Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes

September 3, 2017 (Year A)
by Taylor Burton-Edwards

Preaching Hymns Planning Additional 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

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Season of Creation 1 — FIRE
The color from now until Advent is green, with two exceptions: All Saints Day or Sunday (November 1 or 5)  and Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday (November 26).  Throughout this season, consider mixing in some of the colors evoked by each week’s theme. For this week (Fire), consider adding some oranges, yellows, whites, reds, and blues, not overshadowing but enhancing the basic green palette.

September 3    New Series Launch: Season of Creation 2017
September 4    Labor Day (USA)
September 15-
October 15      Hispanic Heritage Month (USA)

All Month           A Season of Saints (2017 resources forthcoming)
October 1         World Communion Sunday
October 6-8     Children’s Sabbath (2017 resources forthcoming)
October 15       Laity Sunday (2017 resources forthcoming)
October 31       Reformation Day (500th Anniversary)

November 1
       All Saints Day
November 3       World Community Day
November 5       All Saints Sunday
                            Daylight Saving Time Change Song (Fall)
November 11     Veterans Day
November 12    Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday
                           International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
November 19    Bible Sunday (National Bible Week November 19-26)
November 23    Thanksgiving Day
November 26    Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday
                           United Methodist Student Day

December 1      World AIDS Day
December 3      Advent-Christmas Series (Year B) Begins (Forthcoming)
December 21    
Longest Night/Blue Christmas
December 24    Christmas Eve (evening)
December 25    
Christmas Day
December 26    Kwanzaa
December 31    Watch Night/New Year’s Eve


January 1        New Year’s Day/Holy Name of Jesus
January 7        Epiphany Sunday AND Baptism of the Lord
                         Season after Epiphany Series Begins (Forthcoming)
January 11      
Human Trafficking Awareness Day
January 14      Human Relations Day (Special Sunday with Offering)
January 15      
Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
January 18-25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
January 21      Ecumenical Sunday

All Month       Black History Month
February 11   Transfiguration of the Lord
                        Scouting Sunday

February 14   Ash Wednesday
                        Lent Series Begins (forthcoming)
February 19  
Presidents Day


For Your Planning Team: SEASON OF CREATION

Series Launch

Season of Creation invites us into a time of pause and reflection. With Moses we are given opportunity to “turn aside to see” how God calls to us and empowers us in and through the whole creation God is out to save.

As with the previous series, this one is “point by point.” Each week is able to stand on its own. You may maintain some common visual connections across the weeks with a core background palette throughout the series which may have some variations week by week. Musically, we suggest using “All Creatures of Our God and King” (UMH 62), perhaps singing it in its entirety in the opening of the first week and the closing of the last week, and singing just the relevant verses for each week’s theme at an appropriate point in weeks 2 and 3.  Still, each week’s theme takes us to a very different place or vantage point to reflect on ways in which different elements of creation praise God and speak for God to us. The biblical narrative from Exodus, rather than the themes for each week, provides the most significant underlying connection across the series.

Plan for a strong beginning for this series. Strong series beginnings do the following:

1. Include an overture —We’ve provided a video you may wish to use as a prelude for today’s service. DOWNLOAD the Creation Sings video [.mp4]

The video places Dean McIntyre’s piano setting of Robert Lowry’s “How Can I Keep from Singing” (TFWS 2212, public domain) over a public domain nature video from the Internet Archive that moves from cliffside on an island, into the sky over the ocean and the island, into the sea, and then out and into the sunset. If you are able to control the lighting in your worship space, go for subdued to not entirely dark.
2. Use or introduce musical and/or visual threads today that will weave through the entire series. For today’s service, we suggest moving from the calm of the overture into a rousing rendition of all verses of “All Creatures of Our God and King” (UMH 62, or CCLI #3608102 for Dave Crowder’s more modern arrangement), accompanied by increasing levels of light as multiple candles are brought into the worship space, then moving into a video of fire while singing “Set a Fire” (CCLI #5911299). During the second singing of the chorus, have a reader (deacon) or the pastor (if there is no deacon) bring the Bible either center stage or into the midst of the people). During the reading play video of fire, reminiscent of the burning bush. (If you have a CVLI license, you may clip an excerpt of the burning bush from one of several movies about Moses which may be covered by the license. Just try to avoid cheesy!) Reprise the chorus of “Set a Fire” before the sermon begins. And incorporate the reading from Francis into the beginning of the sermon. 

3. Start strong, with a plan to build on the first week in the second, maintain development through the middle, and conclude stronger than you began. Strong means confident, clear, and decisive. It need not (and often will not) mean “exciting” or even “impressive” (in terms or music or spectacle). With a series like this, where each service is also self-contained, it’s more important that there is a definitive beginning, middle, and end for each service. Series ends, like the fourth movement of each service, are about wrapping together, sending forth, and creating a segue into the next series, not simply wrapping up and closing down the current one.

If you follow the advice above (1 and 2) you will have this service and this series strong. Since most United Methodist congregations will celebrate communion today (first Sunday of the month), keep in mind that the role and timing of the sermon is only the first part of the “middle.” Leave plenty of time for response to the word (this could be a good service for a call to discipleship or altar call!), the prayers of the people (we suggest a form of prayer — such as the petitions of Morning Prayer or Litany for the Church and for the World from the Book of Worship — or another form that includes intercessions for the earth, be used every week, another continuous thread through the series), and, especially, communion. 

Suggestion for Great Thanksgiving: A Great Thanksgiving for the Festival of God’s Creation

Additional Song Suggestion (maybe during Communion): “In the Desert, on God’s Mountain,” Worship & Song 3029

Now, after communion, move into the ending of the service, and end stronger! Pick a song or hymn that includes evocative imagery of flame and the Holy Spirit moving us to action, a song you know and can sing with gusto. If you didn’t use these in the sending last week, consider UMH, “Filled with the Spirit’s Power” (537) and “See How Great a Flame Aspires.” From more modern selections, think about Israel Houghton’s “Come, Holy Spirit” (Worship & Song, 3092; CCLI #3383953), or Brandon Collins et al.  “Your Love Set My Soul on Fire” (CCLI# 7049013).

Additional Resources

2014 Planning Helps for these readings

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Togo

Categories: Year A, Thirteenth Sunday After the Pentecost — September 3, 2017

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