Step Forward ... Your Siblings in Abraham

#ThreeSteps In a Christian’s Walk — Series Overview

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year A

"For the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:2a, NRSV). Often this text is used (and not entirely improperly) to support doctrine about the permanent nature of spiritual gifts, baptism, and ordination. Once the Spirit has acted, what the Spirit has done cannot be undone, we say. But in context in Romans 11, in the wider context of the whole letter, and, as N.T. Wright argues in his book, Justification, in the context of God’s plan to save the whole world through the promises begun with Abraham and his descendants, something much bigger is at stake. And it calls us, as Christians, to step toward rather than away from persons of other religious who are also Abraham’s descendants.

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

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: STEP TOWARD...YOUR SIBLINGS IN ABRAHAM
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: STEP TOWARD...Your Siblings in Abraham

Since this is a “three point” rather than “three step” series (see planning notes for August 13, 2017), as this week’s sermon notes do, simply offer a brief summary of last week’s main point and move into this week’s theme.

Visually, find images of Christians, Jewish people, and Muslims walking toward each other or alongside each other with obvious peaceful intent. Or better, have a gathering with Jewish and Muslim neighbors, take photos (with their permission!), and show them in worship, either onscreen or in the bulletin.

Musically, you may wish to find a different place for “Step by Step” or “Sometimes by Step” you may have begun using last week. Consider singing “The God of Abraham Praise” (UMH 116). If you do, consider changing “Jehovah, Great I AM” in verse 1 and the end of verse 4 to “Adonai, Great I AM” out of respect for not speaking or singing the Divine Name. This hymn and its tune are in the public domain, so you may legally make such changes.

If you have a call to discipleship or other form of call for commitment, be sure to make the call specific. The sermon notes offer several ideas about concrete ways individuals and the congregation may commit to taking steps toward Jewish and Muslim neighbors. Consider including a checklist of actions persons may commit to take in the bulletin or a social media tool. Include those you know they can take immediately where you are (this will vary by your local context), and leave space for ideas you have not listed. Encourage participants to share their response with at least one other person present as a way to provide for accountability and follow-through.

Prayers offer an opportunity for participation by Jewish or Muslim neighbors. If you are able to arrange it, invite a Jewish cantor to lead the Psalm (this week’s Psalm is Psalm 67), and a Muslim imam or other leader to offer a recited prayer (in Arabic if possible) from their tradition for peace or for the local community.

Because you may be invited guests from non-Christian traditions to participate in worship today, consider not celebrating communion, if you normally would. Instead, offer an act of thanksgiving in which persons from all three traditions can participate. Just as we commend for interfaith weddings, plan to work with your particular Jewish and Muslim leaders to develop such a resource in ways respectful the distinctives of the traditions of all three.

And, assuming you are having interfaith guests, plan for a reception or a shared meal (with halal and kosher compatible foods) after worship today.

Finally, on June 14, 2017, the Elijah Interfaith Institute released a series of films of significant religious leaders from around the world calling for some of the very steps we address in today’s service. You may also find their resources helpful along the way. You may learn more here:

Additional Resources

2014 Planning Helps for these readings

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Liberia, Sierra Leone

In This Series...

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost 2017 — Planning Notes