Planning for This Service
Many United Methodists around the world acknowledge this Sunday’s commemoration and celebration of the Reformation. The Reformation often seems to be “too heady” to discuss on a Sunday morning or even “irrelevant” to our everyday lives of faith. One way to approach Reformation Sunday is through the lens of unity. “Unity” may seem to be an odd approach because in the last 500 years, the DNA of the Reformation can be characterized by fracturing and splintering. So why focus on unity?
The lectionary texts from Joel and Luke invite us to break down the barriers of “us versus them” and “either/or” thinking. This polarized thinking infiltrates our political structures, the universal Church, and our United Methodist denomination. Yet, as Joel prophesies, the Spirit is poured out upon ALL flesh. In a time of immense division, what if we were to (1) acknowledge the fractures among us, and (2) embody unity in visual form for this service of worship?
If you serve a congregation that offers a “Joys and Concerns” or similar time of prayer requests, consider framing this time as an acknowledgement of fracturing. Invite parishioners to articulate some of the areas they have been witness to fracturing in the world, in the nation, in their local communities, and/or within their personal spheres. It will be important to acknowledge that we are not here to “solve” our fractures, but that we serve a God who meets us in these ruptures and divisions to offer hope for new realities.
For an act of closing (and sending), encourage your congregation to make a physical, embodied sign of unity. Smaller congregations may form a circle and larger congregations may hold their neighbor’s hand or link arms. Profess the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed together, signifying that we can find unity in faith, even in the midst of our own divisions. Rejoice in the God whose Spirit is poured out upon all flesh, breaking down the barriers that would otherwise divide us.
Written by Jack Seymour, Professor Emeritus of Religious Education, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL.