The Call to Worship
Leader: Affirming our place among the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ let us worship God.
As disciples, we seek to testify to the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord,
to embody that love in the world, and to respond to the leading of God's Holy Spirit.
We seek God's grace in our common effort to understand ever more fully how to live as the body of Christ in our religiously plural and culturally diverse time and place.
Friends, we are called to remember that the Church of Christ has always lived among peoples of many different cultures and religions. Thus we join Christians of many times and places when we ask,
"How do we live in faithfulness to the gospel when our friends and neighbors, colleagues and associates, parents, spouses or children are members of other religious traditions or no religion at all?"
All are made in the image of God. When we meet a human being, no matter what her or his religion, we are meeting a unique creation of the living God. Because we are all children of the one God we are all related to one another, and we may call all men and women our brothers and sisters. Community is a divine gift which we are called to make real in our lives.
A Hymn of Praise
Confession and Pardon
Relationship is part of the nature of God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit in dynamic interrelationship, a unity of three in one. Being made in God's image we are created to live a life of relationship. Let us confess our failures to live according to God's intentions for us.
Holy God, Lord of our lives:
We come before you in thankfulness that you have made us in your image yet confessing our sinful negligence of your plans for our lives. We act in ways that break or undermine the gift of community you have given to us. We set ourselves against each other. We become separated from you and alienated from your creation. We confess that we take the gift of diversity and turn it into a cause of disunity, antagonism and hatred--often because we see ourselves as part of a unique, special community. We sin against God and each other.
We have much to repent, O God. Christians have persecuted the Jews and crusaded against Muslims. Christians have enslaved Africans and other peoples, and have participated in subordinating indigenous peoples and erasing their religious traditions. Many Christians have accepted or perpetuated the use of their religion to bless the imposition of western culture and economic domination. Anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Asian biases, and racism have flourished among us. Lord, in your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.
To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to you, O Lord our God,
until you show us your mercy.
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy,
for we have had more than enough of contempt,
too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,
and of the derision of the proud.
Declaration of Pardon
We are assured that God will abundantly pardon. God is at work in all creation. God promises a restored human community in Christ.
As we wait for the fulfillment of God's promise, we commit ourselves to work for fuller and deeper community in our own time and place.
The Ministry of the Word
A Prayer for Illumination
Prepare our hearts, O God, to accept your Word. Silence in us any voice but your own, that, hearing, we may also obey your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Readings from Scripture
(following the readings of the lectionary, or appropriate to the day and occasion)
Sermon or Reflection
The revelation of God's love in Jesus Christ is the center of our faith. Incarnating both the fullness of God and the fullness of humanity, Jesus Christ initiates a new creation, a world unified in relationship as God originally intended. We believe that Jesus Christ makes real God's will for a life of loving community with God, with the whole human family and with all creation. Through Jesus Christ, Christians believe God offers reconciliation to all. "In Christ God was reconciling the world to [God's]self."
[Prayers of Intercession, or Prayers of the People]
The Passing of the Peace
It is our Christian conviction that reconciliation among people and with the world cannot be separated from the reconciliation offered in Jesus Christ. Jesus, addressing the crowds and the disciples on the mountain, teaches that any who would offer their gift at God's altar must first be reconciled to their brothers and sisters in the human family. In the spirit of reconciliation and of unity in Christ, let us pass the peace among one another.
Leader: The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
All: And also with you.
Our Commitment to Marks of Faithfulness
As Christians we recognize that Jesus is not central to other religious traditions. For brothers and sisters in other communities, the mystery of God takes many forms. Observing this, we are not led to deny the centrality of Christ for our faith, but to contemplate more deeply the meaning of St. Paul's affirmation: "Ever since the creation of the world, [God's] eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things [God] has made."
We have hope because of the Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters when the earth was void and without form, who brings order out of chaos, and can reshape our warped societies.
We believe that our relationships with people of other religious traditions are being shaped by the Spirit who, like the wind, "blows where it chooses." Though we do not always understand the Spirit's purposes, we need never be without hope, for neither we nor the rest of creation are ever without the Spirit of God.
Our experience of the transforming power of God's love overflows in joyous anticipation of a renewed and reconciled humanity. As the Body of Christ, we are called to live out this new reality and to be a sign of the restored community to which all people are called.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we witness in word and deed to this hope.
A Litany of Commitment
In the light of our reflections on Christian discipleship, we can discern ways to approach the challenges of our multi-religious society.
We will serve faithfully, meeting others with open hearts and minds.
All relationship begins with meeting. The model for our meeting others is always the depth of presence and engagement which marked Jesus' meeting with those around him. In our everyday lives, we will meet and form relationships with men and women of other religious traditions. At times these may be difficult relationships, based on bitter memories.
All: However, we have been created for loving community and will not disengage from trying to build bridges of understanding and cooperation throughout the human family.
True relationship involves risk. When we approach others with an open heart, it is possible that we may be hurt. When we encounter others with an open mind, we may have to change our positions or give up certainty, but we may gain new insights.
Prompted to ask new questions, we will search the Scriptures and be attentive to the Spirit in new ways to mature in Christ and in love and service to others. Because those we meet are also God's beloved creatures, this risk is also opportunity. Our knowledge and love of God can be enriched as we hear others proclaim to us how God has worked and empowered their lives.
True relationship respects the other's identity. We encounter the image of God in the particularity of another person's life.
We will meet others as they are, in their particular hopes, ideas, struggles and joys. These are articulated through their own traditions, practices and world-views.
True relationship is based on integrity. If we meet others as they are, then we must accept their right to determine and define their own identity. We also must remain faithful to who we are; only as Christians can we be present with integrity.
We will not ask others to betray their religious commitments, nor will we betray our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
True relationship is rooted in accountability and respect. We approach others in humility, not arrogance. In our relationships we will call ourselves and our partners to a mutual accountability.
We will invite each other to join in building a world of love and justice, but we will also challenge each other's unjust behavior. We can do both only from an attitude of mutual respect.
True relationship offers an opportunity to serve. Jesus comes among us as a servant. We too are given the opportunity to serve others, in response to God's love for us.
We will join with those of other religious traditions to serve the whole of God's creation. Through advocacy, education, direct services and community development, we respond to the realities of a world in need. Our joining with others in such service can be an eloquent proclamation of what it means to be in Christ.
We go forth into the world as Christ's disciples, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
[Written by Margaret Orr Thomas
Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Sunday, November 14, 1999]