[This weekend, I had the privilege of helping lead the prayers and liturgy at my church. I thought I would post my manuscript up for all to read and take part in as well. I hope this blesses you to read as it blessed me to write.]
Greeting and Preparation
Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Hello, my name is Paul, and welcome to Liberti: South Philly. We are a community of people–people with struggles, doubts, addictions, and frustrations–who are still in the process of figuring out what it means to believe in this God we believe in, and relate to Him and others in a way that reflects that belief. This may be your first time here or your hundredth, but either way we want to welcome you all and we hope that your time here today is meaningful.
The part of the Christian faith we will be talking about today is that of community and relationships. Most likely all of us in here have our own sets of insecurities, uncertainties, and baggage concerning this topic. Our relationships seem to be the area that can frustrate us like no other; the area that it appears no amount of mere intellectual knowledge can change. It is often the source of our greatest joys, our deepest sorrows, and our most profound change.
As Christians we believe this frustration comes from the fact that we long for relationship at such a deep and existential level; and we long for it at this depth because the God we believe in is a God who exists in a community. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity tells us that our God is a God of relationship at the level of his very essence. Indeed he relates to us–all of us–constantly. Each day and hour of every week He relates to us.
But just as a husband relates to his wife every day throughout he week, but still sets aside time to intentionally draw near and relate deeply with her, so too does God set aside our time today–here, in this place in space and time–as a time of intimating with Him and communing with Him. In a moment we will stand and begin to sing, but this time is not simply the carefree tossing of sentiments and platitudes to the ceiling, nor is it simply some one-way communication. Do not engage in our time today merely looking for insight on how better to live life; nor further motivation to change your behaviors, nor more willpower to stop engaging in the things that haunt you.
No; today our God meets with us! He comes to us here and sings with us, hears with us, gives with us, and feasts with us. We invite you all to to come and partake in this dynamic experience of knowing. See and know His heart for you and this world more deeply. Commune with Him.
Call To Worship
Will you now hear and pray with me these words from Psalm 57 as our God draws us near and we ask Him to draw near to us?:
Leader: Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn.
People: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples, I will sing praises to you among the nations.
Leader: For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness extends to the clouds.
People: Be exalted, O God, above the heavens. Let your glory be over all the earth.
—Psalm 57:8-11, NRSV
Prayer of Invocation
Father of us all — we thank you that you are a God of community: you both draw us to yourself as you draw us together as a people. You are a God in whom there exists a communion and fellowship that we long for: one of security, grace, constancy, and holiness. We long for that sort of connection with others and it frustrates us when it is fleeting. Forgive us and prepare us to receive you in this sacred space this morning, Father. Allow us to be bold enough to request you meet with us; allow this on the basis, merit, and authority of the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ, in whom we see how far you would go to relate to us. By your Holy Spirit, unite us to Yourself this morning and let us know You better. Amen.
Let us stand and worship our good God.
Songs of Praise
Call to Confession
You may be seated. Hear this gracious invitation from God…
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
— 1 John 1:8-9, NRSV
Prayer of Confession
We now enter into a time of confession. I imagine–with this topic, especially–many of us are probably already thinking ahead to the sermon portion of our time together today and imagining which of our problems, issues, insecurities, or shortcomings might be soon highlighted and summarily condemned. We might be fearing which our countless wounds will have salt poured into them today by the Word of God.
May I suggest that the God of the good news of Jesus Christ is a God who rather sees our wounds and dresses them? In confession, we present God with our deepest wounds: all those things and all that baggage that has already been brought up even in our brief time together so far. Each of us knows what these things are for us. May we present these to God, that we might with a clear mind and undivided heart hear his word for us today and in it find our hope, healing, and home. Pray these words with me:
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Now take a few moments to silently confess your sins.
Words of Encouragement
Look up and hear these words of encouragement as God responds to your confession:
Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
—from Hebrews 10:19-22
Now stand and sing once more for the freedom and joy found in God’s reconciliation of ourselves with Himself and with those around us.
Passing of the Peace
[I hope this was meaningful for you. Go now in peace to love and serve the Lord]