After Pentecost 12A – August 20

August 20, 2023
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
“For the Heart”

Call to Worship:
One: O God Embodied, the one made flesh who dwelt among us, help us to arrive this morning with a “yes.” A “yes” to our faith that says our bodies are good and holy, just as and however they are.
All: A “yes” to show up here, even if our minds may be in other places at times.
One: A “yes” to believing enough in you, this community, and our own call to know this is where we need to be in this moment.
All: A “yes” to bringing all that comes from and through our hearts to you, O Heart-maker.
One: Come, let us bring ourselves to God’s table of plenty,
All: With our inherent worth and dignity to guide us. Selah. Amen.

Have mercy on us, O God of Healing. We call out to you for ourselves, our community, and our world that has so much suffering. At times we are discouraged to name what we need, by society or family expectations that were uncomfortable with needs. So often we were simply never taught how to hold this part of us with tenderness and boundaries. But your Word invites us in to name what torments us and to receive your love and acceptance. Grant us your grace to take in the strength of your belonging. Amen.

Prayer for Transformation and New Life:
Today, our scripture passage shows us the power of repentance. And how profound is it to see this embodied in Christ, who changed his perspective and actions because of an encounter with the force of mother advocating for her child and dignity. May we have the courage to admit when we’ve been wrong, the courage to ask for forgiveness, and the open heart to change our ways. Amen.

Words of Grace:
What a blessing to experience metanoia, to have it offered by our God who made us to grow and change. In times when we struggle to make the turns we need in our lives, may God’s grace and this community walk with us in the labyrinth of forgiveness. Amen.

Crumb Communion:
Materials needed: scraps of paper, pens, and a basket or a bowl.
{You may want to give people a piece of paper and a pen, if they need it, before the service begins.}
Sometimes it is the seemingly small, everyday things—the crumbs of life—that are like manna for us in challenging times. Perhaps it is noticing something beautiful out your window, an unexpected laugh with a friend, a word from scripture, a good night’s sleep, the feel of a soft blanket or the warmth of sun on your skin.
What kinds of simple experiences have given you much needed relief or delight? What kinds of “crumbs” have met your hunger with sweetness?
Write a “crumb” you’ve received lately on the scrap of paper. It can be specific as, “seeing the red cardinal in my backyard,” or as general as, “coffee.” Place your scrap of paper in the basket as it gets passed around.
{Give people time to write and then pass the basket around the congregation. Mix the scraps of paper up in the basket.}
We’re going to pass the basket around again, only this time, I invite you to take out one scrap of paper and read what someone else has written. Does what they wrote resonate with you? Might you notice, what they’ve noticed? Might you receive what they have received?
{Give time for this.}
Let us pray. Like the Canaanite mother who noticed Jesus preaching on the road, may we find you and your presence in unexpected places and in everyday ways. May your Spirit sanctify these crumbs of nourishment from our lives, gathered here in communion. We offer them up like loaves and fishes, knowing that in community, there is abundance. And may our modern manna remind us that you do not wish us to be in pain. Rather, in the midst of life’s suffering, you insist on being right here with us, in every portion and size imaginable. Amen.

Invitation to Generosity:
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that God’s house is “a house of prayer for all peoples.” And it is in such a place where offerings are acceptable to God. Here, in this place of extravagant welcome, may our offerings of time, energy, money, resources, skills, hope, and prayer be lifted up to our God. May they be discerned for the good that ripples out beyond our walls and felt by all who enter them. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication and Thanksgiving:
Let us give thanks for all that we share, as well as the way that we share. May our gratitude for this community and the Spirit’s presence in this space guide us in how to show up in our lives. May we know how to give but also how to receive, how to say, “yes” and when we need to say, “not today.” Let us lift up, and take in, the gift of thanksgiving. Amen.

May God’s extravagant welcome go with us wherever we go. May we learn what it means to belong as God’s beloved and extend this acceptance out in the world. Let us remember that with deep love, the waters of justice flow. And with grounding in our own dignity, the fire of freedom lights up the world. Amen.

For the Heart: Service Prayers for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost was written by Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry who serves as the Associate for Advocacy and Leadership Development for the Council of Health and Human Service Ministries of the United Church of Christ. Learn more at