Open Table service — Are Angels still speaking?

Open Table Worship  uses inclusive language and imagery for intimate worship settings at which everyone is welcome and valued.

Compiled and written by Ana Gobledale, UK

Theme:  Are Angels still speaking?

  • What does the Bible say about angels?
  • What do you think about angels?

This complete worship service . . .

  • weaves together scripture, song, reflection & conversation on the topic of angels.
  • is designed for a congregation gathered around tables.
  • can easily be adapted for a more traditional setting.
  • was compiled & written by Ana Gobledale for Open Table

Printouts — ready to print and use

Leader’s Sheet — includes the entire service, with all of the leader’s words written out.

WORD Open Table Leaders Sheets — Angels service

PDF Open Table Leader’s Sheets — Angels service

Handout worship guide — a service sheet easy to tweek to reflect your preferences.

WORD Open Table service sheet — Angels service

PDF Open Table service sheet — Angel service

Materials & Planning

  • Centre piece on each table: theme-related items: angels of all sizes and all varieties
  • Place a copy of the readings, or a Bible marked at the reading, or printed handouts, in the centre of each table. The first reading involves several readers, each receiving a strip of paper cut from the printed sheet.

WORD Bible Readings on angels to distribute

PDF Bible readings on angels to distribute

WORD Prayers for our world — Be not afraid – 2 readers

PDF Prayers for our world — Be not afraid

FINAL Drama – Exodus 20 – 3 readers

  • Bible translations:  suggested are The Inclusive Bible: the first Egalitarian Translation 2007 by Priests for Equality; New Revised Standard Version; or The Message.  Ideally, have all three available. NRSV provides the scholarly translation and TM provides an interpretation in modern vernacular. The Inclusive Bible provides a ready-to-read inclusive language translation.
  • Candles to light (one lit candle to use for lighting others)

  • Communion elements:  juice – or grapes – and bread to be shared (gluten free and non-alcoholic, so no one is excluded). These might be set out before the service on each table, or set aside to be brought forward later in the service.

Gathering

Look at the angels in the centre of your table.

Questions for discussion around the tables:

  • What do you think an angel is? Or is not?
  • Where have your ideas about angels come from?

Purpose: to establish as a group; to each fully arrive, moving from the outside world to being fully present here; to get to know names; to affirm one another as God’s creation.

All:  We are here.  We are who we are.

Introduce yourself using only your first name, then saying either ‘I am here.’ or ‘I am who I am,’ or both.

Alternatively:  Introduce yourself using your first name.  Then say,

‘I am here.’Then everyone responds with the affirmation, ‘You are who you are, created by God.’

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of God stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…

–Luke 2.8-10

Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, this good news is for you, for all of us.  However much you or I feel like an angel or not, or whether we, like the shepherds long ago, have knowingly met an angel face-to-face or not, we are welcome here.  Angels in the Bible, like those that visited the shepherds, often bring the message of peace, saying ‘Do not be afraid. Peace be with you.’  I invite you to turn to those near you, and be an angel to them greeting one another saying, ‘Peace’ or ‘Shalom’ or ‘Saalam,’ whichever you are comfortable with.

Singing our faith

Choose a familiar uplifting song/hymn related to angels.

The congregation might like to choose a favourite.

If a Christmas carol is chosen, and it is neither Advent nor the Christmas season, sing only the relevant verses, keeping the focus on angels and not the entire Nativity story.

Suggestions:  Angel voices ever singing

            While Shepherds watched their flocks by night

     Angels from the realms of glory

            Hark the herald angels sing

     Angels we have heard on high

by Ava-Rose Tonkin, UK

Try singing these alternative lyrics to the tune of ‘Angels from the realms of glory’ written by Chris & Ted Haines, Salisbury UK.

Angels from the realms of glory

Wing your flight around this place,

You who sang creations story,

Bless our worship here with grace

Gloria….In excelsis deo

 

We in church have heard the story

Of Messiah’s humble birth.

We must take to all the city

God’s great love and all its worth.

Gloria……In excelsis deo

Click here for these alternative lyrics to Angels from the realms of glory.

Exploring our Faith

PDF Bible readings on angels to distribute

WORD Bible Readings on angels to distribute

Print up the page of readings and cut into strips to distribute to willing readers. The Leader reads an explanatory comment before each reading.

Leader:  In the Bible, God speaks through angels several times, from the beginning in Genesis to the last book, Revelations.  Angels often bring the message of peace and assurance.  Do not be afraid!  An amazing message spoken into our world, a place which is often full of reasons to be afraid.  We’re going to hear angel’s voices in several readings.

(hand out to readers)

Leader:  God’s angels visit the ancient families of the Bible:

Exodus 20:20-22a & 23:20      Leader or Reader 1

God speaks to Moses, saying: ‘I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way, and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.  Be attentive to the angel, and listen to the angel’s voice.

Genesis 21.17      Reader 1

…  The angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid…

Leader:  God’s angels visit the prophets…

2 Kings 1.15      Reader 2

Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah…do not be afraid ..’

Leader:  God’s angels appear to Mary and Joseph and Zechariah, encouraging them when they feel afraid.  Assuring them of their important roles in the unfolding story of Jesus’s birth.

Matthew 1.20  – First Joseph     Reader 3

…an angel of God appears to Joseph in a dream and says, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

Leader:  Next Zechariah…

Luke 1.13        Reader 4

The angel says to Zechariah, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.

Leader:  Next Mary:

Luke 1.30    Reader 5

The angel says to Mary, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.

Leader:  God’s angels appear to the shepherds in the fields.

Luke 2.8-10   Reader 6

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…

FINAL Drama – Exodus 20 – 3 readers

The three readers are:  Storyteller, Moses and God.

Storyteller: 

In the Bible we hear about God’s angels.

Today’s Bible story includes selected verses from the book of Exodus,

from chapters 20 and 23.

First Moses speaks to the people,

and then God speaks to Moses.

Let’s listen in.

Moses is speaking to the people.

Moses:

Do not be afraid;

for God has come only to test you,

and to put the respect and reverence of God

upon you,

so that you do not sin.

Storyteller: 

Then the people stand at a distance,

while Moses draws near to the thick darkness

where God is.

Now God speaks to Moses:

God: 

I am going to send an angel in front of you,

to guard you on the way,

and to bring you to the place

that I have prepared.

Be attentive to the angel,

and listen to the angel’s voice.

Storyteller:

This is the end of today’s Bible story.

May God bless us with understanding.

Questions and responses might be shared in pairs or threes.  Inform everyone that there will not be any plenary or feedback time.

  • Do you think God’s angels, however we understand them, are still speaking today, to us? Are they still proclaiming, ‘Do not be afraid. God is with you.’?
  • Have you ever encountered what you would call an angel?
  • Consider, when have you been afraid and someone has helped you, like an angel, encouraging you to not be afraid, giving you courage?
  • When have you been the angel someone needed in their life?  What message did you deliver to them?

Celebrating all the angels who have touched our lives, join me in the Angel Litany printed on your service sheets.  We will read responsively.

For all the angels who have spoken to our hearts and touched us with courage,

     We thank you, God.

For all the angels who live in our midst, with whom we work, play and worship,

     We thank you, God.

For all the angels who challenge us to boldly, fearlessly, change the world with them,

     We thank you, God.  Amen.


Light for the journey

Sharing & Caring – Bringing light into our world

  • As we meditate upon angels, especially their message to not be afraid, if you would like to light a candle, to celebrate someone who has been like an angel to you, or to remember someone who is in need of hearing the angels’ message, please do so at this time.
  • If you would like to share for whom you are lighting a candle, feel free to say the name aloud, or you may light a candle in silence.

PDF Prayers for our world — Be not afraid

WORD Prayers for our world — Be not afraid – 2 readers

These prayers of intercession highlight the theme, ‘Do not be afraid.’  They might be read by 2 or more people  before or after the individual candles are lit.

Reader 1:  Hear these words from 1 Peter 3:10-12.

 ‘Those who desire life and desire to see good days,…

let them turn away from evil and do good;

   let them seek peace and pursue it.

  For …God’s ears are open to their prayer.’

Pray with us.

Reader 2:  God, open our hearts,

that we will be ready for the messengers you send to us.

Help us find your message, in a world that needs it more than ever.

Reader 1:

 Open our ears and hearts to the message of the angels, ‘Be not afraid.’

Reader 2:

Grant courage and comfort to those who are afraid —

the abandoned and forgotten,

the victims of violence and oppression,

the hungry, the poor.

Reader 1:

May they hear the angel’s voices saying, ‘Be not afraid.’

Reader 2:

Grant true courage to those who are afraid to be vulnerable,

to bullies and tyrants, even world leaders,

To people trying to be big by making others small

To people grabbing for more because they are afraid they will not have enough.

To people driven by greed and fear.

Reader 1:

May they hear the angel’s voices saying, ‘Be not afraid.’

Reader 2:

Grant courage to those from whom much is expected, upon whose care we are dependent:

   Doctors, nurses, firefighters and police officers,

Social workers, teachers and carers, Environmentalists and activists,

Partners, parents and grandparents.

Reader 1:

May they hear the angel’s voices saying, ‘Be not afraid.’

Reader 2:

Grant us courage to look at the world with wonder, hope and trust,

rather than fear, anxiety and worry.

Reader 1:

Open our ears and our hearts to the angels’ voices, calling to all who will listen,

‘Do not be afraid.’

Amen.

Sharing the communion meal

Choose a familiar reflective song/hymn on the theme of communion.

Using either silence or soft music, allow ample time for personal reflection and prayer.

Use a familiar version (which many people will know from memory) or introduce an alternative version. Several alternative versions are available here on Worship Words.  

The table is set for our special meal. The bread, the juice, prepared and presented.  Ready to be served and shared.

We remember Jesus sharing a meal like this with his disciples, his friends. He included everyone, those he could trust and those he could not trust. Today we are his disciples, his friends. Each one of us is welcome. How amazing it is to be loved and wanted even when we have not been perfect. How wonderful it is to be included as we are.  The bread is gluten free and the juice is non-alcoholic so that all may partake freely. No one is excluded from this meal.

As we approach this meal of mystery in the hope and promise of reconciliation, we prepare ourselves through prayer.  Pray with me.

We come before you God, in joy and anticipation, united in the spirit of celebration and worship. Thank you for searching for us, finding us, and calling us by name to this fellowship and this table. Grant us the faith proclaimed by angels through the centuries, the faith that trusts in the possibility of a world without fear, without reason for fear, a world of justice, peace, shalom, salaam.

We are sorry for those times we have given into fear, and as a result have acted out in anger, jealousy, selfishness or spite.  Forgive us, change us, and use us, that we might be more like angels, ourselves, bringing the Good News of your love and justice into our homes and our community, bringing courage and assurance where there is fear.

God of joy and promise, inspire, challenge and shape us through this meal, that we might better reflect your ideals, your hopes, your peace here on earth. This we pray through Jesus, our host.  Amen.

Be assured that God, wants us to not be afraid. God, perhaps with the help of angels, whatever they may be, watches over us all, rejoicing when we are found and restored to wholeness, generously forgiving a repentant heart.  Receive God’s healing mercy.

When Jesus shared the bread with his friends, he explained that he is the Bread of Life.  Like bread, Jesus nourishes and strengthens us so that we can know right and wrong and not be confused.  When we eat the bread together, we are strengthened as a community to remember Jesus and to do the things Jesus would do in our world.

Jesus also used a cup of the fruit of grapes to teach his disciples. He compared the red juice to blood, to help us remember the suffering and bloodshed in the world.  Drinking the juice together helps us remember that we are all part of a special agreement, a covenant, with God.

God loves us so much that when we make mistakes, or when we make bad choices, God has agreed to forgive us and grants us a second chance, every time.

This is ordinary bread and ordinary juice. But when we eat the bread together and drink the juice together, something extraordinary happens which brings us closer to Jesus and to one another. We become the ‘Body of Christ.’ which means that our eyes and ears see and hear what Jesus would see in our world. And our arms and hands do Jesus’s work to help others.  May this shared meal of mystery and awe manifest for us the very essence of the risen Christ in our midst.

God, for this time together around this table, we give thanks.  For the power of this meal, this simple bread and juice, to unite us as the Body of Christ, we give thanks.  Amen.

 Break bread as words are spoken:

Although the bread is broken like Jesus’ body, by sharing it, we are made one.

Pour our juice as words are spoken:

Although the cup represents blood spilled, by sharing it, we are healed with God and one another.

Pray with me.  Eternal Spirit, fill this bread and these cups with your spirit that we might feel your nourishment, making us one spiritual body, one family, united with one another and all peoples of all nations.  Amen.

 Ministering to you in Christ’s name, all things are ready.

    

When you take a piece of bread, please hold it until everyone has a piece.  Then we will all eat together. [or: Please eat the bread as you receive it.]

When everyone has bread:
Although the bread is broken like Jesus’s body, we are made one.  Eat of the Bread of Life.

When you take a cup of juice, please hold it until everyone has been served. Then we will all drink together.

When everyone has a cup:
Although the cup represents blood spilled, we are healed, reconciled with God and one another.  Drink of the Cup of Forgiveness.

To be read in unison, or Leader may read as solo voice.

Pray with me.

God of mercy and power, mother and father of us all,

thank you for inviting us into a world

where we need not be afraid,

and for uniting us through this meal.

May it empower us to go forth in joy,

renewed and invigorated, to be your messengers

sharing your message of justice, love and peace. Amen.

Going into the world

Pray with me.

Emmanuel!  God, you are indeed with us.

What a wonderful, comforting encouraging truth.

May we always be open to hearing the words of your angels,

‘Do not be afraid.’  And may we always respond with courage,

trust and faith.  Amen.

Be not afraid.

We are not afraid.

Go to share the Good News with the courage, faith, and conviction of an angel.

We go with God.

Choose a familiar uplifting song/hymn.

The congregation might like to choose a favourite.

It might focus on the angel theme or be a beloved song of joy and gratitude.

See suggestions made earlier in the service.

 Have another cuppa?

            Shake hands?

Slip away quietly?

Whatever is comfortable for the group and for the individuals.