Bethesda United Church of Christ Worship Service
“We welcome all without exception as we worship God together, journey in the spirit, and share our gifts with each other, our neighbors and the world.”
For your reflection:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
― Leonard Cohen
Question: What “bells” still ring for you in a good way today? What light shines for you even in the cracks and imperfections of life?
You are invited to hold a symbol of your pledge in your hand as we consecrate our pledges together later in the service.
We prepare ourselves for worship
God’s Light Grows
You are invited to light a candle as you worship with us.
Call to Worship (responsive)
This is the ancient cry of the prophets.
This is the holy proclamation of our time.
This is the call upon our lives:
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
We will keep laboring together to make it so.
No act of love is made in vain.
Harboring each other,
let us keep reaching for God’s future.
Unison Gathering Prayer
Spirit of Compassion, when your Kin-dom feels impossibly far, you encourage us in hope that is neither naive nor escapist. In grief and loss, you draw us towards each other. Strengthening our relationships. Deepening our connections. Building our power as we grow closer. Keep us from rushing too quickly through what makes us human and helps us to connect with the humanity of others. Amen.
Passing the Peace
Leader: The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
People: And also with you.
A Word with the Children
The children may depart to the breakout room for their classes and activities.
#589 Let There Be Light, O God of Host
The Contemporary Reading
Reader: Pat Miller
Questions for the Teacher (In light of Matthew 25:1-13)
written by Geraldo Oberman, translated by Katie Fiegenbaum, https://giftsinopenhands.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/3566/, used with permission
Perhaps you are asking me, teacher
to be numb to the needs
of those who have been mistaken in life?
Perhaps you expect me to continue on my path
without consideration for who is by my side,
who asks me for something that I can give,
who waits for a gesture of solidarity.
Perhaps I should judge my neighbors
for their forgetfulness, for their exhaustion,
for their mistakes or for anything else.
Was it not my mission, the one you taught me,
to clothe the naked,
to break bread with the hungry,
to give water to those who are thirsty,
to visit those who are lonely,
to accompany those in need,
to liberate those who are oppressed?
Should I deny them a little oil
just to be able to save myself?
Could I, in your name,
abandon others outside?
Oh, how beautiful the celebration will be,
how abundant the table will be,
how generous the groom will be…
Can I ignore the cries
of those who also want to be part
of the celebration of your Kingdom?
I cannot, Jesus.
I am sorry, but I cannot.
Perhaps I will stay outside,
perhaps my oil will not be enough
to await you with my lamp lit.
But it would not be true to your Gospel
if I thought solely of me,
if my aim was to save myself in solitude.
I do not know the day, nor the time that you will arrive
that the generous celebration of your Kingdom
will be heralded with music and with dancing,
with wine and with abundance,
that the hour of justice and fulfillment
will have arrived once and for all.
Even so, good Jesus,
I cannot selfishly hoard that oil…
Someone needs it, someone is asking for it
and someone would be left out of your celebration
if we do not share it.
Preguntas al maestro (A la luz de Mateo 25:1-13)
¿Acaso me pides, maestro,
que sea insensible a la necesidad
de quien en la vida se ha equivocado?
¿Acaso esperas que siga mi camino
sin considerar a quien tengo a mi lado,
a quien me pide algo que puedo darle,
a quien espera un gesto de solidaridad?
¿Acaso debo juzgar a mis prójimos
por sus olvidos, por su cansancio,
por sus descuidos o por lo que fuere?
¿No era mi misión, la que me enseñaste,
vestir al desnudo,
compartir el pan con el hambriento,
dar de beber a quien tiene sed,
visitar a las personas solas,
acompañar a quien necesita,
liberar a quien sufre opresión?
¿Debo negar ahora un poco de aceite
sólo para acceder a salvarme yo?
¿Puedo, acaso, en tu nombre,
dejar afuera a otras personas?
Por bonita que sea la fiesta,
por abundante que sea la mesa,
por generoso que sea el novio…
¿puedo desoír el clamor
de quienes también quieren ser parte
de la fiesta de tu Reino?
Yo no puedo, Jesús.
Lo siento, pero no puedo.
Quizá me quede afuera,
quizá mi aceite no alcance
para esperarte con mi lámpara encendida.
Pero no sería fiel a tu Evangelio
si pensara solamente en mí,
si mi objetivo fuera salvarme en soledad.
No conozco el día, tampoco la hora en que llegarás
para que la fiesta generosa de tu Reino
anuncie con música y con bailes,
con vino y con abundancia,
que la hora de la justicia y de la plenitud
ha llegado de una vez para siempre.
Aún así, buen Jesús,
no puedo quedarme egoístamente con aquel aceite…
Alguien lo necesita, alguien lo pide
y alguien se quedaría afuera de tu fiesta
si no lo compartiera.
A Reading from the Gospel
Reader: Pat Miller
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids[a] took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.[b] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids[c] got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids[d] came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.[e]
Tending the Light
Intro: Tim Graber
Testimonials: Cheryl and Christopher Rost, Russ Damtoft
Blessing of Our Commitment to BUCC for 2021
God has made us stewards of the rich resources that were given in Creation and are given anew each day. On this day, we give our offerings and our pledges for the church’s mission and ministries throughout the year to come. Give, knowing that all that we have has come from God who will continue to provide. Pledge, knowing that there is much still to be done as witnesses to God’s goodness. Let us put our hearts into all our pledges as signs of our trust and faithfulness.
At this time, you are invited to hold a symbol of your pledge in your hand as we consecrate our pledges together.
Consecration of Our Pledges (unison)
Gracious God, bless our mutual commitment to build and nurture this faith community and to spread the good gospel. Grant that our discipleship might supply not only the needs of our mission and ministry, but that it might overflow with many thanksgivings and surprising gifts to You. Grant that we may answer your call with willing hearts and serve in the body of Christ, as our ancestors once did, with an eye to your vision for heaven here on earth. In Jesus’ holy name, we pray, Amen.
Prayer of Dedication for the Offerings of Today and this Week
God, we bring all we have, and all we are, and all we feel into your care. In your company, we pray for collective wisdom. That you will guide us in the service of love. And that our commitments to our neighbors – especially those most afraid, most alone, or most vulnerable to violence – will be renewed with fervor. May it be so among us. Amen.
Joys/Concerns, Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Our Mother/Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending
- God, whose giving knows no ending,
From Your rich and endless store:
Nature’s wonder, Jesus’ wisdom,
Costly cross, grave’s shattered door.
Gifted by You, we turn to You,
Offering up ourselves in praise:
Thankful song shall rise forever,
Gracious donor of our days.
- Skills and time are ours for serving,
that your will on earth be done:
All at peace in health and freedom,
Races joined, the Church made one.
Now direct our daily labor,
Lest we strive for self alone:
born with talents, make us servants
fit to answer at your throne.
- Treasure, too, you have entrusted,
gain through powers your earth be done:
Ours to use for home and kindred,
and to spread the gospel Word.
Open wide our hands in sharing,
as we heed Christ’s ageless call.
Healing, teaching, and reclaiming,
honoring You by loving all.
- Lend your joy to all our giving,
Let it light our pilgrim way;
From the night of anxious keeping,
loose us into generous day.
Then when years on earth are over,
And we’ve lived our human span,
God, fulfill beyond our dreaming,
all our stewardship began.
Let us encourage one another in the slow and long labors of love. Through honest witness to loss, to bearing together through grief, to remembering what still can become, let us press on in the work of drawing God’s future near. Never alone, never without hope, the Spirit sends us with peace.
Liturgical Resources/Credits: Except where specifically noted, our liturgy today is from enfeshed.com and adapted to our setting.
More about us
Bethesda UCC was founded in 1957 as Bethesda Congregational Church. United Church of Christ is the union of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church.
We are located at the corner of Fernwood and Democracy. Our postal address is:
Bethesda United Church of Christ
10010 Fernwood Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20817
Minister: Rev. Dee Ledger
Music Director: Kay Krekow
Today’s music is shared under Church Copyright License: One License A-726712
A ONE LICENSE Reprint License grants churches, schools, religious communities, retreat centers, and other worshiping bodies permission to reprint or project music for their congregations from any of our Member Publishers.
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE, License #A-726712. All rights reserved.