For Sunday January 29, 2017
Year A, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Call to Worship (Responsive)
Adapted from Psalm 15
L: O LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain?
P: The ones whose walk is blameless;
L: The ones who do what is righteous;
P: The ones who speak the truth from their hearts.
L: The ones whose tongues utter no slander;
P: The ones who do no wrong to a neighbor.
L: Whoever does these things will never be shaken;
P: Thanks be to God! Amen!
We are gathered O God in the Holy Name of your Son, Jesus the Christ. We have come out of our love for you and desire to please you. As we come together, Almighty and Wonderful God, we ask your blessing. We bring before you our offerings: our love for justice, our desire for kindness and our willingness to walk humbly with you. Guide our Spirits and fill our hearts with a desire for you and your will. We offer ourselves in worship of Jesus Christ.
First Corinthians 1: 26 reads: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” We toss around the language of “call” frequently in the church. Most often, we are talking about Ministers and their response to God’s call on their lives. Other times we talk about ways God calls us to serve the mission of the church. Nominating committees are famous for using “call” to find one more Elder. Others are called to sing in the choir or praise band, serve as committee chairs, or even be moderator of the church. But there is one thing we are all called to do: support the mission of THIS church. The easiest way to do that is to faithfully bring your tithes and offerings. They may not be a king’s ransom, representing your noble birth, they may not have the power and might of the Bill Gates Foundation, but they are yours, and bringing them is wise. Together we do far more than we would ever do apart. As Disciples, a relatively small group in the North American Religious scene, we have outreach ministries on which the sun never sets, we founded and support colleges and universities with world renown, and we house, clothe and feed thousands of people every day. Though none of us are Rockefellers or even Wal-Mart Waltons, together, we do great things. Let us now bring the tithes and offerings which alone might seem weak or even foolish, and bring them together for the glory of God.
O Noble God of might and wisdom. We bring forth these gifts today in confidence that you will be able to do great things with them. Take these tithes and offerings, bless and multiply them that the world may come to know your greatness, and we the givers may rest assured that we have followed our call to serve your mission. Amen.
Around the Lord’s Table, I find myself drawn to the fourth Beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”. Bread and Cup seem to blend so well with Hunger and Thirst. But if that is true, where does righteousness fit in? Is it righteous to simply accept the gift of Bread and Cup? Is it righteous to embrace the teachings and the Commandments of Christ symbolized in the Bread and Cup? Is righteousness found in the forgiveness of sin we seek as we come to the table? I think yes, yes, and yes again. The beauty of this Table, friends, is that we seek the righteousness of God, in all those ways and more, and this table reminds us not so much that WE are righteous, but that God is. We come hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness, and God gives us Bread and Cup: reminders of Christ, and Christ’s righteousness.
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Year A, Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Call to Worship (Responsive)
Adapted from Psalm 27
L: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
P: The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
L: Hear, O LORD, when we cry aloud;
P: Be gracious to us, and answer when we call.
L: My heart says, “Come, and seek God’s face.”
P: We come seeking to behold your Holy Presence.
L: Do not hide your face from us, or turn away in anger,
P: For you alone are the God of our salvation.
Even in the days of Winter, when the days are short and the weather is cold, we come, O God. We come because we want to draw nearer to you. We come to be in joyous fellowship with one another. We come to celebrate. We come to mourn. We come to catch a glimpse of your new day dawning, of your reign coming on earth. Again, we have come. Fill our spirits, enlighten our minds, use the words and actions of our servant leaders to break more fully into our lives. For we come in the name of your Son, Jesus the Christ.
Imagine with me that we are about to have a meeting. The topic: how should we divide this week’s offerings. Do you think there would be a disagreement? Would there be discord? Would every idea be embraced? Obviously we do not do that. Why? Because the receiving and redistribution of money is not what the offering is about. Offering is about our opportunity to return to God some thanks for our blessings. Offering is about showing our allegiance to the overall mission of God and our love for God. We bring offerings because it is hard to set aside money to give, but it is even harder not to give to something you love. Because the cause of Christ IS something we love; because the Great Commission IS something we believe in; we will now receive our tithes and offerings.
We bring before you, O God, these tithes and offerings. We give them out of love for you and passion for the Gospel. We pray that you will use them, O God, to increase your reign on earth, as it is in heaven.
Matthew 4:17 tells us that after John the Baptist had been arrested Jesus began to preach “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”; and began to call together the Disciples. The launching point of Jesus’ ministry was born out loss – the loss of his cousin, John. The ministry of this table was also born out of loss – the sacrifice of the life of Christ. Yet in our case, there is a happy ending. We know now that this table is not only born in death, but in its defeat of death. Come to this table knowing that it is indeed a sign that the kingdom of heaven has come near.
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Scripture Quotations from the New Revised Standard Version. Online Scripture links a service of the Jean and Alexander Heard Divinity Library, of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. Check out all of the awesome resources there at http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu