The Apostle’s Tale — Series Overview

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A

On this third week of our series, Paul reminds us that even though we sin and fall short of the glory of God, and even though God calls us to join in the groaning of creation and to enter fully into the suffering of the world on behalf of others, God does not abandon us in this work. The good news of Jesus Christ is that God is with us every step of the way.

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

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: INTERCESSION
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: THE APOSTLE'S TALE — Intercession

We’ve poised ourselves on the heights in the freedom Christ has given us. We’ve taken the measure of the distance between where Christ calls the world and where our world and our own lives actually are and groaned, with all creation, in anticipation and in awareness of the deep need for full redemption. Now, in our diver metaphor for this series, we hit the water.

Much of the hard work athletic divers do is above the water, training their bodies to make the “fall” as impressive as possible and the landing in the water generate the least splash possible. But the hard work professional divers do is largely in the water, and for them, it’s about endurance and wise moves both in the water and as they carefully come back up.

As people who are being equipped to face our own dystopian and toxic environments, and not only endure but bear witness to the saving love of God in Jesus Christ in the midst of them, our work is very much “in the water” as well. And a critical form of our work in the waters is intercession-- both corporate and individual.

Intercession is at the heart of our lifework. It’s more than a good habit, or a personal spiritual practice. It’s not optional for us as Christians. Historically the services of daily prayer found in our Hymnal (UMH 876-879) and Book of Worship (BOW 568-580) are called “The Daily Office.” And the word “office” in this usage doesn’t refer to a place of work. It means “duty.” Intercession is our lifework and our duty.

Intercession is the primary way we are given to engage the effects of dystopia and toxicity in our own lives, and, together, in the life of the world. Intercession is what follows our groaning. John Wesley wrote in “Farther Thoughts on Christian Perfection” (and republished in “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”), “God's command to ‘pray without ceasing' is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.” So we might also say intercession is how the church breathes underwater, and personal prayer is how each Christian participates in such intercession for himself/herself and others when apart from the gathered assembly.

Though this is only one service in the series, and one service in the whole year, what we’re doing in worship today can’t end with what we do in worship. It needs, instead, to spur on the prayer life of the congregation and lead to the improved personal prayer lives of all its members.

So let me strongly suggest that much of today’s service be given to practicing corporate intercession and guiding people toward strengthening their practices of prayer in their daily lives.

Musically, consider using songs or hymns about prayer and that are corporate prayers throughout the service. From the The Africana Hymnal, consider “Father I Stretch My Hands to Thee” (4092), “When the Waves Are Crashing” (4095, also in Worship and Song, 3144), and, perhaps as part of the Act of Thanksgiving after the prayers of the people, “Moving Forward” (4143).

Give considerable time for corporate prayer today. This does not mean extended sharing of joys and concerns. That’s not intercession, though in smaller congregations (but not larger ones as effectively), it may help prepare for intercession. Give extended time for actual corporate praying. You may do this using a bidding prayer, such as the form for Morning or Evening Prayer or the Litany for the Church and the World, (included in the brief service order, above) leaving considerable time for congregational praying silently or aloud about each intercession rather than simply a short congregational response, or by using an extended and very comprehensive form of a responsive congregational prayer, such as The Great Litany from the Book of Common Prayer (Note: John Wesley required his elders to pray the Great Litany every Wednesday and Friday!) Whatever you use in worship today, encourage people to take a copy home to use in daily prayer starting today, or give them a range of options with the expectation they will continue to engage in such intercession daily hereafter.

Additional Resources

2014 Planning Helps

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Republic of Congo, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe

In This Series...

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes Seventh Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes Ninth Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes