The Gospel & Hospitality (a liturgy)

[This was a liturgy I delivered at my church a couple of months ago, while we were going through our series “Practice Resurrection”. You can hear the sermon delivered that Sunday here.]

Greeting and Preparation

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen.
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Hi, my name Is Paul. Welcome to Liberti: South Philly. We’re a community of believers in Jesus Christ wrestling and struggling trying to learn what it looks like to live in the tensions and ambiguities of an ever-changing world; of a world whose systems too often attempt to isolate and pull each other apart. Maybe you’ve graced these pews many times before, maybe you’re still trying to get over the shock that you’re actually sitting in here in the first place. Either way, we want to welcome you today. We hope your time here is meaningful and that you feel the freedom and invitation to wrestle and struggle alongside us.

The aspect of Christian faith we will be exploring today is hospitality. The God of Christianity is not a distant god demanding things of us; putting ever-increasing weights upon our shoulders. Rather, he is a God that removes our burdens, shows us what a well-lived life looks like and invites us in. He invites us into the experience of His Self and His Works.

And that is what we will be doing in our time together today. As we go through the movements of worship within this service, this is God drawing us and inviting us all into a participation with His Story that brings us to this moment. In a moment we will begin where the Christian Story and Message begins: the free invitation for us to recognize God for who He is and what He has done, and offer ourselves to Him.

Call To Worship

Will you pray with me now these words from Psalm 86? I will read the plain font, if you will read the bold font:

Leader: We will praise you, O Lord our God, with our whole hearts; we will glorify your name forever. For you have delivered us from the power of death.
People: Bring joy to your servants, O Lord, for to you we lift up our souls. There is none like you; no deeds can compare with yours.
Leader: All the nations you have made will come and worship before you. They will bring glory to your name, for you alone are God.
People: Teach us now your way, O Lord, and we will live in your truth. Give us undivided hearts that we may fear and praise your great name.

Prayer of Invocation

Father, we love you and thank you that you have not only invited us into your Presence, but by Your Son You made the way open for all to freely come and taste that You are the good God You say You are. Lord, would you send Your Holy Spirit among us today? Would you come to us even as you have invited us to come to You? Would you meet with us today and bring our souls to you, O Father? O please, let it be done; by the power of Your Spirit, by the Blood of Your Son — one God, now and forever, 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…

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
— Psalm 34:18, NRSV

Prayer of Confession

We now enter into a time of confession. For many this may be a foreign concept; for others it may be a threatening one. We began our time together today by taking part in the beginning of the Christian story: proclaiming the worthiness of God to be worshipped. But the truth is, and the next part in the Christian Story is, we have failed to give God this worship that is due Him. Our hearts seek so many things but God.

In confession, our burden of guilt and shame is not meant to weigh upon us all the more. Rather, God freely and joyfully invites, exhorts, and even offers us the freedom to come into his presence with confidence and confess all that is dark within us. Confession is a gracious invitation from God to be free from what destroys us and instead receive his mercy. Let’s pray this prayer together:

We confess, our Father, that we do not live up to the family name. We are more ready to resent than to forgive, more ready to manipulate than to serve, more ready to fear than to love, more ready to keep our distance than to welcome, more ready to compete than to help. At the root of all this behavior is mistrust. We do not love one another as we should because we do not believe that you love us as you do. Forgive us our cold unbelief, and make more vivid to us the meaning and depth of your love at the cross. Show us what it cost you to give up your Son that we might become your sons and daughters. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our righteousness. Amen.

Now take a few moments to silently confess your sins.

Silent Confession
Words of Encouragement

Look up and hear these words of encouragement as God responds to your confession:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
— Colossians 2:13-16

Now stand and sing once more to the God that welcomes us to His presence and His table.

Pass the Peace

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