- 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
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Ezra, Nehemiah, and a group of Levites read aloud from Torah, interpret the reading, and call the gathered people to a day of celebration. The celebration includes sharing with those who have no one to prepare a celebratory meal.
Psalm response — Psalm 19 (UMH 750) A hymn in praise of Torah, joined by all creation. If you sing the Psalm, consider these options: Response 1 with Tone 5 in D minor or Response 2 with Tone 1 in D major.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a Paul reminds a divided community that the differences in the ways the Spirit's gifts operate in each one are intended to sustain the community's functioning as one body.
Luke 4:14-21 Jesus reads and interprets from the scroll of Isaiah, announcing that the words he has read are now fulfilled: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…"
Worship Planning Notes
Today is the third Sunday after the Epiphany.
You should have chosen the track for your After Epiphany series—either OT/Gospel (see Getting Ready to Get Ready) or Epistle (the life of the church in the Holy Spirit)—and now be into the midpoint of your series.
The OT/Gospel track focuses on firsts in the early ministry of Jesus and his calling of disciples as guides for “first things” we need to pay attention to as we call folks to discipleship and get ready to prepare them for living the baptismal covenant through Lent. Today in particular we hear the first part of the first sermon of Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth.
The Epistle track focuses on the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians and the life of the church, the body of Christ. Last week called us to celebrate the deep and varied giftedness of each of the baptized. This week the focus shifts to how these gifts are used to build up the common life and mission of the church as a local, regional, and worldwide community, the body of Christ.
Stay with your series from now through Transfiguration Sunday to maintain momentum from week to week leading into Lent.
Today is also Ecumenical Sunday, the Sunday in the worldwide and ecumenical Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25). Consider how collaboration with other churches in your area may strengthen worship today, and particularly the series you’ve chosen to pursue for this season.
Ash Wednesday in 2016 is February 10. The color for that day and the Season of Lent is purple. For a light-hearted (and accurate!) take on the colors of the liturgical year, see and share “Chuck Knows Church,” Episode 1.
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 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.
Resources for Planning Upcoming Seasons
The Season after Epiphany (introductory article from the Book of Worship)
Getting Ready to Get Ready: Planning for the Season after Epiphany 2016
Resources for the Season after Epiphany
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
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 1: Great News!
There are two elements of this week’s OT/Gospel texts to call to your attention.
One is the emphasis on hearing the Word of God proclaimed in public worship. The narratives of both Nehemiah and Luke slow down to make particular effort to call attention to the details about how Scripture was read and heard, including the reverence shown for it by its hearers. Both the reading and the hearing of Scripture matter, a lot. See more on the implications of this for worship today in the notes for your planning team below.
The second is the core message of the gospel, that the glorious things prophesied long ago were, as Jesus said, being fulfilled that very day in the hearing of the people.
Jesus reads from Isaiah 61:1-2a. This is the oracle from “Third Isaiah” just before the passage we read last week. Luke cuts verse 2 short. The next line of the verse in Isaiah speaks of God’s coming vengeance against enemies. Jesus here focuses solely on the first signs, without the element of vengeance: the poor (“oppressed” in Hebrew, “poor” in LXX) get good news, captives get word of their release, blinded folks have their eyes opened, “beaten down” folks are set free, and Jubilee (the end of debts and slavery) happens for all.
After Jesus finished reading, he said “These things have been fulfilled (perfect tense) in your hearing.” They’re here, now, faits accomplis.
On this Ecumenical Sunday, it is good to remember and call attention to the fact that Pope Francis has declared 2016 to be a Year of Jubilee with a focus on God’s mercy and the church as a community of mercy. His call is grounded in the very gospel we read today.
These prophetic words and Jesus’ declaration they were being fulfilled here and now were charged with hope for folks in his hometown who believed themselves to be among the most likely recipients of all the good things proclaimed here. Jesus has their rapt attention. They’re expecting to hear him say this good news is primarily or even exclusively for them. This is his hometown, after all!
Added to their hope for themselves was the reputation that preceded Jesus. It was already known how he had brought good news, healed the sick, cured the blind, cast out demons and raised the dead.
What greater wonders would he speak and do here, now?
In Your Planning Team
This week’s gospel reading ends on bated breath. While next week’s reading brings us to a nearly literal cliffhanger (the mob seeks to throw Jesus off a cliff!), this week we get a figurative one.
We know who Jesus is. We hear words of deep hope and blessing from him. We’re told this is all happening, now.
What greater announcement will come now?
This is a week to live into this bated breath moment. This is a week for wonder, for marveling. This is a week for remembering and giving thanks all the ways we can already see this particular good news happening “in our hearing” because God’s kingdom has broken in and is already at work.
So this is also a week for making sure the Scripture is read as Nehemiah and Luke describe—in a way that enables the Spirit to move others to powerful response. If you do not already have an active lector/reader training process, determine how you will start one—and get one in place (or at least have a few readers trained and ready!) for this service. Some suggestions for reader training are listed below.
But don’t lose the forest for these trees. Great reading matters. But it matters to help the written word become the living Word, to enable the heart of what God speaks through Scripture speak deeply into our own hearts.
So in your planning team, start naming the wonders in each category Jesus lists from Isaiah—the poor getting good news, the captives getting word of their release, the blinded being able to see, the oppressed set free, Jubilee happening—in your hearing, where you are. Start a thread on social media to collect more from your congregation and wider social networks. Compile these into a list you can draw on for preaching, for intercession and for thanksgiving in song and word and ritual throughout this Sunday’s service. And give the congregation on Sunday the opportunity to add more—and to leave the service on bated breath themselves, ready to wonder and give thanks at what will happen next.
This is also a week in which the Great Thanksgiving from Word and Table I is especially apropos. And you may find “From the Table into the World” a helpful resource for youth and adult formation classes to consider today, or later this week, or in the lead up to this Sunday’s celebration at the Lord’s Table.
Life in the Spirit: Epistle Track
Last week’s reading from I Corinthians focused on three ways the Holy Spirit acts sovereignly in and through the body of Christ and each of its members: spiritual gifts, forms of service, and empowered actions.
This week’s reading, picking up where we stopped last week, focuses on the nature of the body, and what it means to understand and behave as those who are part of the body rather than merely as individuals.
Paul underscores this body, the body of Christ, is not like other religious or political bodies in the world. Nearly all of these identify themselves only by their ethnicity, tribal allegiances, or socio-economic status. But the Spirit has baptized Christians into a body of people who are, individually, Jewish or gentile, slave or free (verse 13). In short, whatever status one has in other systems, in the body of Christ, by the sovereign action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, we are made into nothing less than the living, enfleshed manifestation of the Son of God, in whom the fullness of Deity dwells (Colossians 1:15-23).
So this little parenthetical phrase is not a throw-away line. It would have stood out dramatically to Paul’s first readers and hearers.
And it should do so for us as well.
Especially in an age where we have a leading candidate for President of the United States who is calling for this nation to segregate and discriminate against people of other nations, ethnicities, or religions. And where we have governors, several of whom actively portray themselves as Christians, who have called for their states not to receive refugees from Syria.
We are the church. We are the body of Christ. Our mission to welcome the stranger is a global mission that cannot discriminate against anyone of any nationality, just as we, as a body, worldwide, comprise people from every nation. To say or act as if we could so discriminate or refuse welcome on such grounds as are proposed by candidates and governors in this nation is to deny what the Spirit has made and called us to be. It is to break allegiance to Jesus Christ. It is to deny the baptism by which we have been baptized by the one Spirit. I am grateful for the witness of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis who has openly defied the governor’s ban on resettling Syrian refugees in the state. Our Social Principles, as well as our baptismal vows, as United Methodists call us to a similar commitment.
Every part matters—every person of every ethnic and socio-economic background matters—individually because every part is linked to the whole. The body works optimally only as all parts do their own functions well while in constant and organic connection to the whole, or, as Paul puts it, “as all members exercise the same care for one another” (verse 25).
If we were to take this metaphor and apply it to how neuroscience talks about the functioning of the brain, we might say that each of us is a neuron, and the synaptic connections that form our sense of “us” are our mutual interactions with and care for one another. Elsewhere, Paul, and perhaps in our tradition, more famously John Wesley, speak of this as “watching over one another in love.”
If worship around the epistle track last week focused on claiming and celebrating the manifestations of the Spirit in your midst, perhaps the focus this week might be on “celebrating the synapses,” or “celebrating the body,” those places where you can already discern that these manifestations of the Spirit are indeed acting in synergy in your midst and generating a more genuine sense of “connectedness” or “body-feeling” or “one-bodyness.”
And a one-bodyness that embraces “people of all ages, nations, and races”—and denominations!
What an appropriate theme for this Ecumenical Sunday!
In Your Planning Team
Questions for Discussion
Where and how do people in your team and your congregation sense your “one-bodyness” as a congregation most concretely? How does that “one-body-feeling” relate to the mission of the church—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world—and the mission of this season—to evangelize and call people to discipleship to Jesus Christ and prepare the church to prepare those who respond to the call for baptism during the upcoming season of Lent?
Now, take it one step further—how is this one-bodyness expressed not just within your congregation, but across Christian congregations and denominations where you are? Focus on the positive here—and use that positive focus to help you identify places where you can work together on places where you all need to improve.
Now go even further—beyond your local area—to the worldwide United Methodist Church and the worldwide body of Christ within and beyond the United Methodist Church. The question is the same. How can we live more fully into the one-bodyness the Spirit both intends and empowers with Christians around the world?
And for the point of this season, how will you be making sure the process you use to prepare candidates for baptism or professing membership will cultivate them as “longing listeners” and “ready participants” in the Spirit’s anointed work in the world?
Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship (BOW) with links and other suggestions
Call to Worship: BOW 456 (1 Corinthians),
BOW 199, "Come! Come! Everybody Worship!" (1 Corinthians)
Greeting: BOW 303 (Nehemiah)
Opening Prayer: BOW 463 (Ecumenical Sunday)
WORD AND RESPONSE
Prayer: UMH 594, "Come, Divine Interpreter" (Nehemiah, Psalm). This could be used in place of a prayer for illumination on this day.
Prayer: UMH 602, "Concerning the Scriptures" (Nehemiah, Psalm)
Poem: UMH 595 "Whether the Word Be Preached or Read"" (Nehemiah, Psalm)
Prayer: BOW 315 (1 Corinthians, Ecumenical Sunday; O God, you made of one blood”)
Prayers for the Church: BOW 502, 505, 506 (Ecumenical Sunday)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
Great Thanksgiving (Communion): BOW 36-39
Hymn: BOW 223 "O Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians)
Blessing: BOW 566 (Sarum Blessing)
Suggestions for Training Lectors/Readers and Reading Today
- Train and rehearse readers in your worship space. (They may read well in other places, but how well can they be heard in the particular acoustics of your worship space and whatever voice amplification systems you have in place there?).
- Great readers speak slowly enough, with excellent enunciation, and the right pitch and volume for all who can hear to hear them. Great readers also bring the text alive with the melody and rhythm of their voices.
- If you don't have such trained readers yet, train some, or borrow one or two from another congregation that does until you do! You may especially wish to consider seeking readers from our closest ecumenical partners outside the Methodist family, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church, both of which have long and strong traditions of training readers for worship.
- Encourage the congregation to listen, and NOT to look at screens, Bibles, bulletins or other text-based visual aids during the reading of Scripture, but to focus on the person reading and what that person is saying (or signing, if you offer that service for the deaf, deaf-blind or hearing-impaired).
If some people are too far away to see the reader, and if you have video screens, then use cameras to project the image of the reader (not the text) on the screen for those persons. Otherwise, encourage those who do not need the screen to see the reader not to use it.
Why? Brain research over the past decade has confirmed that we actually do not hear as well when our focus is on printed texts as when our focus is on the person reading and what the person is saying.
- In keeping with this emphasis on the reading of the Scriptures, this might be a Sunday to affirm and install those who will function as readers in your worshiping community.