Statue of St. Patrick at the Hill of Tara looking northward,
past the Hill of Skryne toward the Hill of Slane.
Photo by Taylor Burton-Edwards, 2015. Public Domain.
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
Lecionário comum revisado (português)
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 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 family members 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.
Calendar: The Season after Pentecost
Ordinary Time begins in earnest today. While Trinity Sunday may have been the “launch event” for your first series (or all of your series) during these months, today marks the launch of the first series itself. If you are using the Revised Common Lectionary, you are invited to choose just one of three independent and unrelated streams of readings upon which to base that series.
The purpose of the Season after Pentecost is to support disciples in growing in personal holiness and living out the ministries the Spirit has empowered them (and perhaps the church has commissioned them at Pentecost) to offer. Planning Worship for Discipleship and Ministry after Pentecost, Year B, may be a helpful guide as you and your team choose the series and plan each service in ways most appropriate for these kinds of growth among the disciples of Jesus where you serve.
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 story arcs (leadership, internal conflict, or the challenges of discipleship) is most promising or fruitful for your congregation or worshiping community for the next several weeks?
June 19 is Juneteenth, an important celebration for peoples in the U.S. of African descent marking the date in 1865 when African Americans were first informed of their freedom, made law in 1863 through the Emancipation Proclamation. You may find “The Right Hand of God” (4041) and “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” (4042) from the newly released Africana Hymnal Project particularly relevant as part of a worship service commemorating this day.
June 21 is Father’s Day in the United States. 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 the light of the series you are pursuing and the Scriptures offered that day?
Youth 2015 is a major gathering of United Methodist Youth from across the connection, this year focused on living out the means of grace.
Independence Day (U.S.) falls on a Saturday this year. You may choose to recognize it in Sunday worship on July 5 or in special worship service offered on July 4. The Revised Common Lectionary does provide readings for this day, through the United Methodist Book of Worship version of the RCL does not.
Today you launch your first post-Pentecost series in earnest. As with every series launch, you will want to make sure today’s service functions as a prelude or overture to the entire series that lies ahead, setting the common images, worship order, and basic arrangement of space that will characterize the whole series. If you intend to have a common musical thread that weaves across these services (a hymn, song or part of a song) and you didn’t introduce and teach it last week, be sure to do so today.
Old Testament: The David Saga
Week 1: "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 of leadership among God’s people. Addressing key issues of leadership can be one very helpful way to support those just starting out in their ministries, as well as those who have been at it for years. Week by week, you can underscore a different key leadership question, then put it into dialog with how people are functioning as leaders in their own ministries and ministry contexts.
Today’s reading raises an important question about how we understand the kind of leadership we are called to in our particular contexts.
Today, we are presented with two rather different models of leadership. There is “leadership arising from among the people” (judges) and there is “representative leadership over the people” (king).
The narrative frame in which we are presented these alternatives appears to be clearly biased toward the former as being more faithful to God.
But is it, really? And does the Bible, including later stories in I and II Samuel about David and Solomon, conclude it always is? The answer is clearly no. Indeed, God promises to back David’s throne perpetually, assuming David and his descendents would remain faithful to God. It wasn’t because they were kings that God later rejected many of them, any more than that was the reason God would eventually reject Saul. It was because they proved unfaithful.
So the larger question for us as disciples in ministry in Christ’s name and the Spirit’s power isn’t really which is the one right model to follow (decentralized or centralized). These are the questions for us as disciples of Jesus:
1. What kind of model fits the circumstance in which I’m called to offer leadership?
2. Am I choosing that model primarily to gain respect or to serve God and the needs of the people the best way I can? And
3. How do I/we remain faithful to God, whichever model or combination of models I/we may need to employ?
In Your Planning Team
There are two critical tasks for your planning team this week.
One is to design the worship space for this Sunday and the entire series in a way that will communicate you’re going to be focusing on leadership as disciples of Jesus in ministry and his name and the Spirit’s power. What central image or images communicate “leadership as disciples” where you are? How will you use that central image to create the basic “visual scaffold” you can build on or vary slightly from week to week throughout the series? And is there a song or hymn that might function as a theme song for the series, offered in perhaps slightly different ways, from week to week?
The other is to gather testimonies about what people in your congregation and community have learned about matching leadership models to the gifts and needs of the people among whom they’re serving. Be sure to include some failures in what you gather—times when people chose a poor model, or acted unfaithfully, and what they learned and came to improve from what they did wrong, not just from “successes.”
And don’t just go to bank presidents, professors, or other “professionals” – or even necessarily to people who have a paying job right now—for these testimonies. This isn’t about financial or status success as leaders. This is about success in service, growth in holiness, and effectiveness in ministry as disciples of Jesus. Everyone who is a disciple of Jesus, of whatever age or ability, everybody engaged in ministry (using their gifts) in any way has a story to tell. Let the stories you highlight in one way or another in worship today reflect the diversity of giftedness of all disciples of Jesus, not just the “usual suspects.”
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Epistle: Forging a Way Through Conflict
Week 1: Reframing Value by the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
Conflict is a reality in every community. The life of discipleship to Jesus often leads us into and sometimes even causes some measure of conflict, not just with “outsiders,” but within the Christian community itself, as well.
Conflict is inevitable for all of us, including disciples of Jesus. The question for us is how we navigate our way through it, even and especially when we may have caused it to some degree, and in the midst of navigating through it still serve as faithful disciples.
That’s what this opening series in II Corinthians explores up close. If your congregation is facing conflicts now; or if you find yourselves called to equip folks to deal with conflict as conflict will arise (inevitably), this series may be appropriate for you.
Paul had been a trusted voice for the Christian community he founded in Corinth, even after he left it. That sense of ongoing trust rings through in I Corinthians.
But what we see in II Corinthians is that Paul had somehow caused (or was thought to have caused) a serious rift between himself and the congregation he founded and still loved. Some scholars believe II Corinthians might better be called III Corinthians, and that some intervening letter (call it “the missing II Corinthians”) had been the cause of the offense. Others would suggest that II Corinthians as we have it contains elements of both of those letters combined.
Either way, there was now real conflict, substantial distrust, and even some hostility in the relationship between Paul and the church in Corinth. The conflict was serious enough that it led at least some in the church in Corinth to reject any authority Paul might still have over them or any wisdom he might feel called to share with them. Put another way, some now saw Paul and his witness as worthless.
Paul seeks in II Corinthians to work to overcome the conflict and re-establish the trusting, more or less “fatherly” relationship he had had with this congregation since its founding.
And part of what he seeks to address is the authority he still may rightly have among them, even if some may be on the outs with him at this point. And to do that, he seeks to overcome what he finds to be false and unhelpful perceptions about him being promoted by some in the church at Corinth.
One of those, key in today’s reading, has to do with Paul not looking or seeming all that successful in his life. Other Christian leaders (as well, perhaps as leaders of the myriad other religious bodies one could find in cosmopolitan Corinth) seemed much more refined in appearance, eloquent in speech, and had a far less “messy” life. Paul, however, was not terribly good looking, was not eloquent when he spoke in person, and was constantly ending up in jail and being beaten. Why should they continue to listen to the frequently harsh words of a man whose life was so messed up and troubled? Of what value could any further word from such a one possibly be, especially when others with far less “messed up” lives were available to them?
In the verses preceding this week’s reading (4:7-12), Paul states his sufferings were a mark not of failure, but of faithfulness, signs 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).
Picking up this week’s reading then, because Paul has so suffered with Christ, he knows he will be raised with Christ, along with all who have suffered with him (verse 14). All of this suffering, Paul says, is indeed for the sake of the folks in Corinth, including those who are appalled by that suffering, should be thus seen as no less than a sure way to increase thanksgiving! (verses 15-16).
There is a strong lesson here for disciples of Jesus. Paul models for us an important way forward, when, in the midst of conflict we may partly have caused, we find ourselves “on the outs.” Paul wasn’t attractive, wasn’t terribly eloquent in person, said or wrote some harsh things and got himself into deep trouble with the authorities pretty regularly. It’s all true. He owns it. And he says that rather than all this baggage making him “lose heart” (verse 16), what he sees happening, even if invisibly, is growth now toward the ability to bear “an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure” in the age to come (verse 17). What some are saying is “all bad” about Paul and a strong reason to be done with him, Paul instead claims as rich soil for the salvation of God to reap a bountiful harvest.
And it’s all because of his measuring stick, the unseen and eternal hope for us through the way of the cross and power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What are the measuring sticks we use to evaluate who is worth listening to and following? How do we evaluate our own ministries as a church or as individuals? Add conflict (and therefore much more stress!) to the situation, and, when push comes to shove (and sometimes close to if not literally!), what criteria do we use to ensure ourselves and others we really are on the right track and that an ongoing relationship remains worth pursuing?
Whatever your answers to those questions are, the critical question is this: What will you do, individually and as a congregation, to remember, inculcate, and honor the way of the cross and the power of the resurrection as the primal narratives that impart true value to all we say and do?
In Your Planning Team
If you’re reading through this entire set of helps, you’re going to see me repeat this first point, though with a different emphasis, for each stream of texts.
Your first critical task for this week, and this whole series, to “set the stage.” How will you design the worship space in a way that will communicate you’re focusing on dealing with the effects of conflict in the course of your ministries as disciples of Jesus? What central image or images would communicate “dealing with the effects of conflict” where you are? How might you use that central image to create the basic “visual scaffold” you can build on or vary slightly from week to week throughout the series? And is there a song or hymn that might function as a theme song for the series, offered in perhaps slightly different ways, from week to week?
Your second key task, for today, is to find multiple ways to remind the congregation that our core narrative as disciples of Jesus, the narrative that continues to define our worth as individuals and in the course of our personal or corporate ministries, even and especially in times of conflict, is the narrative of the way of the cross and the power of the resurrection of Jesus.
You can do some of that through song (such as “My Hope Is Built” UMH 368), some through choosing a confession of faith that focuses heavily on the cross and resurrection (as, for example, the Nicene Creed, UMH 880), and some through the Great Thanksgiving, and some through what the pastor will say in the sermon.
But it will also be important to do some of this through the reminding the congregation that there are people in your midst who have so learned to do this that their normal conversation is peppered with references to the cross of Christ and the power of resurrection. If your congregation is anything like those I’ve been part of over the years, you may find this especially among older members of your congregation, including some who are homebound, or in prison, or in long-term care facilities, or perhaps older family members of folks on your planning team or your wider congregation.
Members of your planning team can probably name a half dozen or more people they know like this, easily.
Part of planning for worship this Sunday, then, becomes an opportunity for pastoral care of some of these folks, as you send members of your planning team to hear and record the way these saints of the church talk about suffering with Christ when they’ve been in ministry in his name and their hope in what the age to come will bring because of the resurrection of Christ.
And the pastoral care here is not just listening to and recording their stories, but especially allowing those who may be unable to come to worship to give something that enhances both the worship and the discipleship of their congregation.
What team members will probably hear may be long stories. But what you will want to share in worship are samples, sound bites that typify what Christians sound like when they’ve become well-practiced in framing their lives and ministries in terms of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Maybe, at some point during the sermon, or as an additional confession of faith, you might want to string together these sound bites and form them into confession of faith you may repeat several times today—and again throughout this week and this series—that begins to pepper your own conversation and ways of framing your own lives in terms of the cross and resurrection of Christ.
Gospel: Learning and Practicing Discipleship by the Sea
Much of the narrative of Mark’s gospel during the coming months takes place on or near the seaside city of Capernaum and along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. While the Latin word for “shore” is “litus,” the nature of the shore also fits the Latin word “limen” (threshold). The shore is the threshold, or “liminal space,” between water and land, between uncontrollable chaos and human-imposed order, between “wild world” and “domesticated world.” It is a place of transition from one kind of reality to another, and so is a place itself of constant transformation.
At first glance, today’s story may not seem to fit the image of shore. The story takes place “at home” (verse 19b), but “home” for Jesus is the Galilean port city of Capernaum, right by the sea. And the events that caused massive crowds to gather at Jesus’ home, which in turn led his family to try to come and bind him in this week’s reading, had happened by the sea (Mark 3:7-12).
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 “liminal” issue as well. Rumors had spread that Jesus was out of his mind—adrift, in a chaotic state, like the sea (3:22). 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 him (verse 27).
The biological family of Jesus wait outside his house (verse 31). They never enter it. They never can bind 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 shore, the meeting place of wild world and domesticated world, a place of transformation. It is the site of a collision of familial, 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 shore 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?”
For disciples of Jesus, today, we learn if we have not already known it just how liminal our world is and our work must be. We are constantly navigating the shore, the fluid boundary between varying powers, to proclaim and embody the power of God’s kingdom over all, and allegiance to Jesus over every other earthly power.
In Your Planning Team
Your first critical task for this week and this series is to “set the stage.” How will you design the worship space in a way that will communicate you’re focusing for a time on what it means to be learning and practicing discipleship by the sea, at the shore, in liminal space? While many of these stories over the coming weeks literally (even “litorally”!) happen by the sea, maybe you are nowhere near any geographical shore. So ask yourselves in your design process what kind of space is the most “shore-like” where you are, and, while you might also incorporate some shore features into the design of worship space and graphics, the main features might more closely resemble whatever that litoral/liminal space is like where you are.
Your second task is design worship for today in a way that at once evokes the liminal/litoral character of all of our contexts for ministry and makes it clear where we stand as disciples of Jesus within this space. Today could be a good day to sing “Tú has venido a la orilla” (“Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore” UMH 344), and to consider using Great Thanksgiving at the Seaside.
We are not those who have the most “ins” with Jesus, such as his biological family in this story. We are also not those who resist or seek to discredit him, as were the scribes in the story. Jesus tells us who his disciples, and so his true family, are: “Those who do the will of God.”
Those who are doing the will of God are those who are following Jesus and joining him in his mission of announcing the kingdom of God in word and in deeds such as healing the sick and casting out demons, delivering people from the sources of their suffering and captivities (Mark 3:7-19).
So today is a day to give witness to ways disciples of Jesus are doing or can still be doing these very things here and now. Disciples of Jesus, in the course of their growth in holiness and living out their ministries in the world, need to know that we do so in a liminal state and as we do so, we both can and have examples of others who keep the main things the main things in and through whatever our ministries may be: proclaiming the kingdom, healing, and delivering. As we do so, we are the family of Christ.
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Background for the Season after Pentecost 409 (consider sharing some of this in your church newsletter, blog, Facebook group, or bulletin)
WORD AND RESPONSE
Prayer of Confession and Pardon 476 (Mark), 479 (2 Corinthians, add pardon)
Concerns and prayers 544 (I Samuel), 527 (Mark), 529 (2 Corinthians)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Angola, Mozambique
Dismissal with Blessing 559 (1 Samuel), 566 (Mark and 2 Corinthians, last item)