Planning - Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
See the texts (NRSV), artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22.
Esther advocates to the king for her life and the lives of her people. Haman is executed on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. These stories are background for the feast of Purim.
Psalm 124 (UMH 846).
A psalm of thanksgiving to God for deliverance. "If It Had not Been for the Lord on [Our] Side" (2053, The Faith We Sing) could be used as a refrain for this psalm. If you plan to sing the psalm, consider Tone 3 in E-flat major with the response.
James calls for individual and corporate acts of prayer for healing and confession/forgiveness of sin and commends those who seek to restore persons wandering from the faith.
Disciples of Jesus must never placing stumbling blocks before others. Instead, they must focus on removing all forms of stumbling from their own lives, even if at high cost to themselves.
Back to top.
This is the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, and the fifth and final Sunday in the Season of Creation. Today's Season of Creation focus is blessing all creatures. Even if you have not celebrated the rest of the Season of Creation until now, this, the Sunday closest to St. Francis Day, is when many congregations will incorporate a blessing into morning worship or as part of a special gathering later in the day. Suggested ideas and resources are here.
World Communion Sunday is October 7. Discipleship Ministries worship resources are here. World Communion Sunday was begun by the former Federal Council of Churches in the 1940s to help bring American Protestant Churches to a greater sense of unity by agreeing to celebrate Communion on the same day. Back then, many Protestants celebrated no more than quarterly, and rarely on the same schedule. Today, most Protestants in the US celebrate at least monthly, and usually on the first Sunday of the month; a fast-growing number now celebrate weekly. While World Communion Sunday thus now no longer has the practical significance it once had, it is still good to remember at least once a year that Christ invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sins, and who seek to be at peace with their neighbor, no matter where or in what Christian denomination they may be.
A Season of Saints also kicks off next week with World Communion Sunday and culminating in All Saints Day/Sunday. We have posted a basic calendar of saints for each Sunday with links to more information about each saint available for both 2012 and 2011 Worship Planning Helps are already posted with suggestions for the 2011 resources. More detailed helps for 2012 are coming soon. The October 2012 editions of Worship Planning Helps will contain more detailed suggestions for celebrating with this year's calendar of saints.
The first full week of October is also National Mental Health Awareness Week. Tuesday, October 9, is the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding. Mental Health Ministries provides a wide range of additional faith-based resources for worship and prayer through this week.
Children's Sabbath is observed on October 14.
Hispanic Heritage Month (US) continues through October 15.
Laity Sunday is October 21.
All Saints Sunday is November 4.
As you begin your planning for Advent and Christmastide, consider how you will enable the unique emphases of both seasons to be fully expressed. The focus of Advent is on the second coming of Christ, new creation, and the culmination of all things in him. The focus of Christmastide is far less about the circumstances of the birth of Jesus and more about the significance and challenges of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. See "Restoring Advent and Christmas 2012/2013" for three proposals for helping both seasons have the impact for which they were originally designed.
There are no intentional common motifs, themes or images across this week's readings. Stay the course with the "track" of readings you've been following rather than trying to connect texts that are not intended to be connected.
Historical Wisdom: Esther
At first glance, the book of Esther may not seem to be categorized as wisdom literature at all. It is not written in poetry. It never mentions God. It reads more like a short story or brief history.
Esther certainly isn't like the examples we have seen (Song of Solomon and Proverbs). Nor is it much like the example of "wisdom drama" we will spend the next several weeks exploring (Job). But it is no less an example of wisdom literature in that its purpose is to help illumine the origins and significance of or the wisdom behind - a significant feast day in the life of the people, a feast day called Purim. It was also written as the chief "meditation" for the worship of that day, and, as it developed, the next day as well.
Esther is a story of genocide averted. Haman had "cast lots" (Purim, in Hebrew) against the Jewish people in Persia, but because of Esther's courageous leadership, his efforts were ended and even reversed. ("If it had not been for the Lord on our side" from Psalm 124 is the perfect Psalm response for this reading!)
In Esther, genocide was averted. Today however, genocide still continues. Sometimes it is targeted against people of a particular type (women, children, religious groups, sexual minorities, or persons of different family or tribal heritage). Sometimes, it is against a whole people by the government to stop or reverse calls for the leaders to leave office, as some say today about Syria. And sometimes, it is simply about asserting power over land and resources, as we are seeing at the border of Sudan and South Sudan, and, heartbreakingly, once again in the North and South Kivu regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo along the border with Rwanda. The US State Department's Religious Freedom Reports provide reliable evidence about the countries where religious and ethnic groups continue to be singled out by national policy.
The Jewish festival of Purim celebrates not vengeance against Haman (which would only perpetuate rather than end the cycle of oppression and violence), but rather God's undoing of oppression and vengeance. And God's undoing of these things happened because someone spoke up, exposed the genocidal plans, and called for the powers that be to end them. If your congregation has not yet been engaged actively and intentionally in efforts to end genocide and government persecution of people groups, this text provides perhaps the best opportunity in the three-year cycle for a biblical warrant to begin.
Esther is a blatantly political book. As already noted, the book makes no direct reference to God. Though some Christians call for their congregations to "stay out of politics," there is simply no way to avoid the blatantly political nature of this book without radically misinterpreting it.
Perhaps there are people in your congregation who are part of the various local, statewide, national, international or internet-based campaigns to call for an end to genocide and violence in various places. Invite some of these folks to give some witness to what they're doing and why and to have some input on what they think might be the best ways to help share this in worship in your congregation. Provide either in worship or in some other forum a reprint of our United Methodist resolution, ""Crimes Against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes" (2008 Book of Resolutions # 6123, pp. 902-907). Develop a list of all the ways folks in your congregation may already be involved in speaking up and working to end genocide, and include this in the worship bulletin along with other reputable organizations or efforts they may not yet have mentioned. Consider including http://endgenocide.org, www.persecution.org, and http://vomcblog.blogspot.com on the list. The latter two track and comment on examples of persecution of Christians worldwide. We know that people of many religious and ethnic groups are also persecuted for their "differences." Persecuting anyone, anywhere amounts to the same thing -- government sponsored oppression of people groups. Esther calls us to fulfill our baptismal vow to "resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms it presents itself."
As you plan together for celebration, sermon, or prayers focused on this text, you may want to call attention to these points: First, Esther did not demand the outcome she seeks. She asks for it, and she does so noting that this outcome is actually a better one for the sake of the honor and reputation of King Ahasuerus who has the power to make it occur (Esther 7:3-4). In so doing, she was using the social structures already in place, including her own culture's deep honor-shame dynamics.
Second, Esther did not specify to the King exactly how the king should enact her request, only that he somehow act to spare her life and the lives of her people. It was the King who asked who was responsible for the plan to exterminate her people, not Esther who volunteered that information. Esther did not hesitate to identify Haman when asked to do so, but she did not lead with that information. But it was a leading advisor to the King, and not Esther who suggested a specific plan about how to handle the situation (execute Haman on the gallows he had built for Mordecai). She was not seeking vengeance against a person, but deliverance and safety for her people and the honor of the king.
Overall, we might say today that Esther was incredibly astute politically in how she handled her request and responses. It was no accident Jesus himself called on his disciples to be "wise as serpents," (Matthew 10:16) noting that, in general, the "children of this age are more savvy than the children of light" (Luke 16:8), but that it needn't remain so!
And in the end, the result was not simply vengeance against Haman. It was, rather, deliverance for a people, an increase of honor for the king because he had demonstrated his commitment to justice and protection of the vulnerable, and a new celebration in which the people were instructed primarily to "send gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor" (Esther 9:22). The celebration itself thus continued the acts of goodwill and mercy begun with the king's decree in response to Esther's request. As we read in James last week, Purim was and is intended to be "a harvest of righteousness sown in peace for those who make peace" (James 3:18).
So the question for your worship planning team is how best to help the folks in your particular congregation hear and respond to God's call to reveal such injustices as genocide and work for their end. As you plan together for meaningful worship around this text today, do so with confident trust that, as Mordecai reminds, you may have been placed where you are for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).
Doing the Word: James
James is a great letter to help a Christian community get and stay on task. Today, our reading focuses on two different kinds of tasks: Ritual actions of healing and confession and hands-on, even interventionist, community actions of restoration. Whether ritual or practical, each is an enactment of Shalom, a living sign of the "harvest of peace" for those who submit themselves to God and live out God's wisdom as we read last week (James 3:18).
Regarding healing, James provides the earliest known description of how Christians offered ministries of healing within their communities. There are references in Didache (mid- to late-first century, and so possibly predating James), as well as in the stories of Acts (late first century, possibly contemporaneous with James), to itinerant healers, persons with gifts of healing that would go from place to place. I Corinthians 12:28 (mid-first century) also makes clear that some individual Christians were exercising such gifts there, as well.
But James is the first who describes how congregations normally offered ministries of healing. He was also the first to connect healing, confession of sin, anointing with oil and prayer. That is why this week's reading from James provides the template for healing ministries in connection with worship that would develop in the succeeding centuries (see my seminary paper, "Healing in Early Christian Liturgies," beginning with page 3), and including the rites of healing contained in The United Methodist Book of Worship (pp. 613-629). Pages 613-615 provide a helpful description of official United Methodist theology regarding the meaning and use of such ritual actions in our churches.
Generally speaking, United Methodist ritual has followed the mainstream Western Christian tradition since the tenth century or so in directly linking rites of healing with the confession of sin to a church official, and indeed more or less making the offer of anointing contingent upon confessing sins first.
A careful reading of this week's reading from James offers a more nuanced view. Verses 14-15 invite those who have become ill to call for the elders to come and pray for them. The elders would come, pray, and anoint the sick with oil in the name of Jesus. The forgiveness of sin appears in verse 15 to be a side effect of this prayer and anointing, an overflow of the healing power of God, not necessarily requiring any action by the sick other than to request the elders to come. Note, too, that the verb here is not "God will heal the sick" but rather "God will raise the sick up." This verb () implies two things: a manifestation of the power of Christ's resurrection ("raising" from the dead), and that the person is now well enough to resume normal activities. The sick person here is also described, before the raising, as "worn out" or "bedridden" ().
Note as well that praying for the sick so they can be raised up, and perhaps also forgiven, was considered simply an intrinsic part of the ministry of "elders." We should not directly equate "elders" in the first-century context with the "professional pastors" in our current context. What we know in this early period is that elders appear to have been ordained (that is, prayed over for the Holy Spirit to empower their ministry), but that there would likely have been several elders (not just one) in each Christian community and that none of them necessarily functioned quite as "the" pastor in our current contexts. Consider this an invitation to invite your congregation to begin thinking more broadly about how laity may participate actively in such healing ministries in this way.
Thus we see how healing was an intrinsic part of the life of the congregation, and not thought to be limited to the "special gifts" of a few extraordinary "bright lights" who might come around from time to time. One could reliably call upon the elders and expect them to come and pray and for God to honor their prayers.
Verse 16 addresses a different audience. This time it is not the sick, or even elders, but the whole Christian congregation. James commends here two different congregation-wide practices: confession of sin to one another (not to elders!) and also prayer for one another to be cured (the Greek verb here, "" indicates the end of all visible symptoms). The strong implication of the grammar here is that James intends the congregation to do both as an ongoing matter of course, not that one is necessarily dependent on the other, or that either requires a special church official to do anything to effect the desired outcome (whether forgiveness or curing). In short, these practices were what all ordinary Christians were expected to do all the time with and for one another.
To summarize, ill Christians are here advised to call on the elders when they need prayer to get out of their sickbeds and get back to work. But everyone in the community was expected to confess sins to one another and pray for one another's complete freedom from sickness, all the time.
James' apparent aside describing Elijah make this latter point plain. James begins this aside by describing Elijah not as an official (he was not, after all, a priest in the official roll of priests but a citizen emboldened and enabled somehow to speak on God's behalf to the king, see I Kings 17:1 ff.), but as "a person just like us." He prayed, the rain stopped, and famine ensued. He prayed again, the rain resumed, and the famine ended. He's just like us, no higher, no lower, James says. His point: if we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, God will listen and good things will happen. So, everyone should do this, as a matter of course!
Many of us probably pray for one another to be cured quite regularly. How many of you, either in your worship planning team, or among the leadership team of your congregation, or among a fellowship of clergy or laity with whom you regularly meet, much less generally in your congregation, confess your sins to one another -- ever! The kind of Christian congregation James is addressing (typical of what we know of first- through early fourth-century Christian congregations, though less so from the evidence from the late-third century than earlier) was likely quite small, and so also high trust and high-touch. That may not be the case with your congregation or very many you have ever known.
Nor was it the case in eighteenth-century England, when John and Charles Wesley created another small-group format, smaller and more exclusive than the class meetings, called "the bands." These groups were very small, only three to five people, all of the same sex. The purpose of the bands was to help people who chose to be this open with one another "confess their sins to one another and pray for one another to be healed." Not English congregations (of any denomination), nor Methodist societies, nor even the smaller class meeting was a safe enough environment, they thought, for people to be able to engage this more challenging spiritual work effectively.
Nor had it been the case since at least the late fourth or early fifth century in many Christian congregations after Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire. Congregations quickly became flooded with people who had not lived in the intimacy of community that earlier Christian congregations had known, and, indeed, did not seek nor were adequately prepared for either the intimacy or the rigors of such intense communal practices. It was in this environment that we see the confession of sin already moving from a general interpersonal practice to private confession to a priest and practices of healing/anointing moving from the result of mutual prayer or anointing by elders in people's homes (though both did continue to a lesser degree in some places) toward specific public rites involving a general public confession of sin by all present (rather than confessing particular sins) as the usual prerequisite to receiving a public or private anointing for healing from a priest or bishop. Thus, it was in large measure the changes that happened to the nature of Christian community brought about by its status as the official religion, rather than this particular biblical text in itself, that forged the kinds or healing rituals, and even theologies of healing, we often see practiced across the church in the West today.
Today's reading provides a significant opportunity for you and your worship planning team to explore what is possible interpersonally and corporately where you are. Perhaps there are some in your midst who can give testimony to how another Christian's prayer for healing or receiving anointing for healing from a pastor has strengthened them, even cured them (James 5:16). And if your congregation has not yet used the healing services in The United Methodist Book of Worship, today would be a great time to do so. "A Service of Healing I" begins with a reading of James 5:14-16.
The rest of today's reading (verses 19-20) might seem fairly noncontroversial by comparison. But look at what James does not say. James does not say, "Whenever the pastor gets someone who had quit attending to show up in worship again" but rather, "If someone of you should wander away from the truth, and someone else should turn that one around, know that whoever turned the sinner around from their wandering way will save that one's soul from death and hide an abundance of sins."
Once again, the emphasis is that reaching out to those wandering from the truth found in Jesus is a normal part of Christian discipleship, expected of all disciples, not just pastors or other leaders. Restoration here is not equated with getting people to show up at worship again. It is about intervening to help turn their lives back around. James has no hesitation in calling those wandering from the truth by the label "sinner." And, in line with our Arminian theological heritage as United Methodists, we do not take lightly what such restoration does: It saves the other person's soul from eternal death. Wandering from the way of Jesus can mean the death of the soul.
Note, too, the gentleness and completeness of this ministry of restoration. The last part of verse 20 ("and [the restorer?] will hide an abundance of sins) can be interpreted accurately in two different but related ways. On the one hand, the act of restoration itself has the effect of hiding those sins because the whole community focuses more on the return of the wandering one, with rejoicing, than the sins he or she may have committed while "off the path." On the other hand, and perhaps just as importantly, part of the work of the restorer is to keep past sins he or she may discover about the wanderer fully in the past, never disclosing them to anyone else. What a blessing this difficult ministry of restoration is and can be for all involved! The one who is "turned around" is restored to full life and relationships in the community.
Once again, as with Esther, if you are focusing on James, you and your congregation will benefit from the wisdom of a worship planning team to help decide how best to integrate the wholeness of this text and the official resources of the church into worship where you are. Some may be "weirded out" by any mention, much less practice, of healing as part of worship, whether they had been turned off by some "Pentecostal" or "televangelist" practices, or whether they are skeptics that anything "real" can happen through ritual action, such as prayer and anointing. The team who plans this service should include folks who know where the congregation is on these matters and be able to help all lovingly embrace the truths today's Scripture offers, or at least not react in a highly negative way. Using the rich official resources of the church from the Book of Worship, approved by the entirety of the UMC worldwide through General Conference, may allay the fears of some. At the same time, the use of language in of some of these resources may not speak with your congregation's cadences and may do more to get in the way of healing than assist it. Work closely with these resources and your team to craft the words and forms that will do what these resources do in the language and style of the folks who gather where you are.
Mark: Discipleship Everywhere
This weeks reading from Mark is built around the Greek word "skandalon" (stumbling-block, scandal, or trap). Some scholars would argue that today's reading may have originally been four or more separate and possibly unrelated strands of teaching from Jesus (verses 38-41, 42, 43-48, 49-50). However, Mark's construction of this text as whole unit clearly intends for his hearers' readers to make connections between them. Part of what you will need to decide in your worship planning team is whether to focus one of the four separate smaller sections or on the sense of the unit as a whole. Pick one. Trying to do both, unless your congregation is really sophisticated in biblical interpretation, is probably overly ambitious.
If you are using an individual section, you would (and should!) still read the entire passage in worship, but select only one section for particular focus as the worship and preaching theme. Your first step is to discern which one best addresses the opportunities and needs of your congregation and community at this time. Verses 38-41 deal with "insider" concerns about whether and how "outsiders" can also act in the name of Jesus. In verse 40, Jesus strongly states outsiders can act in the name of Jesus with an aphorism truly shocking in its generosity of spirit: "Whoever is not against us is for us." Jesus' point here is that God's kingdom happens everywhere, all the time, and God's saving power is potentially available to and through all. Consider focusing here, especially if folks where you are have been "hung up" on insider/outsider issues or perhaps have felt themselves "hung out to dry" (accused of not having the "right" to speak or act).
Verse 42 addresses primarily how "insider" followers of Jesus with some influence in the community treat newcomers or others in the community less influential than they. Putting out a "skandalon" before a "little one" can mean several things. It can mean acting in ways that offend the "little ones," or saying or doing things that can trip them up, or even acting in ways that trap them and keep them relatively powerless in the community. Jesus is startlingly clear about how serious an offense this is. "The appropriate thing for those who do this is for a millstone to be hung around their neck and for them to be thrown into the sea." Jesus was not promoting capital punishment for this offense, but he was clearly stating just how serious an offense it was! He was also not calling for disciples to "be nice at all costs." Rather, he was reminding all insiders to recognize that those who are truly "inside" with Jesus are those who always keep the "inside" fully accessible to all who seek it. The only privilege "insiders" have is to welcome more people to follow Jesus with them. Jesus is no "Godfather" to the world outside. His "family" always acts with respect toward all. Otherwise, Jesus says, it's those claiming to be his family falsely and so dishonoring his will and way who should end up with the "cement shoes."
Verses 43-48 address scandal in a different way. Here the focus isn't on how we treat others, but our own moral behavior. Jesus is clear there is no excuse for "sins of the flesh" (chiefly theft, adultery, fornication, lust and covetousness). By God's power, people can be delivered from the power of all of these sins. The devil doesn't "make" us do them, and neither do our hands, feet or eyes. "I can't help myself" is to admit instead that "I choose not to let God cleanse and deliver me!" Better to get rid of a part of the body one blames for causing such sinful behavior, Jesus says, than suffer the consequences of eternal death for not having done so. Methodists, among all Christians, have perhaps most rejoiced to sing "He breaks the power of cancelled sin, he sets the prisoner free." This text challenges us to act on our belief in these words.
Jesus is not promoting or condoning self-mutilation. Still, his language would have hit home along these lines perhaps even more strongly for his first hearers. What he's saying is, "If you are serious about overcoming sin in your life, you will take whatever action is necessary to get that done. That means if you honestly think your hand is causing you to sin, as some of you do say, you would consider cutting it off if you're serious about stopping that sin." In effect, Jesus is calling the bluff for his hearers, and for us.
Some of what we have learned about the brain and mental illness challenges us in another way, as well. There are neurological disorders in which a limb does actually become uncontrollable by the conscious mind, seeming to act on its own impulses, which may be destructive to the self or others rather than the conscious intent of the person. Similarly, there are impulsive, compulsive, and obsessive disorders of the mind that can make theft and inappropriate sexual behavior nearly impossible to control without medical, psychological and spiritual intervention and assistance from others. We do persons suffering from such neurological and mental disorders more harm -- we "scandalize" them -- if we simply label their behavior sinful and do nothing to relieve the physical and psychic disorders that drive these behaviors.
The fourth unit (verses 49-50) offers two nearly cryptic comments about fire and salt. Fire was known for its purifying qualities. Salt was known for adding flavor. Verse 49 then notes that God's work of purifying us both "flavors" all and affects all. God's fire as described here is not limited to "insiders" on the one hand or "sinners" on the other. And its purpose is not vengeance, but purification and enlivening for all. He then commends his followers to "have salt inwardly" -- to be "fully themselves," we might say -- while also at the same time living in peaceable relationships with one another in the community.
Together, these brief two verses provide descriptive criteria for the nature of Christian individuals and communities. Toward all we are gracious, knowing God is working to purify and improve all. Within Christian community, we celebrate and encourage individual development and expression within the bonds of mutual affection. Both matter equally. Individual expression is not squelched to create a bland uniformity. At the same time, individual expression is not arrogated above the good of all concerned. While these verses thus have some connection to verse 42, if you and your worship planning team choose to focus here, you would be addressing ways of preserving lively mutual bonds of affection for the community as a whole and all the individuals in it rather than the dangers of insiders excluding or scandalizing outsiders.
As Mark has constructed the whole text for today, however, yet another kind of focus emerges. It is the disciples themselves who are in danger of scandalizing little ones because they are more concerned about whether an outsider (little one) is acting under Jesus' authority than on rejoicing that the good news and power of God's reign are being expanded and expressed in the name of Jesus. If their focus is directed so intently on what other people might be doing wrong, on trying to "fix" others, they'll never be able to take responsibility to fix themselves (verses 43-48). The result of that for them (and for us, if we're not listening!) will be the eternal fire.
With this "synoptic" view of these verses, we may see that the "eternal fire" Jesus describes is not only of punishment for "those bad people out there." No, as Jesus (and Mark) use the term fire here, God's purpose is to seek to purify everyone. And not only to purify, but to intensify the most savory "flavors" of each. That's how God makes it possible for all to live in the kind of community where all can value the gifts of all and all can work for the good of all.
In short, as the whole text puts it, the question is whether we're listening to Jesus and living in the way of God's kingdom, or whether we're still stuck or keeping ourselves stuck in living the ways of the kingdoms of this world. God's kingdom seeks to strengthen and purify all for the common good. In the kingdoms of this world, the inner circles hoard the most power, keep people out, believe they're above the law, and enact simple vengeance on any who don't meet their demands. If what your congregation needs most to remember just now is this basic (and blessed!) difference between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of God, this "unitary" approach might be the best way to focus your planning around this gospel reading for today.
There are so many good options and so much to think and discern in your worship planning team. Think, work, pray, and be aware of the voice of the Spirit in, through, and outside the folks in your congregation, being especially attentive in your own practice for signs of God's kingdom at work among people you may not know well and to the possibilities for ways that those who are least influential or newest in your community may be blessed by what you will decide.
- Greeting: BOW 453 (Esther)
- Greeting: BOW 454 (James)
- Greeting BOW 615 (James)
- Prayer of Confession: BOW 489 (Mark)
- Prayers: BOW 545 and 546, For Those Who Suffer (James)
- Prayers: BOW 547, For a Victim or Survivor of Crime or Oppression (Esther)
- Prayer: BOW 495, "A Litany for the Church and for the World" (World Communion)
- Prayer: 556, The United Methodist Hymnal, "Litany for Christian Unity" (World Communion)
- Litany of Faith UMH 106 (as a litany), God Is Able (Esther)
- Blessing of Animals (St. Francis Day), UMBOW 608-610
- Confession of Sin:
Be sure to precede confession with the Invitation (UMH, p. 7) and follow with Words of Assurance or the Pardon (UMH, p. 8).) See This Holy Mystery for more about the Invitation.
- Prayer of Confession: BOW 492 (James, Mark)
- The Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia. Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301.
- Great Thanksgiving: 70-71
- Response: UMH 448, stanza 11, without refrain, "Go Down, Moses" (Esther) this could be used as a sung Prayer for Illumination on this day.