Who Is God? A Liturgy

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Call to Worship
One: Our God searches us and knows us.
Many: May we search for God on our journeys.
One: Our God is acquainted with all of our ways.
Many: May we seek the ways of our God.
One: Our God flees with us to the farthest limits of the sea.
Many: May we sense our God in our fleeing and retreating.
One: We praise you, Creator God.
Many: For we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Your works are wonderful, as we know very well.

Invocation
In the cracks of the cement and in the flickering streetlights, you are present.  In the summer breeze and the wandering firefly, you make your presence known.  Open us to the small ways you speak to us.  As you reveal yourself in the mighty and miniscule, may we be willing to embrace the unconventional pictures of you.  Amen.

Prayer of Reconciliation and Reflection
Holy Savior and Seeker,

As we wander aimlessly about this world, we become distracted by empty, shiny objects.  We focus on the dramatic instead of the holy.  Instead of seeing your presence in the ordinary, we look for something more glamorous.  Fill our hearts with hope in humble voices and simplicity.  Make way for your visions to enter our dreams.  Amen.

Assurance of Grace
Our Loving God, the Holy Savior and Seeker and Great Creator, will transform our minds as we set our sights upon the intentions of God.  Throughout our journeys, God’s grace will fill our lives with hope for the future.  Amen.

Call to Offering
As we continue to recognize the image of God all around us in our lives, we will begin to sense how God is calling us to use our gifts to build our church, our community, and our world.  May we recognize the ways we build our relationship with God and neighbor as we dedicate our gifts to God.

Blessing of the Gifts
Radiant God, Holy Light,
In gratitude for your love, we share our treasures, our talents, and our time with this congregation and community.  We humbly ask that you illuminate our minds and hearts to recognize your presence as we use all our resources to craft a kind and just world for all.  Amen.

Benediction
As we leave this space and continue to co-create with God,
May we sense God our Creator filling us with inspiration to craft a world of love.
May we sense God our Seeker and Savior accompanying us into the valleys and peaks of life.
May we sense God the Carpenter of Justice and Love awakening us to new avenues of caring.
May God of the Expanding Universe open us to a world of new visions and dreams.  Amen.

Rev. Michelle L. Torigian (c) 2022
Permission to use and adapt with attribution

A Communion Liturgy for National Holidays

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Invitation
May the Spirit of love be with you
And may the love of Christ be with you
Open wide your cautious hearts.
May the hope of our Creator pour peace in our souls.
Let us give thanks to the one who created this time and space
From our joy we give God thanks and praise.

Prayer of Communion
God of the fair winds and bounteous fields,
Of the storms overhead and the seas below,
With joy we celebrate the connection we have with all of creation
“From sea to shining sea,” 1
From the beauteous mountain caps to the rivers winding across the land.

We honor the connection we have with your beings-
from the chipmunks scurrying through our yards
to the swallows swooping in the air above.

We embrace the relationships with our neighbors near and far-
the ones who are close to our hearts,
and the ones with whom distance in miles and souls sets us apart.

And so we come to this table:
The ones with many opportunities, and those seeking liberty.
The ones who have been disregarded and those embraced,
knowing that Christ’s welcome receives all.
knowing that Jesus the Christ ate with sinners and tax collectors,
with those who disapproved and those who leapt for joy,
with Judas and Peter, with Mary and Martha, with Philip and Thomas.

And so we too come to the table.
The table of God’s freedom. The table of God’s justice and love.
The table which reflects the true kingdom, empire, realm of God where all are welcome.

We come to the table remembering the night before Jesus died.
As he ate with his followers in a room away from the world,
“taking a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’
And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant.”2 Whenever we eat and drink at the table, we remember the Christ in our midst.

Spirit of Hope, Holy Winds of Divine Freedom,
encircle this bread and cup,
Encircle us in our eating and drinking
that we may experience the radical love of Christ here today
and sharing this care as we journey throughout this week. Amen.

*****

Liturgy (c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian 2022. Permission to use liturgy with attribution.

1“From sea to shining sea” from America the Beautiful.

2 Quote from Luke 22:19-20 (NRSV)

Blessing of the Building

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Holy God, Divine Architect of All-

This beautiful space today reminds us that we co-create with you. Each brick reminds us of our strength through you. Each window reminds us of your light that shines through us.

God of Love and Light: Bless the space today. Bless each brick, each panel of wood, each nail which has assembled this building. Bless all of the hands and hearts which have built and restored this place as we give much gratitude for their gifts. Bless all who have given their treasures in making this day possible.

Each time two or more are gathered in this space, may they see your presence surrounding them. In gatherings of joy, fill their hearts with happiness, and may this room be filled with laughter. As groups congregate for solemn occasions, surround them with your peace, and may their souls experience your comfort.

We give thanks for the saints whose gifts continue to echo in this sanctuary. May their memories continue to bless current and future generations who congregate in this place.

May this space be one which builds community, believing that your love will strengthen our ties and create your realm on this earth.

Amen.

*****

This was written for the Celebration of the Restoration of Heritage Hall at St. Paul United Church of Christ, April 2022.

A Prayer for International Women’s Day

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Mother God-

As the sun breaks the bounds of the horizon, we celebrate the limitations broken by women in our world.

From work in humanities to the hours spent researching in labs, we honor the gifts of women throughout this world. May they continue to see wisdom and knowledge that comes from you.

We celebrate and bless women’s agency – especially regarding health care and careers. May they work with you to discover the best path for their own lives.

We continue to work for equal pay and health care for women. Continue to transform our hearts to see women as beams of strength and courage.

Bless the ones who are mothers and those who mother. Heal the hearts of the ones who hurt from not yet being a mom. Bless all older and younger and middle age. Bless transgender women and the ones who love women. May they live into your calling – even when that means both career and motherhood, and may we as a world honor and create roads for their sacred paths.

The possibilities of their work are endless, God of Love. Clear paths and open the souls in our world so that your light can be seen beaming from them.

Amen.

A Prayer in the Tedious Moments of Recovering

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God of the Bland and the Boring-

Now I lay me down to rest as I have been on days on end. There are only so many movies to stream and shows to binge and Wordles to solve and naps to take.

My mind is willing. But my body is weak.

In this season of healing and boredom, may I see your presence in the spinning of ceiling fan and the pillows beneath my head. May I see your rainbow of colors in the blandness of days. May this body heal as it should, and allow me to see how my stillness rebuilds a healing body. May this season of rest nurture the soil which will hold the seeds of my creativity.

Above all, help me to see your light and love surrounding me in the comfort of my resting spaces.

Amen.

A Less Fatalistic Ash Wednesday

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Today happened to be another Ash Wednesday in which I was home-bound on medical leave.

Once again, like in the past, I was dealing with endometriosis. The pain was increasing even though I was menopausal, and the hysterectomy proved that there was a lot of rogue endometrial tissue in my pelvic region. I’m on medical leave and not able to lead worship as I take time to heal.

Which brings me to this year’s Ash Wednesday. After two weeks of lying in bed, doom-scrolling news about the invasion of Ukraine and heightened nuclear alert in our world, the worst thing right now is to remind someone who is deathly afraid of death that she will die. (Obviously, there are many dying in Ukraine from this senseless war- and something for us to discuss another day.) I worried about what could go wrong prior to the surgery (as always), and I dealt with two years of pandemic concerns. The last thing I want to hear through sacred liturgy is that I’m going to die.

I know this with every fiber of my being. My anxiety reminds me each day that death could be imminent.

So for this year, I work to establish a different relationship with the ashes.

First of all, everything is fleeting. And this should include my worries. My concerns should be no more than the weight of the ashes which could easily be blown away by the wind. Easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort.

Secondly, as I begin Kate Bowler’s Good Enough devotional book, I’m reminded of my imperfections. The ashes remind me of an imperfect self and the need to embrace a self that works to try her best rather than attain the impossible.

I refuse to rid myself of Ash Wednesday. But the day was not always ours to dwell on death but focus on what continues to be the greatest priorities while we are alive: loving one another as Christ loved us; doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.

And today my focus won’t be nuclear war, health issues, or pandemics, but my growing relationship with God.

Advent Candle Lighting Prayer for Love

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Tensions rise between neighbors. Hate lurks in stores and on roads, in school hallways and political discussions. Humanity focuses more on its own individual well being instead of the well being of all.

Yet animosity isn’t the last word, and hate will never win because God’s love endures forever. Divine love dissipates all venom and sweetens all bitterness.

Even as we walk in the shadow filled valleys of toxic interactions, God’s love is lighting the path to the future. Through the Spirit of the Christ in our world, the vapors of hate will not last in our world. Love will spread from person to person, lifting the toxic fogs that linger between people.

We light the candle of love to clear the cloud of hate in our world and dissolve the mists of gloom as the Christ enters our world and brightness continues to grow. Amen.

(c)2021 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.

Under the Night Sky – A Christmas Poem

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Under the night sky
We abide the beauty of God’s darkness.
Beyond midnight- where miracles fill the earth and magic fill the skies.
Where stars and planets twinkle, delighting both the greatest skeptics and believers.

Under the night sky
In the chilly winds of nighttime,
A young woman met her son,
And light came into her world.
This illumination spread beyond time and space,
Expanding beyond human limitations into our world.

Under the night sky
Humans saw the alignment of planets birthing an extraordinary light-
The greatest star declaring a birth.
And as human and divine aligned that night, the world shifted to a new realm.

(c)2021 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.

What It Was – A Christmas Poem

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It wasn’t a night full of familiar carols
But a melody crafted from surrounded creation.

It wasn’t an eve fashioned with trees and tinsel
But a stable of simplicity adorned with hay and dirt.

It was a cow rejoicing with a smoothened moo
And a sheep baa-ing in jubilation.
A woman sobbing with relief and great joy
And words of love from her beloved.

Stillness and motion danced in the twilight
Allowing room for Divine Light to pierce reality’s realm
And ushering in a new era of warmth, love, and hope
On top of the chilly earth below.

(c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use in a worship service (including a streamed service) with attribution.

Blessing of the Prayer Shawls/Blankets

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God of Peace, Holy Comforter-

Our life’s circumstances can be quite chilly sometimes. During our times of winter, we look for you to warm our hearts. In the long nights of loss and change, your Spirit hugs our weary souls.

As these shawls/blankets wrap around your children, may they feel comfort that only comes from you. May your Spirit enliven the ones who will receive these shawls/blankets. May they find resurrection in their lives and renewal around every corner. May they know that you are resting as they rest and journeying as they journey.

God of Restoration, bless the hands that have crafted these shawls/blankets. With each movement of their fingers, help them to see how they co-create with you.

May we be a comfort to our neighbors when evening is long and loneliness lurks. As these shawls/blankets warm the hearts of your children, continue to remind us of our deep connection through the loving thread of Christ.

Amen.