We’re working from a list this week: Paul’s list from Romans 12. The question is, “How do you let a list order your worship this week?” Is it a checklist, a how-are-we-doing-with-this list of attributes? Well, not really. Yes, it would be good to find ways to depict the various statements that Paul outlines in our text for this week. But we don’t want to send folks away from worship feeling as if they’ve been given an impossible task to do before next week. Talk about the burden of homework!
Instead, let us celebrate the working of love in the midst of the people of God. Find stories to tell, pictures that reveal, people who have experienced genuine love, who have never lagged in zeal, who have contributed to the needs of the saints. Find something in Paul’s recitation that reflects your congregation, how you’ve interacted with one another and with the wider community. The way to encourage behaviors is to show that they are already happening.
Bring images into the worship space, real or virtual. Let these images be of the community of faith putting flesh on the idea of genuine love, of living in harmony, of serving the Lord. Consider having a drama team acting out the various images as they are being read during the reading of the Romans text. It is one thing to intellectualize these concepts; it is another to see them played out and made real.
Let the prayers be prayers of thanksgiving for the love shared within the community, for the lives affected by the mission and ministry of the church. But let there also be acknowledgement of the gaps, confession of those who have been neglected, and cultural attitudes unchallenged.
Hymns and songs can be calls to a higher way of living, a deeper love, Christ-like love that motivates us. Sing “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (United Methodist Hymnal, 384), for example. Or consider “Rule of Life” (Worship & Song, 3117), which is a musical approach to the Wesley quote: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” The hymn could serve as a benediction that restates Romans 12:9-21 in simpler terms.
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.