A Service of Letting Go and Letting God

Back in June, I gathered for a mini-retreat with the worship and music team at St. John’s to look ahead over the coming year (Aug-Jul) and dream up creative and innovative ways to deepen and diversify our worship life together. Especially after the practically apocalyptic challenges of the last few years, people are just exhausted — weary of historic world changes, worn out by constant worrying, carrying burdens of grief and disappointment and frustration and stress in their hearts with nowhere to set them down.

I wanted to find a way to offer people an opportunity to name and begin to process some of these burdens, some of the trauma of the last few years, and to open up their wounded hearts to God for healing. In previous years, this congregation had a history of doing some kind of special service — usually a service of healing — on the fifth Sunday in months with five Sundays; so we decided to resurrect that tradition to start periodically doing a ritual we have called “A Service of Letting Go and Letting God.”

Below, you can find the link to the live stream of worship, as well as the embedded video (if it decides to work 😜); I also copied the bulletin so you can follow along if you so desire. If you’re looking for a way to unburden your heart and open up your pain to God in prayer, I hope this service may be useful to you — that it may help you to name your burdens, let them go, and let God take care of the rest.

Watch the service here or embedded below.

Thank you for joining us for worship! Wherever you are, we invite you to create space for worship, both in your physical space and in your heart — perhaps light a candle or fill a bowl with water to remember your baptism, or grab a bible or hymnal, or do whatever helps you most to feel worshipful. 

Note: Today, as part of our “Service of Letting Go and Letting God,” we will be writing the burdens our hearts carry on pieces of paper with (washable) markers and placing them in a bowl of water (with bleach), remembering as we see those words washed away that God daily renews and refreshes us through our baptism. You are invited to recreate this ritual or something similar at home; if you don’t have bleach or washable markers, you can tear your paper into tiny bits, or (safely) burn it, or even add it to your compost pile. Be creative! And know, whatever the method, that God receives your prayers and cares for you.


Sunday, July 31, 2022 • Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Service of Letting Go and Letting God

GATHERING
The Holy Spirit calls us together as the people of God.

WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS 
Blessed be the holy Trinity, one God, whose steadfast love endures forever.
Amen.

Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another.
Silence is kept for reflection.

Merciful God,
we confess that we have not followed your path but have chosen our own way.  Instead of putting others before ourselves, we long to take the best seats at the table.  When met by those in need, we have too often passed by on the other side. Set us again on the path of life. Save us from ourselves and free us to love our neighbors. Amen.

Hear the good news! God does not deal with us according to our sins but delights in granting pardon and mercy.  In the name of Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven. You are free to love as God loves.
Amen.

GATHERING SONG (ELW 588) There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in God’s justice
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heav’n.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment giv’n.

There is welcome for the sinner,
and a promised grace made good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.
There is grace enough for thousands
of new worlds as great as this;
there is room for fresh creations
in that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is borader
than the measures of our mind;
and the heart of the Eternal 
is most wonderfully kind.
But we make this love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.

‘Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
it is something more than all:
greater good because of evil,
larger mercy through the fall.
Make our love, O God, more faithful;
let us take you at your word,
and our lives will be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.

GREETING
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.

KYRIE 
In peace, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

For the peace from above, and for our salvation, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being of the church of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

For this holy house, and for all who offer here their worship and praise, let us pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

Help, save, comfort, and defend us, gracious Lord.
Amen.

CANTICLE OF PRAISE
This is the feast of victory for our God.
Alleluia.
Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain,
whose blood set us free to be people of God.
Power and riches and wisdom and strength,
and honor and blessing and glory are his.
This is the feast of victory for our God.
Alleluia.
Sing with all the people of God
and join in the hymn of all creation:
Blessing and honor and glory and might
be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen.
This is the feast of victory for our God,
for the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign.
Alleluia. Alleluia.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.


Let us pray.

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon us your abundant mercy. Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience, and give us those good things that come only through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen.

WORD
God speaks to us in scripture reading, preaching, and song.

FIRST READING: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem, applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me —and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.

Word of God, word of life. / The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

PSALM: Psalm 49:1-12
Hear this, all you peoples; give ear, all you who dwell in the world,
you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.

My mouth shall speak of wisdom, and my heart shall meditate on understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb and set forth my riddle upon the harp.

Why should I be afraid in evil days, when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,
the wickedness of those who put their trust in their own prowess, and boast of their great riches?

One can never redeem another, or give to God the ransom for another’s life;
for the ransom of a life is so great that there would never be enough to pay it,

in order to live forever and ever and never see the grave.
For we see that the wise die also; like the dull and stupid they perish and leave their wealth to those who come after them.

Their graves shall be their homes forever, their dwelling places from generation to generation, though they had named lands after themselves.
Even though honored, they cannot live forever; they are like the beasts that perish.

SECOND READING: Colossians 3:1-11
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Word of God, word of life. / The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

GOSPEL ACCLAMATION 
Alleluia, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia, alleluia.

The gospel of the Lord. 
Praise to you, O Christ.

GOSPEL: Luke 12:13-21
The holy gospel according to Luke.  
Glory to you, O Lord.

Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus,] “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

RITE OF LETTING GO AND LETTING GOD
(Adapted from “Liturgy for a Time of Widespread Suffering” in Every Moment Holy Vol II by Douglas McKelvey)

Christ Our King, in these last months and years, our world has been overtaken by unexpected calamities, and by a host of attending fears, worries, and insecurities. We have witnessed suffering, confusion, and hardship multiplied around us. And each time we hear news of violence, disease, climate disaster, dysfunctional government, widening inequality, and the dozens of other challenges our world faces, we find ourselves swept up in these same anxieties and troubles, dismayed by so many uncertainties.
Now we turn to you, O God, in this season of our common distress.

And in the midst of our shared distress, we likewise remember the many personal griefs and pains that each heart carries into this space. We ask you: be merciful, O Christ, to all who suffer, to all who worry, to all who grieve, to all who are threatened or harmed in any way by these upheavals. 

Let your holy compassions be active throughout the world even now— tending the afflicted, comforting the brokenhearted, and bringing hope to the many who are hopeless.
Use even these hardships to woo our hearts nearer to you, O God.

Indeed, O God, may these days of disquiet become a catalyst for conviction and repentance, for the tendering of our affections, for the stirring of our sympathies, for the refining of our love. Break down the walls we build around our hearts that we may be drawn ever nearer to you and to our neighbor in Christlike love.
We are your people, who are called by you, we need not be troubled or alarmed.

Indeed, O Lord, let us love now more fearlessly, remembering that you created us, and you appointed us to live in these very places, in the midst of these unsettled times. It is no accident, no surprise to you that we are here now, sharing in this turmoil along with the rest of our society – for you have called your children to live as salt and light among the nations, to pray and to labor for the flourishing of the communities where we dwell, to act as agents of your forgiveness, salvation, healing, reconciliation, and hope, right in the midst of an often-troubled world.

You have formed us to be your servants in this time and in this place. And in these holy vocations, you have not left us helpless, O Lord – because you have not left us at all. Your Spirit remains among us.
Inhabit now your church, O Spirit of the Risen Christ. Unite and equip your people for the work before us.

Loving Father, Mother of us all, empower us to live as your children. Receive the hurts and griefs and brokenness that we let go into your care today. Unburden our weary hearts that they be free to love others as we have been so loved.
We lift our wounded hearts to you. You alone can make us whole.

Please use the markers provided to write on your piece of paper whatever things are weighing on your heart today. When you are ready to let these burdens go into God’s care, you may come forward (or hand your paper to an usher or someone else) and place your paper in the bowl of water at the front of the sanctuary. Remember your baptism as God washes these hurts away; remember that God makes you new every day, holding you always in unconditional love. (As mentioned above, if you’re participating from home, please feel free to adapt this ritual using whatever you’ve got on hand.)

Hear now these words, you children of God, and be greatly encouraged: The Lord’s throne in heaven is yet occupied, God’s rule is eternal, and God’s good purposes on earth will be forever accomplished. So we need never be swayed by the brief and passing panics of this age.
You are the King of the Ages, O Christ, and history is held in your Father’s hands.

We, your people, know the good and glorious end of this story. Our eternal hope is secure. Therefore, even in this time of turmoil and uncertainty, let us rest afresh in the surpassing peace of that vision, that your whole church on earth might be liberated to love more generously and sacrificially.
Now labor in and through us, O Lord, extending and multiplying the many expressions of your love and mercy. Amen.

HYMN OF THE DAY (ACS 1004) Faith Begins by Letting Go
(music below)

Faith begins by letting go, 
giving up what had seemed sure,
taking risks and pressing on,
though the way feels less secure:
pilgrimage both right and odd, 
trusting all our life to God.

Faith endures by holding on, 
keeping mem’ry’s roots alive
so that hope may bear its fruit;
promise-fed, our souls will thrive,
not through merit we possess,
but by God’s great faithfulness.

Faith matures by reaching out,
stretching minds, enlarging hearts
sharing struggles, living prayer,
binding up the broken parts;
till we find the commonplace
ripe with witness to God’s grace.

APOSTLES CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the deadOn the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
At this time, all are invited to share things they’d like the whole assembly to pray for. These may be joys for which we give thanks, concerns for which we ask God’s care, and anything in between. At the end of the sharing, Pastor Day will then lead us in gathering all these things in prayer.

In addition to our own joys and concerns, our prayers should also reflect the wideness of God’s mercy for the whole world:

  • for the church universal, its ministry, and the mission of the gospel
  • for the well-being of creation
  • for peace and justice in the world, the nations and those in authority, the community
  • for the poor, oppressed, sick, bereaved, lonely
  • for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit
  • for the congregation, and for special concerns
  • thanksgiving for the faithful saints who have gone before us – those commemorated by the church as well as those we know, who died recently or the anniversary of whose death is near

Let us pray…
All that the assembly has shared is lifted in prayer, along with the silent prayers we lift in our hearts – God lovingly receives them all.
Amen.

PEACE
The peace of Christ be with you always.  
And also with you.

MEAL
God feeds us with the presence of Jesus Christ.

OFFERING
There are many ways to make your offering:

  • Checks may be mailed or dropped off at the church
  • Ask your bank about setting up automatic giving
  • Make a secure offering online by clicking on the button below (opens up our Tithe.ly giving page in a new window)

OFFERING PRAYER

Let us pray.

God of abundance: you have set before us a plentiful harvest. As we feast on your goodness, strengthen us to labor in your field, and equip us to bear fruit for the good of all, in the name of Jesus.
Amen.

GREAT THANKSGIVING
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

PREFACE
It is indeed right, our duty and our joy… we praise your name and join their unending hymn:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of pow’r and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna. Hosanna. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

THANKSGIVING AT THE TABLE

EUCHARISTIC PRAYER / WORDS OF INSTITUTION
You are indeed holy, almighty and merciful God… For as often as we eat of this bread and drink of this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

LORD’S PRAYER
Our 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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

INVITATION TO COMMUNION

COMMUNION
All are welcome at the Lord’s table, whether Lutheran or not.  Ushers will invite you forward by pew.  Wine and juice are available.  To receive a blessing, please come forward with arms crossed across your chest.

COMMUNION SONG (ELW 496) One Bread, One Body

One bread, one body, one Lord of all;
one cup of blessing which we bless,
and we, though many throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord.

Gentile or Jew, servant or free,
woman or man, no more.
One bread, one body, one Lord of all;
one cup of blessing which we bless,
and we, though many throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord.

Many the gifts, many the works,
one in the Lord of all.
One bread, one body, one Lord of all;
one cup of blessing which we bless,
and we, though many throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord.

Grain for the fields, scattered and grown,
gathered to one for all.
One bread, one body, one Lord of all;
one cup of blessing which we bless,
and we, though many throughout the earth,
we are one body in this one Lord.

POST-COMMUNION BLESSING

PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION

Let us pray.

Life-giving God, through this meal you have bandaged our wounds and fed us with your mercy. Now send us forth to live for others, both friend and stranger, that all may come to know your love. This we pray in the name of Jesus.
Amen.

SENDING
God blesses us and sends us in mission to the world.

SENDING SONG (ELW 774) What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
what a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
leaning on the everlasting arms;
oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

BLESSING
The God of peace, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless you, comfort you, and show you the path of life this day and always.
Amen.

DISMISSAL
Go in peace. Love your neighbor.
Thanks be to God.

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Allison Siburg

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