She Began to Serve

Follow Me!

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

Let us celebrate service today, but not as another call to do more, to give more, to work harder or to fill our overburdened schedules with work. Yes, there is always a call to more service. But instead, let’s celebrate service by saying “thank you.”

At the heart of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is a life of service. There is nothing really controversial about that. We just argue about what that service might entail and who we are called to serve. We value some service more than others, for lots of reasons. But today, as we worship, it would be a valuable exercise to find instances of service that often get overlooked. Maybe the challenge would be for the whole congregation, not just the worship team, to engage in the task of acknowledging service to themselves, to their church, to their community, paying special attention to those who don’t get recognized very often. Identify those who don’t do what they do for the recognition. They might even resist being recognized. And this isn’t a call to embarrass workers in the church and community, but to model selfless service. Thereby, the call to service is issued anew.

For many people, a commitment to “follow Jesus” might not seem compelling enough to move them out of the pew or from behind their screen. But a call to service, to engage in a specific act at a specific time benefiting specific people who are visible is the kind of call they are longing for. We have suggested the call to discipleship throughout this series, but here perhaps a more specific call would make an impact. And while a workday at the church is useful and often necessary, it doesn’t carry the urgency that a call to serve neighbors does. Plus, for many, it feels like self-serving to focus on the church building. So, what needs in the wider community can your congregation support? Think of hands-on ministry, but also consider resource raising for those who aren’t able to swing a hammer or wield a paintbrush. Find ways to partner worship in the congregation with work in the wider community. Find ways for us to rise up and begin to serve, as though the two things were really one thing in the end.

Certainly, healing is also at the core of this story. To talk about, or even provide services of healing, would be appropriate. If, however, that was the focus of the service the week before, then to turn to the response to healing in this story would be a compelling connection. We are answering the question: “What are we healed for?” A life of service!

Opening Meditation

(or possibly Benediction)

“Lord, Here We Stand”

Lord, here we stand
with the whole city gathered at our door
waiting for our Sunday celebrations to end,
hoping that we will notice
that there is a community outside these walls
longing for healing, help and hope.

As we rise from our knees,
help us to worship and work with our eyes open.
As we walk through these doors,
remove the blinders from our hearts
so that we might love and feel and even ache with our neighbors.
When tomorrow comes,
let worship continue to flow through our hands,
testifying to your love and greatness.

(Safiyah Fosua, The Africana Worship Book for Year B, Discipleship Resources, 2007, p. 28.)

Call to Worship

God comes into a world filled with uncertainties and darkness.
God seeks out the voids of belief and conviction.
God embraces the wounded and broken.
God knocks down the walls of division and strife.
God is the candle shining in the darkness of our days.
God is the light of our lives.
God is the one who makes all things new.
Praise be to God, now and forevermore!

— based on materials by Peter K. Perry, and posted on Richard Fairchild’s Kir-shalom website.

Prayer of Praise and Adoration

(inspired by Psalm 147:1-11, Mark 1:29-39)

God of all power, you are the One who called this world into being and we acknowledge that you have no equal in the extent of your power. Yet, you want to share your power—your strength—with those who are powerless; you ache to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up the wounds of the lost and rejected folk of this world. Such radical love leaves us speechless, but you gave it human form and shape in the person of Jesus, in whom your promises of healing and empowerment were fulfilled. We give you thanks and praise for blessing our lives in this way, and we pray that in Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we too can become radical lovers of the powerless, and passionate bearers of hope to those whose lives are filled with despair and hopelessness. May this time of worship be a true expression of our desire to praise and glorify you, O God, for the many ways in which you bless us, and may our lives reveal our gratitude in all we think, and do, and say. This we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

— written by Moira Laidlaw, and posted on the Liturgies Online website.


Prayer of Approach

Loving God,
whose touch can heal the broken places of life,
touch us today...

God of peace,
whose spirit of peace can quiet our spirits
of confusion and despair,
reassure us today...

Forgiving God,
whose call to repentance promises grace upon grace,
place your mercy in our souls today...

You who heal the sick and liberate the imprisoned,
who bring justice in the midst of oppression
and strength in the midst of weakness,
pour out your spirit of power upon us today.

Open our hearts to new faithfulness,
redirect our waywardness,
and hold us gently in your goodness.

We confess our need to you,
and we turn to you with hearts filled with hope,
remembering the promises you have made to us.

May your name be glorified in us and through us.
We ask it through Christ Jesus,
your only begotten son,
he who is our Lord and our Savior,
our brother and our friend. Amen.

— based on materials by Peter K. Perry, and posted on Richard Fairchild’s Kir-shalom website.

Prayer Litany

(based on Psalm 147, Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39)

Lord God, through Jesus you opened the eyes of the blind;
you healed the sick and you fed the hungry.
We give you thanks and praise for your mercy and your love.
Loving Father, by the Spirit you restore strength to the weary
and give hope to those who are in despair.
We give you thanks and praise for your mercy and your love.
You call us Lord to proclaim your deeds and your wonders to all people,
You call us to worship and serve you that all may be made whole.
You offer us a new life of righteousness.
We give you thanks and praise for your mercy and your love.
Make us worthy, O Lord, to receive all your gifts.
Descend on us like the light of a new day
give light to our souls
and put your praise upon our lips. Amen.

— written by Richard J. Fairchild, and posted on his Kir-shalom website.

A Prayer for Others

Lord Jesus Christ,
when you walked on dusty roads
or sat by glistening waters,
you met people where they were.

When you bent down low
to touch the leper,
or raised your eyes to touch Zacchaeus’ heart,
heaven and earth were met.

And so our prayer today is that our world will know
your healing touch
and your forgiving heart.
That those who have been hurt
by insincere actions
and damning words
will hear your healing voice.
That those whose lives are filled with dark thoughts,
or unimaginable fears,
will know your peace.

Walk beside those who are close to giving up hope
and where life seems to have no point;
where people struggle to make ends meet
and fear the bailiffs’ knock on the door.

May children living in sewers
or tending AIDS-racked parents
feel the touch of a caring hand
and an end to injustice and fear.

And may all who weep and mourn,
or feel abandoned and unloved
turn towards your voice,
move towards your arms
and hear the whisper of your presence
in the long hours of night.

Inspire us and encourage us to bend down low;
to embrace those for whom society has no time or patience.

Raise our eyes upwards to see the struggling patient
and the exhausted care giver.
And where young and old stumble and fall, may we be there to offer support,
that all will know your love that transcends all others.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

— written by Reverend Eleanor Macalister, and posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website.

Benediction, Blessing, Commission

We are being sent into a world in need of healing. We have been given all that we need to be God’s messengers of peace. Go now into the world, rejoicing in God’s presence with you. Bring the news of peace and hope to all you meet. AMEN.

By Nancy C. Townley,

In This Series...

Epiphany/Baptism of the Lord, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Transfiguration Sunday, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes