Planning - The Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
See the texts (NRSV), artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
1 Samuel 1:4-20.
A barren woman named Hannah, whose husband has two wives, prays for a child while the other wife despises her.
Canticle of response: 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
Do your best to offer this song today, either read or sung. Perhaps pair it, as well, with "The Song of Mary" (Luke 1:46-55; see UMH 197-200 for musical settings), which is based on it and will appear again in Advent. Or try this hymn version of Hannah's Song based on a familiar tune: "The Song of Hannah." Or use Psalm 113, UMH 834. If singing the Psalm, use Tone 1 in B-flat major with the response.
Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25.
Christ's self-offering in obedience to God throughout his life in the face of suffering and death enables us to appear before God without shame. It also emboldens us to offer ourselves as witnesses to God's salvation through love and good deeds now and until the end of the age.
The disciples express their awe at the size of the renovated temple campus. Jesus declares it will all be destroyed, but that his disciples should live fearlessly and ignore all claimants to messiahship during those days.
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In the Christian calendar, today is the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost. "Normal" Advent (Year C) begins December 2. However, if you are following the "Restored Advent" calendar, today is Advent 2. For this and other Advent and Christmastide options, see "Restoring Advent and Christmas 2012/2013."
On the denominational calendar, today is als Bible Sunday, the kickoff to National Bible Week organized by the National Bible Association. While appropriate recognition of the role of Scripture should be part of worship weekly, and perhaps especially on this day, the Scriptures already set for this day should take precedence in your planning.
November 22 is Thanksgiving Day.
November 25 is Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday, as well as United Methodist Student Day, which includes a special offering. While the special offering should be taken, the celebration of this day should be woven into the larger themes of Christ the King Sunday, which takes precedence on this day.
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Advent Drawing Nigh
Advent themes are clearly in view across all of today's readings. The age of injustice in which we find ourselves is doomed, and a new age is about to dawn. Even if you are not beginning a more formal celebration of Advent until December 2, strongly consider including Advent hymns in worship today, and in next week's celebration of Christ the King Sunday.
From the perspective of the writers of all these texts, we live now (as they saw themselves living then) either in the chasm "between times" or in the new reality of God's kingdom come. Yet much of our lives and even some of our teaching as contemporary U.S. Christians seems to assume that the birth pangs Jesus refers to in Mark's gospel have not yet begun.
How will you help your congregation remember and claim its life in God's kingdom, already drawn near, here and now? How will you help to affirm the "chasms" your people have entered, individually or as a church or a community, as signs and passages of God's kingdom calling and claiming you, not as things to be feared or forgotten? What have you learned, lost, and gained from such "crossings over"? What chasms are you facing now as a congregation or community? How might the word of God in Scripture today both challenge and encourage you "boldly, into the breach"?
As you think about celebrating this day in your worship planning team, reflect on what in your worship space already signals something of the calling to live into the coming age here and now? If nothing comes to mind, what might you add to symbolize this calling -- starting today and lasting through Advent, whenever you "officially" begin it? Here are several ideas.
- Add a purple parament today, especially if you are not yet starting Advent.
- For the reading of I Samuel 1, invite everyone to come to one side of the worship space. Then have them cross over to the other side for the reading of singing of Hannah's song, a sign of moving from this age into the age to come.
- Consider offering a reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant as Response to the Word today.
- Before you begin the Great Thanksgiving, briefly invite people to notice how we pray that the body and blood of Christ we share may be a foretaste of Christ's final victory and his banquet with us in New Creation.
Hannah: Longing and Rejoicing for the Age to Come
Hannah's story and song in I Samuel set the stage not simply for a birth, but for a the birth pangs of an age of prophets and kings.
Though beloved to her husband, Hannah is taunted by his other wife for her barrenness (shades of Leah and Rachel in the Jacob saga). This was the cultural norm. But as we see in so many narratives involving the God of Israel, barrenness is no barrier, but often a pathway to blessing for generations to come. So it was with Sarai and Rachel before her, and so it would be with Hannah in this story. God would hear her cry, open her womb, and bless her to become the mother of Samuel, Israel's final judge, first prophet and maker of kings.
The way things "usually" go does not determine destiny with this God -- quite the reverse. So Hannah sings of God's reversals, calling us all to join her song in praise of this God. This is the God who breaks the bows of mighty warriors and strengthens the weak. This is the God who makes the rich beg for food while the poor feast. This is the God who gives children to the barren and sorrow to the fruitful. This is the God who makes the poor and oppressed sit in the places of highest power. All this is not extraordinary but normal for this God. This God invites us to join and celebrate the Divine norm today just as Hannah celebrates the promise of the birth of her son.
Where are things extraordinary by the standards of this age but ordinary by the standards of our God happening where you are? Take time to think, reflect and discuss this in your worship planning team. And see what verses you might add to Hannah's song to celebrate our God with her.
Hebrews: A Priestly Covenant That Makes Us Holy and Bold!
Our final reading from Hebrews this lectionary cycle consummates the ones before. Christ's finished work is the end of all further sacrifices for sin. By doing the will of God throughout his life and in his death, Christ has become the high priest of a new covenant between God and humanity in which God "breaks the power of cancelled sin and sets the prisoner free," making us worthy to appear before God boldly.
Such boldness is neither arrogance nor triumphalism. It is the product of God's forgiveness and our growing obedience (10:16-18). It is the energy and confidence that enables us to keep encouraging each other to grow in love and good works in view and proleptic fulfillment of the coming Day of the Lord (verses 19-25). (Proleptic refers to actions now that signal God's future breaking into the present, much as our celebration at the Lord's table now participates in and is enlivened by the heavenly banquet yet to come).
Discipleship to Jesus does not make us timid or nice, but bold with God and one another. A major purpose of the band, class, and society meetings of early Methodism was to be a place where people could freely and openly "spur on one another to love and good works." Yet so much in both popular and even congregational and denominational culture seems to try to tame the bold, contain it, or rule it out of order.
How does holy boldness happen amidst the people where you are? How is such boldness received? Is it taken as an offense and corrected or tamed, or as an expected and effective prompting to greater holiness of heart and life? If you have good local examples of the latter, whether in your congregation (perhaps a Covenant Discipleship group), another congregation, or a parachurch organization (such as an Emmaus 4th Day group, a clergy cluster, an AA group or some other kind), go talk to the folks involved and learn the stories of how they have come to live out such boldness with one another. Better yet, invite one or more of these folks to tell their story and invite others to join this way of bold discipleship with them.
Mark: Discipleship Everywhere, Even to the End of This Age
The end of the age is palpable in this week's reading from Mark's gospel. Nothing that seems established will finally stand. Not the temple (verse 2), nor nations (verses 7-8), nor the land (verse 8) nor the sky (verse 8) can be considered stable. Everything is or will be shaken. And the shaking itself, Jesus warns, is just birth pangs (verse 8), and just the beginning of those at that.
Jesus warns just as clearly that during the onset of these birth pangs, there will be lots of people claiming to be Messiah, to be the deliverer who can lead the way out of the birth pangs back to some sort of stability. All making such offers are false messiahs, he says. They are acting as if the age to come can be resisted and turned back. No, says Jesus. They are an intrinsic part of God's renovation of all things. Resistance turns out to be worse than futile. It is abortive!
In so describing the inevitability of such shaking on a global scale, Jesus is not calling for passivity, as if these things will happen and there's nothing we should do about it. To the contrary, they are clarion calls to disciples to stay on task, continuing to bring good news to the poor, forgive sinners, heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. Followers of Jesus cannot be passive and silent in the face of any evil, injustice or oppression which God, in baptism, calls us to resist in whatever forms they appear, local or global, interpersonal or ecological. We have work to do.
We engage this work, accepting the freedom and power Christ gives us (Hebrews), confident in who our God is and what God has been up to from the beginning. Our God made Hannah rejoice, makes us bold, and continues to undo all other powers that harm and destroy in all the earth. We are not the saviors. Jesus alone is Savior and Lord. Because he is Lord, and because he has inaugurated the age to come, we live light on what the world's powers deem solid foundations and "lean heavy" on Jesus, the Rock of our salvation.
Where are you seeing birth pangs, locally and globally? Who is putting themselves forward as Savior? How are folks modeling or learning what it means to live light on the apparent powers and "lean heavy" on Jesus?
- Greeting: UMBOW, 245 (2 Samuel)
- Greeting: UMBOW, 456 (Mark)
- Canticle: United Methodist Hymnal, 199, "Canticle of Mary" ("Magnificat") [1 Samuel]
- Canticle: United Methodist Hymnal, 734, "Canticle of Hope" (Hebrews, Mark)
- Opening Prayer: UMBOW, 252 (2 Samuel)
- Prayer of Confession: UMBOW, 486 (Mark)
- Prayer: United Methodist Hymnal, 495, "The Sufficiency of God" (1 Samuel)
- The Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Burkina Faso , Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger
- Prayer of Thanksgiving (if no Communion): UMBOW, 554 (1 Samuel, Mark)
- Great Thanksgiving: UMBOW, 70-71 or 54-55 (1 Samuel, Mark)
- Blessing: UMBOW, 561 (1 Samuel)
- The Song of Hannah
My heart rejoices in you, Lord.
My God has made me strong.
My mouth now sings your victory
O'er those despising me long.
No Rock, no Holy One like you
No judge, nor wiser one:
The proud now have no words to say
That you have not undone.
You've broken mighty warriors' bows,
And clad the weak with power.
The rich go wandering for food,
The poor all feast this hour.
The Lord brings life where none was found
And closes opened wombs;
Our God has rescued us from death
And freed us from our tombs.
The Lord brings riches to the poor,
And lifts them from the dust;
He makes them sit in princes' seat
And honors them with trust.
The Lord, the Maker of all things,
Will guard the faithful one;
God's thunders scatter wicked schemes.
God's justice shall be done.
Words: Taylor Burton-Edwards, based on I Samuel 2:1-10, in Common Meter (220.127.116.11)
Suggested Tune: MORNING SONG (UMH 198)
Please see "The Song of Hannah." in Sibelius and pdf formats.
Words Copyright 2006, Discipleship Ministries.
This text may be reproduced for congregational use or educational settings provided the following notice is included.
"Copyright 2006, Discipleship Ministries. Used by permission.
Call to Worship
Come, let us gather in the name of the Son of God, the son of David.
He rules over people justly,
ruling in the fear of God.
Jesus Christ is like the light of morning,
like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.
Adapted from 1 Samuel 23:3-4.
There are several segments in the Hebrews reading that might be adapted and used in the service:
"My Christian friends,
since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,
by the new and living way that he opened for us
through the curtain (that is, through his flesh),
and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
with our hearts sprinkled clean
from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22)
If using the Apostles' Creed or some other, the presider might call the congregation to confession using these words:
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. Let us join together in declaring our shared faith and hope, using The Apostles' Creed (or some other affirmation of the Christian faith).
The dismissal of the people prior to the blessing might include the words of Hebrews 10:24-25:
Deacon or assisting minister:
Consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,
meet together to encourage one another
as you see the Day approaching.
May the love of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit bless and keep you, now and always.
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