Open Table Worship
– using inclusive language and imagery for intimate worship settings
prepared by Ana Gobledale, UK
Theme: Star-gazing – God’s awesome creation
This is a full service including scripture, conversation, prayer and communion.
WORD Leader’s Sheets — This Word document includes all of the text printed below.
- Place several copies of the handout or separate photos from the Hubble Telescope (or handouts) in the centre of each table. Photos may be printed from the NASA photo archive.
- Place a copy of a reading, or a Bible marked at the reading, or printed handouts, in the centre of 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 and bread to be shared
Look at the photos from the Hubble Telescope. Download larger copies and print out from NASA’s gallery. Or use the handout (attached as both a pdf or a Word document).
Questions for discussion around the tables:
- What feeling( s) do you have looking at these photos?
- How does it feel to consider The Sombrero Galaxy with 800 billion suns? Or the two merging galaxies 114 million light years away?
- Consider our earth in relationship to these galaxies?
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.’
Read Genesis 1:1-10
Use Bibles on tables or printouts; use multiple readers, reading 1-3 verses each.
Genesis 1: 1-19 (selections from NRSV)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light….
And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters….God called the dome Sky…
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; …and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.”… And it was so.
God made the two great lights…and the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth…
And God saw that it was good.
Choose a familiar song/hymn on the theme of creation.
The leader might make song choices ahead of time, or open the choice to those attending.
Have you ever been where it is really dark? In one of those dark patches, like up in Northumberland, where the lights illuminating our towns and cities do not permeate the dark night sky?
Once upon a time, in rural Zimbabwe, Theo bundles his wife and two children into their Toyota truck, and drives out the dirt road, away from their little town, away from the few lights, away even from the cooking fires. About 5 kilometers out, where the baboons and warthogs begin to reside, he stops the truck, right in the middle of the road – not lots of traffic! Then he switches off the headlights, plunging the family into blackness – the kind where you cannot see your hand in front of your face. The children squeal. Theo opens the door and leads his wife and children out, one by one, clasping hands so they don’t lose anyone in the blackness. They clamber into the flatbed of the truck where they lie down and peer up. The heavens seem to open up above them, bursting into a shimmering canopy of light. Then Theo passes the binoculars around, and the moon’s craters and mountains jump into focus, and the distant stars appear that much closer. They gaze in awe at God’s amazing dome of creation.
These questions and responses might be shared in pairs or threes. Inform everyone that there will not be any plenary or feedback time.
- When was the last time you gazed up at the moon or stars?
- How might gazing at the heavens “in awe and wonder” connect you to God’s creation?
- Where do you fit into God’s creation?
- Who, like the scientists using the Hubble telescope, has invited you to look into the mystery and unknown expanses of God and our universe?
Ask someone to read the passage, Psalm 145:3-5, from a Bible on the table, or from their own Bible or from a printout.
Psalm 145:3-5 NRSV
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
God’s greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall laud your
works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works,
I will meditate.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
–the wise fox in The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint Exupery
Perhaps God, like Theo on that starry night in Zimbabwe, invites us on a journey into un-knowing, into mystery.
- When has God invited you into a risky activity, stepping beyond the brightly lit area in which you stood into a world of complete trust and faith in that which is invisible to the eye?
- When has God invited you to dream of possibilities beyond your personal galaxy, beyond your familiar world of family, work and community?
- Is God inviting you now to look beyond your familiar world?
- Where might God be inviting you/us to employ a new lens, like the Hubble telescope, in your/our seeing and understanding?
- Who has guided you and offered you new lenses, new perspectives in your life – a new telescope or pair of binoculars? Who, like Theo in the reflection, has seemingly plunged you into darkness only to bring to light the things once hidden in the darkness, sometimes with a vivid new brilliance?
Conversations: going deeper optional, if time allows
Consider these questions about our world:
- With this new lens, what do we see in our world?
- Can you/we envision a realm in which no one is hungry, no one is cold, no one is alone, no one is marginalized or hated, a universe in which stars expand into Red Giants and collapse into “Black holes”?
Paul writes to the Corinthians:
Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy…. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.
1 Corinthians 4: 1-2,5 NRSV
Christ invites us to meditate on these things, to look both inward and outward, into the mystery of our ground of being and outward into the mystery of the ever-expanding universe, always being open to the possibility of transformation – of ourselves and of our “universe.”
- Where in your life are you being called to transform?
Ask someone to read the passage, Psalm 104:1-4, from a Bible on the table, or from their own Bible or from a printout.
Psalm 104: 1-4 NRSV
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
O LORD my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.
- As we meditate upon the mysteries of God’s creation, if you would like to light a candle, to either celebrate part of creation, or to express concern about an aspect of creation or how people are treating it, please do so at this time.
- If you would like to share your joy or your concern, feel free to share with the group, or you may light a candle in silence.
A song to lead into communion
a familiar reflective song/hymn on the theme of communion
Invitation to Communion:
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.
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.
God of creation and transformation, 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 demanding, and feel put upon as your beloved children. When we are flying out of orbit, disrupting your pattern, forgive us. When we feel rebellious and refuse your loving guidance and instruction, forgive us.
When we feel stuck and unable to change, prod us gently, emboldening us to see that all things can be made new by you.
Help us be good family, true brothers and sisters, in the best sense of that word, to one another and to others. May we see the good in everyone and share love as freely as you have given love to us.
You are our example. Help us to follow in your steps. Amen.
Words of Assurance (optional)
Be assured that God, like the sun that holds the planets in orbit, watches over us all, rejoicing when we are found and restored to wholeness, generously forgiving a repentant heart. Receive God’s healing mercy.
Words of Remembrance: the communion story
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.
Prayer of Thanks
God of creation and transformation, 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.
Breaking of the Bread Break bread as words are spoken:
Although the bread is broken like Jesus’ body, by sharing it, we are made one.
Pouring of the cup Pour our juice as words are spoken:
Although the cup represents blood spilled, by sharing it, we are healed with God and one another.
Blessing of the Bread and Juice
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. 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.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Pray with me. Amazing God, creator of us all, even in the expanse of your universe, you know each of us. 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. Amen.
Read aloud: Psalm 113:1-9
Use Bibles on table or printouts. Use multiple readers, reading 1-3 verses each.
Psalm 113:1-9 NRSV (Consider using ‘Yahweh’ or another name for God instead of ‘the LORD’.)
Praise the LORD!…
Blessed be the name of the LORD
from this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the LORD is to be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations,
and God’s glory above the heavens.
Who is like the LORD our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?…
Praise the LORD!
God, creator of all that has been, all that is, and all that shall be, we celebrate your endless creation. Open our minds and hearts to your mysteries. Thank you for making us who we are, and bringing us together today. Illuminate our path that we may shine as your beloved children. Amen.
Have another cuppa?
Slip away quietly?
Whatever is comfortable for the group and for the individuals.