Processing with God: Narrative Lectionary, Liturgy, Prayers
Pastor Katy has enjoyed ministry at New Covenant since 2010, where the church has solidified its community focus. Prior to that she studied both Theology and Christian Formation at Princeton Theological Seminary. She also served as an Assistant Chaplain at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital and as the Christian Educational Coordinator at Bethany Presbyterian at Bloomfield, NJ.
She is an writer and is published in Enfleshed, Sermonsuite, Presbyterian's today and Outlook. She writes prayers, liturgy, poems and public theology and is pursuing her doctorate in ministry in Creative Write and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.
She enjoys working within and connecting to the community, is known to laugh a lot during service, and tells as many stories as possible. Pastor Katy loves reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, theater, arts and crafts, music, playing with children and sunshine, and continues to try to be as (w)holistically Christian as possible.
"Publisher after publisher turned down A Wrinkle in Time," L'Engle wrote, "because it deals overtly with the problem of evil, and it was too difficult for children, and was it a children's or an adult's book, anyhow?" The next year it won the prestigious John Newbery Medal.
Tolkien states in the foreword to The Lord of the Rings that he disliked allegories and that the story was not one. Instead he preferred what he termed "applicability", the freedom of the reader to interpret the work in the light of his or her own life and times.
A child asks an average of 447 questions a day Be like a Child, Jesus says They are the greatest in heaven The wonderer The messy, giggling leap-before-they-lookers
So many churches mourn that they do not have children But I do not see them attending sports games or sponsoring tech and college scholarships I don’t see churches at school plays Why God?
If the kingdom of God is like childhood? Why isn’t the church full of coloring and children dancing down the aisles? If the Kingdom of Heaven is children?
I got in so much trouble, Jesus, you know, Because every time I got asked in an interview how I would bring in young families I would ask what the church was doing for the families…
Where do you children congregate, if you’re a congregation? I’d ask. Because if you’ve been on the floor with kiddos– I don’t have to tell you, that is truly heaven.
You don’t have to be the greatest to be with kids They don’t care if your are the best storyteller, or the most beautiful person in the room or if your the most famous I’ll let you in on a secret, when you spend time with them You are all of those things That is how to get to paradise
Instead of asking who is the greatest or how to get there, Jesus tells us to spend time with our children Not to ban books, not to change them to love them and be more like them
How about that ?
Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
Call to Worship We are called God as the children of God Come let us welcome eachother as the children of God God invites us to unburden ourselves Come, let us wonder at God together
(Optional Opening Hymn or Taize)
Reading of Scripture: Matthew 18:1-9
Confession of Sin: God we confess that we are caught up. We stumble. We want to be great, instead of having the questions or wonder or faith of a child. We get caught in our worldly things. Help us to let go of those things we do not be, and to be less weighed down. Teach us to be more like children we pray. Amen.
Silent Confession of Sins (We write ours down and burn them for the imposition of ashes, no water only oil is used and they are smoldered to be put out)
Imposition of Ashes
Assurance of Pardon: (based on Psalm 51) Hear the Good news, God judges us according to God’s lovingkindness and the multitudes of God’s tender mercies. Thus we can say in confidence: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Communion Prayer: (Based on Psalm 146) Jesus Christ is the one who brings all together, forgiving us into being, executing justice so that the hungry might have good thins to eat and the prisoner might be free. Jesus Christ came to open the eyes of the blind and to uphold the blind, the widow. Jesus watches over the Immigrant. This is the one who sets the feast for us, is it any wonder that he forgives our sins and reminds us that we are all human so that we might love and honor one another as children of God together? Come let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us together (The Lord’s Prayer)
Here’s a Prayer to the traumatized Savior Who no one, Not one disciple understood
Here’s a prayer to the mysterious Jesus Who was beyond ken who told stories and parables and riddles and answered questions with questions and ministered to the hurt behind the questions and only maybe, maybe answered 5 or 6
Because Jesus knew that ministry is not about answers But walking with people in their hurt and listening to their stories and sitting by the well waiting
Here’s a Prayer for the Jesus who saw people really saw them, and called them, each by their chosen name, and did not care if it was different than their birth name, what miracle
This is a prayer for Jesus who felt more at home with Lazarus Mary and Martha (or maybe there was just Mary and we conflated one woman into two?) and believed in found families and who had to retreat there when the crowds became overwhelming.
A prayer for the Savior who had to nap and escape to the middle of lakes and the tops of mountains. A prayer for the Savior who cursed fig trees and flipped tables and yelled at the hypocrites and screamed SHUT UP, when the waves got too scary. Here’s a prayer for Jesus, survivor of trauma, even before Even before they went on that hill to the cross And called misfits and the marginal to do the work with them: tax collectors, widows, outcasts and those with foot in mouth syndrome
Here’s a Prayer to Jesus–who said, look for me in the most unlikely places the immigrant, look for me on the edges of society. Do not worry about me getting you, Look for me among the lost sheep, the prodigal the poor, the hungry look for me among the imprisoned those who speak gibberish the sick those without power those without citizenship the queer ones the naked the children the lonely
This is a prayer for Jesus–who does not care about branding or power, or how many people are Christian, how many Christians we produce Christianity is not a product
Here’s a prayer for Jesus, Who is sitting with all of us after a worldwide pandemic from which we all hold grief and trauma and from which, I still haven’t shaped the right prayer So I’m sitting with Jesus–who knows what trauma is and is making the prayer with me.
Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
“He gets You” is really appropriative, because its more about “He gets me: white, straight, cis, conservative, men”
Whereas Jesus does not say “I get you” Jesus says, “Do you see me” And when people ask, “Where were you” He says “I am among the poor, the immigrant, the forgotten, the widowed, the queer, the homeless, the ones without identification, the imprisoned, the ones your eyes slide over because you have deemed them unimportant, the dispossessed, the naked, the hungry, the powerless, the ones you refuse to listen to…” (Matthew 25) Ministry isn’t even about power, its about something else altogether
You can’t brand Jesus for the masses Because that’s getting the whole message backwards
Call to Worship God is calling do you hear? God is calling for forgiveness God is the great accountant Look, even now God’s grace is spilling upon us Come let us drink up God’s grace Come let us gather, by the grace of God
Call to Confession: Is it not beautiful to be able to bring your full self to God? Come let us confess ourselves to God?
Prayer of Confession: God I confess that I do not always understand this forgiveness thing, how do you do it? How am I supposed to do it? Can I forgive when I am still angry? Is there such a thing as forgive and forget? Is seventy-seven times per person, or a metaphor or what? Forgiveness seems to be a complicated thing, please cover me in grace, so I might better glean the beginnings of a forgiveness practice I pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Hear the good news, you are forgiven, as soon as you confess, Jesus has made it so, and hopefully, we can learn how not to make the same mistakes again: thus we can proclaim the good news to one another: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Prayer of the Day/Dedication: Let us go into the world, forgiven and forgiving, ready to embody the grace that God has given us as the confessing Body of Christ. Amen.
Call to Worship God calls us, the deep from the deep God your magnificence is too great for us God you are changed from glory, into glory So you come to us, human, and walk with us Teach us again, today Come let us walk with God
Call to Confession: What is confession, but walking with God? Why don’t we let ourselves walk with God here.
Confession: God we confess that we are overwhelmed by being human. How is it then can we take in your glory of divinity? We feel like we should respond. We feel like we need to do things or say things. And yet, sometimes, stillness is grace. Sometimes we need to just sit with our own humanity. Sometimes its ok to just try to get to know ourselves better, and to remind ourselves that getting to know ourselves is to get to know you. Let us allow ourselves to do that we pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Be still, and know God is with your, today, tomorrow, everyday, and feel the good news: In Jesus Christ you are forgiven.
Prayer of the Day/Dedication: May we walk into the world shaded by God, so that we might better be able to hear and understand the Good News God has for us today. Amen.
Call to Worship (Psalm 84) My soul longs for God My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God Even the sparrow finds a home, a swallow nests Happy are those who live in your house God Come let us find our strength in God Come let us worship the Lord
Call to Confession: Come let us find ourselves in God, through our confession
Prayer of Confession: God we confess that we do not always feel at home with you. We sometimes worry about that weeds, we feel choked by them, or we worry that we are the weeds. We feel parched by longing for you. Let us not worry if there is enough room, because there is enough room, for everybody. Help us to grow, thrive and nurture one another so that we all might know that our mustard seed of faith is enough we pray. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: God loves us into being, God comforts us and God always forgives us, know the good news: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Prayer of the Day/Dedication: God will give us the strength to keep singing our song, and will always welcome us home. Let us go forth confident that there is always enough room for everyone. Amen.
Hymns: His Eye is on the Sparrow, God of the Sparrow, There is a Wideness to God’s Mercy, Amazing Grace
“There are two myths of humanity” I like to remind people, from the pulpit, “The myth of human progress, and the myth that everything is getting worse. The reason that the Bible still speaks to us, is that humans remain humans, a mix of good and bad, and we are still struggling with how to follow God in the mix, and we need that reminder. In fact, God suggests we get that reminder, at minimum, weekly, so here we are reading those stories, and trying to do with this complicated thing called life.” I feel like a preach this kind of reminder at least once a year, because the Bible, and humans and life is a complicated text, and the mythology of humans or the Bible being either perfect or completely terrible are both so easy to run with
“Your baptism is sufficient for your calling” we also tell each other–even as we make each other confess our faith publicly, or run a bunch of tests or learn creeds. This one, we are not so good at. My middle child who is twelve has autism, if we run a membership class (in my teeny-tiny church), we will have to do something completely different for him, which is kind of silly if you think about it. He loves church, for him communion is holy. He loves to participate in the ritual of belonging to God. He knows he is completely part of the community in that moment. He gets it. Plus, he is completely focused on the moment and teeters in anticipation for the bread and cup, unlike the rest of us who are thinking about grocery lists and the like. But he is partially nonverbal, so I don’t know if he will be able to confess his faith (at least that day) Is his baptism sufficient for his faith? Of course it is and my church will accept him with open arms, but I know that the hoops that we have set up are ridiculous, because he has grown that awareness in me.
So when we argue about the ordination tests, and talk about how difficult the texts are for translation, I think about a. our baptism is sufficient for our calling and b. we will run into difficult texts in life. Of course we will, that is the point.
The people who say that the Bible is full of terrible texts are completely and absolutely right, because the Bible is about the tapestry of human life: child abuse, genocide, queer abuse, sexism, rape (of all genders), infertility, xenophobia and more. (I mean you don’t need me to name them all, but I feel like I have to demonstrate my awareness here, which says something in itself, doesn’t it?)
There are times I say this is the good news of the Bible, thanks be to God after reading the text and my voice shakes. I have told my congregation that sometimes I am nervous to preach, and they have displayed surprise that I, a confident extrovert with much experience get fearful sometimes, that sometimes the text is very important, because life’s text is so important. I have explained to my congregation, that if I am not afraid of doing a difficult text justice after another Black or Brown person dies in the context of genocide; or talking about someone being exiled right after another terrible anti-LGBTQIA law has passed; or calls for peace when another mass shooting has hit the news or a healing text comes forward and great tragedy has struck the congregation; or the texts that call to bring down demagogues right after Jan 6th–if I am not awestruck by the timeliness of the texts and a little afraid I am probably not doing God justice.
And at those times, I try to say, publicly, look God I don’t know how this is good news. I am struggling with this text. I am reading this story this week and I am saying “really, really this one God?” (I really do voice this, out loud from the pulpit, I do not hide my reactions when I preach) and the difference is, I’m talking and questioning with my congregation in a sermon, not doing exegesis in a test for my very ordination, alone. I am getting nods, and murmurs, and sighs and catching their eyes. I can do all of that in a sermon: ask the hard questions, leave things unresolved, get reactions and encouragement from the people around me. I try to model that we are in this messiness together.
And I should note, something really important, that we end by praying for things to change, together.
The Bible is a difficult text, because human is difficult. The older I get, the more human Jesus becomes.
I used to take comfort in Jesus being holy, now it seems to be the opposite. I imagine Jesus Christ as a human being. I am able to see him struggling as a human being and find that oh so comforting. I understand that God became human to get closer to us, that the Bible is a difficult text, but Jesus is God contextualizing God for us. And so I write and and I write and I write Jesus into human form, easing Jesus into our lives in ways that I can understand. Because I do not always understand God, but I believe God always understands us, and that brings me comfort.
I love words, I love translating texts, I love the Bible, and I love to hear people’s stories and how God has contextualized them. However, mostly I love wrestling with them all together, in community. I love telling one another, yes being human is hard. Yes, God loves you still. Yes, there is still good news in your life even after that trauma.
And yes, I am advocating looking at all our systems, and figuring out how to be less traumatizing, and still how to evaluate good pastors. And no, I do not think telling people if you have not worked through all of your trauma you cannot be a pastor, because we are human, therefore, we have trauma. The church is one of the least supportive places for trauma, I am sad to say. We can do better. There are ways to understand that human life is a trauma text, and not ask us to produce, produce and produce, and say, your baptism is sufficient for your gifts. It would be good to find spaces for safety for all.
I want to tell people who are wrestling with being human, the church is a good place for you to do that.
I want people who have done all the work to become pastor, to find ways to be competent without being broken.
I want us to be faithful, together.
Katy Stenta is a writer, Student of Creative Writing as Public Theology at Pittsburgh Seminary, and creator of liturgy.
Addendum on Listening: I want to add this in but could not figure out where. I am trying to listen carefully to my colleagues who are LGBTQIA and Black and POC who are stating frankly that the whole Bible is triggering, and that trauma figures in differently. I am sure that the scripture is weighty in a different way for them, and that majority culture has been ignoring what they have been saying and why for basically ever about the ways we talk to them in addition to how we evaluate them, their ministry and what they do. I am also hyperaware that these conversations on social media can be easier or harder depending. Thus I am just trying to observe and listen. I have no doubt that these colleagues are right. It definitely further complicates these conversations–especially as we can fall into demanding Cis-Hetero-White-Norm-Patriarchy Majority reactions without realizing it.