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A Liturgy of Lamentation, Prayer and Hope

(Following a Fire)

 

For a variation on this liturgy following Hurricane or Tornado,

see the Prayer Book for the Hurricane & Tornado Seasons

 

by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

While I served a parish in north central Indiana, a neighboring church was burned to the ground by arson.  It was devastating for church members as well as for those of us who shared a partnership in min­istry with them.  Because I knew that the pastor of this Un. Methodist church was essentially numb from shock, I volunteered to shape the liturgy for the following Sunday.  It is an occasional service for which I hope that none of you will ever have occasion.  On the other hand, it serves well as an example of what so many of you have heard me teach -- namely, that the best liturgy comes directly out of the situation of the people, focuses their thoughts, prayers and concerns, and provides a context in which God's word can respond to those thoughts, prayers and concerns.

 

 

 

A Liturgy of Lamentation,

Prayer and Hope

 

P = Presiding Minister    A = Assisting Minister    C = Congregation

 

 

If possible, the people gather at or near the church ruins.

 

Invitation to Worship:

P          Brothers and sisters in Christ, we gather before the ruins of our church to bring before the God of all consolation our tears and our heavy hearts, our prayers and our concerns.  It is God who called us out of darkness into the splendor of his light through our baptisms into Christ.  It is God who formed us as the Church of Jesus Christ in this place.  It is God who blessed us in our ministry to this community and to each other.  In him alone is our hope.  In him and through him we find our being.  As the prophet Jeremiah and the children of Israel poured out their lamentations and prayers to God after the destruction of Jerusalem, so also we pray to the God of our salvation, in the name of the Father, and + of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

C         Amen

 

Communal Lamentation:

A         The roads to Zion mourn.

C         All her gates are desolate.

 

A         The Lord has scorned his altar,

C         And disowned his sanctuary.

 

A         He did not withhold his hand from destroying.

C         Rampart and wall lament;  they languish together.

 

A         From on high he sent fire;

C         It went deep into my bones.

 

A         The elders of  Zion sit on the ground in silence;

C         They have thrown ashes on their heads and put on sackcloth.

 

A         For these things I weep.

C         My eyes flow with tears.

 

A         My children are desolate.

C         For the enemy has prevailed.

 

A         My soul is bereft of peace:

C         I have forgotten what happiness is.

 

A         The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!

C         My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.

 

A         But this I call to mind,

C         And therefore I have hope.

 

A         The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

C         His mercies never come to an end.

 

A         They are new every morning.

C         Great is your faithfulness, O Lord.

 

A         The Lord is my portion, says my soul.

C         Therefore I will hope in him.

                                    from Lamentations 1-3

 

Hymn   "O God, Our Help in Ages Past"

 

Prayer of the Day:

P          The Lord be with you.

C         And also with you.

 

P          Let us pray.  O merciful Father, you teach us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve your children.  Look with pity on the sorrows of your servants.  Remember us, O Lord, in mercy.  Strengthen us in patience;  comfort us with the memory of your goodness;  let your presence shine on us;  and give us peace through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (LBW #225)

C         Amen

 

 

First Lesson:  Is.61:1-4, 10-11

Psalm130

Second Lesson:  1 Cor. 4:7-5:1

 

Hymn:  "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"

 

Gospel:  Mt.5:1-12

 

Sermon

 

Hymn of the Day  "Built on a Rock"

 

Apostles' Creed

 

Exhortation:

P          Brothers and sisters, we have heard the word of God for us, and that word is always a word of hope and blessing.  As God raised his Son Jesus Christ from death to life and gave us each a resurrection faith, so also this church can be raised from the ashes of despair to new life in him. 

                  You are the Church, the living members of the Body of Christ.  The Church lives in you as you live in Christ.  Though our building lays in ruins, still we are called to be the Church in this place -- to share the gospel of Christ's love, to preach the word, to administer the sacraments, to forgive sins, to help those in need.  As the Holy Spirit has given us gifts to fulfill our calling as the Church in this place, so God calls us now to dream dreams and see visions of a future that is filled with the love of God in Christ Jesus.

                  Therefore let us lift our hearts in prayer, in thankfulness for the blessings of the past and in dedication to the mission that lies before us.

 

Litany of Thankfulness and Dedication:

A         Almighty God, merciful Lord, although our hearts are heavy because of the loss of our house of prayer, still we gather as you command us and worship you in beauty and holiness.

C         Yours is the power and the glory forever.

 

A         By your power and glory, we can rejoice even in the midst of our sadness.

C         We can give thanks in all circumstances.

 

A         For calling us to be the Church of Jesus Christ in this place,

C         We give you thanks, O Lord.

 

A         For giving us a beautiful house of prayer and worship for these many years,

C         We give you thanks, O Lord.

 

A         For providing a holy place in which to bring our prayers, confess our sins, and find your presence,

C         We give you thanks, O Lord.

 

A         For providing a sacred place to worship your name, to baptize our infants, to marry our children, and to bury our loved ones,

C         We give you thanks, O Lord.

 

A         For providing an empowering place to hear your word, grow in faith, and be challenged in mission,

C         We give you thanks, O Lord.

 

A         And, dear Lord, for those who so valiantly worked to save your holy sanctuary from the devastating flames, we give you thanks;  those who placed their lives in jeopardy for your house, who battled with hose and ax while wiping tears from their eyes.

C         For these, we give you heartfelt thanks, and ask that you bless them, O Lord.

 

A         We turn to you now for your life-giving word;  we turn to you for faith and hope.

C         We turn to you to ask forgiveness for our sins.

 

A         Where we have failed in our mission,

C         Lord, forgive us.

 

A         Where we have failed to love you wholly or to love our neighbors as ourselves,

C         Lord, forgive us.

 

A         Renew our lives and our faith so that we may be the Church of Jesus Christ in this place.

C         We dedicate our lives to your service.

 

A         Raise us up to new life in you, as you raised your own Son from death and the grave.

C         We dedicate our lives to your service.

 

A         Empower us by the Holy Spirit to dream dreams and see visions, that all things may be made new in you.

C         We dedicate our lives to your service.

 

A         Make us a living Church in Christ's name, holy unto you and precious in your sight.

C         We dedicate our lives to your service.

 

A         Make us to be Christ in the world, finding new ways to declare your love to those around us.

C         We dedicate our lives to your service.

 

A         Renew our faith, build up our hope, so that this house of prayer may rise like a phoenix from the ashes, until its walls again resound with glory and praise of your holy name.

C         All honor and glory and praise to you, O Lord, Holy Father, with your Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen

 

Peace:

P          Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you;  my peace I give to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."  The peace of the Lord be with you always.

C         And also with you.

 

All share a sign of peace.

 

Offering

 

Offertory Song

 

Offertory Prayer:

A         Let us pray.  Merciful Father,

C         We bring before you these gifts:  our hearts to love you, our lives to please you, our offerings to serve you.  With them, help us to make a new beginning;  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

Great Thanksgiving

Our Father

 

Distribution

    Lamb of God

    Hymns as desired

 

Post-Communion Prayer

 

Solemn Blessing:

P          As God promised to make all things new, may he bring you to a new beginning in Christ.

C         Amen

 

P          May you find your future in Christ to be as rich and as blessed as your past.

C         Amen

 

P          May your lives be holy and acceptable to the Lord, and your dreams filled with the power of the Spirit.

C         Amen

 

P          And may the blessing of almighty God, Father,  + Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you now and forever.

C         Amen

 

A         Go in peace.  Serve the Lord.

C         Thanks be to God.