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Resources: Liturgies

Lenten Candle Liturgy

Contributed by Jeanyne Slettom

This liturgy was written to reflect a process-relational theology. See also: Lent 2011, a series of complete services based on psalms and the teachings of Jesus.

[Note: The correct number of candles will need to be displayed in preparation for their gradual extinguishing over the period of Lent. This year, if the Service of Ashes is included, as well as Good Friday and all Sundays in Lent, then eight candles will be required. If you are beginning the liturgy on the First Sunday in Lent, then you will need seven candles. Begin the first service with all the candles lighted and extinguish one as noted below. Thereafter you will begin the service with one less candle lighted, and during the course of the liturgy, extinguish another one. On Good Friday (or the Sixth Sunday in Lent, if you do not hold a Good Friday service), you will extinguish the last candle. On Easter Sunday, all of the darkened candles will be relit, signifying the Light of the world, which darkness cannot extinguish.  

The structure of this weekly liturgy is as follows: a worship leader reads the meditation (which is not printed in the bulletin), allowing ample time for silent reflection. The leader speaks again, signifying the end of the meditation. A candle is extinguished, followed by a unison prayer. You may wish to choose one hymn for the entire season, then sing one verse each week after the candle is extinguished and before the unison prayer. For example, “Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery” has a verse for each Sunday in Lent. “Just as I Am” is another possibility. Some newer hymnals don’t have all the verses, but older hymnals will.]  

First Sunday in Lent

Meditation:
We have come together this morning for renewal—in worship and as a community of faith. We’ve greeted one another, laughed and hugged. But now the time of reflection and stillness is upon us. It is the first Sunday in Lent—the season for journeys of the heart. Close your eyes. Be still. Listen. We are entering a holy time. The Lenten candles have been lit, but over the next six weeks the light will slowly fade into darkness. For we are retelling the story of Jesus’ betrayal and suffering and death. We do this not to be morbid, but because in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, God is revealed—in the amazing transformation of death into life, in endings transformed into beginnings, and in dead-ends that become a source for new possibilities.  

This is the sacred center of our faith—the truth made manifest in Jesus Christ—that God is in each and every one of us, quietly transforming us and the world. In his pain and suffering, Jesus speaks to every pain and loss you have endured and offers you the promise of transformation. It’s an old story, but it still has the power to reveal, to heal, and to redeem. Jesus is at the heart of our faith, in the depth of our souls. He is waiting for us, inviting us to leave ordinary time and follow along with him on the journey that brought him to the Cross. Listen in silence, for Jesus is calling you.  

(Silent time.)  

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of injustice in the world.

(A candle is extinguished.)  

Let us pray:  

All: Loving God, as we journey through this holy season of Lent, give us strength and courage to make the changes that are needed in our lives. Open our hearts and minds to your steadfast presence and help us to put our trust in you. Amen.  

Second Sunday in Lent

Meditation:
On Sunday morning, for a brief space of time, we leave behind the world of home and work and school—the world where we have our lists of things to do, activities to participate in, tasks to complete. We come here this morning seeking something else. We come here seeking a shift—from the ordinary to the sacred, from doing to being. I invite you to close your eyes. Let go of your list. Recall that it is the season of Lent. Remember the parable of the sower. The sower throws the seed . . . and where it lands determines if it will grow or not grow. Think of it this way: think of the season of Lent as the sower, the time when seeds of faith are thrown with special intensity, as a time a time when God calls to us in a low, urgent voice. Listen. Jesus is being drawn to Jerusalem. Where is God calling you to? What is God calling you to do?  

(Silent time.) 

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of injury done to the Earth and its ecosystems.

(A candle is extinguished.)  

Let us pray:  

All: Loving God, as we journey through this holy season of Lent, may we be open to your presence. Give us the strength to make the changes that are needed in our lives and the courage to take on the work of transforming the world. Amen.  

Third Sunday in Lent

Meditation:
There is so much during the day that clamors for our attention. Friends, family, work, classes, household tasks. And the noise! We are bombarded with sound, from the clock that awakens us to the telephone, the radio, the television, the conversation that we have or overhear. Where is the time and place to listen for the still, small voice of God? Sometimes it seems that God would have to speak in a whirlwind to be heard above the clamor! Listen now. There is a place of quiet rest, and it is the place where God dwells within you. Close your eyes. Be aware of the place. In Lent we journey to the parts of ourselves known only to God, beneath the clamor. Let the story of Jesus reach us there. Let it teach us wisdom in our secret hearts.

(Silent time.)  

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of violence in the world and to the Earth.

(A candle is extinguished.)  

Let us pray:  

All: Draw us together in your love, O God. May our restless hearts not resist you, but continue to search until they find their rest in you. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Meditation:
It’s Sunday morning. Last week, with all its demands, is over. The coming week, with yet another round of challenges and demands, is not quite here. I invite you to close your eyes and be in the moment. No matter where you are in your thoughts and feelings—relieved about what you have accomplished, anxious about what’s left undone, concerned about people or projects—no matter where you are in your journey this day—I encourage you to set all that aside and consider where you are right now. Whatever is true for you right now, in this moment, whether it be joy or sadness, gratitude or anxiety, let it come forward. When it is fully present, then listen  . . . for God is present in these moments, too. God meets you where you are and calls you forward, moment by moment, guiding you slowly but surely toward transformation.

(Silent time.)

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain caused by the lack of basic needs—lack of food, of shelter, of education, of healthcare, of love.

(A candle is extinguished.)

Let us pray:

All: Loving God, we thank you that you are with us, and that we may call upon you no matter where we are, or what we are feeling. Keep us mindful of your presence and trusting in your promise—that you are working with us in the moment-by-moment unfolding of our lives. Amen.

Fifth Sunday in Lent

When we arrived this morning we entered into the normal bustle of a church on a Sunday morning: friends greeting each other, choir members getting their robes, children bringing their energy and enthusiasm. Now that we are sitting together in the pews, I invite you to close your eyes . . . and consider the word, “sanctuary.” A sanctuary is a place set aside for sacred things. It is a place of refuge and protection. This room is a sanctuary. The season of Lent is a kind of sanctuary, extended in time. And one of the things Lent teaches is that you, too, are a sanctuary. There is inside you a place for sacred things, a place where God abides.     

(Silent time.)

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of war and oppression in the world.

(A candle is extinguished.)

Let us pray:

Loving God, we open our hearts to you. We invite you into our inmost being, only to find you already there. Strengthen us in our quiet places and then lead us into the work of justice and peace. Amen.

Sixth Sunday in Lent/ Palm Sunday

We have gathered here, week after week, sharing a common quest for a deeper faith and a deeper experience of the divine. I invite you now to close your eyes and let go of the things that distract and concern you. Listen! The time is drawing near. Jesus is preparing to enter Jerusalem. How will we greet him? Will we follow him all the way to the Cross? The power of Jesus is that he lived what he taught, even when it led to his death. He lived with an abiding awareness of God, radiating the light of God in all he said and did. But that light was too much for the world. There are forces today, as there were in ancient Judea, that conspire to put it out. Where are we in this drama? What are we willing to risk to follow Jesus?

(Silent time.)

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of illness and disease in the world.

(A candle is extinguished.)

Let us pray.

Loving God, there are so many choices before us every day. Choices offered by our friends, our families, our culture, our own past. Some of them encourage the well-being of the earth, ourselves and our neighbors; others are destructive. Help us to distinguish between them. May we learn from the choices of Jesus and embody compassion, justice, and inclusion in all we say and do. Amen.

Good Friday

Never doubt the meaning of Lent. It happened a long time ago, but it happened. Jesus walked on this earth. He practiced a ministry of radical inclusivity, drawing to himself all the despised and rejected members of society. He lived what he taught: a life of justice and love, of profound compassion for all people. He lived a life acceptable to you, O God. His death terrifies us, because it reveals how committed the world is to its own way, and the price the world exacts from those whose commitment is to you.   

(Silent time.)

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of all the children in the world who suffer in body, in mind or in spirit.

(A candle is extinguished.)

Let us pray:

What we contemplate this night is beyond words, beyond understanding. May the Holy Spirit intercede for us and give voice to what, for us, is inexpressible. Amen.

Easter  

Proclamation

The light which the world tried to extinguish cannot be put out. Today we light the candles again, proclaiming the transforming power of God. As the light returns, we give thanks that God’s transforming love has been, is now, and will ever be at work within us. Today we celebrate: new life, new joy, new possibilities. Christ is alive and living among us!

As we light the candles, we acknowledge that there is still pain and suffering in the world, but we place our trust in God and in the way shown by Jesus Christ. In the midst of darkness, there is light. In the pain of death, there is life. In the face of what appear to us to be overwhelming odds, God is at work in us and in the world, working for justice and peace, compassion and love, and life abundant. Christ is risen; Christ is risen in us, for wherever we gather in his name, he is there.

(All candles are re-lit.)

All: Alleluia, Christ is risen; Christ is risen indeed!