Rites of Passage

From Chaos to Community — Series Overview

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A

In the times of horrific rites of passage, God has provided, and Goes does provide. That is part of our family legacy.

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

Third Sunday after Pentecost: Rites of Passage
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).

For Your Planning Team: FROM CHAOS TO COMMUNITY: Rites of Passage

We go deep this week into the valley of the shadow of death.

Indeed, we start the service, just there, with a prayer-song in which we may also hear echoes of the voice of the victim, Isaac.

The reading continues the series motif of multiple readers presenting in first person, this time an older adult (Abraham) and a teenager (Isaac). In the Q’uran (Sura 37:100-107), the story is of the binding of a submissive son, often interpreted to be Ishmael rather than Isaac. To reflect this double tradition, you may wish to ask the reader of Ishmael’s part last week to read Isaac’s part this week.

This service addresses this very troubling story in two ways. As the title of this service puts it, one way to read this story is as Abraham performing Isaac’s rite of passage into adulthood and an independent life. Certainly, this story functions in this way. Abraham and Isaac separate at the conclusion of this story, and the two are never mentioned in the same place again until Abraham’s burial (Genesis 25:9).

We also address it, however, as a rite of passage that more than crosses the line into abuse. It’s not just that Isaac left to start a life on his own. Abraham’s family was scattered after this. If we map out where everyone is living at the time of the death of Sarah (Genesis 23:2), it would appear Sarah had moved to Hebron with some of her household, about a day’s journey north of Abraham (Beersheba, Genesis 22:19), and Isaac had moved to create a life for himself about a day’s journey south of Abraham (Beerlaihairoi, Genesis 24:62). Abuse can and often does scatter families like this.

So in this service we seek to honor the essential goodness of rites of passage, especially rites that are significant for allowing people to function fully as adults. At the same time, because we hear the Spirit calling us from chaos to community, we find ourselves called to reject abuse in every form and to engage as agents of prevention where we can and healing as we must whenever abuse takes place so new community can be formed in the place of the chaos left in the wake of abuse.

The sending forth propels us out on that challenging but hope-filled note as we move toward the conclusion of the series next week.

Logistics for this Service:

Preparing the stagescape:
This week, the arresting visual in the Scripture is that of the fire prepared for the ritual sacrifice. This week, add some green to the third level, since the principle action of this story takes place on a mountain, and place whatever you use to represent a large bonfire there. Near the bonfire, place a coil of rope, representing the binding of Isaac. As worship begins with the opening song, use lights or other quiet, nonverbal means to call attention to these signs.

Rehearse the Reading:
There are only two readers this week, an older adult and a teenager. While this means there is less to coordinate than in previous weeks of this series, the intensity of these readings is profound. Last week, the intensity was primarily in emotion. This week it is in graphic but seemingly dispassionate description of actions. No emotion is mentioned anywhere. This calls not for emotionless reading, but for a careful constraint. Once again, in rehearsal, coach the readers until they have gotten just the right tone and then are able to repeat it at least twice.

Additional Resources

2014 Planning Helps for these readings

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Bolivia, Chile, Peru

In This Series...

First Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes Second Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes Third Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes Fifth Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes


  • Green

In This Series...

First Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes Second Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes Third Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes Fifth Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes