Planning - Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
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 tells 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 that the "stone that the builders rejected" has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 188:22, Isaiah 28:16).
For Leccionario Comn Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes (pdf), click here.
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October is a very busy month for United Methodists.
Starting this Sunday, Discipleship Ministries is pioneering a "Season of Saints." ." Each week, we're asking you to consider highlighting, in some way, a historical Christian saint, a saint who is part of our United Methodist heritage, a saint you know personally in your congregation or community, and a saint in another United Methodist congregation or ministry. 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. Resources for the Season of Saints are included in these weekly worship planning helps for October and All Saints Day/Sunday and on the UMC Worship Blog.
For October 2: 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 U.S. and worldwide. At a time when scholarship applications have been denied because of reduced giving, your support of this offering this year is particularly critical. Offerings for World Communion were $912,720 in 2010, down from $1.2 million in 2007.
If your congregation uses Spanish in worship, or wishes to for this day, consider this Spanish-English Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday as one possible worship resource. A Korean-English Great-Thanksgiving, developed by Karen Westerfield Tucker and Dr. John J. Park is also available.
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? Remember that World Communion Sunday began in 1940, a time when most Protestant churches celebrated Communion quarterly at most; therefore, Communion 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 issues in our own denominations that 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 people 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 4, 2011, 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 hymns, see "Hymn Suggestions for National Mental Illness Awareness Week." For prayers, see Mental Health Worship 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. For planning resources and sample liturgical texts, see "Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month" by the Reverend Liana Prez Flix and "Preaching and Worship Resources for Hispanic Heritage Month." For a list of music resources, see "Resources for Spanish, Hispanic, and Latino Worship and Music Training." For many more Spanish language and Hispanic-Latino resources, see our Hispanic/Latino Resources page. For new resources from the ReThink Church media campaign (United Methodist Communications), click here.
October 9 -- Children's Sabbath (GBGM page that hosts links to other pages, including Discipleship Ministries resources) -- Children's Sabbath for the UMC is October 7-9. Children's Sunday is October 9. General Conference in 2000 changed the date of this ecumenical observance for United Methodists so it would not conflict with Laity Sunday, but in 2008 also provided for Children's Sabbath to be celebrated on the Third Sunday assuming that Laity Sunday would be covered at another time in the year. October 16 is Laity Sunday. Also see the Great Thanksgiving for Laity Sunday.
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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, without additional (but important) commentary. 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 remains better to keep the Peace more closely connected in time with the Great Thanksgiving than to move it to the beginning of worship.
Enabling people to experience the Ten Commandments as part of their prayer and worship enables us to hear the entire story more fully in worship when the time comes, whether you simply read it or also preach from this text today. 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"?
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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 people seeking to claim superior credentials. Paul undercuts that here. 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 translates "dung.")
Are folks relying on the wrong credentials where you are? Where are the examples of folks in your worshiping community who are clearly trying to obtain the right credentials, "being found in Christ, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings" (verses 9, 10). Where are the people and the processes in or outside or alongside your worshiping community that are helping people "keep their eyes on the prize?" The prize Paul names here is what John Wesley expected and led 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."
Talk and think together in your worship planning team about how the design of worship can support this message --- not simply the letting go of the wrong credentials, but the earnest, positive, energetic and pro-active embrace of the way of Christ by which not only to obtain the right ones, but in so doing also heal conflicts and build deeper communitas in your midst for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Matthew: On Mission with the Master
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 inaction, both for the same reason. They fear the crowds who see 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, even when that made no sense. Killing the son was about the most ridiculous means to try to obtain the land or the son's inheritance for themselves one could think of. That's how completely out of touch with the reality of God's kingdom and mission Jesus saw 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 terrorists 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-- and 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.
Where are folks who act like the tenants in this parable where you are? Who is actually producing the harvest of God's kingdom? Who in your midst sees another possible answer to the question at the end of the story Jesus tells? Who is helping others find that answer, be delivered and healed from their selfish mania, and returned to life among those who do produce the kingdom's fruits?
As we gather around the Lord's table to offer our thanksgiving and share in his body and blood, 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 "evil tenant tendencies" exist in us, we are delivered. Where such tendencies exist 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.
How will you connect the disparate themes of the programmatic celebrations today (World Communion Sunday, Mental Illness Awareness Week, Hispanic Ministries Month, and Saints Sunday 1) to lift up the saving realities and possibilities this week's gospel and the celebration at the Lord's table provide?
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
Overview of her life and work: GBGM website, Wikipedia
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 p. 40 of Tameka L. Thomas Rashid's dissertation).
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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 folks 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.
During these weeks of October, we'll provide in this space another option -- new, brief, meditative poems/prayers, based on the readings for the day, for reading or for singing by soloist, choir, ensemble or congregation.
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; 126.96.36.199)
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)
- Candlellighting Service (Mental Health Awareness)
We light the candle of Truth that God will help us dispel ignorance and misinformation about major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, severe anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
We light the candle of Healing that troubled minds and hearts, broken lives and relationships might be healed.
We light the candle of Understanding that the darkness of stigma, labels, exclusion, and marginalization might be dispelled for the sake of those touched by mental illness.
We light the candle of Hope for persons and families living with mental illness, for better treatment, for steadier recovery, for greater opportunity to work and serve.
We light the candle of Thankfulness for compassionate, dedicated caregivers and mental health professionals; for new discoveries in brain research and better medications.
We light the candle of Faith to dispel doubt and despair for those who have lost hope and are discouraged.
We light the candle of Steadfast Love to remind us of God's love and faithfulness, and to remind us to share the light of love and service for those living with mental illness.
After lighting the candles, participants can be invited to come forward and light a votive candle, speaking the name of someone they wish to pray for aloud or in their heart. Other types of candles may be used, and a song may be sung.
Another option is to have a fountain or bowl of water in the center of the candles. Participants can come forward and take a stone, colored marble, or shell from the water and take it with them as a reminder of their personal prayer.
"Candlelighting Service" Copyright 2005 Mental Health Ministries
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
- Nathan Decker's Great Thanksgiving for World Communion Sunday (2008)
- Blessings: 562, 564
- Musical Benediction: 178