Community of Christ

COVID-19  Ongoing Response

Worship Resources - 11 October 2020

Worship Suggestions

Ordinary Time (Proper 23)

EXODUS 32:1-14

Confess our Impatience

Additional Scriptures

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14; Doctrine and Covenants 162:3a-b


Prelude

Welcome

Call to Worship

Praise the Lord!
O give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good;
with steadfast love that endures forever.
Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,
or declare all praise?
Happy are those who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times.

—Psalm 106:1-3, adapted

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle.

Holy One,
We pray for…
Deep peace of the running waves to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Deep peace of the shades of night to you.
Moon and stars always giving light to you.
Amen.

—Anonymous Medieval Celtic Prayer

For additional ideas, the Daily Prayer for Peace service offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA, can be found at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.

Hymn of Rejoicing

Prior to congregational singing, discuss the text of the hymn of rejoicing you have chosen. Point out the recognizable parts of life in which children and adults can rejoice—the beauty of the Earth, the joy of human love, peace on Earth, every gift sent from above, every flower, each day the Spirit sends. Ask the congregants to focus on these joys as they sing.

“For the Beauty of the Earth” CCS 130

OR “Alleluh” See music.

OR “Of All the Spirit’s Gifts to Me” CCS 45

Invocation

God of all, you have called us here today for healing, hope, and transformation. As we listen to the scriptures, pray our prayers, sing our hymns, and hear the words of wisdom, we confess our impatience with life sometimes. Open our hearts to hear your claim on our lives; that we may fully and joyfully serve you. Amen.

Response

Scripture Reading: Exodus 32:1-14

Focus Moment

Read the book, Swimmy by Leo Lionni, Dragonfly Books; reissued in 1973, ISBN-13: 978- 0394826202

As we just heard in today’s scripture from the Old Testament book of Exodus, the Israelites were scared in the wilderness, without contact with their leader, Moses. Just when the Israelites needed their leader, Moses went up the  mountain to be with God. Leaders are necessary to help guide people along as we each strive to follow God. Without a leader we might try to hide in a seemingly safe place, or we might think we are invincible. Leaders challenge the way things are and think about the way things could be.

One day Swimmy finds himself alone after a bigger fish eats the rest of his school of fish. He swims and swims until he finds a school that looks just like his, only to find them scared to come out of the dark places. Swimmy challenges the fish on this plan, and creates a new one. He offers a solution that allows the fish to feel safe as they come out of hiding. Swimmy shows his friends how—with ingenuity and teamwork—they can overcome any danger.

Follow-up Questions:

  • Share how you think Swimmy felt when he lost his brothers and sisters.
  • Explain how the little fish scared the big fish? (They swam together to make one big fish.)
  • Can the school of fish in this story be called a community? Why or why not? (Yes. They came together for the common good.)
  • How are we better off together as a community than alone by ourselves?

OR

Invite someone to share a brief testimony about when, similar to the Israelites, they were lost and alone, either literally or figuratively, and what their solution was to the situation. Or  ask someone to share a testimony of idolizing someone or something (movie or TV stars, athletes, sports teams, money, electronics) and how that affected their life.

Hymn of Petition

“Soften My Heart” Sing twice. CCS 187

OR “Source and Sovereign, Rock and Cloud” CCS 4

OR “O Breath of Life” CCS 486

Morning Message

Based on Exodus 32:1-14

OR Share Stories of Waiting

Invite two people to share their stories of waiting.

Every congregation is made up of members who have had seasons of waiting. Some members may have experienced short- or long-term joblessness while waiting for the next step in a career. Some members have waited for weeks, months, or even years for adoptions to take place, for healing to take place, for their life goals to be reached.

Prior to the service, ask one member to share a story of waiting that has come to an end, whether or not that season of waiting is now looked back on with an awareness of positivity that came with the waiting.

Ask a second member of the congregation who is in the midst of a waiting season to share. Encourage the storyteller to be honest and transparent regarding the difficulties and the rewards of waiting. It is often difficult to find hope during seasons of waiting.

Responsive Prayer of Confession

Leader: Gracious God, both we and our ancestors have sinned;

People: Lord, we too are guilty.

Leader: They made a calf at Horeb and worshiped a cast image.

People: Lord, we too are guilty.

Leader: They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.

People: Lord, we too are guilty.

Leader: They forgot God, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

People: Lord, we too are guilty.

ALL: Forgive us, Lord, we pray. Amen.

—Psalm 106:6, 19-22, adapted

Disciples’ Generous Response

The next six weeks of the Disciples’ Generous Response are focused on the Invite, Discover, Respond and Reflect phases of the Generosity Cycle. The Generosity Cycle is an intentional period of focus on gratitude and generosity. It ends with an intentional response by congregants to consider their true capacity to support Christ’s mission.

If possible, invite one individual in the congregation with a passion for generosity, prepare and present the Disciples’ Generous Response for the next six weeks. This will provide an added level of continuity and focus on this season of generosity. More information about the Generosity Cycle can be found at www.CofChrist.org/generosity-cycle. This first Sunday is the Invite phase of the Generosity Cycle.

Statement

As a church, we have various seasons we celebrate throughout the year. These seasons cause us to focus our gaze in a certain direction and spend time in meaningful reflection and preparation.

For the next six weeks, including today, we will focus on a season of generosity. During this season, we will be guided through four phases of the Generosity Cycle: Invitation, Discovery, Response, and Reflection. It will be an opportunity for us to create space in our lives for a spiritual discipline focused on generosity. It’s a period of time set aside to recognize the grace of God and to discover a deeper joy in discipleship through intentional whole-life stewardship.

Project the video, “Generosity Cycle—Week One” available at www.CofChrist.org/generosity-cycle.

We receive God’s gifts freely. We do not earn them through our faithful works. As disciples, we are called to share God’s gifts with others. Our giving blesses us and creates new relationships that offer more opportunities to share. And the cycle continues. Receiving and responding are equal and reciprocal actions that create an ongoing cycle—that’s what the Generosity Cycle will help frame for us.

As we enter into this season of generosity for the next six weeks, may we take time, especially this morning, to reflect on God’s generous gifts in our lives and how we respond as disciples to those blessings.

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

Hymn of Sending Forth

“Standing on the Promises” CCS 257

OR “Sizohamba Naye/We Will Walk with God” CCS 377

Sing several times, encouraging participants to sing in a language other than their own.

OR “The Trees of the Field” CCS 645

Sending Forth: Doctrine and Covenants 162:3a-b

Postlude

Sermon Helps

Ordinary Time (Proper 23)

EXODUS 32:1–14

Exploring the Scripture

Today’s passage is in the middle of the second part of Exodus (chapters 20–40) that describes the covenant between God and the Israelites. Christian and Jewish traditions credit Moses with writing the story of the exodus. The actual author is unknown.

This passage begins with the Israelites’ observation that Moses’ return from the mountaintop is delayed. Exodus 24:18 states that Moses was gone for 40 days and nights, but it is unclear when the people expected his return.

In Moses’ absence, the people are restless and unsure about what is happening. They turn their attention to Aaron and ask him to “make gods for us” (Exodus 32:1). Aaron directs everyone to collect all the gold in the group which he uses to build a golden calf (vv. 3–4). The people credit the golden calf with their release from bondage. When Aaron hears their claims, he builds an altar. Aaron might be trying to redirect the Israelites’ focus to the Lord (vv. 5–6).

In defense of the Israelites’ actions, some Bible commentaries argue the cow, or at least the altar, was to serve as a “seat” for God or a representation of God. Other commentaries argue the Israelites lacked faithfulness because they viewed the cow as a replacement for Moses and perhaps even God as the center of their devotion. Whatever the case, clearly God is not pleased (see v. 7) with what the Israelites have done and commands Moses to deal with the people. God also specifically names the people as Moses’ people not claiming them as God’s people.

For the rest of this passage (vv. 7–14), God and Moses engage in an emotion-filled conversation. God is angry and frustrated with the people. God calls their actions perverse and refers to “how stiff-necked they are” (v. 9). God’s final argument has eerie parallels to the story of the flood (Genesis 6–9) where God wipes out the wicked people and starts a new nation with Noah. Moses pleads for God’s mercy for the Israelites. He begs God to remember the promises already made by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. In the end, Moses prevails, and God does not destroy the Israelites.

Several important principles can be drawn from this story. First, life as a disciple does not mean that everything is going to be easy. Set free from bondage to follow God’s call, we must commit to the journey and remain faithful even during difficult times. Sometimes this means exercising much patience when circumstances do not unfold as we expect or when leaders are not available when we want their attention.

Second, fear and paranoia often cause communities to act in unfaithful ways. When times are tough, we must work to individually and collectively stay centered on God’s vision for the world. We must avoid building “golden calves.” Also, we are to support prayerfully those called and set apart to lead. When we vote to support priesthood members and other leaders, it means prayerfully trusting them to be faithful leaders who will do their best to fulfill their callings.

Third, when it is a person’s turn to lead, she or he needs to take seriously the responsibility to help keep people focused on Christ’s mission in the world. To do this, leaders must stay in constant conversation with God, praying for guidance and mercy.

Central Ideas

  • It is easy to forget whose you are when times are tough.
  • It is easy to turn to alternative “gods,” such as the golden calf.
  • It is easy to lose sight of the destination when a journey gets difficult.
  • It is easy for leaders and people to lose their way if they do not remain centered on Christ’s mission.

Questions to Consider

  • What is happening in your congregation right now that creates doubt and fear in people?
  • What attitudes and behaviors do you see as people give in to their doubts and fears?
  • What are potential “golden calves” being “worshiped” by you or your congregation?
  • What words of encouragement and hope can you share to remind people they are God’s children and part of living Christ’s mission on Earth in the best and worst of times?

Small-group Worship Suggestions

Ordinary Time Proper 23

Exodus 32:1–14 NRSV

The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.

The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.


Gathering

Welcome

Ordinary Time is the period in the Christian calendar from Pentecost to Advent. This part of the Christian calendar is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and as a faith community.

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.

O Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle, the strength to be forgiving, the patience to understand, and the endurance to accept the consequences of holding to what we believe to be right.

May we put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil and the power of love to overcome hatred. We pray for the vision to see, and the faith to believe, in a world emancipated from violence—a new world where fear shall no longer lead humans to commit injustice or selfishness that brings suffering to others.

Help us, Lord, to devote our whole life, and thoughts, and energy, to the task of making peace. Help us to pray always for the inspiration and the power to fulfill the destiny for which we and all beings were created. In the name of the God of Peace. 

Amen.

Spiritual Practice

Holding in the Light

Read the following:

Our Enduring Principle focus this week is on Blessings of Community. We are taught to create communities of peace in our families, neighborhoods, congregations, nations, tribes, and around the world. One spiritual practice that helps us feel connected to our communities is called Holding in the Light. It is a form of intercessory prayer/meditation adapted from the Quaker movement.

Share the following instructions:

We will stand in a circle. I will light the candle that I hold. The rest of you will hold your hands in front of you as if you are helping me hold the light.

Allow time for the group to get situated.

Look at the candlelight and become aware of your own breathing. Begin to center yourself with breath prayer. Breathe in the word love. Breathe out the word light. Repeat this three more times.

Call to mind names of those loved ones, communities, or countries you wish to pray for as we hold the light. You may name them aloud or hold them silently in your heart.

Pause to allow time for people to share names aloud as they desire.

Now imagine those you named being surrounded by light as bright as the candle. Continue breathing and meditating on the names of those you hold in the light in our circle.

After three minutes of silent meditation and holding in the light, share the following:

Offer a moment of gratitude for your loved ones, your communities, and this experience of holding in the light. Next time you see the light of a sunset or sunrise, may it remind you to pause and prayerfully hold someone you love in the light. Amen.

Sharing Around the Table

Exodus 32:1–14 NRSV

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Today’s passage from the middle of the second part of Exodus (chapters 20–40) describes the covenant between God and the Israelites. The passage begins with the Israelites’ impatience as they wait for Moses to return from the mountaintop. In Moses’ absence, the people are restless and unsure about what is happening. They turn their attention to Aaron and ask him to “make gods for us.” Aaron responds by directing everyone to give him all of their gold to build an idol, a golden calf. The people then begin to credit the golden calf with their release from bondage. When Aaron hears their claims, he builds an altar, perhaps trying to redirect the Israelites’ focus to the Lord. For the rest of this passage God and Moses engage in an emotion-filled conversation. God is angry and frustrated with the people.

Several important principles can be drawn from this story. First, life as a disciple does not mean everything is going to be easy. Set free from bondage to follow God’s call, we must commit to the journey and remain faithful even during difficult times. Sometimes this means exercising much patience when circumstances do not unfold as we expect or when leaders are not available when we want their attention.

Second, fear and paranoia often cause communities to act in unfaithful ways. When times are tough, we must work individually and collectively to stay centered on God’s vision for the world. We must avoid building “golden calves.” Also, we are to support prayerfully those called and set apart to lead. 

Third, when it is a person’s turn to lead, she or he needs to take seriously the responsibility to help keep people focused on Christ’s mission in the world. To do this, leaders must stay in constant conversation with God, praying for guidance and mercy.

Questions

  1. When have you experienced doubt and fear that caused you to want immediate answers?
  2. When have you had to exercise patience because circumstances were not unfolding in the way or timeframe in which you expected?
  3. What “golden calves” have you created as replacements for God in times of doubt and fear?

Sending

Generosity Statement

Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response. This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

God of our discipleship, 

As we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In these ways may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

Community of Christ Sings 212, “God Weeps”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on the Group

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