Revised Common Lectionary Prayersfor 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
A potential coup attempt against Moses and Aaron becomes the occasion for God to test the "whole gathered assembly" about their willingness to follow instruction. God provides quail for meat and "manna" for bread with specific instructions for its gathering and use.
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 or Psalm 78 (UMH 799). e
Psalm 105 is the Revised Common Lectionary selection. Selected verses from Psalm 78, from the Common Lectionary, are found in The United Methodist Hymnal, number 799.
Week 1 of 4 in Philippians. Paul shares his trust in God in life or death, his desire to come and see the Christians at Philippi again, and his hope that when he comes he would find them of one heart and mind with each other and in whatever struggles they may face with those who oppose and persecute them.
The economics of God's kingdom look quite startling to those running on the economics of the kingdoms of this world: the parable of the vineyard.
We continue in this Season after Pentecost to pursue the season’s main purpose—to support and challenge the baptized to live out the discipleship and ministries in the world in Christ’s name and the Spirit’s power.
September brings with it the possibility of pursuing a related theme either topically or using the existing lectionary texts. Called Season of Creation, the four weeks of September provide an opportunity to explore how our relationship to the creation and other creatures relates to our calling to discipleship and ministry. The original Australian developers of this mini-season have developed topical resources unrelated to the lectionary, here.
Discipleship Ministries provides planning starters based on the lectionary readings for each Sunday. This week’s Season of Creation lectionary theme, based on the Exodus reading, is “Food.” Today’s reading in particular lends itself to conversation, preaching, teaching and practical challenges to seek “enough” food from the creation, and not more than we actually need.
During October, Discipleship Ministries also provides resourcing to enable your congregation to observe A Season of Saints, expanding the opportunity for your congregation to lift up historic Christian saints, significant leaders from our United Methodist heritage, and local saints you identify where you are—all in service to the overall mission of the Season after Pentecost. This is the fourth year we have provided support for this focus during this month, stretching from World Communion Sunday through All Saints Day/Sunday. Feedback from congregations who have pursued these series has been consistently positive! So consider whether this may be helpful in your context as your planning team completes its work for this season!
Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month continues through October 15. It is a month-long U.S. civic observance (September 15-October 15) recognizing the contributions of Hispanic and Latino persons to U.S. history and current culture. . Resources specifically for this observance are linked above. For many more Spanish language and Hispanic-Latino resources, see Discipleship Ministries's Hispanic-Latino Resources page.
Whole Month: Season of Creation (2014 Discipleship Ministries lectionary-based themes and overview).
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); “Living into the Mystery” Video (streaming; to order on DVD, send request to worship@UMCdiscipleship.org)
October 12: Children’s Sabbath (Discipleship Ministries Resources)
October 19: Laity Sunday
All Month: Native American Heritage Month
November 1/2: All Saints Day/Sunday (Also see Church and Civic Holidays)
November 9: “Restored” or Extended Advent 1, Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday (USA), International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
November 11: Veterans Day (USA) (GBHEM resources)
November 23: Bible Sunday in National Bible Week (November 23-30) (USA)
November 27: Thanksgiving Day (USA)
November 30: Advent (Regular) Year B Begins, United Methodist Student Day
Today is an opportunity to “switch streams” in your preaching and focus without “missing a beat.” We completed the readings in Romans last Sunday. Today we begin a series in Philippians. If you have been following the gospel lesson, you may wish to consider “switching it up” by moving to Philippians for the next few weeks. If you have been following the Exodus story, you should probably plan to stay the course, unless you have good reasons to end that story with the crossing of the Red Sea rather than, as the sweep of that story takes us (beyond Exodus), with the entrance into the promised land.
Exodus: The Way of Deliverance
Ample Food OR Deliverance from the Enemy Within
Depending on whether you are also celebrating the Season of Creation through September, there are two possible approaches to this week’s reading from Exodus. One is to focus on God’s provision of ample food, even if in an odd way (quail each evening and “manhu” each morning (“what’s that?” in Hebrew), and explore the implications of God’s provision and our actual patterns of consumption.
Another is to focus more on what God is delivering the people from through this provision—the “enemy within,” the spirit of bitterness and complaining that threatened to destroy not just the leaders against whom they complained, but, indeed, the whole people.
However you choose to frame your approach to this week’s reading, the core issue of God as deliverer remains front and center. The one who provides food delivers from starvation. And the provision of food delivers from the treat of social dissolution that would lead to death for many.
God would provide the food (quail at night, manna in the mornings), but God would do so as a test of the discipline of the people. They would all be fed, but only if they cooperated. There would be enough for all if each took enough for each day, one day at a time. God would provide a double portion for them to collect on the morning before the Sabbath so they need not collect on the Sabbath day. God would provide. God would lead. Would they follow? Would they accept God’s provision of deliverance?
When Moses and Aaron reported God’s plan for provision, they also added an important note. The people’s complaining, they said, was not ultimately against their leaders, Moses and Aaron, but against their God. Moses and Aaron admitted they did not have the power in themselves to answer the real needs of these people. Only God did.
And so, at the prompting of Moses, Aaron immediately called the “whole congregation” into worship (verse 9), where they could see the glory of God over the wilderness, the very place they said they feared to be their graveyard (verse 3). As they gazed, Moses repeated God’s promise of provision of meat by night and bread by morning. That evening, the quail landed: meat. Next morning a flaky substance appeared on the grasses after the dew lifted. “What’s this?” (“Man hu?” in Hebrew), they asked. This was the bread God had given—the bread of heaven.
It was a strange feast-- birds from the sky, insect excretions on the ground. It came at no cost to the people. It could feed them all if they would follow God’s instruction on gathering it day by day (foreshadowed in verses 4-5, stated to the people in verses 16 ff). And by following these simple disciplines, by submitting to an authority beyond their fear and their own cravings, they could more than overcome the spirit of bitterness and complaining that had taken hold of them. They could become a people capable of bearing the glory they saw in the cloud.
Do not miss the connections to Holy Communion. When Jesus refers to himself as “the bread that came down from heaven” in John’s gospel, it is this story from Exodus to which he is referring. When we say as we give the bread, “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven,” it is both to this story and to Jesus that we refer. Through the lenses of this story, this is strange bread, unexpected in form, but more than sufficient to provide for us day by day, week by week. When we pray as Jesus taught, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we recall this story as well.
And so Jesus comes to us in small fragments of bread, and it is enough. For at the Lord’s Table, we, like the congregation of Israel in the wilderness, have drawn near to God and seen God’s glory—radiant, unexpected, sufficient—bidding us not away from but deeper into the wildernesses, deserts and wild places.
This bread and this cup are food and drink for that journey, God’s journey with us and for all from captivity, through wilderness, to promise.
In Your Planning Team
Which approach—provision of sufficient food (and so a call for sustainable living), or deliverance from the enemy within—will be better for your congregation to pursue on this Sunday?
As you think through this in your team, ask yourselves where the stronger resonances with this story may be in your congregation and community today. What kind of word on this day will best convey the nature both of God’s deliverance and God’s call?
Has your congregation come out of a time of trouble only to have found itself in what appears to be a worse situation?
Have you faced down external enemies only to find the enemy within an even more challenging foe?
Where is the voice of God speaking of ample provision (with some discipline required!) in the midst of your current situation?
Are there leaders in your congregation or community who are “taking the heat”?
Who is pointing folks to God—and God alone-- as leader and provider?
Who has a testimony of “delivered from the enemy without, now facing an enemy within” where you are?
Who has a testimony of God’s strange but ample sustainable provision and learning to live and trust in a sustainable way?
With such strong New Testament and historical Christian liturgical references to this story in relationship to Holy Communion, strongly consider celebrating Holy Communion today—especially if you are focusing on the Season of Creation theme of food.
Philippians: Of One Heart and Mind
Foundations of Unity in Christ
Philippians as a letter is all about what Alan Hirsch calls “communitas” and what my former colleague Dan Dick has continued to find as a serious longing among spiritual seekers who find most experiences of the church empty, useless, or worse. They longed for a genuine, compelling sense of community with others on common mission with Christ and beyond themselves, and rarely if ever found it.
Paul here uses a term he comes back to—“homothumadon”—to begin to catch this sense of communitas in Christ. We often translate this as something like “with one heart” or “in one spirit,” but the imagery here etymologically is more like either sharing the same “inner smoke” (“thumos” refers to the smoke from a sacrifice, which is thought to represent the inner life force that dwells in the chest cavity) or having hearts that beat in synchrony. Athletes and sports fans might describe this as being “in the zone”—only in this case, the “zone” is a collective experience. The whole team, the whole community, is “in the zone.”
That’s what Paul prays for this community in Philippi—a group of unlikely friends bound together in Christ. He wants them to be that united—not glommed together, but deeply, organically connected. And he wants this for them not for the sake of their own experience, but, as he says, for the sake of the “faith of the gospel.” People this closely bound will not be intimidated by opponents (who are unlikely to have such cohesion, anyway!). And they will not only not fear suffering, they will count suffering a privilege (verse 29) for the sake of Christ.
This is not a unity formed simply around shared assent to common beliefs (though those are not unimportant!). It is a unity formed by the Spirit among members of the body of Christ. And it is a unity that we are free either to embrace or walk away from. Paul calls this ragtag community of jailers, tradeswomen, retired army veterans and former soothsayers, to name just some of the motley characters we know of from Acts, to embrace it, and firmly. We’ll see some of the urgency in this call to these people in chapter 4. But the point for us, here and now, is that being “homothumadon” can also be a possibility, and more than that, an ideal opportunity for us, too.
But not if we just wish it so, or simply think nice thoughts or write neat articles, blogs or Facebook posts about it. Paul’s language is clear and concrete. “Homothumadon” happens when we “stand firm… striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, in no way intimidated by opponents.” This is language of contest and unified struggle moved by a common impulse. This is what happens when disciples of Jesus Christ bind themselves to one another in the power of the Holy Spirit and watch over one another in love as they engage their ministries in the world, together and separately. This is what happens as we fulfill the missional purpose for which the early church created this season after Pentecost and we have revived it.
There are likely times in the life of your congregation where some folks have experienced a level of communitas, “homothumadon,” like what Paul describes here, if only briefly. Church camp experiences often approximate it. Mission trips may have done this for others. Perhaps the sudden, deep fellowship that forms on an Emmaus walk or Chrysalis flight, if only for the second or third day. Let the influence of those who have had such experiences be heard and seen as you design worship around this text for today.
But as you listen to, engage, and perhaps encourage some of these folks to share these brief experiences of communitas, hold up what Paul holds up as a standard for all. This doesn’t need to be an extraordinary experience glimpsed briefly by a select few. It can and for the sake of the gospel needs to be the norm of Christian community.
Those who’ve tasted this probably long for more of it. Some of those who haven’t may decide they want to if they have the opportunity to hear and see these witnesses. Expect hungry people with hunger that will grow if you deeply engage this week’s reading and the readings from Philippians over the next three weeks.
But don’t raise the level of hunger and not provide a way to satisfy it! Offer them Christ! And offer them genuine opportunities for intense, small-group accountable missional experience that won’t be just for a few days, but for a lifetime.
Covenant Discipleship is one way, grounded in the depth of our Wesleyan tradition, to gather people to help one another “stand firm… striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” And you can find dozens of resources on the internet, and probably in any larger city near where you may live (in North America and Britain, at least) where there are folks experiencing this in organic groups and house churches. The New Day Communities in the greater Dallas area, and now spreading across the U.S. through the work of the Missional Wisdom Foundation, are a prime United Methodist example. Don’t be satisfied with second- or third-hand accounts. Go talk to practitioners face to face, or at least via Skype or social networking; and perhaps invite one or more of them to come talk with your worship planning team and your congregation about what life in Christian communitas (not just community) is like for them.
In Your Planning Team
If you are starting a new series today in Philippians, start and continue it well. Remember the key factors to a successful series: a powerful beginning as an overture to the whole series, a continuation that carries out the promise of the beginning, step by step (starting with week 1), and a conclusion that takes people to the next level and invites them to go deeper on their own, even as it segues into the series to come. All of that is before you BEFORE you plan the first service in the series. So know where you’re going with Philippians over these next few weeks, and be sure in broad strokes in today’s service to let worshipers know.
Philippians as a letter is very much about what it takes to be “homothumadon,” with the “mind of Christ” (Philippians 2) at the very center of the community’s life, individually and collectively. As the reflections above suggest, though, a brief series of worship services alone, while it might whet the appetite for such “communitas” briefly, does not do justice to what Paul calls for and what the Spirit desires for us. So be sure to be in contact with leaders in spiritual formation and mission in your congregation as you craft this series, so your congregation will have a unified and multithreaded opportunity not only to talk about or praise examples of this way of life where it may have existed (if only briefly for some), but begin to live into it as a norm. Seriously consider contacting and talking with folks in the New Day Communities, my colleague Steve Manskar at Discipleship Ministries who can link you to Covenant Discipleship leaders in your area or region, or other examples of strong community-based congregational life as part of your planning, and perhaps even inviting something of their testimony to be shared as part of the worship, educational and mission opportunities during these weeks.
Matthew: On Mission with the Master
Kingdom of God Economics 101
Matthew’s gospel offers another outrageous agricultural parable. This time the farmer/landowner is not just crazy (as in the one who scattered seed everywhere, or the one who intentionally planted mustard weed), but radically unfair or overly generous, depending on your point of view. This landowner seems almost obsessed about getting all possible laborers working in his vineyard. He wants to be sure he gets as much of the harvest in as quickly as possible. He seems not to care at all about how much the project might cost or “fairness” to the situation of each individual worker. He pays each one exactly the same, no matter how long each worked. Everyone got the daily wage, one denarius, enough to cover the costs of life and a meal for the family that day (daily bread). (Yes, you might draw on parallels with the manna and quail in Exodus here, though the parallel was not intentional in the selection of today’s texts).
An interesting feature of this parable: it is the landowner who spends all day recruiting people to work in the field, and it is a manager (not the landowner) who pays the recruits the same wage at the end of the day. So one more upside down reality: the landowner is working a harvest of people, and letting someone else deal with the crops and the cash (though presumably under the landowner’s orders!).
And why? Because God’s desire for the abundant harvest of life, joy, and justice is that abundant, and so is God’s grace in offering the opportunity to all to be part of the harvest and its sufficient daily reward.
Who in your congregation or community is out there, actively “harvesting people” where you are? If you think no one is, think again. Advertisers (print, billboard, radio, television, Internet) are working at this all the time. Gangs do it daily. Salespeople of all sorts are working any leads and contacts they can find. In the U.S., the armed forces use every means they can to draw in new recruits to a challenging and potentially lethal life for a few years or a career. Colleges spend millions seeking to recruit new students year after year. We’re surrounded by all sorts of recruiters, all sorts of harvesters, all the time. But not all are harvesting people to grant them “daily bread,” what they actually need.
This parable was a driving and inspirational force in early Methodism. In John Wesley’s day, Wesley himself and the lay preachers and exhorters of the Methodist Societies strove where they could to offer “field preaching” morning and evening, though only in places where they could immediately connect those who responded, desiring “to flee the wrath to come and to be saved from their sin” to trial class meetings. The result: a bountiful harvest of lives redeemed by and sent to work in God’s kingdom.
And as with the reading from Exodus today, this reading practically cries out for the celebration of Holy Communion. After all, the harvest is of grapes for wine, and the wage given is daily bread!
In Your Planning Team
Food and sustainability are obviously a theme here, as in Exodus. Consider whether or how you wish to draw on that in your planning today, particularly if you are following A Season of Creation.
However, at least as strong (and worthy of its own emphasis) is the theme of recruiting. We might call that evangelism, or something else. But its importance in this story (and to Jesus) is undeniable. No generation in history has experienced more aggressive and pervasive marketing/recruiting than our own. Whether through television, radio, billboards, newspapers, or through the newer media of smart phone apps and online ads, even in our email, the bombardment is constant and continues to escalate. There is almost no escape unless we literally unplug and retreat.
How is the good news of God’s kingdom getting through the din and cacophony of all these other voices? Who, where you are, is in some way as committed to bringing everyone into the harvest field of the kingdom of God and its reward of daily bread as all these marketers and recruiters are?
Find two or three examples in your congregation. Perhaps one or two are in your planning team. Talk with them. Find out what makes them tick, what gives them ongoing energy (daily bread!) to do what they do. And be sure to allow the contagion of their story to spread in some way in the worship you plan around this text today.
The Lectionary opens a new book this week — Paul's letter to the Philippians. How will listening to this text shape the worship? Are you and your congregation open to listening to it even if it is not the focus of preaching for the day and weeks to come?
Our General Rules (2012 Discipline, ¶ 103) state that "the ministry of the Word, either read or expounded" is an “ordinary means of grace” and call us to attend to it, among the others listed there. How do you as a congregation pay attention to the Word of God when a particular text is not preached that Sunday?
This brings up the importance of finding and training readers who will proclaim the text in its reading. How do you train readers where you are, so all can attend to the rich feast of the Word, whether read or expounded?
Embodying the Word: Intercession for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost 2014
Prayer for All of God’s Harvest Fields
This proposal for prayer asks for your local and global awareness and creativity as a worship planning team or as a congregation, as well as for your openness to spontaneous prayers by individuals who may pray aloud all at the same time or offer silent prayers as each may choose. If you expect worshipers to pray aloud, especially all at once, unless your congregation is steeped in some Asian or African Christian practices of prayer, plan to provide some active encouragement for folks to do so.
Using the guidelines for comprehensive praying as a guide, gather two or three images showing God’s harvest, or the need for God’s harvest, for each of them.
Here’s the list:
- the leaders and mission of the church locally and across the world;
- the leaders of nations, peoples and economies, for justice and peace
- the earth and its care
- the sick, the poor, the marginalized and those in any danger
- the people who have entrusted themselves to our prayers, and
- thankful remembrance for those who have died in Christ and whose prayers continually accompany our own.
Be creative here. Don’t limit yourselves to “the usual” (like simply a picture of your pastor or bishop for church leaders). Consider also being as outrageous as Jesus’ own parable is for each of these. For example, include an image of people with whom you are not yet in mission but could be, or people with whom you are in mission among the leaders in the first intercession. Remember: If you project images of children and their faces are recognizable, our Safe Sanctuaries policies indicate you need to get parental written permission, first!
Project the general topic of the intercession as you project images related to each. Invite people to pray for what they see as signs of God’s harvest in each of these images, silently or aloud, singly or all at once. Don’t rush this, but don’t drag it out, either. You may find it helpful to have music for a hymn about harvest you may sing later playing quietly in the background throughout this time. When your projection of images of one intercession is complete, move to the next. Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer (if you are not celebrating Holy Communion today) or with a verse from a hymn. Many of the hymns listed under “Thanksgiving” (UMH 938) may be appropriate, as would one of the verses from “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (UMH 140).
Summer and winter and seedtime and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
- 374, BOW; "Creator of all things"; 456, BOW (Exodus)
- 349, BOW; 379, BOW (Philippians)
- 583, "Father of earth and heaven . . . " sung to Terra Beata (United Methodist Hymnal, 144); 564 (Exodus)
- BOW 465; 539; 569, "Eternal God, hallowed be your name. . . ." (Matthew)
Prayer for Illumination:
- BOW 399, Week 2 (Exodus, general)
- BOW 485 (Exodus)
Acts of Responses to the Word:
- 292-294, BOW — Some or all of the "Covenant Prayer," particularly "I do here covenant . . ." and "I do here willingly . . . promising that I will strive . . ." (Philippians)
- BOW 423, Litany (Matthew)
Concerns and Prayers:
- BOW 520, 511, 505, 544, 546 (Philippians)
- BOW 540, 456 (Matthew)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine
The Great Thanksgiving: BOW 70-71
Prayer of Thanksgiving if there is no Communion:
- BOW 557 (Exodus)
- BOW 569, "Eternal God, hallowed be your name. . . ." (Matthew)
Dismissal with Blessing: BOW 561 (Philippians)