This service, based on Isaiah 43:1-7, was created for a group of pastors visiting the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. It can be used by any group wanting to reflect on border crossings, in their own lives or in the experiences of refugees and those seeking asylum, and on God’s call to stand with those who have been marginalized.
The ecumenical service invites participants to explore the questions and challenges we experience when we encounter or cross boundaries. What kinds of boundaries and borders have we faced? How does it feel to be held back from something or someone we love? Who or what is given freedom to cross? What can Christians do in the face of restrictive and unjust boundaries? How do we support those for whom boundaries and borders are oppressive and painful?
Isaiah 43:1-7 reminds Israel of God’s restoration and protection as God gathers God’s people from the four corners of the world. How is God present on the borders of our lives? In what ways does Christian hope reside on the borders?
Before you begin:
- Where possible, arrange a circle of chairs for the worship group and place a small table in the center. Set the table with a lighted candle and other elements that represent the kinds of borders on which you hope to reflect (such as a cross, a small weaving, a family photo, a passport, a lock or a key, a small piece of fencing).
- Assign six readers for the call to worship.
- Assign someone to accompany the hymns or to start them a cappella.
- Assign readers for the scripture and the closing blessing or plan to read those yourself.
Together on the borders
'When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.' Isaiah 43:2a (NRSV)
Call to worship
Reader 1: Jesus said, “Follow me.”
Reader 2: We don’t always know what that means.
Reader 3: We are on a journey of discovery.
Reader 4: We are here because we want to be God’s people;
Reader 5: we are here because we are broken and want to be whole again;
Reader 6: we are here to celebrate our lives, and God’s presence in this life.
ALL: LET US WORSHIP GOD WITH GREAT THANKSGIVING.
Isaiah 43:1-7 (NRSV)
43 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth --
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
Reflect silently for a few minutes, then turn to a neighbor and discuss:
What is one difficult “border crossing” you’ve made or attempted in your life, and how was God present? (You might think of a “border” as a physical border, a body of water or a challenging transition in your life.)
How does that “crossing” shed light for you on the experiences of refugees, victims of violence and human trafficking, and those seeking asylum at the U.S. border?
Study the illustration at the top of this page, then turn to a different neighbor and discuss:
- What do you see in the picture? How does it enhance your understanding of verse 2 in the Isaiah passage?
Song of response
Sing the song once in English and then twice in Spanish.
To Reach Across Borders, by Catholic Relief Services
Join hands for the closing prayer. Each participant may read one sentence aloud until the prayer is completed.
Lord of All,
Some of us make our homes on hills, others in valleys.
Some in tall buildings, some on shorelines, some at risk on the street.
And we divide up our patches with lines we scratch into the ground
And call them borders.
Where the lines don’t suffice, we build fences.
Where fences fail, we dig moats.
Where moats aren’t enough, we erect walls.
But what if we were to look across these borders?
Across fence, moat, and wall
And see you on the other side?
Lord, teach us to reach across all borders,
Fabricated or natural,
To join with all our brothers and sisters
To unify, and not separate.
To honor all who wander
Seeking hope, seeking opportunity -- seeking you.
As assuredly as we seek you
Lord, let no border ring our hearts.
May we find a place within them for all.
Turn our hands from building walls
Toward building justice.
Stretch our arms across fence, wall and moat
To seek out those on the other side
That we might find you in each other’s eyes
In each other’s hands
In each other’s wounds.
Blessing the Way, from Jan Richardson’s Circle of Grace
With every step
this blessing rises up
to meet you.
It has been waiting
long ages for you.
and you can see
the layers of it,
how it has been fashioned
by those who walked
this road before you,
how it has been created
of nothing but
and their dreaming,
how it has taken
from an ancient hope
that drew them forward
and made a way for them
when no way could be
and you will see
is not finished,
that you are part
of the path
it is preparing,
that you are how
this blessing means
to be a voice
within the wilderness
and a welcome
for the way.
Sharing the peace
Greet one another with the peace of Christ.