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Singleness and Trying to Find It Good - Mark 3, John 12

The fourth service plan in a series entitled "Chapters of Life." This service focuses on singleness--those who are unmarried--and aims to keep them and their needs in front of the entire worshiping community.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

The Chapters of Life

This series of worship services explores how children and adults can participate together with integrity to give honor to God while paying credit to the significance of each age level.

Theme of the Service

This worship service focuses on singleness (those who are unmarried) and aims to keep them and their needs in front of the entire worshiping community. For many, "singleness" is one of the chapters of life parallel to parenthood and must be treated along with the others in this series.

Singleness is not monolithic. There are many types of singles, and the worshiping community must be aware of such diversity. Some have never married and prefer it that way; some wish they could marry; some are divorced; others are widows and widowers. The needs of each are different.

While the theme is "singleness," there are multiple intents for the service. The congregation needs to be aware of the presence of singles and respect them as a viable and valuable part of the community; those married need to learn to be more sensitive to those who are not married; singles who are unhappy with their singleness need aid in thinking through some of the issues; and all singles need to feel accepted as part of a community that places high value on families.

We suggest that before this service is planned and carried out, some time be spent with some singles in the community to listen to them and their concerns. They often feel unnoticed. It certainly would be presumptuous to plan worship about singleness without taking time to listen carefully to them.

We come to worship as a community of faith-
male and female, children and adults,
single and married.


Prelude: "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven," Hobby [organ]; Krapf [organ or piano]; Dobrinski [handbells]

The Call to Worship

*Song of Praise: "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" PH 478, PsH 475, RN 53, RL 144, TH 76, TWC 26, UMH 66

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Song: "Praise God, You Angel Hosts Above" PsH 628

We Are Renewed in God's Grace

Anthem: "Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God," Mueller

The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession: "O Christ, the Lamb of God" PsH 257, RN 216, SFL 44

The Assurance of Pardon
Hear the good news!
Who is in a position to condemn?
Only Christ,
and Christ died for us,
Christ rose for us,
Christ reigns in power for us,
Christ prays for us.
Anyone who is in Christ
is a new creation.
The old life has gone;
a new life has begun.
Know that you are forgiven, and be at peace.
Thanks be to God.(based on Romans 8:34 and 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Our Response of Thanks: "For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free!" SNC 66


The Prayer for Illumination

The First Reading of Scripture: Mark 3:31-35
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Second Reading of Scripture: John 12:1-3
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

*Series Song: "O God, Your Constant Care and Love" (st. 1-3) PsH 592
or "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry" WOV 770

Sermon: "Singleness and Trying to Find it Good" (When We're Unmarried)
(The Chapters of Life - #4)


*Our Litany of Profession
The rule of Jesus Christ covers the whole world.
To follow this Lord is to serve him everywhere, without fitting in,
as light in the darkness, as salt in a spoiling world.
We serve Christ by thankfully receiving our life as a gift from his hand.
We serve Christ as singles, whether for a time or a life, by undivided devotion to the work of God
and so add our love and service to the building of his kingdom.
In marriage and family, we serve God by reflecting his covenant love in lifelong loyalty, and by
teaching his ways. (from Our World Belongs to God, art. 45, 46, 48, 49)

Anthem: "We Are Members of Christ's Body"

The Prayers of the People

The Reading of Scripture: Romans 12:1-3 (from The Message)

Song: "Christian Hearts in Love United" (st. 1-2) PsH 513

The Reading of Scripture: Romans 12:4-8 (from The Message)

Song: "Help Us Accept Each Other" PH 358, TWC 437, UMH 560

The Reading of Scripture: Romans 12:9-13

The Offertory and Offering: "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace," Wagner [handbells] or Carter [piano]
Or "Lord, Make Us Servants," Wood [organ] or Carter [piano]


*Song: "The Servant Song" (st. 1-4) RN 148, SFL 248

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "The Servant Song" (st. 5)

Postlude: "Prelude and Fugue in D Major," Handel

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

A sermon on singleness is not given very often, so you may feel some anxiety as you move into this area. Yet it is a reality that needs addressing in a pastoral spirit. Singleness is an often-overlooked reality in the Christian community. Studies show that 35 to 40 percent of the adult population is single. Ten to twenty percent never marry. Many others are divorced or widows/widowers. The Christian community must address the subject with integrity.

The Christian community often holds up marriage so high that those who are unmarried end up feeling "second rate." In addition, our emphasis on the family and the covenant increases their pain. In the light of these things, this sermon should look at some of the other things the Bible says about relationships.

In the Scripture passages from Mark 3 and John 12, singleness is respected as legitimate. Jesus, while single, points to another realm of relationships that is to be valued (see Mark 3:34-35). So there are two circles-the blood family and the faith family. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were obviously single and in no way considered inferior because of it. With these realities in mind, the Christian community must acknowledge and respect the legitimacy of singleness.

On the basis of these considerations, it would be helpful to a congregation for this sermon to develop and present some pastoral guidelines for how the Christian community might express its unity through a fresh look at singleness. We suggest considerations such as these:

  • Christian singles should live with quality commitments to people and service.
  • The Christian community must acknowledge its diversity.
  • Singleness may be valued in the church.
  • The Christian community must be sensitive to the unique needs of singles.

The way in which each of these ideas is developed will be shaped by each community.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

  1. The prelude suggestions on "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" [LAUDA ANIMA] can be found in the following sources:
    • "Partita on 'Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven,'" written for organ by Robert A. Hobby, published by Concordia 97-6082 [1991] (E-M).
    • "Sing and Rejoice vol. 6," a collection by Gerhard Krapf published by SMP KK339 [1986] (E-M). This collection, while arranged for organ, is adaptable to piano.
    • "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven," arranged for 3-5 octaves handbells by Cynthia Dobrinski, is published by Agape 1974 [1998] (level 3).
  2. John Ferguson has written a concertato on the opening hymn "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" [LAUDA ANIMA]. This setting is published by GIA G-3073. An alternative harmonization for piano by Rachel Trelstad Porter is published by Augsburg in "Let It Rip! At the Piano" 11-11045 [2000].
  3. The SATB anthem "Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God" by Carl F. Mueller is published by Schirmer 8682 [1941] (E-M).
  4. Alternative harmonizations for "For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free!" [AZMON] can be found in "Hymn Harmonizations for Organ book 2" by John Ferguson, published by Ludwig O-07 [1983].
  5. The anthem "We Are Members of Christ's Body" is taken from SNC 178. It could also be sung to the tune JULION, which can be found in PsH 321. The descant from this unison setting could be sung or played by a treble c instrument.
  6. The offertory suggestions are based on "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" [TEMPLE (PsH 545)] and "Lord, Make Us Servants" [O WALY WALY (SNC 204)].
    • Arrangements on TEMPLE can be found in "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace," arranged for 3-5 octaves handbell choir by Douglas Wagner, published by Agape 2064 [1998] (level 2); and in "Contemporary Hymns and Songs for Piano/4 Hands" by John Carter, published by Hope 8087 [2000].
    • Arrangements on O WALY WALY can be found in "Wood Works on International Hymns," an organ collection by Dale Wood published by SMP 70/1070 S [1995] (E-M), and in "Today's Hymns and Songs for Piano," a collection by John Carter published by Hope 244 [1995] (E-M).
  7. The postlude, "Prelude and Fugue in D Major" by G. F. Handel, can be found in "The Technique and Art of Organ Playing," an organ methods book by Clarence Dickenson, published by H. W. Grey GB30 [1950] (E-M). This organ piece is adaptable to piano.

Liturgy Notes:

  1. As in previous weeks, the theme of this series should encourage the broad participation of many lay leaders of all ages. While it would seem particularly appropriate to include singles (of all ages) in leadership for this service, it is important that they be included regularly in all services so that inclusion here does not carry the connotation of "being a token."
  2. In the Call to Worship the worship leader should emphasize the theme of this service so worshipers are aware of it from the beginning. The theme sentence printed at the beginning of the worship sheet should be highlighted.
  3. The Litany of Profession is divided into six statements. This can be structured in multiple ways: responsively between one reader and the congregation, or between any number of readers (2, 3, or 6).
  4. The Prayers of the People should include a warm spirit of pastoral sensitivity so that the folks who often feel overlooked are held up for God's blessing. Avoid generalities. Mention the youth who are dating and trying to decide, those who wish they were married, those at peace with their singleness, those in unhappy relationships, the divorced, the lonely widow and widower, and so on. For some we will pray prayers of thanks, for others intercessions for healing and peace, and for all a sense of God's direction.
  5. Since there are multiple Scripture readings in this service, this is a good time to use lay readers. For the expression of unity within the body of worshipers, be sure to include readers of different ages and circumstances in life. Their presence will make a healthy statement about the unity of the worshiping community.