Worship Resources for May 19, 2024—Pentecost

This post is the last of the weekly worship resources for Rev-o-lution. For the time being, I will be taking a break to focus on other projects. I may occasionally post an updated resource. In the meantime, the site will remain for you to peruse—you can look through the archives for previous resources.

I am hoping to make a hosting transfer at some point and reorganize the website—I will post if the website will be down for any length of time while that happens. If I’m able to find an affordable option and an easy transfer, I will keep the website up longer. As for now, I am keeping it up at least through November 2024.

Thank you again for your support over the years. I have been glad to provide this resource for free because I know most churches and pastors have limited resources.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 2:1-21 or Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:22-27 or Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Narrative Lectionary: Gifts of the Spirit, Acts 2:1-4, 1 Corinthians 12:1-13 (Mark 1:4-8)

The arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts takes place on the day of Pentecost, meaning fifty, marks fifty days after Easter. Shavuot, the Jewish spring festival of the first fruits of harvest, takes place fifty days after Passover and commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It was one of the pilgrimage festivals in which Jewish people from all over the Roman Empire would come to Jerusalem. Many of them only spoke a little Hebrew that was needed for worship and were native speakers of the local languages from where they lived. When the disciples began speaking to them in their own languages, they were astounded. For the disciples had experienced the Holy Spirit while they were gathered together, like the rush of a violent wind, and divided tongues as of fire had rested on their heads. Peter proclaims to the crowds, some of whom are grumbling that the disciples are drunk, that this is the work of the Holy Spirit, prophesied by the prophet Joel, and that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.

An alternative reading to Acts is Ezekiel 37:1-14. The prophet Ezekiel was told by God to prophesy to a valley of dry bones. Ezekiel lived during the time of the Babylonian Empire’s conquest into Judah and later siege of Jerusalem. All he could see was death and destruction, probably an old battlefield. God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, and they rose up. However, there was no breath in them. Then God told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath, and they became alive. God declared that though the people of Israel had been without hope, God would bring them hope. God would bring them back to live in the land they were promised, even if God had to open the graves to do it.

Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise to God, giving thanks for creation. In vs. 24-34, 35b, the psalmist sings of how all God’s creatures are made from God’s wisdom, and how God provides for them. However, when their breath is taken from them, they die and return to the dust. When God sends forth the spirit, they are renewed. The psalmist sings praise for all of creation and rejoices in God the creator.

Paul writes of all creation groaning in labor pains, until now, in Romans 8:22-27. All of humanity and creation has been waiting for redemption. Paul reminds the church in Rome that while they are groaning, they are waiting for a hope unseen, and the Spirit intercedes in their prayers with “sighs too deep for words.” God knows our hearts because of the work of the Spirit in us.

(If Ezekiel is chosen as the first passage, then Acts 2:1-21 is used instead of Romans 8:22-27).

Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as the Advocate to come in John 15:26-27, and 16:4b-15. Before Jesus’s arrest and death, he knew some of the disciples were afraid and full of sadness. Nonetheless, Jesus told them he must die in order for the Advocate to come. The Holy Spirit as Advocate would prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment, and the Spirit would guide the disciples into the truth and declare what is to come.

The Narrative Lectionary also focuses on the Gifts of the Spirit, beginning with the first four verses of Acts 2, how the Holy Spirit rested on the disciples and gave them each the gift of tongues. This passage is paired with 1 Corinthians 12:1-13. This community of Corinthians is primarily Greek, and Paul reminds them that when they were pagans, they followed and worshiped idols, but now they worship one God. All good gifts come from the Holy Spirit, and only good works are done through the Holy Spirit. Though they have many gifts, like a body has many parts, they are one in the body of Christ.

In the supplementary verses of Mark 1:4-8, John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The people of Jerusalem came out to be baptized by him, but John told them he only baptized them with water, but the one coming after him was more powerful, and would baptize them with the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit that breathes new life in us. It may sound harsh, but perhaps the church has become a valley of dry bones—once full of life, but now brittle and fragile, not doing anything but lying there. We are reminded that between the Ascension (Acts 1:1-8) and Pentecost (2:1-21) when the believers gathered together they numbered about 120 persons (1:14-15). The rest of chapter 1 is spent determining who would replace Judas. And while they were still faithful and praying, the church did not do much before they received the Holy Spirit. We might be in that liminal time between the Ascension and Pentecost, when we are in prayer and discernment, waiting for what to do next. Far too often we are concerned with filling the places open in leadership (and if you recall, we never hear about Matthias again). Nonetheless, the time spent in prayer and discernment is still important.

As a regional executive minister, I have witnessed many churches sitting in this liminal time, unsure of what to do next. Some are trying to gather bones together but without the Spirit, they keep falling apart. Some are just busy with trying to fill the roles the past (with bylaws from decades ago). Yet some are taking time to pray and gather together faithfully. And yes, there are churches who have experienced new life and are connecting to the community and doing amazing things. To me, while that is the goal, it is also okay to be in that space of waiting as long as we are praying and preparing. If we are simply doing the jobs we’ve always done in the church, we are like dry bones. If we are just doing church as we’ve always done it, we’ll become brittle (and bitter) and lifeless. But we must recognize where the Holy Spirit is at work and embrace it, be filled with it, and go into the world as Jesus called us.

This is my prayer for you all, as these weekly reflections and resources come to an end (for now, at least). That you will experience where the Holy Spirit is guiding your congregation. That you will discern the gifts the Holy Spirit has given you and use them for Christ and the church to participate in the reign of God now. And that if you are in that space of uncertainty, remember that the labor pains are a difficult place to be, but God is birthing something new, and we can participate in it now. Pray, listen, discern—and go.

Call to Worship (Psalm 104:31, 33-35b)
May the glory of the Lord endure forever,
May we rejoice in God’s works!
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live,
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May our meditations be pleasing to God,
For we rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

Prayer of Invocation
Holy Spirit, enter into this place! Enter into our hearts and minds. Open us to new insights and ideas. May we be moved out of complacency into curiosity and wonder. May we be inspired and encouraged in our love of Christ and our love for one another. May we live into the newness of life breathed into us. Holy Spirit, revive us in this time of worship, now and always! Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Everlasting God, we have been waiting, waiting, waiting a long time. We are both impatient and stubborn as well as hesitant and skeptical. We pray for revival and yet we don’t want to be uncomfortable. We pray for things to change for the future, but we often want to go back to the past. We know we must be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, but we don’t want to learn a new dance. Call us to acknowledge the limits we have placed on ourselves, O God. Help us to be honest and to know that You desire so much more for us and for the world. Remind us of what Your Son taught us, that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to follow him. Remind us that we must die to the ways of this world, to our own selfishness and self-centeredness, to have new life. For Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and in whom we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (Romans 8:22-27)
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Spirit has interceded for us, and will help us. Call upon God and know God’s forgiveness. Participate in God’s restorative and reparative work, and participate in God’s Good News now. Pray fervently, and know that God’s greatest gift to the world is Jesus Christ, and Jesus has called you. You are needed. You are loved. You are called. So go, love one another, and help participate in the reign of Christ on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Prayer
Blessed Spirit, we thank You for all Your good gifts—for the ways we show love and care and concern for one another. We thank You for the gift of courage to speak up and act for justice in a world of oppression. We thank You for the gift of wisdom to know when to listen and to be open to change in our hearts and lives. We thank You for the gift of insight to know when we can contribute to the community in caring for each other’s needs. We thank You for all the gifts You have given us. May we remember we always have a gift from You, that we always have something to give to each other and to participate in this world, and that Your gift of love is available to all. We know this gift best through Your Son, Jesus Christ, in whom we live, move, and have our being. Amen.

Worship Resources for May 12, 2024—Ascension Sunday, Seventh Sunday of Easter, Mother’s Day

A note on Rev-o-lution:

After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.

I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.

It has become more difficult to say something new week after week, and also, I’m now writing novels, and it has taken more of my time than I can give. Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary
Ascension of the Lord: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or Psalm 93; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

Narrative Lectionary: Death Swallowed in Life, 1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 51-57 (Mark 12:26-27a)

Acts 1:1-11 contains the second of Luke’s account of Jesus’ ascension (the first is the gospel lesson, Luke 24:44-53). In this version in Acts, the author of Luke begins with a similar introduction to the Gospel in his name, speaking of Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, in which Jesus “presented many convincing proofs” and stayed with the disciples for 40 days. Jesus speaks to the disciples before his ascension that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit soon. The disciples, however, ask the question about the kingdom being restored to Israel. It seems they are still focused on worldly concerns. Jesus tells them it is not for them to know, but they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and be witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth. Then Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Two angels ask them why they are still looking up toward heaven, for Jesus will return in the same way they saw him go. In other words, Jesus has told them what is to happen soon, the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and they are to go to the ends of the earth—not to be fixated on what has happened, or to wait passively, but to go and share the Gospel. Twice the disciples seem stuck, on an ideal of a worldly kingdom, or on the Jesus they thought they knew. First Jesus, and then the heavenly messengers, remind the disciples they must move on from where they were and how they previously thought.

Psalm 47 is a song calling the congregation to praise God. God chose the people to be God’s heritage. God is the one who reigns over all the nations of the earth, and the people praise God as their king.

Psalm 93 is similar to Psalm 47, belonging to a group of psalms that are songs of praise for God who is the people’s king, the ruler over all the earth’s nations. In this psalm, God also rules over creation, and God is greater than the roaring floodwaters. All of creation praises God, who is everlasting and reigns from ancient times. The psalmist concludes by proclaiming God’s law as trustworthy and true.

In the introduction to the letter to the Ephesians, the writer (purporting to be Paul) prays for “a spirit of wisdom and revelation” for those coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord. The writer declares that Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God, and all power and authority and dominion falls under his feet. Christ is the head of the church, which is his body, and the fullness of Christ is known through the church.

In Luke’s first account of the ascension of Jesus, Jesus explains the scriptures from the Torah, prophets, and writings, so that the disciples have a new understanding of who Jesus is as the Messiah, that he was to suffer and die and on the third day rise. The disciples are witnesses of what Jesus has done, and Jesus tells them to wait until they have “been clothed with power from on high” (received the Holy Spirit). In this account, as he was blessing them, he withdrew to heaven and the disciples returned to the temple in Jerusalem to praise God.

For the seventh Sunday of Easter, the Revised Common Lectionary readings also begin in Acts 1, just a few verses later, when Peter speaks in front of the gathered believers. At this time, before the day of Pentecost, there are only one hundred twenty left. Peter declares that they need someone to replace Judas. Two names were brought forward, and they cast lots. Matthias was chosen to be added to the disciples to be among the twelve, though Matthias is not mentioned elsewhere in the scriptures.

Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm, reminding the listener/reader that those who meditate on God’s instructions and find delight into living into God’s ways are blessed and happy, trees who are nourished by streams of water. Those who are foolish and wicked are like chaff blown about in the wind and will not stand in the congregation of the faithful. God watches over those who live into God’s ways; the foolish will fall away.

The Revised Common Lectionary concludes its epistle series of 1 John with 5:9-13. Those who believe in the Son have this testimony in their hearts: God’s love. God’s testimony is greater than human testimony. The testimony is this: God has given us eternal life that is found in Jesus. Whoever has Jesus has life, and whoever does not have the Son of God in their life does not have this life. The writer states this so that those who have Jesus in their life will know that they have eternal life.

Jesus prays for his disciples in John 17:6-19. As part of his final discourse with the disciples, Jesus prays for God’s protection to be with them as he is returning to God. Jesus prays that they would be one, as he is one with God. Jesus has sent them out into the world with God’s word, and the world has hated them, but they do not belong to the world, they belong to God. However, Jesus prays that they might be sanctified in truth and protected, for he knows his own betrayal, arrest, and death are coming.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the defeat of death, swallowed up in life in 1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 51-57. Paul began his argument for belief in resurrection with his understanding of scripture in that Christ died for our sins, that Christ appeared to the disciples and others, and that Paul himself had an encounter with the risen Christ. Paul then shifted his argument against the Corinthians who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead—if they don’t believe this, they deny that Christ rose. Paul uses the metaphor of Adam as the first human being, in which we all share in death, and Christ as the firstborn of the resurrection, in which we all share in eternal life. Christ rules over everything, even death. Paul declared that we will all receive the resurrection, our bodies transformed, mortality conquered by immortality and death swallowed up in victory.

In the supplementary verses of Mark 12:26-27a, Jesus spoke of the resurrection to some Sadducees who had questioned him. Jesus reminded them that God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, and how Scripture records that God said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”—the patriarchs long gone—for God is the God of the living, not of the dead.

In a sense, Ascension Sunday and/or the Seventh Sunday of Easter mirrors Reign of Christ Sunday. As Reign of Christ Sunday prepares for the new year, for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, seasons of the Incarnation, Ascension prepares us for Pentecost, the season of the Holy Spirit. This is Christ triumphant over death and sin. This is Christ who not only rose from the dead but now is seated with God in the heavenly realm. This is Christ who conquered death. This is Christ who has promised something more to us—the Holy Spirit as our Advocate and Comforter and Sustainer—and who will be with us forever. This is Christ who reigns over all, and will see us through.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 47:1-2, 6-8)
Clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome,
God reigns over the whole earth.
Sing praises to God, sing praises,
For God reigns over the whole earth!
Sing praises with a psalm,
For God reigns over all!

Prayer of Invocation
God of New Beginnings, today is a new day. We have this fresh start. Help us to turn our hearts and minds to You, to realign our lives this week to Your ways. We remember and give thanks for all You have taught us, and for the ways You continue to surprise us, through the stories of old and the new testimonies we receive, for You are the Living God, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Eternal One, we confess that sometimes we are stuck in the past. We can only look back and want to restore what once was, without remembering how things actually were. Like the Hebrews in the desert, we long for Egypt, forgetting the oppression and hardship and only remembering the bright spots. At times we are stuck on visions of a future we want but may not be what is best for everyone, even ourselves. Holy One, You are always present with us, not stuck in the past or dangling a glimpse of a future that is better, but You are with us, in this life and world, now. Help us not to hope for something different without changing the world today, and may we not long for a past with rose-colored glasses. Instead, guide us to live into Your way, Your truth, and Your life, here and now, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance
The psalmist tells us that God is from everlasting to everlasting, from before time to beyond time, but most of all, God has searched us and knows us and is in the stillness of our being. Know how much God loves you, how God has molded and shaped you and breathed life into you and loves you. God has never left you and will never leave you. Trust in God’s presence, and love one another, for it is in our care for each other that we know God’s presence best. Love, forgive, and serve one another, as Christ has done so for us. Amen.

Prayer
Loving God, Mother and Father and Creator of us all, we give thanks for all the ways You have nurtured and cared for us, knowing each flaw, each hurt, each tender and sore space. You care for us as a parent cares for their children. You guard our hearts like a mother hen gathers her chicks for protection. May we know Your love and care, Gentle and Fierce God, and may we love wildly and fiercely. May our love drive us to demand the world to change, for the oppressed and marginalized, the most vulnerable among us. May we be fierce in our call for justice against systems of oppression, and gentle in our treatment of each one made in Your image. May we be open to Your transformative love in our lives and in our world. Amen.

More resources for Mother’s Day can be found here: http://rev-o-lution.org/worship-resources-for-may-8th-2022-fourth-sunday-of-easter-mothers-day-u-s/

Worship Resources for May 5, 2024—Sixth Sunday of Easter

A note on Rev-o-lution:

After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.

I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.

It has become more difficult to say something new week after week, and also, I’m now writing novels, and it has taken more of my time than I can give. Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

 

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17

Narrative Lectionary: Faith, Hope, and Love 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (Mark 12:28-31)

We began the season of Easter with the first selection of scriptures sharing the declaration that God shows no partiality in Acts 10:34-43, after Peter met Cornelius the Centurion, a Gentile. Now, as we near the end of the season of Easter, we read in 10:44-48 that the Jewish followers of Jesus were amazed at the Holy Spirit working through Gentile believers. The Holy Spirit showed Peter and others that there ought to be no prevention of baptizing anyone with the Holy Spirit, and Peter orders them to be baptized. Baptism becomes the symbol of conversion of faith, not circumcision, in the account of the early church in Acts.

Psalm 98 is a song of praise after battle. God has remembered God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to the people, who have survived and are victorious. The psalmist invokes images of the Exodus and the celebration at the edge of the waters, like Miriam and Moses in Exodus 15. All of creation sings praises to God, and the psalmist calls upon the people to make music to God with their instruments and voices, and creation to clap with the floods and for the hills to sing. God is the one who judges the earth, and the people with equity.

The writer of 1 John reminds the reader/listener in chapter 5 that they are children of God and that they are called to love one another. The love of God is to live out the commandments of God, for God is love, and faith conquers the world. The writer alludes to a sort of trinity of birth: water, blood, and Spirit. The waters of birth and baptism, the blood of birth and sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit testifies to the truth of who Jesus is, the Son of God.

In Jesus’ final discourse to the disciples in John 15:9-17, Jesus leaves them with his commandment: that they love one another. Our joy is complete because God’s joy is in us when we love one another. If we love one another, we are Christ’s friends. We are no longer called servants because we willfully fulfill the commandments. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another, and that love is exemplified in Jesus. Jesus chose the disciples, and chooses us, and appoints us to bear fruit in this world by loving one another.

The Narrative Lectionary turns to the most popular passage in 1 Corinthians, the Love Chapter of 13:1-13. This is not romantic love, as it is often quoted out of context at weddings, but this is about the spiritual gift of love that comes from the Holy Spirit and is revealed through Jesus Christ. This is the crux of Paul’s argument to a church arguing over who is the greatest, who to follow, and what spiritual gifts are greater than others. Love is the greatest gift of all, for if one has everything but does not have love, they have nothing. Paul may have been quoting another source in this passage, possibly a hymn. He calls upon the church to grow into their faith, to remember that they do not know it all, but one day they will know God fully, and the way to God is love.

In the supplementary verses, Jesus responded to the question of which was the greatest commandment with two in Mark 12:28-31. He first responded with the Shema, the call to prayer that all of the Jewish people knew by heart, and then quoted from Leviticus 19:18 about loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. There are no other commandments greater than these.

This is the greatest commandment: to love God, and to love one another. Jesus declares in John 15:12: “This is my commandment that you love one another.” If you know the song, you can’t help but sing it. The Bible contains the record of humanity’s response to God’s extravagant love through a minority cultural lens. We have sometimes responded out of fear, out of wrath, out of anger and hurt and jealousy. We have put those labels on God, but time and again, we are reminded that God will move mountains for us. God will make a way when there was no way. God will do anything, including finding a way through the valley of the shadow of death by dying, as Christ did himself, and still, love will overcome. There is no love greater than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And perhaps this is the truth that is revealed in the Bible: God does not desire to be a domineering, jealous, overbearing God the way people keep understanding God; God desires to be our friend. Just like Moses meeting God face to face (Exodus 33:11), Jesus came to us to show us that the way, the truth, and the life was love, and that when we love one another, we are loving God face to face.

Call to Worship (Psalm 98:4-6, 1)
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
Break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn,
Make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.
O sing to the LORD a new song,
For God has done marvelous things.

Prayer of Invocation

Loving God, we enter this space today with grateful hearts and songs of praise. We know that You are a Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God, the Everlasting One and Proclaimer of Peace. Guard our hearts and minds from the distractions of this world: all the busy-ness of our to-do lists and things left undone, all the elements of consumer culture that would have us look at our neighbor to see what they have that we don’t, all the things that pull our attention from You. Guide us in this time of worship to center our lives in You, to remember Your great love for us, and to be encouraged in our love of one another. All this we pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
God Who Opens, we confess that we are often the ones to leave doors closed. We are often the ones who build up the walls and break down the bridges. We are the ones who want to define who people are as for us or against us, as worthy of love or not. But You continually have torn down the walls and built bridges. You have continually drawn the circle wider. You have continually erased the lines we define ourselves by. God, may we be open to Your spirit doing new things in our lives. May we be open to Your people, who may not define themselves by the labels of the past. May we remember that the most important identifier is our love, and if we love one another, we are living as You have commanded us. Call us deeper into Your ways of love that always open more doors, that lead us to inclusion over exclusion, and that center our thoughts and actions in the heart of Your love. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (1 John 5:1-4)
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey God’s commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey God’s commandments. And God’s commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.”

Know this: when everything else passes away, love remains. Love will never leave us. There is nothing you can do, no place you can go, where love will not be with you, where love will not find you. God madly loves you, and will search for you to the ends of the earth. Surrender yourself to God’s love, and be full of all the hope and joy and peace that is found in Christ Jesus. You are forgiven, loved, and restored. Amen.

Prayer
Unstoppable One, You are unrelentless in Your love and You never stop pursuing us. Remind us not to give up on one another. In our ever-expanding world it is easy to take what one person says or does in one moment as an example of their whole being. Open our hearts to forgiveness, reparation and restoration. Help us to be healers in our own lives, and to seek forgiveness where we have harmed others. Guide us in Your ways of love, and may we be as unrelentless in our pursuit of justice and peace in this world, all done in the name of Your Son’s love for us. For Christ was undeterred, even to the cross, to show us how much he loved us. It is in his name that we pray. Amen.

Worship Resources for April 28, 2024—Fifth Sunday of Easter

A note on Rev-o-lution:

After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.

I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. Thank you for all your kind words.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:25-31; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8

Narrative Lectionary: Church at Corinth, Acts 18:1-4, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 (Mark 9:34-35)

In this season of Easter, we continue to read from the book of Acts in lieu of the Hebrew Scriptures lesson. Philip, one of the disciples, was told by an angel to go south of Jerusalem. On the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, he met a court official of the queen of Ethiopia, who was a eunuch. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home, reading from the prophet Isaiah. There were non-Jews who believed there was one God, and who read and studied the scriptures. Non-Jews were allowed to worship in the outer court of the temple, but not all were able to convert. A eunuch would have been prevented by tradition. Instead, Philip explained the passage of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:7-8 and interpreted it through the lens of Jesus. When they found water near the road, the eunuch asked Philip what was preventing him from being baptized, and Philip baptized him. The eunuch was one of the first converts, and church tradition holds he was the first missionary to Africa.

(We must understand that Jewish tradition has long interpreted the Suffering Servant passages of Isaiah as referring to the people of Israel and their suffering in exile. Early Christians, who were Jewish, resonated with those passages because of what they had witnessed Jesus experience in his death on the cross. We can hold both interpretations as Christians, in our struggle to understand Jesus’ suffering, as the people of Israel were challenged to find meaning in their suffering, as long as we do not erase the experience of the Jewish people.)

The end portion of Psalm 22, a prayer for help, turns to praise in verses 25-31. God has remained faithful despite the hardships the psalmist has faced, and the psalmist calls upon the people to praise God, vowing to declare God’s goodness before the congregation. God is the one who has dominion over all the nations, over the earth. Even the dead are part of God’s congregation of praise, and those living shall live for God, even the generations yet to come.

The writer of 1 John declares that God is love in 1 John 4:7-21. If you know love, you know God, and if you do not love, you do not know God. God’s love was revealed through God’s Son, and he has called us to love one another. No one has seen God, but we know God through the love we have for one another—that is how God is made known to us. We love because God first loved us. “Fear has to do with punishment” the writer declares, but love casts away fear. There is no fear in love. Note that this is not the same use of “fear” as often in used in the term “fear of God,” for that word fear in the Hebrew scriptures might be better translated as “trembling awe.” Perfect love from God as known through Jesus is not about a fear of hell or punishment, but instead mirroring the image of God’s love in us. If we do not love our neighbors, we do not love God, for this is God’s commandment through Christ. If we cannot love those we have seen (or known by other senses), we cannot love God whom we have never seen.

Jesus uses the example of being a vine and we are the vine branches in John 15:1-8. God is the vine-grower, and through Christ we are called to bear fruit. We cannot bear fruit if we do not abide in the true vine, which is Jesus. Branches that do not bear fruit are useless. We must live out our faith, otherwise, we are useless branches.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the church in Corinth. In Luke’s account in Acts 18:1-4, Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish exiles from Rome, and he stayed with them. The three of them, by trade, were tentmakers. While Paul stayed with them, he would argue in the synagogue, testifying before Jews and Greeks.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he addresses the conflict that he has heard about in 1 Corinthians 10:1-18. The church has fractured, with some claiming to follow Paul, others claiming to follow Apollos, others Peter, and still others Christ. Paul stated that Christ sent him to proclaim the gospel, the message of the cross of Christ. Paul urged the church that there be no divisions among them. No one was baptized in the name of Paul, but all belong to Christ, and that is the gospel he preaches.

In the supplementary verses of Mark 9:34-35, Jesus overheard the disciples arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus declared that whoever wanted to be first must be last of all and servant of all.

How does fear hold us back? Philip could have used fear as a reason not to help the stranger he met on the road, but instead, he listened to the Holy Spirit and went to the Ethiopian Eunuch’s chariot and answered his questions. Fear could have kept the foreign traveler from asking Philip his questions, and instead, he boldly suggests he be baptized. The psalmist is not afraid to declare what God will do for “generations yet unborn,” though the singer knows not what the future holds. Fear can keep us from loving our neighbors, our siblings, but the early Christian writers knew that love is stronger than fear, greater than death. Fear can divide us into us and them, but as Jesus reminds the disciples, we are stronger together, as branches of the vine. We belong to one another.

Call to Worship (1 John 4:7-9, 13)
Beloved, let us love one another,
Because love is from God;
Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way:
God sent the only Son into the world so that we might live through Christ.
By this we know that we abide in God and God in us,
Because God has given us the Spirit.
Let us love one another and join in worship of our God,
For God is love.

Prayer of Invocation
Gardening God, cultivate in us a sprit of openness in this time of worship. Help us to till the soil of our hearts, to dig deep into Your scriptures, to nourish our bodies and spirits with song and praise. Help us to love one another more fully, and to bear spiritual fruit, for You are the vine, and we are the branches, and in You will live, grow, and have the fullness of life. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Awesome God, we confess that we have allowed fear to rule our lives. We have allowed fear to keep us from loving our neighbors who are different than us. We have allowed fear to close our doors, our hearts, our minds. But You are Perfect Love, and You cast out all fear. Help us to let go of what holds us back and to be open to Your Spirit, to love freely, and to love deeply. We know that our hearts may be broken, but help us anyway to love those most in need, the most vulnerable, and guide us into ways of love and care that help heal our brokenness. In the name of Christ, the One who laid down his life for us because he loved us so much, we pray all things. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance
We come together with grateful hearts, remembering all that Christ has done for us, and knowing we can never repay that kind of love, except in how we love one another. So share God’s love. Share God’s peace. Share God’s joy, and know that own love, peace, and joy in your heart. You are forgiven, loved, and restored. Amen.

Prayer
Mystery of Mysteries, help us to seek Your wisdom by living into Your truth, and Your truth is found in the love we have for one another. May our love be fearless. May our love be without judgment. May our love call us into Your ways of justice, Your ways of practicing kindness, and Your ways of building peace. Mystery of Mysteries, we only know You in a glimpse; but we know You most fully in the abiding love we have for one another, a love that comes only from You, who gave Your life for us. Amen.

Worship Resources for April 21, 2024—Fourth Sunday of Easter, Earth Sunday

A note on Rev-o-lution:

As I shared in previous posts, I will stop posting new weekly content on Pentecost (May 19, 2024). I have been posting on this site for over 13 years, and almost seventeen years counting my old Blogger site.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Narrative Lectionary: Church at Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-9, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (Mark 13:9-11)

The selection in Acts is a continuation of the same story from last Sunday. Peter and John, after healing a man who used to beg at the temple gate, and after speaking to the people at Solomon’s Portico on the east side of the temple after that miracle, were arrested and held until the next day. They came before the high priest and his family and questioned them about the healing miracle. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke to all assembled, recognizing that he and John were arrested because they did something good. He answered their question about the power behind the miracle: the man who used to beg stood before them was healed by the name of Jesus Christ, the one crucified and now raised from the dead. Peter concluded with quoting Psalm 118:22, which Jesus quoted when he was questioned in the temple, and Peter declared salvation is found in no other name.

The shepherd’s psalm of Psalm 23 has long been attributed to David and understood as a song of comfort in the face of death. God is the shepherd who leads the faithful, the sheep, to safety and security, restoring those who are downtrodden. Even in the face of death (the valley of the shadow), the shepherd comforts the sheep, their rod and staff are there for protection and assurance. Switching metaphors, the psalmist understands God as the one who justifies those who have been wronged, preparing a banquet table and anointing the faithful before their enemies. The psalm concludes with a blessing of goodness and mercy for all the life of the faithful, and that they will live with God forever. This psalm might also be used for Earth Sunday, in thinking of the Good Shepherd and how God cares for all of creation and provides for us good, green spaces and still, clean water.

This section of 1 John 3:16-24 echoes John 15:12-13, that one who loves lays down their life for their friends. There is no greater love than this, for Christ laid down his life for us. Love must be lived out, to meet the needs of others. Lived-out love is greater than words. Our hearts will let us know when we’ve let down one another, but God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. God will forgive us and restore us to the work of loving one another. For the commandment that the faithful must obey is to believe in Jesus Christ, and to love one another.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd in John 10:11-18, the one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired hand runs away when the wolf comes, but the Good Shepherd cares for the sheep and knows them. The Good Shepherd knows there are sheep not of this fold but will bring them together (alluding to Gentiles). In John’s account, no one has the power to take Jesus’ life—only Jesus has the power to give it up, and Jesus does so by laying down his life for all, so that life may be taken up again.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the church in Thessalonica. In Acts 17:1-9, Luke gives the account of Paul and Silas arriving in Thessalonica and speaking in a synagogue there, taking three weeks (three Sabbath days) to argue and explain his belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Some Greeks, especially women in leadership, began to also listen to Paul and Silas. Some of the leaders went to arrest Paul and Silas, but couldn’t find them. Instead, they took Jason into custody, who had been Paul and Silas’ host. The accusation from the leaders was that Paul and Silas were trying to get people to worship another king (other than Caesar) named Jesus, but the city officials took bail from Jason and others and let them go.

Paul’s own words share greetings to the church in Thessalonica and how the church responded to him in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. This letter is considered by scholars to be the earliest letter of Paul, therefore, the oldest part of the New Testament. The church in Thessalonica had a special place in Paul’s heart because of how they took on the message of Christ that Paul shared with them, and they became an example to believers in the surrounding areas. The believers nearby heard how the Thessalonians turned away from idols and began to worship the living and true God, and wait for the return of Christ.

In the supplementary verses of Mark 13:9-11, Jesus foretells that the apostles will face persecution and be turned over to the local authorities. They will be beaten and abused, but they are not to worry about being put on trial—God will be with them, and will speak through them, as they proclaim the gospel.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, our Cornerstone, the one who watches over us and who is our foundation in faith. Jesus has shown us all the Way, the Truth, and the Life—to love one another as he has loved us. There is no greater love than this. Jesus has laid down his life for us, and calls us to listen to his voice and follow him. The ways of the world humanity has made will lead us astray. The ways of this world are power and greed. The ways of this world can buy out the hired hand, but no one can pay the price that Jesus paid.

On this Earth Sunday, we look at all that God has provided us, the sheep of God’s hand, and that God is the Good Shepherd. God cares for us as a shepherd cares for their sheep—providing all the good things of the earth for us. We are called upon to care for the earth the way God has cared for us, and to love one another as God has loved us. We love one another by making sure there is enough for everyone, by not overusing the good earth’s resources and ensuring clean water and enough food for future generations.

Call to Worship
The call of Christ is this:
Love one another.
The law and the prophets teach this:
Love one another.
The world calls us to fulfill our desires;
Christ commands us to love one another.
We do this best not in word or speech,
But in truth and action.
Beloved, let us love one another,
For Christ first loved us.
Come, worship God, who is Love.

Prayer of Invocation
Creator God, we give You thanks for all You have provided us: the good green earth, the crisp, clear waters, the bright, clean air. You have made everything for us and all of creation. Guide us in this time of worship to have full and grateful hearts, to be generous in remembering all You have done for us and given to us. May we give back of what we have received in word, service, and deed. May we be good stewards of all You’ve given us, and be filled in this space with Your holy presence. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Gentle Shepherd, we confess we have gone astray. We have followed the hired hands. We have listened to the silver tongues that have promised us wealth and power. We have ignored the needs of our fellow sheep and certainly the sheep that know Your voice in far-off places. Call us back from the paths that lead to ruin. Call us back to Your green pastures and still waters. Journey with us in the valley of the shadow of death, steering us away from the dead-ends of this world’s many paths, and instead into the way that leads to life in You. In the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (1 John 3:21-24)
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from God whatever we ask, because we obey God’s commandments and do what pleases God. And this is God’s commandment, that we should believe in the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ has commanded us. All who obey God’s commandments abide in God, and God abides in them. And by this we know that God abides in us, by the Spirit that Christ has given us.

Beloved, know that You are God’s precious child. God loves you madly. When you seek forgiveness from God, know that You are forgiven. Know the ways in which you have wronged others; seek forgiveness, and work to repair and restore. Forgive those who have done the same things as you. Know Christ’s love is here to mend you, to make you new, for you are a new creation in Christ. Everything old has passed away; everything has become new. Go in peace. Amen.

Prayer
Loving One, we know that Your promise of resurrection is always around us, in the leaves and seeds falling to death, and bulbs and shoots sprouting into life. You gave us this awe-inspiring earth and entrusted it to our care. Remind us to put Your love first and foremost, a love that seeks to bless and build and create rather than break down and destroy. Call us into accountability for care of Your beautiful earth and for all our neighbors, including all the creatures and plants of the wondrous world. Help us to pause now and then in amazement of all You have made, and all You continue to do, and lead us in ways to participate in care of Your creation. For You are our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.

Worship Resources beyond Rev-o-lution

As I hang up my hat blogging on Rev-o-lution at least weekly after May 19, (I’ll keep this site up for some time for you to access the archives), here are some other writers with fresher words than mine:

Katy Stenta, katyandtheword.com

Dana Cassell: Dana, Defrocked danacassell.substack.com

Illuminations: cliffwoodorganic.com/illuminations/

I also highly recommend Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D and her incredible work A Women’s Lectionary For the Whole Church. Years W, A, and B are available now and Year C will arrive in the summer of 2024. On her website are additional prayers and resources. wilgafney.com/womenslectionary/

Have any other sites you like to use? Comment and I’ll add them!

Worship Resources for April 14, 2024—Third Sunday of Easter

A note on Rev-o-lution:

As I shared in previous posts, I will stop posting new weekly content on Pentecost (May 19, 2024). I have been posting on this site for over 13 years, and almost seventeen years counting my old Blogger site.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

Narrative Lectionary: Beautiful Gate, Acts 3:1-10 (Mark 6:53-56)

For the Revised Common Lectionary in the season of Easter, in lieu of a Hebrew Bible lesson we read passages from Acts. The lesson of Acts 3:12-19 takes place right after the Narrative Lectionary lesson in Acts 3:1-10, so we’ll start there for background information. At the beginning of this chapter, soon after Pentecost, Peter and John were going to the temple at the hour of the afternoon prayer and encountered a man who couldn’t walk from birth being carried in. He would beg from the temple gates every day, because in that time, if you were disabled, the only way you could survive was to beg. However, Peter called out to the man and told him to look at him and John, then told him in the name of Jesus to stand up and walk. The man leaped up, praising God, and all the people recognized him and were amazed. In vs. 12, Peter addressed the people, declaring they didn’t heal the man, but it was Jesus. He continues sharing that Jesus was the servant of the God of their ancestors, the very one rejected by the people and crucified by Pilate, while a true criminal was released. Peter assures the crowd that they can repent and turn to God so their sins may be wiped away, for God fulfilled what had been foretold through the prophets about the Messiah, according to Peter.

The psalmist cries out for God to answer their prayer in Psalm 4. The psalmist addresses the ones who have spoken against them, who have gossiped and lied. God is with the faithful, the psalmist sings, and God hears the psalmist’s prayers. They instruct their enemies to turn to God’s ways instead. The psalmist knows that the faithless are still seeking, but as a faithful one, the psalmist rests assured in God’s presence and safety.

The writer of 1 John speaks of the love God has for all of us who are faithful, all of us called children of God in 3:1-7. We are God’s children now, but are to become something new, something yet to be revealed. We live into this hope, so we live into God’s ways. Everyone who lives into God’s ways is righteous, for that is right-living. Sin, however, deceives us, leading us astray; but in Christ there is no sin, for Christ removes our sin. Instead, we are called to flee from sin, and live into God’s ways.

The resurrection account continues in Luke in 24:36b-48. Jesus appeared before the disciples, and they were frightened. Jesus shows them his hands and feet (similar to John 20:19-31). The disciples, while full of joy, continue to struggle with their doubts and disbelief, but Jesus asks them for something to eat, and has some broiled fish (similar to John 21). Repeating the discourse with the two travelers on the road to Emmaus in 24:13-35, Jesus goes through the scriptures with the disciples, to understand that the Messiah was to suffer and die, and on the third day rise again. The disciples are witnesses of his death and resurrection, and the proclamation of repentance of forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name. They are called to go forth from Jerusalem to proclaim what they have seen and heard.

(The Narrative Lectionary focuses on Acts 3:1-10—see above).

The supplementary verses for the Narrative Lectionary are Mark 6:53-56. After Jesus had fed five thousand d people, and then appeared to the disciples later walking on water, they crossed over the lake to Gennesaret. There, the people recognized Jesus and the whole region brought those who were sick for him to heal. Wherever he went, people begged that they might even touch the fringe of his cloak to be healed, as the woman who hemorrhaged for twelve years did so in 5:24-34.

Resurrection is new life that begins now. When we read the scriptures of the miraculous healings we must be mindful that the worldview of the first century and our worldview now are quite different. The spiritual world was seen alongside the physical world, and therefore physical ailments were often given spiritual characteristics. We now know so much more about biology, and our worldview has changed. But we can understand that Jesus, and those who followed him, desired a full life, much as anyone desires a full life here and now. Jesus, and Peter and John, in their acts of healing restored people to society, to living a full life where they would have been excluded for their disability or illness. We ought to understand healing as restoration, and that we can participate in restoration in the work of disability justice, accessibility, and inclusion. Where do we make assumptions about what people can and cannot do, instead of asking the questions of what someone needs for accessibility and what do we need to do for inclusion?

We are witnesses of a resurrected Jesus who has all his scars, whom his own disciples doubt and disbelieve when he is actually among them. How often do we talk about disabled people as if they are not already in the room with us? The miracles can happen when we look at people and actually see them—their whole selves—accept them, and work to include them in all aspects of our lives, including leadership.

Call to Worship (from 1 John 3:1-2)
See what love our Beloved Parent has given us,
That we should be called children of God, for this is who we are.
The reason the world does not know us,
Is that it did not know God.
Beloved, we are God’s children now.
What we will be has not yet been revealed.
What we do know is this: when Christ is revealed, we will be like Christ,
For we will see Christ as he is.
Join together as the body of Christ in worship,
For we are God’s children: beloved, and still coming into who we are.

Prayer of Invocation
We open our hearts to You, O God, and invite Your presence to be made known to us. We open our minds to You, O God, and ask that You transform us. We open our lives to You, O God, and ask that You guide us on this journey of faith. We open ourselves to You, O God, as the body of Christ, that You may live, move, and be among us, Your beloved children. We welcome You in this time of worship. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Risen Savior, we confess that we live as if You are not among us now. We do not see Your face in those we pass by on the street. We do not see You amongst the rubble and ruins of war. We do not see You in those who beg of us. We do not see You in those we have left out, unintentionally or intentionally. We have failed to remember that when we care for the most vulnerable among us, we are caring for You. We have made You into our own image, instead of seeing Your image reflected among the ones most in need. Call us into accountability. Guide us into repentance and reparation. Help us to seek restoration and forgiveness for where we have failed, so that we might live into Your kin-dom here on earth as it is in heaven. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (Psalm 4:3-5)
But know that the LORD has set apart the faithful for God’s self; the LORD hears when I call to God. When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.

God hears our prayers, and God restores our souls. God will renew your spirit when you turn back to God, and will give you the strength you need for the journey of faith. You are not alone. Put your trust in the Lord, and God will make themself known to you. Go forth with this good news. Amen.

Prayer
God of rain and sunshine, sand and mud, You made everything with a purpose, including us. Help us to remember Your intention for us was to be fruitful upon this earth, to care for all of creation the way You care for us. May our actions bear fruit, our words build up, our lives bring hope. May we remember Your intention for us in all we say and do. Guide us into ways of living that are more sustainable and restorative, instead of being seduced by convenience and speed. Help us not to be reckless with Your gift of life but to honor and treasure all You have made for us. Lead us into Your ways of love not only for our human neighbors but for all of creation, to love this good earth You made for us, and to care for it as if it were our own body, for You commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Keep us to Your created intention for us from the very beginning, to be Your children. Amen.

Worship Resources for April 7, 2024—Second Sunday of Easter

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Narrative Lectionary: You Shall Be My Witnesses, Acts 1:1-14 (Mark 6:7-13)

A note on Rev-o-lution:

As I shared in previous posts, I will stop posting new weekly content on Pentecost (May 16, 2024). I have been posting on this site for over 13 years, and almost seventeen years counting my old Blogger site.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

During the season of Easter, the Revised Common Lectionary uses selections from the Acts of the Apostles instead of the Hebrew Scripture reading. The early church, in the days after Pentecost, came together through the Holy Spirit and shared all that they had. Reflecting Acts 2:42-47, the early believers brought everything they had to hold in common, not claiming private ownership of anything. No one went hungry or in need, because everyone cared for each other. This sense of communal responsibility, however, was short lived. In the following chapter, two early leaders held back some of their property and lied about it, and Paul wrote to the church in Corinth because of the abuses at the Lord’s table, where some feasted and some went hungry. Nonetheless, in this season of Easter, we cling to the hope of new life now, and that we always have the opportunity to live into the reign of God here on earth.

Psalm 133 is a brief psalm, perhaps shared at a wedding: a blessing when family comes together and lives in harmony. It is like an anointing from God, the way the priest Aaron was anointed with oil, or the way God refreshes the hillsides with dew. When family joins together and lives in unity, it is a blessing ordained by God.

The letter of 1 John begins with the writer’s intentions: to testify to the life revealed in Jesus Christ. From the same community as the author of John’s gospel account, the writer uses the same imagery as John’s gospel in identifying Jesus and God with light. The writer addresses their audience by beginning with confession: we cannot be in community with one another when we participate in sin. If we say we are without sin, we are deceiving ourselves. Instead, if we come before Christ and confess our sins, we will receive forgiveness. For Jesus came as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and we have an advocate in Christ and in God our heavenly parent.

John’s account of the resurrection continues in 20:19-31. On the evening of the same day that the tomb was found empty, the disciples had gathered together in fear of some of the religious leaders (we must be careful to read and interpret John’s account, knowing that the disciples, Jesus, and the writer of John were all Jewish as well). Jesus appeared before them, the first appearance to the disciples after the resurrection besides Mary—except Thomas wasn’t with them. It’s important to follow Thomas’ story. Back in chapter 11, he is ready to go to Jerusalem to die with Jesus. However, by chapter 14, Thomas is unsure of what Jesus is saying. When Jesus tells them they know the way, Thomas argues they do not know the way. Jesus then tells them that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Thomas started off as a strong, faithful disciple, but grew uncertain and questioned what Jesus said. And it’s only after a second appearance that Thomas believes. Jesus then declares that those who have not seen but have come to believe are blessed—an indication to the reader/listener who has not seen the risen Christ that it is more blessed to believe without seeing.

The Narrative Lectionary follows Acts with the account of Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1:1-14. Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, who hoped that Jesus might tell them when the kingdom would be restored to Israel. Jesus tells them this is not for them to know, but only God knows. Instead, the Holy Spirit will come upon them soon, and they will be witnesses to the whole earth. As Jesus ascends into heaven, two angels remind the disciples that they shouldn’t be staring up into the sky, but rather know that Jesus will return. The male disciples gather in Jerusalem along with the women followers of Jesus, and Jesus’ mother Mary, where they devoted themselves to prayer.

The supplementary verses of Mark 6:7-13 contain Jesus’ mission for the twelve disciples, sending them out in twos, to go minister among the people, taking nothing with them and relying on the hospitality of others. The disciples called upon the people to repent, and they cast out demons and healed many who were sick.

In this season of Easter, we are reminded that we are called to live into God’s reign. How can we do that when so many are suffering right now? We recall that the disciples still lived under the threat of Rome. They proclaimed Christ is Risen among people who had witnessed his death on the cross, and the death of anyone else who opposed empire. However, that is exactly how they resisted empire: by proclaiming life. By living into Christ’s teachings. By loving one another and sharing what they had with those in need. They cultivated community, devoting themselves to prayer. They had the goodwill of all around them. People were drawn to their way of life. We resist in protest, we resist in civil action, but most of all, we resist the evil of this world when we live into the eternal life promised in Jesus Christ by living into it here and now. Believe it by living into it.

Call to Worship (1 John 1:5-7)
This is the message we have heard from Christ and proclaim to you:
That God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with Christ while we are walking in darkness,
We lie and do not do what is true;
But if we walk in the light as Christ is in the light,
We have fellowship with one another, and we are cleansed from all sin.
For Christ is faithful and just,
And we have gathered to worship and follow Jesus our Lord.

Prayer of Invocation
God of Hospitality, throughout the Scriptures, You have shown us that we are called to welcome the stranger because we may be entertaining angels without knowing it. You welcome us in despite our shortcomings and flaws, and You make us whole. In this time of worship, we ask for Your presence to be made known to us, and at the same time, we accept Your welcome of us with gratitude, as faulty as we are, and receive Your love as Your children. We welcome You, and You welcome us, and we extend this invitation to all, to know You through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty One, we know You desire us to seek You with all our hearts. We confess the times we have misunderstood that doubt is part of faith, and we confess the times we have discouraged others from questioning what they’ve been taught. Help us to embrace the challenges and to journey together through the struggles, living with the mystery that is faith, for You are both Known and Unknowable, Seen and Unseen, Creator of the Universe and also within our heart. Help us, O God, to embrace doubt as a part of faith. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (Matthew 7:7-8)
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We do not have all the answers now, but we rest assured that the One who made us, who molds our hearts, who knows our inmost thoughts and desires, will help us on the journey of faith. The questions may lead to more questions, the searches may lead to more quests, and the doors may lead to even more doors opened, but we know this: we will never be on this journey alone. Come, walk with Christ, and know Christ is with you, now and always. Amen.

Prayer
Risen Christ, You live again with Your scars. Risen Christ, You come before us with the words, “Peace be with you.” Risen Christ, You embody healing and hope. You accept us with our wounds from the world, our scars that still haven’t healed quite right, our questions and our doubts. Risen Christ, You call us to follow. Help us to accept the invitation: help us to accept that we don’t have to be perfect, that we will never have it all straightened out, that we will always be a bit of a mess, and that You love us exactly as we are. Risen Christ, lead us on. Amen.

Worship Resources for March 31—Easter Sunday

A note on Rev-o-lution:
As I shared in previous posts, I will stop posting new weekly content on Pentecost (May 16, 2024). I have been posting on this site for over 13 years, and almost seventeen years counting my old Blogger site.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

Narrative Lectionary: Resurrection, Mark 16:1-8 (Psalm 118:21-27)

Christ is Risen! For the season of Easter, the first reading will often be a reading from Acts in lieu of the Hebrew scriptures in the Revised Common Lectionary.

The first selection from Acts 10:34-43 contains Peter’s bold revelation from both a vision he beheld from God earlier in chapter 10, vs. 9-16 and in his encounter with the Roman centurion Cornelius in 17-33. In the vision, God gave Peter food to eat that was both from clean and unclean animals, with the lesson that whatever God declared holy, others must not call profane. In Peter’s conversation with Cornelius, a Gentile, Peter understood that Cornelius’s own encounter with the Holy Spirit was valid and true. There was no need for Cornelius to become Jewish, he knew God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. God shows no partiality between Jewish and Gentile, for Jesus is Lord of all. Peter and the other disciples were witnesses of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and called to testify in his name. Peter confirmed that everyone who believes in Jesus may be forgiven of their sins through Christ’s name.

An alternative reading is from Isaiah 25:6-9, of the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the great heavenly banquet table, where all people will gather for a feast with rich foods and well-aged wines. On that day, death will be swallowed up forever, and there will be no more grief and sorrow, for God is their salvation.

As with Palm Sunday, the psalm reading is from 118, overlapping a bit with last week’s reading with verses 1-2 and 14-24. This different selection covers how God is the people’s salvation, and the psalmist’s declaration that they shall not die but live. Though the people have suffered punishment, they have survived because of God. The gates of the temple, the gates of righteousness are opened, and the people who were rejected by the world are the foundation of God’s covenant. God is the people’s salvation, and they will rejoice.

The Epistle selection is either the reading from Acts 10:34-43 (see above) or 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that was suffering deep division within itself. This was a church divided by economic standing, by a hierarchal understanding in spiritual gifts, and by which human leader of the church they followed. Paul argued that they were one body in Christ. In chapter 15, Paul declared what ought to unify them: that Christ died for their sins, Christ was buried, and Christ was raised from the dead on the third day. Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples, to his brother James and the apostles, and to many others, and then to Paul, who persecuted the church. However, even Paul was called to proclaim the good news by the grace of God. It does not matter who you are, God called believers to proclaim the good news in Jesus Christ, not in any human authority.

In John’s account of the resurrection, it was still dark when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found it empty. She told Peter and the disciple that Jesus loved, and they both ran to the tomb. Peter saw the empty tomb and the linen wrappings, but the other disciple saw after him and believed. However, they both returned to their homes, leaving Mary behind. Mary, in her grief, saw two figures in the tomb, and was concerned that Jesus’ body has been taken away. She then thought the person in the garden—whom she supposed to be the gardener—took his body, but when he called her name, she immediately recognized Jesus, calling him Teacher. Mary followed Jesus’ instructions, and told the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” Jesus did not scold her for not recognizing him, but rather commissioned her to go and tell the others what she had experienced the moment she came to believe.

The Narrative Lectionary selection is the same as the second selection from the Revised Common Lectionary, Mark 16:1-8. Mark’s account of the resurrection, according to scholars, is the earliest, and it’s also the shortest. Because it is so brief, and ends with no sighting of Jesus, there are later additional endings in most of our Bibles. In Mark’s account, the sun had already risen but it was early, and Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to the tomb, wondering who might be up to roll the stone back from the tomb so they could anoint Jesus’ body. However, when they arrived, they found the stone had already been rolled back. They entered the tomb and discovered a man dressed in white, who told them, “Don’t be alarmed.” Jesus wasn’t there; he had been raised. The two women were told to go and tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus would go ahead of them to Galilee, but they fled from the tomb and said nothing to anyone out of fear. The rest of the story is left to us, to know that at some point, their fear left them, and they did go and tell the others. We might ask ourselves the question—are we acting out of fear, or out of hope? If we are afraid, when will we overcome our fear—or when will we act despite our fear?

The Narrative Lectionary supplemental verses are also from Psalm 118, choosing a slightly different selection of verses 21-27 (last week’s selection for the Narrative Lectionary included verses 25-29; the Revised Common Lectionary included 19-29). The psalmist calls for the gates of the temple to open and calls the people to worship. The psalmist speaks of how God has chosen the people rejected by the world, the chief cornerstone. The psalmist calls upon the congregation to process toward the altar, giving thanks to God with praise and offerings.

On Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, it is hard to come up with something new every year. I have been blogging for thirteen years on the lectionary. And every year, the world seems bleaker. Right now, with more than thirty thousand dead in Gaza, our hope of resurrection must not simply be a hope for after this world. The people of Gaza need a cease fire now. The people of Gaza, the people of Ukraine, the people of Sudan, Myanmar, India, and so many places in our world need hope now. The hell on earth needs to be defeated, now. How can we preach resurrection where there is starvation and death? How can we preach good news when all seems hopeless? Maybe Mark 16:8 is what we need. There is good news but we may be running away because it seems so far fetched. There is hope but we are hiding in fear because we don’t know what to say, or how to make it stop even when we scream at the top of our lungs. Resurrection, as Jesus demonstrated from the empty tomb, is not about a far-off hope after we die. It is new life, now. It is hope now. It is claiming a victory now, that death will not have the final word.

Call to Worship
The stone has been rolled away!
Christ is Risen!
The tomb is found empty!
Christ is Risen!
The angel has told us, “He is not here.”
Christ is Risen!
Death is vanquished!
Christ is Risen!
Hope lives!
Christ is Risen!
Love wins!
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen Indeed!

Prayer of Invocation
Creator God, You make all things new. On this Easter morn we remember that Your steadfast love endures forever, through life and death. There is nothing that can hold us back from Your love. On this morning, may our hearts be broken open to hear the message of Your love for us, through Jesus Christ, the one who gave himself up on the cross so that death would not have a hold on us. The love of Jesus leads us to eternal life, a new life that begins now, and today, we celebrate, give thanks, and praise Your name. Amen!

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, You are limitless, and we confess our limitations as human beings. We confess our sins, that we have failed to love one another as You have loved us. We confess our short-sightedness, that we have lived for this moment or the next, instead of seeing the fullness of life You desire for all of humanity and all creatures on this planet. We confess our greed that often puts ourselves above others needs. We confess our violent ways, whether active or passive, that cause harm to others. Guide us into Your way, Your truth, and Your life, to become whole people, whole persons who wholly love others, who desire to meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us. Help us to break down the systems and structures of oppression and to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice. In the name of Christ, who destroyed the power of empire by rising from the grave, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (Romans 8:38-39)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Know this: you are loved beyond measure. There is nothing that will ever separate you from God’s love in Jesus Christ. You are forgiven and loved. Go and share the Good News. Amen.

Prayer
Loving Savior, we give You all praise and honor and glory. We remember today that every day is an Easter day. Every day is a Resurrection day. Every day is a day of new life and new hope. Help us to live as resurrected people. Help us to let go of fear, and to live into Your love. We give You all thanks and praise. Amen.

Worship Resources for March 24, 2024—Palm and Passion Sunday

A note on Rev-o-lution:
After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.
I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.
It has become more difficult to say something new week after week, and also, I’m now writing novels, and it has taken more of my time than I can give.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary
Palm Sunday: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-26
Passion Sunday: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39 (40-47)

Narrative Lectionary: Triumphal Entry (or Anointing at Bethany), Mark 11:1-11 or 14:3-9 (Psalm 118:25-29)

We begin Holy Week with Psalm 118, a song of praise to God, calling the people to worship God in the temple. The psalmist speaks of how God has chosen the people rejected by the world, the chief cornerstone. The psalmist calls upon the congregation to process toward the altar, giving thanks to God with praise and offerings.

Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem in 11:1-11 (also the scripture for the Narrative Lectionary), portrays Jesus as having entered Jerusalem for the first time. He arrived at Bethpage and Bethany, outside of Jerusalem, for the city was crowded for Passover. Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him to find a colt, and they found one exactly as he said they would, to borrow for a short time. The disciples threw their cloaks on the colt, and Jesus rode on it into Jerusalem. People spread their cloaks on the road like a red carpet rolled out, and cut leafy branches to wave, and shouted “Hosanna!” which means “Save us!” They called out blessings to the one who came in the name of their Lord, referring to Psalm 118, and the kingdom in the name of their ancestor David. There is some thought among scholars that Jesus entered Jerusalem the same time that Pilate did, and that Jesus’s act is an act of protest against Rome. Jesus went to the temple, looked around at everything—for he had not seen it before—and then returned with the disciples to Bethany to stay for the night.

John’s account of Jesus’ entry is much shorter. In John’s account, the people call him the King of Israel, and John links both Psalm 118 and Zechariah 9:9 as prophesying Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey with proclamations from the crowds. But his disciples did not understand everything until after the resurrection.

The Passion readings with the Suffering Servant passage found in Isaiah 50:4-9a. In this passage, the prophet Isaiah personifies Israel as a people who have suffered in exile. Because the people have remained faithful to God, God has taken notice of them, and they will not be put to shame or be disgraced for what has happened to them. God knows their innocence, and God will vindicate the people.

The psalmist has suffered in Psalm 31:9-16. Unlike the Suffering Servant, the one suffering in this psalm has experienced shame and disgrace by their neighbors, who scheme and plot to take the psalmist’s life. Yet the psalmist trusts in God’s deliverance, and they call upon God to save them, for God’s steadfast love endures.

Paul shares the ancient confession of the church—quite possibly a hymn—in Philippians 2:5-11. Paul urged the church in Philippi to be humble like Christ in their dealings with one another, both inside and outside the church. Christ did not take advantage of being the Son of God, but became one of us, humble and obedient as a faithful servant of God, to the point of death on the cross. God raised Jesus so that everyone, at the name of Jesus, would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God.

The longer Passion narrative in Mark, from 14:1-15:47, begins two days before the Passover, with the plot to betray Jesus, and the preparation of Jesus for his death. Both threads are found throughout the Passion narrative: some religious leaders plot to kill Jesus; Jesus is anointed as in preparation for burial. Judas betrays Jesus; two days later, the other disciples prepare for the Passover meal and Jesus tells them that one will betray him. Judas asks, “Surely not I, Lord?” and Jesus replies, “Take, this is my body.” In the garden, Peter assures Jesus he will not abandon him; Jesus says before the rooster crows twice Peter will deny him three times. Judas and the others come to arrest Jesus; Jesus reminds them that he was among them day after day, and they did nothing. Jesus is brought to trial and accused of blasphemy; Jesus tells the religious leaders that they will see him seated at the right hand of power. Jesus defends himself in the court; in the courtyard, Peter denies he knew him. Jesus is brought before Pilate but refuses to answer him to stop his execution. Barabbas is released, Jesus is brought to execution. The Roman soldiers mock him, crying out, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Jesus accepts the thorn of crowns in silence. The soldiers crucify Jesus; Jesus refuses the wine to ease his pain. They mock and taunt him; Jesus cries out to God. The threads weave their way through the narrative until Jesus is placed in the tomb.

The shorter narrative is only 15:1-39, or through 47, focusing solely on the events of Good Friday after the trial, when Jesus is brought before Pilate. Even though in the Gospel accounts Pilate is portrayed more favorably, he still hands Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus is tortured and killed by the Roman Empire as a criminal. Even though Pilate seems to believe Jesus is innocent, he relents to the crowds and has Jesus crucified. Jesus dies at the hands of the empire, of soldiers who mock him and beat him and deride him. The crowds may have called for his death, but it is the instruments of the empire who cause all the physical harm and kill him. The systems and structures of this world designed to keep the world’s ways of peace, the Pax Romana, killed Jesus.

The Narrative Lectionary follows Mark this year, so the initial passage of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem is the same. The alternative passage of Mark 14:3-9 is of Jesus’s anointing at Bethany. In Mark’s account, this happens at the home of Simon the Leper—already a place of stigma. A woman anoints Jesus with a costly alabaster jar of nard. Some (Mark’s account doesn’t say if they were disciples) were upset by this, probably because she was a woman touching Jesus, but the argument was that the jar could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 15:11, reminding those around him that they always have an opportunity themselves to show kindness to the poor. Instead, they are attacking this woman who has performed a good service for him, preparing him for burial. Jesus then tells them that whenever the Gospel is proclaimed in the world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her. Remember her. Remember God’s commandment to always show kindness to others and bless those who are among you.

The secondary reading of Psalm 118:25-29 is the latter portion of what is in the Revised Common Lectionary for Palm Sunday above. The psalmist prays to God to save the people and blesses the one who comes in the name of the Lord. The psalmist instructs the procession to bring branches up to the altar and gives thanks to God.

If anything, Palm Sunday reminds us that our ways are not God’s ways. Our ways are to show power and strength through dominance. God continually lays down God’s power. God covenants with us, the people, throughout history, instead of domineering over us. God promises an abundant life. God shows us how to live. God’s desire throughout our scriptural history is not punishment, but restoration. Jesus embodies God’s desires for us by living as one of us, and laying down his life for us. He enters Jerusalem not on a war horse but on a donkey, not on a red carpet but on the coats of the poor. He comes before Pilate not promising revenge but willing to die. He suffers the abuse of the Roman soldiers—and a reminder that it is the Romans who called him the “king of the Jews,” not the Jewish people. Jesus’ own friends abandon him, just like we have abandoned God time and again when our lives get difficult. We look to save ourselves instead of saving others. Jesus literally laid down his life for us.

The woman who anointed Jesus laid down her own reputation to bless him. We can be like those arguing that she should have done something different, or we can accept that each of us has an opportunity to be a blessing for others, and we ought to take it, every chance we get. We ought to take the chance to live as God called us to live. We ought to take that chance for God and for each other.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 118:1-2, 24, 26)
O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good;
God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Let all the people say,
God’s steadfast love endures forever.
This is the day that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
May we bless one another, and our God, in this time of worship.

Prayer of Invocation
Creator of All, we give You thanks on this day that we are able to gather together. We give You thanks that we can bring our prayers and petitions before You. We give You thanks that we can worship with one another and care for each other. We give You thanks that You have made Your ways known to us, through the teachings of our ancestors, the Scriptures handed down, and the love shared with us, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we confess that we sing Your praises in one breath and curse one another in the next. We fail to follow You and to live into Your ways. We follow the ways of this world, the crowds of power, and feed the fears of the powerful. We abandon faith in You to chase a passing glimpse of worldly satisfaction and security. Forgive us for our foolishness. Call us back into Your ways of love, compassion, and hope. Call us into living into Your ways of healing and reparation and restoration. In the name of Jesus Christ, who entered Jerusalem as one of us and died for us all, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance
We know that our Redeemer lives. We know that in the face of all our faults and shortcomings, Christ lifts us up, embraces us, and forgives us. You are loved. You are forgiven. You belong to Christ and can never be forgotten. You are valued. Know your worth—you are God’s beloved child, and with you God is well pleased. Go forth and share the good news of God’s hope to the world. Amen.

Prayer
God of Death and Life, You have made us to become like seeds that fall to the ground, so that we will bear much fruit by dying to the ways of this world and being born in Your way. We are afraid to let go. We have known only this way that the world has taught us, to put ourselves and our desires first, but we know Your Way is the Truth and the Life. Help us to let go of the worldly understanding of success. Help us to let go of the world and to fall into You. Help us to take root and to bear fruit, so that all may know Your abundant love. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.