Community of Christ

COVID-19  Ongoing Response

Worship Resources - 26 September 2021

Worship Suggestions

Ordinary Time (Proper 21)

ESTHER 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

Act Boldly

Additional Scriptures

Psalm 124; Mark 9:38-50; James 5:13-20; Doctrine and Covenants 151:9


Preparation

Prepare handouts or bulletin inserts for “Making Psalm 124 My Own.” Hand them out as congregants enter or just prior to the activity. Have pens or pencils ready to be handed out also. See further instructions below.

Praise

Prelude

Welcome, Joys and Concerns

Invitation to Worship Boldly

This morning we will worship using the story of Esther who acted boldly on behalf of her people, the Jews in captivity. At its best, worship is a bold activity. We presume to praise, confess, and proclaim; to sing and pray to an audience of One. Our boldness is validated and made fruitful by Jesus as our Advocate and the Holy Spirit. Come boldly into the presence of Divine Mystery.

Hymn of Praise

“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!” CCS 52

OR “Siyahamb’ Ekukhanyen’ Kwenkhos’/We Are Marching in the Light of God” CCS 95

Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own.

OR “Great and Marvelous Are Thy Works” CCS 118

Invocation

Sung Congregational Response

“Santo, santo, santo/Holy, Holy, Holy” sing twice CCS 159

Choose two languages for the whole congregation to sing together.

OR “Kyrie Eleison” CCS 184

OR “Soften My Heart” CCS 187

Confession

Focus Moment: Creating a Psalm

Ask participants to create a psalm about the work of God in their lives based on Psalm 124:8. See handout.

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle.

Prayer

Bold God,

From large to small, from the creation of the universe to the wonders of DNA, your mighty acts astound us. They incite us to praise. They also call and challenge us to similar boldness in seeking peace. We live in a society that so often turns to violence to cover the weakness of ideas and the futility of influence. Give us the Holy Spirit to empower our efforts for peace. We would act boldly in our quest for your peaceable kin-dom. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.

Hymn of Peace

“When We Are Living/Pues si vivimos” CCS 242/243

OR “When We Are Called to Sing”  CCS 229

OR “Nada te turbe” Sing twice. CCS 241

An alternative would be to play the vocal recording of this song on Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings.

A Daily Prayer for Peace service is held at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA 365 days a year. Additional ideas for Prayer for Peace can be found at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for- peace.

Proclamation

Scripture Story: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

Share the story of Esther from a children’s story Bible or paraphrase the scripture. 

Ministry of Music or Congregational Hymn

“In My Life, Lord” CCS 602

Ask children and youth to bring this ministry or a women’s group.

OR “I Know Not What the Future Hath” CCS 246

OR “Si tuvieras fe/If You Only Had Faith” CCS 249

An alternative would be to play the vocal recording of this song on Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings and ask people to sing along.

Message

Based on Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

Commitment

Disciples’ Generous Response

Scripture Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 151:9

Statement

Givers’ generosity changes people’s lives and brings joy as Christ’s mission is realized. Together, the abundance of our collective capacity as a community of Christ can provide all the resources needed to bring changed people, changed communities, and achanged world.

God’s vision of the future—the peaceful reign of God on Earth—is the driving vision for our generosity. We give for a future that God tells us we are poised to fulfill. Generosity that fills our whole life is what brings that future into being and makes us the people we are called to be.

—An Invitation to a 14-day Spiritual Journey Toward God’s Abundant Generosity

www.CofChrist.org/common/cms/resources/Documents/Pathway_to_Abundant_Generosity%20.pdf

During the Disciples’ Generous Response, we focus on aligning our heart with God’s heart.

Our offerings are more than meeting budgets or funding mission. Through our offerings, we are able to tangibly express our gratitude to God who is the giver of all.

As we share our mission tithes either by placing money in the plates or through eTithing, use this time to thank God for the many gifts received in life. Our hearts grow aligned with God’s when we gratefully receive and faithfully respond by living Christ’s mission.

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous- response-tools.

Hymn of Sending Forth

“Alleluia! Hear God’s Story” CCS 271

OR “Thuma Mina” CCS 661

An alternative would be to sing along with this song on Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings.

OR “May the God of Hope/Dios de la esperanza” CCS 652

Encourage participants to sing in a language other than their own.

Benediction

Response

Postlude

Sermon Helps

Ordinary Time (Proper 21)

Esther 7:1–6, 9–10; 9:20–22 

Exploring the Scripture

A superficial reading of the book of Esther might result in two swift conclusions. One, Esther was a hero; and two, when the weak and innocent speak truth to power, all will be well. A deeper exploration reveals a complicated and paradoxical story. 

True, Esther was a hero, still celebrated today. Her words saved the Jewish people from genocide. However, her identification with her Jewish heritage came late in the story. With the advice and encouragement of her uncle, Mordecai, Esther at first gave up her Jewish faith to integrate fully into the Persian court. When the moment came to act, she slyly manipulated the egos of the males in power to get what she wanted. Haman was flattered and boastful of his invitation to a private dinner with the royal couple. The king was enraged because his queen’s life and the lives of her people were at stake. He also was angry because the plot to destroy the Jews would tarnish his reputation. 

Having spoken truth to power, Esther expanded her request to gain vengeance. A day of the intended slaughter of Jews became two days in which the Jews of Susa could slaughter the Persians (Esther 9:13–14). Justice and revenge. The oppressed became the oppressors. The Jews’ mourning was turned into dancing, but the Persian widows and orphans were not consoled. 

Where is God in the story? Nowhere in the book is God mentioned by name. Mordecai speaks of faith and Esther’s greater purpose in becoming queen to King Ahasuerus (Xerxes of history). Surely it was God’s action that placed Esther in the Persian court. The faithful interpret this as God’s hand in the downfall of Haman and the salvation of the Jews. Perhaps the author purposely avoided naming God as the prime mover in this drama. The hearer of the story is left to decide how much human initiative is involved and how much is managed by a God who created both Jews and Persians. 

A key lesson we can learn from the story of Esther is the temptation and danger of taking on the role of God by judging our enemies and exacting revenge. Judgment is God’s arena, beyond human understanding. 

The book of Esther provides the historical rationale for celebrating Purim, a festival in the Jewish calendar. “Purim” means “lots,” the dice-like bones that were thrown to choose by chance the date on which the Jews were to be slaughtered—which instead became a day when thousands of Persians were killed. The festival is a joyous celebration of life and a reminder of the many times throughout history when God’s chosen people were targeted for persecution and death. 

It also is a time to ponder the actions of God and human beings. How much does God prompt and manage the affairs of humans? How much do we manage on our own? And where is the line between justice and revenge?  

Central Ideas 

  1. Esther is a complex story of accommodation, finding courage, taking a stance, and seeking revenge. 
  2. It is too easy for oppressed people to turn and become the oppressors. 
  3. Genocide is always wrong. Genocide is never the will of a loving, compassionate, and life-affirming God. 
  4. Judgment is God’s arena and is beyond human understanding. 

Questions for the Speaker 

  1. Is non-violence always the best course of action, even if the result is genocide? Why? 
  2. When have you faced difficult circumstances that needed inner strength and courage to stand up for your values and principles? 
  3. How much does God prompt and manage the affairs of humans? How much do we manage on our own? Where is the line between justice and revenge? 

Small-group Worship Suggestions

Ordinary Time Proper 21

Esther 7:1–6, 9–10; 9:20–22 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.

God of all,

Your people all over this Earth are looking. 

We look up and see the same sky. We look down and see the same Earth. 
We look in and see the same desires. We look out and see the same need. 
We look to our past and see the same history, rife with conflict and division. 

We need your divine inspiration so we may all look to the future and see one vision of healing and forgiveness, of cooperation and interdependence, of love for one another. 
Show us the way to your peace. Amen.

—K. Hammond

Spiritual Practice

Chalice Prayer

We will create a cup or chalice with our hands, and use the chalice as a symbolic vessel to offer thoughts and concerns to God. Each time you fill the chalice, raise it overhead with your face tilted upward. Then open your hands and spread your arms out and down to your sides, as you release the concerns in the chalice to God. 

Let us begin:

Create a chalice with your hands and hold it in front of you at chest level. Imagine placing into the chalice:

  • The Earth and all the creatures of the land, sea, and air
  • The wounds of pollution and depletion 
  • All peoples of the Earth and their poverty and surplus, joy and grief, violence and goodness.

Raise the chalice overhead with your face tilted upward, then open your hands, and spread your arms out and down to your sides as you release the concerns in the chalice to God. 

Again, create a chalice with your hands. Imagine placing into the chalice:

  • Your loved ones, your extended family, your church community, and friends 
  • Those from whom you feel separated due to anger, hurt feelings, poor choices, or pride

Raise the chalice overhead with your face tilted upward, then open your hands, and spread your arms out and down to your sides as you release the concerns in the chalice to God. 

One more time, create a chalice with your hands. Imagine placing into the chalice:

  • Yourself, as you are in God’s sight
  • Your deepest needs, your gifts and weaknesses
  • Your desires for healing and wholeness

Raise the chalice overhead with your face tilted upward, then open your hands, and spread your arms out and down to your sides as you release the concerns in the chalice to God. 

Conclude the chalice prayer by saying aloud: “We release these to you, O God, to be loved and healed as only you can love and heal. Amen.”

Sharing Around the Table

Esther 7:1–6, 9–10; 9:20–22 NRSV 

So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

The story of Esther in its entirety is both complicated and paradoxical. It is full of satire and seriousness—the salvation of one people and the devastation of another—devoid of the word “God,” yet leaving the reader to wonder how much of the story is the work of human hands and how much is managed by God’s hand. In the larger story, we find all the components of a good fiction novel (intrigue, deceit, manipulation, violence, vengeance, etc.). In the verses that make up today’s lectionary passage, however, we are given hope that evil does not have to be given the final word, and when the weak and innocent speak truth to power, justice can prevail. 

Undoubtedly, Esther was a hero. Her words saved the Jewish people from genocide. However, her identification with her Jewish heritage came late in the story. With the advice and encouragement of her uncle, Mordecai, Esther at first gave up her Jewish faith to integrate fully into the Persian court. And, she might have given up in the face of power had Mordecai not responded to her protestations with the words, “If you keep silence…deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). 

It is important to note that, having spoken truth to power, Esther expanded her request to gain vengeance. A day of the intended slaughter of Jews, became two days in which the Jews of Susa could slaughter the Persians. The oppressed became the oppressors. The Jews’ mourning was turned into dancing, but the Persian widows and orphans were not consoled. A key lesson we can learn from the story of Esther is that the line between justice and revenge can be very thin.  

As persons who claim God’s Shalom as an enduring principle, we must be careful not to give in to the temptation and danger of taking on the role of God by judging our enemies and exacting revenge. Judgment is God’s arena, beyond human understanding. 

Questions:

  1. When have you faced difficult circumstances that needed inner strength and courage to stand up for your values and principles?
  2. In what ways can you speak truth to power so justice can prevail in situations of oppression? When has your silence contributed to the absence of justice?
  3. How does your understanding of God inform how you see the line between justice and revenge?

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 this way 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 233, “Strong, Gentle Children”

Closing Prayer 

Optional Additions Depending on Group

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