A Prayer on a Bad News Day

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God who fills the cracks in this world-
Today was a horrific news day.

As the world falls apart,
And our neighbors endure pain,
And hate spreads across our planet,
We lament, we weep, we cry for you.

Why have you forsaken us as the earth shakes?
Why have your children screamed words of hate?
Why have bombs and planes and so much else fallen?
Why do illnesses spread throughout our loved ones?

The news was heavy… no, suffocating.
Like the air from fires,
The dust from earthquakes,
The smoke from bombs,
And the fuel from planes.

So we look towards you in our confusion, our pain, our sadness.
We try to makes sense of things that won’t make sense anyway.
And we go to bed, shedding tears upon our pillows-

Hoping that the sun will fill the skies tomorrow,
That pain is alleviated,
That fires are extinguished,
And healing begins.

Amen.

A Liturgy for Epiphany

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Call to Worship (Inspired by John 1)

One: The light shines in dimness
Many: And dimness did not overtake the light.
One: The light shines in each space.
Many: No gloom, no despair will overtake it.
One: The light shines in our souls.
Many: The shadows of life did not shade Divine light.
One: We celebrate the light of Christ
Many: A steadfast presence from the beginning
Which will shine through the end of time.

Invocation

Holy Lamplighter, as night prematurely encroaches upon us each day, may your illumination brighten our souls.  As we wait for dawn’s first glimmer, may the warmth you carry radiate across this community.  Kindle our hearts made cold by the world’s frostiness, and brighten the road ahead as we ponder what is most important in our lives.  Amen.

Prayer of Reconciliation

One: Spirit of God, we have blocked your light and love from our neighbors.  We have barricaded the Divine glow which enlightens and empowers all of us.  We have turned our backs on the gleam of your wisdom, God.

All: Yet no matter how far we flee, your light still flows near.  You will never hide your light from us.  Encourage us to open doors and shutters to your brilliance so that your illumination will reach our souls.  May this enlightenment bring us closer to your intentions for this earth.  Amen.

Assurance of Grace

One: God’s warmth melts our hardened hearts.  God’s brilliance lights the path on which we will start again.  May we embrace God’s luminosity as we start on this new year journey.  Amen!

Call to Offering

As we seek the presence of God 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.  It is a privilege to share what we have been given to love and light this this earth.

Prayer of Dedication

Divine Lamplighter, in gratitude, we share our treasures, our talents, and our time with this congregation.  We humbly ask that you illuminate our minds and hearts as we use all our resources to craft a just world for all.  Amen.

Benediction

One: As we travel dim streets during this new year, God,
Be our Divine Lamplighter.May your light shine on the road ahead of us.
May the warmth from your flame melt the frost covering our hearts.
May our souls come alive at the sight of your brilliance.
And may your light draw us closer to our neighbors as we begin this season together.

Amen!

A communion liturgy for Epiphany can be found here.

(c) 2019 Michelle L. Torigian.  Permission to use with attribution.

Longest Night Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service

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This was written for a service that will be used in Belleville, Illinois on December 21, 2019.  The term “homeless” is used to describe this day as seen as at NationalHomeless.org, my hope was to be sensitive to the people experiencing lack of housing, hoping to look at “people first.”  Feel free to adapt as needed with attribution.

Opening Prayer
Spirit of God who hovers around all of us-
Whether we abide on the highest peak or in the lowest valley,
Whether we abide in lengthening shadows or growing light-
Fill us with peace that comes from you.

Night has reached its pinnacle,
But the victory has not been delightful.
With it comes the chills of shadows-
The frigid loneliness of grief.

In this season when daytime’s gloom sneers at all of us,
Nighttime’s shadows are anything but cover.
Night has shed it’s duty to its people,
To the ones looking for its stars of hope. 

Scripture: Luke 2:1-7
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Meditation
Burdened with worry and overwhelmed with joy, Jesus came into the world displaced.  Stories say he was a refugee – on the run to save his life. Later stories say that he spoke to his followers ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ (Luke 9:58)  The one that people have called savior, teacher, friend, beloved found himself living an itinerant life for different reasons at various times.

Scripture: Psalm 91
1 You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
   who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,*
2 will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
   my God, in whom I trust.’
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
   and from the deadly pestilence;
4 he will cover you with his pinions,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
   or the arrow that flies by day,
6 or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
   or the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
   ten thousand at your right hand,
   but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
   and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,*
   the Most High your dwelling-place,
10 no evil shall befall you,
   no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
   so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
   the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Those who love me, I will deliver;
   I will protect those who know my name.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
   I will be with them in trouble,
   I will rescue them and honour them.
16 With long life I will satisfy them,
   and show them my salvation.

Prayer
For the ones struggling with severe mental health
Who can’t see the world through a clear lens
And exist with a view of the world which is contorted-
A permanent place to stay is not in their path:
May we journey with them to find answers
And places of refuge in the nighttime of their lives.

For the ones with PTSD
Hurt by wars and the world:
May their spiritual wounds heal.
And in this meantime
As their life is lived under stars and clouds
May your light give them promise.

For LGBTQ children who find no place at home
Forsaken by family,
Deserted by friends:
May your light guide them to families of the soul.

For the ones struggling with addiction
Whose life shifted because of this health crisis
And no home fits their current shape of life:
May the power of your love strengthen them
And gift them the courage of newness and health.

For the ones who live in the system of eviction-
Surviving on couches,
Crouching in car seats,
Trying to sleep in spaces so small
And find a place of their own:
May our world work together to lead them to homes
And pathways of hope.

For ones living among violence
Who wonder if every tomorrow will be the end of their journeys:
May our communities find ways to find the refuge of peace they need.

For the ones who have perished by violence, from suicide
From overdoses, from the frigid chills of the air,
From the lack of medicine and lack of food.
For their loved ones who grieved long before their deaths
And will long after-
We pray for their everlasting peace.
We pray for their loved ones’ comfort will cover them during the longest night of the year.

May our systems change.
May our hearts transform.
May we repent and change the ways that have held others back.

We pray this to you, Divine Love, Spirit of Hope.
Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 139
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
   you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
   and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
   O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
   and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
   it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
   Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
   if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
   and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
   and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
   the night is as bright as the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
   Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
   all the days that were formed for me,
   when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
   I come to the end*—I am still with you.

Meditation
They didn’t have the world’s refuge.
They didn’t have overhead protection.
Their blankets were torn.
Their coats light.
There was no refuge, we know this to be true.
And yet God was their refuge.
It’s hard to see this when they often had no cover
From violence, from the chills, from viruses, from medications.
Maybe it’s time for us to answer the call to be God’s refuge.
We may be the ones God’s commanding.
We may be the ones to sit with them in Sheol,
To follow them to the farthest places of the world,
And into the long night of the soul.

Remembering the Ones Lost
Please write the name of your loved one on the paper
And place it within the box.

Prayer
Loving God, we know you accompanied these loved ones to their shadow-filled corners.  No matter how far they could flee in this world, they could never flee from you.

We commend their spirit to you knowing they abide with you forever, knowing they live in your eternal refuge.  May their spirits be free from the pains of this earth, and may they see your everlasting light. Amen.

Benediction
As night recedes
And the days now lengthen,
May we share the light of hope with our neighbors,
May we abide in Divine peace,
May we walk with God, our Holy Sojourner,
And may we embrace the comfort of the Spirit
Who is forever in our company and forever our refuge.  
Go in the peace of the Divine Love.  Amen.

(c) Michelle L. Torigian – free to use and adapt with attribution

Scripture from Oremus Bible Browser – NRSV

Blue Christmas Prayer Service

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Here is the latest Blue Christmas prayer service I wrote for this year.  Feel free to use with attribution!

Call to Worship
One: As we move through the shadows where light finds no home,

Many: God is sauntering with us.
One: As we journey through the desert without direction or goal,
Many: God is wandering with us.
One: As we endure life in the space between grief and joy,
Many: God is trekking with us.
One: Whether we abide in the wilderness or promised land,
Many: God escorts us.

Prayer
Loving God, Divine Sojourner, in our minds we know you are always our partner and you are forever present. Yet in the depths of despair, we can’t always sense your presence.  We move about this earth with the desire that you see us. We cry in our grief, hoping that you will hear the lament of our hearts. As you hold us in the palm of your hand, open our souls in order for us to know the extent of your care in our lives.  Amen.

Hymn Suggestion            “In the Bleak Midwinter”

Scripture              Psalm 88:3-7

Prayer
Some of us are in the depths of the Pit, God of Deliverance.  Our hearts are swallowed by grief, and our souls overflowing with despair.  As the shadows hide your presence, call us with a different voice and reach to us with different hands.  May our seasons of despair evolve from times of loneliness to times of comfort. Amen.

Scripture                Psalm 130

Prayer
Divine Heart of Mercy, in your steadfast love you call us along the journey from despair to hope.  Allow us to see the trickles of light trespassing on shadow’s spaces. May slivers of expectation move us into places filled with your warm promises.  Amen.

Scripture                  Psalm 91

Reflection/Sermon

Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer

Poem Suggestion            Howard Thurman’sI Will Light Candles This Christmas”

Lighting of the Candles

Suggested Closing Hymn              “Silent Night”

Benediction
One: Even when lights have been dimmed
And shadows have lengthened,
God is near.
May the fragments of light and slivers of hope
Nudge all of us to take small steps into Divine anticipation!
Amen.

A Blessing of the Mason Jars

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November 30 is National Mason Jar Day

God of creativity-

As we take a hold of the Mason Jars we have
we share our gratitude with you for the gifts they contain…

from the homemade jars of jam
and the pickles and pickles veggies,
to hot chocolate mixes
and candies.

Thank you for your delicious world and the hands which handed us these gifts.

We give you thanks for the creative possibilities each jar provides…

From being a container for soap
to displaying candles and flowers
and live plants which thrive in these jars.

God, the opportunities are endless!
(And Pinterest inspires us more…)

So bless our pint-sized vessels and quart-sized containers filled with possibilities.

May they help us grow closer to you and our neighbors. May they nudge us to use our gifts to create a beautiful, tasty world.

Amen.

An Advent Communion Liturgy

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Invitation

One: May you know that the God of comfort is with you.
Many: And may you see the God of hope with you.
One: Open wide our anxious hearts!
Many: We open them to God’s peace.
One: Let us give thanks and share our joy.
Many: In this space and time, we offer God our love and praise.

Prayer

One: The dawn of hope rests on the horizon
And beams of love reach our doubting hearts.
We celebrate the newness of this season-
Waiting to see how the Christ will appear in our world.
Even in our despair, a glimmer of hope reaches into our twilight
Beckoning us to breathe and wait…

Our story tells us that the Christ child whose birth we anticipate
Will one day sit at tables with strangers and friends,
Building relationships filled with love and grace.

We see this as he fed the multitude,
Turned water into wine,
And ate with dear ones the night before his death.

He took the bread, blessed it, and broke it.
Eat in remembrance of me, he said.

He took the cup, and in his blessing
Reminded them that when they sipped from the fruit of the vine
To drink in remembrance of him.

Jesus.  The Christ.  Emmanuel – God with us.
Light of the World.  The Word of Life.
No matter how we know him
Or what name we call him,
He is our hope, our peace, our joy, and our love.
May the Spirit bless us and these elements as we commune to remember him.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

For the nourishment of spirit, mind, and body,
For hope that we begin to see,
And for comfort from the Prince of Peace,
We share our gratitude, Gracious God.
Encourage us in these shortened days.
Through the long nights of this season,
May your hope carry us until dawn arrives again.

Amen.

*****

(c) Michelle L. Torigian, 2019. Permission to use with attribution.

A Prayer for World Kindness Day

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Divine Tenderness-

As our world withers from the chills of words
And our souls are flooded from the tides of hate,
We embrace the tiny seeds of kindness still abiding around us.

For the ones who reach across aisles and tear down barriers
Our hearts celebrate.
For the ones who stand up to animosity
And refuse to let hatred win,
We send our songs of thanksgiving.

May we step out of our way to be kind to our neighbor today.
May we eschew cynicism after all of the prejudice we’ve seen.
May we embrace the light within ourselves and all of your creation.

May your holy glow push through the cracks in barriers
To reach each of your children here on earth.

Amen.

A Prayer at First Frost

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God whose love spans the seasons-

Late Autumn’s first frost has spoken,
Giving the world its sparkling gray hairs
And its plants wrinkles and jowls-
A reminder that Summer’s youthful glow
Has fallen away.

Frost’s beautiful glisten distracts us from the cold reality
Of the realm around us.

Divine Warmth, as the temperatures continue to dive,
Bless the ones whose homes lack heat,
The ones whose have no shelter,
The ones who can’t afford heated cars and lined coats.

Only through our work with you can your children feel your warmth.
Challenge us to give and serve
So that winter’s first frost
And the chill of the long nights
Will not have the last word.

Amen.

A Prayer as We Remember Our Saints

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God of Expanding Love,

Our week pauses as we remember the ones who walked with us here on earth. Our day stops as we cherish the memories of the people whose energy are forever embedded within our souls…

For the saints who let us call them grandparents. For our time together in the kitchen and wandering around garage sales, as we learned stitches from them and listened to their stories. May their talents challenge us to be our best selves.

For the saints who led us in classrooms. For their steadfast encouragement which still walks with us today. May their educating spirit uplift our souls until our last days.

For the saints who hit the clubs with us in our twenties and spent countless hours with us as we cried over broken hearts.  For the ones who sat on the phone with us as we shared our joys. May our friendship abide in eternity.

For the saints in the pews near us. For their faith which carried us when we couldn’t see the road ahead. May their songs continue to be remembered on Sunday mornings, in meeting spaces, and fellowship gatherings.

For the saints which called us their children. For their Divine-like love that comforted us when our fevers spiked or skinned knees. May we forever celebrate the peaceful moments of their love.

For our beloveds that no longer walk this earth with us. For the moments of laughter now embedded in our souls. May each tear shed and each tale told be a testament to our love shared.

If only we could hear your voice alive again…

If only we could engage in simple disagreements…

If only we could tell you how sorry we were for that one thing we did wrong in 1995…

Our hearts feel torn by the assault of grief. Our minds feel foggy from mourning’s arrival.

And yet here we are – weeks, months, years, decades removed from the last time we shared space with them. Here we are surviving. Here we are- carrying their love into tomorrow.

God of the broken-hearted, as we walk together into the future, allow us your peace which goes beyond understanding, a peace that will enrich our strength as we continue on our journeys. May the tools left behind by our saints empower us to build your kin-dom here on earth.

Amen.

A Prayer Before Daybreak

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God of Mystery-

As the night peels away from the far reaches of the sky
And the dew visits the tips of grass’ blades,
May your calmness wrap around our souls
Like a blanket.

May the sounds of morning’s friends
Welcome us back from dreamland.

Rescue us from the grasps of anxiety
And the claims of hopelessness.

Sing to us the songs of mercy,
And grant us the grace to embrace this fresh start that we see with each sunrise.

Amen.