Open Table service — Standing firm in our faith

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open Table Worship

– using inclusive language and imagery for intimate worship settings at which everyone is welcome and valued

Theme:  Stand firm in our faith

A complete worship service weaving together scripture, drama, reflection & conversation

Compiled & written by Ana Gobledale for Open Table

 

This service is designed for a congregation gathered around tables.  It can easily be adapted for a more traditional setting.

Each section of the service is available as a separate print out.

The Leader’s Sheet includes the entire service, with all of the leader’s words written out.  It is ready to print and use.

WORD Leaders’ Sheet – Stand Firm, Open Table

 

Materials and planning

  • On each table: theme-related items:
    • items of armour (or pictures): belt, shield, helmet, breastplate, shoe, sword:
    • Print-out of  Ephesians 6:11-17.  
  • Copies of the two readings, or a Bible marked at each reading, enough for each table.         
  • 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

As people gather, invite them to investigate the items in the centre of their table:

  • items of armour: belt, shield, helmet, breastplate, shoe, sword
  • print-out of Ephesians 6:11-17 – Put on the armour of God!

Questions for discussion:

Have these questions printed out on each table:

  • How do you feel about images of warfare being used to describe ‘faith’?
  • Do you find the armour-images used to describe characteristics of ‘faith’ helpful?
  • If you were choosing images to describe characteristics of ‘faith’, what images or items would you choose?  Why?

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.

Ritual of gathering:

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

Directions to each person:

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.’

Directions to the group:  

Then everyone responds together with the affirmation,

You are who you are, created by God.’

Exploring our Faith

Use Bibles on tables or distribute printouts.  

WORD 1 Corinthians & Philippians

Ask two people to read the selected verses.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

‘Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.’

Philippians 4:1

‘Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.’

Sing a familiar song/hymn on the theme ‘Stand firm in faith.’

Suggestions: these are great new words to old tunes.  Try them out:

 

A faith of energy, by George Stuart, Australia

PDF Song – A faith of energy, lyrics by George Stuart

PDF Song – A faith of energy, music by George Stuart

Click here for music and lyrics on George’s website.

 

Care in face of hostility, George Stuart, Australia

PDF Song – Care in Face of Hostility, music

PDF Song – Care in Face of Hostility, lyrics by George Stuart

Click here for music and lyrics on George’s website.

 

For All the Ways, Jim Burklo, USA

WORD Song – For all the ways, lyrics by Jim Burklo

Click here for link to words on Worship Words.

 

Resolution, George Stuart, Australia

PDF Song – Resolution, music

PDF Song – Resolution, lyrics by George Stuart

Click here for music and lyrics on George’s website.

 

We find ourselves between two worlds, Stephen Best, UK

PDF Song – We find ourselves between two worlds, lyrics by Stephen Best

WORD Song – We find ourselves between two worlds, Stephen Best

Click here for words on Worship Words.

Distribute the reading parts: 

  • Storyteller
  • Harold
  • Sybil

Read/act out the drama.

PDF Drama – Chariots of Fire

WORD Drama – Chariots of Fire

Inform everyone there will be no report-back or plenary sharing session.

Questions and responses might be shared in pairs or threes. 

Consider these questions:

About ourselves….

  • What challenge or challenges are you facing in your life?
  • How do you feel about these challenges?
  • In what area( s) of your life are you feeling close to giving up? to not even entering the race?
  • How might God being calling you to ‘stand firm in your faith’?

About our world….

  • What challenges in our world concern you?
  • How do you feel about these challenges?
  • Are there any world events about which you feel close to giving up? to not even trying?
  • How might God being calling you to ‘stand firm’ and respond in faith?     

Ask someone to read the following Statement of Faith:

What I do and do not believe — A Statement of Faith — by Loren Richmond, USA

WORD What I do and do not believe — Loren Richmond

PDF What I do and do not believe by Loren Richmond

 

God is with us in our suffering,

loving us, walking with us, comforting us.

I do not believe God is the cause or author of such suffering,

I do not believe God “allows” bad things to happen.

I can’t imagine why God would “allow” us to suffer.

I believe in a God who is always working for good,

a God who is somehow able

to take horrible, rotten thing

and create something out of the rubble.

God came into the world

amidst violence, oppression, and despair

and was able to bring life from that darkness,

and I believe that God is with each one of us

in our challenges and suffering,

comforting us and consoling us

and trying to bring goo

out of that which was so bad.

And that is what I think makes God, God.

Click here for words on Worship Words. 

Consider these questions:

  • How might God be guiding you to respond to the challenges you identified?
  • What role does your faith play in how you respond to challenges that arise in your life?

Light for the journey

  • Considering the challenges and concerns in our lives, you are invited to light a candle, symbolically offering your challenges or concerns to God and prayerfully asking for help to face them.
  • If you would like to share a current joy or concern in your life, feel free to share with the group or light a candle in silence.

Prayer:   after everyone who would like to has lit a candle: 

God, you know the challenges and concerns in our lives.

We know you are with us as we face them.

Help us stand firm in our faith. Amen.

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

The group might reflect in silence or with soft music playing.

Use a familiar version (which many people will know from memory) or introduce an alternative version.

Click here for several alternative versions to consider or try one of the following.

 

By Revd Stephen Best, UK

Great Love; the root and sap of our evolving fullness,

Nudge us forward in our creative potential

So we may flourish for the common good.

In each mindful moment, help us recognise that

We free ourselves from the ghosts of our past

In the release we grant those who have harmed us.

Keep us focused on what is right

Make us thirsty for what is just.

For it is love, that knows the way,

Shows the way, becomes the way,

To the fulfilment of our eternal call. Amen

 

By Revd Thandiwe Dale-Ferguson, USA

Holy One whose name we honour and praise,

When we laugh, you laugh with us.

When we weep, your tears wash over the earth.

You know the joys and sorrows of our hearts,

Our efforts for change and our resistance to it.

 

We seek a time when Your ways become our ways,

A time when our hopes for reconciliation,

Peace and justice become reality.

 

Spirit of Life, today we ask for enough:

That the food we have may be enough,

That the money and possessions we have may be enough,

That our achievements and successes may be enough.

That we may be enough.

Lead us from the temptations of wanting more

To the contentment of having and being enough.

 

Even as you sow the seeds of discontent

That move us to change systems

That give some too much and others too little.

Help us to forgive others and ourselves

When we disappoint, neglect, or harm.

For your grace is enough for all of us.

By your creativity, the universe was born,

And in your love, we are sustained. Amen.

Communion Service

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.

Those with a firm faith and those with wavering faith.

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.

Prayer of confession  (optional)

As we approach this meal of mystery in the hope and promise of reconciliation, we confess our sins.

Pray with me.

Great Love, we confess that we fall short as your beloved sons and daughters.

None of us can get everything right or never make a mistake.

We look to you, Jesus, knowing that you have suffered, been abused and wounded.

Sometimes we find being part of your family challenging, and feel stretched as your beloved children.

Mother-Father, forgive us. When we waver, forgive us.

When we feel stuck and unable to change, prod us gently, emboldening us to stand firm,

to see that all things can be made new by you.

Help us imitate Paul and live according to the example set by Jesus.

Help us be good family, true brothers and sisters, in the best sense of that word, to one another and to others.

Amen.

Words of Assurance (optional)

Be assured that God, the rock upon which we stand, provides a firm foundation for us all.

When we approach in faith, when we trust in God’s goodness, God’s forgiveness is generous.

Receive God’s healing mercy.

When Jesus shares the bread with his friends,

he explains 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 to stand firm as a community,

to remember Jesus and to do the things Jesus would do in our world.

 

Jesus also uses a cup of the fruit of the vine to teach his disciples.

He compares 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 bad choices, or when our faith wavers,

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.

And our feet stand firm in our faith.

May this shared meal of mystery and awe manifest for us the very essence of the risen Christ in our midst.

God of love, you are the firm foundation of our faith.

For this time together sharing around this special table, we give thanks.

For the power of this meal, this simple bread and juice, to unite us

as the Body of Christ, as citizens of heaven, 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.

Come Holy Spirit, come.

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,

that we may worthily serve the world,

bringing peace and justice to all, in your name.

Amen.

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

Sharing the bread

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/whole.  Eat of the Bread of Life.

Sharing the juice

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.

Pray with me.

Ever-present Spirit, renewed in our faith through this meal,

we celebrate that you know each of us and we have come to know you.

Thank you for your presence in our lives, today and each day.

Thank you for uniting us through this meal, with the bread of life.

May we be worthy citizens of your peaceful and loving realm.

Amen.    

Going into the world to stand firm in our faith

Choose a familiar uplifting song/hymn.  

The congregation might like to choose a favourite.

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

See suggestions earlier in the service.

Have another cuppa?

            Shake hands?

            Slip away quietly?

            Whatever is comfortable for the group and for the individuals.

Standing firm in our faith!