- Revised Common Lectionary Readings
- Worship Planning Notes
- Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship
Revised Common Lectionary Readings
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário em português, Lecionário comum revisado
Jeremiah 1:4-10 The Lord calls Jeremiah as a youth: “To pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Psalm response — Psalm 71:1-6 (UMH 794) Words that could represent Jeremiah’s, or our, lifelong response to God’s call. If you sing the Psalm, use the sung response with Tone 5 in G minor.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 A song or poem celebrating divine love, the heartbeat of every gift of the Spirit.
Luke 4:21-30 Jesus completes his sermon in Nazareth, and the crowd tries to throw him off a cliff.
Worship Planning Notes
Today is the fourth Sunday after Epiphany.
You should use today to move into the wrap-up of your series, whether you have been focusing on the OT/Gospel stream or the Epistle stream. Today the Gospel focuses on the aftermath of the teaching of Jesus in his hometown, reminding all would-be disciples that declaring good news for the poor and the stranger involves both “building up” and “tearing down” (Jeremiah) and may well lead to danger and suffering for those who bear it (Luke). The Epistle reminds us of what undergirds our spiritual life as a community on Christ’s mission: faith, hope, and especially love.
Next Sunday, Transfiguration of the Lord, functions both as the second bookend of the Season after Epiphany (Baptism of the Lord was the first), and as the “bearings” between the Season after Epiphany and Lent. As with all bearings, Transfiguration Sunday has the role of redirecting energy from one focus to another. In this case, it both closes the evangelism or “regrounding” focus of the Season after Epiphany and moves us toward and opens up the hands-on discipling focus of Lent.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Black History Month. Also see our much larger collection of 21st Century Liturgy Resources, our online collection of more than 300 calls to worship, prayers, confessions of faith, and other resources for all three years of the lectionary and special occasions in multiple cultural traditions. And consider, too, how you may use the resources of the new Africana Hymnal and related resources throughout this month.
Lent begins February 10 with Ash Wednesday. The color for that day and the Season of Lent is purple. The primary purpose of Lent as a season is to prepare candidates for baptism and the baptized for professing membership and faithful discipleship to Jesus. Here are resources to help your team plan a Lenten series of worship and formational processes, continuing through Easter Season, to fulfill that purpose.
Resources for Planning Upcoming Seasons
Planning Lent and Easter as Seasons for Discipling 2016 (Webinar with links to handouts)
Resources for Lent
Resources for Holy Week
Resources for Easter Season
Scouting Ministries Sunday is February 14, which is also the First Sunday in Lent on the Christian calendar. United Methodist denominational scouting leaders prefer that both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as other scouting groups, be recognized on a day that does not interfere with Lent. Girl Scout Sunday is an alternate scouting Sunday on March 13, the fifth Sunday in Lent. Since both fall in Lent this year, you may wish to observe a Scouting Sunday at a different time, either during Ordinary Time (before Transfiguration) or during Easter Season (after Easter Day, before Pentecost). A Litany on the Scout/Guide Promise is also available.
Upcoming Sundays and Special Days
All Month Black History Month
February 7 Transfiguration of the Lord
February 10 Ash Wednesday, and Lent Begins
February 14 Scouting Ministries Sunday (or observe after Lent)
February 15 Presidents Day (USA)
All Month Women’s History Month
March 4 World Day of Prayer / (Discipleship Ministries Resources)
March 6 One Great Hour of Sharing (with Offering)
March 13 Daylight Saving Time Begins (Time Change Song)
March 20 Passion/Palm Sunday
March 20-26 Holy Week
March 24 Maundy Thursday
March 25 Good Friday
March 26 Holy Saturday (morning) Great Vigil (after sunset); Brief Version
March 27 Easter Sunday
“Getting Ready to Get Ready:” Old Testament and Gospel Track
First Words at Home, Part 2: Great News...for THEM?
Last week, we saw the hometown crowd in the synagogue in Jerusalem in rapt attention at the gracious words that Jesus spoke: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
And then Jesus said what that meant.
And then the crowd was ready to kill him.
More than this, they actually stormed him and nearly drove him off a cliff to a bloody death.
Because the “gracious words” Jesus had to say were the clean opposite of what they wanted to hear.
The good news wasn’t just for them.
Jesus made it clear it was for all people who were poor, physically blind, prisoners, and facing all kinds of oppression. That included, indeed especially included enemies and people of little or no faith or religious faithfulness. It was for people like a Lebanese widow or a Syrian general. It was for people they believed they had every reason to hate and for people who perhaps actively hated them.
This is truly was good news, surprising news, “building up and tearing down” sort of news. God’s love embraces the enemy, the outcast, the broken, the undeserving. It reaches out and arrives among them, first. If we wish to be witnesses to the word of blessing declared in the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, we’re most likely to find it happening among people such as these.
Not necessarily among “our own kith, kin and kind.”
But out among enemies and folks who have little reason to love us.
This is where Jesus led and sent his first disciples—to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and beyond. It’s where he still leads his disciples, those baptized into his name, today.
The call to discipleship is a call to go where we may not belong, but God’s good news does.
It’s a hard road, and a dangerous one. The attempt on Jesus’ life here, and God’s word to the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament reading for today, make this plain. But it is God who called Jeremiah “to pluck up and to plant, to build and to destroy” and it is the Spirit of the Lord who anointed first the prophet of Third Isaiah, and then Jesus, and, in baptism, us as well. The God who calls also promises to protect, at least until our mission here is completed. And so God promised to deliver Jeremiah (verse 8), and the Spirit enabled Jesus to “pass through the midst” of the murderous hometown mob.
Today’s readings make it clear that as we prepare persons for baptism and professing membership during Lent, starting 10 days from this day, we must prepare them to understand this abundant life in Christ as his disciples and “representatives in the world” can truly be threatening enough to others as to make it dangerous to ourselves.
And, that it’s worth it!
In Your Planning Team
Last week ended on bated breath.
This week ends with rage in the crowds, and, for Jesus, whatever it is one feels when one escapes through a crowd seeking to throw one off a cliff, literally.
Last week’s service, if you followed these helps, would have helped you identify the many ways the good news Jesus announced is happening in your midst.
This week, redirect the focus to where the good news Jesus announced is happening now among people very different from those in your congregation, including people deemed enemies, and people with religions different from ours.
So if last week you used contacts within your congregation to identify where God’s reign is happening for planning worship this week, focus on contacts outside your congregation, and possibly outside your community, region, or nation. Visit with a local imam. Send a team member to talk with refugee resettlement agencies. Make a point to include in your team’s conversations people from groups some in your congregation might consider enemies. And throughout worship, be as bold as Jesus was to proclaim the kingdom of God and its signs following, described in the text from the prophet Isaiah Jesus read, are in fact happening among these people, now.
The call to discipleship Jesus extended to his own disciples was a call to see, learn, and be able to name and respond to all the ways God’s kingdom is happening among all people, starting where they were. It is a call to engage the whole world, not in opposition, but in wonder at the signs of God’s love and power at work even, and especially, among those our own kinds of people might consider the least likely and least worthy beneficiaries.
That news will anger people who care more about “me and mine” than what God is actually up to. It may even anger some folks in your congregation today. Be ready for that. But be ready not with fear, or anxiety, but with the confidence of the children of God whom Jesus calls blessed when persecution arises.
But the focus today isn’t on the persecution, the threat imposed by others. It’s on the marvel of just how far-reaching the reach of God’s kingdom has been and continues to be. And the amazing opportunity we have—in worship this day, but always in daily life—to be part of that.
May your planning for this service reflect your commitment to help your congregation get a glimpse of just how marvelous is God’s kingdom and how amazing is our opportunity as those who are, or who would become, Christ’s disciples.
Life in the Spirit: Epistle Track
Our readings in 1 Corinthians 12 the past two weeks called us to recognize WHAT the Spirit does and offers through us and HOW we are to use what the Spirit does and offers as one body.
This week’s reading in 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that all the Spirit does through us as the body of Christ is ultimately grounded and rooted in faith, hope, and especially love. These are not abstract concepts, nor are they emotions. They are spiritual realities, habits of the body, mind and heart, through which the Holy Spirit transforms us and the world.
Faith, not self-confidence.
Hope, not certainty.
Love, not power.
And love grounds both faith and hope.
This was a critical insight for the spiritual state and formation of the Christians in Corinth, and it remains so for all who seek to follow Jesus now. The cultures in which we find ourselves tend to reward us for our accomplishments, for how much we can show we have done great things ourselves or contributed to great things others are doing. The self-confident and certain are rewarded with fame and power.
To our culture’s reward system, we hear Paul replying, loud and clear: “That makes you no more than a clanging gong, a clashing cymbal. You have nothing! You are merely exemplars of being conformed to this world. You can transform nothing!”
It’s not our accomplishments, our status, or self-confidence, our command of knowledge, our influence, our power, or even our spiritual gifts or forms of service or empowered acts that are to mark us most of all. Instead, as Paul teaches here, and as Jesus showed and taught throughout his ministry, what sets us apart and actually empowers us to be part of the transformation of the world is our quest to love God and love our neighbor (and enemy!) as fully as we possibly can.
And so we approach any true evaluation of ourselves not on the basis of a list of what we have or what we’ve done or how many we directly influence.
Instead, we offer two questions:
1. “How well have I (have we) loved as God has poured forth abundant love for me (for us)?
2. And how can I (and we) keep seeking to love more and more?”
This is why John and Charles Wesley frequently described the fruits of “full salvation” or “entire sanctification” as “perfection in love in this life.”
The journey all the baptized take throughout our lives, and especially during Lent, and the journey into which we seek to initiate newcomers to the faith in the weeks ahead to prepare for their baptism or reception as professing members, is a journey of constant growth in love, nourished by faith, enlivened by hope.
Love—first and last.
In Your Planning Team
I Corinthians 13 is one of those texts that has become unfamiliar to us by its very familiarity. We think we know what it says because we’ve heard it so many times, perhaps, especially, at weddings.
So we hear about love being the greatest of all, and we tune out.
And we may tune out in a particular way. We tune out with the idea that love is a feeling, or love is an attitude, or love is an ideal.
That’s not how Paul describes love here at all.
For him, love is a spiritual reality embodied in concrete practices.
We practice love, and thereby learn it.
We learn patience and kindness.
We learn how to overcome tendencies to boast in ourselves and insist on our own way.
We learn to rejoice in the truth, to bear all things, hope all things, endure all things.
We learn them by being part of a community of practice dedicated to embodying the love of God and neighbor as fully as we can—and in that love build community with the powerful gifts the Spirit has freely given among us.
Today, then, becomes a day of testimony—sharing concrete ways God has helped people learn and embody God’s love with one another. Gather the stories, and the story tellers, to share, how, concretely, they have learned or seen others learn all the practices of love Paul describes here. Learning involves both successes and failures, so remember you’re not looking for success stories—but learning stories. Plan a response of thanksgiving to God for every bit of learning shared, and prayer for the learning yet to come.
And then plan an invitation to discipleship for all those who want to start or deepen this journey of living in love with you through the preparation you’ll offer during the weeks of Lent. These may be people who have never been baptized, or have walked away from any serious engagement with the faith. These may also be people who have walked the journey for some time, but want to make a go of going deeper through the weeks of Lent toward a reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant at Easter.
Then, next week, with those who respond today, you’ll be ready to see together how love transfigures us in Christ, and begin to listen to and walk or walk more deeply in the way of the One in whom God is well-pleased.
Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship (BOW) with links and other suggestions
Greeting: BOW 314 (Jeremiah, 1 Corinthians, Luke)
Opening Prayer: BOW 462 (Psalm, 1 Corinthians)
WORD AND RESPONSE
Canticle: UMH 646, "Canticle of Love" (1 Corinthians). Use this as a response to the 1 Corinthians reading as a communal reflection. Use sung response 1. If you are using projection, consider using one or more graphics expressive of love in action as described by Paul.
Prayer: BOW 437 (1 Corinthians)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
Prayer of Thanksgiving: BOW 552 (Jeremiah, 1 Corinthians; “All things come from you”)
Great Thanksgiving: Word and Table I, BOW 36-39
Blessing: BOW 560
Benediction song: BOW 177, "Amen Siakudumisa" ("Great Amen") [Black History Month]