Grief over Injustice, Hope for Wholeness

Worship Resources for the Sundays of Lent, Good Friday, and Easter

This Lenten worship series takes a deep dive into various injustices in our world and in our local community. It is a hard series with a lot of heavy topics that push us to consider our complicity in perpetuating injustice, but it also encourages us to look with hope not only in what Jesus has already done for our salvation, but also in how he will renew the world at his return.

Our desire throughout the series was for our congregation to better understand issues of injustice so that we are moved not only toward confession, but also toward the transformation of hearts and minds that leads us to act. We were challenged to hold lament and hope together, and both of those themes should emerge as you peruse this series. “A season dedicated to repentance and renewal should not lead us to despair,” Esau McCaulley reminds us; “it should cause us to praise God for his grace” (Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal, 2022, p. 3).

Consider also including global music and voices of marginalized people groups in your worship planning and leadership. The song “How Long, O Lord, How Long,” Stuempfle, LUYH 291 sung throughout the series, poignantly addresses a number of justice issues. We also incorporated it into a prayer in our Good Friday service.

For our visual display, we employed the motif of a picture frame, suggested in Jill Benson’s article “Seeking Justice Inch by Inch: Practical Ways to Honor the Image of God in Everyone ( Benson references Anne Lamott’s advice to writers for avoiding overwhelm: Focus on what might be seen through a one-inch picture frame. Sometimes when we think about injustice, we can feel overburdened by the weight of it all and at a loss in knowing where to start pursuing justice in our own lives. Imagine instead holding up a one-inch frame and letting the image within those boundaries be your starting point. Seeking justice is taking small steps toward a more just world. We painted several picture frames black and hung them on the wall behind the stage. We also put the children’s cross art in smaller black frames and hung them in and around the larger frames.

Due to space constraints, only the services for the first three weeks of Lent, and Easter are included in this print issue. You can find the full version online at



“War,” Prussian general Carl Von Clausewitz said, “is an act of violence intended to compel our opponents to fulfill our will” (On War, Book 1, Ch. 1, 1832). War is always violent and always for a purpose. Approaches to war fall somewhere on a spectrum between militarism and pacifism. Understanding war as a Christian can be confusing because biblical texts can be used to support both ends of the spectrum. However, it is clear that violence, destruction, and death are not part of God’s plan for a flourishing humanity; in fact, it is human depravity that causes war. It’s easy to say that political leaders are the reason for wars, but we all are complicit in the evil and violence we see in the world. Our own sins of injustice or inaction shape and contribute to the injustice and wars in our communities. God is not a god of war. In Genesis we see that God created a perfect world, but human sin brought evil and death into it. We can be confident that a time is coming where there will be no more war, sin, or evil because all the way back in Genesis, God promised a Savior. Jesus’ death defeated the curse of sin and Satan, and we eagerly anticipate the promised day when the world will be without war.




Call to Worship: Psalm 46:1–3, 7

Song: “Hear Our Praises” Morgan, LUYH 302, SSS 414

God Greets Us

God’s People Greet Each Other


“There Is a Redeemer” Green, LUYH 833, GtG 443, SSS 495

“Be unto Your Name” Deshazo and Sadler 



Children’s Message

[Invite kids forward to discuss their charcoal cross art now on display, then talk to the kids about ashes.]

Ash Wednesday was this past week, marking the start of the season of Lent, which is what we call the season in the church leading up to Good Friday and Easter. This can be a hard season. We talk a lot about the suffering and death of Jesus and about suffering and death in the world. God calls us in the season of Lent to turn from the things that keep us apart from God and to turn toward the things that bring us closer to God. 

Thank you for helping us worship by sharing the crosses you made. [Ask one or two children to talk about their pictures.] The ashes remind us that eventually we will all die because we disobeyed God. The cross reminds us of our hope in Christ: that Jesus has already defeated death. The beauty of the flowers, trees, and sunshine in your pictures reminds us that God will make everything new and beautiful in its time. 


Prayer of Confession

Dear Jesus,

We are sorry for not always doing what is right and good.

We turn away from you and go our own way.

Forgive us, Lord, when we do bad things or think unkind thoughts.

Forgive us when we don’t help someone in need.

Help us to live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you, our God.



Assurance of Pardon

God promises us that God will make everything beautiful in its time.

The book of Isaiah describes a beautiful picture of the joy creation will have when God makes all things new:

The desert and the dry ground will be glad.

The dry places will be full of joy.

Flowers will grow there.

Like the first crocus in the spring,

the desert will bloom with flowers.

It will be very glad and shout for joy. . . .

Everyone will see the glory of the Lord.

They will see the beauty of our God.

—Isaiah 35:1–3, NIRV

Song: “Cornerstone” Mote et al.

[Children are dismissed for Children’s Worship.]



Prayer for Illumination

Scripture: Deuteronomy 20:1–4; Luke 6:27–31

Message: “A Christian Understanding of War”

Song of Response: “How Long, O Lord, How Long” (st. 1, 6–8) Steumpfle, LUYH 291

Prayers of the People

We Give Our Offerings of Thanks



Call to Discipleship: Psalm 46:9–11

The God who is always with us sends us out into the world

to do justice, to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with the Lord God Almighty.

God’s Parting Blessing

Song: “Living Hope” Johnson and Wickham


Week One: Alternative Song Ideas

A Mighty Fortress Is Our GodLuther, LUYH 776, GtG 275, SSS 651

Instrument of PeaceSt. Francis of Assisi and Porter’s Gate

There’s a Wideness in God’s MercyFaber, LUYH 689, GtG 435, SSS 526

O God of Love, O King of PeaceBaker, TH 712, PH 608

O God of Every NationReid, LUYH 282, GtG 756

O God of Love, Forever BlestWatts, LUYH 283



We centered this service around creation care, the climate crisis, and our call to fill the earth and subdue it. We opened the service with our delight in the beauty of creation, joining the song of all creation praising the Creator. We lamented how we often neglect our task of caring for the earth as all creation groans in eager expectation for Christ’s return. Then we turned to trust and hope that God will redeem this world and make all things new.




Call to Worship

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

All creation joins in praising:

great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

lightning and hail, snow and clouds,

stormy winds that do his bidding,

mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars,

wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,

kings of the earth and all nations, princes and all rulers on earth,

young men and women, old men and children.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,

for his name alone is exalted;

his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

—adapted from Psalm 19:1 and Psalm 148:7–12

God Greets Us

God’s People Greet Each Other


How magnificent it is for us to reflect on

how God’s Word spoke creation into being,

how God’s Spirit breathed life into every living creature.

We join our voices in concert with the symphony of praise 

sung by trees and fields on earth, and saints and angels in heaven. 

“Rejoice in All Your Works” Kimbrough

“Creation Sings the Father’s Song” Getty and Townend



Call to Confession

Made in God’s image

to live in loving communion with our Maker,

we are appointed earthkeepers and caretakers

to tend the earth, enjoy it,

and love our neighbors.

God uses our skills

for the unfolding and well-being of his world

so that creation and all who live in it may flourish.

—from Our World Belongs to God, st. 10 © 2008, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Reprinted with permission.

Yet often we neglect our task.

Recalling our task leads us to confess our sin

and to yearn for God’s forgiveness.

Prayer of Confession and Song: “This is My Father’s World (Beauty Birthed from Strife)” Babcock, LUYH 21; additional verse Tai and Dost

[Congregation sings stanza 1:]

This is my Father’s world,

and to my listening ears

all nature sings, and round me rings

the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world;

I rest me in the thought

of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

his hand the wonders wrought.

[Spoken prayer of confession:]

Creator God, we confess that all too often

we have ignored and denied your lordship of the land entrusted to us

by assuming the right to do with it as we please,

by taking more from it than we have returned to it,

by taking for granted its productivity,

by denying justice to many who have labored on the land,

by wanting food for less than it costs to produce.

We have indulged our appetites with little consideration for others.

We have been more interested in our neighbor’s land than in our neighbor.

We have harbored bitterness and resentments

because of economic problems.

We are not reconciled to some who have hurt us,

even members of your body.

—from “Prayers for the Earth,” by Betty Voskuil, Reformed Worship 10:24 © 1988, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

[Congregation sings stanza by Tai and Drost:]

This is our Savior’s world,

though justice has not come. 

We wait in angst and groan in pain

till Jesus’ kingdom come. 

God will redeem this world!

From the ashes shall come life. 

We will believe though we cannot see 

the beauty birthed from strife.

—Julie Tai and Eben Drost  © 2019, Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial-ShareAlike.

[Prayer continues:]

Lord of the church, have mercy on us.

Grant us peace with you and with each other in Christ.

—from “Prayers for the Earth,” by Betty Voskuil, Reformed Worship 10:24 © 1988, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

[Congregation sings stanza 3:]

This is my Father’s world;

oh, let me not forget

that, though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the Ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world;

why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King, let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let earth be glad.

[Prayer continues:]

Lord of all creation,

you have given us this day of beauty,

full of your handiwork. 

Open our eyes wide

to see your Spirit’s artistry in all that happens. 

Open our hearts

to the surprising ways of your creative goodness. 

Then grant us grace to reflect your glory, 

through the transforming power of Christ, your Word, 

who beckons us into life abundant. Amen.

—from “Praising God the Maker,” by Christine Jerrett, Reformed Worship 106 © 2012 Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.  


Assurance of Pardon

In a moment we are going to sing together “Is He Worthy?” The chorus references the moment in Revelation 5 when the prophet asks, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” He looks around along with all the hosts of heaven, and when no one is found who is worthy, he weeps bitterly.

But then one of the elders says, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able.” And then the Lamb, looking as if it has been slain, appears at the center of the throne and takes the scroll. At once all the heavenly hosts sing praises: “You are worthy!”

When facing injustice, we can feel despair. But though we see the brokenness in our lives and the world around us and we hear creation groaning, we know that there is still one who is worthy. Christ is worthy, and through Christ we are assured of redemption. Redemption from our sin and all the injustice and brokenness of this world. One day all will be redeemed, and creation will groan no more.

Song: “Is He Worthy?” Peterson and Shive

[Children are dismissed for Children’s Worship.]



Prayer for Illumination

Scripture: Psalm 104; Matthew 6:25–34

Message: “Seeking Justice for Creation”

Song of Response: “For the Beauty of the Earth” Pierpont, LUYH 19, GtG 14, SSS 21

Prayer of the People

We Give Our Offerings of Thanks



Call to Discipleship

Teach us again to live in sync with your creation.

May your Spirit move in the hearts of leaders,

giving courage in the face of the climate crisis.

May your Spirit move in the voices of youth

who call on us to consider future generations.

May your Spirit empower the poor with resilience

to weather storms, drought, and floods.

May your Spirit lift the conscience of the church to do what is right.

May our actions bear witness that our world belongs to God.

—from “Prayer for the Restoration of Creation,” Climate Witness Project © 2016, CRCNA, Faith Alive Christian Resources. Reprinted by permission.

God’s Parting Blessing

Song: “Lord, Most High” Harris and Sadler, LUYH 593, SSS 448


WEEK TWO: Additional Song Ideas

Hosanna! (Will You Rise?)Wardell et al.

All Creatures LamentWardell et al.



This week was among the most challenging and controversial of the whole series. Our focus was hospitality and how we treat those with different sexual orientations and gender identities. Regardless of where people stand on issues of gender and sexuality, the call to love one another is clear. It is a great injustice when the world reduces people to nothing more than their gender or sexual identity. Instead, we look to our true and primary identity as beloved children of God.




Call to Worship: “See How Good It Is (Psalm 133)” Kimbrough

God Greets Us

God’s People Greet Each Other


“O Praise the Name (Anástasis)” Hastings et al.

“God So Loved” Sampson and Crocker

[Children are dismissed for Children’s Worship.]


Word and Table

Prayer for Illumination

Scripture: Matthew 9:9–13

Message: “Christ Eats with Outcasts”

Song of Response: “Gather Us In” Haugen, LUYH 529, GtG 401, SSS 393

Invitation to the Table

Worship brings us together in community, and as we interact and connect with one another, we encounter God. The Lord’s table is a place of fellowship with God among God’s people across all kinds of differences. Christ exemplified that truth in his actions, as in Matthew 9, our text for today, but also in his teachings, especially the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14. In the book A Just Passion, Sandra Maria Van Opstal reflects on that parable:

Luke 14 . . . illustrates a master’s invitation to a great banquet feast. The master’s invitation list reveals no favoritism at the table. All are invited to the banquet: the social elite as well as those from the highways and byways. The tension mounts: when people from different ethnic and socioeconomic standings gather, the result is awkward dinner conversations. And let’s face it, we tend to avoid parties where we expect awkwardness.

But isn’t being at the Lord’s Table in the church like being at an awkward party? Imagine a dinner where random strangers from all walks of life—poor, rich, old, young—are invited. There they are, staring at one another across the table and wondering what they can possibly say and why the other is dressed like that. This is the church! . . . We come together at God’s invitation. The table is an intimate and unique place of communion. . . . It would be easy if we were all clones, but God in his wisdom did not create us that way (Barton et al., A Just Passion: A Six-Week Lenten Journey, 2022, pp. 51–52).

Come to this table:

you who have much faith,

and you who would like to have more;

you who have been to this sacrament often,

and you who have not been for a long time;

you who have tried to follow Jesus,

and you who have failed.

Come. It is Christ who invites us to meet him here.

Iona Abbey Worship Book, p. 53 © 2001, Wild Goose Publications, Reproduced with permission of the Licensor through PLSclear.

Celebration of the Lord’s Supper

[Use the liturgy your church is familiar with.]

Communion Songs

“Come As You Are” Glover et al.

“How Deep the Father’s Love” Townend


Most gracious God,

we are in awe of your great gifts to us,

experienced here at this table.

You have given your Son that we might live,

you have fed our spirits with bread and wine,

you have made us one body with all your children.

We are renewed today

in our commitment to loving service.

We leave here to build your kingdom in this world,

and we ask that your love will shape our love,

that we may reach to others

as Jesus Christ has reached to us.

Hear us, accept our thanks,

and continue to walk with us.

In the name of him who gave himself for us.

—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources (TWS

[Continue with the Prayers of the People.]

We Give Our Offerings  



Call to Discipleship

People of God, what do you believe?

We believe that Christ’s work of reconciliation

is made manifest in the church as the community of believers

who have been reconciled with God and with one another.

We believe that unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain.

We believe that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe

that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin. . . .

Anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church

and must be resisted. . . .

We believe that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation

in and through Jesus Christ,

that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world,

that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker,

that the church is witness both by word and by deed

to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells. . . .

We believe that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

from The Confession of Belhar, 3, Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). Translated by the Office of Theology and Worship, Presbyterian Church (USA).

Lord God, we are your church.

Lead us to be the agents of unity and justice.

Let your kingdom come to rule in us and in your world.

God’s Parting Blessing

Song: “Christ Be All Around Me” Mooring et al.




On Good Friday, we look at the depth of injustice: the Lord of heaven and earth betrayed, mistreated, condemned, and unjustly judged. That which was the epitome of good and holy was treated as refuse. We journey through the whole passion narrative with readings from The Message, and the sermon asked us to consider the ways we might be like Pilate, washing our hands and turning a blind eye toward the injustice we witness.

The song “How Long, O Lord, How Long” Steumpfle, LUYH 291 (a setting we used throughout the series) became a central theme in a prayer of lament in this service.  





Call to Worship

​​Today we remember Jesus was crucified.

He was pierced for our transgressions.

He suffered and died for our iniquities.

We remember the sacrifice of our Lord with gratitude

because his death gives us life and brings redemption to the world.

Let us worship our Savior.

—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources (TWS M.1.2.2).

God Greets Us

Song: “Meekness and Majesty” Kendrick, LUYH 157


The Passover

Reading: Matthew 26:20–25 (MSG)

Song: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” Townend


Reading: Matthew 26:31–46 (MSG)

Song: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” (st. 1–2) Montgomery, LUYH 161, GtG 220, SSS 171


Reading: Matthew 26:47–56 (MSG)

Song: “What Wondrous Love Is This” (st. 1–3) Anonymous, LUYH 164, GtG 215, SSS 177

False Charges

Reading: Matthew 26:57–68 (MSG)

Song: “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended” Heermann, LUYH 172, GtG 218

Denial in the Courtyard

Reading: Matthew 26:69–75 (MSG)

Song: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” Watts, LUYH 175, GtG 224, SSS 163


We Hear God’s Word

Prayer for Illumination

Scripture: Matthew 27:11–26

Message: “The Greatest Injustice of All”

We Give Our Offerings of Thanks


Prayer of Lament

Christ identified completely with us in suffering, even unto death. He is our Savior-Intercessor who sympathizes with our weakness. What better time than Good Friday to practice the spiritual discipline of lament, to express solidarity with those who are suffering, including Jesus himself? On Good Friday, we lament with Jesus.

Song: “How Long, O Lord, How Long” Steumpfle, LUYH 291

[Congregation sings st. 1, 2]

We pray for the hungry around the world,

for all those who don’t know where their next meal will come from,

for those who long to nourish their children with good things,

and for those whose crops have failed yet again.

We pray for those in our own community struggling with food insecurity.

Grant wisdom and guidance to those who minister among the hungry.

[Congregation sings st. 3]

We pray for those experiencing homelessness in our community,

and for those facing the devastating effect of rising housing costs.

We pray for organizations and individuals who minister among them.

[Congregation sings st. 5]

We pray for victims of prejudice,

for those facing oppression because of gender, race, or class.

Help us to see you, Lord, in the people we encounter

and to love others as you love us.

[Congregation sings st. 7, 8]


The Crucifixion

Reading: Matthew 27:27–54 (MSG)

Song: “Were You There” African American spiritual, LUYH 166, GtG 228, SSS 176


The Tomb

Reading: Matthew 27:57–66 (MSG)

God’s Parting Blessing

Song: “Oh, to See the Dawn” Getty and Townend, LUYH 177

[Depart in silence.]



“I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” —Lesslie Newbigin

Easter Sunday serves as the antithesis to the whole series, turning us from looking at injustice to looking at what is true justice. Christ’s victory over sin and death is our eternal hope for justice. It is amazing, breathtaking, and life changing, but the efficacy of this sacrifice goes far beyond our personal salvation. It is world changing! Jesus himself tells us that he was sent to earth to “proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God,” and through his death and resurrection the kingdom is come. The work of restoring the goodness of God’s creation has begun, to be completed on the day Christ comes again.




Call to Worship

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He has given us new life and hope.

He has raised Jesus from the dead.

God has claimed us as his own.

He has brought us out of darkness,

and has made us light to the world.

—Adapted from 1 Peter 1:3–5

God Greets Us

God’s People Greet Each Other 


“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” Wesley, LUYH 182, GtG 245, SSS 181

“Crown Him with Many Crowns” (st. 1, 2) Bridge and Thring, LUYH 223, GtG 268, SSS 208

“God So Loved” Bergthold and Cash



Invitation to the Table

Isaiah shares a beautiful prophecy of all peoples gathering together at God’s messianic feast, celebrating the overthrow of evil and the joy of eternity with God. Today as we celebrate communion we look back on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and anticipate this messianic feast in the joy of eternity with God.  

Reading: Isaiah 25:6–9

We come rejoicing in the risen Christ this Easter Sunday!

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Nourished at this table, O God,

may we know Christ’s redemptive love

and live a new life in him.

Give us who are fed at his hand

grace to share our bread with the hungry

and with the hungry of heart.

Keep us faithful in your service

until Christ comes in final victory,

and we shall feast with all your saints

in the joy of your eternal realm.

Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

all glory and honor are yours, almighty God,

with the Holy Spirit in the holy church,

now and forever. Amen.

—Reprinted by permission from the Book of Common Worship, © 2018 Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.

The Words of Institution

We give thanks to God the Father that our Savior, Jesus Christ,

before he suffered, gave us this memorial of his sacrifice, until he comes again. 

At his last supper, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, 

he broke it [the minister breaks the bread] and said, 

“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 

In the same way, after supper he took the cup [the minister pours the wine] and said, 

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this in remembrance of me.” 

For whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

—adapted from 1 Corinthians 11:23–26

Therefore we proclaim our faith as signed and sealed in this sacrament:

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again.

The Prayer of Consecration

Lord, our God, send your Holy Spirit so that this bread and cup may be for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we and all your saints be united with Christ and remain faithful in hope and love. Gather your whole church, O Lord, into the glory of your kingdom.

—Agenda for Synod 1994 © 1994, Christian Reformed Church in North America, p. 181.

Leader: We pray in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray,

All: “Our Father in heaven . . .”

The Communion


“See How Good It Is (Psalm 133)” Kimbrough

“What a Beautiful Name” Fielding and Ligertwood

“Agnus Dei” Smith, SNC 39

Prayer after Communion

Leader: Eternal God, heavenly Father,

you have graciously accepted us as living members

of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ,

and you have fed us with spiritual food

in the sacrament of his body and blood.

Send us out into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart.

Through Christ, our Lord, amen.

—Leo Malania in The Book of Common Prayer, p. 365, according to the use of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. © 1977, Charles Mortimer Guilbert as custodian; public domain.

[Children are dismissed for Children’s Worship.]



Prayer for Illumination

Scripture: Matthew 28:1–8; Romans 8:1–6

Message: “Victory & Justice”

Song of Response: “Low in the Grave He Lay” Lowry, LUYH 186, SSS 185

Prayer of the People

We Give Our Offerings of Thanks



Call to Discipleship

As Christ burst forth from the tomb,

may new life burst forth from us

and show itself in acts of love and healing to a hurting world.

And may that same Christ, who lives forever

and is the source of our new life,

keep your hearts rejoicing and grant you peace

this day and always. Amen.

—Carol A. Wise in For All Who Minister: A Worship Manual for the Church of the Brethren, © 1993, Brethren Press.

God’s Parting Blessing

Song: “Victor’s Crown” Zschech et al.



Pastor Elly Boersma Sarkany is pastor of worship at Covenant Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, where she has been privileged to serve for the past ten years planning and leading worship in community with many gifted volunteers. 

Reformed Worship 150 © December 2023, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.