Testimony to the Resurrection | IN THE NAME OF JESUS WORSHIP SERIES
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
For Your Planning Team
In the Series
Easter Day itself launches a whole season, 8 Sundays, 50 days of celebrations of life in the Risen Jesus. Today launches the first of two mini-series (“In the Name of Jesus…,” “And in the Power of the Holy Spirit”) that comprise the twin foci of Easter Season, doctrinal formation and ministry formation.
The two series are unified as one season by maintaining a common structure throughout. Every service across these 7 succeeding Sundays of Easter begins with an act of Entrance that announces and recognizes the ways in which the scripture for that day is being lived out in your congregation here and now. Every service across these 7 succeeding Sundays includes a sung act of confessing the faith in ways appropriate to that Sunday. And every Sunday includes a Great Thanksgiving that incorporates the prayers of the people as part of the Epiclesis. As we note in the rubrics, these intercessions are most appropriate for a deacon to lead, if a deacon is available. If your congregation does not have a deacon on staff, start a relationship with a deacon in your area who may be available. You’ll be glad you did!
The basic structure of the services remains constant across the 7 weeks. But each series incorporates a different “base model” for the Great Thanksgiving, and in each service the Great Thanksgiving, the Prayer of Thanksgiving after Communion, and the Sending Forth (also most appropriate for a deacon to lead) is customized for the theme of that day.
Planning for This Service
While Easter Day functions as the launch day for the whole season — and we hope you will have previewed this season and diligently invited folks to join you for the whole season during those big Easter Day services, which should help blunt the “Low Sunday” phenomenon you might otherwise expect today! — today’s service is the launch for this first three-week mini-series, “In the Name of Jesus.”
Series launch always needs to create a kind of overture for the series, articulate the series promise, and get the service and the series moving forward in a powerful way.
We’ve created an entrance that boldly announces the ways in which the kind of ministry of healing outreach in the name of Jesus that put John and Peter on public trial are still happening among you, in and through the ministries you are part of as a Christian congregation where you are. The idea for this action — and similar actions every Sunday during this season — is bold, joyous proclamation. This is not reading a list, much less stumbling through it. Christ is risen and at work among you. This is cause for celebration! If your deacon, pastor, or other person making this announcement is not accustomed to joyous proclamation (and even if they are!) be sure to rehearse exactly how you’ll do this in the worship space the night before and then again before worship that morning until you can get just the right voicing so this comes off as joyous, proclamatory, and celebrative, and not “hammy.” I recommend that you have one or two other people when you rehearse this to give you feedback until you all agree you’ve gotten the whole action (including the voicing) just right.
This service also incorporates an offering in support of your named outreach ministries in conjunction with the processional song(s). Be sure your ushers are prepared and in place for two offerings this morning. You will still have a “regular” offering later in the service.
This service (as all services in this season) then moves from song directly into a unison prayer for illumination followed by the reading of scripture. Because the act of entrance is chosen to correspond with the central theme of the scripture and the service for each of these Sundays (today is testimony to the ongoing outreach of the Risen Lord), you want these three elements (song, prayer, and reading of scripture) to flow seamlessly into one another. Do not pause between them more than needed to catch breath or change positions (from standing to sitting for the reading of the scripture), and do not try to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. Just do it. Trust the ritual as designed to do what it intends to do-- maintaining these as one continuous flow.
And just as you need to pay attention to the way the opening announcement/ proclamation of outreach is made, so your reader for Acts, today and every Sunday, needs to be on the spot, start right after all are seated, and read in a way that conveys the joyous testimonies of the apostles to the healing work of the risen Christ on that day long ago. A strong reading here will strengthen the beginning of the preaching, which should match the ending of the reading in the energy, tone, and seriousness of the content. Do not break the flow with casual small-talk, welcomes, introductions, or jokes. Keep the flow going as the sermon begins, and carry it from there to its conclusion in the sung affirmation of faith that follows.
If your deacon or other leader is not accustomed to leading intercessions as bidding prayers with congregational response, be sure she or he has had time to practice the voicing of these as the pastor practices the voicing of the Great Thanksgiving. This Great Thanksgiving for this first series, continuing in the model used in the Easter service last week, is interactive in structure and joyous in its proclaiming. An energy of confident joy should be evident in leading both the Great Thanksgiving proper, and in the voicing of the intercessions by the deacon. The intercessions build in energy from beginning to end, until the final intercession. Here, think freedom rallies and our sisters and brothers in the black churches in the US as you lead in offering these words-- this week and throughout this series.
Just as the man otherwise doomed to a life of begging in our story throughout these three weeks found the ability to leap and dance in the name of Jesus, so may your leadership of these services in this series be inspired by the love and power found in that same name that brings life, and joy, and peace, and renewal to all creation.
Finally, somewhere in the sending, or in the bulletin, or in your announcement slide set, and through social media or email during the week, be sure to remind folks that next week’s service begins with rite of laying on of hands and anointing for healing. Give the advance notice so you’ll get more response (and fewer puzzled or alarmed looks!) when you begin next week’s service this way. Tell folks to come prepared, if they wish to come forward with requests for healing for themselves or others, that you and others will listen to the names of the people, then lay hands on them and anoint them. Simple, brief, powerful — in the name of Jesus!
Additional Resources for this Service
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: (Click link to find countries for this week when they are posted)