Mid-week Vespers Prayer Service

This is a resource for you to use for prayer this week. It has been updated from last week but remains based on a typical Vespers service on Wednesdays. Of course, this has been modified for you to do on your own. I hope that by all of us sharing in the same resources, even though we are apart, we can sense some togetherness.

For the season of Lent, our devotionals were to consider prayer and ways of praying. We will continue this week with a lectio divina practice related to the scriptures for the week. Lection divina is simply, a way of reading scripture as prayer. The instructions are included in the liturgy and sources are footnoted.

 As you approach this liturgy this week, you can use it alone of with your family.
If you are practicing alone, of course just work your way through the prayers and hymns.

If you are practicing with others, alternate lines or paragraphs as you read and sing aloud. And if you would like to use it more than just once, substitute a different scripture for the Philippians passage.

I hope this resource is helpful to you. Feel free to share it as you are able.

Chris Aho

 

Gathering Prayer

Merciful God,
your strength and courage pour forth
to sustain the witness of your faithful people.
Awaken in us the humility to serve
wherever creation is broken and in need,
that we may follow in the way of our brother, Jesus,
die as he did to all that separates us from you,
and with him be raised to new life. Amen.

Hymn – O God, Our Help in Ages Past
(Sing alone, together, or pray the lyrics if you do not wish to sing)

 1 O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

 2 Under the shadow of thy throne thy saints have dwelt secure; sufficient is your arm alone, and our defense is sure.

3 Before the hills in order stood or earth received her frame, from everlasting you are God, to endless years the same.

Intercessory Prayer[1]
(This is a time when we pray for the concerns of our friends, family and community)

Caught between joy and despair,
we yearn for the fulfillment of God’s desire
beyond the brokenness and neediness of this life.
We offer thanksgiving for God’s presence with us
and petitions for the transformation
of the church and the world.

(offer prayers for your family, friends, community, and world during a time of silence)

Prayers of the People, concluding with:

Life-giver, Pain-bearer, Love-maker,
day by day you sustain the weary with your word
and gently encourage us to place our trust in you.
Awaken us to the suffering of those around us;
save us from hiding in denials or taunts that deepen the hurt;
give us grace to share one another’s burdens in humble service. Amen.

 

Today’s Prayer Practice
Lectio Divina, Philippians 2.5-11[2]

 This exercise should take no less than 10 minutes. Feel free to allow it to take longer.

 If you are practicing with others, you can share your answers after a moment of silence but before the next reading begins.

 If you are practicing with children (well done!), reframe the questions for their understanding.

Let’s begin. We will read Philippians 2.5-11 several times. Each time we read, we will read slowly and intentionally.

Philippians 2.5-11
5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8   he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

 

First ReadingRead aloud if you can. As you read, consider what words or phrases stick out.
When you are finished reading, pause and write them down. This reading cycle should take 2-5 minutes.

Second ReadingRead again slowly. Consider what God is saying to us as we read and pray this passage. Maybe write down your thoughts.

Third ReadingReading again, consider how God might be asking you to respond because of this passage. Is there some way you need to act, work, or feel differently because of this reading?

Fourth Reading– Read this passage one last time and rest. Sit with the passage. If you can be silent for 10 minutes, let your thoughts turn to what you have heard from the Spirit of God and allow the practice to settle in. When the time of silence is over, move on to the final hymn and prayer.

 

Hymn – O God, Our Help in Ages Past

4 A thousand ages in your sight are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.

 5 O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
be now our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.

Sending Off[3]

Now go with the Spirit,
from the comfort of this place,
so we may go to bring hope to the world.

Now carry the Light of Christ with you,
we will go into the shadows with this gift.

 Now trust in God who is always with you,
we will follow that life called discipleship. Amen

 

 

[1] https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu//prayers.php?id=29

[2] https://bustedhalo.com/ministry-resources/lectio-divina-beginners-guide

[3] http://lectionaryliturgies.blogspot.com/

A Hymn for Today

Today we have the text of a new hymn written this spring and shared from Cindy. The tune is likely known by The Servants Song. May these words guide our thoughts and prayers today.
http://www.carolynshymns.com/when_we_face_an_unknown_future.html
On YouTube.

When We Face an Unknown Future

When we face an unknown future that we can’t imagine yet, when the closeness
we have treasured turns from blessing into threat.
As we miss our friends and loved ones, as we crave community,
May we look, God, in this season, for a whole new way to be.

Jesus faced the lonely desert as a time to look within.
There He met such trial and conflict; there He knew you were with Him.
In this time of separation when we miss the life we’ve known,
May we hear your voice proclaiming: “I am here! You’re not alone.”

May we cherish those around us as we never have before.
May we think much less of profit; may we learn what matters more.
May we hear our neighbors’ suffering; may we see our neighbors’ pain.
May we learn new ways of offering life and health and hope again.

God, when illness comes to threaten, and when so much here goes wrong, may we
know this thing for certain – that Your love is sure and strong.
You’re beside us in our suffering, and when times are surely tough,
We may face an unknown future, but it’s filled, Lord, with Your love.

Text: © 2020 by Carolyn W Gillette
Used with permission

 

Resurrection Foreshadowed

The Old Testament Reading for yesterday’s worship was Ezekiel 37, verses 1-14. 
Given how the Psalm from yesterday’s worship took us to the darkest, deepest places in a cry for hope, it is hopeful to read about God bringing life from a valley of dry bones. May we see ways God brings life in this day.
  – Chris Aho

Ezekiel 37.1-14

The Valley of Dry Bones

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’

Sunday Morning Worship March 29th, 2020

 

March 29th, 2020

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in His Word I hope!
~Psalm 130:5

MUSIC FOR MEDITATION    “It Is Well with My Soul”      arr., G. Sikes

WELCOME TO WORSHIP   – Rev. Aho

CALL TO WORSHIP    – Sydney and Molly Deal

When our lives become a valley of dry bones,
God clothes us with flesh and
hearts that beat with love.

When our souls seem withered away,
God breathes new life into us
once more that we might live.

Come!  Let us worship.

HYMN OF PRAISE        “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”     FAITHFULNESS

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee.            Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not.  As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

(Refrain)   Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.
                     Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Pardon, for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings are mine with ten thousand beside!
(repeat refrain)
~CCLI #1049296
Text by W. Runyan

SCRIPTURE READINGS  -PSALM 130
Optional Additional readings: EZEKIEL 37:1-14, JOHN 11:1-45

MUSIC FOR WORSHIP        “Lord of the Dance”    arr., D. Hart
Dance, then, wherever you may be.  I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.
I danced in the morning when the world was begun, and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
and I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth.
At Bethlehem I had my birth.
I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee, but they would not dance and they wouldn’t follow me.
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John; they came to me and the dance went on.
I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame, the holy people said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high; and they left me there on a cross to die.
I danced on a Friday and the sky turned black.  It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.
They buried my body and they thought I’d gone, but I am the dance and I still go on.
They cut me down, and I leapt up high, I am the dance that’ll never, never die.  I’ll live in you if you live in me.
I am the Lord of the Dance said he!

~Words by S. Carter    ©1999, Stainer and Bell      CCLI # 1049296

THE OFFERING
Near this part of the service each week, we take up an offering. It is important for us to remember that our offering not only
supports the ministry of the church but is an expression of our thankfulness for all God has given us. We give today because
God first gave to us.
 

A MORNING DEVOTIONAL – Rev. Aho

This Sunday will mark just two weeks until Easter…14 days from God’s great work: resurrection! But if we are honest, it seems far away. This year, Easter will be different. The absence of Holy Saturday may linger longer, and a resurrection celebration may feel delayed.

It is from the depths of darkness that we see Psalm 130 as a prayer for hope. Scripture is full of the stories of hope amid darkness; like Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-45, our other scripture readings for today. Those references may not ring a bell, but Ezekiel prophesying to a valley of dry bones? Jesus calling Lazarus from the tomb? We know these stories. From a dead valley of dry bones, and from the death and darkness of a grave, God brings life, possibilities, and hope. These stories testify to why the psalmist prays for hope.

In Psalm 130, the writer longs, almost tangibly, for God’s steadfast love that brings life. The psalmist anticipates the Lord’s power through redemption. And in that way, maybe today, the psalmist’s prayer is our prayer as well.

We all want life to go back to normal. We want to get out and about. But maybe, since so much has changed so quickly, it jolts us into seeing our deep need for God’s power of love, redemption, and resurrection. There have been times when we as individuals have prayed like the psalmist does today. Yet, it has been a long time since we all, collectively, have prayed along with the psalmist as we do today. We have always needed the hope from this prayer, but maybe, because of our circumstances, we feel that need more today than before.


As we face the isolation and uneasiness caused by the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, I hope we take time to consider our faith. For such times, the Psalms are an excellent place to turn, because the Psalms are not afraid of the hard questions.

Is our faith in a magician with powers for a miraculous healing? Is our hope in the purveyor of magical cures? Do we think blessings are tied to praying just the right words in the proper order, just enough times? Is that how we see God?

Or do we, like the Psalmists, from the bottom of our hearts realize that no matter how good things seem to have been, our deepest need remains: we need God to bring us life in the face of certain death. We need hope from God because every other notion is hopeless.

Today, I urge us, from the bottom of our hearts and the depth of our being, to feel what the psalmist prays. Pray that God’s animating, life-giving prophesy in Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones, and Jesus’; ministry through Lazarus, will come to us. Because we need more than freedom from a virus that will pass; we need freedom from the other things in our lives that have trapped us and taken us to the depths.

I pray today that since we have time in isolation and distancing, that we will reconnect to our deepest needs. In doing this, I pray we might see anew God’s best work: bringing life, hope, and resurrection to our places of despair, darkness, and death.
Amen

BENEDICTION (read together in unison)
We go with the blessings of the one who forgives our failings.
We go with the blessings of the one who saves us and heals our hearts.
We go with God. Amen!

Scripture for Saturday

The Gospel reading for worship tomorrow is below. It is Jesus resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. This reading, along with a reading from Ezekiel foreshadows for Christians the events of Easter in just two weeks. As we read, we consider the true work of God, bringing life from death. When we see death, God can bring life. For that, we give great thanks.
     – Chris Aho

 

John 11.1-45

The Death of Lazarus

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

Jesus Weeps

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

A Psalm for Friday

Hopefully, this Psalm is helpful for you today. – Chris Aho

Psalm 40

Thanksgiving for Deliverance and Prayer for Help

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.


4 Happy are those who make
the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
5 You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.


6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.’


9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.


11 Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe for ever.
12 For evils have encompassed me
without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.


13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
Lord, make haste to help me.
14 Let all those be put to shame and confusion
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonour
who desire my hurt.
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, ‘Aha, Aha!’


16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God.

A Prayer for these Day

This prayer may not be the one you need today, but I suspect we all have had days when we needed one like this. I hope it is helpful in some way, along the way. 

God Bless, Chris Aho

God of all life,
when all there is in our lives
is the empty space where the beloved was
and nothing can fill it
and we want nothing to fill it
because nothing, and no one, can take the place of the beloved,
and we walk drearily through the days,
dragging one foot in front of the other,
and there is no joy in anything,
give us your strength in our sorrow,
your presence in the absence we feel,
your rest, that we may rise again to new life,
and your hope, that in death we are not divided.

 

God of all life,
when your people are mourning,
make us patient listeners
to the memories of happy times,
make us sensitive caregivers
so that we support but do not weaken,
make us good friends
so the we can hold the future open
for when our friends are ready to face it. Amen.
–#59 The Pattern of Our Days (prayers from Iona)