Dare to Prepare – Past Services

Dare to Prepare December 24, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Advent of Joy”

The main scripture for this week comes from Luke 1:26-38 and can be found here.

In the never-ending flow from Abraham to Christ,
in the ever-reaching flow from Christ to the present,
you are planted in Life by the power
of the Holy Mystery, the Holy Spirit.
We are your people; you are our salvation.
Waiting for your coming, rejoicing in your being,
we offer you our hearts, prayers, and praise. (Adapted from ministrymatters.com)

From World Church Resources (adapted):

In this season of Advent, when God is so wanting us to be ready to receive the most wonderful gift of all, we are too often so busy—our lives too full—to find room for Jesus. Our waiting and expectations have become cluttered with all that we think we need to get done to be ready for Christmas. The world tells us there are just a few more shopping days left. But God tells us there are a few days to slow down and make room in our lives for the Savior.

Central Ideas

  1. Advent is a time of preparation and expectation.
  2. Nothing will be impossible with God.
  3. The focus of our lives is Jesus.

Questions to Ponder

  1. When have you opened yourself to the Spirit’s guidance? How has this affected your life?
  2. How will you use the remaining days of Advent? How will you invite the congregation to use them?

Prayer

In the rush of preparation for holiday celebration, we come to this place to be fed by God. We need the peace, hope, love and joy that this season represents. We need to listen again with wonder at the magnificent words of Mary as she proclaims her faithful participation in God’s most miraculous gift. Open our hearts this day, Lord, to receive the words and the blessings, to be fed and then to be those who will share with others as you have shared with us. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

The Holy One forgives and bestows favor
on each of us, even and especially
when we are lowly in spirit.
We are blessed from generation to generation
by the Mighty One, whose strength and mercy
are forever.

This week’s song fits right in to the theme and is a sweet and upbeat take on the familiar “Joy to the World”
“Sounding Joy” Sung by Ellie Holcomb

 

Dare to Prepare December 17, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Advent of Love”

The main scripture for this week comes from John 1:6-8 and 19-28 and can be found here.

From World Church Resources:

Advent is preparation for incarnation; the Word is becoming human. John the Baptist calls us to get ready, “Make straight the way of the Lord!”

Central Ideas

  1. Like John, we are not the light but testify to the light.
  2. The Messiah is coming. Make straight the way of the Lord. Get your heart ready!
  3. We are to be like John the Baptist in our families and among friends and coworkers to help people prepare for the real meaning of Christmas.

Questions to Ponder

  1. The question this season is not “Are you ready for Christmas?” but “Are you ready for the Messiah?”
  2. How do we clear the way for Jesus, the Messiah, to come more deeply into our lives this Christmas? What is getting in the way of a deeper life as a disciple?
  3. How can I be a genuine witness of Jesus Christ this Christmas? What can I do to embrace the peace and justice message of the season?
Invitation

Love has come down to us this Advent Season. Divine love which heals and transforms our lives. With great joy, receive that love and share it with others. Open your hearts to all God’s children, the last, the least, and the lost, as well as those who feel privileged.
The Lord has done and continues to do great things for us. Praise God who loves us so much and who challenges us to be people of joy. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Prayer

Lord God, as we gather on Sunday, open our hearts to you, to seek your healing and transforming love. Be with all of us. Prepare us for this bright light of love which you are sending to us, for we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

Rejoice! You who once lived in darkness – on you a new light is shining, and the light of God’s glory shall brighten your path. You are healed, loved and forgiven. Be at peace! Live in God’s love and bring hope and justice to all God’s people.

This week’s song is a beautiful song of sacrificial love. It isn’t very often that we hear songs about Joseph and this one makes me cry every time.
“Joseph’s Song” Written and sung by Michael Card.

 

Dare to Prepare December 10, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Advent of Peace”

The main scripture for this week comes from Mark 1:1-8 and can be found here.

From World Church Resources:

Let us celebrate the good news that it to come this Christmas Season. We open ourselves to the Spirit of Christ, to experience forgiveness of sins, just as John the Baptist preached repentance for sins. We choose to follow Jesus; the way has been prepared.

Central Ideas

  1. The life and ministry of Jesus is a journey, which leads to Jerusalem and finally to the cross.
  2. We, like the early disciples, are called to join Jesus on the way that has been prepared for us.
  3. We expect the birth of Jesus who brings us the Holy Spirit to comfort us on this journey.

Questions to Ponder

  1. When have you felt called to be on the way with Jesus?
  2. How has the Holy Spirit prepared the way for you?
  3. What does the celebration of Jesus’ birth mean for you today? 
Invitation

Let us hear what God will speak,
for the Holy One speaks peace to the people,
to the faithful, and to all who turn to God in their hearts.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet.
Righteousness and peace will embrace.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Holy One will give what is good,
and we will bring our praise and song. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Prayer

God of holy nights and starlight, you have promised us your presence:
to live among us, to right all wrongs, to bring good things to all who wait for your new day.
In these dark days, we look for signs of your coming in the sounds of children at play,
in the music that fills our hearts with anticipation, in the company of all who serve
the last and the least. Make us at home with righteousness, that we may be ready to walk
in your holy ways. Amen. (ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

In God’s love and mercy,
we are given each new day
for the healing of the world.
In the name of Christ, you are forgiven.

Here is a beautiful arrangement of O Holy Night by father and daughter Mat and Savanna. I think it will be meaningful because of all the children they included in this version.
“O Holy Night”

 

Dare to Prepare December 3, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Advent of Hope”

The main scripture for this week comes from Mark 13:24-37 and can be found here.

From World Church Resources:

We do not know the day when God’s reign will be realized. We need to be reminded that Christ comes. We need to be ready.

Central Ideas
  1. God is faithful. We wait in confidence and with hope that God’s reign will come.
  2. Advent is a season of waiting—something important is about to happen.
  3. Expectantly waiting involves living as if Christ’s return is imminent.
Questions to Ponder
  1. What testimony do you have of God’s faithfulness?
  2. How are we like the servants (vv. 32–37), entrusted with work while the master is away?
  3. What gives you hope for God’s reign to be realized on Earth?
Invitation
Come, people of faith, come join your hearts in worship.
God is faithful and calls us into the loving presence
of Jesus.
We hear the invitation and hunger to join in the feast.
the Christ.
Come to join with those who watch
and wait and celebrate. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Prayer

Holy God,
maker of every thought and thing,
open our hearts that we may know your presence
Restore us so we may see the special gift and calling
that you have for each of us.
Masterful potter of life, mold us into the vessels
you would have us be. Help us be ready for your promised return,
when you will be among us and within us
with new, creative, healing energy. Amen. (ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

Fear not, for our creator is the loving maker
of every thought and thing.
We are the clay; each one of us is being formed
by God’s all-loving hand, crafted for a purpose
and cherished as a vessel made for love.
In the name of Jesus, who is the Christ,
you are forgiven.

It’s that time of year again when we get to meditate on just a fraction of all of the beautiful and meaningful Christmas music available. I had never heard this song before and it goes very well with the theme. Please enjoy “Hope Was Born This Night” sung by Sidewalk Prophets.
“Hope Was Born This Night”

 

Dare to Prepare November 26, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “We Are The Body of Christ

The main scripture for this week comes from Ephesians 1:15-23 and can be found here.

From World Church Resources:

In verses 22-23, Christ is the head, with the church being the rest of the body and the fullness of Christ.  It echoes Paul’s teaching the mind of Christ must be in his followers.  We cannot use our minds, authority, and power to rule the church or others.

Central Ideas

  1. We limit our understanding about Christ, and only by opening our hearts to the revelation of God’s Spirit can we grasp his true nature.
  2. Hope lives in hearts open to the mystery of new life through the transforming nature of the Gospel.
  3. We have inherited the God-given gift of life eternal. It is a quality of daily life in this existence and a mystery in the life hereafter.
  4. God’s power brings about resurrection, transformation, and new life.
  5. Christ’s power transcends time and space and provides the foundation for the church’s power as Christ’s body.

Questions to Ponder

  1. How has your understanding of Christ changed with your deepening journey as a disciple?
  2. How have you been transformed and found new life in the last three months?
  3. How do you express “life eternal” in your everyday existence?  How is that different from “normal” living, as most people understand the word?
  4. How is your congregation or faith group expressing the power of Christ in its outreach, ministry, and compassionate service?  How can it improve?

The Lord continually watches all of God’s own sheep. They are led to green pastures and brought before stilled waters. Let us praise God for God’s tender and loving care of us. Thanks to God for all the mercies God shows to us. Let us enter God’s house on Sunday with hearts filled with joy.

Prayer

God of the lost and lonely, God of the secure and confident, gather us into your fold that we may be healed and transformed. Guide us in your world that we may be part of ministries of healing and hope, for we ask these things in Jesus’ Name. AMEN. (ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

In the name of Jesus Christ who brings peace and hope to us, we are forgiven, healed and enabled to be part of the ministries of compassion in God’s world. Rejoice! You are chosen and loved! (ministrymatters.com)

This week’s song is just a fun reminder to carry the thankfulness and gratitude with you throughout the weekend and beyond.

“Thanksgiving” sung by The Petersens”

 

Dare to Prepare November 19, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Encourage One Another”

The main scripture for this week comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and can be found here.

We lift our eyes to the Lord, who created the heavens and the earth.
We raise our voices in songs and speech. We raise our voices in prayer and praise. We pray that the Lord hears our prayers and finds our praise acceptable to Him.
Lord, open our hearts to receive your blessings of peace. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

From World Church Resources:
To summarize the scripture reference, God is sovereign and in control.  “Awake or asleep, we will live with him” is the perfect antidote to anxiety.  In the face of that assurance, the role of believers is to comfort one another and “build up one another.”

Central Ideas

  • Early Christians expected Christ’s return during their lifetimes, but they grew impatient with the delay as years went by.
  • Paul assured the faithful that Christ would return as he promised, but it was fruitless to identify a timeline for the event.  It would be sudden, unpredictable, and unstoppable.
  • Followers of Christ must remain awake, alert, and faithful, regardless of life’s circumstances.
  • God is responsible for life, death, judgment, and salvation.  Humans are to comfort one another and build a loving community.

Questions to Ponder

  • How important to you is the timing of Christ’s return and the end times?  How does it become relevant in our present circumstances?
  • What does it mean to “keep awake and be sober” as a follower of Jesus Christ?  How does this relate to our Mission Prayer?
  • When have you found yourself “playing God” by judging the worth of another?  When have you found yourself choosing to comfort and build up someone instead of judging?
  • What is the salvation for which God has “destined us”?  How do you interpret it in modern-day language and symbols.

Prayer

Awesome God, you created the world and all that is in it. You blessed each element of creation with your love. Be with us on Sunday as we gather to worship. Clear our minds of all the distractions which would draw us away from you. Open our hearts and spirits and let your healing and empowering love flow in. Prepare us to be witnesses to your power and love as we use the gifts with which you have blessed us in your service. For we offer this prayer in the name of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

You are loved by God and given so many gifts to be used to help others. Do not fear to use these gifts, for God is with you, continually blessing you and the gifts in your service. (ministrymatters.com)

This week’s song comes from Michael Card called “The Poem of Your Life”. Let the words encourage you and your ministry as you realize that each one of us is individually an artistic creation of God.

“The Poem of Your Life” Written and sung by Michael Card

 

Dare to Prepare November 12, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Whom Will You Serve?”

The main scripture for this week comes from Joshua 24:1-3a and 14-25 and can be found here.

On Sunday, God’s word will be spoken to our hearts.
Open our ears and our hearts to receive God’s word.
God’s love will be poured into our lives.
Prepare us, Lord, to receive your love
Hallelujah! (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

From World Church Resources:
Joshua calls for personal conviction, not outward conformity, in our faithfulness and service in partnership with God.

Central Ideas

  • We are reminded of the generous love and constant presence of God in our lives.
  • We are invited to renew our covenant relationship with God.
  • We are called to serve God in faithfulness.

Questions to Ponder

  • Have you ever been tempted by “false gods” as a distraction from your relationship with God? How did you manage that?
  • When have you been eager to move ahead to the next exciting adventure and not looked back to reflect on the presence of God along the way? How might this practice of reflection be important?
  • What would you say if you were asked today, “Who will you serve?”

Prayer

Through the week of stress and demands, we come to you, O Lord. Awaken us again to your comforting and loving presence in our lives. Help us to be open to the many ways in which you have called to us and sustained us. Make us ready to be of service to you. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

In the deepest darkness, in the times when all seems lost, we are not lost to God. God calls us to be ready for God’s new kingdom. In all this God is with us. (ministrymatters.com)

I don’t usually like to repeat songs because there is such a wealth of great and meaningful music. But this week’s theme just fit this song too perfectly not to use it. Plus it’s been over a year since I used it on September 18, 2022.  This week’s song is a cover of Bob Dylan’s song “You Gotta Serve Somebody” from his only Christian album. Slow Train Coming

“You Gotta Serve Somebody” Bob Dylan cover by Sharon Little

 

Dare to Prepare November 5, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Humble Yourself”

The main scripture for this week comes from Matthew 23:1-12 and can be found here.

God is leading us out of our wilderness.
God will provide a safe haven for us.
Place your trust in God’s loving kindness.
God has heard our cries and offers us hope.
Thanks be to God who brings us to life.
Thanks be to God who nurtures and sustains us. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Prayer

God of gentle, loving guidance, be with us on Sunday, opening our hearts and spirits to an awareness of your abiding love and presence with us. Help us to place our trust solely in you; for we ask this in Jesus’ Name, AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

You are not alone. God is always with you. You can place your trust in God, for God will not fail you. (ministrymatters.com)

The song this week includes a sweet testimony from one of the teens attending Fountainview Academy about humbling ourselves and trusting in God.

“Redeemer of the Rain” Fountainview Academy

 

Dare to Prepare October 29, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “What is Your Gospel Message?”

Our hearts are lifted up toward God.
God created all that is!
We celebrate the great love of God.
God gifted us with God’s only son, Jesus the Christ.
Rejoice and be glad today!
Our hearts and spirits praise God for all God’s blessings. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)


The main scripture for this week comes from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 and can be found here.

Adapted from World Church Resources:

Paul advised the Thessalonians to witness for the glory of God and not for human gain.

Central Ideas

  1. Paul’s team began the mission in Thessalonica after persecution in Philippi and despite opposition in Thessalonica.
  2. Paul’s team avoided trickery, deceit, flattery, and false pride as they shared the gospel.  They intended to please God, not humans.
  3. Instead of demanding payment or privilege, Paul and his leaders earned their living, spoke gently, and tenderly nurtured the new converts.
  4. The Thessalonians followed that model of ministry as they continued to spread the gospel.

Questions to Ponder

  1. When have you been tempted to profit by your calling as a disciple?
  2. When have you found yourself placed on a pedestal by the people despite your wish to avoid status and honor?

Prayer

Lord of light and hope, be with us as we have gathered to hear your word. Help us open our hearts to the commandments to love, even when loving is difficult. Give us the courage to be people who will commit their whole lives to your service. For we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
(adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

Though our hearts were hardened to the needs of others, God has touched them with compassionate care, healing our wounds and giving courage and strength to our souls. Be assured that God’s love is poured out for you and rejoice! (ministrymatters.com)

The song this week is reflective of my personal Gospel Message:

Twila Paris – “Every Heart That Is Breaking” (Some of the images are kind of dated, but the message is still so meaningful to me).

Dare to Prepare October 22, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Make Your Faith Known”

The main scripture for this week comes from 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and can be found here.

Adapted from World Church Resources:

Community of Christ disciples and friends face the challenge of survival in a society indifferent and often hostile to our cherished values and beliefs.  Paul’s letter reminds us to hold fast to the heart of the gospel and continue to be a community that shares God’s love in the world.

Central Ideas

  1. Thanksgiving and joy permeate this writing from a spiritual father to his beloved children in the faith.
  2. Paul praised the Thessalonians for their work of faith, the labor of love, and steadfast hope, Christian virtues coupled with Christian action.
  3. Christians inherited the coveted status of being God’s chosen people.

Questions to Ponder

  1. How would Paul characterize your congregation about Christian virtues coupled with Christian acts?
  2. What does it mean today to be among God’s chosen, covenant people? How is that idea helpful? How has it been abused?

Prayer

God, you are our refuge. When the world gets to be too much with us, we turn to you for consolation and healing. Help us  to hear your words of compassion. Enable us to be those who would willingly serve all people in need. For we ask these things in the name of Jesus our Lord. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

The Lord has given to us gifts and abilities to work for peace and justice. You are especially blessed by God. Go into this world in confidence of God’s presence and love. (ministrymatters.com)

The song this week is written and sung by Rich Mullins who never hesitated to make his faith known.

Rich Mullins – “If I Stand”

Dare to Prepare October 15, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Be What You Believe”

The main scripture for this week comes from Philippians 4:1-9 and can be found here.

Adapted from World Church Resources:

Central Ideas

  1. Paul urges the Philippians to embrace the deep joy that life in Christ offers even amid difficulties.
  2. Christ is near to transform us and make us like himself.
  3. Christians display gratitude as a Christian way of life, both within and outside the community of faith.
  4. Both a grateful heart and a Christ-like mind combat anxiety, despair, conflict, and hopelessness.

Questions to Ponder

  1. How has deep, lasting joy been a source of strength to you in facing diversity and despair?
  2. When have you felt Christ near to you, in your prayer life, in your daily activities, and your conflicts?
  3. How can thankfulness banish anxiety in your own life?  In the life of the church?
  4. What does it mean for us, as a community, to have the mind of Christ?

Gathering Prayer

Patient and persistent God, we are grateful that even when we get sidetracked, you are with us. Be in our hearts and spirits as we learn of your love through worship, meditation and prayer. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

Feel the powerful warmth of God’s love for you! God is with you, healing and restoring your lives and bringing you peace. This is the good news from our persistent and patient God. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

The song this week is a light, joyful ditty based on Philippians 4:8

Cheri Keggy – “Whatever is True”

 

Dare to Prepare October 8, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Press On!”

The main scripture for this week comes from Philippians 3:4b-14 and can be found here.

While in Bradenton/Sarasota we will be seeing what we can learn at Christ’s Table, we can still prepare by using this theme, because Paul wants to do everything he can to be more Christ-like and no matter what happens, he will “press on” toward his goal. What we will learn at Christ’s table on Sunday will bring us closer to being more Christ-like.

Paul highlighted the process of becoming more Christlike rather than reaching a completed goal.  He has not arrived and is not perfect in faith.  He continues to press on “toward the prize” instead of reveling in the progress he has already made.  Using imagery well-known to the Gentile Christians of Philippi, he speaks as if he were in a footrace, with the prize (or trophy) being “the heavenly call of God in Jesus Christ.”  For this calling, Paul gave up his past privileges and entered a new life in Christ. (World Church Resources)

Central Ideas

  1. Paul’s early faith journey and zeal led him to an encounter with the living Christ, which transformed his faith and the purpose of his life.
  2. Paul willingly gave up all he was, all he had, and all he once valued, to witness of Jesus Christ.
  3. A Christian is always becoming—becoming more faithful, becoming more trusting, and becoming more Christ-like.

Questions to Ponder

  1. How have your own life experiences and faith journey equipped you to be a witness for Jesus Christ?
  2. How are you becoming more Christ-like?

Call to Worship:
Come away from the rush and worry of the world to worship God.
We come seeking peace and quiet for our souls.

Rest your spirits. Quiet your hearts. God is with us.
Praise be to God who calls us to come away.
 (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

God, who has never strayed from you, is with you. God will heal your hearts and direct your steps. Place your life in God’s loving care.  (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

The song this week has a direct link to today’s scripture. And since there are no lyrics this week, let me point out the chorus:

“I am a mess I am a wrecking ball
I must confess that I still don’t get it all
Lord, I believe that all your words are true
Doesn’t matter where I’m going if I’m going with you
I press on”

Building 429 – “I Press On”

Dare to Prepare October 1, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “God is at Work”

The main scripture for this week comes from Philippians 2:1-13 and can be found here.

Today’s passage ends with Paul’s directive to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  He was not suggesting the Philippians could save themselves, but rather assuring them they had the strength and experience to live Christ-like lives without relying on Paul.  Whether Paul lived or died, visited them, or was martyred, they could carry on.  God was with them, working God’s salvation within their hearts.

Central Ideas

  1. Paul upholds both the importance of living in Christ and the courage to face persecution because of our commitment to Christ.
  2. Like the ancient hymn, Community of Christ affirms that Jesus Christ was both fully divine and fully human.
  3. We are called to put the welfare of others before our own.
  4. The early church was comforted by the vision of a day when all people would recognize Jesus Christ as Lord.

Questions to Ponder

  1. When have you tried to increase your importance, status, or authority? What was the result in the lives of others? In your life?
  2. Is taking on the mind of Christ something we achieve on our own, or something God does within us? What prompts you to answer as you do?
  3. Who or what has captured your primary loyalty?  How do your lifestyle, economics, recreation, and service bear this out?  What conflicting priorities do you confront?
  4. What would the world be like if everyone recognized Jesus as Lord?  What would we gain?  What might be lost?

Prayer

God of hope and peace, you are with us in all our days and in all our ways. As you walked with the Israelites in the desert, when they had given up hope, you came to them with nourishment and your steadfast love. As Jesus walked through Jerusalem, healing the sick and those afflicted, your love was made abundantly clear through acts of love and mercy. Be with us as we gather to hear your word. Inspire and encourage us in all that we do, that we may serve you faithfully, bringing hope and your message of love to your thirsting world. In Jesus’ name, we pray. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

Hear the good news, friends! While we wandered in fear, God was with us, offering us hope and courage. God is with you this day, this very minute, lifting you from despair to hope. This is the good news! God is always with us. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Prayer for Communion

Lord, communion reminds us of being members of a global community. We feast at your table. As you nourish us, may we go into your world to bring a feast of peace and hope to others, listening with loving ears and acting with loving hearts, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

Another familiar hymn this week to listen to in a new way after reading the passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I discovered this group this week through social media. They are the choir and orchestra from a Christian high school (Fountainview Academy) in British Columbia.

I know how much all of us miss having young people in our congregation regularly, but this group should give you hope that there are young people still very much interested in Christianity and faith and even the old hymns presented as new.

Fountainview Academy’s  version of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”

 

Dare to Prepare September 24, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Strive for Oneness”

The main scripture for this week comes from Philippians 1:21-30 and can be found here.

Community of Christ continues to affirm that God is at work in the world, and our task is to discern where that activity occurs in everyday life.  We are called to share in God’s work, not abandon it.   Like Paul, we find our purpose in supporting one another, building community, and standing firm against opponents of Christ and God’s kingdom.  Live so Christ may be seen through you.  Speak so Christ may be heard through you.  And act to support and help those whom Christ’s love enfolds when no one else cares.  (Worship Resources CofChrist)

Central Ideas

  1. Paul struggled between wishing for death to unite with Christ or choose life to fulfill the work God called him to do.
  2. In Christ, Paul found both his spiritual identity and his purpose for living.
  3. Genuine spiritual practice, at its deepest level, leads us to advocacy and action.
  4. Paul considered it a privilege to pay a high price for faithful life as a disciple.
  5. Community of Christ affirms God’s action in the world and calls us to join in.

Questions to Ponder

  1. “For to me, living is …” What?  How would you finish that statement based on your lifestyle choices and activities?
  2. How have you suffered for the sake of the gospel?
  3. How do you read the signs of the times? How are the crises of our day denying worth and relief to the most vulnerable among us?
  4. How do you understand God’s priorities and desires for humankind?
  5. Where is God’s Spirit leading us to respond?

Prayer

As we sing our praise to you, O Lord, we remember the multitude of blessings you have given us. We are mindful of the ways in which you have lifted us when we have fallen low. Be with us this Sunday as we gather to hear you word for our lives (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

Feel the comforting power of Gods’ love and mercy in your lives. God is with us through all our experiences. Though we try, we cannot get away from God’s love. Rejoice! This is good news! (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

When I listened to this familiar song, I heard in a whole new way, and I hope you will too. As you listen, think of it as Paul’s testimony and think of it as him relating his testimony to you as in the scripture, where he relates that Jesus means so much to him that sometimes he wishes he could be with him.

Audrey Assad’s version of “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”

Dare to Prepare September 17, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “We Belong to God”

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 14:1-12 and can be found here.

“Paul urged Christ’s followers to avoid judging one another. Each of us is accountable for our actions.  Only God has the power and authority to judge.”  (World Church resources)

Central Ideas (from World Church resources)

    1. Diverse opinions or scruples are unimportant in a community that genuinely cares for one another if Christ’s love is the foundation.
    2. Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to God. All our living and dying should be with gratitude and honor to God.
    3. Christians are to avoid judging one another. Judgement is the privilege of God, who alone has the power and authority to judge humans.

Questions to Ponder

  1. What scruples in your life might cause you unconsciously or consciously judge someone else? How can you manage that human tendency?
  2. When have you been fully aware that your life belonged to God? How did it feel? How did you respond in gratitude?
  3. How do you currently find ways to honor God with your life?

Prayer

Loving and merciful God, we come before you this day, in the midst of a week in which we have been challenged. Some of the challenges have caused us worry and strife; other challenges bring to us clear directions for our lives. In all of this, you are with us bringing healing and peace for our lives. Hear our praises, O God. Bring your loving presence to us as we worship you this Sunday, For it is in confidence of your abiding love and mercy that we offer this prayer. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

No matter what befalls us, the Lord walks with us on the path, bringing us courage and hope. No matter what, we belong to the Lord, now and forever.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is a recent release by Amy Grant. to summarize her testimony about writing this song: When her daughter Millie, (the one she wrote “Baby, Baby” for) was a teenager, they struggled a great deal in their relationship with communication. They seemed to be at odds a lot, and through therapy Amy found out that her daughter felt “Judged” by her mom, even though her mom’s intentions were often just the opposite.  Pretty much all of us can relate.

Amy Grant, “What You Heard”

Dare to Prepare September 10, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Love Your Neighbor”

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 13:8-14 and can be found here.

“Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” is a discipline of the heart that transforms and strengthens the believing community to fulfill the law of love in daily life.”  (World Church resources)

Central Ideas (from World Church resources)

    1. What debts do you owe to those you love most deeply? How do you perform those duties?
    2. Do you agree with the idea that “love does no wrong”? Can you think of an exception?  What is Paul saying?
    3. How does your congregation show it is a community of light rather than darkness?
    4. How do you deal with the paradox of being open and vulnerable as a form of protection against the world’s brokenness?

Questions to Ponder

  1. How does the ancient definition of love change how you understand the advice to “love your enemies?” How can you apply it in your own life?
  2. When have you wept with those who weep and rejoiced with those who were celebrating? When have you sensed God weeping or rejoicing with you?
  3. What evidence of arrogance and ego can you identify in your ministry and life as a disciple? How do you combat them?
  4. What does it mean to renounce vindictiveness in your world today? In the church community?  In the political arena?  In your inner world of memories, emotion, and brokenness?

Prayer

Lord of light, in the midst of darkness and fear, you call us to be a community of peace, love and hope. You remind us of the blessings we have and the opportunities to share those blessings with others. We praise and thank you for all these things and for your constant presence with us. Lord, we thank you for your healing mercies and your sustaining love for us. We are confident in your abiding presence with us. Help us to be faithful to you in all times and in all places. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

God hears our prayers and our cries. God leads us out of the darkness of the past into the bright promise of today. We are called to stand strong and confident in God’s Love. Rejoice, dear friends, for that love which began before creation flows in and through you this day! AMEN.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week goes back decades to a song I love and have sung many times. It’s a heart felt, very human question about whether we treat our fellow human’s  the way that God expects us to. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a version with words so you’ll have to listen more carefully than usual, but one of my favorite lines in the song is the last line of the chorus which implores, “Place in me a tender heart that breaks in little pieces when I learn to see my precious brother through your eyes.”

Farrell and Farrell, “Through Your Eyes”

 

Dare to Prepare September 3, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Practice Christ-like Hospitality”

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 12:9-21 and can be found here.

Christians are called to invest in God’s overpowering force of goodness, mercy, and grace, with Christ as the model. These appeals for Christ-centered living are the ethical imperatives set in in being “like-minded” with Jesus Christ and in the Christian community.

Central Ideas (from World Church resources)

  1. Love is wanting the best and highest good for someone else, with no strings attached.
  2. Sincere faith is the foundation for service, hope, patient endurance, trusting prayer, generosity, and hospitality.
  3. Christians are called to weep with those who weep and find joy with those who rejoice.
  4. Arrogance and egocentricity serve the individual at the expense of the community. Christians are called to act nobly for the highest good.
  5. Vengeance and judgment are the domain of God alone. Christians are called to be peacemakers and renounce vindictiveness.

Questions to Ponder

  1. How does the ancient definition of love change how you understand the advice to “love your enemies?” How can you apply it in your own life?
  2. When have you wept with those who weep and rejoiced with those who were celebrating? When have you sensed God weeping or rejoicing with you?
  3. What evidence of arrogance and ego can you identify in your ministry and life as a disciple? How do you combat them?
  4. What does it mean to renounce vindictiveness in your world today? In the church community?  In the political arena?  In your inner world of memories, emotion, and brokenness?

Prayer

As we gather as a community of compassion and hope, Jesus calls us to care for each other tenderly and willingly.
By this caring and sharing we will be known as followers of Jesus.
By our example others may be led to lives of peace.
Lord, open our hearts and minds to your word.
Teach us to serve you with Christ-like hospitality. AMEN (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance
Christ calls each of us into lives of service and hope.  He equips us for these ministries and places us on the pathways of peace. Rejoice! You are called by God’s Son and blessed by him.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week off Lauren Daigle’s newest album and the key lyrics that spoke to me were, “How’re ya gonna live out the words that you’re preachin’  – if you don’t believe them.”

Lauren Daigle “Don’t Believe Them”

 

Dare to Prepare August 27, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Be Transformed”

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 2:1-8 and can be found here.

However, In the World Church Worship Helps for this week, I found the following in the Disciples Generous Response section and I found it helpful:

Based on Romans 12:1-8.
Read this passage, as if Paul was writing this letter to us today.
If you are going to understand the will of God, you need to transform the way you think. Don’t believe that God is calling upon you to physically sacrifice your wellbeing. Understand that you are being asked to live your life according to God’s plan for you rather than your plan.

Through God’s grace each of you has been given gifts that you are to share with others. Don’t let yourself become so proud of those gifts that you want to use them to enhance others’ opinion of you. Understand that your gift is meant to be interwoven into the life of others in order to allow your congregation to become one whole, perfect body serving God’s purpose.

There is no one gift that is more pleasing to God than another. The gift of being a leader is no more important than the gift of being compassionate or of being cheerful in your giving of your presence or resources.

As the world around you changes continue to be open to discerning God’s will for you.

Central Ideas

  1. In Christ, Paul found both his spiritual identity and his purpose for living.
  2. Genuine spiritual practice, at its deepest level, leads us to advocacy and action.
  3. Paul considered it a privilege to pay a high price for faithful life as a disciple.

Questions to Ponder

  1. “For to me, living is …” What?  How would you finish that statement based on your lifestyle choices and activities?
  2. How do you understand God’s priorities and desires for humankind?
  3. Where is God’s Spirit leading us to respond?

Prayer

O Lord, you bind us together in love, to learn, to be healed, to grow, to serve. Be with us on Sunday and open our hearts to the amazing opportunities to help others through the gifts we possess. In Jesus’ glorious name, we pray. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance
Through the abundance of God’s mercy and forgiving love, you are empowered to be disciples, to reach out to others, to offer your gifts in a struggling world. God’s blessings are poured over you to serve and praise His name. (adapted form ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is a hymn, based on the scripture for this Sunday that I’m seeing with new eyes. God is the Fount of all of our blessings (gifts) and it is up to us to live our life in such a way that those blessings are a return on His investment in us. Here is a beautiful Celtic version of “Come Thou Fount”

Celtic Worship “Come Thou Fount”

 

Dare to Prepare August 20, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Speak Truth to Power”

The main scripture for this week comes from Matthew 15:10-28 and can be found here.

In reference to the portion of the scripture that speaks of the Caananite woman with the daughter who was ill:

Someone once said faith is the assurance of things hoped for, wrought (shaped) by the Spirit of God in the soul of each person. The woman’s faith, wrought by God’s Spirit, freed Jesus to cross a line to heal her daughter. Her faith in him helped him see her differently. He was changed by her faith. We are challenged to also be willing to be changed by other people’s faith. Every day we are confronted by “outsiders,”

We all have  lines we’ve drawn in our lives and said, “No, I cannot go there.” But every day Jesus is there to strengthen our faith by shaping our hearts so we may respond in love and heal in his name.

This week we ask Jesus to “hear us, Lord.” This woman’s faith is an example for us, to help us reflect on what it means to have faith in our lives, and to help strengthen the faith of the congregation and our community. What does it mean to respect “outsiders” and their need for healing ministry? What does it mean to learn from them, by that opening our hearts to be changed by God’s Spirit? What does it mean to be persistent in our own faith, just as the woman was persistent in hers?

Central Ideas

  1. Every day we are confronted with lifelines we have drawn. Will we allow our faith in Christ to strengthen us to cross these lines and respond to outsiders needing God’s healing ministry?
  2. Every day is an opportunity to affirm that Jesus is Lord, but we must do so in an attitude of prayer and with great faith.
  3. The call to serve the Lord may lead us into uncomfortable places and circumstances where we must depend on God for our response.

Questions for the Speaker

  1. What lines have you drawn in your life that you must confront and cross?
  2. How will you recognize Christ as Savior in worship and faith?
  3. Who are the “outsiders” in your life seeking entrance into your heart? How will you respond?
  4. When was the most recent time you were confronted by an outsider? How did you feel? How did you respond? How do you wish you had responded?
  5. What does it mean to ask, “Hear us, Lord”? (Taken from World Church Resources)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is a very simple song based on Psalm 5 that makes me feel strong emotions about prayer. It doesn’t a specific connect to our scripture this week, but when you listen to it, you can get a feel for how the Psalmist felt and how we feel sometimes about crying to the Lord and hoping that He will hear and listen to us.

“Psalm 5” sung by Carolyn Arends and Steve Bell

 

Dare to Prepare August 13, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Why Do We Doubt?”

The main scripture for this week comes from Matthew 14:22-33 and can be found here.

Prayer
Lord, please forgive us for sometimes doubting and for how often we forget to trust in you. We are like the disciples who, in the midst of fears and storms, could only tremble and wonder about the threatening events. Even when Jesus called to the disciples, they shook with fear. But Jesus offered words of encouragement. Impulsive Peter asked Jesus to call to him and bid him come out of the boat. Jesus complied and Peter stepped over the edge onto the waves — but fear claimed him again and he began to sink. Many of us can identify with that moment when we let go of our faith and clutch onto our fears. Help us to place our trust totally in you and your call to us. You will guide and lift us to safety — that is the promise you have given to us and we believe it. When our faith slips, scoop us up and bring us peace. Be patient with us, for we are flawed and yet loved by you. Give us strong hearts and willing spirits to be your disciples. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance
No matter how strong the storm, how threatening the waves, Jesus calls us to trust in his love and mercy. Rejoice in his goodness; rely on his power in all things.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is one that I used almost a year ago for this page, but it bears repeating based on this week’s scripture and theme. It was written by Rick Lindgren specifically because of this scripture and life’s experiences with fear and doubt.

“As Far As your Fears Go” written by Rick Lindgren and sung by Sherry and Rick Lindgren.

 

Dare to Prepare August 6, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Blessed by Generosity”

The main scripture for this week comes from Matthew 14:13-21 and can be found here.

Central Ideas of the Scripture and Questions to Ponder (adapted from CofChrist World Church resources)

  1. God is generous and desires through compassionate acts of healing, blessing, and feeding to commune with us.
  2. As disciples, many times we live out our witness from a position of scarcity when everything about Jesus’ life speaks to us from God’s generosity.
  3. Many times in our wish to be alone (for seemingly good reasons) it is better to be together.

Questions to Ponder

  1. How do you experience God’s generosity in your life?
  2. Do you live life from a spirit of scarcity or from a spirit of generosity?
  3. What compassionate acts of healing, blessing, and feeding have you recently experienced?

Prayer
In the darkness of night and the brightness of day, you, O Lord, are present to us. As we wrestle with situations which seem to drain us of our energy; as we struggle to find out who you call us to be, you reach out to us with reassurance of empowerment and courage for the days ahead. Calm our spirits and prepare our hearts and lives to receive your awesome grace. It is in Jesus’ name that we pray. AMEN. (ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance
Feel God’s healing love pouring over you and into your lives. Know that God delights in each one of you and will always be present to you. This is indeed the Good News of the Gospel.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week comes from a personal place. I know that God loves me and is willing to accept me as I am and where I am at this time in my life. I have wonderful friends and a great support system and yet one or two mornings a week I find myself worrying about things and having strong anxiety. And I know I’m not alone in that. So this week’s song points out that God is not only generous in the things He can provide, but also in the things he can deliver us from if we only commune with Him and ask.

“I Shall Not Want” written and sung by Audrey Assad.

 

Dare to Prepare July 30, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Search My Heart”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 8:26-39 and can be found here.

Central Ideas of the Scripture and Questions to Ponder (adapted from CofChrist World Church resources)

  1. When we do not know what to pray for, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf
  2. God’s intent for all humanity is to be formed in the image of Christ and joined into a Divine, inclusive family.
  3. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Salvation is available to all.
  4. God’s purposes stand sure.  We are enfolded in those purposes as surely as in God’s love through Christ.

Questions to Ponder

  1. How has your prayer life been enriched and transformed by an awareness that the Spirit of God prays through you?
  2. When have you felt separated from the love of God? How did you and God overcome that separation?
  3. Can you imagine what it would be like to live without fear?

Words of Assurance
Here is some wonderful news! While we are worrying and fretting, God has been at work in our lives offering healing and peace. Receive these gifts in the name and love of the Lord our God.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is from a Christmas album. (Christmas in July is a thing, right?) anyway, although many of the lines from this song are from the prophesy of the coming messiah, some of them are actually lifted directly from this Sunday’s scripture. Listen closely to “Immanuel”, written and sung by Michael Card and see if you can spot them.

Dare to Prepare July 23, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Set Creation Free”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 8:12-25 and can be found here.

Prayer for Our Dear Ones

The summer is just about half over Some of us have been able to travel, to spend special time with family and friends; but for others there is a sameness about this season. It brings pressures to work to provide for our families; it reminds us of the many people who are ill and who are unable to enjoy some of the special delights that this season is supposed to bring. We pray for our dear ones and situations of pain and loss. We know that you are with them, every step of the way, even when they don’t feel like you care. Be with us all. Give us healing for our broken spirits and bodies, for we ask these things in the name of Jesus, the Master Healer. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

Great news has come to us, dear friends. God, who is faithful and just, who cherishes us as we are, seeks restoration and healing for those broken places in our lives, forgives and loves us unconditionally. Receive that good news! (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

Once again the theme for this week made me think of a song that I love and have sung for many years. The song is called “Heart’s Desire” and was written by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary Fame. I actually think of the title differently than it actually is, because the words that stand out to me are from the chorus, which says, “I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me.” The first and second and third time I sang this song, my whole body was visibly trembling with stage fright as I sang it; because I believed the words wholeheartedly, but it didn’t mean that I wasn’t afraid. It meant I was going to move forward in spite of my fears.

Dare to Prepare July 16, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Recognize the Spirt”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 8:1-11 and can be found here.

Prayer of Hope for Sunday’s Service

God who plants seeds of hope and justice within our lives, we are so grateful for this community of faith and for all anywhere to hunger and thirst for your healing and reconciling word. You know all of the things on our hearts today and every day. We look forward to and prepare for Sunday when you bring us together in love and support.

We ask your healing mercies for those who struggle with illness of every kind, with feeling lost and marginalized; for those who mourn and for whom the darkness of sorrow enshrouds them. We ask your growth-producing love as we seek to recognize your spirt.

Be with each one of us and all those we hold in our hearts before you. Help us to reach out in compassion and support just as you have done for us. For we ask these things in Jesus name, AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

God knows us so well. He is present in our lives even when we don’t recognize it. On Sunday we will gather having had a week of expected and unexpected events that will have delighted us or disappointed us. God is ready to help us become stronger witnesses for his love as we receive his word and find our spirits and lives toughed by his message and his presence.

And here’s the Best News! God is never going to stop showering us with His love….all the time….everywhere…..always for us. Hallelujah! (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The theme for this week made me think of a song that I love and have sung for many years. It’s a song about having hopes and dreams and desires, but being open to the voice of God and following it’s leadings. Sung by Twila Paris, it’s called “I Will Listen”.

Dare to Prepare July 9, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Where is My True Self?”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 7:15-25a and can be found here.

Call to Worship

When we gather this Sunday to worship we bring with us heavy burdens which weigh us down.
We gather to praise the Lord, but our hearts ache inside us as we feel unworthy
We implore the Lord to meet us where we are and where we worship.
And we ask that the Lord make our burdens light and heal our spirits (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Prayer of Confession

Merciful and loving God, we are so grateful for your redeeming love for each one of us. We confess that when the times of difficulties are upon us, we don’t always believe that you will take our burdens. We feel we have to always be in control, trying to demand the desired outcome. Help us to place our trust in you. Remind us that you surround us continually with your care, you never just let us go to drift aimlessly about. Open our hearts and spirits again to your healing powers. For we pray these things in the name of Jesus, the one who will take our burdens and give us peace. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

Hear the good news, dear friends! Jesus releases us from our burdens. Place your whole trust in his love. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

In this Sunday’s scripture Paul talks about the all too human dilemma. We know what’s right and holy, we know which path to take, but we simply can’t seem to get in right no matter how many times we try. (It makes me think about how many ‘tomorrows’ I’ve wasted saying “Tomorrow I’ll try again”.) But also as humans we are blessed to have a Savior who loves us as we are no matter what. That’s what this week’s song is about. Written and sung by Michael W. Smith, it’s called “Never Been Unloved”.

Dare to Prepare July 2, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme for this communion Sunday is “Seek Right Relationships”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 6:12 – 23 and can be found here.

Prayer

Lord, as we walk through the doors of our place of worship this Sunday, we will bring with us our cares and concerns, our joys and our sorrows. Touch our hearts Lord and make us attentive to others. Make us ready to extend the hand of welcome and friendship to all whom we meet for we know that when we welcome others we are also welcoming you. Give us strength and courage to always be welcoming in your name. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

How wonderful it is to be welcomed by our Lord through God’s church. Rejoice in God’s welcoming love for you.  (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is very special. I think by now you know about how often I have used the music of Dan Forrest in the Dare to Prepare page and when I’ve presided over or provided music for a service. Recently I came accross this treasure that speaks so well to the worth of all persons and seeking right relationships and preparing ourselves to take the sacrament of communion. I’m providing the description from the YouTube video to provide important context to what you’re about to view. The song is called “Let Me Listen”:

Commissioned and performed by Staley High School (Kansas City, Missouri) on their 2023 Civil Rights Tour with Dan Forrest, piano, and Isaac Greene, guitar. Conducted by Tracy Resseguie. Filmed live at Furman University’s Daniel Chapel and Taylors Mill (Greenville, SC). The music was written by Dan Forrest / Text by Charles Anthony Silvestri. Dan Forrest wrote: “Written as a statement of support for, and allyship with, our Black brothers and sisters (as well as all people of color). Too often, in any aspect of life, we explain away other people’s experiences instead of seeking to understand experiences that differ from our own; we’re so busy talking about our own viewpoints that we fail to listen to the voices we most need to hear. I asked Tony Silvestri to write a text called let me listen that could function as a personal statement from me to people I need to listen to- especially to my friends of color. This is the text that resulted- words that speak powerfully for any situation where we need to listen to those who have been marginalized or mistreated, not heard or believed.”

 

Dare to Prepare June 25, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “Walk in the Newness of Life”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Romans 6:1b –11 and can be found here.

Prayer and Personal Focus Moment

Lord Jesus, you reached out to us in our distress and lifted us up. You give us new life and we are grateful. For some of us this has been a wonderful week; but for others trials and troubles seem to crowd into their lives. We ask your loving presence with all your people, O Lord. Heal our wounded spirits; restore a sense of joy in our lives. Today we name in our hearts and with our voices those who are in need of your healing love. (Take a moment to name  people and/or situations in need of God’s healing love). We thank you that you reach out to them, to all those whom we have named and for those whose names are in our hearts. Help us to be witnesses to the power of Jesus Christ to make those changes in our lives. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Words of Assurance

Listen to the good news! Christ came to give us new life; to redeem and heal our brokenness. We are made whole through his boundless love. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is again a familiar one, but a very unusual arrangement. Not only does it fit the scripture very well, but for those who are attending Bradenton/Sarasota congregation, where we are studying comparative and world religions it has an even larger meaning since it is sung in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

“In Christ Alone” from One for Israel Music

 

Dare to Prepare June 18, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “Go Proclaim the Good News”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Matthew 9:35 – 10: 23 and can be found here.

Call to Worship

Raise your voices in response to God’s goodness. Praise Him for all the blessings He has given us.
Lift your hearts in sweet surrender to God’s mercy. Thank Him for hearing the prayers of our hearts.
God is good; Praise be to God! His love and mercy never fails. He whispers in our ears and nudges us. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Personal Focus Moment

One thing it is easy to see from the scripture reference is, IT’S NOT EASY TO BE A DISCIPLE!

Being part of a faith community will places may demands on the members. We are called by Christ to go forth; to help others; to seek ministries of justice; to be people who truly care about others. When we are asked to do something, it is because someone has seen in us the abilities to perform that task; a depth of faith which is needed. Christ is calling each one of us … are you ready to dare the road? Remember God is always with you, you will not be alone and you will be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Ready? Let’s go! (adapted from Excellence in Preaching)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is a simple and familiar one. But I’ve selected it because it is literally lifted from this week’s scripture, “Freely you have received, freely give”

The arrangement is rather cleverly done by a couple who synchronized 4 part harmony so it gives just a little different twist making it all the more pleasing to the ear.

“Freely, Freely”, sung by Aaron and Esther

Dare to Prepare June 11, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “Reach Out With Faith”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26 and can be found here

Prayer

We are all bombarded with the noises of the day, of anger, sadness, suffering and apathy. Ever present they threaten to drown us in despair and hopelessness.
So many voices. So many of Your children reaching out trying to find hope, connection and freedom from their pain and sorrow.
I am reaching out for I suffer too.
And yet, if I am paying attention, I can see the work of a loving God among us.

And when I allow myself to be aware of the innate beauty of this world, the mystery becomes comforting, the silence a beautiful song and others become sisters and brothers to be loved and held in prayer.
Lord Help us find peace in the noise that we may pray with eyes open to divine love that whispers in our ears and nudges us.
Help us find the courage to reach out and touch the cloak of our teacher and be cleansed.
Amen                                                                                – Mark Ballentine, Used with permission

Personal Focus Moment

Reflect on the scripture and the prayer and ask yourself these questions:

  1. When you think of the word healing, what comes to mind?
  2. How can you reach out and help others, maybe even help them to heal?
  3. Have you ever been hurt?
  4. What helped you to heal?

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

Once again the program I rediscovered last week has the perfect song for reflection and preparation. Most of you will be familiar with the song, but not necessarily with it’s origin. Taken again from the songs and readings program called “God’s People” composed by Kurt Kaiser and Charles F. Brown.

“Reach Out and Touch” by Kurt Kaiser and Charles F. Brown

Dare to Prepare June 4, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “God, An Eternal Community”. It is also Communion Sunday and the first Sunday after Pentecost, or Trinity Sunday.

The main scripture for this week comes from 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 :

Final Exhortations and Greetings

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice, set things right, be encouraged, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(New English Translation)

Commentary

God always meets our failure to love Him above all and our neighbors as ourselves with amazing grace.

While Jesus’ friends have failed to even aim for perfection, God has been, is and always will be gracious. While Jesus’ followers have failed to be of one mind, God is gracious. While Christians have failed to live in peace, God is gracious.

God responds to regrets we have and guilt we feel with grace. Christians’ divisions are great. God’s grace is even greater. (Adapted from “Center for Excellence in Preaching Newsletter for June 4, 2023)

Words of Assurance

This is the good news: Christ died for us that we might have life. We are called to give our lives in community with one another. God is with us in this and all righteous endeavors. Thanks be to God. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

For the song this week, I’m waxing nostalgic. I stumblesd across this song on YouTube this week and it fit the scripture perfectly. In 1978, when Rick and I and some friends were forming a singing group, the first piece of music we chose to tackle was a program of about 8 songs and readings called “God’s People” composed by Kurt Kaiser and Charles F. Brown. We not only loved the message, but chose to name the group Common Bond based on this very special song. Hearing it for the first time in a VERY long time was emotional for several reasons and I hope it will prepare you for participating wholeheartedly in a communion service focusing on an eternal community.

“A Common Love” by Kurt Kaiser and Charles F. Brown

Dare to Prepare May 28, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “We are One, We are Many”.

The main scripture for this week comes from 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 and can be found here.

Scripture Meditation:
Individually and Collectively you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step you take and each gift and offering you bring.
Take a moment to reflect on God’s everlasting love for you.

God yearns to draw close to you – to heal your wounds, fill your heart, strengthen your hope
Take a moment to share with God what you need most from Him.

Here and now, before your Eternal Creator, open your mind and heart to accept those gifts which are meant specifically for you and be vulnerable to divine grace.
Take a moment to thank God for your gifts and humbly seek to know how to best use them for the body of Christ. (adapted from church resources)

Prayer:
Lord of patience and persistence, we live in a broken and shattered world. All around us we see great evidence of hatred and alienation. We cannot help but observe the alienation of your people from each other. We create devices to separate rather than unite; to divide rather than come together in hope. Remind us today that the disciples, too, lived in a fearful world and that one day you came to them, as they sat huddled in fear, and you empowered them. You gave them hearts of courage and faith. Please bring to us the same hearts that we may serve you well, bringing peace and hope to our world. In the name of Christ, we offer this prayer. AMEN. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

This week we have another Twila Paris song because this one literally fits the part of the scripture that says,

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

“How Beautiful” Sung by Twila Paris

 

Dare to Prepare May 21, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “Come to Know Christ”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Ephesians 1:15-23 and can be found here.

This Sunday is considered the Seventh Sunday of Easter and Acenscion Sunday
Ascension Sunday is a time to recognize God’s glory and rule over the earth. Jesus has been given power and dominion over all things:
King of Kings, Lord of Lords,
illumine our hearts this day,
that we may feel your glory
and live into the hope
to which you have called us. Amen.

Prepare to Worship:
The earth is the Lord’s!
Everything in creation belongs to God.
Lift up your eyes and see the mighty works of the Lord!
All who hope in the Lord will be called children of God.
Lift up your hearts and receive the gracious gifts of the Lord!
The hour for worship and song will soon be upon us.
Lift up your voice an praise the Lord with all your might! (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Response to the scripture:
All you who seek God, and who have set your hope
on Jesus Christ, hear the good news:
we have received forgiveness according to the riches of God’s grace. As forgiven and beloved children of God,
let us set our hope on Christ,
and live for the praise of his glory. (adapted from ministrymatters.com)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The scripture evokes lyrics to the well-known and popular praise chorus “Open the Eyes of My Heart” by Michael W. Smith:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see you
I want to see you
To see you high and lifted up
Shining in the light of your glory
Pour out your power and love
As we sing holy, holy holy

I’m very fond of that song, and it causes an earworm immediately upon reading the lyrics. But while it offers beautiful words of praise to Jesus, I’d like to offer a song this week that offers a richer, deeper meaningful relationship with Jesus which speaks to the theme quite well.

“Where He Leads Me” sung by Twila Paris:

Dare to Prepare May 14, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “Declare Hope”.

The main scripture for this week comes from 1 Peter 2:2-10 and can be found here.

This Sunday is considered the Sixth Sunday of Easter as we continues to celebrate the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus.

Prepare to Worship:
In Acts, Paul describes God as the source of all creation and the source of life for all humankind. More than this, “we live and move and have our being” in God. Indeed, how can this God be far from us when we are in God? First Peter speaks of our being brought to God by Jesus Christ and describes lives of integrity “in Christ.” John takes this human/divine spatial imagery the furthest in Jesus’ description of himself as in God, while we the disciples are in Christ and Christ is in us. More than this, the Spirit is with us and in us as well. These passages call us to recognize the mysterious interrelationship that undergirds our being; they challenge us to live lives of love and goodness, courage and hope. (from ministrymatters.org)

Response to the scripture:

Wherever we are, we are in God.
Wherever we are, we are in Christ,
and Christ is in us.
Wherever we are, the Spirit abides with us and in us.
We go forth in peace and hope,
upheld by God in every way.
Let us go forth in faithfulness and trust.
May all see the Divine in and through us. (from ministrymatters.org)

Prayer of hope:
O God,
in you we live and move and have our being!
May we live out this profound truth,
mindful of the beauty, the hope, and the calling
of living in you. Amen.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is one that I used in the Dare to Prepare for January 15 when the theme was “Strengthen Your Testimony”. I try to avoid intentionally reusing songs since there is such a wealth of music available with a strong spiritual message. But this is a song that has been playing over and over in my head the past week like one of those earworms that won’t let you go. I’ve been trying to Declare Hope and using it as my personal message to myself as I hold Jim and Carolyn up in prayer. “Good Hands”, written and sung by Carolyn Arends.

 

Dare to Prepare May 7, 2023 

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “Become Living Stones”.

The main scripture for this week comes from 1 Peter 2:2-10 and can be found here.

This Sunday is considered the Fifth Sunday of Easter as we continues to celebrate the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus.

Prepare to Worship:

[The author of this week’s scripture] calls us living stones. Step away from the idea of human beings and imagine stones out in a field or a pile of bricks. Peter’s illustration is of a construction job. In his mind’s eye, as he was writing this, he saw a literal building being built by a stone mason, God, with His Son, Jesus Christ.

We are “being built up.” The stones are not taking themselves out of the field, shaping themselves, and fitting themselves into the building. Somebody else is picking up the stones, knocking off the rough edges, and fitting them exactly into the place where the Builder wants them to go. Peter is describing a building that is not being constructed haphazardly but according to an intelligent plan, as if the Builder is working according to a blueprint drawn far in advance of construction. (from Bibletools.org)

Communion Prayer:

O Lord,
may we who eat this bread,
become a people of living stones;
may we who drink this wine
become a people of salvation.
Enrich our faith and trust
as we gather together again at your table
for this sacred remembrance.
We confess our brokenness
and seek forgiveness for the harm we have done
to others and to ourselves.
In these moments of communion together,
may we experience the confidence of children
who know they are loved and accepted completely.
Amen. (from Ministry Matters)

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is one of Rick’s and my favorites from our time in the Common Bond group (although they didn’t record it until after we left the group). I hope you can hear how it fits the scripture. So many in our extended congregation are going through so much right now and we are drawing closer than ever and “sharpening each other” as we do.

 

Dare to Prepare April 30, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “Find Wholeness”.

The main scripture for this week comes from 1 Peter 2:19-25 and can be found here.

This Sunday is considered the Fourth Sunday of Easter as we continues to celebrate the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus.

Prepare to Worship:

[Our scripture for Sunday] makes clear that all who receive the saving grace of God should, as a result, lead a life filled with little gracelets. Getting graced by God in Jesus makes us gracious people in return. We lead good lives and do good things not because we are trying to earn our way into God’s favor after all and not even only because we are grateful to God. We exude gracelets because this is the inevitable result of having received the big Grace that saved us. Getting graced by God is like getting dipped into a vat of perfume: the residue of the fragrance should waft off of you from then on.

Peter is saying that when the world throws its worst at us, when we get unfairly criticized, this is when we need to be the most mindful of our God and of the grace he has given us in Jesus.

Our memory of how Jesus willingly suffered without lashing back prevents us from striking out. And when we can resist that natural tendency to seek revenge, then this is a grace in God’s sight. God sees it as a grace because we ourselves display the result of our having received the grace of God. The grace Peter talks about and God’s grace are linked. (Adapted from commentary of Scott Hoezee, Director of Center for Excellence in Preaching – a resource of the Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI)

Call to Prayer:

Shepherding God,
bring us into your fold.
Lead us beside still waters
and restore our souls.
Help us see the way we should go,
the way we should live.
Help us hear your voice calling our name.
Enliven this time of worship,
that we may find true life
as we join with others:
praising your name,
celebrating your great goodness,
and sharing your love for all people.
Amen.

Words of Assurance:
Jesus said, I have come that you may have life
and have it abundantly.
In so confessing, we have returned to the shepherd,
the guardian of our souls who welcomes us
with open arms and a glad heart.
Know that the shepherd of our lives
never abandons us, is always calling our name,
and unfailingly loves and forgives us.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

Finding wholeness does not mean a life without scars. The post-resurrected Jesus is, at times, described as revealing the scars in his hands and feet. Although he had been revived and was bringing ministry, he was still scarred. This is an important concept because our scars can serve as reminders of the struggles. They can remind us of what we’ve overcome. And they can serve as confirmation that we can find wholeness and have our scars be a testimony of that wholeness in relationship to God and the and the sacrifice made at the cross.

“Scars” sung by Farrell and Farrell (Just a heads up. The song doesn’t start for 10 seconds for some reason so you have to be a little patient)

 

Dare to Prepare April 23, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “Trust in God”.

The main scripture for this week comes from 1 Peter 1:17-23 and and can be found here.

This Sunday is considered the Third Sunday of Easter as we continues to celebrate the resurrection.

Prepare to Worship:
As brothers and sisters in Christ, we belong to the same Father, and we can love one another with the same love he lavishes on us. In this way we belong to the only belonging that lasts and has meaning. As we live this out in our relationships with one another, we glorify the Father and participate in his calling of others to join us in exile. This is why Jesus tells us to love others as he has loved us. Think about this as you go through the week. Am I loving others as Jesus loves me? What does living as brothers and sisters in Christ really look like (Equipper.org)

Call to Prayer:
Gracious God, you have given yourself to us in the person of Jesus. We have his example of loving ministry as a guide for our lives. We stand as people forgiven and reconciled to you. Be with us today and always. Remind us that you are always near. Guide our lives. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Words of Assurance:
We can count on God’s love always. Jesus’ resurrection is proof that God loves and forgives us and that God’s love is powerful enough to reach us wherever we are—even beyond death. That truth should provide us with courage for facing frightening situations and assure those living with grief that God still loves and cares for those who have died.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

Sometimes some of our old hymns hit just the right note. We don’t always need the modern and flashy to get the point across. This week’s song is an oldy but goody that reminds us that God has given us every reason to trust in Him.

“Great is Thy Faithfulness” Dan Forrest Arrangement

 

Dare to Prepare April 16, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

The Community of Christ World Church theme is “Love, Believe, Rejoice”.

The main scripture for this week comes from 1 Peter 1:3-9 and and can be found here.

This Sunday is considered the Second Sunday of Easter and continues to encourage us to have faith in the resurrection story.

Prepare to Worship:
Let your heart be glad!
Let your soul rejoice!
For He will not abandon us.
He gives us counsel.
He shows us the path to life.
His presence is sheer joy.
He is our God, and apart from Him we have no hope
Blessed is his Holy name!

Call to Prayer:

If we are the disciples, locked in a room of fear,
Jesus appears to us.
If we are Thomas, full of doubt,
Jesus turns to us.
If we bear trials and suffering,
God comes to us in power.
If we rejoice,
we do so in the presence of God.
So let us come, whoever we are,
to the God of hope and life.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

This week’s scripture brought to mind a sweet and gentle song from long ago by a Christian singer/songwriter I’ve used before by the name of Michael Card. It encapsulates much of what the scripture is trying to tell us about faith.

“That’s What Faith Must Be” written and sung by Michael Card

 

Dare to Prepare April 9, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

The Community of Christ World Church theme for Easter  is “Discover Life In Christ”.

The main scripture for this week comes from Colossians 3:1-4 and is brief enough that no link is necessary. From the New International Version:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Good Friday’s Service at 7pm at the Bradenton Congregation will be our primary preparation for this Sunday’s with the theme, “Sunday is Coming!” But for those who have headed back north or cannot attend for any number of reasons, ponder the following as you prepare:

Be Receptive to the Word
The stone was gone,
so Mary assumed that Christ had been taken away.
The tomb was empty,
so Peter assumed that Christ had been taken away.
The angels had come,
so Mary assumed that Christ had been taken away.
The linens were discarded,
so Peter assumed that Christ had been taken away.
And yet . . . . . .

Christ was risen.
Christ was alive.
Christ was in their midst.
They saw the Living Christ.
When our lives seem empty,
we assume that Christ has been taken away.
When our lives are full of pain,
we assume that Christ has been taken away.
And yet . . . . . .

Christ is risen!
Christ is alive!
Christ is in our midst!
Let us open our eyes to see the Living Christ for ourselves.
Sunday is coming!

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week is a lively and joyful reminder that on Easter Sunday we celebrate that knowledge that we know that our Redeemer lives!

“Christ is Risen He Is Risen Indeed” words and music by Keith and Kristyn Getty. Sung by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Dare to Prepare April 2, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

This week’s World Church theme is “Enter With Jesus”. It’s also Palm Sunday and Communion.

The main scripture for this week comes from Scripture Philippians 2:5-11 and can be found here.

Words of Pardon (Focus on Communion)
Hear this good news!
The procession is ever moving forward.
We can join at any moment.
The invitation still stands!
In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!
In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!
Glory to God! Amen!

Prayer of Assurance
“Truly this man Jesus was God’s Son.”
As disciples of Jesus, truly we are God’s children.
As we go into this holiest of weeks, let us go with the knowledge
that resurrection Sunday will come,
even when it seems there is no tomorrow.
Let us be blessed and be a blessing,
with the courage to stand with those in need.
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
Amen.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

This week, as you listen to the song of the week, picture yourself “Entering with Jesus” and singing this as you walk along side of Jesus riding the colt, Let the crowds know that not only are you served by Jesus, but are a servant of Jesus walking hand in hand along side him.

“The Joy of Jesus” written by Rich Mullins and sung by Matt Maher, Mac Powell and Ellie Holcomb

Dare to Prepare March 19, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

This week’s World Church theme is “Live in the Light”. It’s also the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

Remember that Lent is a time of preparation. A time when we move toward the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. A time to move intently towards God ridding ourselves of the distance and distractions we have built into our relationships. Lent is when we are called to respond with radical generosity and spiritual discipline to God’s covenants that we may draw near to the One we seek. This week’s theme and scripture lends itself very well to the lenten ideal.

The main scripture for this week comes from Ephesians 5:8-14 and can be found here.

Words of Assurance
Christ came to lead us in from darkness into light
and to guide us through our lives with that light.
Christ is with us in times of trouble, sadness, grief, fear and in times of happiness, serenity, and peace.
The goodness and mercy of God
are given to us each and every day of our lives.

In the light of God, all is made clear. We see how much God loves us and how much God loves all people. We see Christ, the Light of the World, in Scripture and in our lives; and although we once were blind, now we see!

Prayer of Gratitude
Gracious God, who created us in God’s own image,
we are grateful for all that you have done for us,
for all that you are doing in us,
and for all that you will do through us.
Open our eyes to see your presence among us,
moving in powerful ways at all times
and in all places.
Open our ears to hear familiar words in new ways—
ways that will change us and challenge us
to become the people you created us to be.
Grant us the power and the courage
to come out of the darkness
and into the light of Jesus Christ,
that we may serve you by serving others.
We love you with all our heart, soul, mind,
and strength. Amen.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week reminds us to live in the light and be the light for those still living in darkness.

“Go Light Your World” sung by Kathy Troccoli

Dare to Prepare March 12, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

This week’s World Church theme is “Embody Christ’s Peace”. It’s also the Third Sunday of Lent.

While several others are used throughout the service, the main scripture for this week comes from Romans 5:1-11 and can be found here.

The scripture speaks of peace and grace and hope found in relationship with Christ.

Prayer of Hope
Loving and caring God,
we come to you in hope—
hope that will sustain us in our trying times,
our lonely times, our doubting times.
Refresh us with the living water
of your presence and love.
Open us to possibilities —
the possibilities of encountering you
in unexpected ways,
the possibilities of seeing the miraculous
in everyday life. Amen.

Words of Assurance
Our hope and assurance
rest in God’s unfailing love and forgiveness.
Open your hearts and minds and souls
that the healing waters
of God’s never-ending love and forgiveness
may flow into and over you.
Know that in this love and forgiveness
you have encountered the living God.

When we meet this Sunday, let us greet one another with words of hope—words that come from the wellspring of love flowing within us because of our encounter with the living Christ. Let us embody Christ’s peace.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

Bob Bennett has once again written the perfect song for our theme this week. The song “Jesus in our Time”, not only talks about taking communion, but also talks about exploring faith as individuals and as a collective faithful congregation.

A standout phrase in this week’s scripture is “We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”

That phrase made me think of a song sung by Susan Ashton. The video is a bit crude but I choose it because it included the lyrics which are meaningful.

“Stand” sung by Susan Ashton

 


Dare to Prepare March 5, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

This week’s World Church theme is “Explore Your Faith”. It’s also the Second Sunday of Lent and World Hunger Emphasis Day as well as communion Sunday.

While several others are used throughout the service, the main scripture for this week comes from Romans 4:1-5 and 13-17 and can be found here.

One of the points of the scripture this week is that God did not use Abraham because he was great. Rather, because Abraham’s faith in God was great, God was able to use him to accomplish great things.

Each of us, as we prepare to take communion this week, should explore and evaluate where we are on our faith journey. Ask yourselves the following questions from the worship resources. (These may be used in a focus moment this Sunday. If they are, you’ll be prepared)

  1. Why was I baptized and confirmed a member of Community of Christ?
  2. What difference has being a member of Community of Christ made in my life?
  3. What aspect of faith would you like to explore further?

Prayer of Preparation for Communion

O God, send your Spirit upon us and light our path,
that we may travel the road you have prepared for us.
Having heard your scriptures proclaimed,
and your word revealed, enable our hearts and minds
to more fully understand your goodness and your grace.
Help us break free from ideas that no longer bring life,
that we may embrace the life-giving work of your Spirit.
Challenge us to forsake paths that ask little of us,
and help us resist the enticements of this world,
that we may truly follow the way of kingdom living. Amen.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

Bob Bennett has once again written the perfect song for our theme this week. The song “Jesus in our Time”, not only talks about taking communion, but also talks about exploring faith as individuals and as a collective faithful congregation.

“Jesus in Our Time” written and sung by Bob Bennett


Dare to Prepare February 26, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

This week’s World Church theme is “Be Vulnerable to Divine Grace”. It’s also the First Sunday of Lent

While several others are used throughout the service, the main scripture for this week comes from Matthew 4:1-11 and can be found here.

The central ideas for this first Sunday in Lent are knowing right from wrong, being vulnerable to temptation, and how we react in those situations. In Psalm 32, the psalmist sings of the joy and relief of forgiveness, which comes from acknowledgment and confession. In the scripture in Matthew, after being driven into the wilderness by the Spirit and armed with only God’s word, Jesus confronts temptation at the end of his forty days and nights of fasting without yielding to it.

Words of Assurance

Abundant grace is God’s gift to us. Out of all proportion to our actions and offerings, we receive grace and forgiveness from God’s amazing love, revealed to us in Christ Jesus. Share this love, so freely given to us, with one another.

 

Prayer of Preparation 

Holy One,
we are constantly bombarded
with temptations and enticements.
When we yield, when we fail,
who will help us?
You, Lord, have come to our aid.
You teach us, counsel us, and guide us
in the ways we should go.
We rejoice in your unfailing love. Amen.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The theme this week reminded me of a Bob Bennett and the title song from the album “Small Graces”. At our Service in the Park this week we will each be working on a timeline and marking events in our lives when we can see or believe we were “Vulnerable to God’s Grace”. This song reminds us that “small graces leading me to the larger ones.”

“Small Graces” written and sung by Bob Bennett

Dare to Prepare February 19, 2023 (some of the text is adapted from Ministry Matters)

This week’s World Church theme is “Tend the Light”.

While several others are used throughout the service, the main scripture for this week comes from 2 Peter 1:16-21 and can be found here.

This Sunday, the story of Moses’ mountain ascent to receive God’s commandments is juxtaposed with the story of Jesus’ mountain ascent when he was transfigured in the midst of his disciples. The presence of Moses and Elijah on the mountain with Jesus emphasizes his continuity with the ongoing story of God’s journey with the people of God. Images of light, of the shining glory of God, are integral to the theme. As Jesus is transfigured, his face shining like the sun, we see a new world in which God establishes justice and righteousness for all.

Words of Assurance:

Let the radiance of Christ be evident among us:
in our songs and our words;
in our deepest thoughts and desires;
in the young and the experienced,
the exhausted and the energetic;
in the hungry and the satiated.
We are here together.
We join our voices and our hearts in praise.

Prayer of Preparation 

Father of Lights,
as you spoke from the pillar of cloud
to Moses and the people,
so you spoke from the bright cloud
to Jesus and his disciples.
May your word live through us today,
that our world of sorrow
may be transfigured into joy.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The this week reminded me of a Karen Lafferty song that we covered in the Common Bond. After Rick and I left the group they recorded it, and while you can listen to the original on YouTube, I think the Common Bond actually had a better and more impactful arrangement.

The song this week called “Father of Lights” sung by The Common Bond

 

Dare to Prepare February 12, 2023

This week’s World Church theme is “Plant, Water and Grow”.

The scripture for this week comes from 1Corinthians Chapter 3:1-9 and can be found here.

Words of Assurance (Ministry Matters 2/12/2023)

God is alive and at work nurturing our growth,
nourishing our needs, and reconciling us
to one another.
God hears the confessions of our hearts
and forgives generously, sharing love with all
who follow in God’s ways.
It is through God’s amazing grace that we are forgiven.
And all God’s children respond:
Thanks be to God!

Prayer of Confession and Preparation (Ministry Matters 2/12/2023)

Loving God, you call us to walk in your ways, observe your commandments,
and love you as you have loved us.
You offer us a community of abundant blessing, with rich soil to promote dynamic growth.
Yet we often turn away from you to satisfy our own wants and desires.
We forsake the way of love and forgiveness, giving in to petty jealousies and quarreling,
and surrendering our lofty ideals to our baser inclinations.
Forgive us, O God. When we flee from your embrace,
draw us into community with you and with one another.
Shower us with the cleansing waters of humility, that we may reclaim our purpose
and find nourishment and growth in labors of love to bring your kingdom in our midst.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The this week reminds us that others in our lives can plant seeds and provide water, but only God can produce new growth. One of the many ways that He can do that in my life is found in the lyrics of the song this week. I’m sure many of you can relate as well.

The song this week called “Did Trouble Me” and is written and sung by Susan Werner

Dare to Prepare February 5, 2023

This week’s World Church theme is “Formed by the Spirit”.

The scripture for this week comes from 1Corinthians Chapter 2:1-16 and can be found here.

Editorial Comment:

In our adult Sunday School class in Bradenton, we’ve been discussing “knowing about God” vs. “Knowing God”. You don’t have to be attending the class to ponder those ideas relative to the scripture resources from the past couple of weeks.  God is with and available to us always, even if we try to turn from him. But if we don’t put in the work of getting to know the mind and will of God through the Holy Spirit, promised to us as Comforter, we are left with human reason only to figure out what’s going on in our lives and in the world. Paul, through 1 Corinthians, encourages us to look to the wisdom provided through the Holy Spirit to know the truth and build the closest possible relationship.

Prayer of Thankfulness for the Holy Spirit (adapted from “How to Pray the Holy Scriptures”)

Creator of all things, I thank you for sending me Your Holy Spirit who comforts and guides me into all truths. It is the Holy Spirit who reminds me of Your Words, Your commands and Your goodness, and empowers me to walk in love and in obedience. Thank you for sending Your Spirit as an assurance that I am Your child and that You will never leave me nor forsake me. It is Your Spirit who fills me with love that I may grow in wisdom and in knowledge of God’s love as well as become a blessing to the world. I am thankful and blessed that Your Spirit dwells inside me and I desire to always be in fellowship with You and experience Your wonderful presence. In Jesus name, Amen.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week was brought to mind both by the scripture and by being thankful for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The song, based on Psalm 139:7-14 is called “Where Could I Go From Your Spirit” and is written and sung by Kelly Willard

Dare to Prepare January 29, 2023

(Portions of this were adapted from Ministry Matters for 1/29/23)

This week’s World Church theme is “Discern Wisdom”.

The scripture for this week comes from 1Corinthians Chapter 1:18-31 and can be found here.

Gather this Sunday ready to worship:

Gather to hear the good news. No matter what is happening in your life,
God’s blessing and love is always with you. Gather to hear what God has in store for your life; To live lives of justice and love and truth. Gather and receive courage and strength to be fools for Christ, embracing holy values rather than those of the world.
Gather ready to listen, to be open to change, and expecting to be blessed by our time together.

Prayer of Preparation

Loving God,
we gather this Sunday
seeking to abide in your presence.
Open our minds to your spirit of wisdom,
that we may know how to live as your people.
Open our hearts to your spirit of truth,
that we may love all your people with a love
that speaks of justice, kindness,
and radical grace.
May this time of worship
be authentic and pleasing to you. Amen.

Please pray for the presider, speaker and other participants wherever you choose to worship this Sunday.

The song this week was immediately brought to mind by the paradox presented in the scripture this week, and particularly this line of the scripture:

“This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.”

The song is called “God’s Own Fool” and is written and sung by Michael Card

Dare to Prepare January 22, 2023

(Portions of this were adapted from Ministry Matters for 1/22/23)

This week’s World Church theme is “United in Purpose”.

The scripture for this week comes from 1Corinthians Chapter 1:10-18 and can be found here.

On the Christian calendar this Sunday is considered the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany (Commonly thought of as the visit of the Magi to the Christ child and the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist)

Epiphany is a season of light, and the scriptures used in various elements in Sunday’s service proclaim the light that has come into the world. This light has come particularly to those who sit in darkness: the darkness of exile, the darkness of division, the darkness of suffering, or the darkness of ignorance to the true word of God. And when the light dawns on their minds, souls, and hearts, it calls forth a response—rejoicing, renewed commitment to God, walking in God’s ways, and even following a stranger into an unknown, uncertain future.

Prayer of Preparation

God of love,
we hear your call to follow.
May we see that the foolishness of your word
is more powerful than the wisdom of this world.
May we lay aside our differences
for the sake of the gospel.
Your realm of light and life has drawn near;
we hear your word of truth.
Turn our hearts toward you
and give us the wisdom to walk in your ways. Amen.

The song this week is a very simple, and very familiar one. However, it is perfect for confirming the simple yet significant message of this week’s theme:

“They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love” Sung by For King and Country

 

Dare to Prepare January 15, 2023

This week’s World Church theme is “Strengthen Your Testimony”.

The scripture for this week comes from 1Corinthians Chapter 1:1-9, and can be found here.

During his message last week in Bradenton, Wayne Talcott mentioned theologian Frederick Buechner and used a quote from him. It reminded me that Rick had every Buechner book ever published, and I was flipping through some of them this week. I thought this excerpt from Listening to Your Life was appropriate for this week. It is just a little piece of advice on one way to “strengthen your testimony”:

“The question is not whether the things that happen to you are chance things or God’s things because, of course, they are both at once. There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak – even the walk from the house to the garage that you have walked ten thousand times before, even the moments when you cannot believe there is a God who speaks at all anywhere. He speaks… and the words he speaks are incarnate in the flesh and blood of our selves and of our own footsore and sacred journey. We cannot live our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned to pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all, is to live deaf to the fullness of the music. Sometimes we avoid listening for fear of what we may hear, sometimes for fear that we may hear nothing at all but the empty rattle of our own feet on the pavement…’Be not afraid…for lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ He says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him.”

The song this week is from Carolyn Arends again and is a perfect punctuation to the Buechner excerpt above. Let the knowledge that God’s got this; God’s got US!, help to “Strengthen YOUR Testimony” this week. ‘Cause ALL things are God’s things.

“In Good Hands” written and sung by Carolyn Arends

 

Dare to Prepare January 8, 2023

This week’s World Church theme is “We Are Marching in the Light of God”.

The scripture for this week comes from Isaiah Chapter 42:1-9, and can be found here.

Lord, We have entered the season in which Your Light has been given to the world, your blessings have been poured out on the world. Help us to not turn inward and live in fear obsessing about our own problems, our own needs, our own desires. Help us to desire you, Lord. Help us to yearn for your light to lead the way forward and turn outward. Nourish and heal our spirit in the new year so that we may joyfully serve you. Help us to set aside negative self-talk and behaviors that stand in the way of our truly being the people you have called us to be. Let us receive the blessings you have so generously offered us and guide us as we strive to always walk in Your light.                                                       ( Adapted from)-Ministrymatters.com

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

Taking liberties we’re going to stretch the Christmas season out just one more week. Marching in the Light of God means trusting that he will always be there for us, cares deeply about us, and will not lead us astray or into dark places. Christmas was, of course, about Jesus’ birth. Last week was about how Joseph listened to the warnings and responded and kept his family safe. This week’s song “Dawn On Us” ask’s when did it “dawn on” Joseph who Jesus was, and reminds us that in order for us to walk in the light, it must “dawn on us” that Jesus was God’s gift of light to a darkened world.  NOTE: If you make it all the way to the end, there are a couple of musical “easter eggs” in the form of “You are my Sunshine” and “Here Comes the Sun” or “Son”, get it? Enjoy!

“Dawn on Us” written and sung by Carolyn Arends


Dare to Prepare January 1, 2023

This week’s World Church theme is “Listen and Respond”.

The scripture for this week comes from Matthew Chapter 2:13-23, and can be found here.

In addition to the scripture which tells the story of Joseph heeding the promptings of the spirit and responding in a way that protected his family and the savior of the world, this week has two additional ideas on which to reflect. Communion which is a sacrament of reflection, repentance and renewal, and the first Sunday of the year which traditionally causes us to reflect, renew and recommit.

From ministrymatters.com:

Release the burdens of the past. Relinquish control from that which is only in God’s hands. Allow the peace of God to dwell in you. You are forgiven. Accept the gift. Relax in the warmth of God’s embrace.

Let us go into the new year with Jesus,
common in origin with us.
Let us go into the new year with Jesus,
who treats us as family, as brothers and sisters.
Let us go into the new year placing our trust in God, just as Jesus did.
We go as children of God, with Jesus by our side.

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

The song this week is written and performed by Bob Bennett. When he performs the song live, he speaks about forgiveness and how being forgiven is a gift, BUT that God’s forgiveness doesn’t always change consequences. Things we do that we shouldn’t or things we should do that we don’t sets events in motion that God often does not stop from happening in spite of the forgiveness we receive. This song reminds us as we move forward into a new year to ask God for the courage to deal with the inevitable consequences with God as our foundation and our strength.

“Lord of the Past” Written and sung by Bob Bennett

Dare to Prepare December 25, 2022

This week’s World Church theme is “Unto Us a Child is Born”.

The scripture for this week comes from Isaiah Chapter 9:2-7, and can be found here.

For Christians throughout the ages, the poetic words of Isaiah fit the advent, life, and mission of Jesus of Nazareth. Each Christmas we celebrate the coming of light into our darkness, and the advent of the Christ-child as our beloved Savior and Prince of Peace.

The following ideas and questions are adapted from the CofChrist World Church Resources:

Central Ideas

  1. God’s promise of a messiah was unconditional—founded on love, grace, and forgiveness.
  2. By faith, we proclaim Jesus of Nazareth as fulfilling this unconditional promise.
  3. What might have begun as a poem of praise for a newborn prince of ancient times, has become a hymn of praise for Jesus Christ, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace (and justice).

Questions to Consider

  1. What is your testimony of Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Prince of Peace?
  2. Where do you see God’s Spirit at work in the world to bring about peace and justice this Christmas?

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

The song this week is one of my favorite Christian Christmas Songs. I have fond memories of singing it around Christmas time in the “big church” in Lamoni with two other couples who enjoyed music as much as Rick and I did. I love the song for it’s power and majesty and my favorite lines, “Immanuel, our God is with us. And if God is with us, who could stand against us?”

“Immanuel” Written and sung by Michael Card

Dare to Prepare December 18, 2022

This week’s World Church Advent theme is “God is With Us”.

The scripture for this week comes from Matthew Chapter 1:18-25, and can be found here.

Today is the last Sunday of Advent, the Sunday just before celebrating Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day. The church’s declaration, after the expectation of Advent, is that Jesus is born! Not only do we remember an event that occurred 2,000 years ago, we affirm that Jesus is born anew. Jesus’ birth is not just a onetime event. He is born again each time we remember and relive his life and ministry. Whenever his disciples reach out in love, compassion, and care toward others in need, Jesus is present. He lives today just as much as he did after his birth in Bethlehem, his upbringing in Nazareth, and his life in Palestine. With joy, on this day, we shout “Jesus is born!”

 

Central Ideas and Questions to Consider adapted from the CofChrist World Church Resources:

Central Ideas

  1. Jesus’ birth occurred under unusual circumstances.
  2. Jesus’ birth fulfilled Hebrew prophecy.
  3. Jesus was God’s gift to humanity to bring about salvation.
  4. Jesus is reborn in each act of genuine Christian discipleship.

Questions to Consider

  1. How have you experienced God’s love so far this Advent season?
  2. How does Jesus’s birth fulfill your greatest longings?
  3. How have you experienced Jesus’ birth anew as you share with other Christian disciples, both in giving and receiving acts of love?

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

The song this week is sung by Amy Grant but is not found on any of her Christmas albums. It was recorded for a compilation album called “Gloria” that was recorded with many other Christian artists and is the most meaningful song on the album. It fits perfectly with our theme this week:

“God is With Us” Sung by Amy Grant

Dare to Prepare December 11, 2022

This week’s World Church Advent theme is “Rejoice”.

The scripture for this week comes from Isaiah chapter 35. Chapters 34 and 35 declare hope and restoration in the face of oppression and conquest.

In God’s time, all creation will blossom like a luxuriant garden, as testimony to the majesty and power of God. The transformation extends to all who are weak, oppressed, and fearful. God will be with them in power, to save and comfort them. God will heal people who are blind, sick, lame, deaf, and speechless. Strength and confidence will return.

Isaiah 35:1-10 can be found here

Central Ideas and Questions to Consider adapted from the CofChrist World Church Resources:

Central Ideas

  1. God’s coming reign will be a time of renewal and blossoming for all creation.
  2. All those who are grieving, ill, oppressed, or troubled can find comfort and peace in Christ.
  3. This scripture passage promises that both humankind and nature will one day be restored to beauty and wholeness.
  4. We are followers of the way, the clear and inviting path that leads toward the worship of God, joy and gladness, and healing of the spirit.

Questions to Consider

  1. When have you experienced a “blossoming time” or a renewal? What was it like? How did you respond?
  2. Where do you see God’s transformation and healing power in the injustices and oppression of the world?
  3. How does following Jesus lead to transformation, healing, and new life for you and others?
  4. How are you preparing spiritually for the Advent of Jesus at Christmas?

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

The song this week is a version of “Joy to The World” I found that is exactly that – joyful, lively, infectious and worshipful is a way that perceives God the Father and Jesus the son as people who are very fun to be around indeed.

“Joy to the World/The Joy of the Lord”

Dare to Prepare December 4, 2022

This week’s Communion and Advent theme is “Filled With Hope”.

The scripture comes from Romans. The Apostle Paul expresses two themes in this passage: hope and harmony, two concepts well-connected with the Advent season. Romans 15:4-13 can be found here.

Central Ideas and Questions to Consider adapted from the CofChrist World Church Resources:

Central Ideas

  1. Paul speaks about hope and harmony.
  2. Hope comes from God through the Holy Spirit and is strengthened when we see the promises of scripture fulfilled.
  3. One such fulfilled scripture promise is the birth of Jesus.
  4. Harmony occurs through accepting others and extending God’s love and mercy to all in response to what God first gives us.

Questions to Consider

  1. How have you experienced hope as a gift of the Holy Spirit?
  2. How does hope in God’s vision of shalom provide strength and perseverance when we experience difficult times individually or collectively?
  3. How might the concepts of hope and harmony be connected to the Advent season?
  4. How does hope motivate people to work individually and collectively towards greater harmony in their congregation and community?
  5. What tangible actions can individuals and congregations take to strengthen hope and pursue greater harmony in the congregation and community?

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

Thank you all for indulging me this holiday season. If it seems like I’m reminiscing about a time when Rick and I were able to use our talents and let the music flow freely, it’s because I am.  This song is from our Christmas album and it’s not one I would have chosen to include. Now I’m so glad we did. Rick’s guitar is gorgeous and the words become more and more hopeful throughout the song.  It’s audio only again this week, so close your eyes and meditate on the “Christmas Bells“.

“Christmas Bells” Sung by Sherry Lindgren, Rick Lindgren on the guitar.

 

Dare to Prepare November 27, 2022

This week’s theme is “The Promise of Peace”.

The scripture comes from Isaiah. The Old Testament reading from Isaiah focuses our attention on the promise of God’s reign. The reading helps us prepare for Christmas and encourages us to enter the new year with hope—rededicated to the peace of Christ. Isaiah 2:1-5 can be found here.

Central Ideas and Questions to Consider adapted from the CofChrist World Church Resources:

Central Ideas

  1. God is in control of the future. It is God who will teach, judge, and eventually bring peace, justice, and reconciliation.
  2. That does not mean we should be idle. We must take the steps needed to begin trans- forming this world into the future reign of God.
  3. Try to rekindle your hope for God’s peace and justice and be part of the solution, not the problem.

Questions for the Speaker

  1. Have you ever turned harmless tools of life (money, words, beliefs, knowledge, etc.) into weapons of conflict?
  2. Have you ever found yourself judging others? What steps can you take to avoid such judgments?
  3. As Christmas approaches, think about how you can be an ambassador for peace and justice?

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

The song this week was written by Rick Lindgren and sung by Sherry Lindgren.  It is audio only this week, so close your eyes and meditation on the “Promise of Peace”.

“Peace in Bethlehem” by Richard Lindgren

Dare to Prepare November 20, 2022

This week’s theme is “Christ the King: Witness the Suffering Servant”.

The scripture comes from Luke and tells the part of the gospel story where Jesus is hung on the cross between two thieves and taunted to “save himself.  Luke 23:33-43 can be read here.

Central Ideas and Questions to Consider adapted from the CofChrist World Church Resources:

Central Ideas

  1.  Forgiveness is central to God’s reconciling love for humankind.
  2.  Jesus’ death occurred among the oppressed and marginalized, just like his birth and his     earthly life.
  3.  Christ’s mission, through compassion extended to all, transforms lives.

Questions to Consider

  1.  When have you felt forgiven? How does this scripture expand your understanding of   forgiveness?
  2.  Who is worthy of Christ’s compassion? Has there ever been a time when you did not feel   worthy?
  3.  What possibilities do you see for the compassion of Christ to be transformational in today’s   world?
  4.  How did Jesus’ display of love and forgiveness on the cross reshape the prevailing view of   God? How did it impact you?

In reference to guilty one who hung on the cross next to Jesus, who actually committed the crime for which he was being punished and who received no condemnation from Jesus, hymn 214 in Community of Christ Sings addresses this nicely:

“The weight of past and fruitless guilt God lifts from us with loving grace. Deep prayer, persistent faith unite, God’s great compassion to embrace.

A buoyant freedom from despair through love renews our eyes to see those desperate, hopeless friends in need who seek the grace that makes us free.

The gift of pardon gives us strength to grow from seed to fruit and flower. We pledge our hearts to channel love into God’s stream of healing power.”

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

The song this goes way back to the 1970’s. But when I started my preparations for this week it was the song that immediately came to mind as fitting into the story perfectly. There is no actual video this week so just meditate on the words of forgiveness:

“Forgiveness from Jesus”, by Children of the Light.

Dare to Prepare November 13, 2022

This week’s World Church theme is “Prepare for a New Creation”.

The scripture comes from Isaiah 65:17-25 and can be found here:

From CofChrist World Church Resources:

Today’s text presents creation’s restoration in a powerful poetic summary of transformation in an age to come. Verse 17 begins with a vision of “new heavens and a new earth.” All the old things are forgotten. The people should not mourn the passing of the old but rejoice and be glad.

God will celebrate with them, and there will be no mourning or weeping. Infant mortality will end, and people will live long and productive lives. They will live in the houses they build. They will plant and harvest for themselves, not for unjust kings or overlords. They will eat their own fruit and “enjoy the work of their hands” (v. 22). To a people who have experienced centuries of conquest, exile, and oppression, this was comfort indeed! They and their offspring will be blessed; and they will know God and be known. Even before they call on God, God will answer!

The vision shifts in verse 25 to the whole created order. The wolf and lamb will eat together, and the lion will have a vegetarian diet. All will be at peace, and violence will end. God’s promise is for “my holy mountain,” but since God’s holy mountain was considered the center of the created world, the implication is an extension of that peace and non-violence to all the earth.

From Ministry Matters:

“Have you heard?
Something new is coming,
a different world than the one we know.
And we’re the ones to help make it happen!
Let us gather together,
to support and encourage one another
and to praise God—
for new visions, for hope,
for new beginnings, and for new possibilities.”

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

The song this week is a little long, but trust me, it is worth every visual and audio and spiritual second. It will comfort you and bring you peace and prepare you to come into the sanctuary and listen to the words about hope for a new creation. (Once you start the video, you’re going to want to click on the little box in the lower right corner to get a full-screen video)

Song of the Wanderer by Dan Forrest and Johanna Anderson

Dare to Prepare November 6, 2022
This week at the Bradenton/Sarasota congregation we are using the theme “Action Brings Blessings”. The World Church theme is, “Have Courage” and is based on Haggai 1:15b-2:9. At a high-level the two themes can be perceived as somewhat similar, in that many times, we must muster up the courage to take action, and we develop strength through the faith that God is with us and will bless us.This week rather than focus on the Haggai scripture, here is a selection of scriptures that tie together both themes:

  • 1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
  • 1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
  • 1 Timothy 6:18-19 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
  • Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Here is a question to consider, keeping in mind that Sunday is communion in most congregations as well.

What action do you need to take today that will lead to blessing tomorrow?

Please pray for presider of your service, your speaker and all others who will participate this week.

The song selection this week is again from Kathy Troccoli and is called “I Will Choose Christ”. It fits both themes quite nicely:

Dare to Prepare October 30, 2022This week at the Bradenton/Sarasota congregation we are using the theme “Let Your Light Shine”. What we are doing is so different from the World Church resources for the wider theme of “Write the Vision” that I am only going to focus on the light theme and hope that those of you who are worshipping in other congregations this week will find it meaningful in your preparations.In Bradenton/Sarasota we have had almost no children attending regularly since we came out of the pandemic lockdown and there are several reasons for that. There are special Sundays when we’ve been able to attract a few to come out and join us and we’re coming up to one of those Sundays.On the last Sunday in October, we have ”Trunk or Treat” after church in the parking lot. We have pizza and activities and decorate cookies while some in the congregation decorates the trunks of their cars and put out baskets of candy or other treats for the children to come by and share with them. All of the children dress up and many of the adults do as well.Those planning the service, including Carolyn Deering, Jim Deering and Nancy Skene want  the service to be fun, uplifting, and joyful. And they want a welcoming light to emanate from the congregation to the children so that they feel the love of Christ through us.“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)Please pray for presider, Carolyn Deering and all who will participate including several children, so that the love of Christ will shine through.The song selection this week is from Kathy Troccoli and is called “Go Light Your World”. I hope it has value for your preparation no matter what congregation you worship in this Sunday. It can be found here:https://youtu.be/CVqR6kTu8lE
Dare to Prepare October 23, 2022Theme this week is “Rain Down” based on Joel 2:23-32. A version of the scripture reference can be found here.Thoughts Adapted from the World Church Resources for October 23rd:References and evidence within the Book of Joel suggest the prophet probably lived during the time after the return of the Jewish exiles to Jerusalem from Babylon. Joel may have been a “cultic prophet,” who worked with the priests in the temple after it was completed. He appears to be involved in the worship life of Jerusalem, and his voice rings with authority when he encourages the people to repent, fast, and worship.In Chapter 1 and the start of Chapter 2, we learn a plague of locusts devoured the crops in Judah, causing hunger for both people and animals. Joel refers to the locusts as an army, destroying the land, in punishment for the sins of the Jews. He begs the people to gather to worship God, pray for relief from the plague of locusts, and repent of their sins.Today’s scripture passage begins with a word of hope. The people listened to Joel’s instructions, and repented. God heard their prayers and saw the devastation caused by the locusts.In response, God sent the rainfall early, to restore the land so crops will grow once again. People will enjoy plenty of grain, wine, and oil. They will eat in plenty. Because of God’s blessings and bounty, the people will worship and praise God. They will know that God is with them. The covenant, which was broken by the people, will be re-established and God will be in their midst. Furthermore, the restoration of their fortunes will be proof there is no god but the Lord.Ideas to ConsiderThe questions to consider this week seemed a little simplistic and a little obvious, such as “What is the modern-day equivalent of a plague of locusts?” It kind of felt like well, duh!?!? after everything we’ve all been through in the last 2-plus years. A more positive consideration would be to remind ourselves that no matter what we are going through individually, collectively as a congregation, collectively as a community a country or a world, God’s children have throughout history suffered similarly or worse. Moving closer in relationship with each other and the Lord makes all things easier to endure and brings blessings in abundance.This week’s song is “Without Music” by Carolyn Arends. The song reminds us what a great gift from God music is. It has the ability to give us feelings of hope, heal our soul and bring us peace and joy in the worst of circumstances.
Dare to Prepare October 16, 2022Theme this week is “Written On Our Hearts” based on Jeremiah 31:27-34. A version of the scripture reference can be found here.In the Bradenton/Sarasota congregation, we’ll be having the annual business meeting with election of officers and budget approval for 2023, so we decided our 11:00am worship service would be recommitment service with the theme “Recommit to our Discipleship”.  As you prepare for this Sunday, please prepare for and pray for the business meeting as well as the worship service.The adapted Central Ideas and Questions to Consider are appropriate for either theme:Central Ideas

  1. Jeremiah’s theology centered around the Mosaic covenant and his attempt to call the people to accountability for breaking their promises to God.
  2. God promised to write a new covenant on their hearts, which would cause them to consistently yearn to be faithful.
  3. The people would know God intimately in a relationship that arises naturally from deep inside. God will forgive and forget their sins.

Questions to Consider

  1. We often refer to Jesus Christ as the bringer of the new covenant. Is this the covenant that is “written on our hearts”? Does it cause us to yearn to be faithful?
  2. How intimately do you feel you know God?

Generosity Cycle

Starting on the 16th of October for six Sundays, the World Church would like us to focus additional attention on The Disciples Generous response through what they are calling the Generosity Cycle. Click here to view an introductory video to watch since no matter which congregation you attend, they may be using it.

To Summarize, the traditional covenant language affirms the relationship between humans and God: “I will be their God and they shall be my people” (v. 33). There will be no need to teach one another about God, for they will know God directly, in an intimate, cherished relationship that arises naturally from deep inside. God will forgive their sins and forget their past misdeeds. What a powerful message of hope, forgiveness, and Divine love!

The song this week is a medley by Amy Grant that pulls in ideas from both themes and includes “Jesus Loves Me/They’ll Know We Are Christians/Helping Hand”

Dare to Prepare October 9, 2022

Theme this week is “Seek the Welfare of the City”

The scripture reference is Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7, and is based on a letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. The scripture can be found here:

Adapted from the World Church Worship Resources are the following Central Ideas and Questions to Consider:

Central Ideas

  1. Jeremiah’s letter was sent to counter false predictions of a quick return to Judah.
  2. He told the exiles to build new lives, marry, and have children, to ensure the continuity of God’s people.
  3. Seeking the welfare of Babylon and praying for their captors is consistent with Christ’s teachings: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
  4. Jeremiah saw the Babylonians as God’s instruments in punishing the Jews. By submitting to their captors, the exiles were submitting to the will of God.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the advice to “seek the welfare of the city” (v. 7) suggest the idea of Christians as sojourners (temporary residents, journeying towards God’s kingdom)?
  2. Read Jeremiah 29:7 about “seeking the welfare of the city,” and then read Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a. What similarities are there between these two sacred texts?
    D&C 163:4a. God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering.
  3. Compare Jeremiah’s counsel to build communities in Babylon with the moment in Community of Christ history when Joseph Smith III advised the scattered church members to create lives as disciples where they already were settled. (See pages 122–124 in The Journey of a People: The Era of Reorganization, 1844 to 1946, by Mark Scherer, published by Community of Christ Seminary Press.)

The song this week helps pull all of the thoughts together, because we should be realizing that God knows where we are and can always find us no matter what our location and circumstances.

Casting Crowns “God of All My Days”

Dare to Prepare for October 2, 2022

The Theme this week is ”Si tuvieras fe/If You Only Had Faith”

The focal Scripture is from Luke 17:5-10 and a version of the scripture can be found here:

Central Ideas from the World Church Worship Resources

  1. The demands of discipleship can be difficult.
  2. As disciples, we already have faith. Let’s use it!
  3. With faith it is possible to live into a new way of being in relationship with one another in the peaceable kingdom of God.
  4. As disciples we belong to God—all of our time, energy, and possessions.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are some discipleship expectations that are hard to live up to?
  2. In what ways can you exercise the faith you already have?
  3. What ideas seem impossible and improbable that would further Christ’s mission?
  4. What “prophetic imagination” is God creating in you?
  5. How can the reign of God become a reality in your community?
  6. If we belong to God, what does it mean to live a life of generosity?

The song this week is Kathy Troccoli’s “My Life Is In Your Hands” and it talks about how life can be hard, but we always have hope as long as we are willing to have the faith to put our lives in God’s hands.


Dare to Prepare September 25, 2022

The theme this week is “A Word of Hope”

Scripture Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 and can be found here.

Central Ideas from the World Church Resources

  1. With the final siege of Jerusalem, Jeremiah’s message changes from judgment to hope.
  2. Jeremiah arranged to buy his cousin’s land legally, despite the imminent fall of Jerusalem.
  3. Every detail of the transaction was meticulously recorded and preserved for posterity, according to the law.
  4. The symbolic action was a promise that even though Jerusalem and Judah would fall, there would come a time when the Jews would return and once more buy and sell land. They had a future to look forward to.

Questions to Ponder

  1. If your world were threatened by complete destruction, what would you do as a symbolic action of hope?
  2. How can you live radical hope in your daily life amid the brokenness of the world?
  3. How is God truly the God of history? Where do you see the promise of God’s grace and forgiveness taking shape in unfolding historical events in the world today?

The song this week is “Thy Word” sung by Amy Grant which has always been a song about hope which says that no matter what we may be facing, God has made promises that we can count on:


Dare to Prepare for September 18, 2022

Theme: Practice Faithful Stewardship

Scripture: Luke 16:1-13

The scripture can be problematic depending on how we interpret the action of the manager and the master’s reaction to it. This could be due partly to the negative connotations we put on the word “shrewd” but a couple of synonyms to shrewd are “clever” and “discerning,” which when substituted for shrewd cast a different light on the exchange.

From the Community of Christ World Church Resources, here are some central ideas and questions to ponder prior to the message.

Central Ideas

  1. It requires resourcefulness to manage what God has entrusted to us.
  2. God’s grace is available to all who respond to the call to life as a disciple. The master in the parable was graceful and forgiving.
  3. Disciples of Jesus Christ are to be faithful in mission whether they deal with small or vast resources.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are your impressions of the actions of the manager and of the master?
  2. Why is it important to be shrewd in managing the resources placed in our trust?
  3. This text might be uncharacteristic of your impressions of a loving and generous God. How do you make sense of that in terms of the message to the wealthy?
  4. What do the wealthy and those with less have to teach each other? How might this happen in congregational life?

The song choice today is a little different. It’s a cover of the Bob Dylan hit from his Christian themed album Slow Train Coming. There are a few Christian tunes out there that allude to the message of this week but this song really brings home the message that no matter where we come from, our educational or career choices, our interests or hobbies, we all have the same choice to make. It’s very direct and to the point. This version is one of the early musical Zoom collaborations of a band and is done very well. It’s on the long side so you may not make it all the through, but it makes the point early on.


Dare to Prepare for September 11, 2022

The theme this Sunday is “Rejoice! The Lost is Found” and is based on the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The scripture reference is Luke 15:1-10 and can be found here:

Central Ideas adapted from the Community of Christ Worship Resources:

  1. Jesus teaches by deed and words that his message of God’s kingdom is for all people and all are welcome at his table.
  2. Our effort to bring those who are separated from God back into relationship with Him is part of the work to which we have been called.
  3. Seeking and finding the lost is a joyous occasion worth celebrating.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the parallels between the two parables in today’s text?
  2. Why did the shepherd risk the entire flock to find a solitary animal? What does that mean for us today as we engage in Christ’s mission?
  3. When have you been “lost”? How did it feel to be found?

The song this week is a favorite written and sung by Brian Duncan. Our scripture for today is one of the scriptural bases for the lyrics, so it sets the mood for preparing for this week’s message.

“A Heart Like Mine” by Brian Duncan


Dare to Prepare for September 4, 2022

Theme “Have No Fear”

Wayne Talcott was scheduled to speak on Communion Sunday in August and then ended up not feeling well so we had to postpone. But he liked the scripture reference, especially the first part of it, and after we talked about it we decided – why not? We’ll just push the scripture forward and focus on that first part using the theme “Have No Fear.” It’s been a month, but you can refresh yourself in preparation by reviewing the scripture here (I used a different version this month just for a little change in flavor)

Scripture LUKE 12:32–40

Last month when we used this scripture reference, we focused on the part that refers to “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This month, Wayne really wants to focus on the part that assures us that God doesn’t want us to be riddled with and paralyzed by fear.

For those of you who are worshiping in other congregations throughout the church this Sunday, I hope this scripture gives you focus and comfort and spiritual preparedness even though the message you receive may be from Jeremiah and based on the idea that a potter can take clay from a ruined vessel and reshape one that is new and useful.

We will all, no matter where we worship, partake in communion, and focus on “taking in remembrance.” We believe that we don’t participate in this exercise because we fear God, but because we want to have a closer relationship which can be achieved by examining our choices and our behaviors and reconciling with God. Reconciling is a healing and joyful experience, not a fearful and anxious one.

This week’s song was written by Rick Lindgren was recorded by Rick and Sherry decades ago. I happened across it a couple of weeks ago under stressful circumstances and it struck a chord with me differently than it had in the past. No matter how much of life we live or how many times we learn the same lesson we don’t seem to be able to eradicate all fear and anxiety from our lives. And each time we are reminded that we should have no fear, we’re in a new set of circumstances we have not experienced before. I think it’s called being human and I think this song really helps set a mood of peace and calm. I hope it helps you spiritually prepare to receive the message and communion on Sunday.

The title of the song comes from the German theologian Adolf Harnack, who wrote, “The assurance that God rules is to go as far as our fears go, nay as far as life itself.”

“As Far as Your Fears Go” by Rick Lindgren, sung by Sherry and Rick Lindgren.


Dare to Prepare for August 28, 2022

The theme for this Sunday is “Humble Yourself” based on Luke 14: 1, 7-14. A version of the scripture reference can be found Here.

Based on the World Church Resources, the paraphrased central ideas of the message and questions we should consider in our preparation are as follows:

Central Ideas

  1. Servanthood is expressed humbly.
  2. We should extend hospitality and ministry to all.
  3. Ministry is about the “other.”
  4. Allowing others to share their gifts is an important facet of our ministry.

Questions to Consider

  1. How can each of us practice humble servanthood in our congregations and community?
  2. How can your ministry be more about the “other”?
  3. When have you allowed another to share generously his or her gifts with you?
  4. How does your life reflect God’s love and grace?

The song this week is one we all know and have heard hundreds of times. But this particular visual arrangement gives us glimpses into scenarios of everyday people doing extraordinary things, humbly. May it serve as a reminder that that simple things mean a lot to the person who receives the gift.

“Make Me A Servant” sung by the Maranatha Singers.


Dare to Prepare for August 21, 2022

“Listen for the Prophetic Call”
Scripture: Jeremiah 1:4-10

Central Ideas from the World Church resources:

  1. God introduced the call to Jeremiah when he was young and inexperienced.
  2. Jeremiah’s reluctance was proof of his openness and understanding of the challenging call he received.
  3. God promised to give Jeremiah the prophetic words to utter. God would be with him to deliver and help him.

Questions to consider:

  1. What experience or testimony convinced you that God knows you intimately and calls you personally?
  2. Do you believe only the person who refuses or objects to God’s call is qualified to carry it out? Why or why not?
  3. When have you felt the Spirit prompting you to undertake a specific task or mission? How did you respond?

The scripture reference informs us that God may call us at any time and at any age whether we feel prepared, skilled, or experienced. All he asks is that we heed that call and have faith that He will give us what we need to fulfill his request.

The song this week is on the upbeat side but if you read/listen to the lyrics they are perfect for the theme, the scripture and for preparation for this Sunday’s worship.

“Heed the Call” performed by the Common Bond.


Dare to Prepare for August 14, 2022

Theme: “Jesus Brings Holy Disruption”

In preparation for the service this Sunday, you will find the primary support scripture for the theme here: Luke 12:49-56

Central Ideas from the World Church Resources

  1. Following Jesus can be controversial and divisive. Even as we dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of peace, we are aware that pursuing such a worthy cause is often met with opposition.
  2. We are daily asked to consider “what matters most” and how our answer affects our lives.
  3. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ includes making a choice for Christ’s mission as our highest standard and governance. Disciples are asked to risk it all for the sake of the gospel, even when such choices are difficult and heartbreaking.

Questions to Consider

  1. When has your journey with Jesus been difficult?
  2. What does it mean to be willing to risk for the sake of the gospel’s joy, hope, love, and peace?
  3. When has the pursuit of peace caused upheaval in your congregation?
  4. What are ways you find helpful to focus on that which matters most? How have you nurtured these disciplines amid struggle?
  5. How has your baptism—your immersion into the mission of Christ—changed your life and your relationships?

The bottom line is, if you or I choose to serve Christ, humbly and willingly, above all else, putting Him first, it can put us at odds with others including our own family, our friends, our boss. This inspirational song by Kathy Troccoli encapsulates this summary thought in a beautiful melody and poignant lyrics. Meditate on them as you prepare for this week’s service.

I Will Choose Christ – Kathy Troccoli


Dare to Prepare for August 7, 2022

Theme “Where is Your Heart?”

Last week, in preparing for the service themed “Be Rich Toward God,” we alluded to the opening verses to this week’s scripture with the phase “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

You can explore the full scripture for this week here: LUKE 12:32–40

Taken from the World Church Resources for this week, the central ideas to keep in mind are:

  1. When our hearts and attention focus on God, we can respond generously to the needs of others for the sake of the kingdom.
  2. Being a disciple includes intentional preparation for active service.
  3. We need to be on guard, so distractions, weariness, or delays do not deter us from focusing on what matters most—advancing God’s reign on Earth.

Questions to Consider:

  1. How does living as a disciple help you focus on what matters most?
  2. What is it you struggle with that might distract you from God’s love and Christ’s mission?
  3. What spiritual disciplines help you grow your trust in God, prepare for service, and live into the reality of God’s reign?
  4. How is this passage inviting us to grow in generosity?
  5. Have you ever missed something important because you were distracted or tired? How did it feel when you found out after? How did your behavior patterns change because of this experience?

This week’s song follows on perfectly from last week’s and addresses the first part of the scripture very directly. It’s also written and sung by the same artist as last week. We have arrangements of this song that are much better quality than you’ll see here. I selected this old fuzzy clip intentionally. During this live concert Gary Chapman sang his song “Treasure” with such raw emotion and connection that you can’t help but get the message, and ask yourself, “Where is my heart?”


Dare to Prepare for July 31, 2022

The Theme this week is “Be Rich Toward God” and it can be summed up in a line familiar to most of us.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

To spend time with the main scripture for the week from Luke, known as “The Parable of the Rich Fool”,  click here: Luke 12:13-21

Central Ideas of this scripture and its message:

  1. Material wealth is not negative. It is the choice to aspire to wealth and hold onto it for our own wishes that distracts us from attending to the heart of God and the fullness of life.
  2. Our values and attitudes about what matters most are revealed in the choices we make about possessions and material wealth.
  3. God cares that we value and aspire to spiritual treasure.

(Taken from the World Church Resources for July 31, 2022)


Questions to ponder after considering the scripture:

  1. Have you ever felt possessed by your possessions? What does this take away from in time and focus? How did it affect your choices?
  2. How does the culture around us define our values about material wealth?
  3. Do you ever hoard things that would keep you from seeking what is rich in the eyes of God?
  4. What needs to happen in your life to work toward what matters most to the heart of Christ and Christ’s mission?
  5. How can material wealth be “re-visioned” as blessing to be shared in harmony with the Giver of all blessings?

The song chosen this week builds upon the theme for last week “Teach Us to Pray”, while addressing spiritually, the theme for this week. Sometimes when it seems like we never have enough “things”, we’re trying to fill an emptiness, an aching, a craving for something missing – something more.

This song, “Man After My Own Heart” by Gary Chapman is a cry to the Lord to fill that emptiness with love, mercy, grace, healing and closeness in relationship rather than things.


Dare to Prepare for July 24, 2022

“Teach Us to Pray”

The scripture focus this week includes what we’ve come to call “The Lord’s Prayer” which appears to be all encompassing until we find ourselves in profound stress or distress or grief. The Lord’s Prayer is absolute perfection as an example of a regular communication with God under the normal day-to-day ins and outs of life and can be found here: Luke 1-13

But this week, as we prepare for Sunday’s service, what is on so many of our minds is not only our normal day-to-day issues, but also the crises going on in our country and the world and the most immediate crises that Len and Peggy Young and their extended family are experiencing. Not only do many of us know Len and Peggy very well, but so many of their family members touch our congregation and congregations around the world. They are on our minds, in our hearts and in our prayers. Sometimes the pain just puts us in a position where we are at a loss for words.

So, the focus this week is to assist with that — to give us the words when our hearts and minds run out. I found a prayer online that helped me, and two songs that I listen to often when I need comfort and hope in times of extreme stress and concern. I hope they speak to you and stimulate your mind to give you strength and help you find the words to keep praying those mighty prayers for healing, peace and protection for Len and his family.

A Prayer in a Time of Distress

Almighty and everlasting God, You are strength to those who suffer and comfort to those who grieve. Let the prayers of your children who are in trouble rise to you.

Hear our prayer.

We claim your promises of wholeness as we pray for those who are ill or are suffering loss and long for your healing touch.

Hear our prayer.

Make the weak strong, the sick healthy, the broken whole, and confirm those who serve them as agents of your love.

Hear our prayer.

To everyone in distress, grant mercy, grant relief, grant refreshment.

Hear our prayer.

As we begin to rebuild, we commend our neighborhoods to your care. Give us strength of purpose and concern for others, that we may create a community where your will may be done.

Hear our prayer.

God of compassion, you watch our ways, and weave out of terrible happenings wonders of goodness and grace.

Hear our prayer.

Surround those who have been shaken by tragedy with a sense of your present love, and hold them in faith. Though they are lost in grief, may they find you and be comforted;
Through Jesus Christ who was dead, but lives and rules this world with you. Amen.

The following is a song I’ve loved and used as calls to worship and invocations for over 40 years. It has really spoken to me many times.
“Part the Waters” by Charles F. Brown, sung by The Heritage Singers

This song, also a prayer, reminds us that we should be grateful, hopeful and thankful “even unto death.” — “Even Unto Death” written and sung by Audrey Assad.


Dare to Prepare for July 17, 2022

For those who are joining the Bradenton/Sarasota congregation this Sunday, the theme will be “Who Is My Neighbor?” Our speaker and presider, Stu and Nancy Skene, liked the theme and wanted to use it for the third Sunday, and we wanted to support that.

For those of you attending in other congregations or online this week, the World Church theme is “Cry for Justice.”

I’ve tried to plan this week’s preparation in such a way that no matter which theme you receive, you will have been spiritually prepared to listen and to worship.

Because of the dual themes, I’ve chosen the following Call to Worship rather than focus on the specific scripture:

Contemporary Gathering Words (Luke 10)

What must we do to inherit eternal life?
What is written in the Scriptures?
What do they tell us?
You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your strength, and with all your mind.
And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
That is the right answer; it is the key to life.
But do you understand it?
We are not sure. Just who is our neighbor?
Open your eyes and see.Your neighbor is next to you.
Your neighbors surround you!
Lord, we have been so blind.
Have mercy on us!
The Lord is gracious and merciful;
show this same mercy to all.

Taken from ministrymatters.com

The following song, “Some People’s Lives”, written and sung by Janis Ian, talks about all of the sad, lonely, and marginalized that need to be reminded that they are loved and of worth. Following the commandment that Jesus laid out in Luke, we can and should be the ones to remind them. (Click on the “Watch on YouTube” link below.)


Dare to Prepare for July 10, 2022

This week’s theme is “Who is My Neighbor?” We will not meet together as a congregation, but the theme and the preparation are the same for the streaming service.

The main scripture that supports the theme is the familiar story of the Samaritan. You can read it here:  Luke 10:25-37

Central Ideas from this week’s theme (taken from the World Church Worship Helps):

  • Neighbors are found in unexpected places, among unexpected people.
  • Being a neighbor involves a willingness to minister to others outside our usual, acceptable group, as well as accepting the ministry of those same people.
  • Christ-like love is born of compassion; kindness is the true mark of a neighbor.
  • Being a neighbor is a two-way engagement. We need to be neighbors to others with whom we may not feel “safe” or acceptable. In addition, we need to be willing to receive neighborliness from others who may be outside our group of acceptable persons. How do we receive what others offer? Jesus calls us to be aware of our prejudices and divisions and be capable of ministering to and with all “neighbors.”

The key word in the paragraph above is “engagement.” As you watch the video “Do Something,” let it inspire you to be prepared, not only for Sunday’s service, but also future “engagements” with those around you.

Matthew West, ”Do Something ”


 

Dare to Prepare for July 3, 2022

The theme this Sunday is “Forgive Our Pride” and it is Communion Sunday. Sherry Lindgren is presiding, Al Mount is bringing the message

In putting together the service with the Worship Helps, it felt like a lot of elements to this service continue the spirit of last week’s service in Bradenton.  We talked about a lot of concerning things going on in the world and how we should be mindful of all the vulnerable who need prayers, comfort and healing. Pridefulness is something we all struggle with from time to time as the poorest among those we know and love often has so much more than those outside of our faith and our country. It’s good to be reminded to look inward and ask for healing and forgiveness as we prepare for communion.

Al Mount will be focusing his remarks on Luke 15:11-32, which is the story of the prodigal son. It goes so well with the theme. You can read a version of the scripture here.

Please keep the speaker, presider, and all participants in your prayers this week as you prepare to worship and prepare yourself for the sacrament of communion.

A favorite, yet lesser-known Amy Grant song brings to mind aspects of the prodigal son story. As you meditate on the words as they pertain to this service, you may be able to relate it to your own relationship experiences and find comfort.

Amy Grant – The Prodigal (“I’ll be Waiting”)


For Worship on June 26, 2022

This Sunday the Bradenton/Sarasota congregation is having a special service in the Fellowship Hall with the theme, “Words for Worship in a Time of War.” It is a service that contains scriptures, readings, songs, and prayers. The service was put together by John L. Bell, a Scottish liturgical writer and composer who has been recognized by the Community of Christ for his work in the area of peace. It is recommended by the World Church, and we had the opportunity to use the service and its contents copyright free before June 30th, so we jumped at the chance.

The world is currently focusing a lot of attention on the war taking place in Ukraine, so this service is timely, but it will also be used to point out and remind us that there are many wars that have been and still are taking place in many countries near and far.

The songs being used in the service will not be familiar to most in attendance. To help prepare for the service, please familiarize yourself with the following hymns. The first one is CCS 225, Ososo (“Come Now, O Prince of Peace”) It is sung in many languages which you will hear. It is sung twice in English and the congregation will join in on those verses (If you know the other languages, feel free to sing along). This was filmed in the garden at the Temple in Independence, MO.

The second hymn is the Ukrainian Kyrie. This will be sung 2/3rds of the way through the first prayer. A portion of the prayer will be read, then we will sing this three times: first Kyrie eleison (God have mercy), then Christie eleison (Christ have mercy), then repeat Kyrie eleison (God have mercy).

There will be other songs used, but for one, the first verse will be a solo to teach the melody, and the closing hymn will be new lyrics set to a familiar hymn tune.

Nanette Dizney and I (Sherry Lindgren) hope that the service we bring you Sunday will be thought provoking, minister to your spirit and bring a sense of hope, compassion, and peace to your soul.


For Worship on June 19, 2022

The theme for this Sunday is ”Discern Holy Presence.” Carolyn Deering is presiding, and Jim Deering is speaking. They are using the theme, but Carolyn will be honoring Fathers as well and Jim is focusing his message on Psalm 46:10 rather than scripture suggested by the World Church resources. Please use the following to spiritually prepare to receive the ministry provided on Sunday

Scripture – Psalm 46:10

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2046%3A10&version=NIV

This following short story is paraphrased from a page from a 2004 Daily Bread. Original is by Charlotte Jones of Sherman Oaks, California.


“A Clear Lens”

“God is our refuge and strength, a present help in trouble… Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:1, 10

It was amazing to me how much better I could see. I had cleaned the lenses of my glasses with a special cleaning liquid and wiped them with a special cloth. Things looked sharper, only because the cloudy lenses were cleaned. It occurred to me how sometimes our spiritual sight gets clouded with “things” like the rush of time and all the potential choices based on diverse factors that confuse and influence us. Sometimes our spiritual lenses need cleaning so we can see more clearly the choices God would have us make.

Spending some time apart to meet with God allows His spirit to touch us so that we can develop clearer vision. Things come into focus and choices become clearer with God in the equation. The frantic pace of daily living is tempered. A peace comes bringing the blessed assurance that God’s [presence] is always a ready resource.


Prayer Thought: Thank you, God, for the love you express for us by keeping your promise to be with us always in our need.

To close out this preparation, play close attention to the words of Amy Grant’s interpretation of this scripture in our every-day modern lives.

“Be Still”


For Worship June 12, 2022 — “Guide Us Into Truth” Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday is observed the Sunday following Pentecost. Christian tradition celebrates the doctrine of the Trinity, God experienced in three persons. God is Creator (traditionally identified as the Father), Jesus Christ is the Redeemer (the son), and the Holy Spirit is the Comforter or Sustainer. In other words, God is one and three.

Meditate on one of our favorite hymns, sung and interpreted by Audrey Assad.

From Community of Christ Basic Beliefs: We believe in one living God who meets us in the testimony of Israel, is revealed in Jesus Christ, and moves through all creation as the Holy Spirit. We affirm the Trinity—God who is a community of three persons.” (www.CofChrist.org/basic-beliefs).

One of the prayers for peace offered in the Worship Resources for this week not only speaks to the Trinity concept but also continues the thoughts that Andrea Cooper presented to us this past Communion/Pentecost Sunday about diversity, unity, expectation, and hope. It is a great way to close out our preparation for this week:

Triune God,

How majestic are all your names, used around the world, as people call upon you! Just as grasping at your greatness leads us beyond simple comprehension, so too does grasping at peace.

What are the ways people are struggling in the world today? What are the actions we can offer that would facilitate peace within those struggles? In what ways can we tangibly move towards peace?

Over and over in Scripture, you call us to be faithful to your many forms, to dig deep into a sense of understanding you. At the same time, you send us to all nations to act and be peace amongst the people who need it most.

Call us today to three acts of peace Lord, just as you are the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Call us to walk with you as creators of peace in the broken places. Call us to point others toward you as Redeemer of a world in search of peace. Call us to generate and sustain real change to broken systems that suppress peace.  

We pray for blessing in all its many forms,

Amen.

—Tiffany and Caleb Brian


For Worship June 5, 2022 — Pentecost Sunday

On Sunday, June 5, there will be several things to contemplate, prepare for and pray about. Sunday is Communion Sunday, but it is also the final Sunday of the Easter season that culminates in Pentecost Sunday.

Preparation for communion should be taken seriously but also joyfully anticipated and prepared for with gratitude and thanks. The lyrics to the first verse of Hymn 532 from Community of Christ Sings aid us in setting the mood for the upcoming sacrament:

We meet as friends at table, to listen, and be heard,
united by the Spirit, attentive to the Word.
Through prayer and conversation, we tune our varied views to Christ,
whose love has made us the bearers of good news.

To prepare our hearts and minds to receive the message of the day, read the scripture from the book of Acts and listen to the music of Patrick Mayberry, which perfectly sets the tone and the mood for the service.

Scripture Reading: Acts 2:1-21

Holy Spirit Come – Patrick Mayberry


For Worship May 29, 2022 — “Receive Blessing”

Nanette Dizney presiding, Al Mount bringing the message, based on the scripture Luke 24:44-53

This Sunday’s scripture is full joy, and hope and the promise of God’s blessing. As you prayerfully prepare for this Sunday’s service, contemplate the scripture, its promises, and its hopes.

As you listen to this week’s upbeat song, bask in the feeling of joy and hope that it brings, called “God’s Got a Blessing (With My Name on It)” as sung by Norman Hutchins.


For Worship May 22, 2022 — “Prepare a Sanctuary”

Scripture: John 14:23-29

23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate,[a] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur you may believe.


This scripture is full of promises of hope and comfort and the idea that we need never feel alone. As you prayerfully prepare for this Sunday’s service, contemplate the scripture, its promises, and its hopes.

Meditate upon the hymn “Abide With Me” as sung by Audrey Assad.


Dare to Prepare — For Worship May 15, 2022

Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Sunday, May 15th, our worship theme is “Love One Another – Can We Do It?” The service will be in the fellowship hall and will include assembling “Manna Bags” to give out to the homeless population of Sarasota and Bradenton.

The bags, which are nylon, waterproof, backpack style, will contain approximately 17 items most needed by the homeless. The final cost of the bags is a little over $9.00/bag and we are fund raising to recoup some of the cost so we can do this again as needed. If you’d like to donate to the Manna Bag project, please give Dick Kramer a check and write Manna Bags on the memo line, or write a designated amount on your envelope during your usual offering.

Please prayerfully consider the theme and the scripture above and prepare to worship and serve this Sunday.

The following video sets the mood. We want this Sunday to be worshipful and fun and bring us closer to each other and Him. (For maximum enjoyment, be sure to watch all the way to the end).

The Newsboys — Love One Another