The series title and some if its themes play off of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome in the first century and Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The Handmaid’s Tale presents a disturbingly dystopian vision of religion and power gone toxic in response to an environment apparently made toxic to childbirth apparently because of human activity. The world in which Paul lived and wrote had its own brands of dystopia and toxicity, dystopic and toxic enough toward commitment to Christ that he and many Christians in his day suffered torture, imprisonments, beatings, and other acts and threats of terror to keep them “under the law” (under Roman cultural, political, religious, and economic expectations) rather than under Christ.
We have our own brands of dystopia and toxicity toward discipleship to Christ in the cultures we now inhabit.
Simply pointing out that such dystopic and toxic elements exist and complaining about their existence would have done little good for the first century church in Rome. So Paul did not do that in his letter.
And it will do little good for us, wherever in the world we seek to practice the way of Christ today. So this series will not do that, either.
What Paul does in these chapters of Romans, and what we’ll focus on in this series, are the critical spiritual tools and practices we need to survive and thrive as Christ’s disciples regardless of the degree of dystopia and toxicity we may encounter in our own world today.
NOTE: This download will not include hymn suggestions or additional resource links.
Those will be added to the website.
Finally, a word about these resources this summer. We will continue to provide preaching and planning notes for each lectionary-based series we develop through the Season after Pentecost. In this series, we also provide a simple worship order (rather than a full service). We are scaling back a bit on these resources through this season for two reasons.
One is we know many of our congregations use this time to between Trinity and Christ the King to develop their own series, often not related to the lectionary. There are many good reasons for doing this, not the least of which is many of our congregations experience a change in pastoral leadership during the summer. The demands of starting a new ministry in a new place often mean the new pastor and the receiving congregation have a set of priorities that are different than those presented in any one stream of the otherwise unrelated lectionary texts during this season.
The second is we’re trying to work further ahead with our full resources, with a goal to be six months out (posting Lent and Easter Season full resources) before the end of this year. To do that, we need to scale back a bit now to allow us to move ahead more quickly. And if we’re successful, we’ll be in better position next year to provide fuller resources (if not the full set we have since Advent 2017) during the Season after Pentecost, Year B.
We are grateful for the positive feedback and constructive critique we’ve received on our work since we’ve changed our way of working to be far more collaborative and fully series-focused. Remember, you can always share your thoughts with us through our Facebook groups (UMC Music, UMC Preachers, and UMC Worship) and via email to our coordinator, groups moderator, and provider of worship orders for this series, Amy Sigmon (firstname.lastname@example.org).