#Blessed—  Planning Notes

Year A (January 29, 2017) | Ecumenical Sunday — The Great Invitation, week 4
by Taylor Burton-Edwards

Order of Worship Preaching Hymns Music Notes Planning Prayers/Resources

Reading Notes

NRSV texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé

Micah 6:1-8
The Lord has a controversy with Israel, and the prophet asks what the Lord requires.          

Psalm 15 (UMH 747)
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Sing the response with Tone 1 (UMH 737).          

1 Corinthians 1:18-31
God's saving love confounds every source of human boasting. Let your only boasting be in the cross of Christ.          

Matthew 5:1-12
The Sermon on the Mount begins with eight words of blessing.

Calendar Notes

The Great Invitation: “#Blessed”

Today we being the first of a four-part miniseries focused on the teaching of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount.  

If you have not already started planning for how you may observe Black History Month in the worship and programmatic life of your congregation, start doing so now!

All Month         Black History Month (USA)
February 2       Feast of the Presentation/Candlemas. See BOW 316
February 12     Scouting Ministries Sunday (preferred date since not during Lent)
February 20     Presidents Day (USA)
February 26     Transfiguration of the Lord

March 1           Ash Wednesday         
                         New Series Begins: Living Our Baptismal Calling
March 12         Daylight Saving Time Begins (USA)
March 26         UMCOR Sunday (formerly One Great Hour of Sharing)

April 9             Passion/Palm Sunday
                        New Series Begins: Holy Week
April 13           Maundy Thursday
April 14           Good Friday
April 15           Holy Saturday (Full Twitter script with audio links) #holysat17
                        Great Vigil of Easter Planning Resources Simplified Service
April 16           Easter Sunday
April 23           Festival of God’s Creation
                        New Series Begins: Easter Season (through Pentecost)
April 25           World Malaria Day
April 30           Native American Ministries Sunday

In the Series

Here in week 4, we’re coming up to a plateau in the series, and we’ll stay here, with the Sermon on the Mount, for the next four weeks. In a way, you might view these next four weeks as its own miniseries within the larger series.

We’ve been introduced to Jesus (two weeks ago), and have spent some time journeying in ministry with Jesus (this past week). Now, we settle in to hear the heart of his teaching about what God’s kingdom blesses (this week), the life God’s kingdom seeks to make in us and through us (next week), what God’s kingdom calls us to do differently from what we may have learned in the wider culture (in two weeks), and, finally, what helps us grow in alignment with God’s kingdom now and for the age to come (three weeks from now).

That this part of the series functions as a plateau does not call for a reduction in energy or creativity. Indeed, for this week, there’s still more energy to put in as we begin this series within the series. Instead, it means we travel across the plateau from week to week to take in four different but related vistas. And then, to conclude the whole series, we climb another mountain with Jesus and his closest disciples (Peter, James, and John) and become witnesses of his transfiguration as a foretaste of our own as we choose to learn to live as his disciples fully.

Today: #Blessed

The hashtag #blessed is one of the most popular hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As of this writing, on Instagram alone there are nearly 60 million posts with that hashtag! So, the word “blessed” still has high currency in U.S. culture.

The question is whether what others call blessed is what Jesus calls blessed. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not. And sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Today is about making it less hard to tell.

Plan to show images of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook posts with #blessed, appropriately filtered (doing it live could be a bit risky!) as the gospel is read today, or include printouts of them as an insert for your bulletin. And consider using them as literal illustrations during the sermon.

During or as a response to the sermon, consider inviting people to tweet, Facebook, or Instagram out their own #blessedatXUMC (you fill in the X) messages that are directly related to the Sermon on the Mount, along with at least one #blessedatXUMC message or image that offers a commitment to one way they want to live more like those Jesus calls blessed in God’s kingdom during the coming week.

And then during the week, consider sending out one or two “blessing reminders” each day (like, “Blessed are the poor in spirit and Blessed are those who mourn on Monday, for example), and encouraging especially newcomers to be part of a Thursday or Saturday small-group gathering (perhaps with those who invited them or have worked with them)-- whether in person or online-- to talk about how they’re experiencing what Jesus says God is blessing in this world in their lives during this past week, and what difference they see that is making in themselves and the world around them.  

Finally, have someone from your planning team or church staff collect your congregation’s #blessedatXUMC posts during this week and include them in the opening slide set (if you use projection) or on posters around the worship space, or as an insert for your print bulletin next Sunday.


Aditional Resources

2014 Planning Helps for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia


Categories: Year A, After Epiphany, Week 4 - January 29, 2017