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
Jonah 3:1-5, 10.
Jonah finally begins to fulfill his assignment to proclaim God's judgment to the people of Nineveh ("that great city"). He walks through about one-third of the city's streets on the first day, announcing that only forty days remain before doom arrives. The response of the entire city is rapid and complete: The entire human population fasts, "and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth" including the farm animals. God relents and does not bring harm to the city.
Psalm Response: Psalm 62:5-12 (UMH 787).
In God alone our souls in silence wait. In God alone is our help. See Worship & Song, 3135, for a Taizé refrain. If singing the Psalm, use Tone 4 in E minor.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth that they should order their lives by the realities of God's kingdom, not by the standards and practices of "this world" that is "passing away." .
Mark offers the core of Jesus' proclamation, perhaps the title or tagline of every sermon Jesus preached — "God's kingdom has drawn near: repent and believe this good news!" Jesus calls some fishermen to leave their livelihood and their families to follow him.
Our readings through these next three weeks are divided into two distinct streams. The Old Testament/Psalm and Gospel all focus around themes of calling to discipleship and the ministries into which Jesus disciples his disciples. Today is the second week focusing on the call to discipleship.The Epistle readings (from I Corinthians 6-9) focus on basic qualities of the Christian community necessary for it to surround one another with a community of love and forgiveness that leads people to discipleship to Jesus. This week’s focus is on being formed and forming others for the life of God’s unfolding and coming kingdom, not “this present age.” See “Planning for Worship during the Season after Epiphany, Year B” for more details.
Black History Month begins next Sunday.
January 25 Ecumenical Sunday in The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
All Month: Women's History Month
It’s week three of this six-week season/series, bookended by the celebrations of The Baptism of the Lord and Transfiguration. Series or seasons can begin to “lag” in the middle. Be sure to keep the momentum this week and through the weeks to come as this season continues to build to its conclusion as a unified whole.
Which series you started (OT/Gospel on calling and discipleship, or Epistle on Christian Lifeways) should continue to drive your choices about imagery, lighting, soundscape and the arrangement of worship space for these weeks. You can build on the atmospherics you started—adding more or making slight variations-- but don’t change them radically from week to week. The feel of the space and of the flow of these services will do more to convey a sense of connection between them than anything you can say, tweet, or preach.
OT/Gospel Stream: A Calling from God, Week 2—"The Eager Yes!"
The Revised Common Lectionary gives us two straight weeks to focus on calling from God. And in none of the readings do we see anyone being called to be a pastor. Last week, we saw Samuel first struggling to understand who was calling, and then responding to God’s calling for him to give his mentor, Eli, some very tough words about his family’s future. It was a one-time call, but one that opened Samuel up to hearing and responding to God’s voice throughout his life.
We also saw Jesus calling two very different people to follow him, and the two very different responses each gave. Both said yes, but how each got to yes was very different. Philip responded openly and eagerly. Nathanael was at best a skeptic. Jesus made it clear he was ready to take on both and that neither would be the same for the adventure. Follow him, he said, and they would see the kingdom of God breaking in because Jesus himself was the pathway of God’s kingdom.
This week, we have two more calling stories; and this time the response to both of them is like that of Philip last week—eager beyond any reasonable expectations!
Jonah has finally arrived at Nineveh to announce a coming judgment, and the whole people, and even the livestock, wear sackcloth as a sign of repentance. In Mark, Jesus encounters Simon and Andrew just casting their nets into the sea for a catch, calls them to follow, and they do, immediately, leaving boats and nets. Then he sees James and John, calls them, and they even leave their father behind in the boat to follow him.
The callings are different: Repentance for Nineveh, lives as disciples to a wandering rabbi for Peter, Andrew, James and John. But the responses are the same—immediate and dramatic willingness to do whatever it takes to answer the call.
Why a dramatic response? Perhaps this happened in part because the call in each instance was dramatic. Jonah was a foreign prophet from a backwater nation who had traveled across the desert to warn the people of Nineveh they would be invaded and taken over in 40 days time (Jonah 3:4). Given the political situation at the time, this was not an unlikely scenario. The timeframe was too short to rally and train an army ready to defend against an invader that could arrive, lay siege, and take over within 40 days. They would need divine help to survive. And that’s exactly what they sought—and received. God had mercy when he saw their acts of repentance, and the invaders never arrived.
If we focus only on verses 16-20 in Mark, we may miss just how dramatic Jesus’ call to discipleship would have been understood by those hearing him and immediately following.
In verse 14, we find that Jesus came to Galilee right after the arrest of John the Baptizer. John had been operating in Judea. But he was arrested by Herod, ruler of Galilee. Jesus did not “flee” from the trouble that had beset John. Instead, he located his ministry in one of the leading trading posts in the heart of Herod’s territory, in Capernaum. Jesus was a man with some nerve!
But even more dramatic than his decision to move into the “heart of darkness” was the message he proclaimed there: “The time has come, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe the good news!” Being called as a disciple by this gutsy man proclaiming that message in Herod’s territory was either the most exciting or the most terrifying prospect one could imagine. Perhaps there was some combination of both. But for these four men on that day by the sea near Capernaum, excitement won. And they began to follow Jesus.
They repented as well. For them, however, repentance looked rather different than it did for the people of Nineveh. For the Ninevites, repentance was an act of self-abasement, lamenting their sin (perhaps), and seeking mercy from God. For these four new disciples, repentance was leaving behind their livelihoods and families to become disciples of Jesus, whatever that may mean. Their repentance was going “all in” with Jesus.
When we say yes to the call to discipleship, when or how do we go “all in”? In both of this week’s texts, what precedes people going “all in” is a clear announcement that the world as they know it is about to be changed dramatically, whether for the worse (Jonah in Nineveh) or the better (Jesus in Capernaum).
In Your Planning Team
Last week, you had a choice of two approaches to dealing with the theme of calling, a more “generic” approach to discerning and responding to “call experiences” from God, and a more specific approach looking at the call to discipleship in particular.
This week’s gospel reading focuses much more on the specific call to discipleship, which is a significant theme in this season. So while you may involve the Jonah story as an important illustration of the principle of responding dramatically to a dramatic call, stay more focused on the call to discipleship per se.
And plan worship today in such a way that at least these two things happen: (1) The worshiping community experiences a truly compelling call to discipleship. (2)Disciples are encouraged and supported in the process of using the remaining weeks of this season, before Lent, to call others to join them and your congregation in the journey of preparing for discipleship and/or baptism during Lent.
You and your team know your worshiping community and the best means to elicit their active response to such calls. In most places, though, an effective call is issued much as Jesus did—not simply a “y’all come” invitation in worship, but a personal one on one call (or in this case, one on two). This doesn’t discount the value of worship as a place also to issue a call, but it does mean the most effective kind of call at worship may be encouragement that moves and a process that supports individuals to make personal calls themselves over the next several weeks.
As you plan for today, then, think especially about music that supports and encourages a “culture of invitational calling.” Do not confuse this with simply being “welcoming.” Welcoming should happen without question. You are not seeking during this season simply to welcome, but to issue invitations to others to join with you to become disciples of Jesus or strengthen their discipleship to Jesus.
And, as always, tell your own stories within your team and seek out the stories of others in your congregation that witness to responding to a call to discipleship, especially a response that went “all in.” The stories of these folks may be one of the most effective encouragements to others to consider and then actually do the same thing.
As you tell and hear these stories in your worship planning team, ask yourselves how you can design worship today—in music, images, and message—that makes as real for your worshiping community as Jonah and Jesus made it to those who heard them that God is doing something dramatic in the world, and invites us to be part of it. Jesus does not simply “add life” to our lives, but is Life himself. And if we become his faithful, “all-in” disciples, not simply his cheering section or memorial society, we will surely know that Life and that kingdom drawing near, too.
Epistle Stream: Getting the Church Ready (to Surround Others with a Community of Love and Forgiveness)
Forming and Being Formed for God’s World, not This Present Age
What does it take for the church to be ready to fulfill its collective responsibility in the baptismal covenant to “surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God… and… that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life?”
Last week, we focused on how using our bodies to glorify God, including shunning sexual impurity, is integral to our readiness to be a community of love and forgiveness.
This week, we focus on a fundamental question of how we form persons in Christian community, a community that reflects and embodies the present and coming reign of God, not simply as “nice people” able to function “successfully” in the world as it is.
And to do that, it’s essential we understand this is the world we seek to embody and form others for.
While the world has not reached a decisive end as Paul and some early Christians may have believed it may in their lifetimes, God’s kingdom is still breaking into this world, here and now. And God’s in-breaking kingdom continues to relativize all other claims, loyalties and lifeways—even the most basic ones, like marriage, grieving, rejoicing, buying and selling, and politics (those who “deal with the world”).
Just as we saw in last week’s text addressing sexual impurity, Paul did not seek to give specific directions on what every Christian married person or business person must do. Rather, Paul wanted to make sure the Christians in Corinth were asking the most important questions about their lives and loyalties, here and now, and living accordingly. And this week, the question is something like “Given the ongoing inbreaking of the kingdom of God, how will your order your lives, and the life of your congregation, from the most personal (marriage) to the most public (politics, and even your church budget) so that God’s kingdom clearly comes first?”
And more to the point, how are you actively forming people to live as faithful witnesses and participants in God’s kingdom, not simply giving them a religious veneer on lives in every other way formed by the kingdoms of this world?
In Your Planning Team
This week’s installment in the Epistle Stream challenges us to be Christian communities first, rather than communities that only form people in what Christian Smith and Kenda Creasy Dean have come to call “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”
For some of our congregations, it may well be the case that today’s text presents confrontational challenge. For many others (I hope!), it presents an opportunity to assess and give encouragement for where you actually are seeking to form disciples of God’s kingdom rather than the kingdoms of this world.
Video interviews may be a key tool in your preparation and during the sermon. The core question is how people and processes in your congregation are actively seeking to be formed and to form others in light of the ongoing coming of God’s kingdom. Gather and show the best of the responses as inspiration. Some may not have thought of this kind of question before. That’s fine. For them, ask how they might begin to order their lives differently and show the best of these. Sharing both kinds of responses—those on the way and those just beginning to consider how to get there—gives people at a variety of places on their own journeys both inspiration and perhaps some new ideas for how they can take the next steps, too.
The point is not to embarrass, of course! The point is to take seriously that being citizens of God’s kingdom does mean all other relationships are relativized to our loyalty to the aims of God’s kingdom. The marriage covenant, for example, is for Christians a specification of the baptismal covenant, not simply a choice of a life-partner with whom we may or may not raise children.
- BOW 307 (Ecumenical Sunday, Season after Epiphany)
- BOW 455, BOW 457 (Ecumenical Sunday)
- BOW 309 (Mark)
- BOW 312, BOW 314 (Jonah)
- BOW 468, 489 (3rd item) (Ecumenical Sunday)
- UMH 489, "For God's Gifts" (Psalm)
Canticle/Act of Praise following the opening prayer:
- UMH 125, "Canticle of Covenant Faithfulness" (Jonah, Mark)
- UMH 734, "Canticle of Hope" (1 Corinthians)
Concerns and Prayers:
- BOW 495, "A Litany for the Church and for the World" (Ecumenical Sunday)
- BOW 505, "For the Church" (Ecumenical Sunday)
- BOW 519 (Ecumenical Sunday, Jonah, 1 Corinthians)
- Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden
Prayer of Confession:
- Call to Confession: UMH 366, "For Guidance"
- Prayer of Confession: BOW 490, BOW 492 or BOW 493, final item (Psalm, Ecumenical Sunday, Jonah), adding an act of pardon as on UMH 8.
The Great Thanksgiving: Word and Table I, as contained also in UMH 6-11. Be sure to use the entire ritual, including the Invitation on page 7. (Ecumenical Sunday). Why? Because this is the form of our ritual we have been officially approved to use in ecumenical settings where we gather with churches of other denominations (notably ELCA and The Episcopal Church).
Prayer of Thanksgiving if there is no Communion: BOW 551, 3rd item (Jonah, Mark)
Dismissal with Blessing:
A deacon or assisting minister/layperson could dismiss the people using BOW 559; and the pastor could speak the blessing using BOW 561 (2nd item), BOW 566 (5th item), or UMH 669.