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.
This day and always, we send our gratitude for our educators. From the preschool teachers who instilled a love of education from a very early age to the professors who mentored us as we sharpen our crafts, they have reflected your image as a Divine Educator.
Bless the ones who stood by us when life was hard, who listened to our pain that went far beyond the classrooms. May they realize how much their words and moments saved us from our own self-doubts and the torment of bullies.
Bless the ones who taught us information that would impact the rest of our lives and the ones who gifted us information that we never integrate into our callings. May they know that moments of education never are wasted.
Bless the ones who pointed out our talents, who spoke holy words into the world that led us to our callings. May they realize their life-long impact on the ones they taught.
Bless the memories of the ones who have passed on to that side of heaven with you. We thank you for each step walked, each word uttered here on earth. Their gifts will make an impact for generations.
And for the ones who seemed extra frustrated, whose patience ran short and their emotions ran high in the classroom, bless them with the grace they need and healing from tough moments in life.
Whether they impacted our life when we were four or fourteen or thirty-four, their words and gifts build us into the people we are today. For their time and talents, we are forever grateful.
As the dawn of a new chapter begins, we yearn for the scenes of yesterday. Our hearts miss the saints who no longer abide with us here on earth. Our souls ache to hear their voices once again, to feel our hands in theirs, to hug them again.
On this All Saints Day, give us the strength to move forward in a world without them. Comfort our grieving hearts. May your peace calm the spasms of our spirit when the grief overtakes us. May beautiful memories accompany us each day of the rest of our lives. Amen.
Our joints stiffen and swell. Radiating pain shoots across our necks, backs, knees, and hands. What aches will tomorrow bring? we ask ourselves. How do we walk one step at a time or fulfill our callings with the limited use of our bodies?
As we mark World Arthritis Day, may the gifts of treatments better our lives. May inflammation decrease and movement increase. May we figure out how to live fully even when various types of arthritis threaten our futures. May your Spirit guide us in the shadows and lead us into the sunlight again.
Like many of you out there, I’ve become a fan of Ted Lasso. (I probably should say that I’m now a superfan of Ted Lasso, considering all of the times I’ve watched the series all the way through.) Ted provides a leadership that is constructive and encouraging of the team – from its owner to the players to all who work for the Richmond team.
There’s a piece of the story that I believe is crucial to write about today, World Mental Health Day. (Friends: this part might contain spoilers, so turn back now if you do not want to know what will happen before the end of season two.)
In the first season (or series, as it’s called in Britain), Ted has a panic attack one night during the team Karaoke event. The owner of the team talks him through his attack, supportive of his struggles from their early days together.
In the second season, Ted has another panic attack during a game. I’m not sure what brings this one on, and I don’t think it really matters to the viewers. The most important piece is that Ted has a panic attack and must face what is happening.
Ted begins to open up to the people closest to him that the reason he left the game was due to a panic attack. And one of his confidants (Nate!) discloses this anxiety event to the press. Up until that point, Ted’s mental health issue is not public knowledge. Yet, Ted decides that talking about it with the world is crucial to bringing an end to the stigma of mental health and sports. In fact, the entire season focuses on mental health, as Dr. Sharon Fieldstone helps out the Richmond players with their own struggles.
What a blessing the story has been for the movement towards mental health. As someone who struggles with anxiety and panic disorders, I identified well with Ted’s journey. (I first wrote about my childhood journey here.) When Nate outs Ted’s panic disorder, I became very angry. “How could he do such a thing! It’s not his story!” I thought to myself. Nate attempted to discredit and shame Ted through sharing such personal information. I didn’t care how much Nate was struggling himself; I was extremely angry that a person used a health struggle to damage the reputation of another human being.
I suppose I felt embarrassed for Ted. I felt the shame that was surrounding him and that others imposed on him. And yet, when it comes down to it, why was there shame? Ted began to address the struggles. Ted went back to work the next day. Ted opened up and spoke about it to normalize the experience.
More people than we realize struggle with mental health issues. From anxiety to depression to personality disorders to being bipolar, many of our neighbors go through temporary and life-long struggles with mental health issues. But in our struggles, we feel alone. We feel like no one else is going through what we are enduring. I felt that way as I child and sometimes as I got older. But then people began to talk about it, and I spoke about it – not just to be transparent in my journey but to help someone else as they go through something similar. I give thanks for my friend Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund who has been an inspiration to me writing about my journey. I find her books Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church as well as Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness and Marriage incredibly important for progressive Christianity. Like Dr. Lund, I am encouraging of anyone enduring mental health issues to seek help through a counselor and medication as well as other self-care activities. And like Dr. Lund (and Ted Lasso!), I am open to sharing my story as well.
Again, you can read something I wrote years ago here. But also, I’ve written a chapter in the forthcoming book When Kids Ask the Hard Questions, Volume 2: More Faith-Filled Responses for Tough Topics (edited by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Karen Ware Jackson). This chapter includes encouragement for parents to seek help if their child has anxiety or any other mental health issue. Children or adults should not feel alone in their journey, and if I can help one person feel less alone, then sharing my story is well worth it. I highly encourage you to check out this book because of the myriad of topics included. Children and parents should never feel alone in any struggles.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:
“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
Today, to use the phraseology of Paul, I boast of this weakness of mine. I boast not from pride, but because I feel free and light in being able to tell my story. I boast because I see the presence of God in my weakness, and my relationships with God and others have grown closer in this vulnerable state. And that means, like Paul, seeking contentment in this very vulnerable moment and becoming transparent will hopefully bring strength to the entire body of Christ.
So today, on World Mental Health Day, I celebrate the stories of others who became a little vulnerable to be honest so that others feel less alone. And I celebrate my story – because it shows both my vulnerability and resilience, knowing through baby steps and the strength of God finding a wholeness is possible.
You sow new seeds in our world, and call us to harvest them when the time is right. You fill our world with new melodies, and ask us to sing them to change the air around us. You call us to use new wineskins for our wine. You ask us to try new delicacies, travel to new lands, and listen to the stories of our new neighbors. Let us embrace the Spirit of newness surrounding us, listening to your transforming call in our lives. Amen.
PRAYER OF RECONCILIATION One: Loving God, Divine Chef- We cling to the usual menu of life. We order the same food. We invite the same people. Yet what if you are calling us to order new cuisine and dine with a new group? All: Transform our minds to the adventure of newness. May the meal and the conversations we share open our hearts to new tastes, textures, and experiences. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF GRACE One: God serves us grace as we reflect on our past errors and hurtful actions. God sets us on a new path filled with mercy and wisdom. Let us rejoice as we embrace fresh beginnings! Amen!
BENEDICTION May we embrace the flavor of newness in the meals we eat this week. May the aroma of the unfamiliar draw us into new adventures. May the stories of strangers open our minds to new paths. And as the foreign becomes familiar, may the Spirit of God draw us into transforming this world with our new understandings. Amen.
(c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian. Permission to use with attribution.
Divine Dawn of Redemption, as the tomb has opened, we peer into the future. Like in the garden long ago, so much around is still unknown. Yet you have refilled our souls with hope. Even when fear lingers, your peace-filled spirit surrounds us, bringing us the confidence to continue to move forward. May we embrace this new era of resurrection with steadfast faith, even when anxiety and amazement disorient us. Amen.
Blessing of the Gifts
Holy One, with gratitude, we celebrate all gifts we have been given and the gifts we share with the church and our community. May the treasures, talents, and time we share build a world in which all people experience resurrection and renewal. Amen.
As we enter a world where resurrection is possible, Nudge us forward when the unknown is overwhelming. Empower us when anxiety and amazement seize our spirits. Allow our trembling voices to share Alleluias with a hurting world. Open our hearts to our neighbors yearning for rebirth. And allow us to see the empty tomb in each season of our lives.
Divine Love, in this week of contemplation, may we remember the presentation of your love through the Christ. As we share in the breaking of the bread, may we recall the beautiful unity of Christ’s table. May the mandate of this day, to love our neighbors as ourselves, be etched into our souls. Widen our minds to see our neighbors from a new angle. Widen our hearts to serve as Jesus the Christ once served. Amen.
The communion liturgy keeps in mind a hybrid approach to worship this year. Some people may be in our presence, and others experiencing worship at home. This was adapted from last year’s “sheltering in place” communion liturgy.
Christ gave us the mandate to love one another. Christ gave us the peace that we will never be left alone. Christ gave us the picture that we are connected as vine and branches. Christ gave us the assurance that no one will take away our joy.
God is with you! God is with us all! Open wide our hearts. We open them to new possibilities. From here tonight to dining room tables, this is the time to give God our thanks and praise.
Jesus the Christ has created a realm of love for each of us- one in which we will be reunited with loved ones, one full of sacred memories, one in which we are assured of God’s comfort.
It was a night filled with teachings and memories. Undoubtedly, tears were shed and laughs raised. This was the night before Jesus died. Jesus took bread. As he blessed it and broke it, he said to his friends Whenever you eat this bread, eat in remembrance of me.
Later, Jesus blessed a cup filled with fruit of the vine. Friends, this is the new covenant. Drink this to remember me. Drink to remember our time together.
Spirit of God, surround the bread. Surround the cup. Surround us – here and elsewhere. Bless us in our eating and drinking. Bless our connection – near and far. No matter if close or distant, our covenant with God will keep us together.
May we spend this time remembering: The ones who can’t be at the table. The ones who are no longer at the table. And the one Christ who created this sacramental table experience. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Loving God, Great Provider-
After this time together, near and far, we give thanks for the opportunity to commune with the Christ and our neighbor. May the love that was experienced tonight through bread and cup open our hearts to the beauty, pain, and joy across our world. May this sacrament move us to offer our neighbors our love. And may our time at the table remind us of the ones who are forever in our hearts. Amen.
Blessing of the Gifts and Benediction
As we are not having a “collection” time during our service, our congregants are dropping them in boxes on the way out of the sanctuary, mailing them into church, or giving online. We have combined the two together.
Holy One-Your gifts build a world of love, filled with memories of your presence in our lives. May we use our gifts to continue to create a world of care, living into your mandate to love one another as you love us. Amen.
We walk into the dusk knowing the journey of Jesus. May we remember his steps to the cross. May we embrace his profound love. And may we share this grace each and everyday, leading our world to resurrection.
(c) Rev. Michelle L. Torigian 2021. Liturgy may be used with attribution.