#BeUMC / The People of God: A 4-Week Worship Series
By Derek Weber
What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? - Micah 6:8 NRSV
And are we yet alive,
And see each other's face?
Glory and praise to Jesus give
For His redeeming grace.
“And Are We Yet Alive,” verse 1, (United Methodist Hymnal 553)
Perhaps Charles Wesley’s question is especially appropriate for such a time as this. Often used as a way of gathering for conference—whether annual, jurisdictional, or General—the hymn is designed to be a way of celebrating both the uniting power of Christ and the covenant we share as members of one body, the church we call United Methodist.
What troubles have we seen,
What conflicts have we passed,
Fightings without, and fears within,
Since we assembled last. (verse 3)
It is an honest hymn, a confession that it has been, continues to be, always is a struggle to maintain the unity that Christ calls us to. But here we are. Still the church, still doing ministry, still engaged in the worship of God through Christ, still carrying on the social witness and transforming disciple-making that seeks to resemble the kin-dom that Christ proclaimed.
Let us take up the cross
Till we the crown obtain;
And gladly reckon all things loss,
So we may Jesus gain. (verse 6)
There is a call in this hymn, a reminder that no matter the institutional question that might surround us, there is a higher obedience and a larger proclamation to be made. Even while we sort out our current debates, we can lift our eyes to a wider horizon and continue to be at work in the vineyards of our Lord as we seek to serve, to bring to salvation, and to welcome the outcast, to bind up the broken, and feed the hungry. We are not waiting for decisions to be made before we can be the church. We are the church at work in the world. We can celebrate our heritage, our unique way of working and being a part of the Wesleyan tradition. We can embrace what God has done and is doing through The United Methodist Church even today.
That is what is behind the People of God / #BeUMC campaign coordinated by United Methodist Communications. (Click here to read more.) Discipleship Ministries has chosen to contribute to the campaign by providing this four-week worship series. As with our Lectionary Worship Series, this series is designed to be a seed planting for you to shape to fit your setting. We begin with planning notes to help you think about the worship service as a whole with suggestions for the setting and the mood, visuals, and other worship elements. Then there are preaching notes to give the preacher a head start on putting the themes and chosen texts into sermon order. We also include music notes to help with congregational or choir and ensemble singing, liturgical resources, and even suggestions for children and worship and small-group tie-ins to the main theme.
In addition to the selected texts, this series is guided by two elements from the People of God / #BeUMC campaign. The first is a series of words that helps capture the essence of what it means to be a part of our tradition. These words are: Resilient, Committed, Faithful, Jesus-seeking, Connected, Spirit-filled, Deeply rooted, Missional, Disciple-making, World-changing, Diverse, Generous, Justice-seeking. The campaign features one of these words each month in 2022 and provides appropriate graphics and descriptions.
The second element borrowed from the campaign is a “messaging theme.” These four messaging themes are:
- Influence, Connection, and Impact
- Experience of God through the UMC.
For this series, we divided up the words and assigned them to different weeks. It is possible, however, to switch them around if you can make them fit in different ways. We provide suggestions and reasons for the selections that were chosen, but you might see different connections and are free to do so.
The four themes, however, form the framework for each week’s worship experience. While some may be more prominent than others, the intention is to let the four dimensions become the poles around which the sermon in particular, but also the whole worship service is built. This means there will be some repetition, but the repetition helps the worshipers see the pattern and lean into the experience of the theme.
The General Rules of United Methodism form the other frame around which this series is built. These rules are both simple and profound. The simplicity is in the statement; the profundity is in the living out of each. What could be simpler than “Do Good”? Yet, what could be more complex than attempting to live out that rule every day of one’s life? That is the call of the people called Methodist, however. This series is designed to help us celebrate how we do live that call as communities of faith around the world and to challenge us to go further, go deeper in our expression of faith in daily living.
As a companion to the rules, we set the guiding verse for the whole series as that famous statement from the prophet Micah, sometimes called the “great requirement” in Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Do no harm, Do good, and attend to the ordinances of God. Simple, yet profound.
But wait, there are three general rules; and this is a four-week series. How does that work? The series concludes with a reminder that while our arena of action may be our local communities, our vision is always to transform the world. Thus, the vision statement of The United Methodist Church is one of the texts we will use in week four, “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” as we recall that statement from the journal of our founder John Wesley, “I look upon all the world as my parish.”
We invite you to consider celebrating who we are as United Methodists and participate in the campaign to proclaim #BeUMC.
Click the links below to explore each week of worship:
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.