03.01.15 Worship Confessional

Story Logo - Version 2The story of Hagar is the story of the terrible jealousy of Sarah and the singular ineffectuality of Abraham and the way Hagar, who knew how to roll with the punches, managed to survive them both. Above and beyond that, however, it is the story of how in the midst of the whole unseemly affair the Lord, half tipsy with compassion, went around making marvelous promises and loving everybody and creating great nations like the last of the big-time spenders handing out hundred-dollar bills. (Frederick Buechner)

This morning as we continued our series, “Story” we explored the Abram, Sarai, and Hagar narrative found in Genesis 16 and 21. I wrapped my message around the theme, “The God Who Sees and Hears.” Did you know that Hagar is the only women in Scripture to name God (“You are the God Who Sees Me”) and the only women to receive the promise that God would increase her descendents through her son (Ishmael).

In light of our “The God Who Sees and Hears” theme, we spent some time with the practice of examen. Pulling together some resources from Scripture, The Verses Project and Re-Worship, we crafted this liturgy:

Leader: Lent is a season of preparing our hearts and minds to experience more fully the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Following the practice of Jesus’ time in the desert where he fasted for 40 days, many people choose to give up something for Lent.

The Lenten season is also a time of reflection and renewal. Lent is an opportunity to take everything that works against God and let it go. Let our sins die as Christ died for our sins, so that we too can come back on Easter renewed.

This morning we are going to take some time to do this as a community.

Join me in reading these words from Psalm 139:

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you discern my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:1-3)

Leader: 1 John 3:20 states, “God knows everything.” Not only does God know all things generally, God also knows all people personally. Often we can keep truths at a distance through broad generalizations, but never consider how these great truths affect us practically. It’s one thing to say, “God loves the world” but another to declare, “God loves me.” Have you ever wondered if God sees and knows you individually? Does God care about you? Psalm 139 proclaims this truth, “Yes! God knows me.” Not only does the God of the Bible know in general, but God knows you personally. God’s knowledge is not only absolute; it is also personal and intimate. God’s knowledge searches out our path and is acquainted not simply with some of our ways, but with all our ways.

How do you respond to this truth?

One response might be fear, anxiety or even terror. We like our secrecy, and God’s omniscience crashes our dark secretive parties. There is not only a God who knows, but also a perfect Judge who not only can judge us based on our external actions, but one who judges us based on our internal thoughts. If you are at odds with this Judge, this God, then this truth can be terrifying.

Another response to this truth can be one of comfort. Have you ever wondered if anyone knows? Does anyone even care? God does. God’s omniscience is accompanied by great compassion and mercy. We see this compassion primarily in God’s Son Jesus, who came to earth to rescue and redeem a people for Himself. It was precisely because God was acquainted with all our ways and knew how bad off we really were that Jesus left heaven, took on flesh, and died in our place.

Praise the all-knowing God who knew you at your worst and sent God’s Son to lay down His life for you!

Song – Psalm 139

Unison Prayer:

God, you know us better than we know ourselves. You know our thoughts,
our weaknesses, our motivations, our sins. And you love us still.

Forgive us when we don’t believe such love is true or possible; when we wonder how You could love us just as we are, when we forget our intricate construction, the fact that we fearfully, wonderfully made, in Your image!

Remove from our minds every thought that keeps us from you. Break down the walls, push aside the pride, and help us to trust anew. You know our hearts. And you love us still. Amen.

Words of Assurance and Pardon (read together)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (Lamentation 3:22-23)

Song – Great Are You Lord

Here is our complete worship flow:

  • Your Grace Is Enough (Matt Maher)
  • Whom Shall I Fear (Chris Tomlin)
  • A Time of Examen
  • Psalm 139 (Robbie Seay)
  • Great Are You, Lord (All Sons and Daughters)
  • Announcements and Offering
  • Message (The God Who Sees and Hears)

You can learn what other communities of faith experienced this weekend in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

02.22.15 Worship Confessional

jubileeThis was a dynamic weekend for our city and church as Jubilee came to Pittsburgh. The Jubilee conference brings over 2,500 university students into Pittsburgh and the heart behind the experience is the conviction that the Gospel changes everything! As Abraham Kuyper declared, “There is not a single square inch of creation that Jesus Christ does not proclaim, ‘Mine!'”

We bring a taste of Jubilee to our worship gathering and this year we were privileged to have Justin McRoberts as our guest. Justin is a gifted singer/songwriter, author and storyteller. His most recent work is Title Pending: Things I Think About When I Make Stuff and it is a brilliant reflection on the creative process.

As well, Justin is a Compassion International artist and yesterday our community committed to rescuing 5 more children from Uganda out of poverty.

Here is our complete worship flow:

  • All Creatures of Our God and King (traditional)
  • Lord, I need You (Matt Maher)
  • All the Poor and Powerless (All Sons and Daughters)
  • Jesus, All for Jesus (Robin Mark)
  • Announcements and Offering
  • Message in Word and Song (Justin McRoberts)

You can learn what other communities of faith experienced this weekend in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

02.15.15 Worship Confessional

Story Logo - Version 2Above all, Abraham’s righteousness is not the result of any accomplishment, whether of sacrifice or acts of obedience. Rather, it is stated emphatically that belief alone brought him into right relationship with God. (Gerhardt Von Rad)

As we continued in our Story series, this morning we explored the narrative found in Genesis 15. In this passage, Abram hears directly from God – “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward…Look up at the heavens and count the stars–if indeed you can count them… so shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:1,5) And in one of the pivotal texts in all Scripture we read, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

As part of our liturgy today, we included a time of lament. Walter Brueggemann describes both the power of lament and how refraining from lament is actually withholding from God:

“A lament is an act of bold faith — on the one hand, because it insists that the world must be experienced as it really is and not in some pretended way. On the other hand, it is bold because it insists that all such experiences of disorder are a proper subject for discourse with God. There is nothing out of bounds, nothing precluded or inappropriate. Everything properly belongs in this conversation of the heart. To withhold parts of life from that conversation is in fact to withhold part of life from the sovereignty of God.”

Our lament consisted of words from Psalm 43 interspersed with a song of lament sung to the tune of “I Will Arise And Go to Jesus.”

All: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

How long, O Lord will You wait in silence
Holding back Your mighty hand
Will You hide Your face  forever
How can this be Your perfect plan

How long, O Lord will the wicked prosper
While the righteous weep and mourn
Rise and shield Your faithful servants
Let us see the light of dawn

All: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Leader: Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked. You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? (Silence)

Where are You do You hear us calling
Will You ever turn Your ear
Come at last with perfect justice
Come and draw Your people near

Where are You do You hear me calling
To Your restless hidden heart
See my Spirit there within You
Will You receive me where You are

All: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Leader: Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. (Silence)

How I know You, how I love You
Deeper than the deepest sea
See my Spirit deep within You
There’s no need to hide from me

All: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His  arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
Oh there are ten thousand charms

Unison Prayer: Lord, we come to you today, with a growing awareness that we are people of hope and doubt, joy and sorrow, life and death. We come in faith, believing in your goodness, trusting in your love and in need of your power. Fill our lives afresh with your mercy and goodness; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Here is our complete worship flow:

  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Christy Nockels version)
  • Psalm 117
  • Hosanna (Paul Baloche)
  • A Liturgy of Lament
  • Announcements and Offering
  • Message (Beyond the Stars)
  • Communion
  • At the Cross/Love Ran Red (Chris Tomlin)

You can learn what other communities of faith experienced this weekend in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

02.08.15 Worship Confessional

Story Logo - Version 2“Our lives must find themselves in a greater story or they will find their place in some lesser story” (H. Stephen Shoemaker).

Today we began a new series entitled, “Story.” The Bible is first and foremost, the story of God’s deep love for the world God created and God’s mission to reconcile and redeem all things through His Son, Jesus Christ. Throughout the rest of the year we will be exploring a number of Old Testament narratives (in 3-6 weeks chunks) and we kicked things off this morning with the Abraham and Sarah narrative (Genesis 12-25).

The first episode was entitled, “Starting and Stumbling” and as we explored Genesis 12:1-20, two truths were revealed:

  1. In God’s story, people are called to step out in faith
  2. In God’s story, faith will be tested

Here is our complete worship flow:

  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
  • Psalm 117
  • Great Are You, Lord
  • At the Cross (Love Ran Red)
  • Our Father
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Announcements and Offering
  • Message (Starting and Stumbling)

You can learn what other communities of faith experienced this past weekend at The Worship Community.

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02.01.15 Worship Confessional

heartYesterday we concluded our series on the Five Ways of Being. Our Director of Spiritual Formation, Dave Bindewald, focused our attention on God’s unfailing, steadfast love as we learned that in Psalm 136, the words, “His steadfast live endures forever” are declared 26 times. The most prominent New Testament “one another,” (repeated over 50 times) is “love one another” and the key to loving others well is to be rooted in God’s steadfast, unfailing, never-ending love. As Jesus said,  “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9)

While our focus was on God’s love, we also acknowledged the fact that sometimes we do not personally or communally experience God’s love. In a world where terror and fear reigns, in a world where personal and relational brokenness and sadness is prevalent, how can faithful people faithfully express their pain, sorrow, sadness and questions.  During our gathering we included a prayerful space, “A Time to Lament.” This liturgical piece integrated texts from Psalm 13 which were read by a leader followed by words of lament spoken by the congregation.

A Time to Lament

Leader: How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

All: O Lord, our Lord,
sometimes we feel forgotten.
O Lord, our Lord,
sometimes we feel like you have forgotten our world.
Pain, sorrow, sadness and despair are all around us –
Pain, sorrow, sadness and despair are within us –
How long will this persist?

Leader: Consider and answer me, O LORD my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

All: Why does evil seem to have the edge?
Please, Lord, stop it!
We cannot bear to see the fools of this world— have the upper hand.
We cannot bear to see your enemies believe that they will be successful.

Leader: But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

All: We long to sing your praise,
to see things become more and more the way they ought to be.
We long to see more of heaven come to earth;
for deep down, we trust in your goodness and in your steadfast love. Amen.

What place does lament have in your life, both personally and individually and corporately?

Here is our complete worship flow:

  • At the Cross (Daniel Renstom)
  • Forever (Chris Tomlin)
  • Your Love Never Fails (Chris McClarney)
  • A Time to Lament
  • Our Father (Marcus Meier)
  • Announcements and Offering
  • At the Cross: Love Ran Red (Chris Tomlin)
  • Message (Be Loving)
  • Forever (Chris Tomlin)

You can learn what other communities of faith experienced this past weekend in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…