Sunday, November 24, 2013

Advent 1A prayers and other texts

Note: Back in May I took a course on Ecology and Worship, the principal activity of which (other than a lot of reading) was writing liturgical materials with a particular awareness of creation and ecological concerns.  The tricky part was infusing the prayers and texts with such awareness without getting out of whack with the occasion.  I'm not always sure I succeeded but the effort was itself the reward, and I even managed to adapt part of one for use in my parish internship this past summer.
This past Tuesday I attended, as part of my current non-parish internship, the Living Waters Interfaith Summit hosted in Richmond by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  In one session, pondering the question of how to bring home to congregations the significance of the environment that surrounds us (in particular the waters of the Chesapeake watershed, but it's hard to separate) I was reminded of that  May class, and ultimately moved to resume the activity of writing liturgy with that balance in mind.  What follows is a first effort for next Sunday, Advent 1A.  Make of it what you will.  You might check the scriptures for the day from the Revised Common Lectionary as well, as some references to those are found below.

Call to Worship:

One: Our eyes are shrouded, as in a haze on the high mountain.
All: We long to see you, O Lord.
One: Our senses are uncertain, feeling and even smelling the coming rain in the air.
All: We yearn to feel your presence, O Lord.
One: We are awakening, slowly, as dawn overtakes the darkness.
All: Come to your people, Lord, like the dawn of a new day.
One: Let us worship the God who molds the mountain, refreshes us with rain, illumines our lives with the sun.
All: Let us worship God.

Prayer of the Day:
Creator God, our hearts are dry.  Our eyes are heavy.  Our souls are asleep.  Refresh our hearts with the drenching rains of your promise.  Open our eyes with the dazzling light of your presence among us.  Awaken our souls that we may be alert to the dawning of new life, longing still to be united in truth with your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Spirit, Three in One, One in Three, now and forever.  Amen.

Prayer of Confession:
Holy God, we are guilty of so much.  We claim to wait for your coming, but we do not wait for anything.  We claim to love your creation, but we devour its resources and spoil its waters beyond what it can bear.  We say we love your children, but we ignore the poor, marginalize the homeless, scorn the prisoner, and act venomously towards those with whom we differ.  For all the ways we sin against you and disobey your will, forgive us.  Heal our own brokenness, and make of us vessels for the healing of your world.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:
Hear this good news: our sinfulness is not the last word.  Christ, who could condemn us, loves us instead, and restores us to right relationship with God and with God’s creation.  For this new life, know that in Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.  Amen.

Prayer for Illumination:
Holy God, break in upon us like the sunrise to brighten and illuminate the reading and hearing and proclamation of this your word.  Amen.

Communion Liturgy: 

Hear these words from Scripture: (Romans 13:11-12)
You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.  Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

God calls us to this table, God’s own table, to partake of the grains of the earth and the fruit of the vine, and here to learn to live at peace with one another and with all of God’s creation.  There are no doors or gates to bar entry to this table; all who heed God’s call, hear God’s son, and crave God’s spirit are welcome here.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Creator God, maker of all that is, you gave to us a good and fertile world.  Throughout history you have provided good for your people even when your people have rebelled against you.
You have given us abundance in nature, even as we squander it and make scarcity in its place.
You have given us a vast and plentiful world to share, but we war over it.
You have given us prophets and psalmists and disciples and apostles to teach us what your good created world looks like and how to live in it, but we ignore their teaching.

Teach us, good Lord, to sing with all creation:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory;
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

We thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, whose life and teaching we celebrate by anticipating his birth even as we mark his undying love for us in anticipating reunion with him.  Living as a human, with a body of flesh and blood, he showed how to live in harmony with all of your creation. He received baptism in water like us.  He gave us this sign and sacrament of bread and wine, gifts of creation, to bring us together in a fellowship in you that cannot be broken, a fellowship that embraces all you have created.  Dying, he showed us unlimited love.  Living again, he showed us unlimited life.

Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Grant to us, O Lord, your wildly rushing and untamable Spirit, binding us to each other evermore, all creatures and plants and mountains, and oceans and winds and rains singing your praise in concert, living in the harmony You intended.
May that Spirit drive us:
            To live rightly in the world, so that none take too much and none have too little;
            To extend your divine hospitality to those who are sick, imprisoned, homeless, estranged, or lost;
            To live in your world without swords or spears, anything that divides or excludes or separates us from You and Your good created world.
Glory to the One who creates, the One who redeems, and the one who sustains, Three in One, One in Three, now and forever.  Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Bread and the Cup:

The soil and rain of the earth nurtured and fed grains that were gathered and used to make thie bread that Jesus broke and gave to his disciples, a sign and token of his life given for us in living, dying, and living again.

The soil and rain of the earth nurtured and fed grapes that were gathered and pressed and made into wine that Jesus poured and gave to his disciples, a sign and token of his life ongoing and flowing through us.

The table is ready; Jesus bids us come and eat.

Prayer After Communion:

God of mountains and valleys, rivers and oceans, we thank you for these gifts of soil and sun and water that You give us.  Teach us, like those who nurture and tend the grains and grapes and then wait with anticipation, to do good work in your world, and to anticipate with eager longing the advent of your Son, through whom we pray, Amen.

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