A Sacred Space for the New Year

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If you’re looking to open some sacred space to welcome 2017, I created this table liturgy as a way to reflect, celebrate, and pray with friends or family around the table. Give it a try, you’ll be amazed at the conversation and holy things that emerge. Use some of it or all of it! Enjoy!

[There’s a pdf of the liturgy at the bottom of the post for easier use!]


Welcome to the table. Holy things can happen when friends and family gather around the table for a meal. May this liturgy help create space for reflection on and thanksgiving for the experiences, losses, and blessings of 2016, and serve as a reminder of the hope we have in Christ, the redeemer and restorer of all things.

Gathering Prayer

LEADER:

We gather together on this eve of the year 2017 in the name of Jesus and in the holy and loving presence of our God who sustains and preserves our every breath. Together we remember God’s goodness and active redemption and restoration of us and of the world throughout history. May the Holy Spirit guide us as we pray.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

ALL:   Our souls yearn for you in the night;
in the morning our spirits long for you, O God.

LEADER:

Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

ALL:   Our souls yearn for you in the night;
in the morning our spirits long for you, O God.

LEADER:

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened—
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”

ALL:   Our souls yearn for you in the night;
in the morning our spirits long for you, O God.

Do not withhold your mercy from us, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect us.
For troubles without number surround us;
our sins have overtaken us, and we cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of our heads,
and our hearts fail within us.
Be pleased to save us, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help us.

[Psalm 40:1–8, Isaiah 26:9]

Prayers of Thanksgiving

LEADER:       God and Sustainer of all things, you have brought us in safety to the eve of a new year: we thank you for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and all whom you have made.

ALL:               We thank you, Lord.

LEADER:       We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, the beauty of this world, the wonder of life, and the mystery of love.

ALL:               We thank you, Lord.

LEADER:       We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care that surrounds us.

ALL:               We thank you, Lord.

LEADER:       We thank you for setting us at tasks that demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments that satisfy and delight us.

ALL:               We thank you, Lord.

LEADER:       We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

ALL:               We thank you, Lord.

LEADER:       Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

ALL:               We thank you, Lord. Amen.

Confession & Assurance

 LEADER:       Let’s take this time in silence, in God’s loving presence and in the presence of each other, to confess our sins against God and our neighbor. [Keep the silence for about one minute then read the below.]

Hear these words from the Apostle Paul:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

– 2 Cor 5:16–21

ALL:               Amen.

Meal

Reflection & Celebration

Below are two questions to discuss together. After each person shares in response to the first question, feel free join together in thanksgiving and celebration. Then, after each person shares in response to the second question, feel free to lift up the voiced longings in prayer.

  • As you look back on the year 2016, what are ten things for which you are most grateful?
  • What are one or two things you long for as you look ahead to 2017?

Prayers for the World

Invite each person around your table or gathering to select one of the prayers for the world to pray so that, to the extent desired, each person has a turn reading.

READER:

For Peace

O God, the Prince of Peace, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

ALL:   Amen.

READER:

For Our Enemies

O God of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

ALL:   Amen.

READER:

For This Time of Division and Conflict

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

ALL:   Amen.

READER:

For the Poor & the Sick

O God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons who it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord.

ALL:   Amen.

For the Oppressed

O God, look with mercy upon the people in this world who live with injustice, terror, war, disease, and death as their constant companions. Have mercy upon all of us. Help us to eliminate our cruelty and apathy to these our neighbors. Strengthen those who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law and equal opportunities for all. And grant that every one of us may enjoy a fair portion of the riches of this world; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

ALL:   Amen.

READER:

For the Church

O God, we pray for your holy Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior.

ALL:   Amen. 

Closing Prayer

LEADER:       Let’s join our voices and hearts together in this closing prayer, committing ourselves to love God and our neighbors in this coming year.

ALL:               God of the heavens and of the earth, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray that you guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit in this coming year, that in all the cares and occupations of our lives we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your presence, ever living in your grace, and ever holding out your love to our neighbors; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

[The prayers of thanksgiving, the prayers for the world, and the closing prayer have been drawn in whole or in part from The Book of Common Prayer.]

*Created by Kellye Fabian

PDF Version: a-new-years-eve-table-liturgy

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Two Poems for the Waiting

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Let Us Be Poor Again

We are overrun
by idols and pride and fear.

So let us be poor again.

Hollow us out to be filled
with your holiness.

Oh, let us be poor once more.

What We’ve Forgotten

“Again He will come,”
we tell all who will listen.
Our mouths are so sure.
Yet our hearts and hands forget.

By our words and deeds,
Who would know we are waiting?
Who would say our hope
Lies in this one yet to come?

Soften us, O Lord.
Soften us in this waiting.
So our love declares
He will return in glory.

We are waiting now.
Our hands reaching out to all.

Now Is the Time

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I came across this beautiful blessing written by the late John O’Donohue in his book To Bless the Space Between Us. It seems apt for this time in our country. And his are not the only words that are apt—indeed, this is a time to listen to those who are hurting and oppressed because they are hurting and oppressed. Now is the time to open our ears and eyes and hearts. Now is the time to seek to understand and to risk our very selves for the sake of others. Now is the time to lay down our swords. May we be the ones—not who seek to be right—but who extend love.

For Love in a Time of Conflict

When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.

When no true word can be said, or heard,
And you mirror each other in the script of hurt,
When even the silence has become raw and torn,
May you hear again an echo of your first music.

When the weave of affection starts to unravel
And anger begins to sear the ground between you,
Before this weather of grief invites
The black seed of bitterness to find root,
May your souls come to kiss.

Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Toward the gateway to spring.

Now is the time for one of us to be gracious. May it be so.

Some Questions I’m Asking

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After the shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Dallas this last week and the attack at the Istanbul airport the week before, my soul will not rest, my heart is moving toward despair, and my body actually hurts with the loss of life. I don’t have words, but I have a bunch of questions that I’ve been wrestling with as I’ve listened to the news, read various blog posts, and scanned through social media posts. Here they are:

What does it mean to live in our world today?

What does it mean to be white in the United States? How is the lens through which I see every victim and perpetrator impacting my heart and mind and response?

What does it mean to be black in the United States…and how do I know the answer to that?

Who do I need to sit with and listen to?

What authors do I need to read?

What are the things I want to be right about and why?

What statistics are right? Does it matter?

How am I benefiting from unjust systems, laws, practices, and presumptions?

What do I do with the despair I feel?

What topics, questions, conversations make me afraid? And why?

Who do I want to be wrong and why?

What are all the things that are making me so sad?

What ways of thinking or assumptions need to be renewed, challenged, questioned?

What history am I believing and has this caused me to be biased for or against certain people?

Who will be a light?

What lens am I seeing the world through?

What does love (and not being right, being respected, being loud, being defensive) look like right now?

What is my hope really in? Really.

Do you see us, Lord? Is your heart breaking?

What is mine to do?

How can I be on the side of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation?

A Lament in Haiku

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They will know us by
our love, he said. But we are
known by who we hate.

Go and do likewise,
he said. But we have gone and
done the opposite.

You are the light of
the world, he said. But we spread
darkness and judgment.

Love your neighbor, he
said, and your enemies too.
But we say, Not them!

And Jesus weeps for
what we have done and not done.
May his kingdom come.