Third Sunday in Lent 2018 — Planning Notes



Reading Notes

NRSV texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé

Calendar Notes

The primary color for Lent is purple.    

March 11       UMCOR Sunday
                       Daylight Saving Time Change Song (Spring) (USA)
March 25      Passion/Palm Sunday
                      Holy Week Series Begins
March 29      Maundy/Holy Thursday
March 30      Good Friday
March 31      Holy Saturday (until Sundown)
                      Easter Eve/Easter Vigil (after Sundown)

April 1           
Easter Day
                      Easter Series Begins
April 15        
Native American Ministries Sunday
April 22         Festival of God’s Creation
April 25         World Malaria Day

All Month       Christian Home Month (2018 Theme: Families Called to Peace, forthcoming)
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May 3              National Day of Prayer
May 4              May Friendship Day (UMW/CWU)
May 7-13        
Christian Family Week (2018 resources forthcoming)
May 10            
Ascension Day
May 13            Ascension Sunday
                        Festival of the Christian Home/Mother’s Day (USA)
May 19-20      
Change the World Weekend
May 20           Day of Pentecost
                       Heritage Sunday (forthcoming)
May 24           
Aldersgate Day
May 27           Trinity Sunday
                       Peace with Justice Sunday
May 28           Memorial Day (USA)

Pray for annual conferences convening throughout the month, for all receiving new appointments or assignments, for those leaving existing appointments or assignments, and for congregations and other ministries receiving new leadership. 

For Your Planning Team — LENT 3, REHAB: Program

We are now mid-series in a five-week series. This is where the energy for the series as a whole can most easily flag, and where every effort needs to be made to make sure that doesn’t happen.

One of the ways we propose to help that not happen is by taking our “usual” worship order and mixing it up a little bit today — while in point of larger historical practice, actually following a Lenten practice with long historical precedent. We’ve begun the service with a recitation of the Ten Commandments in the form of a penitential order. This was standard practice in the Western Church and in the Church of England for centuries, and it was carried over by John Wesley into the Sunday Service he gave Methodists in America. The 1784 Christmas Conference adopted it as the founding ritual of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The language is modernized. The practice has much older roots.

What is different is the penitential order was normally a preface to the rest of worship. Today, it doubles as the reading of the Scripture for the day. So the song of illumination (we chose a song here rather than a prayer to help “re-sync” the congregation after the more chaotic exchange of peace) also has a slightly different role than usual. Normally, a song or prayer of illumination prepares us to hear the Scriptures read. Today, it functions more as a reflection on the Scripture, pardon, and peace already experienced, and a preparation to hear the Scripture applied in the sermon that immediately follows. This, too, has some precedent in other Methodist practice, that of our black churches in the U.S., where there is often a song or prayer not only before the Scripture, but also immediately before the sermon.

Today’s service within this series, perhaps more than the others in the series so far, depends a lot on the sermon. The idea that the Ten Commandments form the basis of our program of Christian living is not new in Christianity or in Methodism or Methodist ritual. Indeed, it’s bedrock. Methodists are different from some other Protestants in that we are not, as John Wesley often used the term, “antinomian” (against the idea that the law matters for Christian life). We affirm God gave the law for all who will be in covenant with God to fulfill. And we live within the mainstream of the Catholic and Anglican tradition of “making use of all the means of grace.” This Methodist distinctive has often gotten us accused by other Protestants of promoting “works righteousness.” The accusations then and now are false. What we promote is what Jesus himself taught, that those who love him keep his commandments, and he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it and make it possible for us to do the same, being made perfect in love. We study Scripture and pray and attend upon the other ordinances of God, not as ends in themselves — indeed, to do that would be to commit works righteousness —but as means of grace, means God has offered to teach us, form us, and transform us, not simply as we study them and commune with God, but as we put what we learn in such study and communion into practice. As I put it in French in teaching this to our leaders in Kinshasa, Congo, “Les oeuvres nous ouvrent.” The works open us to the living experience of divine grace.  

The rest of the service proceeds as the pattern of the services we have laid out so far this season — a call for response, prayers of the people framed by the theme of the day, and Communion or an alternative act of thanksgiving, followed by the sending forth. So the flow of the service overall moves from what may be for some the somewhat unfamiliar to what will have become, through the series, the more familiar, maintaining the coherence of the series as a whole.

Additional Resources for this Service

2015 Planning Helps for these readings

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: (Click link to find countries for this week when they are posted)