**This first Sunday in Lent, Ginter Park Baptist Church has had to cancel activities. This was to be the first Sunday of a series entitled, Walking into Darkness based on Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Dark. The following is an adaptation of the liturgy planned for the day. May it help you to worship… Pealing the Hour – (Enjoy this clip of the bells pealing at the Cathedral of Saint Paul as you settle your spirit into worship.) Prayer of Invocation – Holy God, on this morning when we feel the frustration of a week interrupted by weather, we seek a holy interruption in our life. As we are unable to gather together as the body in worship, we feel the absence of community. May that be a meaningful reminder of the significance the habit of worshiping together has for our faith. As we come before you to worship, connect us though we be apart. Grant us courage to welcome your presence. Help us to encounter you in this season of “learning to walk in the dark” as we follow the footsteps of your son, Jesus the Christ who taught us to pray… Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
Scripture Reading- Matthew 8:11-12
“I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 1while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Reading from Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor- “Courage,” [James Bremner writes], “which is no more than the management of fear, must be practiced. For this, children need a widespread, easily obtained, cheap, renewable source of something scary but not actually dangerous.” Darkness, he says, fits that bill…How do we develop the courage to walk in the dark if we are never asked to practice?…The connection between light and safety may never be fully understood…since what light can really do and what we imagine it can do are not completely different things. If we believe a bright security light keeps us safer after dark, there is not a statistic in the world with power to persuade us otherwise. (Pages 37 and 71.)
Confessional Prayer- O Lord for whom the night is as day, we confess our fear of the dark. From childhood anxieties of monsters under the bed, to fears of criminals hiding in darkened streets, we imagine the worst when we cannot see. We admit that our fears run wild in our minds when we feel vulnerable. Forgive us when we consciously make wasteful and hurtful decisions based on irrational fears. Grant us the courage to walk in the dark, to practice calming our fears and trusting your presence even there. Teach us to walk in faith – the conviction of things not seen – and not in fear. In the name of Jesus, who shines in the darkness and is not overcome, we pray. Amen.
Kyrie Eleison - (Listen to this recording of Benedictine monks chanting the kyrie.)
Extinguishing First Candle - (The first of the Tenebrae candles is extinguished.)
Assurance of Forgiveness – Psalm 139:1-2, 7-12, 23-24 O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Call: Friends, believe the good news of God.
Response: In Jesus Christ, we are made whole.
Anthem – Once Upon a Tree by Pepper Choplin
Once upon a tree, a good man died,
and though He did no crime, He was crucified.
If the story ended there, I would have no song to share,
But my heart will ever sing the story.
Once upon a tree, so the story goes,
and all its mystery surely no one knows.
Could the Father’s will be done through the suff’ring of His Son?
And there comes the answer, “Once upon a tree.”
For God so loved the world, He gave His priceless pearl.
What greater love could there be?
He died, He rose again, still the story doesn’t end,
for His spirit is living in me.
What tale of human love could there ever be told?
What song could compare with the one I hold?
Through ev’rything I am and through ev’rything I’ll be,
Let me sing my story: “Once upon a tree.”
Offering - (You may give an offering through the “Give Online” link on the Ginter Park website, if you would like.)
Offertory Prayer - Thank you, Generous God, for the many gifts you have given us. Thank you for the opportunity to share in your work through generously giving of our resources. Because you have blessed us, we have much to give. May this offering express our gratitude, and, be used to share your love and goodness with the world. For this is the work, your work, to which we dedicate all of who we are and what we have. Amen.
Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:1-3, 18-21 Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me…When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
Reflection- (The reflection is a compilation of excerpts from Learning to Walk in the Dark helping to introduce our Lenten worship series.)
Benediction - In the goodness of God, you were created by God in the image of God. By the grace of God, you are being renewed and recreated this day, and, all of your days. Go now with God’s blessing and peace. The peace that passes all understanding. Amen.