All age liturgy for Noah’s Ark (Narrative Lectionary Year 1, Week 1)

Noah's Ark by Edward Hicks

Noah’s Ark by Edward Hicks

Call to Worship

One: We come together to read the old stories.

Many: We are looking for God’s word to all people, long ago and today.

One: Some of the stories we remember from Sunday School.

Many: The Lord said to Noah, There’s gonna be a floody floody!

One: Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Many: Get those children out of the muddy muddy!

One: Children of the Lord, let us worship God together.

 

Prayer of Confession

Holy One, you made the Earth and all that is in it. We give thanks for the sky and the seas, the mountains and the valleys, the trees and the flowers, the birds that fly and the fish that swim and all the animals that walk or crawl or creep on the land. You called on human beings to care for Creation, to serve you and praise you by loving all you have made.

We don’t always do it well.

We remember the story of Noah, and a time when people forgot to take care of the Earth and each other. We ask forgiveness for the ways we fail to love your world with our whole hearts. Help us to do better, one step at a time, just the way Noah built the ark one cubit at a time.

Left behind, from Peter Spier's "Noah's Ark"

Left behind, from Peter Spier’s “Noah’s Ark”

Assurance of Pardon

The Lord said to Noah, “But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” God made a covenant with Noah, and God keeps a covenant with us. No one will ever be left behind again. Come into the ark of forgiveness, beloved Children of God!

Passing the Peace

In the Ark of this church, we are one family of faith. Sometimes it feels like close quarters! That’s all the more reason to greet one other with a sign of God’s peace. The peace of Christ be with you.

Children’s Time – Have someone lead “Rise and Shine”

First Reading Genesis 6:18-22 (including Litany of Animals)

Reader 1: Hear the words God spoke to Noah.

Reader 2: Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks.

Reader 3: For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.

Reader 4: But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.

Reader 5: And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

Reader 6: Of the birds according to their kinds –

Chorus of Kids: Robins! Sparrows! Flamingos! Ducks! Geese! Chickens! Eagles!

Reader 6: …and of the animals according to their kinds -

Chorus of Kids: Dogs! Cats! Cows! Bunny rabbits! Groundhogs! Deer! Giraffes! Tigers! Lions!

Reader 6: of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind –

Chorus of Kids: Snakes and Mosquitoes and Bears and Honeybees! Elephants and Kangaroosies-roosies!

Reader 6: …two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.

Reader 1: Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. This is the word of the Lord.

Congregation: Thanks be to God.

Second Reading     Genesis 9:8-15 (consider doing some kind of display of a rainbow to accompany v. 12)

******************

Earlier this summer, I thought I might be writing weekly Narrative Lectionary liturgy, but as other projects and an Interim Ministry job arose, I had to let that idea go. I did create this all-age liturgy for Kathrynzj’s congregation (their version has a joke about the Eagles and the Giants, a football rivalry that plays out in their lives together), and when I write other special things for their use, I will gladly share them. I’ll be in the Revised Common Lectionary, though, and I can’t keep up with both on a weekly basis.

To the Quarry

“Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the LORD. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.”

My quarry was the American South of the mid-20th century, a racially-mixed city where I grew up in a neighborhood so oddly quaint that it felt more like the setting for a 19th century novel written by a maiden lady with keen skills of social observation. My childhood memories skew to the excessively genteel. I can see my mother sitting at her desk, writing thank you notes, and have few memories of my father not wearing a necktie, unless he was playing tennis or in his pajamas. We lived in an old city, and both sides of the family had been there for many generations. One of my grandmothers was President of the Historical Association and an avid preservationist. Therefore I almost cannot help looking back and pondering how we all got to where we are.

There are a lot of influences in each of our lives that form us.

  • Location – where were you born, and how did the climate and the environment impact you?
  • Ethnicity and Nationality – what are the cultural influences that mattered in your early life?
  • Religion – what stream of faith formed you?

Isaiah wrote these verses for a people returned from exile in Babylon to take up living in Jerusalem again. Their faith tied them to a location their ancestors had left behind unwillingly, but by this time not only had that place been changed by years of occupation, the people coming back were not the ones who left in the first place. “Returned” is a term that applies to their race, but not to the individuals making the trip. They went back to the location of the Temple, the place where God could assuredly be found – but the occupying forces had destroyed the Temple, too.

Look to the rock from which you were hewn – look to the ancestors, says Isaiah, and to the way God dealt with them. Abraham was only one person, but from him came many. The heritage of the returned exiles included many people who felt like they lived at the end of the line, but God delivered them. Isaiah wrote a word of encouragement:

This land may feel unfamiliar, but no matter how complicated things seem, God is with you.

Look to the Rock.

Peter, the gospels tell us, grew up by the Sea of Galilee. He worked beside his brother, Andrew, casting the nets and supporting their families. He grew up in a family-oriented time, but he left both boat and family to follow Jesus. All the gospels suggest he had a strong, impulsive personality. When Jesus asked the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter never hesitated. “You are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus called him the Rock; “On this rock,” he said, “I will build my church.” We remember Peter for his denial on the night of Jesus’ arrest, but we also remember that he went on to lead the early church, preaching and teaching and eventually being crucified himself.

Look to the rock from which we are hewn, to the quarry from which we were dug.

My childhood home may have been quaint and genteel, but it was also segregated. The African-American women I knew were all maids in our neighborhood. The one I remember best took care of my brother and me. No one thought it was strange for me to call her by her first name, Catherine. The one man of color I knew worked at my church; he was the janitor. No one thought it was odd for a very little girl to call him by his last name without a “Mr.” in front of it.

That’s been on my mind the past few weeks, as we’ve watched some terrible scenes unfold on television, scenes of armored vehicles on the streets, cell phone video of what amounted to an execution. I don’t like to see these things when they take place in Syria. I hate to see these things when they take place in our country.

I wish that scenes of violent oppression and stories of racial prejudice were ancient history, or at least as far away as my childhood. I was sheltered from the violent reaction to the Civil Rights movement – the violent reaction of white people, my people. I could hide behind the memory of the times we made sure to visit with Catherine after we moved away, because it’s a true story, and I could tell you about how my mother was one of a minority of white women employing help who bothered to do the Social Security paperwork, but the truth is we lived in a segregated and oppressive time and place, where the drug store counters and the water fountains had signs saying who could use them and who could not.

And what do we have now, fifty years later?

We have armored vehicles on the streets, deployed against our citizens. We have flash-bangs and tear gas canisters being used on our citizens. We have a church being raided in an American city – an AMERICAN city – for the sin of offering protestors first aid and water bottles and a place to gather.

We see scenes that look like the gates of Hell.

Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” It’s too easy to read the gospel lesson this morning and pretend it refers to some far-off confrontation between metaphysical powers or imagine it as an apocalyptic IMAX summer blockbuster with Biblical figures instead of comic book characters.

The truth of these past two weeks has been a grindingly every-day hell. It’s as horribly ordinary as the delay of the first day of school, or a trip to the convenience store interrupted by a shooting, or a deadly walk home on a residential street. In big cities and middle class suburbs and small towns there is hatred and fear and cruelty. Mistrust feeds on mistrust. People get righteously angry. People speak painful truths. People do things we wish they wouldn’t. People on all sides do all these things. We – collectively – commit the sin of treating God’s beloved children as “other.”

Even without the tear gas, it’s hellish.

If it feels unmanageable to you, you’re in good company.

Listen to these ancient words, from Psalm 138:

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138:7-8, NRSV)

The Israelites coming back from Babylon didn’t know how they were going to manage in Jerusalem. Peter had no idea how to be the person Jesus claimed he would be. I grew up and through many awkward relationships with African-American classmates and co-workers before I could be a real friend to any of them. I’m pretty sure most of the faithful sitting in churches this Sunday morning have a feeling we ought to be doing something about racism, but just don’t know where to start.

I don’t like to use “we” here. I want to say “they” and make it someone else’s responsibility, someone else’s problem. We are afraid we don’t know what to say, or what to do, or we tell ourselves these things only happen far away from us. We could turn our heads away, but the trouble is, we read Isaiah this morning.

“Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the LORD. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.”

We want to be those people, don’t we, to have that kind of persistent faith? That quarry from which I was dug had some pretty faithful people in it. They couldn’t shield me entirely from the unconscious racism of our culture, but they could point me to the rock from which we were all hewn. God is that rock, a God of steadfast and enduring love for all people. God is that rock, who loves all people *so* much that God became one of us to make sure we knew it.

Peter knew. He knew God was in the world, even before the world was ready to know it.

That’s how every new movement starts. Someone listens to God, even before the rest of the world is ready. Someone puts it into words. People start to listen. The world begins to change.

We can see it some places. But we aren’t all the way there yet. It seems like it should be simple, but when we turn on the TV, there they are again, the fiery gates of Hell, in the middle of a neighborhood.

Greater St. Mark church (snagged from Brian Merritt's Facebook page)

Greater St. Mark church (snagged from Brian Merritt’s Facebook page)

In that neighborhood, the raided church continues to offer first aid and water bottles and a place to gather.

We can do it in any neighborhood when we open out with healing and nurture and community for all beloved children of God. That’s the way to be Christ’s church, founded on a rock, hewn from the quarry of God’s steadfast love.

The gates of Hell can never prevail against it.

*******

(Today’s readings here and here.)

No color line (a prayer for pastors)

I sleep with a preacher
who didn’t sleep much last night.
It’s a familiar feeling
from the last time,
and all the other times,
times when the news holds headlines
that shake our comfortable worlds.

We need shaking, Lord.
We need it so we don’t forget.
We need it so we speak up,
remind ourselves
and tell others
that all people are
Your beloved children.

There is no color line
in Your commonwealth of Love.

I read the news this morning,
and the Times says
the young protestors
will not listen to their elders.
The paper says
there is no respect
for leadership.

Eric Thayer, New York Times

Eric Thayer, New York Times

But I wonder how much longer
we can preach non-violence
when we see the fruits,
when we see the way the strong,
the armed, the militarized,
treat the undefended.

I wonder why we wonder
when no one listens to preachers.

Give us courage
to say the things
that need to be said,
to walk the walk
that needs to be walked,
to live the lives
You call us to live.

Help us, please,
for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Where’s My Water? (a prayer for pastors)

wheres my water 2Lord,

At our house, a little boy,
bathed, fed, clothed,
plays a game on the iPad:
“Where’s My Water?”

He works to get the good
water
past the bad
purple slime and green goo.

I would thank you
for the blessing of an iPad
and a G-rated puzzle game
in the house of two preachers
on Saturday afternoon
and early Sunday morning.

I would thank you.

But our privilege rankles,
and our good luck,
because that’s what it is,
rubs wrong when we read the news.

Our sisters and brothers in Ohio
will get coffee in church only
if they bring a bottle of water;
the public water is toxic.

Children in Gaza go without even
the basic necessities – power and water
and safety -
while children on the other side
of the border live in fear, too.

At the borders,
on the margins,
offering a bottle of water
is a ministry to some,
a sacrilege to others.

Our sisters and brothers in Christ
prepare to preach
feeling dry,
distracted
by the health of those they love,
by a fear of speaking truth,
by a drought of confidence,
a famine of connection,
a poverty of communication.

Where’s our water?

You promise living water,
an ever-flowing stream of
justice and mercy,
waters that wash us
and name us as your own.

We like some parts
of that promise.

We forget that when the waters
close over our heads
we join Jesus in the midst of life
and death.

We are joined by the water,
across time and space.
Living Water, you are with us,
in dry times and
in dire circumstances.
Flow over us and through us.
Make us a channel
for life and water. Amen.

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