- Revised Common Lectionary Readings
- Worship Planning Notes
- Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship
Fresco from St. Peter and Paul Church, Biella, Italy. 15th Century. Used by permission. CC BY-SA 2.5. This kind of portrayal of three identical figures with the Son in the center, Father to the left (at the Son’s right hand!) and Spirit to the right was fairly common in the late middle ages. It was one way to portray the unity of God with no confusion of persons, and it also modeled Jesus’ statement, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”
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
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Wisdom speaks and understanding raises her voice to remind all of her presence with God in and through all creation.
Psalm Response: Psalm 8 (UMH 743) Two musical responses based on hymns. With Response 1, use Tone 3 in E-flat major. With Response 2, use Tone 2 in C minor.
Romans 5:1-5 The character of our life in our Triune God: We are reconciled to God through Jesus and we boast in the sufferings of this age because they lead us to hope in God's love poured out upon us by the Holy Spirit.
John 16:12-15 Jesus speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, declaring to the disciples all the truth that is his from the Father.
Today we share Trinity Sunday with all Christians in the western tradition. United Methodists also observe both Peace with Justice Sunday and Heritage Sunday.
Above all, and at the guiding center of worship where you are, today is Trinity Sunday, the first of the two “bookends” for the Season after Pentecost (the other is either All Saints or, more typically, Christ the King, depending on when you start Advent). On these bookend Sundays, all the readings are chosen to relate to one another.
During the Season after Pentecost in Year C, except for the bookend dates (including today), the readings do not relate to one another. Instead, they are offered in three separate streams of semicontinuous readings in prophets, epistles, and Luke.
Today, however, the readings are related and themed around the celebration of the Triune nature of God.
In a way, this “bookend Sunday” is also a “culmination Sunday.” During Advent, we lived in the expectation that the Father would send the Son again just as the Father sent the Son in the conception and birth of Jesus long ago. From Christmas through Lent, we witnessed the ministry of the Son among us, until his execution. And from Easter through Pentecost, we celebrated the Resurrection of the Son, and the church, his body, continues his ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.
So while we always confess (or should always confess!) our Triune God in worship, this is a day to do so with particular gusto! And be sure to celebrate Holy Communion on this major feast day! Consider using the “Great Thanksgiving for Trinity Sunday,” which draws from “God of Wonders” and the readings for today.
Today is also Peace with Justice Sunday on the United Methodist Program Calendar. This is a Special Sunday with a special offering. Half of the offering collected stays in each annual conference to support conference based peace and justice ministries. Half is forwarded to the General Council of Finance and Administration where it becomes a fund used by the General Board of Church and Society to support grant requests for peace and justice ministries across the worldwide Church.
Today, the Sunday nearest to May 24 (Aldersgate Day) is also Heritage Sunday.
So on the day we celebrate Trinity, we also have three celebrations in one Sunday: Trinity, Peace with Justice, and Heritage Sunday.
How do you manage all three and do any of them justice? Here are some basic thoughts.
- Start with Trinity Sunday as the platform for all.
- Consider choosing plenty of Charles Wesley hymns, especially those that are explicitly Trinitarian in content (See UMH 88, 372, 384, 513, 541, and 606). You may also find this article by S.T. Kimbrough, detailing Charles Wesley hymns (some unpublished) that specifically address poverty and justice helpful as well.
- Remember to pray specifically today for and with all those working for justice and peace in our world (Peace with Justice Sunday).
- Also include in your prayers intercessions for the dismantling of racism and deeper cooperation with our Pan-Methodist siblings (Heritage Sunday).
- Use the Heritage Sunday resources from the General Commission on Archives and History as the basis for all Christian education classes or groups this morning.
Next Sunday, the Season after Pentecost begins in earnest. This is a great time for series preaching, and the lectionary offers three different and unrelated series of texts to choose from. Read all three (and pray the Psalm), but focus on just one series of texts at a time for worship planning and preaching. If your team needs a little more prompting not to look for connections between texts where none are intended, you might share “A Gentle Reminder” with them.
Soon, if not already, you may also be in “graduation season.” See our Graduation and Baccalaureate Resources for helps and suggestions.
Upcoming Sundays and Special Days
March 31-May 20 60 Days of Prayer for General Conference Begins
All Month Christian Home Month
All Month Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (USA)
May 1 Older Adult Recognition Day
May 5/8 Ascension Day/Sunday
May 5 National Day of Prayer (USA)
May 6 May Friendship Day
May 8 Mother’s Day (USA)/ Festival of the Christian Home
May 10-20 General Conference, Portland Oregon (60 Days of Prayer)
May 15 Pentecost
May 22 Trinity Sunday
May 22 Heritage Sunday / DM Resources & Peace with Justice Sunday
DM Resources / UMCGiving Resources
May 24 Aldersgate Day
May 30 Memorial Day (USA)
No images can do justice to the breadth and depth of the love, grace, and power of our Triune God revealed in our texts for today. Wisdom active from before creation (Proverbs), Reconciler whose power drives us into places of suffering with hope (Romans), Truth declared by the Spirit revealing all the Father has given the Son to share (John)— all of these come with a lushness that goes far beyond the static symbols, icons, and paintings Christian art has typically used to portray the Trinity.
Today is a day to move more fully into that very lushness, into the depths of the mystery of our life in God, Three in One and One in Three.
It is not a day for philosophical speculation or for trying to figure out what may seem to be a mathematical conundrum.
It is a day for living into the poetry the Scriptures have offered us, for being re-minded of the multidimensionality of this God who is One, yet known to us as Father, Son, Spirit, as Way, Truth, Life, as Mother, Child, Breath, as Reconciler, Companion, Hope-Giver, and so much more.
There is a Greek word that has been used to describe something of the life of Divine Co-Unity we worship: “perichoresis” (perry-COR-ee-sis). The word literally means “dancing around” or “dancing in a circle.” Christian theologians have used it since the third century to describe the dance of the Eternal-Three-in-One, each distinct yet interpenetrating the other, each pouring out grace and love to the other in the dance. It is into this eternal dance of the Eternal Trinity that we have been invited. So consider how today may be a dancing day with our Triune God!
If you have choreographers who could get your worshiping community up and dancing a simple three-step in threes, bring them on!
If you have artists in your congregation who could create new art or soundscapes — whether in paint or ink or clay or midi or drums or pixels — to illustrate today's texts, commission them!
And since we worship the Triune God always, and not only on this Sunday, consider how you can use whatever the artists create or the choreographers teach throughout the coming year, a reminder that we are always surrounded and invited into the Dance of this Divine Community.
Proverbs begs to be read by a confident female voice, especially verses 4 and 22-31, where Wisdom speaks. If you have access to a projector and good images (such as those available without royalties from NASA.gov’s Visible Earth Project), consider beginning the reading in darkness, illuminated only by projected images of the earth, ocean depths, springs, mountains, fields, hills, and soil. Move back into the darkness, as verses 22-26 are read. Then shift the images to pictures of the night sky or galaxies, and keep them persistent, then add images of the sky at day and shorelines for the ocean, then a pull-back view of a continent (verses 27-29). Then send your reader dancing with joy, or bring in a female dancer to "rejoice before the Lord because the Lord delights in her” during the reading of verses 30 and 31.
If you've done anything like the above, do not rush into the next reading. Invite people to contemplate the mystery of the Trinity in what they've just seen and heard. Then sing the Psalm, or pray it (do not reduce this to a mere reading or “call to worship” today!), with the rapt sense of its composer's wondering "How majestic is your name! Who are we that you should be mindful of us?"
Romans begins to answer that question. We are those who, despite all our wonder and rapture and delight in God's creation, have put ourselves at odds with God and this creation and need the reconciliation God freely offers us in Jesus Christ. Images of brokenness restored and resolving into brilliant light might accompany the reading of verses 1-2. We have reason to boast in that light because it is our hope and our inheritance in Jesus Christ.
And our boasting is not only in the by and by, but even, Paul reminds, in the here and now of our sufferings and the sufferings of others we enter. If there is music or sound accompanying the imagery of the bright light, sustain that same music to accompany images of human suffering, personal or corporate, individual or national, private trial or public tragedy that your congregation knows well. We are accompanied even in such sufferings, and accompanied in such a way that hope only grows stronger, and boasting more deep and real. Conclude with images of "pouring light" to accompany verse 5.
And again, allow no rushing into the next hymn or the reading of the gospel. Give these images and words time to sink in, to pour over and through the people, so they have an opportunity to experience our Triune God as profoundly in this path of sin, reconciliation, glory, suffering and spiritual power.
The first words of John's gospel may seem like an anticlimax. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." Use no imagery or soundscapes here. If possible, use no sound amplification. Let the words offered, words describing the inner life of our Triune God, speak for themselves with a clear, unadorned human voice. This really is no anticlimax, but an invitation to go deeper still, and invitation issuing from the very Being of God as the Spirit offers us even in these moments, and indeed in every moment we pay attention, the words of Jesus given him by the Father, the very truth we need to hear. The mechanics of the Godhead, if you will, conspire to keep drawing us in and leading us on so we can be active partners in the fulfilling of our Triune God's mission for the world.
Embodying the Word: The Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed has been the most regularly confessed creed in Sunday Christian worship since its development in the late fourth century. It was and is indeed THE creed for the Mass, East and West, and has retained that place in much of Protestant Christianity as well. The Apostles’ Creed, while important, is understood to be the creed for baptism — a beginning point. In the Nicene Creed, the church more fully confesses its faith in our Triune God.
John Wesley deleted the article on the Creeds from the Church of England's 39 Articles when he developed the Articles of Religion for the Methodists in North America. He also deleted the Nicene Creed from the services he sent over for use by the Methodists, using instead the Apostles’ Creed. We know something of why he did the former: He did not want the new American church to be beholden to creeds that could be used to divide people more than to unite them in common cause with Christ. Why he eliminated the Nicene Creed altogether, however, remains unknown.
The United Methodist Hymnal in a small way reclaims the primary role of the Nicene Creed for the confessional life of our church by placing it first among the Affirmations of Faith (#880). If your congregation does not ordinarily use the Nicene Creed in worship, Trinity Sunday is an excellent day to do so.
But do not simply read it. Help your congregation confess it. Lead the reading enthusiastically, boldly. Encourage your congregation to do the same. Help them to hear the power of the mystery they confess. Consider using your sermon to move through it as a prelude to confessing it.
And having so confessed, pray, confess sin and make peace with God and neighbor, and feast at Christ's heavenly banquet he offers us at his Table.
Today’s Texts and Peace with Justice Sunday
The Christian understanding of peace (Shalom) and justice (Mishpat) is grounded in the Trinitarian nature of God. God as Three-in-One, as our readings reveal today, is alive, active, vibrant, ever-creating, ever-reconciling, and ever driving us toward truth. We cannot possibly “capture” the liveliness of that peace or the life-giving mercy of that justice in any human agenda. God cannot be so reduced.
Instead, it is the very Triune life of God that inspires all we do, in myriad ways, to embody peace with justice in the world around us. We start with God, God’s power, God’s mercy, God wisdom, God’s life. We start with that bold humility made possible through the Divine Mystery we especially worship and adore this day. Buoyed by the very life of God, we never lose hope in the face of sufferings caused by war, conflict and injustice, but, as Paul reminds in Romans, find ourselves more than able to endure, build character, and abound in hope that never disappoints.
Today’s Texts and Heritage Sunday
2016 marks the 200th anniversary of two related events in Methodist history in America: the death of Francis Asbury (March 31, 1816) and the breaking away and official creation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church shortly thereafter. Richard Allen, key founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, did not wish to break away during the lifetime of Francis Asbury, whom he and many African-American Methodists highly respected. They thus waited until after his death to begin the formal separation.
Proverbs speaks of wisdom. Romans speaks of suffering. John speaks of truth. All three were deeply involved both in the life of Francis Asbury and in the choices made in 1816 to found a denomination where the wisdom and truth revealed among African American Methodists would be respected and get a full hearing, as the “white church” had made clear in its day would not happen among them.
Fred Day’s notes on this day on the GCAH website are instructive and helpful. “Heritage Sunday and other related days are not meant to be nostalgic and backward looking. They are intended to be faith-stirring and forward-shaping motivators, igniting the DNA that makes us who we and sends us into the world to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world (Book of Discipline, para. 120) because of what is our core.” He goes on to describe what that core contains, and how our faithfulness to it can either lead to greater transformation and inclusion of all, or our denial of it may lead, as it did in the nineteenth century and in many ways to this day, to a continuing legacy of stagnation and exclusion.
Our Triune God invites us all to enter in, and learn and grow from the wisdom and truth revealed in God’s life in all who do.
Notes for Your Planning Team
Worship planners, you may be tempted to avoid the fullness of the mystery of the Trinity on this day out of a concern about taxing the minds and imaginations of the people. Resist that temptation! The texts for today, if read and presented and preached and prayed well can blow your minds. Let them! This is a day for ecstatic praise.
The liturgy and ritual of the church are designed to help your congregation enter and rejoice in the mystery and dance of the Eternal Three-in-One. Through use of the Word and Table pattern as outlined in the Hymnal and Book of Worship, we gather and praise the Father (first person of the Trinity), remember and proclaim the liberating work of the Son (second person of the Trinity), and invoke the Holy Spirit (third person of the Trinity). This way of worship is dynamic, biblical, and faithful to the historic and ecumenical church.
This week would be a good time to help the congregation recognize the transition Christians are making from the Great Fifty Days of Easter to the Season after Pentecost and Ordinary Time with an article in the bulletin or church newsletter. See Season after Pentecost (Ordinary Time) in the Book of Worship.
And this is the week to announce and give a teaser/preview of ALL of your series from now until Advent, especially if you have not done so prior to now. Lectionary-based planning and music suggestions are available for all three streams of texts week by week. A full suite of resources is available for September (Season of Creation), including specific suggestions for the order of worship. And a template to help you use October as A Season of Saints is also available.
Greeting BOW 391 (“Glory to the Father who has woven garments…”) or 411 (Trinity)
Opening Prayer BOW 511, For God's Reign (Peace with Justice)
Canticle UMH 80, "Canticle of the Holy Trinity" (Trinity)
WORD AND RESPONSE
Canticle UMH 112, "Canticle of Wisdom" (Proverbs)
Litany BOW 495, For the Church and World (Peace with Justice)
Affirmation of Faith UMH 880, Nicene Creed (Trinity)
If you use one of the creeds, you will find basic information on each version in The Worship Resources of The United Methodist Hymnal, pages 199-200.
Prayer UMH 456, For Courage to Do Justice (Peace with Justice)
Prayer BOW 412 (Trinity)
Prayers BOW 515-519, 526-527 (Peace with Justice)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Malawi, Zambia
Response BOW 178, "Amen, Praise the Father" (Trinity)
Response BOW 193, "Prayer for Wisdom" (Proverbs)
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
Doxology BOW 180, "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow" (Trinity)
Great Thanksgiving (Communion): almost all ecumenical eucharistic prayers are Trinitarian in shape and content.
Season after Pentecost (Peace with Justice emphasis)
Eucharistic Prayer from the Lima Liturgy.
You will need scroll down to the prayer. If you use this prayer, consider not having Concerns and Prayers earlier in the service as they are included in this prayer near the end.
Closing Prayer UMH 76, Trinity Sunday (Trinity)