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World Communion Sunday Service with Missionary Letters

Written by Karen Farthing

Call to Worship
We gather today as the people of God, as a community of Christ's followers.
We gather to share Word and sacrament, to discern the ways of faithful service.
Where in the world shall we serve our God?
At home and school and business place – in this community and throughout every land.
How in the world shall we serve our God?
By working toward justice where there is oppression, by offering comfort where there is pain, by sharing love where there is hatred.
Why in the world shall we serve our God?
Because the Spirit beckons us, because Jesus calls us to enact our faith.  Let us now worship the one who calls us!

Opening Prayer
Lord,
Renew in us the gift of your Spirit
So that we may be purified in the waters of repentance
And with one heart we may glorify your name and proclaim your mercy.
Open our minds to the scriptures
That they may become for us living words
And illumine our hearts.
Let your Spirit fill us with love
To inspire our prayers today for our sisters and brothers, and for the perfect unity of your church.
In the name of Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

Opening Hymn:  In Christ There is No East or West   #395 (New Century Hymnal)

First Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 19-22, 24-27

Opening Words

Second Reading – John 9:3
Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's glory might be revealed in him,'

Letter from the Rev. Scott Couper, South Africa: "Breaking the Silence" - story of Nomvula Shale
The Rev. Scott Couper works with the kwaZulu Natal HIV and AIDS Desk of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa  in Durban, South Africa.

Prayer of Confession (South Africa)
For our failure to feel the sufferings of others, and our tendency to live comfortably with injustice,
God forgive us.  
For the self-righteousness which denies guilt, and the self-interest which strangles compassion,
God forgive us.  
For those who live their lives in careless unconcern, who cry 'Peace, peace' when there is no peace,
We ask your mercy.
For our failings in community, our lack of understanding,
We ask your mercy.  
For the times when we are too eager to be better than others, when we are too rushed to care, when we are too tired to bother, when we don't really listen, when we are too quick to act from motives other than love,
God forgive us.

Assurance of Pardon (Bangladesh)
Know that God loves you.  From the very beginning God's loving mercy has been poured out upon you.  God loves you like a mother embracing us in her lap; like a father, God watches over you, guiding you each day.  On behalf of the Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, I assure you: you are forgiven, forgive others. You are restored, restore others. You are reconciled with God, be reconciled with others, in the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.  Amen

Third Reading – Matthew 25:40   
Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me.

Letter from the Rev. John Campbell-Nelson, East Timor: "The Least of These"- Story of Rita Norlina Selan
John Campbell-Nelson is a missionary serving with the Evangelical Christian Church of Timor.  East Timor is a tiny nation that achieved its independence from Indonesia in 1999.

Prayer of Commitment
O God, you promise a world where those who now weep shall laugh;
those who are hungry shall feast;
those you are poor now, and excluded, shall live in your kingdom.
I want this world too.
I renounce despair.
I will act for change.

I choose to be included in your great feast of life. Amen.

Sharing the Peace
As brothers and sisters who share Christ's love, let us exchange signs of peace with one another.  May the peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.

Children's Time

Hymn:   Amen, Siyakudumisa (pronounced See-ya-koo-doo-mee-sah)   #760 (New Century Hymnal)
This is a simple hymn from South Africa.  The organist will play it through once, then the children will sing the first verse.  Please join them in singing second verse.

Fourth Reading – Matthew 25:36
I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.

Letter from Tim Rose, France: "Never Alone" – Thomas' story
Tim Rose is a missionary with the Reformed Church of France, working primarily with African refugees in the resettlement process.

Confession of Faith (written by Thomas, an African refugee in France)
My life is similar to many of your own lives,
When I came into this world I started to cry, and it wasn't for the last time,
Then my mother put me to her breast and I smiled, and it wasn't for the last time,
My life has had its share of ups and downs, moments of joy and moments of sorrow, of good and bad surprises.
After all these years of happiness and sadness I can assert that I was never alone; someone in the silence, in those secret places, was with me.
Many times I could feel his presence, sometimes comforting, other times inspiring, and sometimes calming. That outstretched hand, those open arms, that warmth in the cold night, that voice in the desert...it is Him, my Savior, it is Our Lord.
Yes, I believe in God, in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit.
I believe that he is the origin of all things,
I believe that he is just and that he loves all of us equally,
I believe in his word and in that of Jesus, his son, who he sent to help us find peace, love and eternal life.
Even though he was only a humble carpenter, I believe that he had the strength and the courage to offer us his life and to die on the cross for us. And, despite my rational side, I believe that he is resurrected and that he accompanies each of our steps.
I believe in forgiveness, which is so precious to Him.
I believe in His love,
But above all, I believe that he is alive and that he is with us today.
And these are the reasons that inspire me today to witness to my faith and my love for Him before you all.  Amen.

Offering
Today during our offering, we are accepting gifts for Neighbors in Need.  The Neighbors in Need offering supports the UCC's ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States, and helps make another world possible.  Please give generously.

Offertory

Doxology
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise God all creatures here below
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise God the source of all our gifts
Praise Jesus Christ whose power uplifts
Praise the Spirit, Holy Spirit
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Offering Prayer
Praise be to God who calls us to imagine and believe that another world is possible.
We praise the One who calls us into covenant with one another. Deliver these our gifts to the work of bringing hope and wholeness to all our neighbors.
God of all times and all places, remind us of the world as You intend it: free from hunger, poverty, violence, and oppression.
Embolden us, O God, to imagine and believe that another world is possible! Amen

Fifth Reading – Matthew 26:26
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body."

Letter from Andrew and Ellen Collins, Nepal: "Even I Am Welcome Here" – Nima's Story
Andrew & Ellen Collins are former missionaries with the United Mission to Nepal. 

Communion Hymn:   As We Gather at the Table  #332 (New Century Hymnal)

Communion
Let us prepare our hearts
We prepare them for the Lord
Let us open our minds
We open them for the Word
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
We give thanks for the goodness of creation
Creator God, in the beginning you put life into the emptiness, light into the darkness and saw that it was good.
We are created in your image to see good in the light.
You created the earth and sky, land and sea, and saw that creation was good. 
We are created in your image to see good in creation.
Then you created birds that fly in the sky, creatures that swim in the sea, and all kinds of animals that live on the land, and saw that they were good. 
We are created in your image to see good in the world.
You created people to live on the earth, to love and be loved, to care for this creation and be fruitful.  And you saw it was good, very good. 
We are created in your image to see  good in each other.
And when we failed to praise you for a harvest of plenty, to obey your commands and care for the world that you put in our hands, you sent us your Son to show us the way.
We are created in his image to see good in the dark.
So look at each other: we are made in God's image, to love and be loved and to find peace from that love.
Thank you, Creator of All, that we can see you are good and find peace with each other.  Amen.

Telling the Story

Breaking the Bread

Sharing Together
Christ is the giver of this feast, and all are welcome. Please come forward to take a piece of bread and dip it in the juice.  Give thanks silently or aloud for the gift of Christ's banquet. If you have difficulty coming forward, please signal and we will bring the feast to you.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
We thank you O God, for refreshing us at your holy table.  We thank you for our brothers and sisters in this community and around the world.  May we always be reminded to see the world through Christ's eyes, and to work for a time when all may share together at Your table.  Amen.

Closing Hymn:   Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ   #247 (New Century Hymnal)

Benediction (from the Christian Council of Asia)
God go with you in all that is gentle.
Christ go with you in all that is brave.
And the spirit go with you in all that is free.
Go now in peace, to love and serve our God. Amen.

God Be with You 'til We Meet Again   #81  (New Century Hymnal)

Postlude

 Missionary Letters for the Service

Breaking the Silence

Jesus answered, 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's glory might be revealed in him,'  – John 9:3

This letter comes from the Reverend Scott Couper in South Africa:

Nomvula (pronounced nom-voo'-lah) Shale is HIV positive, but that doesn't stop her from speaking out! 

Nomvula travels from church to church in South Africa, defying taboos and the stigma of disease in order to provide words of comfort and assurance to those who are drowning in silence.  Yesterday she was at Highway Hospice; tomorrow she will be at King Edward Hospital.  Today, she counseled two in the parking lot who were too scared to seek help.  What for many would be the harbinger of hopelessness is for Nomvula the key that enables her to communicate and be trusted by all who come to her.  Why is she HIV positive? She says: "The Scriptures tell us 'So the glory of God might be revealed!'" 

Nomvula communicates her message to the church, to the government, to the schools, and to the people.  She hosts a talk radio show and writes weekly in the newspaper.  She leads the HIV and AIDS Desk of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, which enables local churches to strengthen their own outreach to their communities. 

With the aid of Global Ministries, Nomvula and the HIV and AIDS Desk work together to fight the goliath of the AIDS pandemic in Africa, through such things as grants to purchase life saving medications, funds for a home-based care project, a new house at the Cebelihle (seh-bah-lee'-lay)  Children's Home and new accommodation for the Siyabathanda (see-yah-bah-tan'-dah), literally "We are loving them" ministry in Noodsberg. 

The silence about HIV/AIDS needs to be broken - Nomvula shatters it.  In a world in need of hope and direction, Nomvula lives her life the way that God wills the church to be. 


The Least of These

"Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me." – Matthew 25:40

This letter comes from the Reverend John Campbell-Nelson in Indonesia and East Timor. 

Much has changed in Indonesia over the last 25 years, and many people's lives have improved.  But the shift from a traditional to a "modern" way of life is a constant source of social conflict.  The hidden constant in this conflict is the role of personal relationships and social status: you are who you know, and who knows you.  If you don't know anybody, you are nobody. 

That realization has been haunting me lately, in the form of a dead baby. 

Her name was Rita Norlina Selan.  Her mother died when Rita was a few weeks old.  Her father is a farm laborer who had no money.  Unable to buy milk, he fed her rice water and sugared tea.  Rita starved to death. 

This sort of thing happens in the hills of Timor all too often.  But in Rita's case, it happened less than a mile from our house.  The milk she needed was sitting on a shelf in our pantry.  The car that could have taken her to the hospital (or her mother before her) was parked in our garage.  So why didn't she get the help she needed?  Because her father didn't know us, and we didn't know him.  When asked why he didn't come to us for help, he said he was malu (translate that as a combination of shy, ashamed, and afraid).  He knew who we were and where we lived, but he did not feel socially important enough to make requests of the "Big White People." 

Rita reminds me that social analyses of the causes of poverty and training on nutrition and public health, while important, are secondary.  What is of primary importance is building the kind of community where no one is nobody.  That's the kind of community that Jesus worked to create, and it's the kind of community we have yet to become.


Never Alone

I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. – Matthew 25:36

This letter comes from Tim Rose, one of our missionaries in France

As a prison chaplain, I met Thomas when he served time for drug trafficking.  During our visits we talked about the Christian faith, morals, family and plans for the future. When he was released from prison he asked to be baptized, and he now holds a steady job and has a wonderful fiancée. This is the confession of faith that Thomas wrote:

Confession of Faith
My life is similar to many of your own lives,
When I came into this world I started to cry, and it wasn't for the last time,
Then my mother put me to her breast and I smiled, and it wasn't for the last time,
My life has had its share of ups and downs, moments of joy and moments of sorrow, of good and bad surprises.
After all these years of happiness and sadness I can assert that I was never alone; someone in the silence, in those secret places, was with me.
Many times I could feel his presence, sometimes comforting, other times inspiring, and sometimes calming. That outstretched hand, those open arms, that warmth in the cold night, that voice in the desert...it is Him, my Savior, it is Our Lord.
Yes, I believe in God, in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit.
I believe that he is the origin of all things,
I believe that he is just and that he loves all of us equally,
I believe in his word and in that of Jesus, his son, who he sent to help us find peace, love and eternal life.
Even though he was only a humble carpenter, I believe that he had the strength and the courage to offer us his life and to die on the cross for us. And, despite my rational side, I believe that he is resurrected and that he accompanies each of our steps.
I believe in forgiveness, which is so precious to Him.
I believe in His love,
But above all, I believe that he is alive and that he is with us today.
And these are the reasons that inspire me today to witness to my faith and my love for Him before you all.


Even I Am Welcome Here

This letter was written by Andrew & Ellen Collins, missionaries in Nepal

Nima (Nee'-ma)had been coming to church for weeks, and you'd think she had always been a Christian.  She knew all the songs, raised her hands and prayed out loud like everybody else, and read the scriptures half a syllable ahead of the others.  But when communion Saturday came along, just before the elements were served, Nima, like all the other non-baptized worshippers, would quietly get up and go outside.  In Nepal, communion is offered to all who have publicly declared their faith in Christ and who have been baptized.  The pastor makes it very clear that everyone else is welcome to the church service, but must step outside at communion time.

I would watch Nima go and I silently prayed that she would not feel rejected.  I hoped that this seeming lack of inclusiveness on the part of the church would not dampen her interest in Christ. 

"Are you kidding?" she answered, when I finally got up the courage to ask her.  "The church is the only place in this country where I, a woman, am truly welcome.  Where I, rejected by my family for marrying out of my caste, am accepted.  This is the only group of people who welcome me in, despite the fact that I have been treated for mental illness.  Even untouchables and lepers are allowed in!  Here I find rich and poor—educated and illiterate—sitting together, singing together, sharing a Bible or a hymnbook." 

Yes, but…communion…I started to say.  She had already walked off, arm-in-arm with a lady deacon of the church.

Several months had passed and one Saturday I missed church for some reason.  Later that day a Christian friend phoned to say that I should have been there – Nima had stayed for communion!  I found out that Nima and her husband had been baptized earlier in the week, and I had missed her first meal at the "welcome table"!  I had known she was attending a class for new believers, and I knew she was growing in her faith, but I did not know that she had been baptized.  When I met Nima at her tiny rented room the next day she beamed at me.  "I am a baptized Christian.  And now I stay in church for the whole time!  What a great privilege!" she exclaimed.  Nima was delighted.  I was delighted too. 

But the thought did cross my mind how some Saturdays, after sitting through two hours of church—my legs half-asleep from sitting cross-legged on the floor and my brain exhausted from following the sermon in Nepali (neh-pah'-lee)—I chose to exit with those who had no choice but to leave before communion was served. I so easily passed up what Nima considered a prize.  I am constantly amazed at how God has taught me and humbled me over the many years I have spent in Nepal, through people like Nima.  She rekindled in me that day the passion to be present at the table, because, like she said, it is truly a great privilege. 


Corinthians 12.8-18

8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

1 Corinthians 12.19-31

19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

 



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