“Illuminate Your Winter” Worship Service

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The idea for this worship service was brought to me at my last congregation by a retired pastor.  As the days are often extremely gloomy and cold in January and February, this is a time to remind ourselves that God’s steadfast presence is near.  For many of our siblings in faith, seasonal affective disorder is a struggle because of the dreary, chilly winter days.  This worship service is to recognize that there are things that obstruct us from seeing God’s brilliance, and we are called to carry light even on gloomy winter days.

This is also an opportunity to look at darkness as something beautiful.  While we are recognizing gloomy, cloudy, cold days as difficult, we recognize the night sky and darkness as glorious and a gift from God.

Ideas for Scripture texts:

Isaiah 60:1-5, Matthew 5:14-16, John 1:1-9

 

Call to Worship
One: In this space, God’s glow surrounds us.
Many: In this place, God’s glimmer brightens the surrounding gloom.
One: We yearn to see the radiance from the sun’s company.
Many: We hope to see the moon’s glow accompanying us until the morn.
One: Winter’s malaise will not last long.
Many: Arise, friends.  For God’s warmth endures forever.

Invocation
Holy Radiance, Holy Spirit, in our seasons when gloom invades our skies, may your mirthful glow shine brightly.  As brisk winds monopolize our air, may your welcoming breezes nudge us to comfort and serve our world.  Help us to seek you beyond thick layers of clouds.  Encourage us to steer our neighbors to see you in the short days of winter and the long nights of summer.  Amen.

Prayer of Reconciliation
One: God of breezy nights and dreary days, we hoard Divine Brilliance for ourselves – even when we have been reminded that to love our neighbors means to spread light into the world.

All: Without thinking, we cast shadows across the earth.  Shift our perspectives so that we avoid becoming obstacles to God’s gleam.  May we become carriers of light instead of  barriers to God’s glow.  Amen.

Assurance of Grace
One: God will always share Divine Beauty with us.  God will call us to find splendor in darkness and magnificence in daylight as both are where God abides.  God will continue to ask us to share radiance and joy with our neighbors.  God gives us second chances, calling us again and again to be channels of love and warmth.

All:  Amen!  Thanks be to God!

Call to Offering
Holy Radiance, you fill our hearts with levity and our souls with joy.  Even in the seasons that appear gloomy, your steadfast presence kindles our spirits, sustaining us until the new season approaches.  In our gratitude for love and light, we share our gifts and our luminosity with our world.  Loving God, let us take these moments to share our treasures and reflect on how we share your Divine Glow with our world.

Prayer of Dedication
We look to you for what we need, God of Love.  We ask that you continue to fill our hearts with your Divine Glow.  Ignite our spirits so that we can pass along your radiance with our world.  We pray all of this with hearts of hope.  Amen.

Benediction
One: In seasons of despair, God’s Glow will warm our hearts.
In seasons of hopelessness, Christ’s Light will spark our minds.
In seasons of gloom, Holy Radiance will sustain our souls.

As clouds droop low and shadows stretch, let us carry Divine Illumination into our world!  Amen!

All: Amen!

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Liturgical Prayers for Epiphany 4C

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Primary text: 1 Corinthians 13

CALL TO WORSHIP
One: In this place, we seek the presence of God.
Many: In this space, we yearn to discover companionship from the Divine.
One: In our lives, we cast our hopes upon an all-loving God
Many: Knowing that our Creator dreams with us.
One: Throughout each season, our Divine Partner of Endurance sustains us
Many: Giving us the strength, the patience, and the desire to live into our callings.

INVOCATION
One: Spirit of Love, as you hover above us, dance below us, encircle us, and energize us, our souls find transformation.  No longer do we believe that we are on our own; we belong to you. We are not without companions; we have the love of neighbor sustaining us.

All: In this season of hearts and flowers, open us to new ways of showering love in our world.  With gratitude, we celebrate the love of our neighbors when we hurt. With thanksgiving, we celebrate your steadfast love.  Allow us to share this love and light with all who ache and all who are lonely. Amen.

+PRAYER OF RECONCILIATION
One: We often refuse to read the world through your Divine Lens, God.  We prefer to find a complete picture of the world through our own scratched, muddied monocle instead of your loving glasses.  When we choose our own angles of people, we act out of a partial picture. We refuse to embrace God’s detailed depiction of the world and God’s people.

All: We prefer to gaze at your people through the lens of our preconceived notions instead of the spotless spectacles of God offers to us.  However we see the world, may we attempt to see others’ lives through the perspective of God. May God’s steadfast love transform our hearts and reawaken our souls.  Amen.

+ASSURANCE OF GRACE

One: Our Divine Partner of Endurance weathers the storms with us and warms our hearts made bitter by hatred.  Let us celebrate that God is always traveling with us, sharing grace and love along the way. Amen!

All: Amen!  Thanks be to God!

Liturgy may be used with attribution to Rev. Michelle L. Torigian.

That Body of Christ Thing from a Mama Bear in the Pulpit

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All views are solely mine and not necessarily the perspective of any group in which I am associated.

Many times as a younger person, I was hurt by Christianity.

Most of those times it’s been from people of the Evangelical perspective.  When I was in college, I was told by a Christian counselor that I needed to dump a boyfriend because he wasn’t a Christian.  In my 30’s, I was told that I wasn’t going to be allowed in heaven because I different views on salvation.  I was told that I was in that same decade, I also had to stand up to a pastor because he dismissed me after I told them that his pro-marriage views belittled me.  I had to stand up to him because he wouldn’t sell a property to people of another major religion because they didn’t hold the “truth.”  And he told me that he couldn’t support me to go into the ministry if I believed that people who are LGBT should be allowed to be married or ordained.

I’ve seen how some Christians have told a City Manager who is transgender that Jesus would want her fired.  I’ve seen how people with these perspectives have shamed women who have been raped or had abortions.

(Before we go any further, I’d like to say this: many who consider themselves Evangelical are absolutely NOT like this.  A few have tarnished the reputation of the many.  If you consider yourself Evangelical but do not identify with the above, I acknowledge and appreciate your perspective.  Likewise, there are many fellow Mainline Protestants that can be equally judgmental.)

Pieces of my soul have been itching to recover from my spiritual injuries.  And they’ve left not just scars but scar tissues that flares when triggered by words and sentences.

And yet, I’ve refused to let them kick me out of the Body of Christ.  Instead, I’ve felt responsible to continue to be a part of the Body of Christ and create spaces that welcome and include people.

I’ve been working for years to make sure to care for my wounds that continue to reopen and keep the wounds covered so as not to infect my ministry.  Yet there are some piece of my experience that I never want another young person (or anyone) to experience, and I will reflect deeply to make sure to separate my wounds from the reality of the situation.  But I will also reflect deeply to ensure those who I minister to are emotionally and spiritually safe.

There’s never been a unified Christianity.  Ever.  It’s a myth.  Right after the time of Jesus, the early Jesus movement folks were arguing about the necessity of following the purity issues and circumcision.  Even today, Catholics, Mainline Protestants, and Evangelical Protestants range from liberal to conservative.  Assuming that a person has certain beliefs and values solely based on their religion or their place of worship is damaging to them, us, and the church.  It’s truly important to speak to each individual before making assumptions about their theology.

I suppose we all “other” some Christians who believe differently than we do.  Who gives us the right to establish a purity test for the faith?  Yet as leaders in the faith, we should be in relationship with people who think differently and learn something from our relationship with them them even when we are called to create programs that fall in line with our ethics and values.  I don’t expect a person on a different side of the Body to be pro-choice.  However, I will not support programs or perspectives which condemns those with my view and those that try to inject shame into our faith community or spiritual lives.

Saying that you must believe (Fill in the Blank) in order to be a Christian is blasphemy.  There are Christians who are pro-life, some who are anti-choice, and some who are pro-choice.  There are Christians who believe in the sacrificial death of Jesus and others who believe that it was Jesus’ life that brought salvation to the world.

  • You can believe in excluding refugees in our country and still call yourself a Christian, but I will not support a Christianity with that perspective.
  • You can believe in complimentarianism (different roles for women and men) and still call yourself a Christian, but I will not support a Christianity with that perspective.
  • You can believe that a marriage is only between a man and woman and be a Christian, but I will not support a Christianity with that perspective.
  • You can think some people need to change before calling themselves a Christian and still call yourselves a Christian, but I will not support a Christianity that deems anyone not made in the image of God as they are today.

My challenge is this: When I am faced with allowing these competing perspectives into the places where I lead and into our programs, I take on a Mama Bear approach.  Because these perspectives often exclude and shame people in the name of Christ, I want to protect others from having to go through what I have endured.  I want them to experience Christianity in a more-loving and open way than I have experienced it.

So from this Mama Bear in the Pulpit to you – I’m doing my best to balance unity in the Body of Christ and ensuring that the spaces for which I’m responsible are filled with theology and ethics that stand for love.  I’m trying my best to expose people to other Christian perspectives in dialogue but distance ourselves from those who say what Christianity MUST be.  As an ordained person, I have a responsibility to reach out to people across the Body, and I have a responsibility to create faith formation that represents a loving, accepting, and inclusive Christ.  I have a responsibility to ensure that vulnerable people experience safety for their bodies, minds, and souls as much as possible.  All of this is a tough balance.  I’ll keep doing the best I can in my service to God, neighbor, and Church.

Epiphany 3C Prayers

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Call to Worship
One: Here we worship as one Body of Christ
Many: Here we worship as many different parts.
One: We minister as unique beings
Many: And yet, we care because we are in covenant with one another.
One: Connected by the same spirit, we strive to know one another.
Many: Connected as the one Body of Christ, we work to understand each other’s lives.

Invocation
One: Spirit of Creation, through you our entire universe came into being.  With you, our beautiful, complex bodies developed.  Through you, rich life-giving nutrients travel throughout our circulatory system.  With you, organs work together to present optimal health for humans.

Many: As we reflect on our physical composition, help us to see that each organ and each cell plays an important role in our health.  Direct us to claim that each atom in the Body of Christ has a role in the health of humanity.  Move us to celebrate the diversity of each cell and the connective tissue binding our souls.  Amen.

Prayer of Reconciliation
One: Divine Designer, we often expect uniformity in our faith – even when we are each uniquely created by you, God.  But even in our demand for uniformity, we forget our bonds to all other people and creation here on earth.

All: More often than we think, we neglect the great connection between God, neighbor, creation, and ourselves.  Sweep away our biases, God.  Heal our torn connections.  Inspire us to develop a world filled with healthy joints and synapses which will build relationships and communications.  Amen.

Assurance of Grace
One: God, the Great Healer, will mend our torn souls and wounded hearts.  God will call us to repair ripped connections as God desires for us to be whole.  With gratitude, we seek ways in which we can heal our world.  Amen!

All: Amen!  Thanks be to God!

Prayers written by Rev. Michelle L. Torigian.  Permission given to use these prayers with attribution.

Liturgy for Epiphany 2C

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Call to Worship (Inspired by Psalm 36)
One: In God’s light, we see light.
Many: With God we are drenched in the fountain of light and life.
One: With God, we experience the river of delights
Many: Experiencing the abundance of gifts from the Source of Life.
One: God’s steadfast love extends from coast to coast
Many: And from earth to heaven, returning again.
One: How treasured is the love of God
Many: Seen in the decanting of talents and surplus of gifts.

Invocation (Unison)
Divine Decanter, you pour your spirit into our souls and your love into our hearts.  Like the transformation of water to wine, our simple aptitudes are expanded to strength our world.  In this space today, may we reflect on how to best use our gifts to better your Kin-dom and care for our neighbors.  May we ponder the ways that we can encourage our spiritual siblings to utilize the gifts they carry on their journeys.  Amen.

Prayer of Reconciliation (Unison)
God, we extinguish others’ dreams in our quest to survive.  We dowse their hopes and their courage with discouragement.  Because of our negativity and jealousy, they stop their quest to develop their gifts.  Give us the vision to see that all of us have a place on this earth.  Help us to seek success for all people – not just ourselves.  May we become a team with our spiritual siblings so that we can use our talents to create a light-filled world.  Amen

Assurance of Grace
One: God, our Divine Decanter, is lavishing us with grace and boldness as we head into the future.  Celebrate this abundance by sharing love and light with your neighbors.

Call to Offering
One: We are vessels filled with the Spirit of Gifts.  With the nudging of God and neighbors, we explore the ways that we can utilize our talents and treasures for the health of the Kin-dom of God.   As we gather our offerings today, let us reflect on the ways we can best employ our gifts.

Prayer of Dedication (Unison)
Spirit of Gifts, with gratitude we pour our talents for you.  Stir our souls today.  Move us to courageous ways of giving and encourage us to fill basins of hope for humanity.  Amen.

Benediction
One: As we head on our journeys this week, Divine Decanter-
Pour your courage into our souls.
Pour your love into our hearts.
Pour your vigor into our minds.
Fill our spiritual vessels to the brim so that we may abundantly lavish life and light into our world.

Amen!

For conversation:
Who was someone in your life who nudged you to step outside of your comfort zone and try out one of your gifts?

*****

Written by Rev. Michelle L. Torigian.  Permission to use with attribution

Epiphany 1C Worship

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One: In this space, we bring our whole selves to worship God.
Many: In this place, God affirms us for who we are today.
One: Even when drifting away, God calls us back by name.
Many: Even when doubts settle in our mind, God walks with us.
One: In our times of flooding and fire, we are not alone.
Many: In our despair, God nurtures our wounded hearts.

Invocation (Unison)
Divine Designer, you constructed creation and called it good.  You formed all humans in your image, and you celebrated with joy.  Whether we join you here in this place at a time of joy or sorrow, we thank you for your steadfast presence.  May we focus our attention to listen to each other’s stories, and may we grow to understand one another as Jesus the Christ understood the people of this earth.  Amen.

Prayer of Reconciliation
One: There are distracting messages around us which sidetrack our authentic journeys with God.  We believe we are not good enough until we change our looks or our socioeconomic status.  We constantly compare ourselves to our neighbors, wondering why our lives are not as successful.  We will even pressure others to live into society’s shallow principles.

All: We do not follow the Divine’s call to be authentic.  We take our cues from the world’s fondness for superficiality.  Forgive us for placing this pressure upon ourselves and others.  Help us to live an authentic life, and nudge us to encourage our neighbors to live true to themselves.  We are all made in your image, God.  May we allow this genuine picture of ourselves to shine in this world.  Amen.

Assurance of Grace
One: God says “you are mine!”  God knows us throughout, and God is willing to join us on our journey through floods and fires.  Let us embrace grace, knowing that all of your children are integral part of our communities and this earth.  Amen.

All: Amen.  Thanks be to God!

Call to Offering
One: The gifts of God embolden us to serve our world with love and understanding.  How is God calling us to serve in this new year?  With thanksgiving, we explore our gifts from God and seek ways to share them with God’s children.

Prayer of Dedication (Unison)
In this sparkling new year, Divine Designer, we thank you for all we have.  Impart wisdom upon us.  Give us the humility to listen for the best use of our gifts.  Allow the courage that comes from you to enter our hearts so that we, too, can face fires and floods to comfort your children.  Amen.

Benediction
One:  May the God of Courage restore your hearts.
May the Christ of Compassion renew your minds.
May the Spirit of Continuous Presence replenish your souls.
Throughout this new year, may you each remember that God will always exclaim “You are mine!” and accompany you wherever you journey.  Amen!

Conversation: If you could write a note to your eighth grade self, what would you say?  If you could tell a pre-teen, teenager, or young adult words of encouragement, what  would you say?

Communion Liturgy for Epiphany

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Invitation

One: Here at this table and in this sanctuary, let the Divine Spark enter our lives.
Many: Let the Holy Light aid us in seeing the Christ in our midst.
One: The Brightness of Jesus the Christ will illuminate our way.
Many: The Radiance of the Christ will warm our hearts.

One: God is shining upon you!
Many: And God’s light streams upon you!
One: Open your hearts.
Many: We open them to the brilliance of God.
One: Let us give thanks for the light and love of God.
Many: We praise our Creator with joy and thanksgiving.

Prayer

One: We enter this stunning space eager to experience the presence of the Christ.  Notice the Christ in the cries of the children. Spot the Christ your neighbor’s singing.  Recognize the Christ in the laughter from the back of the sanctuary. The Christ is gleaming here, summoning us to share love and light as we greet our neighbors, share peace, pass the bread and cup, and love kindness across this earth.

On the night before Jesus died, when some were plotting to extinguish the Holy Light, warmth was shared between friends.  Jesus took bread. In his blessing, he passed the Divine Glow to his followers. As he broke the bread, he reminded them to eat in remembrance of him.

Later that same evening, Jesus took the cup.  He blessed it and invited his friends to taste from the cup of grace.  “Do this, as often as you drink of this, for the remembrance of me.”’

Holy Spirit, may your Divine Glow bless this bread and cup.  Warm our hearts made cold by a chilled world. May this meal inspire us to carry your warmth into our world.  Amen.

Distribution of the Elements

Prayer of Thanksgiving
God of Light and Love, we cherish this table in this season when the nights are long and cold.  Through this meal, the Christ, and our neighbors, our hearts have warmed. May the comfort in our souls sustain us through winter and nudge us to create welcoming spaces for our neighbors.  With gratitude, we leave here energized to kindle your love in this world. Amen.

Please feel free to use this service of communion with attribution to Rev. Michelle L. Torigian.

 

Christmas Eve – Lighting the Christ Candle

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A warm glow spreads throughout our world declaring that God is with us. The light which extends from the farthest reaches of our earth to the neighbor next door alerts us that we are not alone throughout these long winter nights.

Tonight we proclaim the hope that inspires us to keep moving forward on our journeys. We recognize the peace that extends from our souls into the world. We celebrate the joy that fills our spirits with excitement. And we herald the love passed between the Christ and us and between our neighbors and us.

As the Christ Candle is kindled, we celebrate the compassion which will overcome hatred and the kindness which will overcome isolation.

May the light seen tonight fill our souls throughout the new year and beyond, enlivening our spirits throughout eternity.

Amen.

A Prayer on International Migrants Day

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Wandering Spirit- as we speak aloud or quietly remember migrants in our world, may we seek the stories of those who yearn to survive.

Your children hope for homes in which they can thrive.  May they find a permanent place to rest – if they so choose.  May they have abundant food, healthcare, and housing.  May possibilities for employment be plentiful. May love surround their homes, and may love walk with them on their journeys.

Spirit of Safety, shine on our sojourner siblings.  As they cross borders and walk on arid ground, give them the light they need to find smooth pathways.

As our neighbors walk miles, allow them the strength they need.  When food is insufficient and water is lacking, connect them with the resources they need for survival.

We pray for the families who have lost loved ones on their journeys, in exile, and imprisoned.  May Divine peace which extends beyond time and space comfort our friends who continue to lament.

May the powers that be see all migrants with the dignity they deserve.  May those with authority acknowledge our common humanity yet differing stories.  May we all open our souls to the narratives of neighbors who are unlike us, and may we advocate for the migrants who have been robbed of dignity.

Nudge us to recall the stories of our ancestors who risked everything to migrate to distant lands.  With thanksgiving, we celebrate the bravery of our kin, and pray for the courage of our siblings around this world.

During this season of Advent, may we connect with neighbors near and far, knowing that you, God, are calling us to radically love on our journeys.

Amen.

*****

You can find more information on International Migrants Day here.

Advent Candle Lighting Prayer for Joy

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In the midst of our exiles, Spirit of Anticipation, your light is eclipsed by cynicism and despair. The wilderness continues beyond our expectations, and the probability of hope lasting in our souls seems unlikely.

The peace to which we seek is covered by the fog of hopelessness.

And yet, occasionally, even in the nighttime of our spiritual deserts, a small light can be seen in the distance.

Even when hope is small and the light is dim, we celebrate the moments that we detect possibilities ahead.

We light the candle of joy to optimistically announce the glow in life’s murkiness and the mirth that grows as we grow closer to the birth of the Christ.

Amen.