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Beautiful worship without a sermon

Chapel worship service focuses on our callings, both accepted and ignored

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Megan Delhaie via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — Meaningful worship doesn’t necessarily rely on the traditional Presbyterian Sunday morning centerpiece — a well-crafted and carefully-exegeted 20-minute sermon.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Compassion, Peace & Justice staff proved that once again Wednesday during the online Chapel service they put together and offered the denomination’s national staff.

Most traditional worship elements were present during the service, which was attended by nearly 40 people. Those elements included a call to worship, confession, hymns, two readings from Scripture (the callings of both Jonah and the disciples, part of last week’s lectionary passages), prayer and a benediction. Each element of worship related to the callings we have accepted and those we’ve for whatever reason ignored or said no to.

But no sermon. And yet worshipers left feeling filled and blessed.

Instead of a sermon, organizers invited those in worship to consider the callings they’ve heard throughout their lives, pondering these as part of their consideration:

  • In these moments of stillness, consider the callings in your life, the roads not taken. Like Jonah, have there been times when fear, prejudice, prejudgment or other concerns have caused resistance in you or prevented you from seeing a path God may have invited you to travel?
  • In these moments of stillness, consider the paths and callings you have embraced. What has inspired you to follow these paths? What have you had to leave behind to follow Christ’s invitation? Who have been mentors and companions for whom you have been grateful?

Hymn choices helped articulate the sense of calling most Presbyterians have heard at some point in their lives. Eric Bibb’s “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,” The River’s Voice’s “O Christ, Surround Me” and Janice, Gene & Ali’s “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore” were played. Organizers also showed the Jan. 20 clip of Amanda Gorman reciting her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” during the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

But it was the liturgy that also helped worshipers to think about their calling and who it was who did the calling:

“Gentle and patient

God, you are calling.

Careful and persistent

God, you are calling.

In grieving and in praise

God, you are calling.

Through dawn and midday

God, you are calling.

Unexpected and planned

God, you are calling.

In a still small voice and in power

God, you are calling.

Spontaneous and prepared

God, you are calling.

Willing and protected

God, you are calling.

Our God is eager to share with us wherever we are in our journey. May we be diligent in listening

God, you are calling.”

God’s calling was at the heart of the prayer as well: “We worship you today in recognition of your calling, of your communicating, of your caring to invite us to share in your creative and healing work … God of our moments, of our days and our nights, you speak and you act in the world around us — not only to call all people to you, but also to direct and guide us in the way of healing and wholeness … Lord, we pray that your church may rise up with renewed commitment in answer to your call, that your people may be instruments of your grace and love … Loving God, bless us with an abundant faith, a fruitful ministry, a joyful life. Bless us and all those who gather together to continue the work of Jesus, who came to heal, save and deliver us all. Amen.”

Here’s how worshipers were sent out from the 30-minute service:

“As you go out into the world

May God guide your actions

At home with your household

May Christ’s grace embrace you

In everything you do this week

May the Holy Spirit give you peace

And as you do, remember that God is with you always … guiding your path, calling you by your name, and with you in every step. Amen.”

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