Planning - Second Sunday after Pentecost
See the texts (NRSV), artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
1 Samuel 8:4-11.
The elders of the people ask Samuel to appoint a king over them so they will be like the other nations.
Psalm 138 (UMH 853).
The psalm praises God as source of life and protection for the people.
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1.
We pick up in the middle of Paul's extended argument for the validity of his claim to authority among the Christians in Corinth. Here, Paul notes that the kind of suffering and physical challenges he faces are signs precisely of the death of Christ at work in him, that the life of Christ may be made known to them.
Jesus' power has become so great (and wild!) that some begin to accuse him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Even his family come to try to restrain him. Jesus names blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the only unforgivable sin, and those who do the will of the Father as his mother, brothers, and sisters.
Back to top.
Ordinary Time, Season after Pentecost, or Kingdomtide
It's Ordinary Time! But "ordinary," as the term is used in the Christian calendar, does not mean "business as usual." Instead it refers to the "ordinals" or "numbering" of Sundays after Pentecost. (This is the Second Sunday after Pentecost).
Methodists from 1945-1965 officially referred to the last three months of the season between Pentecost and Advent as Kingdomtide. While this remains an option for United Methodist congregations (only because the name has not been changed in the Program Calendar, though it is no longer referred to in the Book of Discipline), no other Christian denominations have followed suit; and, since the widespread ecumenical adoption of the Christian Calendar and the Revised Common Lectionary by many Christian denominations, including United Methodists, few UM congregations have continued this practice. Kingdomtide as a "season" may have made some sense in the older forms of one-year lectionaries in use when it was founded, but the readings in our officially adopted current lectionary (Revised Common Lectionary) no longer support this as a season per se.
Instead, in our current lectionary, this is the Season after Pentecost. We enter into a time of semi-continuous readings from Old Testament, Epistle and Gospels that are not intentionally connected to one another in any way. If you use the lectionary, as the vast majority of our congregations do, rather than trying to connect all three readings, focus on just one stream of them (OT, Epistle, or Gospel) to create several "series" for worship that work best in your context. See "Planning Worship for the Season after Pentecost (Ordinary Time) Year B" for an overview and guidance.
Through much of June and July, the Old Testament reading focuses on the story of David. The Epistle readings (from 2 Corinthians) address conflict and authority in the church. And the gospel picks up Mark's story of Jesus beginning today with the attempt by his family to "rescue" him after rumors start flying that he has lost his mind and is casting our demons by the power of Satan. Which of these three trajectories is most promising or fruitful for your congregation or worshiping community for the next several weeks? Though you may continue to read all of the texts in worship, pick just one where you will focus and go deep.
Next Sunday, June 17 is Father's Day. Remember that cultural calendar events, like program events, should never displace the focus of worship of our Triune God or the emphasis of the biblical texts or the Christian year, but rather find their home within it. How will you help your congregation challenge and honor fathers well in light of the Scriptures offered that day?
June 19 is Juneteenth, an important celebration for people in the U.S. of African descent. It marks the date in 1865 when African Americans in Texas were first informed of their freedom, made law in 1863 through the Emancipation Proclamation.
Independence Day (US) falls on a Wednesday this year. You may choose to recognize it in Sunday worship either on July 1 or July 8, or in special worship offered on July 4. The Revised Common Lectionary does provide readings for this day, although the United Methodist Book of Worship version of the RCL does not.
Labor Day (US) is Monday, September 3.
Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15-October 15.
Atmospherics for Post-Pentecost Series, Part I
As noted above, the texts through the Season after Pentecost have no real connection with one another. This is by design. We spend this half of the Christian year "going deep" into the major narratives of the Bible and in specific books of the Bible rather than trying to relate one part of the Bible to another around the major themes of the life of Jesus, as we do in the "axial" seasons from Advent 1 through Baptism of the Lord, and from Lent through Trinity Sunday, and as we still do to a lesser degree between Old Testament and Gospel during the Season after Epiphany.
While you may prepare artwork and even the arrangement of worship space around major seasonal emphases (second coming for Advent, incarnation for Christmastide, baptismal preparation for Lent, the death of Jesus for Holy Week, the Resurrection, ascension, and coming of the Holy Spirit for Eastertide) during the "axial" seasons, this extended Ordinary Time invites you to do this around what Marcia McFee refers to as "anchor images" that emerge from the text or larger themes of the stream of texts you will seek to explore more deeply in these coming weeks.
What is an "anchor image"? It is an image that both recurs through the stream of texts you are exploring and that is rich enough not to be "exhausted" as you continue to build elements of worship around it throughout the series you plan. For General Conference, Marcia and I developed the idea of "Discipleship by the Sea" as an over-arching theme, and the "shoreline" where wild world meets domesticated world, ever-present in the central part of Mark's narrative of Jesus discipling his disciples as he pursued his mission, as the anchor image. You can see how Marcia McFee built out that anchor image across the 11 days of the 2012 General Conference on her website.
The idea of the shoreline as anchor image for us emerged almost immediately upon seeing a picture of the Tampa Convention Center, which is located directly on the Riverwalk, and in considering the theme of this General Conference, "Making Disciples of Jesus Christ to Transform the World." It was in this confluence of text and context, the actual physical world and the worlds of the theme of this gathering and the shape of the biblical narrative of Jesus with his disciples by and sometimes on the Sea of Galilee, that this anchor image of "shoreline" popped out as the place to begin searching for metaphor, music, and imagery to bring deep coherence to what was, for those who were there, perhaps the most contentious and seemingly disunified General Conference in our lifetimes.
That is what the Holy Spirit can do and does when we engage the work of worship planning "incarnationally" like this -- trusting, in advance, that what we all need most in worship is actually already present before us in the interplay of context and texts.
So here are some prompts for working with your worship planning team to discern anchor images for three series that may lie ahead of you through June and July.
Old Testament: "From Local Judges to a King Like All the Nations"
The critical issue through the narrative we follow for the next two months is the nature and the character of leadership among God's people. Does leadership, as our opening story this week notes, "default" to having to trust God's direction among the people in their particular communities (the "ragtag" judges system, with all its local peculiarities and irregularities), or does leadership presumably represent and seek to enforce the power and values of God over a people so that the people, or the leader on behalf of the people, comes to assume respectability and prominence on the world stage?
And what happens when the character of the leader, in either instance, is not up to the task at hand?
To put it into more current U.S. parlance, is leadership among God's people -- and, to localize it, among your particular worshiping community -- primarily the "messy" work of the 99 percent, or is it better understood as the more "polished" work of the one percent? Or perhaps both? And if so, which in what amounts, and for what?
What anchor captures this larger theme of the texts for these weeks and the realities of the struggles of leadership in your particular place and within your particular worshiping community?
And for this week in particular, how might that anchor image connect with another image that reflects the desire to trade a more direct connection with God for a greater sense of respectability in the wider community, or denomination, or world?
Epistle: Forging a Way through Deep Church Conflict
A key issue in working through conflict and difficulty is identifying leaders you will trust to guide you on the way. As you and your worship team work through the coming weeks of readings from 2 Corinthians, what anchor image begins to emerge that addresses conflict, trust-building, and leadership in Christian discipleship in your context?
Paul had been a trusted voice for the Christian community he founded in Corinth, even after he left it (as we see in I Corinthians); but later, at a time when they actually needed his firm direction perhaps more than ever before, something he had said in some previous letter -- and perhaps his extended absence from them -- meant his advice and even his person had become unwelcome by them.
Corinth was not only a multicultural trade city, it was also the leading "sex-trade" city of the Mediterannean and probably one of the most religiously pluralistic cities as well because so many people from so many different places were in and out of the city all the time. As such, it was a context ripe for and rife with just about any kind of human conflict or "wind of doctrine," as well as a leading destination for some of the most polished and effective "salespersons" for "the good life" one could find anywhere.
All this meant that when Paul founded a Christian community there and became its leading teacher for a period of 18 months or so, the realities of Corinthian culture could both receive the gospel and work to undermine it at the same time. After Paul left Corinth, others came to move it from a community of disciples into a more fully-fledged worshiping community ("I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase," I Corinthians 3:6). Paul stayed in touch with a number of folks within the growing church and sought to continue to offer "fatherly" advice and direction to the community as he could, largely by letter.
What is clear in 2 Corinthians, which might be more accurately named "3 Corinthians," is that Paul had written a previous letter, some of which may also be contained in 2 Corinthians, that ended up doing serious damage to his ongoing relationship with the church there. Much of 2 Corinthians, then, including where we start our reading this week, is Paul's careful effort to restore himself as someone who has both right and reason to continue to offer advice they should heed to address the continuing serious moral, theological, and spiritual challenges inside and outside their church.
One of the major arguments apparently given to write off Paul that he now has to address, and does here, even in this week's reading, is that his own life has been too messy, too marked by jailing, torture, and beatings, and that his speech was not nearly as eloquent in person as what others they could listen to in Corinth might offer. Why should they continue to listen to the often harsh words of a man whose life was so messed up and troubled?
What some of them were using as reasons to disqualify Paul as authority to address their issues, Paul instead here and throughout 2 Corinthians uses precisely as a basis for establishing his authority among them. His sufferings were a mark, as he says here, of Christ's sufferings on the cross. Death was at work in him, he says, that life might also be at work in him and through him on their behalf (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 5:1).
At stake here, as Paul's rhetoric lays out, is a profound difference in what gives "cred" to a trusted leader for Christian communities. For Paul, in his context, sufferings and impediments (physical and in speaking) are signs of being identified with Christ. For at least some in Corinth, these may seem more like "baggage" that a truly great or "successful" Christian leader should have avoided or overcome if God were truly "on one's side."
See if you can talk honestly in your worship planning team about who they identify as trusted leaders and to what degree suffering or ease play into how and why they view those persons as trusted leaders.
Gospel: Discipleship by the Sea
Although the lectionary readings from Mark will be a bit different from the particular course we took through Mark's gospel for General Conference, they will cover much of the same territory during this season after Pentecost. Feel free to use the anchor image of shoreline and follow the themes, texts, and even worship scripts (pdf) from General Conference (getting proper permissions for your own use of copyright materials, of course!) as may be appropriate in your context in the coming weeks. Call, Invite, Heal, Listen, Believe, Embark, Encourage, Encounter, Feed, and Follow -- these themes describe the contours of the life of Jesus with his disciples, the flow of the narrative in Mark (and the conclusion of John!), and remind us of the basic rhythm and flow of the life of disciples of Jesus who disciple others in his way that transforms the world. Such a series would provide your worshiping community with a ten-week "short course" in Christian discipleship based on this year's gospel -- one that is appropriate anytime.
At first glance, today's story may not seem to fit the image of shoreline. But it takes place "at home" (verse 19b), which, in Mark's gospel, is the Galilean port city of Capernaum, right by the sea. In every example in Mark's gospel so far where we see Jesus teaching, healing, or casting out demons, he does this outdoors, either on the shoreline or from a boat, just off the shore. So even if this story may happen in his house or courtyard, the events that impel it have all happened outdoors, at the shore.
And the very issue around which this week's reading turns -- the legitimacy of Jesus as an exorcist, or perhaps even exorcism itself -- is very much a "shoreline" issue as well. Rumors have spread that Jesus is out of his mind -- adrift, in a chaotic state, like the sea. So his family (domestic!) heads toward his house to see if they can restrain (bind!) him. Authorities ("land-controlling" scribes) come from Jerusalem up to Capernaum to denounce his ministry as the work of Satan.
But, as Jesus notes in his reply to the scribes, the only way to plunder a strong man's house is first to enter it, and then bind (restrain!) him (verse 27).
The "domestic" family of Jesus waits outside his house (verse 31). They never enter it. They never can restrain Jesus. Inside, the true strong man sits -- Jesus, surrounded by those he calls his true mother and brothers and sisters, a "wild" gathering of women and men, probably most of them young, composed of "whoever does the will of God."
And so here, at the start of this season's gospel journey, even in a house, we find ourselves precisely at the shoreline. It is the meeting place of wild world and domesticated world. It is the site of a collision of temporal and true spiritual authority. It is the creative liminal space between the families and systems we are born into and the new communities and relationships God's kingdom forges among those doing God's will, following the voice of Jesus and the driving force of the Holy Spirit.
The shoreline stands as witness to the constancy of these collisions and the never-ending tension of the conflicting forces and elements meeting there. It also bids us choose. Here, on this ever-shifting ground, whom do you follow when someone, or something, bids you, "Follow me"?
- Background for the Season after Pentecost UMBOW 409 (Consider sharing some of this in your church newsletter, blog, Facebook group, or bulletin.)
- Greeting: UMBOW 451, UMBOW 452, UMBOW 456 (I Samuel, Mark, 2 Corinthians)
- Opening prayer: UMBOW 465 (Mark), UMBOW 466 (2 Corinthians)
- Prayer of Confession and Pardon: UMBOW 476 (Mark), UMBOW 479 (2 Corinthians, add pardon)
- Concerns and prayers: UMBOW 544 (I Samuel), UMBOW 527 (Mark), UMBOW 529 (2 Corinthians)
- Great Thanksgiving: UMBOW 70-71 or UMBOW 78-79
- Dismissal with Blessing: UMBOW 559 (1 Samuel), UMBOW 566 (Mark and 2 Corinthians)
- The Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Angola, Mozambique
Back to top.