I spent a lot of time in the car last week – having to drive to the hospital in another city and then traveling yet again to meet with my clergy mentor. And as I did so, I kept thinking about how we can really ramp up energy for the fall and then sustain it. What would get people who haven’t been in a while to come back? What would be appealing for those in our community who have never checked out our church? How can we reach out and really start at the basics?
And then it hit me… back to school… back to the basics… what about focusing this fall, beginning with the return to our normal schedule/sunday school/3rd grade bible give out, on the ABC’s?
I struggle with the ABC’s of what… ABC’s of the church? ABC’s of faith? ABC’s of Christianity? So bear with me as I figure that one out… (or if you have suggestions – please comment!!!)
I’m also a fairly consistent lectionary preacher, so in thinking about this, I’ve been trying to figure out how each Sunday, from Aug 31 to Nov 23 (because then we start Lent), fits not only a letter, but also the weekly texts. Some have worked beautifully. Others, not so well. So I’m asking for some help.
1) Am I trying to hard to make this concept work?
2) Suggestions for the letters that have no direction yet (B, H, I, L)
Here is what I have so far:
A: Alpha/Omega or I AM
focusing on who God is, using the burning bush scriptures from Exodus, and combining this and the previous week’s gospels – Mt 16:13-28
B: Body of Christ, Blessed, ?
scriptures for the week include teaching on how to reach when someone offends you in the church, the institution of passover, and in Romans, the call to love and call to prepare for salvation by putting on Christ. Sidenote: after reading a sermon recently on Psalm 119 – I really was thinking about using “Bible” for my B… so that may be an entirely different direction
C: Care, Compassion, Community
scriptures include the law of forgiveness, the call not to judge one another, and the parting of the sea in exodus. Originally when I thought about this series, I really wanted to focus on care during this week – and to emphasize our role as a community to care for one another, and my desire to care for them. I’ve noticed that people don’t call me or tell me when something happens in their lives – like if they have to go in for surgery or suddenly end up in the hospital – which may be simply that they aren’t used to telling their pastor these things. I want to talk about how together we are supposed to care for each other.
D: Disciple (but I was really thinking about Doubt too)
scriptures: Paul’s exhortation to live lives worthy of the gospel, the parable of the landowner and the wages for workers, and if I went the doubt route – the manna and quails and the people grumbling in the wilderness
I really wanted to use Kenosis for K… and then realized that the Christ Hymn fell on the E Sunday – which is perfect! (since its the same concept)
F: Faith (and maybe Fear also) ooo… maybe Fall?
This is also World Communion Sunday – so I was stuck a bit. The scriptures for the week don’t fit really well with the scope of world communion Sunday and I was stretching trying to make fruit work. Scriptures are supposed to include the parable of the wicked tenants, the 10 commandments, and the example of Paul – I press on toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ. I could use the wicked tenants and the 10 commandments to talk about the Fall, and our place before God – why we need the law. But another idea is to actually take the readings from August 10 and use them here: Jesus walking on the water (faith and fear) along with Paul talking about faith and the idea that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all. (which I think works much better for World Communion Sunday). Thoughts?
This would be a great time to talk about grace from the Wesleyan perspective. I think the three main readings can help illustrate prevenient grace (the sinners invited to the feast), justifying grace (moses interceding after the golden calf), and sanctifying grace (stand firm, help one another, rejoice from Philippians)
H: Holy, Holy Spirit, Humility
I’m stuck here. Readings include Jesus call to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, as well as the pharisees trying to trap Jesus in questions; Moses having the chance to encounter God’s presence, but not being able to look at God’s face; and Paul giving thanks for the Thessalonians who received the gospel with power and the Holy Spirit. Could go lots of different ways.
I: ? Instruction? Idolatry?
Again, stuck here. Readings include the greatest command – to love, the death and burial of Moses, and Paul assuring the Thessalonians that he comes to bring them not only God’s word, but also their true hearts (you are witnesses to how blameless our conduct was towards you)
J: Joy, Journey, Jordan River
All Saints Sunday – which fits in PERFECTLY. Joshua is leading the people across the river Jordan where they remember the promise of God and leave 12 stones for remembrance, Paul gives thanks for witnesses, and Matthew warns against trying to be better, but that we should all be servants – what a great day to celebrate the saints among us who have passed before us?
K: Kingdom of God/Heaven
parable of the 10 bridesmaids (the kingdom of heaven will be like this!), choose this day who you will serve (Joshua)
L: ? (Lord, Light, Love, Law, Life, Lord’s Prayer, Logos)
readings include the parable of the talents; Paul claiming that the Lord will come like a theif in the night – so we should be children of the light; and simply the introduction of Deborah as a judge – not even the full story. Part of me wants to switch this week with the greatest command to love scriptures (week I) – which would mean going a different direction with week I (could they just be flip-flopped?)
Christ the King Sunday – Readings include the sheep and the goats, Christ as the head of the church, and Ezekiel’s description of the shepherd who seeks the lost.
That brings me to the first Sunday of Advent – which I want to focus on in its fullness.