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
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20.
In the hearing of the frightened people of Israel, Moses received the Ten Commandments.
Psalm 19 (UMH 750).
As thunder and earthquake surround the giving of the law, the heavens proclaim the glory of God.
Paul declares his pedigree and accomplishments, but says none of that is as important to him as knowing Christ.
Jesus offers the parable of the wicked tenants. After a farmer had leased his farm to tenants, they refused to recognize anyone he sent to collect his produce. They even killed his son when he came to them. Jesus tells his detractors, "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (Psalm 188:22, Isaiah 28:16).
October is a very busy month for United Methodists!
Discipleship Ministries offers resourcing throughout this month to help you keep A Season of Saints.
Each week, we’re asking you to consider highlighting, in some way, an historical Christian saint, a saint who is part of our United Methodist heritage, and a saint you know personally in your congregation or community. You can remember them in prayers, create special bulletin inserts, or Tweet links about them during the week between Sundays. Exactly how you keep this season is yours to create and have fun with.
We’re also asking you to help other United Methodists learn and share stories of the saints you know through the UMC Worship Blog.
For October 5: Christian Saint: Francis of Assisi (died October 4, 1226)
United Methodist Saint: Mary McLeod Bethune (died May 18, 1955)
Each week during this season, additional resources and links will also be provided in a special “Season of Saints” section immediately preceding “Embodying the Word.”
Today is World Communion Sunday— The special offering for today supports scholarships for racial and ethnic minority United Methodists in the US and worldwide.
If your congregation uses Spanish in worship, or wishes to for this day, consider this Spanish-English Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday, or a Korean-English Great-Thanksgiving, developed by Karen Westerfield Tucker and Dr. John J. Park; or, if you are in a Francophone community, use La Sainte Cène d’après la liturgie de Cameroun. We also have The Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday.
You may also wish to consider using our video, Living into the Mystery, either in worship, small groups, or other teaching sessions, to explore the meaning of Holy Communion for United Methodists.
Why does the offering for World Communion Sunday support scholarships? World Communion Sunday began in 1940, a time when most Protestant churches celebrated Communion quarterly at most, and so may rarely have celebrated on the same day. Today, the vast majority of Christians worldwide celebrate Communion weekly; and most Protestants celebrate at least once per month, most frequently on the first Sunday. The need to highlight this day as “one time when we are all celebrating together” has thus subsided. The more salient focus for the celebration now is on supporting ministry issues we share across multiple denominations across the globe—such as education for persons of many cultures worldwide.
If you are not already doing so, on this World Communion Sunday, consider including the Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer among your intercessions today and in the weeks ahead. The Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer was created by the World Council of Churches to enable Christians everywhere to pray with and for the church and the world, for every nation on earth, throughout the year. A listing of the nations we pray for each week is included in these planning helps (see Concerns and Prayers below). The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle page provides links to a full set of intercessions for the nations covered that week one week prior to the given Sunday.
On World Communion Sunday it is also appropriate to consider all those we may inadvertently “excommunicate” because they are unwillingly absent, marginalized, or outside our comfort zones.
- Will you plan to ensure that the unwillingly absent are part of "your world" by extending the Communion Table to include them? See This Holy Mystery for our church’s teaching about extending the Table. See Mark Stamm’s book, Extending the Table for a complete guide for setting up, training, and maintaining a strong lay-based ministry of sharing Communion with persons unwillingly absent.
- Another connection to "world Communion" might be remembering people with mental illness. Some are in our congregations, but many are not.
National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding: October 7, 2014, Tuesday of Mental Illness Awareness Week, is The National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding. Mental Illness Awareness Week is the first full week in October of each year. Mental illness networks and faith leaders are urged to work together so that they may recognize and prepare for this day in a way that works best for each faith community. Mental Health Ministries has a variety of worship and educational resources. For more background resources, see "Mental Illness and the Church Annotated Bibliography" (General Board of Global Ministries).
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 designed for this observance are linked above. For many more Spanish language and Hispanic-Latino resources, see Discipleship Ministries's Hispanic-Latino Resources page.
October 12: Children’s Sabbath (Children’s Defense Fund page; Discipleship Ministries Resources) Children’s Sabbath for the UMC is October 10-12. Children’s Sunday is October 12. General Conference in 2000 changed the suggested date for United Methodists to observe this ecumenical observance for United Methodists so it would not conflict with Laity Sunday.
October 19: Laity Sunday. A Great Thanksgiving for Laity Sunday is also available on the Discipleship Ministries website.
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
If you haven't started planning for Advent, it's time! Discipleship Ministries has an archived webinar you can view yourself or with your planning team, a complete handout of the slides for the webinar, and a planning article exploring the texts in depth. The webinar provides at least five different approaches for Advent and Christmas Season planning to help you and your congregation celebrate each as fully as you can, as well as links to hundreds of other Advent related resources on our website.
Atmospherics -- Exodus: The Way of Deliverance
Baselines and Boundaries for a Delivered People… to Stay That Way
The reading from Exodus today is iconic—the Ten Commandments. The reading from the lectionary captures the commandments themselves. Consider offering your congregation the opportunity to experience both the commandments and the full reading. Consider using the classic “Exhortation and Decalog” from the Book of Common Prayer (pp. 316-318) or the more contemporary version (p. 350), or the abbreviated version in The United Methodist Book of Worship (p. 496), at or near the opening of worship today. Continue with a general confession of sin and an act of pardon, then a hymn or other act/acts of praise before beginning the readings. If you use the classic version, consider using the Great Thanksgiving from Word and Table IV (UMH 27-31, with the musical settings). If you use a more contemporary version, use The Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday (UMBOW 72-73) or the more recent version on our website by Nathan Decker. Remember that if you open worship with a confession of sin and an act of pardon, you may alter the Invitation to the Lord’s Table accordingly later in the service, and move directly from the Invitation into the Peace. It is better to keep the Peace more closely connected in time with the Great Thanksgiving than to move it to the beginning of worship.
When we experience the Ten Commandments as part of prayer and worship, we may be able to hear the entire story more fully in worship when the time comes. Pay careful attention to the “atmospherics” cited by the text itself in verse 18 (thunder, lightning, sound of the trumpet, the mountain smoking). The giving of these commandments was an awe-full experience. The people responded with fear and a desire to flee; Moses told them what this fearful experience was for. In a world like ours that considers fear primarily a bad thing, how can your reading and proclamation of this text this morning help your congregation experience and trust in the “holy fear” described here—“the fear of the Lord that we may not sin”?
That, after all, is the point of this reading, and of these commandments. They are given by God to make a people capable of bearing God’s name and glory in the world. This is why the first four commandments are specifically about our relationship with God. God does not make us capable of bearing God’s glory solely by ethical behavior toward neighbors, but first of all by inviting us and showing us what a proper relationship with God looks, feels, and sounds like. It is an exclusive relationship, with no other gods (or anything else) permitted to take precedence in our lives. It is an intimate, living relationship, incapable of being captured in bronze, wood or stone without distorting it entirely. It is a relationship of reverence and respect, always. And it is a relationship designed for letting go and letting be, which is the purpose of the Sabbath rest, both ours and even God’s in creation. Grounded in this kind of relationship with this kind of God, we are then empowered to live in right relationship with one another in our family relationship, our marital relationships, and our economic and social relationships, honoring parents and the elderly, never killing others, never seizing what belongs to another, never speaking falsely against a neighbor, keeping faith with our marriage partners and, in time, no longer even coveting what is our neighbor’s.
What does a life so grounded and bounded enable a people to do? The very first verse of the commandments declares their purpose as it declares the identity of the God who gives them. “I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery.” They were about ensuring a people delivered from political and economic oppression and bondage could, among themselves at least, continue to live free from every form of oppression and bondage.
In Your Planning Team
Already we’ve suggested a variety of ways you may use this text in worship today, and then correlate other texts for worship (such as the Great Thanksgiving) with it.
The point of the law and the point of the celebration of Holy Communion are the same: Deliverance from the power of sin and death. The law gives us practices that enable our receptivity to that deliverance. In Holy Communion, we give thanks for the ultimate gift of deliverance in Jesus Christ.
The saints are those who have offered both, living examples of lives being set free and setting others free, at all times giving thanks to God for the freedom and power given to us in Christ Jesus. In the saints we constantly see the same balance of living relationship with God and just and loving relationships with others and creation modeled in the structure of the ten commandments themselves. Both Francis of Assisi and Mary McLeod Bethune, whom we remember this day and week, reflected both piety and justice beautifully.
Who in your congregation or wider community both lives a “delivered” life that delivers others and matches that with a life of living praise to God? Be sure to listen for, and where possible, tell their stories or give room for their testimonies as part of worship on this World Communion Sunday and kickoff to A Season of Saints.
Philippians: Of One Heart and Mind
All Eyes on the One Prize
In Philippians, Paul first recounts (verses 4b-6) and then utterly discounts (verses 7-8b) his “earthly” credentials. Apparently, part of the conflict damaging the community/communitas in Philippi involved persons seeking to claim superior credentials. Paul rejects and undercuts all such claims. The only credential that matters to him, and, he argues, should matter to any Christian, is being found in Christ and “moving on to perfection” (to use John Wesley’s phrase), to the progressively challenging call of God in Christ Jesus. People with their eyes on the prize don’t look at their own credentials or bandy them about. And they don’t take offense for long. They do what Paul says he does: don’t claim to have it all together, forget the past, strain toward God’s future, and keep their eyes on Christ’s calling alone. Everything else is distraction, destruction, or as Paul calls it in Greek, “skubala” (which the KJV quite accurately translated “dung.” Yes, this word is etymologically related to a different four-letter English word starting with the same letter).
These are the right credentials and the prize: “Being found in Christ, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings” (verses 9, 10). The prize Paul names here is what John Wesley expected Methodists (“the other sort of Christians”) to be in his sermon, “The More Excellent Way”
The other sort of Christians not only abstained from all appearance of evil, were zealous of good works in every kind, and attended all the ordinances of God, but likewise used all diligence to attain the whole mind that was in Christ, and laboured to walk, in every point, as their beloved Master. In order to this they walked in a constant course of universal self-denial, trampling on every pleasure which they were not divinely conscious prepared them for taking pleasure in God. They took up their cross daily. They strove, they agonized without intermission, to enter in at the strait gate. This one thing they did, they spared no pains to arrive at the summit of Christian holiness; "leaving the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, to go on to perfection;" to "know all that love of God which passeth knowledge, and to be filled with all the fulness of God."
In Your Planning Team
Let’s be honest. The prize Paul described and that Wesley elaborated may not be something most folks in your congregation are pursuing, or even want to pursue. People become part of congregations for many reasons. Some want the programs congregations may offer for their families. Others seek personal affirmation or solace. Others simply appreciate being part of a ritual community—the music, the ritual, the friends they make. But relatively few, as Wesley’s sermon notes, “use all diligence to attain the whole mind that was in Christ.” While some of these few may want to know Christ in the power of his resurrection, perhaps fewer still will want to be part of the “sharing of his sufferings.”
But in nearly any congregation whose doors are still open, some will, or at least some have in the recent or memorable past. This Season of Saints we kick off today is an occasion to spend this month highlighting the living witness of such persons, and to do so exactly as Paul and John Wesley have done. Such saints are not intended to be the exception, but the norm. The way of life they have achieved is not easy, but it is more than open to all who will pursue it. Indeed, as we profess every time we baptize persons, all of us are called and empowered to be a cloud of witnesses surrounding the newly baptized with a community of prayer and love and forgiveness that the newly baptized, with us, may walk in the way that leads to life—the “more excellent way” John Wesley describes.
Consider doing a live or video interview with one or two such saints in your congregation to be shown as part of the sermon, or be given in place of the sermon, in worship today. Share something of what these persons have done, how their lives have demonstrated the mind that was in Christ. Then ask simple questions, such as “Who helped teach you to live this way?” and “What have you learned from hard times and suffering?” and “How are you teaching others to live this way?” and “What have you found helps you most to stay on the path?”
Enabling folks to get these stories out, live or on video, will inspire others who have any interest in having the mind of Christ, in keeping their eyes on that prize, to see that it is not only desirable but possible in the life of this very congregation to get there.
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Matthew: On Mission with the Master
When Tenants Turn Tyrants
Last week we heard from Matthew’s gospel the first parable Jesus told the chief priests and Pharisees in the temple. This week we hear the second and see their responses—deepened anger and a choice not to respond or act at that time because they feared the crowds who saw Jesus as a prophet.
This week’s parable is deeply revealing of the actions and attitudes of its intended “target,” the religious authorities. Jesus implies that the tenants’ continued and sometimes violent refusal to release the harvest to the landowner was because they wanted the harvest and the land for themselves, ultimately. They would do everything possible to ensure that outcome, even when their efforts ultimately made no sense. Killing the son was about the most ridiculous means to try to obtain the land or the son’s inheritance one could think of. That’s how completely out of touch with the reality of God’s kingdom and mission Jesus saw some of the religious leaders of his day to be.
Jesus leaves it up to his hearers to determine the outcome of the story. He asks them what they think the landowner would do once the tenants turned tyrants had killed the landowner’s son. “He will put those wretches to a wretched death” they say, “and he will rent out the vineyard to other farmers, ones who will give him the harvest in its season” (verse 41). Was that the only possible answer? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. It was their answer.
Jesus agrees with the second part of their answer- that the land will be taken and given to others-- then directs the story back at them. “Do you know the scripture about the rejected stone becoming the cornerstone,” he asks (verse 42). “The kingdom of God will be snatched from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (verse 43). God’s kingdom, embodied in Jesus, is the cornerstone. Miss this, and you’ll find yourself destroyed, on the ash heap of history. God, the landowner, does not have “wretches put to wretched death.” But God does establish the standard. When we miss it, especially when it has been so clearly pointed out to us, we have only ourselves to blame for our destruction.
Whenever we gather around the Lord’s table to offer our thanksgiving and share in his body and blood, and perhaps especially on this World Communion Sunday, we are re-minded and re-membered—put back into knowing who we are together as Christ’s body for the world. Here, where such “tyrannical tenant tendencies” exist in us, we are delivered. Where it exists in our neighbors, we witness and pray for their deliverance and restoration as well. And so we are returned to fruitfulness, farmers who rejoice to return God’s harvest.
In Your Planning Team
As already noted above, Jesus ends this parable with a truly open question: “So, whenever the lord of the vineyard should come, what will he do to these tenant farmers?”
Part of learning our mission from Jesus is to take his open questions as truly open. Jesus answered these persons as he did (the land will be taken and given to others who will produce its fruits) in part because they answered as they did (“he will put those evil people to an evil death and give over the vineyard to other farmers…). Their hearts were moved to contempt and revenge by Jesus’ tale. Jesus himself did not affirm their contempt, but did indicate that indeed such tenants would no longer have this land.
But what if someone had offered a different response? What if someone had said, “He will pray for them, and visit their families and ask them to pray as well, that their souls might be set free from such greed and bitterness?” What if someone had said, “He will invite them to the burial of his son, and throw a feast for them?”
Disciples of the way of God’s kingdom might have come up with such responses—then, and now.
They still do. Perhaps a few such disciples or saints, as some call them, may be part of your congregation or community. Perhaps there are folks in your midst who “zig” like Jesus when most of the rest “zag” like most others might expect. Discuss among yourselves those whom you know, in your congregation or perhaps in another, who at least once in their lives answered the open question of Jesus differently. See if you can get an interview with this person/these persons, and gain permission to tell their story, or play video of them telling their story, or even have them tell their story live as part of worship today. The point is not to spotlight how great these people are, but rather that indeed the kingdom of God does generate real, living alternatives to the answers of the powers that be, and what happens in people’s lives when the ways of God’s kingdom shine through.
Season of Saints: Week 1
Francis of Assisi
Hymns: “All Creatures of Our God and King” (UMH 62), “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” (TFWS 2171).
Prayers: Prayer for Peace (UMH 481), A Franciscan Blessing (Note: This blessing was not written by St Francis, but has been widely used in Franciscan communities as expressive of their calling).
Mary McLeod Bethune:
Hymns: “O Freedom” (TFWS 2194)—Cited as a song she learned as a child and regularly led her students to sing in the book, African-American Traditions in Song, Sermon, Tale, and Dance, 1600s-1920s
(Eileen Southern, Josephine Wright).
“God Will Take Care of You” (cited as one of the hymns led by Bethune when she and her students sang—and faced down—a Ku Klux Klan procession to her school in Daytona in 1920—see Timeka L. Thomas Rashid, Leading by Example: An Examination of Mary McLeod’s Bethune’s Leadership as College President, p. 40).
Embodying the Word: Reflections between Distributing and Praying Together
The sharing from the Lord’s Table has begun. Some have received. Others are waiting to receive. It will be a few moments before all are ready to offer the post-Communion prayer of thanksgiving together. What can worshipers do to focus their hearts and minds in the meantime?
One practice has been to offer simple hymns and choruses for all to join in singing during the distribution. But not all sing or want to sing at this time. Some find singing distracting to the kind of experience they want or need after receiving communion.
So during these weeks of October, we’ll provide in this space another option—brief, meditative poems/prayers, based on the readings for the day, for reading or for singing by soloist, choir, ensemble or congregation. The meter for each prayer poem is provided in case you also wish to add or write a tune to go with these.
May I so fear you, Holy God,
That all fears else may cease;
Upbraid me with your living Word,
Disturb me with your peace.
May I so fear you, Holy God,
Obeying all you speak,
That in my will, my hands, my eyes
Your love makes strong the weak.
May I so fear you, Holy God,
That your ways may be mine;
Break me your body in this bread,
Your blood poured in this wine.
So shall I fear you, Holy God,
Your life in mine thus shed;
Your law is written in my heart,
Your praise my lips shall spread.
One mind, mind of Christ,
Be all my mind, my longing;
Not mine, mind of Christ,
To others’ bests belonging.
One love, love of Christ,
All other loves compelling;
My gain, gain is loss,
To know you, all excelling.
One life, life of Christ,
In bread and wine abiding;
You rise, risen Christ,
Your power in me residing.
One hope, hope of Christ,
In suffering joy and sorrow;
Past gone, prize ahead,
Cast me toward your tomorrow.
(Cyclical song or ostinato; 184.108.40.206)
Here the harvest, here the yield,
Here the kingdom’s fruit, your keeping;
Fed and sent into your field,
We rejoice to do your reaping.
- 450 (Psalm)
- 456 (Matthew)
- 470, "Act of Congregational Centering" (Philippians, Matthew)
Acts of response to the Word:
- 495, "A Litany for the Church and for the World" (World Communion)
- 496, "The Ten Commandments"
- 556, The United Methodist Hymnal, "Litany for Christian Unity" (World Communion)
Concerns and Prayers:
- 431, Two Prayers for World Communion
- 507, Prayer for Creation (Psalm); see also 204 for optional musical response for this prayer
- 505, Prayer for the Church (World Communion)
- 524, Prayer for Strength (Philippians)
- 501-506, Additional Prayers for the Church
- 564, The United Methodist Hymnal, Prayer for the Unity of Christ's Body
- Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
If you are not using the Decalog or other confession of sin and act of pardon at the beginning of worship today, be sure to precede the confession here (after the sermon) with the Invitation (UMH, p. 7) and follow with Words of Assurance or the Pardon (UMH, p. 8).) See This Holy Mystery for more about the Invitation.
- 488, Prayer of Confession (World Communion)
- 492, Prayer of Confession (World Communion, Mental Health Awareness Week)
The Great Thanksgiving:
- 72-73, "The Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday"
- Spanish-English Great Thanksgiving
- Korean-English Great-Thanksgiving
- La Sainte Cène d’après la liturgie de Cameroun
- Nathan Decker’s The Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday (2008)
- Blessings: 562, 564
- Musical Benediction: 178