A Week of Hard Questions: A Prayer

God, this week I asked hard questions

About love and tradition and cultural differences. I asked (rather timidly even) if race played a part to our reactions.

And soon I found myself hip deep in a quagmire of pain.

People were triggered. They felt they needed to defend their pain.

And it was hard God, and part of me wanted to take it all back. Because I don’t want to create heartache.

But then I remembered two weeks ago when someone asked me hard questions about love and inclusion and the brokenness of the system that I perpetuated.

And although that was embarrassing and hard. I lived through it.

And in reflecting this experience I remembered that part of why I asked the hard questions this week was because as of last week I was tired of us: me, the church, consumer culture, ignoring hard issues and perpetuating whatever was comfortable for us.

Did you ever notice Jesus really likes to answer a question with a harder question?

You deconstructed me Lord. And I confess I need you to bless this mess today, because I’m going to be in the deconstructed zone for a while.

Because once God starts to deconstruct you, it becomes easier for you to see other places where the threads of normal need to be pulled apart.

And you can choose to continue the work God started, but it’s up to you.

So I guess I’ve reached a new level of maturity, where I stay in the muck longer than is comfortable, and I feel the anguish of racism on top of the anguish of those in pain.

And as my heart aches, I am thankful for all the times I was able to say:

“I don’t know. “

And “I hear you.”

As I sat with the pain and let go of the reasons and the arguments.

Do you sometimes say I don’t know God?

I don’t know

But thank you for helping me to brave the muck; and help me to muddle through, or sit, or cry. Help me to do this hard questioning thing I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Gathering & Gospelling: Worship I

Worship I
Chapter 1 Decide Why You are Really Gathering: Practicing Communion
Communion, Suggestion: A Bring Your Own Picnic especially if you are doing Outdoor worship

Scripture
1 Corinthians 10:16-17
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
John 6:30-35
So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Confession: Reflective Questions
What brings you to Church Today: Answer with the first thing that comes to your head Specific and Silly Reasons are great! Prepare to Share these during Joys and Concerns (p. 33 TAG)
Where do you see God at work in your life this week?

Call to Worship:
Jesus says I am the bread of life
Come let us feast together
Jesus says whoever believes in me will never hunger nor thirst
Come let us gather and welcome one another to the meal
God is the reason we are here, let us gather in the name of God
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Joys & Concerns: Invite people to share why they came to church by mutual invitation—after someone shares they invite someone else to also share. If you have a large church, create some quick mini groups and do mini joys and concerns where people pray for one another and hear and pray celebrate whatever reasons individuals came to church that day: remember God works through snacks, the need for community, and “I don’t know.”

Creative Activity: Goal: To See God
Partner up
Think of your most important experience with God in your life.
Take turns talking for 4 minutes each (I’ll time you) without stopping. Pray for the person speaking
Switch (inspired by Unbinding the Gospel p. 22)

Homework: Bring in Food Pantry Items or monetary donations
Study Verse (print out to take home): Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread 1 Corinthians 10:17

Prayer of Dedication/the Day: God remind us why we are here. Help us to set the intention to be one body, one bread. Help us to find and include more people. For many hunger for the nourishment of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for making us accountable to you, and remind us always, especially when we get off track, that you love us no matter what. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (TAG 24 & 26 desired outcome)

Hymn Suggestions: We Gather Together, Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine, Jesus Loves Me, Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us, Blest Be the Tie that Binds

Gathering & Gospelling Materials

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

If you use this material, please consider donating to my GoFundMe for my Doctorate in Ministry for Creative Writing as a working Theologian. Any Contribution from $5-100 is appreciated and I am happy to provide receipts as needed.  

Gathering & Gospelling Introductory Letter

Hello Friend!

 We are entering into a 6 week series based upon two books "The Art of Gathering" by Priya Parker and "Unbinding the Gospel" by Martha Grace Reese.

Our Purpose: To Gather to experience God’s Presence, and to Invite others to the do the same.

To Create a Space for this we will:
Ask you to Pray in Church and at Home; for the Church and for all those we meet
Creative Worship: Engage with the differences with worship creatively, remember its only 6 weeks.
Spend some time Reflecting on Questions to ourselves in an act of Confession
Pray Some More, Lean on God, Trust God wants this to be done
Participate in a Community Creating Activity during Worship
Study a Verse at Home: Read it, Journal it, Draw it, Memorize it, Engage in a way that works for you!
Do some Homework to continue your journey

I am very excited for this and hope you can join us for some or all of this important journey to deepen our experience with God together as a community.

Gathering & Gospelling Materials

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

If you use this material, please consider donating to my GoFundMe for my Doctorate in Ministry for Creative Writing as a working Theologian. Any Contribution from $5-100 is appreciated and I am happy to provide receipts as needed.  

Gathering & Gospelling! The Worship Series based on The Art of Gathering and Unbinding the Gospel

Gathering and Gospelling

6 Week Worship Series

The time is ripe to invite people into your community. We miss gathering, and we need to remind one another why we do this church thing, and share its importance with one another. Thus this worship series is developed around two works.

Parker, Priya. The Art of Gathering: How we Meet and Why it Matters, Riverhead Books, 2018, New York, New York.

https://www.betterworldbooks.com/search/results?q=The%20Art%20of%20Gathering

Reese, Martha Grace. Unbinding the Gospel: Real Life Evangelism, 2nd Edition, Chalice Press, 2008, St. Louis, Missouri.

https://www.betterworldbooks.com/search/results?q=Unbinding%20the%20Gospel

Each Worship is based upon a chapter, or two from The Art of Gathering. Some exercises and Prayers are from Unbinding the Gospel. After each chapter title is a Worship Title theme for that day.

You do not need to have read these books to do the series, but If you can read at least one it will help you in your writing and development of ideas. It is also a great companion study to read these books in conjunction with or before or after this worship series.

Proposed Order of Worship

Start with Scripture

Confession: Reflective Questions (silent meditation or music playing)

Call to Worship

Hymn

Optional: Confession of Faith: Apostle Creed or some other Confession

Children

Scripture Again

Creative Activity

Sermon

Prayer: Joys & Concerns

Hymn 

Homework

Prayer of Dedication

Notes about the Order of Worship: Worship is ordered without announcements, because of the “Don’t Start a Funeral with Logistics” (TAG p.175) If you must do announcements I suggest printing them out, emailing them after or putting them somewhere around Homework. Note the scripture is read 2x, Confession is done meditatively with some reflective questions for your notebook or to think about. Creative Activity is before the Sermon, and write the sermon to be about 5-7 minutes, or consider skipping the sermon/reflection if your context will allow since time will have been spent DOING the sermon as an activity. 

If you need another hymn or a space for an anthem, feel free. Our practice is to shorten worship in the summer, and we have been having only two hymns (without singing) for Pandemic Worship.

Sample Introductory Letter

Worship 1: Chapter 1 Decide Why You are Really Gathering: Practicing Communion 

Worship 2: Chapter 2 & 4 Close Doors & Create a Temporary Alternative World: Make Holy Spaces

Worship 3: Chapter 3 Don’t be a Chill Host: Active Welcoming& The Invisible Church

Worship 4: Chapter 5 Never Start a Funeral with Logistics: Commitment: Here I am, I am Here 

Worship 5: Chapter 6 Keep Your Best Self Out of My Gathering: Confession & Authenticity & Baptism

Prepare: Figure Out how you will give people their reflective questions  

Have Paper and Pen Ready for each person each session; perhaps give each person a small notebook (and offer to store them), and devise how you will send the Homework and Study Verses home 

If you want doc versions, sample bulletins, and the handouts as a separate materials page, email me at Katyandtheword at Gmail

If you use this material, please consider donating to my GoFundMe for my Doctorate in Ministry for Creative Writing as a working Theologian. Any Contribution from $5-100 is appreciated and I am happy to provide receipts as needed.  

((This series has been developed solely by me Pastor Katy Stenta at Katyandtheword so sadly all errors are my own.))

Under Construction: Goal to finish by end of May

Living By Faith

Galatians 1:13-17, 2:11-21

Luke 18:9-14

Matthew 14:22-33

Psalm 143

Psalm 139

Note: This year in the USA it is Mother’s day which can be controversial in church. These verses hint at, but do not necessitate Mother’s Day, there is a link to a specific Mother’s Day prayers at the end.

Call to Worship 

God, you have formed me, and know me. You have set me apart with your love.

You have given me the gift of faith, loving me, before I even knew what love was. 

You know us, and call us each my name.

Come let us praise our God, who knows us and loves us. 

Call to Worship

God, you call us into faith

You call us, not alone, but together, so that we might better understand your love

God you call us to baptize all nations, in your name

For we are adopted into your grace not by our works, but by the gift of faith

God is calling do your hear?

Let us rejoice in the gift of faith.

Prayer of Confession: (unison) God, please search me and know me. You know the entirety of me, there is no part of me that is hidden from you. I confess that sometimes I startle myself, sometimes my thoughts betray me, sometimes I lose faith. Yet even then, you are there. Your left hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me fast. Keep me in the palm of your hand I pray (Silent Confession) Amen

Prayer of Confession: God, we confess that sometimes we do not feel like the beloved children of God. Too often, we think we have to compete, Too often we squabble, and compare our good works. Too often we proclaim tests of faith, as if faith a gift that is given, rather than a metric to be proven. Forgive us. Open our eyes to your grace and mercy we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: When we fall down, God kneels beside us, helps us back up, and comforts us with her loving arms. And then she whispers into our ears the everlasting truth: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of the Day/Dedication: God let us go into the world sharing this gift of faith we have. Proclaiming your love and sanctuary with every step, every breath and every word, not because it is required, but because it is a celebration of your gift of faith. In your son Jesus Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Hymns; Amazing Grace, God of the Sparrow, Jesus Loves Me, Just As I Am, On Eagle’s Wings. We Walk by Faith and not by Sight

Mother’s Day Links

Mother’s Day Litany

Pandemic Mother’s Day

Complicated Mother’s Day Prayer

Mother’s Day Confession

Pie Prayer

Is there a place where you can go where your just taken cars of for a few days? A tired pastor asked on Twitter

And then 54 pastors dreamed of a retreat with warm hugs and plenty of pie.

Lord we are all needing a place to rest in blessings. Our souls are exhausted. And we are striving to do so much more than go through the motions.

God I’m reminded once again that blessings are not pie, they don’t run out, we don’t need to fight over who has the biggest piece, and we should be emboldened to share our blessings with one another.

Because if blessings are like pie then it’s the miraculous kind pie: varied and never ending and complemented by warm hugs.

God please give us blessings.

Or at least some pie I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/share with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Baptisms and Miracles

To modern day readers, this encounter with the Eunuch may be one of the wackiest texts we encounter. All the reasons that stick out to us as being weird or miraculous were fairly typical of ministry of the day. 

Philip is awoken by an angel and told to hit the road and travel on a specific road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Then the Spirit tells Philip to join the chariot, so Philip runs to catch up to a chariot! Then upon baptism the Spirit whisks Philip away, poof, and the Eunuch goes on rejoicing. In the era that this was written, none of these encounters with angels ro the Holy Spirit would be remarked upon as strange.

The parts that are not as strange to us, are the real miracles of the time:

Philip being converted by his mission experience

A Eunuch who can read ancient Hebrew text and is studying it

A river appears in, what is likely to be, the desert road between two cities. It is unusual for water to be in a place that is not a city, and yet it appears at the exact time that the Eunuch seeks baptism. We do not think hard about water in the desert, but we can be sure the ancient Hebrews and Greeks and Ethiopians did as they traveled. 

In modern times, we have learned a lot. We know that those who go on missions go to convert themselves not others, and think hard about the nature of toxic charity and heroism. We think that reading the texts is normal, or should be and encourage as many people as we can to study them. And we absolutely hope that all people are accepted into the faith. 

So what we consider miracles were considered normal and vice versa. Except for the fact that the Eunuch is queer individual, and we still aren’t sure what the answer to their question “what should prevent me from being baptized?”

Whether swept up in the suddenness of the moment or not having a good answer, Philip does not answer the question, and that itself becomes the answer. 

There is no objection to the baptism, so the moment passes. 

The Ethiopian is so excited to be baptized, that Philip cannot in any circumstances say no. 

No doubt the flashing neon signs fo the angel and Spirit served to help too. Yes that EXACT chariot, that’s the place we mean. No need to wonder if this is the right person, and the fact that they are reading Ancient Hebrew on a scroll is incredible. Here is this person, probably not even allowed in the temple, who takes their faith seriously enough to journey to Jerusalem and is educated enough to read, and not only to read, but to read a different language then that which is spoken in Ethiopia. 

How? Is this Eunuch a descendent of the Hebrews who journeyed and stayed in Egypt? The borders of such countries are unclear, but this individual is clearly a different gender, country and culture than Philip. They even garner such great power as to be the treasurer for the queen. They are riding rich, in a chariot. Did Philip feel overwhelmed by all of these differentials? Did he wonder if he was the right person for the job? Did he rejoice that God gave him such a challenge? 

It is important, as anti-trans legislation rips through the US and the UK, as anti-queer policy rips apart the Methodist and Reformed traditions, as the Pope proclaims that gays cannot get married in the Catholic church, it is important to look at this precedent. 

“What is to prevent me from becoming baptized”

In John, Jesus says: I am the vine and you are branches, abide in my and I in you, so that we might bear fruit. We are once again, reminded that our fates, our health, our prosperity, our faith is intertwined with one another. We must acknowledge one another, work with one another and grow with one another, so that we might all bear fruit. When we put barriers up, when we say we cannot welcome one another, we die on the vine. This is so very true in churches, where people want only people like them to attend. 

This is also true in our economies, where Citi Bank says we have lost $16 Trillion in GDP in the US alone due to our racism https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/09/23/916022472/cost-of-racism-u-s-economy-lost-16-trillion-because-of-discrimination-bank-says

Philip knows what it is to be an outcast and is by no means the least of the disciples, no doubt some part of him sympathized with the Eunuch. After all Philip was almost stoned to death. Philip knows what he is doing. 

So imagine after this incredible journey, after he is swept back to the disciples, after he has baptized this individual, the story he tells–the precedent he sets, is the a eunuch: A queer gender non conforming individual is part of who should be baptized! 

“Go and baptize all people” in Matthew 28:17-20 could be glossed as “I really mean it.” 

I am the vine and your are the branches could be glossed as: we are not meant to discriminate

And Psalm 22 definitely emphasizes that God is for all people and that God promises to be for all generations, even those “Dang Kids” future generations who no doubt will do things differently in the future. 

Hopefully this passage can inspire us to pursue baptism more inclusively and more joyfully. 

And if not, hopefully God sends an angel, the Holy Spirit and a river to help us along the way.

Narrative Lectionary: Council at Jerusalem Prayers

Acts 15:1-18

Luke 2:29-32

Consider:

Matthew 11:28-30

Psalm 22:25-31

Call to Worship (based on Psalm 22:25-31)

From you comes my praise in the great congregation

The poor shall eat and be satisfied, those who seek shall praise God!

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord

Future generations will be told about God, and proclaim God’s deliverance to all people, even those not yet born, God has already done it. Praise God!

Call to Worship (based on Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus says, Come

Come to me all you who are weary, for I will give you rest

Come to me all those carrying heavy burdens, for I will give you rest.

Jesus says, take my yoke, for I am gentle

Come to Jesus, for we can learn from him, and Jesus’s yoke is easy and Jesus’s burden is light.

Come, let us find rest in our souls, together, today.

Call to Confession: Come, let us confess ourselves to the Lord, for Jesus promises to alleviate our burden, we do not have to bear the weight alone.

Prayer of Confession: God I confess that we too often separate one another, judging each other and saying your are not like me. Or, sometimes we ignore our unique gifts and experiences and say: I don’t see color, I don’t see disabilities, I just don’t ask about sexualities or gender. Both invalidate the personhood of my neighbor. Help me, to see and name the commonalities and difference we might have. Help me to listen to other’s experiences without dismissing or ignoring them. Give me the ears to hear and the words to acknowledge the personhood and belovedness of my neighbor, without discrimination or judgment, but with grace, validation and love. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Hear the good news, we are all the children, and nothing we can say or do can change that. Because of this, Jesus will forgive our sins whenever we need God’s grace. Friends proclaim the good news to one another: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication: Lord, let us go into the world with our load slightly lightened. Knowing that God’s yoke is light, and is contained in Jesus Christ’s command to love and serve one another. Let us go and love and serve one another through the power of the Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.

God we need your justice: a prayer

[Blue Green water reflecting the abstract of a mountain, tree and sky with the words “Let Justice Flow Down like Waters and Righteousness like an overflowing stream.] Image found here: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/560064903645243301/

I cannot wait until acts of justice are no longer a surprise, for you know God, and you told us through Amos and Isaiah and Luke that justice that is surprising is no justice at all. It is at worst painted as sacrifice and mercy and is at best the drops of accountability.

I am so thirsty for justice, Lord. And I confess my spirit is dry and brittle, breaking apart in its absence.

Human justice is not even a meager copy of your justice Lord. racism and bigotry poisons any system we might try.

God I cannot wait for your justice to flow like water. So that we taste it on our tongue, so that it rains on us daily from the sky.

I can’t wait until the taste and feel of justice is so familiar that it begins to feel like home.

I can’t wait until the moment that every cry for mercy, every cry for help, every cry for mama is answered–with the swiftness of the Holy Spirit on the wing.

God, I cannot wait, until not one street never ever sees a droplet of blood again. Instead they sparkle with the cleansing waters of justice, instead they are filled so much with justice, that it becomes puddles for the children to splash in, soaking themselves with the liquid.

I cannot wait until justice becomes a child’s plaything—Known so much, that it becomes a part of our very breath and body. I cannot wait until the 60% of water that flows through our bodies is blessed, in the completion of our baptism, into the holy waters of justice imbuing our very selves.

I can’t wait until I can spit justice out on the street with clear truths and gracious words that free my siblings of all colors, creeds, ages, sexualities and genders.

I cannot wait for justice to flood our world. Not like the flood of Noah killing off the bad, but like the rains of the desert, giving the much needed food to the flora and fauna to bloom.

I cannot wait for justice, so I’m going to gather the drops and the dribbles and the driplets I have experienced, and I’m going to share them out to those I meet. Showing them how it cools violence, and refreshes spirits, and is miraculously freer than any other action.

Because my freedom is wrapped up in yours, my humanity is wrapped up in yours, and my justice is wrapped up in yours.

I’m ready to do this justice thing, God. Teach me how to do it I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

With Thanks to Lilla Watson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s works and thanks also Black Twitter who let me listen as they prayed, grieved and celebrated over George Floyd and the guilty verdict of Officer Chauvin.

I’m Mad and that’s not Going to Change: Prayer

@Black Liturgies [Image of Daunte Write in a Red Baseball Cap with the words: “They dress the wounds of my people, as though it were no serious. saying ‘Peace, peace.’ when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6. Watermarked from @BlackLiturgies]

God, I am so mad.

I’m heartbroken by so many things, but I’m mad about the state sanctioned murder of yet another black and brown person.

“Thou shalt not kill” you say. But they say “He had a gun, he looked older, she was suspicious.”

And the streets run with blood, too often the blood of children.

I’m so angry that white terrorists shoot up towns and schools and workplaces and grocery stores and are arrested alive again, and again.

But Black skin is seen as more dangerous than a gun.

I’m so scared of those people who thinking they are keeping us safe: white men and women, cops, and especially white cops.

Lady Jane Illustration [Digital Illustration of a person with flowing green hair, a dark grey jacket, gold hoop earrings and nose ring, trans flag pin, and green shirt. They are clutching their face with their hands. Behind them are pink flowers blooming. The text reads, ‘policing doesn’t keep us safe’]

It makes me think of my friends in college–all 4 of whom were beaten by their father, it makes me think the 3 sisters all who were raped by him throughout their lives, and how they all kept it a secret from each other because of the shame of it. They were hurt by their own father, a cop.

God why is it that we cannot take weapons from abusive individuals? Why is their right to remain armed deemed more important?

Why does their need for violent safety trump my need for peaceful safety?

Why do the police always win?

God I’m angry, and I’m going to stay angry. Because the lack of justice burns my soul. It makes me hunger for a different land, a different way, a different power structure.

God I must confess over and over again Racism is killing us, all of us.

And it’s tricky and can make White People feel safe, when we too are dying. We commit suicide and deal with depression and toxicity all because we are blind and refuse to be healed.

Curse You White Fragility, Male Fragility and American so called Patriotism.

Our communities, economies and peace is dying each and every time one of our Black Siblings die.

Black Lives Matter.

Our families, our relationships, our very understanding of time iteslf suffers whenever a Brown sibling is abused and killed.

Stop Asian Hate, No Human Being is Illegal, Bad Theology Kills.

How can we stop the killing?

Is this how it felt, Lord when your children suffered slavery in Egypt?

Did Jesus weep in Jerusalem because he saw the Jews and the Gentiles and the Samaritans and the Essenes killing each other to win the prize of peace, never understanding that peace can’t be forced or taken or violently enforced.

Is this why you disarmed Your very own Godself? Hanging your Bow in the sky? And did you foresee the rainbow as a sign of acceptance, celebration, inclusion and peace for our queer siblings even as our Trans siblings of color die violently every week in the United States?

Are you angry God? You must be, because I am so angry.

God these are your children, and I am going to stay angry, until things change.

I’ll be here.

Praying

and Working, Protesting, Voting, Calling Representatives, Giving out Food and Water, and Living Out the Anti-Racist Journey and Work.

And I Know I’ll Still

Even After All That

Be Angry.

And it comforts me to know, that you, God, are angry too.

Thank you for this anger Lord.

Amen.

Please feel free to use/share/adapt the prayer with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta. Please credit Lady Jane Illustrations and Black Liturgies for the the apropos and inspirational images.