The Word is near you? How do we celebrate that this week? How do we claim the gift we’ve already been given? Perhaps that’s the key—what we’ve already been given. This is a time for celebrating who we are as the people of God. Instead of prayers asking for what we don’t have, maybe we can claim with joy what we already have. What is working in your community of faith? Where is growth happening? Where are lives being challenged and changed? Where are connections being made and hope restored? Today could be a celebration of ministry and a telling of stories of how the Word is near.
Our songs are full of thanksgiving and joy for what God has done and is doing in our midst. Sing “I Sing the Almighty Power of God” (United Methodist Hymnal, 152), for example, or “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” (United Methodist Hymnal,712) as a way of giving thanks for the people around us and among us.
There could be images of the church at work, or even of the community that surrounds the church. The other part of the theme for this week is witnessing, telling the story of Jesus to ears that are longing to hear, whether they know it or not. Did you do a vacation Bible school this summer? Online perhaps? What can you share about that experience? Who was included? Where is the word that is near to you being shared with those around you? Tell the story of the church.
The green of growing and living things can be supplemented with the colors that represent your community—perhaps the local school’s colors, or a mixture of colors if you have more than one school system near you. This is the mission field, where there are ears wanting to hear. You can also celebrate the “missionaries” from your local church who attend those schools, another way of drawing attention to the students of your church who bring the word with them as they live and work in those environments.
A key to grasping the theme of this service will be providing people opportunities to speak of faith. Here again, we turn to the discipline of witness. Perhaps during the service there could be space for some to speak of their own faith. We practice our witness in the gathering of the community of faith, so that when we are at large in the world around us we more easily find the words we need to speak at an opportune moment. Or maybe there could be an outline of a faith witness in front of the worshipers, asking them to fill in the blanks or to flesh out the message with their own stories. If we are not putting anything in people’s hands because of virus prevention, then offer to text the outline to their phones or to email it. Put the outline or sample witness front and center on the church web page or Facebook page so that it is easily accessible.
Let our intercessory prayers today be for those who haven’t heard the Word that dwells within us and for the courage to speak of faith even when it is difficult. As we celebrate what we have and what we are doing, let us encourage one another to tell our story in as many places as we can.
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.