April 27, 2014
John 20:19-31
1 Peter 1:3-9
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16

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Anger, Adultery, Divorce, Oaths

Epiphany 6 | Ordinary Time 6

from the book
Lectionary Worship Workbook
Series II, Cycle A Gospel Texts


Wayne H. Keller



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Adoration And Praise

Invitation to the Celebration

Paraphrase these words of Harvey Cox, The Feast of Fools: "What Christianity permits to happen in church buildings is important mainly as a clue to what it encourages in the culture. An antifestive church drives the dancers not only out of the temple, but out of the streets and houses, too, if it has the power. Likewise, the church that encourages the affirmation of the body within the sacred precinct itself may lend its support to less repressive social orders."1 Our task, today, is to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy ways that we use our body-parts.
P: God is not dead!

M: God is alive!

P: God lives in the world, our world!

M: God lives in our hearts, minds, emotions, wills. So, with what shall we come before the Lord of life?

P: New eyes, new ears, new tongues, new hands, new hearts.

M: What do you mean, pastor?

P: New eyes to see our neighbors', including our enemies', needs; new ears to hear what people are saying, including those we would rather not hear; new tongues to speak the words of love and justice; new hands to give and not count the cost; new hearts to offer for God to use whenever God decides.

M: We come with new eyes, new ears, new tongues, new hands, new hearts. So be it for sure!

Prayer of Praise

Eternal and present God, fill our lives with your love this hour, so that all which is non-love can be scoured out, and we can feel clean, strong, and sufficient to meet whatever faces us. Help us, not to conform to this world, but to be transformed by your Spirit. Let it be so, beginning now!

Confession And Forgiveness

The Act of Recognizing Our Humanity

Prior to worship, make four placards large enough for the congregation to read.

1. Murder on one side; anger on the other. Which do you need to confess? Give time for people to respond silently. Somewhere during the silence, say, "Cars do not run down nearly so many people as do people who are angry."

2. Adultery on one side; lust on the other side. Which do you need to confess? Again, offer silence. Somewhere during the silence, say, "What form does our lust take? Wanting somebody else's mate, or children; as for example, 'Why couldn't you be like so and so?'"

3. Divorce on one side; loveless marriage on the other. Which do you need to confess? Give time for reflection. Somewhere during the silence say, "I want intimacy with my mate more than anything else in the world; now, how do I go about playing games in order to avoid the intimacy I say that I so desperately want?"

4. Swearing on one side; "yes" and "no" on the other. Which do you need to confess? Give time. Somewhere during the silence say, "How do I soften my obedience, not by my using four-letter words, but rather, by paying only lip-service to my Lord, family, friends, employer, teacher, and so forth?" Use members of the congregation to hold up the signs; make sure that everyone can see them. Give time for silence.

The Act of Receiving New Life

To confess means "to cut it out," that is, to cut out of our lives those things that get us into trouble. This is not a "do not" faith. Jesus is telling us a new and wholesome way to live. Christ's spirit gives us the energy to do so.

Ministers: Thank you, Lord, for offering us a way out of a "thou shall not faith." Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! In the name of the living God who accepts us unconditionally, and who waits for us to accept God's gift unconditionally.

Response

"Dear Lord and Father of Mankind," stanza 1 only. Sing it as a round three times.

Listening And Proclaiming

Message with the Children of All Ages

Focus on anger. Point out how much better children handle anger than many of us adults. Ask ahead of time how one of the children dealt with anger, and what happened. In one instance, the two angry people worked it out; in the other relationship, perhaps they did not, and still remain separated today. These messages need not have fairy-tale endings; they do need to be realistic and hopeful.

Reading from the Newer Covenant

Invite and practice with four people to read the four sections of Scripture from different parts of the sanctuary. Have someone hold the placards during the reading, and switch from one sign to the other during the reading. Make certain that everyone can see and hear.

Proclamation of the Good News

Many church members maintain a legalistic, what I call a "Protestant purgatory," approach to Christianity. They, despite all evidence to the contrary, are still trying to work, climb their way to heaven, especially when they hear today's "do not" messages. Many of our people never get beyond their guilt to get to God's grace. Show them how grace can empower them to confront these issues.

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Stewardship Challenge

1. Hand out the Epiphany stars only to those who have not yet received them.

2. Ask two people, in advance, to share their experience about the message on their stars.

Charge to the Congregation

In the evening of life, only one question will be asked: "How well have you loved?" If someone turned to you at this moment, and asked you that question, how would you answer it? (One minute of silence before the benediction.)

Benediction

Use this approach on occasions: Speak a line of the benediction, and then ask the people to raise their hands and speak it to their fellow worshipers.

Meditation

God sends no one away empty, except those who are full of themselves.

Music Possibilities In Addition To Those Already Suggested

Music for Preparation: Medley of Epiphany hymns, or "What God Ordains" by Pachelbel.

Hymn of Praise: "Praise the Lord! You Heavens Adore Him," Anon. Setting of Schiller's "Hymn to Joy," Berlin, 1799.

Response to the Scripture Reading and/or the Children's Message: "Seek and Ye (You) Shall Find," Kentucky-Tennessee Gospel Song. Found in New Wine. (See Appendix I for address.)

Response to the Proclamation: "O Clap Your Hands," Vaughan Williams.

Offertory: "Aria," Franck.

Hymn of Commitment: "God of Grace and God of Glory," Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1930; alt. 1972.

Music for Dismissal: Medley of Epiphany hymns, or "God of Grace and God of Glory." It's okay to repeat parts of worship. Most of the congregation watches television reruns.

____________

1. From The Feast of Fools, by Harvey Cox; copyright 1969 by Harvey Cox. Reprinted by permission of Harvard University Press.