See the texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Jacob wrestles with a "man" at the Jabbok and is renamed Israel because he has "striven with God and with humans, and has prevailed."
Psalm 17:1-7, 15 (UMH 749).
Consider as an alternative sung response Charles Wesley's narrative hymn, "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown" (United Methodist Hymnal, 386). Note the last two lines of stanza one: "With thee all night I mean to stay, and wrestle till the break of day." Note also the last two lines of stanza four: "To me, to all, thy mercies move; thy nature and thy name is Love." See "Psalms for Singing" for another alternative.
Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, declares his great concern and anguish for his own people.
Upon hearing of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples withdraw to a quiet place, but the crowd follows, and more than 5000 people are fed.
Calendar: Where Are You and Where Are You Heading?
Which series are you pursuing? Are you continuing in Romans? Did you conclude a mini-series last week on parables of the kingdom and are looking for the next place to go? Or are you concluding the Jacob series today and wondering where to go starting next week?
A few suggestions for what changes to make, if you’re making one, depending which path you’ve chosen so far:
1. If you took the parables mini-series “detour” through July and you want to move on to something else for August, perhaps before starting Season of Creation in September, consider moving to Romans. You can easily develop two smaller mini-series (perhaps perfect for this vacation/back to school season), with three weeks in Romans 9-11 starting today (Jewish-Christian relationships and salvation), then two weeks in Romans 12 rounding out the last two of five Sundays of this month (how to be church together).
2. If you’ve been on the Jacob story, conclude it today (Jacob wrestles with the angel at Jabbok), then consider whether to continue with the Joseph saga that begins next week (concluding August 17, followed by the beginnings of the Moses story on August 24) or move into the gospel readings (journeying with Jesus, starting with the feeding of the 5000 today and concluding, perhaps, with the confession and rebuke of Peter on August 31).
3. If you’ve been in Romans, and want to take a detour for a time, today is not a bad time to start in either of the other two tracks, since Romans introduces a rather different topic starting today.
4. Remember in any series to make all beginnings bright and all endings clear.
Whichever path you choose, remember the primary criterion for making your choice: Which one will best support your congregation in taking its next steps in discipleship and ministry in Jesus’ name and the Spirit’s power. You and your planning team are in the best position to discern this. Pray, think and discern well!
Holy Communion — It’s the first Sunday of the month, so the vast majority of UM congregations in the U.S. (based on our most comprehensive study, about 97%) will likely celebrate Holy Communion today. While the connection with the feeding of the 5000 (Matthew) is the most obvious, don’t plan to switch streams just for Communion today. Worship in our church is called to be word AND table, with both as foci of an ellipse, neither supplanting but each supporting the other.
This coming Wednesday, August 6, is the anniversary of the destruction of Hiroshima, and Friday, August 8, the bombing of Nagasaki. Worship resources have been posted to assist your congregation's prayer in observance of these days and seeking to give voice to the resolve that nuclear weapons never be used again. Consider affirming the Methodist Social Creed and its companion litany today in worship. (The link is to a bulletin-ready .pdf document including both the Creed and a musical setting of its companion litany).
Back to School Resources
August 6, 8 Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial
Whole Month: Season of Creation (2014 lectionary resources coming soon).
September 1 Labor Day (USA) (August 31, Labor Sunday)
September 15-October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month
Whole Month: A Season of Saints
October 5: World Communion Sunday (Discipleship Ministries Resources)
October 12: Children’s Sabbath (Discipleship Ministries Resources)
October 19: Laity Sunday
Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown and/or
From Grabber to Wrester-with-God
The Charles Wesley hymn (UMH 386) may provide a frame for the entire service today, or at least for the reading, proclamation, and response to the Word. Try laying the hymn text alongside the biblical text in your worship planning team, and see where you might see ways that each verse of the hymn might frame different elements of worship or parts of your unpacking of this text today.
We hear today a “thick” story of an embodied encounter with God at a “thin place.” Everything is at stake here. Jacob’s family and future are on the line. This is Jacob’s first encounter with Esau since Jacob (“Grabber’) had snatched both birthright and blessing from his brother. Since his encounter with God at Beth-el, we have no record that Jacob had heard anything else from God in the 14 years he had worked on his uncle’s sheep farm. Was that experience long ago a promise, or just a dream? And might that dream come to a tragic end next morning?
Jacob could lose everything, easily. Esau’s retinue was nearly a small army that could easily crush Jacob’s. And given what Jacob had done to him, Esau would seem to have every reason to kill him and take his family and household as slaves or servants of his own.
No wonder Jacob wrestles all night long. The “Grabber” struggles to find something to grab onto, some hold to keep.
And true to form, Jacob does not relent in his wrestling, his grabbing of his opponent, even when, at daybreak, his opponent puts his hip out of socket. Jacob seeks to grab a blessing.
The blessing begins as a new name. No longer “Grabber” (Jacob) but “Wrestler-with-God” (Israel).
The blessing begins in the new name, a new identity. Grabber may have survived the night, but perhaps not what lies before him—a period of his life where the nature of his struggle with God will have to change. Wrestle with God and others he will continue to do, as he had before. But now his “success” will come from giving and releasing more than from grabbing.
Still Jacob tries one last grab—to wrest the name from this stranger. Naming the other could be a way of controlling or, we might say, domesticating the other. But such grabbing no longer works. The stranger will have none of it. “Why do you ask my name?” he says. Jacob relents, and only then is the blessing completed. The stranger disappears, but his presence, and the fact Jacob can no longer rely on grabbing, can be seen and felt in Jacob’s limp.
“Grabber” may be the name of the Capitalist Cultural Icon—the ultimate entrepreneur, one who uses all means to get ahead, who makes a life for oneself against odds, who works and fights to establish and defend a future with power and wealth. “Grabber” got a lot done then, and “Grabber” as a cultural force continues to accomplish much today.
“Grabber” may even be an approach many of us may take or be tempted to take in pursuing discipleship or our ministries in Christ’s name. But here, in the most profound encounter Jacob ever has with God, we see both what that approach has led to—yes, a full family for Jacob, but also a possible life and death struggle with his brother’s army-sized retinue Jacob cannot possibly win. We also see there is another, and perhaps better, way.
In the course of our discipleship to Jesus and ministries in his name, we will, all of us, continue to struggle. Sometimes we will struggle with God, either because we do not understand or do not like where the Spirit is leading us. At other times, we will struggle with other people, or even “spiritual forces of wickedness” and “the evil powers of this world.” But in that struggle, our role as Christians, the “new Israel” is not to grab. It is not to preserve or enhance ourselves, our position, or our reputation. Neither is it to demand blessing from anyone else, but rather to receive and offer blessing as opportunities may come.
In the deeply entrepreneurial, individualist culture in which we find ourselves in North America, at least, moving from “Jacob” to “Israel” in our own hearts, habits and reflexes is no easy transition, even for those of us who may have been part of the body of Christ for many years. “Grabber” (Jacob) is so much a part of the air we breathe we may not even realize where we deny our new name and operate primarily out of our former one.
The angel (or perhaps it was God?) made it at least temporarily impossible for Jacob to forget, by means of a divine injury and a lifelong limp. What persistent reminders does the Spirit lay for you, or perhaps lead you to lay for others, that “grabber” does not describe the economy of God, an economy bent instead on the giving, receiving and sharing of blessing?
In Your Planning Team
Are you concluding this series today, and moving to a different one next week? If so, be sure to make worship today a clear ending, and provide some sort of segue into whatever new beginning you will start next week.
So what makes for a clear ending? One word: Closure. Through these four weeks, you will have (intentionally!) introduced some open questions and perhaps left some loose ends. Closure for a series doesn’t mean all questions are answered, but it does mean you acknowledge in some way where you’ve come from journey’s beginning (the birth and birthright stories) to today’s journey’s end (a new name and a limp). Closure in this way can be enhanced in part by a song, prayer, or other worship element from the first weeks that you pick up today for one final time, even if you use it in a somewhat different way. Perhaps the first hymn you sang at opening might be the hymn of sending today. The postlude (or whatever you call music after the sending) might preview a musical theme you will start developing more fully in your next series, along with a slide (previewing the graphic look for the next series) or brief announcement on parting on Sunday, or even in your coffee hour space, reinforced by other communications midweek.
Today’s text itself raises significant questions about our identity as people in all the relationships in which we participate: family, discipleship, ministry, work, etc. Are we fundamentally grabbers? If so, are we “recovering”? Are we becoming more and more those who no longer grab, but receive and give blessing, even in the midst of our struggles with God and others?
Take some time to talk about that question on your team, answering that question for yourselves, first individually, and then, for those who wish to share, out loud. (Not everyone may feel comfortable talking about themselves in this way. Respect that. But pastors and deacons, lead the way and do so yourselves, honestly and vulnerably!). Do you basically seek to take all you can? Or do you basically trust you will receive from your work and from God’s grace what you need so you can give all you can?
Probably all of you have some story to tell about some growth from “grabber” to “struggler who trusts and gives.” Let those who feel comfortable sharing those stories do so as well.
Next identify others you know in the congregation or wider community who have made that journey, or made it perhaps further than others. Then send persons from your team to gather their stories, what struggles led them to this different way of being, what they’re learning as they may still struggle, and what helps them most to keep growing. However you capture these stories (personal interview, audio, video, email, chat), find ways to use and weave them into worship (with their permission) to offer positive, inspiring examples of how God, indeed, renames us Israel and blesses, too, sometimes even despite ourselves.
Finally, with your own testimonies and those of others in mind, play with ideas of “Grabber” and “Wrestler-with-God” in your worship planning team. These are primal metaphors, reaching to the core of our beings and our lives as individuals, communities and body of Christ.
What images come to mind? What are you seeing in your worship space that already speaks of these images? What might you need to add or modify to help these elements move more into the foreground? What movement by the congregation or others (drama, mime, dance) might embody these names? How might you and the congregation enter as Grabber, wrestle with the word, be blessed at the Table (you are now the body of Christ redeemed by his blood), and be sent forth to Wrestle-with-God in the world?
As you do so, do not limit “Wrestler-with-God” to an attitude of a willingness to ask questions, to question accepted teachings, or be open to the ideas of others. While such attitudes can be part of this life, they can easily become just another form of “Grabber” in disguise, a cultural, even Gnostic, captivity to ideas alone that may barely translate into the way of life of those of us who share that name in Christ.
If you find yourselves stuck here, call in a local wrestling coach to be part of your team’s conversation. Learn from him/her what wrestling involves and any insights into this text—especially the new name “Wrestler-with-God” the coach may offer.
Theology for Ministry, Week 7, or Week 1
The Place of Israel, Part I
Romans takes what some might consider a three-chapter detour from Paul’s main arguments beginning with our reading today (Romans 9-11). That’s why, though we don’t get a “stream switch” opportunity during Year A, this is yet another occasion where you could make a detour from the gospel stream these next 3 or 5 weeks and return (or head elsewhere) without your congregation feeling like you’ve come into it in the middle of the conversation.
Much of what Paul has dealt with up to this time seems to address questions of sin and salvation in broad strokes and in particular in the lives of Christian communities. He picks up that thread again in Chapter 12 (August 24). But here in these three chapters, he takes on what may seem like an almost unrelated topic—an extended theological discourse on the place of Israel and the Jewish people in the new economy of salvation inaugurated in Jesus Christ.
To be sure, this “excursus” was less of a detour for Paul and his readers in first century Rome. For Paul, the whole point of this letter was to help the Jewish-Gentile house churches in Rome make theological and practical sense of their “mixed” existence as one body. These three chapters address, head on, a good bit of the theological work needed for that context at that time.
Still, they are enough of a detour for most modern readers that they can easily stand on their own as a mini-series.
In this case, however, there’s more for you to do than simply use the provided lections if you’re going to be sensitive both to the first-century setting and the larger argument Paul is making and at the same time attentive to your own setting and the particular needs of your congregation to address these issues at this time. This is no critique of the lectionary, per se. It simply recognizes that no set of excerpts or highlights of the argument selected by others may best match the key points you may need to address from these three chapters where you are.
So start by gathering your team and reading all three chapters at one sitting. Become clear about the whole argument Paul is making here. Then plot out your plans for these weeks on that basis, rather than solely on the basis of the given selections.
As you enter these three chapters, try to stay focused on the sweep of Paul’s proposal here. Too many have become sidetracked by “proof-texts” for predestination, Arminianism or universal salvation. Stay with the main track. Paul’s point throughout the letter to Rome and here is that Christians participate in God’s salvation through Christ in exactly the same way the Jewish people participate in their covenant with God—by the grace of God’s promise, beginning with Abraham, and their faithful response to it, not on the basis of mere inheritance or works of the law. God’s saving mercy is about relationship. God sends God’s people to live and announce God’s justice and love, not to focus on being the chosen ones.
With that as background, what about today? The brief extract in the lectionary is fitting prologue. It is a poignant confession of lament. “I would be cut off and accursed for their sake if I could be,” Paul says. My people have everything, he says—adoption, glory, covenants, law, worship, promise, patriarchs, messiah—everything. Everything God has ever offered in salvation is with them, nothing lacking. They have it all—yet many of them have nothing in the end, while many Gentiles are now being accounted righteous (verses 30-31) by faith in God’s promise of mercy and salvation made to all in Jesus Christ.
The vast majority of Christians in all parts of the world today have no Jewish people in their congregations. There are historical reasons for this, including the centuries of atrocities that Christians or persons claiming the name Christian have committed against Jewish people— including the Holocausts of the 20th century. We cannot go back and undo what our forebears and some of our contemporaries in the faith have done to our Jewish siblings. But we can resolve to do better going forward—and not only toward Jewish people.
This week’s reading poses another opportunity for confessional lament. As noted above (Calendar), August 6 and 8, which fall on Wednesday and Friday of this coming week, are anniversaries of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. Here we have an opportunity not only to lament the horror we as citizens of the United States brought upon hundreds of thousands of non-combatant civilians in Japan in 1945, but also to confess our solidarity with all who have ever suffered the indiscriminate and disproportional violence all nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction cause to people, economies and the environment, and to work together for the day when such violence cannot be visited upon anyone by such means ever again.
In Holy Communion we confess our sin, seek reconciliation with God and neighbor, and then offer thanksgiving, recalling, as Paul does in these three chapters, the whole history of God’s saving work with humankind. We were slaves; God delivered us and continues to offer deliverance to all on earth. We were blind; Christ heals our blindness. We were sinners; Christ dined with us and died for us. We are still in many ways captives to sin’s power, along with all humankind, and the Spirit’s power works to set us free from sin and death. Christ continues to offer himself to us in bread and wine that we may continue God’s mission of ensuring that all hear and experience the good news of salvation.
In Your Planning Team
How you approach your work for today’s reading will depend in large part on whether you are continuing in Romans from previous weeks (and so continuing a series) or whether you are starting in Romans today from somewhere else.
If you are continuing a series, you will want to focus more today, especially, on how this week’s text, and to some degree the next two, connect with what has come before.
If you are now launching a new series, while you may want to put Romans 9-11 into the larger contexts of the letter briefly, perhaps in the sermon, or perhaps in other print or electronic resources or class or small group settings, your greater energy should be focused on making a distinctive new beginning today, and building excitement and interest for the weeks to come.
As suggested above, you and your team may choose to set a different course through these three chapters than the lectionary does. You may even choose to extend your time in these chapters to be longer than three weeks. These are decisions you need to work out in your first meeting for planning around these three chapters, before you get into planning for the first service in the series. Why? Because the launch service (today) needs to preview, like an overture, something of the themes you’ll encounter in the weeks to come.
Still, today’s lectionary selection is an excellent place to start. How well do you know and work with and alongside Jewish neighbors and congregations in your community? If your congregation is like most US UMC congregations, especially those in very small towns or rural areas, you may know few if any Jewish people. If you are in a larger town or city, chances are you may know some, but you may have few opportunities where you get to know and appreciate each other well in matters of faith and common mission. This series is an invitation to begin to remedy that, beginning with acknowledging what we may be missing by not having a significant depth of relationships with Jewish people and congregations around us.
So build today around lament—Paul’s lament, and yours. Lament is never solely about complaint. It is also deeply about trust. We raise our pain, our concern, our sense of loss or lack to God together, fully, thoroughly, trusting God to listen and bring us the healing, reconciliation, and strength we may need in the face of these things. So while building worship today around lament may, at first, seem like a big “downer,” be sure to follow the biblical pattern of Psalms of lament by ending with expressions of hope, and trust and even praise, confident in God’s power to make good what we so far may have been unable to find any way to redeem.
Part of the work of your team during these weeks is also to help start building new relationships and connections with Jewish people and congregations. Even if distances mean it may not be possible for you to share worship together on Sabbath (Saturday) or Sunday, start planning for at least two occasions during these three (or more) weeks to host one another. But don’t let it end there. Keep building on relationships started or deepened through these weeks into the years to come.
Journeying with Jesus, Week 7
Feeding When You Think You Have No More
Matthew opens us to another day in the life of Jesus. This one begins with the sordid story of the execution of John the Baptist by Herod. Jesus is in Herod’s territory, Galilee, when he gets this word. He gets in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, hoping for some time apart to pray.
Jesus was not setting out on the deep waters, though. He was just following along the shoreline. From where he was sitting, he could see what was happening onshore. A crowd was assembling, following along the shore as Jesus’ boat continued to sail. He could probably hear them, so neither solitude nor silence was possible. Whenever he would pull ashore, he knew what he would find. That crowd, already assembling, would be waiting for him.
The time on the boat was all the rest he would get.
He landed the boat, went to the crowd, and got to work, moved by his compassion for them. We do not know what first century healing actions may have looked like. The models most of us are familiar with may come from 20th and 21st century televangelists. No mention is made of any specific healing ritual. Perhaps he laid hands on them, prayed for them, and declared them well, as we have seen in stories of specific healings throughout the gospel. But ultimately, we do not know.
What we do know is that Jesus continued this activity until evening. The sun was going down. There were still thousands of people around, watching, hanging around, or waiting for their own healing to come. His disciples, handlers if ever there were some, tried to encourage Jesus to stop and send them home to eat. Jesus turned the tables. No, it’s not up to these villages and the people there to feed these folks who’ve traveled here for healing. It’s up to you, he tells his disciples. You feed them.
We know their answer. “Feed all these people with five loaves and two fish? That’s all we’ve got!” Jesus receives this meager fare and tells the disciples to seat the crowd. He then lifts the bread and fish skyward, a gesture of offering, blessed them, broke the loaves (a standard act for the host to do for his guests) and gave them back to the disciples to feed the crowds. All ate their fill. The remains were more abundant than the initial gifts, 12 baskets full.
The surface parallels to Holy Communion here are clear. We take the bread and wine offered by disciples. We bless God. We seek God’s blessing on the bread. We break it and distribute it to those gathered. We gather the remains, resetting the table. And then we are sent, fed and healed, into the night (the world) and our next places of ministry.
But there are deeper parallels as well. We get news of some new atrocity from the powers that be every day. Sometimes these things shock our souls, and we feel the need to get away, to stop in our tracks, to regroup. We try, and we perhaps do a little, but we are aware of all the ways the crowds who want God’s healing power are waiting for us. Eventually, we return to the work of witness to God’s kingdom—whether healing the sick, raising the dead, banishing the demons, or cleansing the lepers, in whatever forms we are blessed to witness or offer—driven by the compassion of Christ at work in our bodies.
The temptation we face in our ministries in Christ’s name may be similar to those posed by his disciples— to send people off to be fed elsewhere, or to think what we have to offer is not enough, or to assume that what we have in our hands, what we ourselves can lay claim to or control over, is actually all there may be.
Jesus’ simple action of feeding a crowd with what began as the offering of all the disciples had showed up all of these temptations. God’s abundance is right here, right now, wherever right here and whenever right now may be. We think we don’t have enough not because our supplies are too small, but because our “we” is too small. The “we” includes God and the gifts of all those among whom we are sent as Christ’s body. Indeed, far more of the gifts are “out there” than “in here.” That is how ministry in God’s kingdom grows, by becoming viral and multiplying. Or perhaps, to recall last week’s story of the leaven in the loaf, by becoming fungal!
And so we who have been among the sick and needy all week long join them in needing dinner as the sun goes down. We won’t be fed by hoarding our small portions for ourselves. We are fed as Jesus fed the crowds long ago. We confess our shock at what we have seen and done (confession of sin). We return to the shore to offer restoration to others (the peace). We take what we bring (bread and wine). We bless God and these small gifts, offering them and ourselves to God for God’s transforming power. (Great Thanksgiving). We break the bread (the “fraction”). We share it and the cup, small fragments of the loaf, small sips of the flagon. And it is enough. We are satisfied with Jesus, ready now to face the night again.
We learn or are reminded of the nature of our discipleship and our ministries here, in this story and at the Lord’s table which enacts it. Our ministry is not to think that we ourselves will transform the world. It is to know that our Master has called us to declare and embody its transformation, knowing that indeed all the materials needed to satisfy the hunger around us are already in place, just not yet deployed in a way designed to feed us all. We know, too, that in all the brokenness we bring, and despite our failings at patching it up (though we try!), in this simple act of offering ourselves and our gifts to God we are all fed and changed.
In Your Planning Team
Plan on Holy Communion today, of course. Today’s gospel provides ample opportunity for teaching or preaching again on the value, meaning and power of this gift of God for the people of God.
Discuss in your team where your congregation can most profitably focus within this story for this day.
And are you turning to the gospel readings today for a few weeks after a period in Romans or somewhere else? If so, keep in mind the ideas listed above under starting a new series. Make this an effective launch by previewing the series to come rather than digging right in to this story with gusto based on where you’re planning to head through the series and at series end.
With those considerations in mind, where can your congregation best focus in this story just now for its next steps in discipleship and ministry?
Is it in the response to a shock or disaster, and Jesus seeking to get some time apart?
Is it in the reality that in the midst of getting away you may also be getting deeper into the ministry into which you are called, as Jesus saw the crowds gathering along the shoreline?
Is it in the offering of healing, cleansing, witness, deliverance, or raising from the dead, a deep dive into the work of your ministries themselves, whatever they may be?
Is it in the compassion that fuels that work? How is that compassion itself fueled and sustained?
Is it in the awareness of your own limitations and the simultaneous awareness of the abundance of God that employs our limited gifts and connects them with those of myriad others for massive gain? (Feeding of the 5000)
Is it in being the body of Christ, this network through whom God continues to flow abundant blessing throughout the world?
Is it in receiving the body and blood of Christ around his table?
Is it in being sent forth in his name to continue his ministry, fed there by what seem small things that multiply?
Let questions like these guide the work of your planning team as you design worship around this text today. And remember that the gifts for worship, as for all ministry in God’s kingdom, may start with you but multiply through the gifts of many others. In that spirit, do not neglect to think about who else in your congregation, community or region has learned ministry from this story and at the Lord’s table. Be sure to find a way to discover the stories they have to tell about what they have learned, and what they have seen happen as a result.
Embodying the Word: Responding to the Word for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, 2014
The United Methodist Book of Worship (p. 24) describes a variety of actions worship planners may wish to consider as they design how congregations may best embody their response to the scriptures read and proclaimed in worship on a given Sunday. From today through August, this section will offer suggestions for such responses based on the biblical texts and the Atmospherics commentary above.
Genesis: An embodied altar call for all (see UMBOW, p. 24.1). The Genesis text, and Wesley’s hymn “Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown” are both very much about those places in our lives still controlled by “The Grabber” that need to be converted into our new vocation as “Wrestlers with God.”
This altar call is not a call for people to “come forward” (though they may certainly be invited to do so if they wish). People may need some additional space. If you have pews or rows of chairs, encourage folks to come out from them if they need to.
First, invite people to form their bodies into a pose or perhaps a series of movements that shows who “The Grabber” is and what “The Grabber” does in each of them. Have them hold the pose or continue the movements for a minute or so, long enough for their bodies to have retain some memory of what they have done. Then invite them to release their pose or stop their movement, take a deep breath or two, and relax. If your congregational community is open to this, invite one or two persons to share what they have embodied after you or another worship leader have done so first.
Now, invite them to embody who “Wrestler with God” is and what “Wrestler with God” does in each of them. Again, hold the pose or continue the dance for a minute or so, releasing and relaxing at that point. Once again, debrief with one or two, beginning with a worship leader sharing his or her story.
Now encourage everyone to think about how each pose they took was different from the other, and in particular how they might live more from the “Wrestler with God” position throughout their lives than from the “Grabber” position. Once again, encourage volunteer responses. Close by asking each to consider this question: “What is God’s invitation to you to let go of being “Grabber” and become instead “Wrestler with God”? Encourage all to say “Yes” to God’s invitation. Invite those who wish prayer from others for their commitment either to ask others where they are to pray with them or for them, or, if they wish one of the worship leaders to pray for them, to come to the altar.
Romans: Joining in Paul’s lament for the sake of the salvation of others. Two suggestions are listed in Calendar above (Hiroshima/Nagasaki remembrance and Methodist Social Creed with Companion Litany). These are all issues that are national and global in character, good reminders of the global nature of the church, and that Christ as Lord of All really is Lord of all the earth and all relationships in it. Still, there may be local issues, or even issues within the families of your own congregation, that require a similar thoughtful response to join Paul’s lament in the text from Romans today, including, but not limited to, the nature (or lack) of relationships you may have with Jewish people and Jewish congregations. Consider how you may attend to the personal, the local, the national and the global scope as you design your response around Romans 9 for this morning.
Matthew: A service of healing. Resources for healing services are found in the Book of Worship, pp. 613-629. You may include this as a specific response to the scripture or sermon, prior to the prayers and invitation to the Lord’s table, or you may include prayers and anointing for healing as an option for people to receive after they have received from the Lord’s table.
As you develop your thinking about a service of healing, however you choose to offer it, think about ways that it can become not an end in itself, but rather an example that leads many participants in worship that day to offer acts of healing throughout the week ahead. Let the healing begun here become contagious and multiply, just as the five loaves and two fish were multiplied to feed thousands.
Today’s reading from Genesis makes this the ideal day in the entire three-year lectionary cycle to sing UMH 386, 387, "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown." This hymn has often been noted as Charles Wesley’s favorite and was named by Isaac Watts as the best poetry Charles ever wrote. If you don’t know the tune provided on 386 (a traditional Scottish air) or find it unappealing, use the Metrical Index (UMH 926-927) to find a tune in Long Meter Double (LMD) that works for your congregation, or one of the many Long Meter tunes (LM) sung twice for each stanza. Consider, too, the possibility of a sermon or drama based on the Genesis text with sung responses using the entire hymn (UMH 387 includes all of the verses) and using the tune you select for the hymn as the basic theme music for the ritual actions for the day, including sung responses for Holy Communion.
- BOW 33 (General)
- BOW 245 (Romans)
- BOW 455 (Matthew)
Opening Prayer or Collect:
- BOW 462 (Genesis) or
- God of Israel,
you weep for the centuries of persecution of the Jewish people:
end our complicity in their suffering, and challenge us to resist bigotry, hatred and genocide of any people; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Romans)
- BOW 465 or 469 (Matthew)
- BOW 486 (Genesis, Romans)
- BOW 485 (Matthew)
Concerns and Prayers: BOW 495
Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Canada, USA
The Great Thanksgiving for the Season after Pentecost: BOW 70-71 OR adapt Great Thanksgiving II (UMH 13) by adding appropriate words at the asterisks drawn from the focal text of the day.
Dismissal with Blessing:
- BOW: 559 led by a deacon or assisting minister and 561 led by the presiding minister.