighbor's good."

Pete Haynes, pastor
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren

O God, our resurrection & life, the promise of your new life in Christ is like a breath of fresh air in a dry & thirsty land. We have gathered as believers, & as those who are honestly seeking the truth. Guide our worship this hour.

O God who makes all things new, speak to us as whole people today. May your truth touch not just our intellects, but also our deeper yearnings of heart & soul. We bring with us our daily concerns, as well as our more eternal questions. May your new creation in us shed light upon our everyday walk.

O God who fed the multitudes with but a few loaves & some fish, feed us now with the abundance of what you freely offer, that we might overflow with your goodness right where we live. All this we pray in the name of, & because of, Jesus our Christ. Amen.

        O God who is greater than the most powerful forces in this world, enable us to be still & know that you are God.
        O Lord who answers out of the whirlwind of everyday life, breathe in us your Holy Spirit to strengthen, comfort, & guide us in the midst of the storm.
     O still, small voice, speak to us this hour, that we might become makers of your peace in our homes, in our communities, in our world.
        We pray all this in the name of the One who calmed the raging sea.        Amen.

        O God, we trust in your power to create, to sustain, to enable. But we could not trust if we did not know that you are always near. Be with us, Lord, as we are gathered here to worship you. Help us not to check our minds or our hearts at the door, but enable us to bring all that we are to you, so that we might experience your touch on all aspects of our life. We pray this because of, and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

        O God, we trust in your power, even as it is often found in weakness; in your wisdom, even as it is expressed in seeming foolishness; in your wholeness, even as it comes to us amidst brokenness. We do not ask this day for dazzling displays of strength, electric exercises of intellectual prowess, or marvelous manifestations of miracles. We come simply to worship you. Touch us this day, O Lord, sinners that we are, that we might become your saints, your body, your children, your church. For this Temple of your Spirit is built not upon our own abilities, knowledge, or restorative skill, but upon you, in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Gentle...yet powerful.
Lowly...yet almighty.
Shepherd..yet King.
     In your gentleness, guide us.
     In your power, strengthen us.
     In your lowliness, strip from us our selfish pride which only destroys us.
     In your greatness, lift us up that we might aspire to greater things.
             As a shepherd, call us be your servants.
             As a King, call us to be your royal priesthood.
                     O God, who is our shepherd and our King;
                     O Christ, who was crucified and is now risen from the dead;
                     O Spirit, who comforts and empowers;
                     O great One in Three, Holy Trinity, this hour, set us free to worship. Amen.

        Gentle Shepherd ... King of Love, we come to you as we are, not as we pretend to be. The truth is, God, that when we lift our heads above our path, we all too often discover ourselves lost in a maze of choices. We confess from the very beginning of this worship that we are lost... Were it not for you, O great seeker of our souls, patient parent to our childhood, joyful host to our homecoming; Were it not for you, O Lord, we would be lost forever. But, because of you, there is room for us at the great Love Feast. Gentle Shepherd ... King of Love, seek and find us as we are, not as we pretend. Be patient with us, and teach us how to wait. May the echoes of your celebration reverberate in our midst this hour, transforming our worship from a mournful plea to a joyful song. Gentle Shepherd ... King of Love, lead us. Amen.

        Light of Christ, awaken us this hour to the glory of your presence in our midst. Shine among us in such a way that the darkness without and within may be pushed back, such that we might truly see what is really real. Help us to recognize our sin for what it is. Enable us to behold the world as you created it to be, as you created us to be. Empower us to move from darkness to light, from sin to new life. May your light within us shine through into worship this day, as all days. This we pray in the name of the Word made flesh, the light which is the light of all people. Jesus Christ. Amen.

        O Holy God, like Isaiah the prophet we stand in awe of your glory, feeling tremendously small and polluted by our sin, and the sin of our society. Even so, you touch us with your burning presence, and we are made clean and whole. O God, our Creator, continue to build this household of faith into what you want us to be. O Christ, our Savior, lead us to do as you will. O Spirit, our Power, strengthen us for the work of the Kingdom, a worship and a service which is ours today as well as tomorrow. O Blessed Trinity, fill this place and these people with your presence. For yours is the Power, and the Salvation, and the Creation, now and always. Amen.

        O God from whom every gift derives, we gather to worship you this day. You are an awesome God, greater than our comprehension or our imagination. You are beyond any word we could ever use to describe you. And yet, through Jesus, we know the intimacy of your vast Love.
     We have come to you in thanksgiving and praise, to know that you are God and to place our lives anew into your perspective. Enlarge our vision this hour with your Word. Instill in us, again, your hope in place of our despair, your peace where our hatred threatens, your joy amidst our depression, your love overwhelming our apathy.
     May your Holy Spirit surround and indwell this congregation now, and forevermore. In Jesus we pray. Amen

        Eternal God, our Alpha and Omega, our beginning and our end, we have gathered in this time and at this place to worship you. In your time, you created all things, and wove into their fabric a yearning for fulfillment in you. It is this yearning within us which has pulled us here this morning. Take these moments, O Lord of time and space, and complete them in us, through your Holy Spirit. May our labor bring forth a new creation in you. This is your hour, Christ Jesus, help us to make the most of each precious moment. For in your name we have gathered, and we pray. Amen.

        O God of Love, who came as a infant, small and vulnerable; O Prince of Peace, who said "Let the children come to me;" O Spirit of Life, who empowers little ones to lead us in worship, continue to bring Joy to this world. Desperate is our need. Great is your Joy. Make of this hour a festival of joyous song, truthful confession, hearfelt praise, earnest words of hope amidst our fears, hands and voices raised in adoration and extended in compassion. When at last we stand and sing our majestic chorus of "Hallelujah!", remind us again of the lowliness of a manger, and the folly of a cross, and the words of a prophet who once witnessed:
             "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them."  (Isaiah 11:6)  Lead us, O Lord. Amen!

        Like Elijah, O God, we turn and face you in the midst of the storm. Help us this hour to hear you speak to us - not in the wind, or the thunder, nor even in the upheavel of the ground beneath us. Help us to hear you speak to us, in our heart of hearts, as that still, small voice amidst the maelstrom, which gives us direction, and peace, and hope. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

O God, music is the food of our souls ... but not all are musically inclined.
     We long to sing of you with the greatest of melodies,
                                                 the sweetest of tunes,
                                                 the grandest of rhythms,
                                                 the purest of pitches,
                                                 the fullest of sounds.
             We aspire for excellence in our praise, to be worthy of your greatness ...
                     Well, perhaps our goals are a bit high ...
                             Do you suppose you could lend a few angels from your heavenly choir?
                                     "O for a thousand tongues to sing!"
                                             One just doesn't seem to be enough.
                                                        One tongue to sing;
                                                         One set of ears to hear;
                                                         One pair of arms to break free;
                                                         One heart to rejoice.
                                             One just doesn't seem enough.

                                        "O for a thousand ...", a million.
     Hear our longing, O God.
             We are not just tongues, or ears, or arms, or hearts.
             We are whole persons, not just the sum of our many parts,
                     some of which work better than others.
             We are whole persons who long to worship you with everything we've got;
                                                       for you are the source of everything we've got, great and small.
                             For the wholeness which you give us in the midst of our imperfection -
                                     our ability to be fully human, for this we are thankful,
                                             and our praise represents our thankfulness,
                                                                                    our longing for more of you in our common life.
        Hear now our praise, "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing"

        O God, who is here - in this place, now - in our midst; Empower us to praise you, not with words and actions which come from outside of us, but from within us; Dwell in us more fully that we may sing to you with all our being; Fill us with a sense our your joy, that we might actually delight in your worship; Focus us upon your self-giving Love, which is above every love we have ever known, the source of all.
     O God, who is here - in this place, now - in our midst; Make your love real here and now, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

        O God, the joy of this day, the hope for every day to come, Move in our midst, fill us with your Spirit, and make us one. May our words, as well as our actions, and even the secret thoughts of our hearts, be a part of your worship this hour, O Lord of great power, displayed in sacrificial love. For we pray focused upon the One who died for all, your only begotten son. Amen.

        "Get out of bed, sleepy head," we heard a voice say: an alarm clock, a mother or father, a husband or wife, an excited child. "Eat breakfast," "get dressed," "hurry up - let's go", the voices prodded us, Lord. And so, we are here. But are we really? Wake us up, God. Really! WAKE US UP!
     So often we begin worship by asking for you to be here. But we are the ones who need the prodding. Prod us, Lord! Tickle us awake with your Spirit! Make us alive in Christ! Help us to be aware that you are here with us, now!
     You have crowned us with your presence. May we this hour crown you, glorify you with lives that are lived for you.
                         In Jesus, we pray. Amen.

        O God, the source of all joy, you have nudged us together through the prodding of your Spirit. Lead us in worship, this day. Erase from us any pride over the righteousness of being here on a big holiday weekend, when many others worship on beaches and in parks. Instead, enthuse us, excite us with nothing more than the pure joy of gathering together in your Spirit. Help us to expect great things from you. Enable us to see your miracles in little packages, and not just big. Empower us, even today, to step out in faith toward the directions in which you call us. We praise you, echoing the celebration of your heavenly host. We love you, returning your greater Love. Strengthen us to serve you, following in the footsteps of the One whom you sent with a tub and a towel: Jesus Christ. In his name we pray. Amen.


        The Life you give us in Christ is so very real, God. Who are we to receive such goodness. Yes, we have come to church today, but we confess that we have not been all that faithful throughout the past week.
     There were moments when we acted in love. But more often our actions were powered by other motives. Forgive us. Help us to forgive ourselves.
     We did remember you upon ocassion, but too easily we forgot you amidst the daily grind. Forgive us. Help us to live in you.
     Every now and then an "Amen" did come out of us in word or action. But like the father who came to Jesus with his dying son, we more often cried out: "I believe; help my unbelief!" Forgive us. Empower us with your Spirit.
     Who are we to profess the life you freely give? Who are we to claim your daily goodness? Who are we to receive your healing presence?....
     Thank you, Father God, for your forgiveness.
     Thank you, Christ Jesus, for your Life.
     Thank you, Holy Spirit, for your power.
                We open ourselves to you, anew ... today. Live now in us, we pray. In Jesus name. Amen.

CALL TO WORSHIP AND PRAYER  (uses 2 leaders)

2 - Please stand, ready to worship God.
1 - Listen! Do you hear?
2 - Listen! Are you alive to what God has created around you?
1 - Look! Have you beheld the wonder of God's Creation?
2 - Look! Do you see the wonder of God's presence around us?
1 - Wait! "Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him."
2 - Wait! "Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength."
1 - Come! "Come to me all who labor & are heavy burdened, & I shall give you rest."
2 - Come! "Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it
is to such as these that the Kingdom of heaven belongs."
1 - Pray! "Pray without ceasing."
2 - Pray! "Lord, teach us how to pray."
1 & 2 & congregation - "Our Father, who art in heaven ..." (etc.)

        You are such a gracious host, Lord God of all creation. Who are we to receive such goodness? You prepare a table for us, amidst our daily struggles, our successes and failures, even in the presence of our enemies. You anoint us, wash us, feed us. You do all this.
     We confess that we tend to see our daily bread solely in terms of our own handiwork. But we are not self-sufficient. We need you. Forgive us. We need these brothers and sisters in Christ around us. Empower us.
     Shower us with your "holy manna" that we might be strengthened for the journey to which you have called us. By faith we stand and worship. By faith we walk and work. By faith we profess that your Christ is alive, and that your spirit moves us to be and to do more than we ever thought possible.
     We pray all this in the name of the One who said "I am the bread of life." Amen.

        O God, you refresh us with life-giving rain on a late summer's day, and bless us with a crisp hint of autumn's way. Our alleluias are but an echo of your voice, a ripple upon the waters from your splash, an aroma that lingers from your presence, a satisfying aftertaste from your banquet. O God, we have come, just as we are to worship you in grace and truth. Grant us this hour, the life-giving power to rejoice - to sing fully, to pray fervently, to love fiercely, to care deeply, to hope unendingly, to praise you in our words and our deeds, with all that we are, or could ever hope to be.
     Come, Holy Spirit, the source of every blessing. Tune our hearts that we might sing your praise. In him who died, and who lives to set us free: Jesus Christ. Amen!

        You are here, Lord, in this place. Now. Not only do we stand in awe of how great you are, larger than our imagination; But we also can scarcely comprehend that you are with us this moment. Yes, from a distance you are watching us. But you stand beside us as well. Your Spirit's presence quickens our pulse, fills us with wonder when we become aware than you are near. In extra-ordinary, as well as common, every-day ways, you make your presence known to us. This is your time of worship, God. The words don't just belong to the Pastor or myself. The music isn't the property of the organist, the choir, or its director. The praying and singing we all do comes not only from us but, most importantly, from you. Do great things with us right now, and in the week which lies ahead. We pray this in the name of the One whose wondrous love powers us. Jesus Christ. Amen.

        Holy God, make your presence known to us today. We come to you as we are, called to be saints, holy ones, but so often less than our calling. Help us this hour to let go of those sins to which we cling. Help us to know that our self-worth does not depend so much on our ability to hold on to our lives, as on your power to release ourselves into your hands.
     Holy God, make your presence known to us today. We come to you with our vision so often clouded by our sin. Clear away the mist, through Jesus, that we can catch a glimpse, now, of your presence here. Help us to behold you as you are, not as we would like you to be. In Him, through whom we become holy, on the wings of the Spirit, we pray to you, our Father. Amen.

        O God of the still, small voice, when you spoke through the angel Gabriel to Mary, mother of our Lord, you said, "Don't be afraid." And in the mighty chorus of your heavenly host, you comforted those frightened shepherds with the same words. This whole business of "Gloria in excelsis" can be a bit overwhelming, to put it mildly. It seems we're never really prepared for your new possibilities. We're not very good at waiting. And when the focus of our impatience arrives, well, you know how we react. You know us very well. And you say, again, "Don't be afraid."
        In your Word we find these words: "Perfect love casts out fear." May that love come to birth in us today. In the stillness of this moment, cast out our fear, and create in us a united voice which cannot help but cry out your delivery room song: "Gloria in Excelsis Deo!"
  Glory to God in the Highest!  amen! Amen! AMEN!

(Advent)        A WELCOMING PRAYER
     Be still ... Hark! ... Pay close attention ... Listen ... Quiet us, Lord, that we might be able to hear, over the noise of our busy lives, beyond the clutter of our Christmas preparations; Help us to become still, even for a moment, that we might hear the herald of your angel voices: "Glory!" ... "Peace on Earth" ... "Mercy" ... "Reconciliation" ... "Joy!" ... "Christ is born." The message of the ages still rings out for those willing to listen. This is our desire. Open us that we might hear. Today ... Now. We pray this in the name of the One who was born where he was welcomed: a garage out back. Come, Jesus, into our home. Welcome! Amen.

        O God of the still, small voice quiet our inner spirit. Help us to focus upon you, & you alone, to hear your voice within. There are so many other voices demanding our attention. But we cannot attend to them without you.... "Be still and know that I am God," you say to us as you said to Elijah.... May your voice speak through us. In weakness, be our strength. In poverty, be our wealth. In depression, be our joy. In apathy, be our love. We cannot sing Love's song, O Lord, unless it be your voice singing in us. Take this heart, and with this mouth make your praise and thanksgiving a reality here and now. Because of, and in the name of our Messiah, Jesus. Amen.

        Creator and Ruler of the Earth, we lift up our voices, our eyes, our hearts, our lives to you in praise. Make us your alleluia people. Uphold the weary, for whom praise may be very difficult. Humble the strong, for whom "alleluia" may be too easy. Creator and Ruler of the Earth, continue to form us into your new creation, that we might welcome you to more fully become the ruler of our hearts and minds. Through him who came as a servant, and who now reigns over all creation, Jesus, our Christ. Amen.

        O God, whose holiness is not limited to grand cathedrals or saintly persons, spectacular mountains or mountain-moving leaders; O God, whose holiness is often discovered in simple everyday places and simple everyday folks, plant your holiness in this place, in us now. Grow us this hour, that we might flower, right where we are, with the beauty of your holiness. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.

        O God, who gives to those who ask, provide for each of us in your way, a special gift to be used for your glory, and for the good of our neighbors. O God, who reveals to those who seek, show us this day what these gifts are, and how they may be used. O God, who opens to those who knock, help us to step forward, now, into your gracious presence, knowing that we are each and all blessed with something special to share. One more thing, Lord, stir us up, so that we don't become too self-satisfied, and forget to keep asking, and seeking, and knocking. We pray all this in the name of the One who asks for the voiceless, who seeks out the lost, who stands at the door and knocks. Come in, Lord Jesus. Amen.

        Most Gracious God, hallowed be your name, help us to honor your name in what we say and what we do, this hour in our worship, this week in our work. May your gracious presence surround us this day, so that obedience to your Word becomes a joy rather than a burden. May the depth of your Grace, the width of your Love, the height of your Joy, inspire us, here and now, to more fully be your people, folks known not by forced friendliness, but by gracious goodwill. We look to you for this, God, because, on our own, we are tempted to be just the opposite. Empower us with your Spirit, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

        O God who watches over all of creation, you are far greater than our ability to understand. How do you do it? From where do you do it? Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father who art in heaven." What a mouthfull, Lord! On the one hand you are as close as a loving parent. But on the other hand, you watch from a distance.
     O God who is beyond our reasoning, accept us as we are. Take our faith as it is, and move us to higher places. Teach us the truth, that we might be able to call on you in truth, where you are, and not just where we want you to be.
     O God who is both compassion and power, receive from us this hour all the praise, the thanksgiving, the love we are able to return to you. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

        Eternal God, whose signature we see, if we dare to look, in the creation of the universe, help us this hour to look and to listen for your handwriting and your voice in this place, among these people. Connect our temporary praise to your timeless rhythms, your ageless melodies, your everlasting joyful noise. Guide us now to focus upon you, knowing that in you our distractions become new possibilities for action. Breathe life into our singing, our praying, our speaking, our listening, our touching, that all these activities might become more than they are. In our worship we reach out to you, O God, knowing that you have already enfolded us in your arms. Thank you. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.

        Lord God, words are not enough to express your awesomeness, your majesty, your holiness. Our highest expressions of theology are but baby talk next to you: your creation, your very self. Make us aware, through your Holy Spirit, that you are here in our midst. May this awareness lead us to approach this hour more carefully. The words we speak, the tunes we sing, the thoughts we think, the joy and sadness we feel, may these be pleasing to you. For in spite of the inadequacy of our words, this worship is addressed to you. Make it complete, whole, full to overflowing, O God, our rock, and our redeemer. In Christ we pray. Amen.

        "Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
     "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)
     "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)

        O God of living water, O bread of life; We are hungry. We are thirsty. Our prosperity, though, masks these deepest needs. Quench our thirst now, that our lips might sing your praise. Fill our emptiness now, that our lives might show your love. "Cast your bread upon the waters" of this place. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)  Let your waters "break forth in (our) wilderness, (your) streams in (our) desert." (Isaiah 35:6b) Create an oasis here and now in us, where the hungry and thirsty might come and receive, a channel that might carry your living water where it is needed. Flow in and through us this hour. This we pray, in the name of the One whose love is expressed in bread and wine. Amen.

        O God, powerful and loving, we look to you for both strength and compassion. We confess that we don't really understand power, nor - when it comes down to it - are we very good at love. Very easily we go to extremes: too hard or too soft. Teach us your tough love. Sharpen us this hour on the whetstone of your Word. With the tender arms of your Spirit, embrace us. O powerful and loving God, fashion us to become tough and tender disciples. We worship you now because we know of no other like you. In the name of Jesus, your beloved Son, our leader and friend, we pray. Amen.

(used with "A Mighty Fortress")
     O God, our refuge, our strength, our help; you are the bedrock upon which our lives are built, the mighty fortress which surrounds and protects. Though the earth should change, the mountains shake, the waters rise, we will not fear. Help us, O Lord, to live fearlessly amidst the storm. But in so doing, guide us as followers of the prince of peace, the servant king, away from a fortress mentality, where outsiders are enemies, toward a Kingdom where Love is the final word. On bended knee we sing praise to the One you have exalted, the lamb who was slain for our sin. May the doors of this mighty fortress open wide this hour, that the music of the Kingdom may resound through this valley and into our hearts, our homes, our communities, our world. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

(Advent, or...)
        In you we find our true joy, O God. From you we receive real peace, O Christ. Through you we step out in faith, O Spirit. Forgive us when we seek joy where it cannot be found. Forgive us when we derive peace from the things which do not make for it. Forgive us when we walk without the power or direction to really move. May this worship, Lord God, be a time of seeking and finding, asking and receiving, knocking and opening. For those willing to enter your ADVENTure, these things you have promised. And you are faithful, even when we are not. Thank you, and praise you. Amen.

        Winter is almost here, Lord God, a time when bare branches and cold weather may turn our thoughts to death & dying. Lead us this hour to your seeds of new life. Help us to see your rose blooming out of the snow. Guide us in remembering your promise of fresh saplings from old roots. Draw us toward the manger where your Son, Jesus, may be born in our midst once more. It's in his name that we are gathered here, and his name in which we now pray. Amen.

        O come, faithful God, who empowers the weak, who encourages the fearful, who enlightens the blind, who intones the deaf, who energizes the lame, who emancipates the speechless, who enriches the poor, who invigorates the dead; O come, faithful God, come and enable us, right now, to worship you, and work for your Kingdom, filled with your strength, your hope, your vision, your melody, your motivation, your Word, your inheritance, your Life!
All this we pray, through him who came to be our Savior, who lives to be our Lord, who will return and fully make all things new; In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

        O God, whose glory is found not just on majestic thrones far beyond our reach, but also amid the imperfection of the human family; help us to approach this hour, this day, and thus every day this week, as a gift from you, full of glorious possibilities, as well as holy expectations. This does not come naturally, Lord. Our temptation is to be so "realistic", or so lost in the clouds, that we miss your kingdom coming on earth, even as it is in heaven. It is often in the simplest of ways, in the middle of situations for which a sigh is our only response, that your glory becomes a reality. Come, Holy Spirit, help us to see and worship, to trust and live, starting right now! In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.


        Yes, Lord, teach us to wait. You are eternal. In you we find freedom from the tyranny of time. You have given us the minutes and hours of our days not to enslave us, but to give order. Help us to use this hour wisely, to wait, and experience your nearness. Only in returning and rest are we saved, in quietness and trust are we strengthened. (pause)
     Yes, Lord, teach us to wait. Only then can we learn to fly with the eagles. Only then can we sing your song of freedom. In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

        We thank you for this new day, God. Confession time: ... we're not very good at giving thanks. We tend to be takers more than givers. You give us so much, only we get so turned around that we can't see what you provide for us, each and every day. We get so lost in the struggle to make ends meet, that "meat", and what it takes to buy it, becomes our end. Forgive us, Lord, and free us. Open us to your simple gifts, that we might be able to turn right side around; that we might, in fact, find delight in turning; that we might enjoy simply giving. Today is a day for turning, O God, a new day, your day of rest and renewal. Bow us, bend us, turn us this hour, so that these words become the song of our heart, mind, & soul: "May Jesus Christ be praised!" Amen.

        "Thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.'" (Isaiah 30:15)
     For those turning toward home, You are Lord, leading every step of the way. For those needing rest in the wilderness, You are God, making all things new. For those seeking quiet amidst the storm, You are Holy, speaking in a whisper. For those still learning how to trust, You are One, drawing closer to your heart. Lord God, Holy One of Israel, Lead us, Renew us, Speak to us, Your will be done in us, Enough for today. Now. We pray to you as children to their Daddy, like Jesus taught us. In his name, Amen.

        O God, whose Word is not just a one-way conversation, talk with us, today, and hear us as we pray. Free us, that we might listen for your voice, & empower us to speak to you. For in Christ Jesus, you have called us into a friendship which influences all other relationships. Help us to see beauty where we might be tempted to see ugliness, in ourselves, as well as in others. May your "joy" be found there as well. As you have washed our feet in Christ, kneel us to washing your feet in others. As you have lifted us off our knees, help us to lift others up. Four we all were created in your image. Re-create in us, just now, a new heart, O God, one that beats in tune with your own. This we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

        Holy God, you have revealed yourself to us in a trinity of ways: as our powerful Creator, our dying Savior, and our comforting Spirit. But we also know you as a loving parent; a risen Lord; and a dynamic breath of fresh air. We're never really sure of how you are able to be all these things to us, but you are. And we praise you. You are an awesome God, limited only by our ability to understand. Inhabit our worship this hour. Teach us the grace of placing our limitations within the wonder of your unlimited hands. In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

        O God, we are gathered here under the shelter of your wings, nurtured by your motherly love, and encouraged, then, to fly by faith on the wind of your spirit. You have spoken to us, saying "They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles." Teach us how to wait, then, that we may learn how to fly. May this nest we call "family" be built with sturdy materials. Don't let us forget, though, that this nest was not created as a fortress behind which to hide, but as a perch from which to take off. And strengthen us with the assurance that we do not fly alone. This we pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.

        Thank you, Lord, for the song you've planted in us, a melody which rings out no matter what our circumstances may be. Some of us here today need your strength, for our voices are barely heard above the noise of our problems. Others of us require your leading, for in the confusion of life we are losing our sense of direction. Some need your word of caution concerning roads we are hell-bent on traveling. Others could use your encouragement as we walk the path you have opened for us. When we sing "Alleluia", Lord, in the same breath we are asking you to move amid our problems, our confusion, our mistakes, as well as the good we do, and make your praise a part of our daily life. Help us to rejoice and be glad. In the name of Christ, our joy. Amen.

(used with Exodus 15:11,13,17-18)
     Come, Holy Spirit of God, and blow open the waters of this congregation. Lead us forward this day, O Jesus, pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Plant us on your holy ground, O God of the burning bush, such that we cannot help but take off our shoes. We have come to worship you, in Jesus' name. Amen.

Responsive Prayer

One: O God, you have planted in us a yearning for "home". With the psalmist we cry,
All: "Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion,"
One: knowing that this highway is not so much a line on a map, as a space within.
All: We are on a journey, Lord. Together we are traveling home. You beckon us onward.
One: You are not just out there, though. You are here, blessing us all along the Way.
All: Thanks for the green pastures and still waters of your hospitality, our Shepherd.
One: In the dark places through which we walk, facing various enemies, we are grateful:
All: for your direction, your protection, your hearty food, your welcoming hand.
One: As we journey home, give us the breath to sing our songs of Zion.
All: And help us to march to the beat of a different drummer. In Jesus name. Amen.

        There is no way that we can really bless you, O God, that we can truly become a blessing to others, without your blessing first becoming a part of us. Behind the scenes you are at work, O Lord, blessing this world. For the wrong, of which we are so often a part, we deserve your curse. But you bless us, instead. Thank you!
     We ask your blessing, your active presence in our midst today. Work in us and through us. Allow us to see the evidence of your involvement with us. O bless the Lord. May all that is within us bless your holy name. In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

        O Lord, we are like workers in a field, reaping the harvest of your Word. Keep us faithful, today, to the work of worship. May your Spirit move in our midst, waking us up when we are tired, opening our eyes to the goodness you spread before us, strengthening our hand to cut through the stalk and get to the grain which provides our spiritual bread. In so doing, feed us. Remind us, though, that there are those who hunger who are not here. Move us to make space for them. For in reality, we are all poor. And yet, "blessed are the poor," you said in Jesus, "for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled..." In you, we are rich. Receive, now, the offering of our worship: the gifts we bring from your field, the songs we sing from your Spirit, the words we say from our heart. Increase the harvest, O Lord. This we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

        Immortal God, as we witness the stunning change in seasons, we realize that all of life reflects your creative power. Invisible God, as we search for your love in a violent world, we realize that you have shown us your silent power in grieving women, like Ruth and Naomi, in a baby born away from his home village, in today's humble believers in foreign lands. Wise God, as we listen for direction in our lives, we understand that you are present and speaking in this time of worship. Great  God, we praise your continued desire to lead your people to servant lives of joy and sharing - lives directed by the example of your Son, Jesus Christ, and works guided by the power of your Holy Spirit. O help us to see and feel this power this holy morning.        (written by Jean Sack. refers to hymn: "Immortal, invisible, God only wise")

        God, you have been at work in this world, from that first day of Creation up until today. So many lives, down through the centuries, have been shaped by your hand. People going beyond the possible, walking by faith and thus changing the course of history, in ways large or small. We call them saints. But it was you behind them all. You are an awesome God!
     We confess, O Lord, that we are tempted to place your saints into an unreachable box, so good and holy that their experience does not touch our own. If anything, we are full of holes rather than holy, and selfish motives accompany our acts of goodness. Still, you take our tattered and torn lives and sew together a holy people. You make us into saints.
     Thank you for the One in and through whom our lives become holy: your son, Jesus Christ. He is like fragrant oil which overflows its container, soothing and healing our wounds, and consecrating our lives to your impossible possiblities. Because of him, our hands are never empty. And because of him we are gathered here today, to worship you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

        Lord, make us free... free with eyes not focused upon ourselves; free with ears open to hearing your Word; free with hands reaching out; free with hearts no longer chained by what we possess, but bound, instead, by what we can share. Yes, Lord, make us free... free to worship; free to be extravagant with thankfulness; free to break open the most costly oil upon your feet; free to love as love really is, In Jesus...Amen.

Call to Worship (second Sunday of Advent)

child 1 - Welcome to God's House!
child 2 - Today is a very special day.
child 1 - Isn't every day supposed to be special?
child 2 - Yes, but this is God's day, and we've all come here
to worship him.
child 1 - I know something else special about today.
child 2 - Go ahead, make my day.
child 1 - There's only ___ days until Christmas.
child 2 - I knew that.
child 1 - It's also the second Sunday in Advent.
child 2 - I knew that.
child 1 - And we get to light the second candle on the Advent wreath.
child 2 - I knew that.
child 1 - OK, I know something you don't.
child 2 - Really? What is it?
child 1 - Do you know what the second candle stands for?
child 2 - Sure. It stands means.... All right, tell me.
child 1 - It stands for........I forget... Mom?
mother - It stands for faith. Last week's candle stood for hope. Today we focus on faith.
father - Faith is important as we journey toward Christmas.
mother - Faith means following God even when we can't see very far ahead.
father - We keep on walking, trusting that God will guide our steps.
mother - For Christmas is more than presents and pretty lights.
It's about God sending
                    his Son to walk with us, to save us, and to lead us home.
child 2 - That reminds me about what we just studied in Sunday School. How God sent
                    Moses to save his people from Pharaoh and lead them to the promised land.
child 1 - Yeah, God protected them along the way. Us kids are going
to sing about it this morning.
father - Well, then, let's get ready.
mother - Prepare the way of the Lord!
father - Make a space for God here and now.
mother - Invite Jesus to be with us.
child 2 - And light the candles.
child 1 - Especially today's candle, the one that stands for faith.
mother - Shall we stand and sing together: "Come, thou long-expected Jesus"
                 [wait until the people start singing, and then light the first 2 candles on the Advent wreath]

     Come, Lord Jesus. We are expecting you to be here. Even so, surprise us. Move among us through your Holy Spirit today in such a way that makes it clear you are near. Confront the Pharoah in each one of us. Passover our sin, because of your promise. Part the waters of our indifference. Lead us through the wilderness of our daily experience, toward your promised land. Speak to us this hour from your mountain. For like Moses, we stand on holy ground. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

(Fourth Sunday of Advent)             note: child 2 is younger, perhaps a non-reader


child 1 - Today is the last Sunday before Christmas. We have been lighting a new candle each week.
mother - With each candle we remember a different aspect of what Advent is
all about. The first one stands for the HOPE we have that God is faithful to his promise;
father - The second represents the journey of FAITH, which prepares us for, and leads us on toward God's coming Kingdom.
mother - The third is for the JOY we find in the Peace of Christ.
child 1 - Today we light the candle of LOVE.
child 2 - God loves us.
mother - Would you stand with us as we read together of God's steadfast LOVE, from which come HOPE, FAITH, and JOY in Jesus Christ.

Call to Worship   (Psalm 89:1-5)

child 1 - I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever;
All - with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
father - I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
All - your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
mother - You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: 'I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'"
All - Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones.

Opening Prayer

child 1 - God, do your angels in heaven sing when we sing?
mother - Have I been listening to hear the "Glory" around me?
father - Have I been asking "Why this Jubilee?" and waiting for your answer?
child 2 - We love you God.
mother - We want this worship, and our lives, to reflect your love in us.
father - Light a candle under us, Lord, that we might sing out, as well as listen, seek as well as proclaim.
child 1 - God, help us to hear your angels sing. And help us to sing right along with them.
mother - Glory to God in the highest!
father - Amen.

CALL TO WORSHIP AND PRAYER (first Sunday of year)

        It's a brand new year! A page in life never before written upon! That's a great thought. It's also a bit frightening. As there are a multitude of ways in which we can make _____ a better year, there are also many ways we can blow it. Maybe that's why we're here this morning, to seek the One who gives us this new year, and to find in him the paths we should follow. As he did for the wise men so long ago, God sets before us a star of guidance... ...if only we bother to look for it. Please pray with me.
     Eternal God, this is the day which you have made. Help us to rejoice and be glad in it. Help us not to blow it. Shine your light upon our way, that we may follow you. Today. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
     Would you stand with me and sing, "How beautiful the march of days"

(in January)
        A new year has begun. It is appropriate for us now to focus upon beginnings. Let's read together from God's Word, of the very first day of Creation, and worship our Creator, whose Spirit still blows over the face of the waters.

CALL TO WORSHIP   (Genesis 1:1-5)

One: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,
All: the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a WIND FROM GOD swept over the face of the waters.
One: Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
All: And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.
One: God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.
All: And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

                                        Hymn - "I sing the mighty power of God"


        O Wind of God, blow over the waters of this congregation. Stir us up. Separate the light from the darkness, the good from the bad, that we might see ourselves as we are, and not as we pretend to be; that we might see you as you reveal yourself to us, and not as we try to create you to be. You are a great God, Master of the Universe, and yet your powerful presence is very near and available. Thank you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

(follows Psalm 62:5-8 &  "Praise, I will praise you, Lord")
     With all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we all praise you, Lord. But this is only possible with your presence in us, by your grace. Otherwise, we are easily distracted, diverted away from where you wish us to be, distanced from your calling. Forgive us our lack of attention to your Word. Help us to repent, to turn in the right direction, that we may fulfill your commandment to love you with all that we are, and to love our neighbor as ourself. May we worship today with all our heart. In Jesus' name. Amen.

        Thank you, God, for the ability to sing out our faith. Of course, some of us are better singers than others. Accept our praise, from each and every tongue united in Jesus Christ. We know that all our voices together cannot even begin to convey the wonder and glory and majesty of who you are. Strangely enough, though, you make our song complete. To your gracious ears, the praise of a few is as great as the best chorus and symphony. We still find this hard to believe. You put a new song in our mouths. You set us free to sing! Thank you God. Receive the praise of these joy-filled hearts, in Jesus name. Amen.

        As we come together into your presence with singing, O Lord, we confess that Love is still a mystery to us... This is as it should be, for Your Love is not something under our control. It is like Your Spirit, a wind which blows where it will, an unseen power. It is like Your Justice, which rolls down like waters, and Your Righteousness - an ever-flowing stream. Blow through us, roll through us, flow through us this hour, that your Love in us might be perfected on the anvil of faith. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

        In order for you to move in us, O Lord, we need to open the door. In some ways, that's the hardest step. We can be that mountain which seems impossible to move. Through our joys and our fears, our laughter as well as our tears, move us this morning, God. The door is open. Welcome. In the name of the One who said, "nothing is impossible," we pray. Amen.

        Thank you, God, for your gift of the Holy Spirit. Like the wind that blows across our land, we cannot control it. But like a ship on the sea, we can lift our sails and journey with it. By your mercy, Lord, move us. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

        Eternal God, we open our minds and hearts to you this hour. Turn us on to you, and keep us tuned in, even after we have left this place. This we pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.

        O God, who is to us like a loving, faithful father, we open ourselves this day to your care. May your refreshment, your renewal, your forgiveness, your strength, your hope surround those who are gathered here in Jesus' name. Amen.

        We have come, O Lord. Not as faithful as we should be, nor as joyful as we could be. Even so, we have been attracted by your faithfulness and your joy. Great Spirit, teach us this day more about your truth, as revealed by Jesus Christ. Fill us with your promised happiness. Challenge us to follow you this moment, this day, this coming week. All this we ask in the name of Jesus, whom we adore as Christ the Lord. Amen.

(first Sunday of new year)         CALL TO WORSHIP AND PRAYER
        "Gloria in excelsis Deo." We don't know the tune to which the angels first sang these words to the shepherds, but it seems appropriate to let them be our first words, as God's people, to greet a brand new year. With them, shall we sing "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth - peace and good will toward all!" If you agree, would you stand and ring in __(year)__ with this note of glory?      [sing: "Angels we have heard on high."]
        This gathered chorus may not be as spectacular as your heavenly choir, O Lord. Even so, it is glorious to sing your praise this morning. God of grace and glory, we open our hearts and minds to your greatness and your goodness. Forgive our sins. Guide us away from them. Holy God, touch us with your holiness, that we might become your holy ones. May the song ring out in our lives even after we have left this place: "Gloria in excelsis deo." In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

        In "the name of Jesus" we pray, O Lord. Our own, individual names separate us from one another and, more importantly, from you. When we gather with your Holy Spirit as our guide, many prayers become one prayer. A jamble of many words becomes less a tower of Babel, and more a simple, united song of praise. Thank you for this one-ness we have found in Jesus Christ, O God of every nation, Master of the universe. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Call to Worship
(The worship leader (#1) reads from the lecturn. The others join in from the pews in turn.)

1 - Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?
2 - You are God's temple!
3 - God's Spirit dwells in you!
4 - We are God's temple!
5 - God's Spirit dwells in us!


        An awesome thought, O Lord: We are your temple. You dwell in us. We must confess our feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. The plain truth is: we're all sinners. Even so, you make us your sanctuary. Without your steadfast love, though, these Temples are nothing. Move through these rooms with your Spirit. Touch that Holy of Holies, that sacred space within us. Teach us how to Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

        "To live our praise to thee." That is our deepest desire, O God. Take these words we speak this day, these songs we sing, the gifts we offer; our inner thoughts, our outer expressions - take them all, and make them into a living praise that will not end with the final note of the postlude, but go with us beyond this place into our world. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.

(for a Sunday leading up to a Presidential or other election)
     We come to you, Lord God, with praise and confession. Thank you for the goodness that we can see, and empower us, by faith, to be thankful for that which we cannot. In your justice and peace thru Jesus Christ we live. May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We confess, O Lord, the ways in which we either work against you, or are, at best, lukewarm in seeking first your kingdom, and your righteousness. Enlarge our vision of your work in this world, that narrow mindedness might give way to future sightedness. Stoke the embers of our faith, and our will-power, that passivity might give way to passion.
     On this day, amidst the contention and confusion of an election campaign, we profess that you are the ruler of heaven and earth, greater than all political parties and governments, just or unjust. It is to you, and you alone, that we owe our highest allegiance. That is why we are here this morning. May our words and thoughts be pleasing to you. We offer them in Jesus' name. Amen.


2000, Peter L. Haynes

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