Program | REHAB WORSHIP SERIES
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
The primary color for Lent is purple.
For Your Planning Team — LENT 3, REHAB: Program
We are now mid-series in a five-week series. This is where the energy for the series as a whole can most easily flag, and where every effort needs to be made to make sure that doesn’t happen.
One of the ways we propose to help that not happen is by taking our “usual” worship order and mixing it up a little bit today — while in point of larger historical practice, actually following a Lenten practice with long historical precedent. We’ve begun the service with a recitation of the Ten Commandments in the form of a penitential order. This was standard practice in the Western Church and in the Church of England for centuries, and it was carried over by John Wesley into the Sunday Service he gave Methodists in America. The 1784 Christmas Conference adopted it as the founding ritual of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The language is modernized. The practice has much older roots.
What is different is the penitential order was normally a preface to the rest of worship. Today, it doubles as the reading of the Scripture for the day. So the song of illumination (we chose a song here rather than a prayer to help “re-sync” the congregation after the more chaotic exchange of peace) also has a slightly different role than usual. Normally, a song or prayer of illumination prepares us to hear the Scriptures read. Today, it functions more as a reflection on the Scripture, pardon, and peace already experienced, and a preparation to hear the Scripture applied in the sermon that immediately follows. This, too, has some precedent in other Methodist practice, that of our black churches in the U.S., where there is often a song or prayer not only before the Scripture, but also immediately before the sermon.
Today’s service within this series, perhaps more than the others in the series so far, depends a lot on the sermon. The idea that the Ten Commandments form the basis of our program of Christian living is not new in Christianity or in Methodism or Methodist ritual. Indeed, it’s bedrock. Methodists are different from some other Protestants in that we are not, as John Wesley often used the term, “antinomian” (against the idea that the law matters for Christian life). We affirm God gave the law for all who will be in covenant with God to fulfill. And we live within the mainstream of the Catholic and Anglican tradition of “making use of all the means of grace.” This Methodist distinctive has often gotten us accused by other Protestants of promoting “works righteousness.” The accusations then and now are false. What we promote is what Jesus himself taught, that those who love him keep his commandments, and he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it and make it possible for us to do the same, being made perfect in love. We study Scripture and pray and attend upon the other ordinances of God, not as ends in themselves — indeed, to do that would be to commit works righteousness —but as means of grace, means God has offered to teach us, form us, and transform us, not simply as we study them and commune with God, but as we put what we learn in such study and communion into practice. As I put it in French in teaching this to our leaders in Kinshasa, Congo, “Les oeuvres nous ouvrent.” The works open us to the living experience of divine grace.
The rest of the service proceeds as the pattern of the services we have laid out so far this season — a call for response, prayers of the people framed by the theme of the day, and Communion or an alternative act of thanksgiving, followed by the sending forth. So the flow of the service overall moves from what may be for some the somewhat unfamiliar to what will have become, through the series, the more familiar, maintaining the coherence of the series as a whole.
Additional Resources for this Service
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: (Click link to find countries for this week when they are posted)