Fourth Sunday in Lent | Nurture — Planning Notes

March 26, 2017 (Year A) | Living Our Baptismal Calling Series
by Taylor Burton-Edwards

Order of Worship Preaching Hymns Music Planning Formation Groups 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

Calendar Notes

Today is the fourth Sunday in the Lenten series, “Living the Baptismal Calling.” Today’s focus is on the fourth and eighth baptismal questions: To parents and sponsors: Will you nurture these children/persons in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life? 

To the congregation:  Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons now before you in your care?

Today also marks the first time we observe what we now call “UMCOR Sunday.” The former designation was One Great Hour of Sharing. The title was changed by General Conference in 2016 to reflect that all funds raised for this day in United Methodist Churches are specifically to offset the administrative costs of the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

All Month        Women’s History Month
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

All Month        Christian Home Month
                        Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May 4              National Day of Prayer (USA)
May 5              May Friendship Day
May 8-14         Christian Family Week
May 14            Festival of the Christian Home/Mother’s Day (USA)
May 21            Heritage Sunday
May 24            Aldersgate Day
May 25            Ascension Day
May 28            Ascension Sunday (if transferred)
May 29            Memorial Day (USA)

June 4            Day of Pentecost (Easter Season Concludes)
June 11          Trinity Sunday, Peace with Justice Sunday
                       New Series Begins: TBA
June 18          Father’s Day (USA)
June 19          Juneteenth

July 4            Independence Day


For Your Planning Team: Living Our Baptismal Calling


In This Series
You gather in worship on Sunday to hear and respond to one of the baptismal questions, grounded in the Scriptures, and then continue with at least two additional opportunities for follow up on that baptismal calling (one on one, and in formation group gatherings) throughout the week. You may also have had three Sunday morning or midweek Courageous Conversation events that model and help advance work on what it means to be “in union with the church which Christ opens to people of all ages, nations, and races.”

Keep these patterns going strong this week and next. Holy Week will include new patterns.

Nurture may, at first glance, seem an unusual choice as a theme for today’s gospel reading. Healing or “illumination” perhaps, would make more immediate sense.

But what we see Jesus doing in this passage is more than healing and even more than illumination. Jesus stays available to this man and advocates for him beyond the point of his healing. One he learns the man had been thrown out of the synagogue, Jesus goes to find him. He does so not merely to console him, but primarily to help him take the next step in his spiritual growth. Jesus leads the man toward faith into him as more than healer, but, as Son of Man, the One who is to come and set the world aright.

This is the work of nurture we are also called to do. We proclaim good news. We live by the example of Christ (including this example in this story). We surround others with a community of love and forgiveness, even and perhaps especially when some seek to throw such people out. Part of that work of surrounding is staying in touch and going out to find those who need us, whether they know they need us or not. And we pray for people to be able to walk in the way that leads to life.

We bring healing to others, yes. We open blinded eyes, yes. We proclaim good news, yes. But, like Jesus, we do not stop there. We remain connected with those among whom we offer all these things, not so they will increase our number, but so that all of us may continue to walk in the way Jesus shows us, the way of Truth and Life.

As we have done throughout this series, this service provides four opportunities to encounter and respond to the baptismal question that underlies both worship and formation groups this week. After the opening song set, the pastor asks the congregation the baptismal questions, and the congregation responds in assent, using the words of the baptismal covenant. In the response to the sermon, all are invited to write down in two cards how they will seek to proclaim the good news, live according to the example of Christ, surround others with a community of love and forgiveness, and pray for others to walk in the way that leads to life. The congregational response  also forms the frame of both the prayers of the people and the dismissal.

Additional Resources

2014 Planning Helps for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam




Categories: Year A, Fourth Sunday in Lent - March 26, 2017