Extended Advent 1
- 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
Isaiah 65:17-25 “After the Disaster,” Series Finale: All Things New. A prophecy of an entirely new world order inaugurated by God in which infant mortality is ended, everyone works and enjoys the fruit of their labor, and "They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain."
Isaiah 12 (TFWS 2030) or Psalm 118 (UMH 839). Consider using the Isaiah passage, and singing it. It is the more fitting of the two responses.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 “The Coming Judgment,” Week 3: God’s Judgment Calls Us to Work. Paul instructs the Christians in Thessalonica on the importance of work and avoiding the creation of an “idle class,” whether rich or poor.
Luke 21:5-19 “Keep on…” Series Finale: “Keep on Trusting Jesus. Jesus foretells of the destruction of the Temple, warns against being misled by alarmists, and anticipates dreadful times in which his followers must bear witness and will be given words, wisdom, and power to endure.
This is the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.
Next week, the Christian Year concludes with the celebration of Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday. The new Christian Year begins with Advent 1 on November 27.
So this week and next, we’re in a time of lots of year-end wrapping up. But wrapping up should not be seen as winding down! Quite the contrary, these weeks should be times of increased celebration leading into the launch of the new Christian Year.
The readings in the lectionary have now begun their turn toward “end of the world” or “new world coming” kinds of themes. This is for several reasons. We have reached the end of the gospel in our semi-continuous readings, and it is toward the end of each synoptic gospel that Jesus most explicitly addresses the end of this age and the culmination of all things in the one to come. We are also at the end of the church year as it has been constructed since the eleventh century, and so a focus in all three sets of readings on the end of things is quite appropriate. At the same time, however, the lectionary as we have it is built on much older precedents dating back to before the eleventh century when Pope Gregory VI called for a change to the timing for the start of Advent, reducing it to four weeks. Up to that point in the West, the end of the Christian Year was All Saints Day (November 1), and Advent began on the following Sunday. Advent, like Lent, had originally been constructed as a seven-week observance so it could function as a secondary time in the year for preparing candidates for baptism. These “end of the world” readings were originally part of the beginning of Advent.
While these helps will support the standard four-week Advent, keep in mind you have choices, including keeping a full six-week Advent (six weeks this year because of the relatively late date of All Saints Sunday), starting today. For more on doing so this year, view our webinar, “Celebrating Extended Advent in 2016,” with Suzanne Duschesne and Dr. Deborah Appler, United Methodists who have both studied and been part of Extended Advent for several years in their congregations. For more information on Extended Advent, see The Advent Project website.
For two other alternatives that start this Sunday, see Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully (2016-2017).
However you choose to observe Advent and Christmas Season, do your best to allow your congregation to experience and express the uniqueness and fullness of each, not shortchanging one for the other.
All Month Native American Heritage Month (USA)
November 13 Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday (USA) / International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church / Extended Advent Begins
November 20 Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday / Bible Sunday
November 24 Thanksgiving Day (USA)
November 27 Advent 1, Year A / United Methodist Student Day
December 1 World AIDS Day
December 21 Longest Night / Blue Christmas
December 24 Christmas Eve (Christmas Season continues through January 1/6)
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 Kwanzaa (Kwanzaa continues through January 1)
December 31 Watch Night / New Year’s Eve
January 1 Epiphany Sunday / New Year’s Day
January 8 Baptism of the Lord
January 11 Human Trafficking Awareness Day
January 15 Human Relations Day (2017 resources coming soon)
January 16 The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (USA)
January 18-25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
January 25 Ecumenical Sunday
Old Testament Stream: After the Disaster, Series Finale
All Things New
We conclude our “After the Disaster” series today with “Third” Isaiah’s vision of all things made new.
In Judaism, and in particular in Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, this text gives life to the principle of Tikkun Olam, the healing of the world. It calls Jewish people to participate in the healing of the world now, in whatever ways they can—from simple acts of mercy to other individuals, to political action for social, political, economic or environmental change.
For Christians, this is an Advent text that speaks of the age to come already breaking into our own timeline. Jesus boldly declared, again and again, that the new heavens and new earth were already happening, that God’s kingdom was even then in our midst though still yet to come in its fullness. The seeds that would lead to the kingdom’s flowering and abundant harvest had been planted everywhere and could not be stopped from germinating and spreading. The signs of this promise are all around us if we have eyes to see them and ears to hear them. Ours is to call attention to those signs, nurture them into full blossom wherever and however we can, and rejoice to bring in the harvest.
In Your Planning Team
Worship series work best when there are clear beginnings and endings, and the transitions between the parts work smoothly.
Beginnings need to grab attention and hold interest. They make the case for everything to follow.
Endings need to deliver on the promises made by the beginnings and take folks to the next level. They also need to provide some kind of segue into what’s coming next. What’s coming next in this case is Christ the King Sunday (next week) and the beginning of Advent (unless you’re following one of the alternative plans, and you’ve already begun Advent in some way).
So as you plan for today, be mindful of making a good ending to this series. Remind yourselves what promises were made in the opening. Review the course of this series—Mourn, Cope, Hope, Promise, Wait, Persevere, and now All Things New. Plan some kind of response to the word in this service that acts as an appropriate culminating response for your people where you are. This may be a call to discipleship, or a time of testimony, or a celebration of ways “All Things New” is already happening, or ways that kind of vision continues to inspire and challenge folks in your congregation to keep on working on to see a new day beyond the aftermath. Consider, too, offering a service of the baptismal covenant, whether baptism or reaffirmation. We have no stronger ritual of “all things new” than the sacrament of baptism.
Though this is the second Sunday of the month, if you do not already celebrate Communion weekly, consider doing so today as a “capstone” for this series, especially if you are also celebrating a service of the baptismal covenant. As the concluding rubrics of our baptismal ritual reminds (see BOW 94), “It is most fitting that the service continue with Holy Communion, in which the union of new members with the body of Christ is most fully expressed. The new members, including children, may receive first.” Depending on the number of persons being received as baptized or professing members, you may wish to invite these persons also to be servers for the rest of the congregation today.
Isaiah’s vision suggests a good number of folks in your congregation and community whose stories may inform or be heard or seen in worship today. Send team members to talk with healthcare workers or community leaders who are working to reduce infant mortality, people helping others find sustainable work, reconcilers who are reducing violence in your community, and others Isaiah’s vision suggests to you. As you interview these people, ask them also to say how they see God’s vision for “all things new” being fulfilled in what they’re doing.
Epistle Stream: Mission in the World but not of It
The Coming Judgement, Week 3
God's Judgment Calls Us to Work
We Christians have a message to embody and bring to our own culture about work. Today’s text from 2 Thessalonians shows us the way.
Apparently, for at least some in the budding Christian community in Thessalonica, work had come to be considered an option, and more of a burden than a blessing. Paul rebukes that tendency directly: “Whoever doesn’t work doesn’t eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
This was no critique of those who were poor and could not physically work to support themselves for whatever reasons. Of course, the community cared for these people and provided them with daily bread. Rather, Paul’s admonition appears to be aimed more at some of the wealthier members of the community who actually did not need to work to support themselves and so could choose lives of “idleness,” becoming “mere busybodies” (verse 11). Very likely, too, it was intended to stave off Christians deciding to cease regular labors in expectation of Christ’s second coming, the major theme of this whole letter.
What we see here, then, is a searing Christian critique of one of the ideals of Greek culture—the ultimate value of the “leisure class.” These were the “scholars” (schole means “leisure” in Greek, and the word becomes the basis for the Latin word scola, or school). These were the philosophers. These were the purveyors of truth and wisdom. In Greek culture, these people did not do “common labor” at all. That meant they either lived off of their own wealth, or, in the case of non-wealthy teachers or traveling philosophers, survived on the wealth of others.
Paul, as a traveling teacher of truth and wisdom, could certainly have expected to have been treated as one of these “scholars” and so to have had his needs provided for. But most often he did not do that. Instead, he paid for everything he received after having worked day and night to get the money to do so (verses 7-9). He continued to see work as a blessing, not a curse, and to draw a connection between physical labor and the food that would be on his table. Leisure was not the highest good, especially when having it increased the possibility for individuals to become destroyers (“busybodies”) rather than builders of community.
The messages around work in U.S. culture are mixed, to say the least. We call ourselves a hard-working nation, and we are. According to the World Economic Forum, of the 38 industrialized countries participating in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US ranks sixteenth in the number of average hours per worker, about 34.5 hours per week (Mexico is highest at around 43 hours per week, followed by South Korea at 41.6). At the same time, our entertainment culture glamorizes the leisure life, and our consumer behavior ratifies and reflects that. Of the ten best-selling products of all time (per Wall Street 24/7) eight are either primarily or substantially for leisure use (six if you do not count the iPhone and the iPad). We claim we are a hard-working nation, and compared to many, we are; but we can’t wait until Friday when the “work week” is done— or whenever we actually can get a day or a few hours off in the 24/7 service economy we now inhabit.
Paul neither glorifies nor vilifies work. He simply calls all to pursue it, with the aim that none will grow weary in doing good toward all (verse 13). Our Lord Jesus will return. Judgment will come. “Work, for the Night Is Coming,” says the familiar hymn. Work now. It is not until night comes that our work is done.
In Your Planning Team
In This Series
You are at week three of four. With All Saints, Week two had a significant boost in drama and ritual richness. Next week is Christ the King, another significant day in the Church Year, and culmination of both this series and the whole Season after Pentecost. While you could decide to let this be a bit of a “lull between celebrations” week, the better strategy may be to keep building the ritual energy from last week to next.
One way to do that today, and a most appropriate way given this series, might be to include a strong affirmation of our commitment to keep working in light of God’s coming judgment, such as The World Methodist Social Affirmation (UMH 886), or the Social Creed, or the Companion Litany to the Social Creed as a response to the preached word. Also consider singing “Work, for the Night Is Coming,” perhaps verses 1 and 2, before reading the epistle lesson, and verse 3 afterward. Or you may wish to zero in on particular vows of the baptismal covenant, such as renouncing spiritual forces of wickedness, rejecting evil, repenting of sin, accepting the freedom and power Christ offers to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves in union with the whole church, or being Christ’s representatives in the world in all we say and do. Or you may wish to celebrate a reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant (Spanish) followed by the celebration of Holy Communion.
To set up the tension between cultural teaching about work, then and now, versus Paul’s Christian teaching here, consider sending out team members for more “person on the street” interviews. Ask two simple questions, get your clearance forms signed, and share the results (if not the video) to help set the stage for the reading of 2 Thessalonians and the sermon.
Ask: “How do you feel about the work you do for a living?”
“Would you say you …
“(a) work for the weekend,”
“(b) work to make ends meet,” or
“(c) work because you have to” or
“(d)work to help myself, my family and my community.”
They can pick more than one. Be sure to thank folks for their answers and their honesty, whatever they shared.
The video, audio, or data you gather from this may help you develop additional images, artwork, posters, or signs to place around your worship space reflecting both the call to disciples to work and the wider culture’s attitudes about work and leisure.
Gospel Stream: Learning from the Master
Keep on… : Series Finale
Keep on Trusting Jesus
As we’ve already noted, today’s texts set the tone for Advent. The gospel reading is a full-on Advent text.
Today we hear Jesus describe the “end of the world as we know it” in terms more frightening than hopeful. “Wars and insurrections” are not, says Jesus, clear signs of the end of the age. No. That kind of turmoil is simply situation normal for world history. “Portents and signs in the heavens,” often considered across many cultures to be “sure signs” of the end are instead, Jesus says, simply part of the inevitable and regular sufferings of this present age (verse 9).
And it only gets worse. Jesus goes on to tell his disciples to expect all of these things to be happening, and to experience persecution on top of it all.
They will escape none of this. The question for disciples is, how will we live in the midst of it, here and now?
Finally, we get some modicum of assurance from Jesus. “I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand,” Jesus teaches (verse 15). There will be disasters of all sorts. Your own lives will be threatened. Keep your eyes on me. Keep your ears open for my guidance. Trust. Listen. Period.
Chances are high that if you are Christians in the United States, you are experiencing no real persecution. People may disagree with you. Government policies may not be what you prefer. But no one is out to arrest you, torture you, or execute you because of your faith.
So what can this text possibly say to you and your congregation?
If U.S. and Western cultures are generally not out to threaten your safety or destroy your body, they are nonetheless out to capture your allegiance from following the way of Jesus and declaring and embodying the good news of God’s kingdom. There are many forces out to use you as a marketer for their products, services, or political, social, or economic agendas for the sake of their gain, not necessarily for the common good or in witness to God’s kingdom. There are many forces out to redirect your desire from desiring the kingdom of God above all else to desiring what they want you to desire.
Jesus instructed his disciples long ago in the face of all kinds of upheavals and direct threats against their bodies and their relationships to do one thing: Always keep trusting and listening to my voice. You’ll be given what is needed.
The world doesn’t need to persecute us to stop us. It only needs to divert us. Wars, uprisings, portents, even threats, these are all diversions. They take our eyes off Jesus. They call us to trust in their impressive power, and to reduce our trust in him. The world in modern Western cultures, if anything, has gotten better at not needing to resort to such extreme measures when it can manipulate our desires to its ends.
And it can. And it does. All the time.
Trust Jesus. Keep trusting him. Listen for Jesus. Help one another listen. Re-divert your attention, and help others be re-diverted back to Jesus. His is the wisdom. His are the true words. His is the power to enable us to endure with faithfulness what none of us can escape (there is no “rapture” described here!) as great tribulation falls upon the earth.
The world as we know it is ending. It doesn’t want to. But it is surely ending, superseded by the coming of the kingdom of God. Do not be afraid or anxious. Do not try to defend yourself or the world from what God’s kingdom brings, and breaks! Rejoice in every sign of the kingdom’s coming.
And keep trusting Jesus.
In Your Planning Team
In The Series
Today is the series finale. Next week is the “segue week” that is at once the “other bookend” of the Season after Pentecost (the first is Trinity Sunday) and the transition to Advent 1.
The gospel lesson for this final service in this series couldn’t be a better finale. It itself points to the finale of all things, then calls disciples, then and now, to keep on doing everything we’ve been focusing on these past seven weeks. Keep on obeying, keep on healing all, keep on praying, keep on trusting in God’s mercy, keep on seeking and saving the lost (their number will only seem to increase as the end draws nearer!), keep on practicing resurrection, and through it all, and especially the worst of times, keep on trusting in God’s provision to keep on bearing witness to God’s kingdom coming as faithful disciples of Jesus.
As the reading from Matthew itself says, today gives you an opportunity to testify (verse 13). Today is a day for your congregation to hear this story in Scripture and ways people in your congregation or wider community can bear witness to the fruits of trusting Jesus to give what is needed in times of extreme stress and adversity.
Perhaps today may be an occasion for an invitation—an altar call or some other action that calls for some kind of personal response—to receive the good news that if our desires have been diverted or held in thrall by other voices, Jesus is still speaking, and he calls us all to trust only him once again. Jesus, calling o’er the tumult of our lives’ wild, restless seas, still says, “Christian, follow me.” (UMH 398).
Embodying the Word: Sending Forth for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
New heavens and earth are coming!
We will not make them come
and we cannot hasten that day.
It is in God’s hands, and God is faithful.
The signs of new heavens and earth are already here!
People live longer. Fewer babies die.
Diseases are being stopped.
Peace between neighbors and nations can happen, and does happen.
The Spirit sends each of us from this place
to see these signs of new creation, bear witness,
join the work where we can,
invite others into it, labor with them,
suffer and rejoice together, and praise God
as we follow Jesus Christ.
So go in the Spirit’s power!
We will serve in the wisdom of Jesus!
Love and bless all with all the compassion of our Triune God. Amen.
There is work fit for each of us,
work that rejoices our hearts.
There is work we simply must do.
And there is work that we hate to do,
that even seems to demean us.
The day of rest is not for idleness but refreshment
that we may do all the work before us
with grateful and generous hearts.
Let the Spirit rest you this day.
Spirit, rest us this day!
Now go! Expect the Spirit to drive you to labor
with boldness, power, and grace
in all the places and all the ways,
doing good to all the people
among whom Jesus surely leads you. Amen.
There are wars and rumors of war.
We trust Jesus.
There are signs of destruction to come,
signs of terrorism and nuclear war,
signs of environmental disaster.
We trust Jesus.
There are a thousand things we can do today:
Sports, shopping, movies, texting, games, fun with friends,
and things we may be tempted to enjoy but not want some others to know.
We trust Jesus.
Jesus sends us into this world,
with its wars, its fears, it troubles,
its distractions, its diversions, and its temptations.
We trust Jesus,
and we follow him into this world,
not out of it!
Listen to his voice.
Rely on the Spirit’s strength.
Trust the love of the one he called Father.
We are sent to speak and live with one another
and our neighbors
as living signs of God’s Truth.
Greeting BOW 453 (Isaiah), BOW 274 (Isaiah, Isaiah canticle), BOW 245 (Isaiah), BOW 379 (Isaiah), BOW 243 (Isaiah)
Opening Prayer BOW 511, "For God's Reign" (Isaiah, Luke), BOW 460 (2 Thessalonians), UMH 409, "For Grace to Labor" (2 Thessalonians), BOW 399/400, "The Day of Pentecost" (Luke)
WORD AND RESPONSE
Prayers of the People
UMH 877 (consider using this form or its musical version in TFWS 2201)
The Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Gabon, Sao Tomé and Principe
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
Confession and Pardon: UMH 7-8, BOW 479 (Isaiah)
Thanksgiving if no communion BOW 554 (Isaiah, Luke), BOW 555 (2 Thessalonians, last item)