While the text for this week emphasizes the distinctions we make between rich and poor, it wouldn’t be a difficult leap to talk about other divisions in the human community. The question for the worship team becomes one of whom do we exclude? This exclusion might or might not be a conscious one. Whom do we leave out by the way we do worship? Whom do we express a preference for in the arrangement of our sanctuary and buildings? Whom do we pay attention to in the offerings of our study groups or fellowship events?
It can be a sobering exercise to examine the distinctions that we make. And we are likely to meet resistance to the idea. Perhaps a better focus might be how do we go out of our way to include and invite underrepresented groups in the life of our local church? How can we live out an example of the kin-dom of God by reaching across the lines that divide us today?
We could begin by enlarging our music repertoire to include songs from other cultures. Not as a one off and uncomfortable forced singing, but as a song we endeavor to learn to widen our cultural horizons and move toward understanding. We might pray in another language, if there is someone within our congregation who can help us do that or do that for us. We might listen to a voice from the margins, from those we don’t normally hear when we need to speak about a social issue.
Of course, we need to also continue our outreach and inclusion of the poor and disadvantaged in our community. Do we see them as recipients of our generosity, or partners with us in building the beloved community as described by Jesus? Are we ministering to the poor or ministering alongside the poor? How do we view those who are struggling economically in our communities, and how do we receive them when they come into our churches? That is the question James is asking us to consider today.
Contemporary Gathering Words
(inspired by James 2:1-17, Psalm 125, The Message)
We can trust God.
God is like the mountain: rock solid.
God loves all the people:
the poor, the disabled, the outcast, the stranger.
We can depend on God.
God feeds the hungry, heals the sick,
and restores relationships.
Praise our Loving God.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Adapted from The Abingdon Worship Annual 2012, © 2011 Abingdon Press. Posted on the Ministry Matters website. http://www.ministrymatters.com/.
Help Us To Recognize Our Kin
(Based on James 2:1-17)
Generous God, we give thanks to you for your kindness toward us. Thank you for loving us all and calling us all your children. Help us to recognize our kin and to give our lives to peaceful family relationships with all creation. Free us from our self-centeredness and from fear of strangers so that we may meet the Savior in broken humanity – even our own. We pray in the name of Christ. Amen.
Valerie Bridgeman Davis, The Africana Worship Book for Year B (Discipleship Resources, 2007), 160.
Prayer of Confession
Just God, you are even-handed in your justice and in the day of judgement will not play favorites. We confess that we are not so fair in our dealings. We are often unduly impressed by the powerful and the clever and excuse in them what we would condemn in the powerless and ignorant. Forgive superficiality and neglect of people needing advocacy and friendship, through the friend of sinners, Jesus Christ. Amen.
B. David Hostetter, Prayers for the Seasons of God’s People: Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary Year B (Abingdon, 1999), 176.
Prayers of Intercession and Commemoration
(May be used for Labor Day Sunday)
God of all work, who created for six days and rested on the seventh, bless all who work to create things of beauty and things of utility from the elements that you made from nothing. Divine Redeemer, direct and teach all who repair and renew what has been broken and what no longer works as it should. Bless those who care for people who cannot care for themselves.
Healing Spirit, inspire with loving wisdom those who counsel any who have lost their way and are seeking new direction and are having trouble getting it all together.
Head of the church, so enable your body to respond with fidelity to all that you command that your work may proceed with little interruption and the goals you have set be achieved in our community and our world, which is really yours.
Governor of governors, bring a fuller measure of justice to our world, that the rights of all may be protected, from childhood to old age, from the simplest worker to the most responsible manager, male and female, all created in your image.
Free us from any activity that is a detriment to ourselves and to others. Grant us all joy in our work that we may have satisfaction in knowing that what we do makes a difference for good, benefitting our common life.
God our Creator, you have created people who go out to their work and to their labor until the evening. We rejoice in both our vocation and our retirement. The rest at the end of the day is sweeter after a day of good work. The retirement at the end of years is satisfying when we can look back at what our work has helped to accomplish.
We celebrate the rest you have prepared for the people of God. We rejoice in the memory of those who rest from their labor, and their good works follow them to heaven by your gracious acceptance in Jesus Christ. May we not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give. So by your earthly sacraments prepare us for the heavenly rest, through Jesus Christ, who finished his work, to whom with you and the Holy spirit be all glory and praise, time without end. Amen.
B. David Hostetter, Prayers for the Seasons of God’s People: Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary Year B, Abingdon, 1999, 177-178.
As you have been fed, go to feed the hungry.
As you have been set free, go to set free the imprisoned.
As you have been received – give.
As you have heard – proclaim.
And the blessing which you have received
from the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit
be always with you. Amen.
Written by Rev. Daniel B. Randall and posted on the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways website, http://www.ucc.org/worship/worship-ways/.