Worship Guide 2017
We began our quest to read the Bible Cover to Cover in January. Anyone is welcome to come aboard at any time. I still have a few $5 bibles left! Also, each month, usually on the first or second Sunday of the month, we will award fabulous prizes to those who have completed the month’s quiz.
I also wanted to do this exercise in worship in some way. I have decided to devote 2017 to covering the swath of literature that makes up what we call ‘the bible’. Of course, there are many bibles. I will get into that as we go along. In terms of worship, I will begin with the Torah on May 21st and follow the outline in my Bible and Jive blog, www.bibleandjive.blogspot.com.
I wrestled with how to structure worship for this year, especially, as our world and nation are both facing uncertainty with new leadership. Rather than try to chase after themes that may have no connection with what is happening on the ground when we get there, I thought let’s stick to the basics and present the biblical texts with a critical eye and see what connections Spirit makes for us. Each sermon will provide a quick overview of the biblical material for that Sunday, plus it will center on one text, theme, or character, and at least one point of connection that I see with our lives today and the challenges before us.
From Adam and Eve expelled from their garden home in Genesis, to the promise of an eternal home that comes down from the heavens in Revelation, the stories and themes of the Bible could be seen as the various responses to the loss of home, the loss of a world, in short, impermanence. How the Bible’s characters respond to their experience of expulsion, wandering, bondage, and exile, their “home-less-ness” is the story of the Bible. If these stories inspire our own reflection and naming of our loss of home, then the Bible is already useful.
Keep this guide. Look it over and if you have an interesting idea for an “extra” such as a movie clip, a poem, artwork, a song, (especially a creation of yours!) or whatever it might be, let me know. We can include it in worship, because liturgy is the “work of the people.”
The guide likely will change as we move through the year. I will update it on-line. On the church’s website you will find text and audio of sermons (as well as a song or two from the chancel or bell choir or other special music offered that day). Yes, I do some editing to clean and tighten it for podcast. www.southmin.org
February 12 Science Sunday
On this Sunday which is Charles Darwin’s birthday, we welcome Darwin back to church. We recognize the often adversarial relationship between tradition and innovation and we celebrate the courage of the innovators and invoke that spirit in our present time. We honor the curious, evidence-based, democratic, open, collaborative spirit of science. We explore how the Bible has shifted from being a book that told the story of the universe to a book that is but one story among many of how one group of human beings saw its world. We leave open-ended the question, “What is the Bible’s use for us?” and “How do we read it?” We will also celebrate the PCUSA’s vote to affirm The Clergy Letter Project. www.theclergyletterproject.org
Theme: The Bible and the Modern World
Extras: Peter Mayer, “Do You Really Want to Know?
Scripture: Thomas 2 (seek find, find be disturbed…then rule)
Sermon Title: Do You Really Want to Know?
February 19 Introducing the Bible Cover to Cover
Impermanence is possibly the most real thing there is. Everything changes. Nothing is permanent. But that is hard. We want things (at least some things) to stay the same. We let ourselves be deceived by the illusion that permanence is real. That leads to unnecessary suffering for ourselves and others, too. The biblical response is to try to survive the reality of impermanence and ultimately to embrace it. The biblical writers didn’t call this impermanence but ‘wandering’. The Bible can be seen as the quest to survive, find courage, and reframe what our lives mean when worlds collapse and we lose our home, our grounding, our world. We will see how the characters in these stories were more and less successful with that. We may question the theology and the ethics of the biblical writers. The point is not to judge on one hand or accept uncritically on the other, but to learn how they saw things and responded. How did they respond to impermanence? What can we learn?
Theme: Loss of Home
Extras: Harris, p. 7, AE911 ‘clip psychologist explaining loss of worldview as loss of home’
Scripture: Genesis 12:1 (God summons Abram to leave home)
Sermon Title: Losing Home
February 26 John on vacation. Marci Rau leads worship.
March 5 Celebration of Creativity: Worship Among the Art, Lent One
One of the ten commandments instructs the people not to make “graven images.” No images of earth or sky or anything in them and certainly no images of God. These images might become “idols” and we might honor and serve our images rather than the real thing. Christians have been loose interpreting this commandment and thus we have art. Through the centuries Christian art has painted characters from the Bible including God. The images we use to assist in prayer and meditation we call icons not idols. “Don’t pray to the icon, pray through the icon,” so goes the instruction. Art, we have concluded, does not need distract us from the real thing but it can enable us to see what is real. We will look at some early art inspired by stories in the Bible and explore how theology itself is an art.
Theme: Theology As Art
Extras: Slide show of art. Website www.textweekcom www.artbible.info
Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:8-9a (Commandment not to make idols)
Sermon Title: Praying Through the Icon
March 12 Lent 2
The journey of Lent is a wilderness experience. It is a 40-day intentional “leaving of home.” The design is to move us out of our habits and to challenge us to see differently. It is designed to connect us to and to feel compassion for fellow human beings, especially those who struggle, who are literally, not figuratively, houseless. Jesus once said, “Foxes have dens. Birds have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” How do we with integrity follow the one who has nowhere to lay his head?
Theme: Nowhere to Lay His Head
Scripture: Matthew 8:18-23 (following Jesus to leave home)
Extras: photos of houseless camps in Portland, Ibrahim Mubarak’s work, right2survive. Moses Wrosen will speak and be present for conversation following the sermon
Sermon Title: Where Would Jesus Sleep?
March 19 Lent 3
One day Jesus and his disciples were looking at the temple that had been built by Herod the Great. It was a magnificent structure. They were awestruck. Jesus told them that “not one stone will be left upon another.” That statement had to shock their world. That was where God lived. This was his holy city. The stories of Jesus by the time they made it into gospel form had to account for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in the Jewish War, 66-70. How does one survive the loss of one’s world? The gospel creators attempted to respond to that.
Theme: When Impermanence Hits Hard
Scripture: Mark 13:1-2 (Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of the temple)
Extras: Artists’ portraits of the temple, its destruction, WTC
Sermon Title: Being Real When Things Fall Apart
March 26 Lent 4 John on Study Leave at Westar. Guest Worship Leader
April 2 Lent 5 John on vacation. Spring Break. Guest Worship leader
April 9 Palm Sunday
Scholars debate whether Jesus’s march on Jerusalem actually happened in the life of Jesus or was a creation first presented in Mark’s gospel. I don’t know the answer to that but I do think it fits my image of the historical Jesus as a creative rabble-rouser who wasn’t afraid to use a little showmanship to get across his point. Jesus leads a march to the temple from the east on his donkey with the people screaming his hosannas; meanwhile, from the west, the Roman army is riding in on its war horses and is suited up in riot gear. It is Passover, a time to relive God’s liberation of the Hebrew people from the oppression by Pharaoh. It is the perfect storm.
Theme: Why Jesus Marched
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11 (Matthew’s version of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem)
Extras: Eco-Palms for everyone!
Sermon Title: The March Isn’t Over Until Justice Is Done
April 16 Easter Sunday
The stories of the resurrection of Jesus in the four gospels cannot be reconciled. Try it! Include every detail and write an account that includes everything from each gospel. What was the precise order of events? Who saw Jesus first? Who was at the tomb? Did the women speak or not? How many angels were there, or were there any? All of that is to say, that these accounts are art. You look through the art to what is real and what touches the heart and what expands our lives and what gives us courage. The resurrection didn’t happen. It happens. Being aware of the presence of Jesus in the midst of them was how the gospel writers framed hope and their experience of home away from home.
Theme: The Resurrection isn’t about a person, but a people
Extras: Flowering the cross, Hallelujah chorus
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10 (Matthew’s empty tomb narrative)
Sermon Title: We Are the Resurrection
April 23 John on vacation. Rev. Don Ludwig Leads Worship
April 30, May 7, May 14 Creationtide. Round Robin with Other Progressive Churches
The clergy of Christ United Methodist, Cedar Hills United Church of Christ, Murray Hills Christian Church, and Southminster will exchange pulpits on the theme of creation and creationtide. Details to come!
- April 30 Silent Auction, Round Robin on Creationtide Week 1
- May 7 Women’s Retreat, Round Robin on Creationtide Week 2
- May 14 Mother’s Day, Round Robin on Creationtide Week 3
May 21 Torah: Genesis – Exodus
We begin. “My ancestor was homeless, an Aramean who went to live in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 26:5 CEV). So begins the harvest prayer to remember from whence we come. The ancestor here is Jacob who is later named Israel, the father of one daughter and twelve sons who become the twelve tribes of Israel. This prayer is Jacob’s story in a nutshell. It is a prayer of gratitude and a prayer of remembrance. It is the sacred mythology of Judaism and through adoption, of Christianity and ultimately, the West. A sacred mythology is the remembered story that provides identity and grounding in time of change. As we move through this section from creation to the presentation of the mitzvot (commandments) on Mount Sinai/Horeb, we hear the promise of home and covenant—a promise it seems, just out of reach.
Theme: Covenant Theology
Scripture: Genesis 28:1-20 (Jacob confronted by God in a dream)
Extras: We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder
Sermon Title: Making Deals with God
May 28 Torah (Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
In the last half of Exodus we find instructions for constructing YHWH’s mobile home, also known as a tent or tabernacle. YHWH lived there and led the people with fire and smoke through the wilderness. Why would the storytellers write a story about their god needing a tent? These stories can be read as signposts in the evolution of their conception of God. Baal was also movable in this time. Baal was YHWH’s major competitor. Baal rode a bull. He would be understood to be an invisible rider on a statue of a bull. When Moses is receiving the tablets of the Law, the folks led by Moses’s brother, Aaron, make a golden bull for YHWH to ride. It is a nice gesture. YHWH doesn’t appreciate the gift. YHWH is not interested in sharing a ride with Baal. YHWH is a jealous god. That is perhaps the most unique aspect of ancient Israel’s religion. What are the consequences of serving a jealous god?
Theme: Reflections on a God who lives in a tent.
Scripture: Exodus 40:1-38 (The Lord’s Tent is complete)
Extras: Ramadan begins May 27
Sermon Title: “God Goes Camping”
June 4 Graduation and Confirmation. Don Ludwig Leads Worship
June 11 Music Sunday
June 18 Former Prophets Nebi-im (Joshua, Judges) “Deuteronomic” History
Joshua (“God Saves”) is also the Hebrew name for Jesus. Joshua leads the people to conquer the Promised Land, which they do in short order. Judges tells of temporary leaders who rise up to take care of an enemy then depart the scene. Of course we have to talk about “holy” war, genocide, manifest destiny, and the theological justification for killing other people and taking their stuff. For the Deuteronomist, here is how the world works: If you have success with politics, war, the weather, childbirth, whatever, it is because you obeyed God and God is rewarding you. If your enemies are victorious, or you suffer droughts, or are unable to give birth, it is because you didn’t obey and God is smiting you because God is disappointed in you. What are some advantages and disadvantages of this view of God?
Theme: “Stray neither to the left nor to the right”
Scripture: Joshua 1:7 (command of God to stay on the straight path, or else)
Extras: Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Holy Wars, Genocide, Manifest Destiny, herem “the ban”
Sermon Title: “God is Disappointed In You”
June 25 Former Prophets Nebi-im (1 & 2 Samuel)
These two books are a fun read. They tell the story of David. But which David? Was there an historical David? Joel Baden in his book, The Historical David: The Real Life of the Invented Hero, goes behind the text and reads between the lines. He claims there was an historical David, even though there is nothing about him outside of the biblical record. Baden suspects that the historical David didn’t write the Psalms or slay Goliath. Instead, he claims David was an ambitious, ruthless killer, not unlike what it took to become successful in Ancient Near Eastern politics, circa 1000 BCE. If you find holes in the plot or if things just seem to work out too well for “innocent” David, follow those suspicions. The making of David is biblical political spin at its best and it has been used by politicians and their media to the present day to make people believe they are innocent and exceptional.
Theme: Creating the Mythical David
Scripture: 2 Samuel 1:19-27 (David’s lament over death of Saul and Jonathan)
Extras: David’s Lament for Absalom
Sermon Title: “How the Mighty Have Fallen”
July 2 John on study leave. Youth Sunday
July 9 John on vacation. Guest worship leader
July 16 Former Prophets Nebi-im (1 & 2 Kings)
As we move into 1 Kings, David is an old man. His son, Solomon, will take over and under the reign of Solomon, Israel expands as much as it ever will. With David and Solomon, the biblical writers felt confident to have yet another view of YHWH. He will live in a temple and he will make a perpetual covenant with David. YHWH may still do some smiting when needed, but never will YHWH abandon Israel for the sake of David. The focus is on what happened in 587 BCE. Why? Why? Why? Why did YHWH allow Marduk (Babylon’s god) to win? Answer: YHWH didn’t allow Marduk to win. YHWH is boss of all gods. YHWH allowed the bad guys to win because the people of Judah were disobedient. They worshiped other gods. Because of this theology, Judah wasn’t absorbed into Babylonian religion when their world collapsed. They didn’t lose their god. This is all from a time period when natural things were explained by supernatural causes. Question: Can you think of a time in which God ever punished anyone?
Theme: Kingdom to Exile
Scripture: 2 Kings 23:26-27; 24:18-25:7; 25:21b (God turns his back)
Extras: Godspell “By the Willows”
Sermon Title: When Worlds Collapse
July 23 Latter Prophets Nebi-im Part 1, Major Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
The role of the prophet is not to predict the future. The role of the prophet is to awaken people to the present. An excellent poetic commentary on Isaiah is by Fr. Daniel Berrigan. He draws out the pathos of nations that are unable to see beyond their own power and desire. A deep reading of these major prophets can awaken our prophetic imagination. We need to weep like Jeremiah, proclaim like Isaiah, and embody resistance like Ezekiel. The prophetic task is a lonely one. People cannot hear. Why? The myth of exceptionalism is too powerful to overcome. It is a world. A false world, but one that offers the illusion of protection. The prophetic imagination must be creative, courageous and persistent to dismantle the illusion.
Theme: The Prophetic Imagination
Scripture: Ezekiel 1:1-2:1 (Ezekiel’s vision of the wheel and his summons)
Extras: Man of Constant Sorrows (O Brother Where Art Thou); Ezekiel Saw the Wheel
Sermon Title: God Moves Again
July 30 Latter Prophets Nebi-im Part 2, Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)
Not all prophets are created equal. Some are truly majestic and others are partisan and shallow. Certainly the sharp-edged truth-telling of Amos and Micah rise above the ugliness of Nahum. Jonah is a story. But it is a story that skewers the wall-building, the paranoia, and the exclusion of the second-temple policies of Nehemiah. The satire of Jonah is a marvelous parable of awakening and rebirth as we see the theology of “otherness” embodied in the sad, little prophet who cannot grasp a larger vision of a compassionate Spirit. Jonah invites us to ask ourselves, “Who are we? What do we want to be?”
Theme: Prophetic or Just Gross? The Necessity of Critical Reading
Scripture: Micah 6:6-8 (What Does the Lord Require?)
Extras: Final scene from film, “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”
Sermon Title: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
August 6 Communion, Writings Ketuvim Part 1, Psalms, Proverbs, Job
Another book on the recommended list is God: A Biography by Jack Miles. It is a fascinating
character analysis of “God” in the Hebrew scriptures. This book contains the most credible
reading of the book of Job that I know. Job epitomizes resistance to any understanding of
“God” that would delegitimize his experience. Job resists the superficial theology of
Deuteronomy that explains away suffering by calling it a punishment from “God” for bad
behavior. What happens when suffering is undeserved? Why do we hold to superficial
explanations of reality that blame the victim?
Theme: But what if the righteous suffer?
Scripture: Job 42:1-2 (No one can oppose God the powerful)
Sermon Title: A Minority View
August 13 Writings Ketuvim Part 2, Five Scrolls: Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther
We stop to examine the story of Esther. This fictional story is set in the time of the Babylonian
captivity but was likely written much later. Esther uses her privilege and power to save her
people. This is a good story to invite us to think about privilege. Privilege is something certain
people receive by luck that in an unjust society favors some over others because of their
gender, sexuality, wealth, or skin color. People are born this way. What do we do about
privilege and with privilege?
Theme: For Such A Time As This
Scripture: Esther 4:8-17
Extras: Freedom riders
Sermon Title: Using Your Privilege
August 20 Writings Ketuvim Part 3, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 & 2 Chronicles
With 2 Chronicles we reach the end of the TaNaKh. The final words are “Let him go up.” Up
meaning Jerusalem. The goal is home. We would miss the point if we were to think of
Jerusalem as a geographic place ordained by “God” for a particular ethnic group. We would
also miss the point if we were think of Jerusalem as a symbol for heaven disconnected from life
as it is on the ground so to speak. What is Jerusalem? For what do we long? What does real
“home” look like and what does it mean to be a people working, longing, traveling, toward
Theme: The Christian Old Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 (“Let him go up” KJV)
Sermon Title: For What Do We Long?
August 27 Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical Part 1, Tobit, Judith, Esther (Greek), The Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, The Letter of Jeremiah, Azariah and the Three Jews, Susanna
It is unfortunate that these so-called apocryphal or deuterocanonical works have not been part
of the Protestant Bible. They are the bridge in many ways between the TaNaKh and the New
Testament. The seeds of two doctrines developed in these texts, the immortality of the soul
and the resurrection of the body. These two doctrines shaped the Christian message. We will
take a look first at the immortality of the soul as a new invention for permanence.
Theme: Immortality of the Soul as a New Image for Permanence
Scripture: Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9
Sermon Title: It’s All Greek to Me
September 3 Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical Part 2, 1, 2, 3, 4 Maccabees, 1 & 2 Esdras, The Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151
One of the most horrific stories is the torture of the seven brothers in 2 Maccabees. The
significance of this bloody tale is the notion of the resurrection of the body. This is where it
begins. When the theology of Deuteronomy fails (suffering is “God’s” punishment for sin) and
the righteous suffer at the hands of the enemy, what next? One solution is that God needs
more than this life to make it all right. God will resurrect the righteous in the next life. This is
the introduction of martyrdom that sets the stage for the resurrection of Jesus.
Theme: The seeds of belief in Resurrection
Scripture: 2 Maccabees 7:1-9 (Torture of the 7 brothers and their conviction of eternal life)
Extras: Film “Silence”
Sermon Title: Wouldn’t It Be Easier Just to Have Some Bacon?
September 10 Q, Thomas, Parables, Mark’s Apocalypse (Mark 13): Historical Jesus Part 1, Apocalyptic Prophet or Teacher of Wisdom?
Who was this guy? Was he an apocalyptic prophet or a teacher of wisdom? If we choose one
how do we explain the other texts? Or did he exist at all? We may not get back to the original
person, but we might be able to uncover earlier layers of the Jesus story. One thing we can
recognize is that myth and legend developed around him quickly and part of the exploration of
Jesus is to think critically about legend and history.
Theme: Giving Voice to the Historical Jesus
Sermon Title: The End Is Within You
September 17 Jesus, Teller of Parables
Theme: Parables as A Way of Awakening
Scripture: Selections from Red Letter Sayings
Sermon Title: Love Your Enemies
September 24 Seven Authentic Letters of Paul, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and Romans
Theme: Imminent Return as Desire for Permanence
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
Sermon Title: Waiting for Godot
October 1 World Communion Sunday, Didache
Theme: Was the Lord’s Supper Really the Lord’s?
Scripture: Mark, Corinthians, Didache
Sermon Title: Body, Blood or Heavenly Banquet?
October 8 Mark
Theme: The Gospel of Mark and the Jewish War
Scripture: (Woman who anointed his feet)
Sermon Title: She Did What She Could
October 15 Matthew
Theme: Jesus’s Impossible Sermon (or have we just not tried it?)
Scripture: Selections from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
Sermon Title: Blessed Are the Peacemakers
October 22 Pseudo-Paul (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, 1 &2 Timothy)
Theme: The Taming of the Radical Paul
Scripture: (Slaves Obey Your Masters, Women Obey Your Husbands)
Sermon: Paul Was Framed
October 29 John and 1, 2, 3 John
Theme: The Mystical Christ
Scripture: 1 John 4:8, 16 (God Is Love)
Sermon: Authentically Impermanent
November 5 Apocalypse, Jude, 1 & 2 Peter, Hebrews
Theme: Paranoia and Persecution
Sermon: Getting Sacrificed for the Cause
November 12 Gnostics, The Gospels of Mary and Philip
Theme: Another Voice to the Rule-Oriented Orthodoxy
Sermon: You Don’t Need to Get Killed for This
November 19 Luke-Acts Part 1
Theme: Inventing Orthodoxy
Sermon: Official Versions Protect the Villains
November 26 Christ the King, Luke-Acts Part 2
Theme: Luke-Acts and the Church Year
Sermon: The King Who Never Returns
December 3 Advent One
December 10 Advent Two
December 17 Advent Three
December 24 Advent Four and Christmas Eve