Worship Planning Tools - October 2023

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1 October 2023

8 October 2023

15 October 2023

22 October 2023

29 October 2023

Worship Resources

1 October 2023

Ordinary Time (Proper 21)

Philippians 2:1-13

God Is at Work

Additional Scriptures

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Matthew 21:23-32; Doctrine and Covenants 164:4b-c

Prelude

Welcome

Today as we worship and share together at the table of the Lord’s Supper, you are invited to…

…reflect on the faith stories of others.

…remember through stories of God at work

…repent through prayer, seeking Christ’s peace. find renewal through the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

…rejoice in the word.

…recommit, be blessed and be sent forth.

We Reflect on the Faith Stories of Others

Call to Worship

Psalm 78:1-4

Use one or more readers

Hymn of Faith Story

“God of the Ages”

OR “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!”

OR “Now in This Moment”

Invocation

CCS

CCS

7
105
CCS 96

Response

We Remember through Stories of God at Work

A Moment of Story

Choose one of the following:

Option 1: Have someone share a short testimony of when and how they witnessed God at work in the past week or so.

Option 2: Have people turn to a person near them and swap stories of when and how they witnessed God at work in the past week or so.

Option 3: Choose a mission story from https://cofchrist.org/our-stories/ that represents God at work.

Share Story through Singing

“Tell Me the Story of Jesus” stanzas 1 and 3

OR “I Love to Tell the Story”stanzas 1 and 4

We Repent through Prayer, Seeking Christ’s Peace

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle.

Prayer

O God who is continuously at work in creation,

We unite our hearts in prayer as we pause and focus on the need for justice and peace in our lives and the world. The news is filled with stories that do not reflect your vision of Shalom. We confess that we sometimes become overwhelmed by those stories. We also confess that we sometimes get in the way of your work in the world both directly and indirectly. We call upon your grace and forgiveness as we prepare to participate in the Sacrament of Communion.

God of all generations,

Give us courage to be your ambassadors of peace, doing your work in our families, neighborhoods, cities, and world. Guide us with Divine wisdom in determining where and how we can make a positive difference in the places where we live and serve.

Let our words proclaim your Son and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace. Let our actions reflect our best understanding of who you are as we work for justice and share Christ’s peace. Grant us courage and hope when we are fearful or discouraged.

In the name of Jesus, the Peaceful One, we pray, Amen.

For additional ideas: Find this day’s Prayer for Peace service on the church’s website at www.CofChrist.org

We Find Renewal through the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

Communion Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:26-29

623
CCS
370
CCS

Communion Talk

Based on Doctrine and Covenants 164:4b-c

Hymn of Preparation

“I Come with Joy, a Child of God”

CCS 533 OR “In the Singing” CCS 519 OR “Here at Thy Table, Lord” CCS 517

Invitation to Communion

All are welcome at Christ’s table. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is a sacrament in which we remember the life, death, resurrection, and continuing presence of Jesus Christ. In Community of Christ, we also experience Communion as an opportunity to renew our baptismal covenant and to be formed as disciples who live Christ’s mission. Others may have different or added understandings within their faith traditions. We invite all who participate in the Lord’s Supper to do so in the love and peace of Jesus Christ.

Blessing and Serving of the Bread and Wine

For guidelines on the Lord’s Supper, including online participation, see CofChrist.org/ourministry-tools.

We Rejoice in the Word

Scripture Reading

Philippians 2:1-13

Ministry of Music or Congregational Hymn

CCS 169 OR “Christ Be in Your Senses”

“Let This Mind Be in You” sing several times

CCS 579 OR “Fanana”

CCS 596

If this is unfamiliar, sing along with the vocal recording found on Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings.

Scripture Talk

Based on Philippians 2:1-13

We Recommit and Are Blessed and Sent Forth Disciples’ Generous Response Statement

During this time of a Disciples’ Generous Response, we focus on aligning our heart with God’s heart. Our financial tithes marked for Local Mission Tithes help our congregation meet the local budget and all that it supports. Our financial tithes designated for Worldwide Mission Tithes support the ministries and services of our global church.

Through our tithes, we tangibly express our gratitude to God who is the giver of all. We make a positive influence in the world both locally and globally through our combined tithes of time, talent, treasure, and testimony.

Today we shared in the abundance available at the table of communion. Now we turn our hearts and mind to we reflect on our mission initiative to abolish poverty, end suffering. We remember that there are others in the world who have needs that we have the capacity to meet. We recommit ourselves anew to being Jesus’ hands, feet, voice, and advocacy in the world.

May all that we have to tithe our time, talents, treasures, and testimonies be consecrated for doing God’s work in the world.

As is the Community of Christ practice when we share in communion, any undesignated contributions in the offering plate will be designated to Worldwide Mission Tithes – Abolish Poverty, End Suffering, which includes Oblation ministry.

As you make your offering, please rejoice in the gifts you have received and recommit yourself as a whole-life steward responding to support God’s work locally and around the world. We commit these offerings to the work of God.

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at CofChrist.org/spiritualpractices-generosity/.

Closing Hymn

“Till All the Jails Are Empty”

OR “Your Cause Be Mine”

OR “Church of Christ Now Poised Anew”

Prayer of Blessing

Response

Sending Forth

Remember “…it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Go and join wherever you find God at work!

Postlude

CCS
CCS 639
CCS
303
373

Sermon Helps

Sermon Helps Year A - Letters Ordinary Time (Proper 21)

Philippians 2:1-13

Exploring the Scripture

Scholars and church leaders have expounded and debated the Christological statement in Philippians 2:1-13 for centuries. But Paul did not write a theological essay. He wrote to strengthen, comfort, and encourage those who were being persecuted for their faith.

Paul has just told the Philippians that, given a choice between life or martyrdom, they should choose life and continue the gospel’s work. Community living is conditional. If they build unity of heart, then Christ, himself, will encourage them. God’s love is with them. The Spirit will unite them in compassion for one another. Paul’s joy will be complete if they face persecution with unity of faith, love, purpose, and thought.

Paul hinted at status-seeking among them when he encouraged them to turn away from selfish motives and pride. Paraphrasing verses 3-5, Paul wrote, “Put the welfare of others first, rather than your own. Think and act as Christ thought and acted. Your attitude (mind) must be Christ-like.” In verse 6, he transitioned from living for Christ to dying for Christ, quoting an early Christian hymn whose author and origin are unknown.

The hymn summarizes Christ’s descent from heaven to Earth and his ascent in exaltation. Some scholars point out that Adam, who was created in God’s image, lusted for equality with God, and his disobedience led to death. Christ, who was given equality with God, rejected it to become humble and refused to advance his status or avoid suffering. Instead, he chose to become human by “emptying himself” (kenosis, in Greek: to become nothing). His humbleness included a willingness to die on the cross in humiliation. At this point in the hymn, the downward movement from heaven to Earth is reversed, and God rewards Christ’s obedience by exalting him.

The word “exalt” was used in the early days to mean the result of the combined acts of crucifixion and resurrection. Christ’s exalted station and divine nature justify any suffering in following Jesus. Verse 10 promises that a time will come when all the universe (above, on, and below the Earth) will recognize Jesus. The promise of the following verse goes beyond recognition to confession. All will revere Christ’s name. A person’s name was their character, identity, personality, and intent. Therefore the “name of Christ” embodied all that Christ represented, both divine and human.

The last line of the hymn refers directly to persecution. In first-century Roman provinces, people were required to offer sacrifices to the Roman Emperor and declare, “Caesar is Lord!” Refusal to offer sacrifice or declare loyalty was considered seditious, punishable by imprisonment and death. Christians countered the Roman practice by declaring publicly, “Jesus is Lord” at baptism. Their first loyalty was to Christ, often paid for by persecution and martyrdom. The hymn ends with the triumphal statement; eventually, all people would confess, “Jesus is Lord!”

Today’s passage ends with Paul’s directive to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” He was not suggesting the Philippians could save themselves, but rather assuring them they had the strength and experience to live Christ-like lives without relying on Paul.

Whether Paul lived or died, visited them, or was martyred, they could carry on. God was with them, working God’s salvation within their hearts.

Central Ideas

1. Paul upholds both the importance of living in Christ and the courage to face persecution because of our commitment to Christ.

2. Like the ancient hymn, Community of Christ affirms that Jesus Christ was both fully divine and fully human.

3. We are called to put the welfare of others before our own.

4. The first baptismal statement was “Jesus is Lord” a declaration of loyalty, as well as a statement of belief.

5. The early church was comforted by the vision of a day when all people would recognize Jesus Christ as Lord.

Questions for the Speaker

1. When have you tried to increase your importance, status, or authority? What was the result in the lives of others? In your life?

2. Is taking on the mind of Christ something we achieve on our own, or something God does within us? What prompts you to answer as you do?

3. Who or what has captured your primary loyalty? How do your lifestyle, economics, recreation, and service bear this out? What conflicting priorities do you confront?

4. What would the world be like if everyone recognized Jesus as Lord? What would we gain? What might be lost?

Sacred Space – Small Group Resources

Year A Letters

Ordinary Time, Proper 21

Philippians 2:1–13 NRSV

Gathering

Welcome

Ordinary Time is the Christian calendar period from Pentecost to Advent. This part of the Christian calendar is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and as a faith community.

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly. Light the peace candle.

Today’s Prayer for Peace is inspired by Community of Christ Sings 504, “In This New Moment,” by Ernesto Barros Cardoso, Darlene Schützer, Paulo R. Salles Garcia, Tércio Junker, Dea C. Affini, and Eder Soares

In this life there is pain, destruction, and fear.

Let this be the moment to strengthen our ties.

Spirit of the moment, we confess our thoughts are a conductor’s baton, hopping, swaying, and jumping. Rarely do we dwell in the moment without great effort. But peace is there in that moment, when we are in tune with the life around us.

Strengthen our ability to be fully present in each moment of pain, of destruction, and of fear. May we fully see our ties to each of your beloved. May pain draw us closer to one another. For in that space and in that moment, we find and share peace.

Tension strengthens the knot where two ropes join. Empower us to embrace this power-giving tension. From our strength together, may we move toward justice.

In the name of Jesus, who is with us in each moment. Amen.

Spiritual Practice

Praying for Peace

The Enduring Principle we are focusing on is Pursuit of Peace, or Shalom. Shalom for Community of Christ is defined as “Led by the Holy Spirit, we work with God and others to restore shalom to creation.” We might describe it as the presence of God’s wholeness and healing peace in the world.

By praying for peace for loved ones, the nations of the world, and even those with whom we disagree, we are focusing our hearts on healthy relationships and the ministry of reconciliation.

A Prayer for Peace is offered each day in the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri. Prayers for Peace are included in worship services, small groups, family camps, and retreats. Praying for peace also can be a spiritual practice. Today we will pray for peace using the prayer of Saint Francis. Read aloud:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Amen

This time, have the group repeat each line after me:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Amen

Invite the group members to discuss what hope they have for peace and reconciliation in their lives. Close with the following prayer:

Peace be to this house, peace be to all relationships, peace be to all the world. Amen.

Sharing Around the Table

Philippians 2:1–13 NRSV

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,

he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

This passage was written to strengthen, comfort, and encourage those who were being persecuted for their faith.

Paul has just told the Philippians that, given a choice between life or martyrdom, they should choose life and continue the gospel’s work. If they build unity of heart, then Christ himself will encourage them. The Spirit will unite them in compassion for one another. Paul’s joy will be complete if they face persecution with unity of faith, love, purpose, and thought.

Paul hinted at status-seeking among them when he encouraged them to turn away from selfish motives and pride and to take on the mind of Christ. Paul reminds them and us that Christ, who was given equality with God, rejected it to become humble and refused to advance his status or avoid suffering.

In first-century Roman provinces, people were required to offer sacrifices to the Roman emperor and declare, “Caesar is Lord!” Refusal to do so was considered seditious, punishable by imprisonment and death. Christians countered the Roman practice by declaring publicly, “Jesus is Lord.”

A person’s name was his or her character, identity, personality, and intent. Therefore the “name of Christ” embodied all that Christ represented, divine and human. All Christians revered Christ’s name. Their first loyalty was to Christ, often paid for by persecution and martyrdom. Today’s passage ends with Paul’s directive to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” He was not suggesting the Philippians could save themselves, but rather assuring them they had the strength and experience to live Christ-like lives. God was with them, working God’s purposes (salvation) within their hearts. The same is true for us.

Questions

1. When have you tried to increase your importance, status, or authority at the expense of someone else? What would you do differently now?

2. Is taking on the mind of Christ something we achieve on our own, or something God does within us?

3. How has God captured your primary loyalty? How do your lifestyle, economics, recreation, and service bear this out?

Sending

Generosity Statement

Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.

—Doctrine and Covenants 165:6a

The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response. This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

Discipling God, as we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In this way may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

CCS 169, “Let This Mind Be in You”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group

Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper Thoughts for Children

Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:23–26 NRSV

Communion Statement

All are welcome at Christ’s table. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is a sacrament in which we remember the life, death, resurrection, and continuing presence of Jesus Christ. In Community of Christ, we also experience Communion as an opportunity to renew our baptismal covenant and to be formed as disciples who live Christ’s mission. Others may have different or added understandings within their faith traditions. We invite all who participate in the Lord’s Supper to do so in the love and peace of Jesus Christ.

We share in Communion as an expression of blessing, healing, peace, and community. In preparation let’s sing from Community of Christ Sings (select one):

• 515, “In these Moments We Remember”

• 516, “Coming Together for Wine and for Bread”

• 521, “Let Us Break Bread Together”

• 525, “Small Is the Table”

• 528, “Eat this Bread”

Thoughts for Children

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we read, “Be of the same mind, having the same love as Christ, of one mind with each other.” What is the mind of Jesus like?

Jesus and God are one. Jesus rightfully should have been treated like a ruler, but he was willing to be our servant to share God’s love. The rest of the scripture tells us how to be like Jesus: “Do nothing from selfishness or boastfulness, but be humble; think of others as better than yourself. Look out for the good of others” (Philippians 2:1–5 NRSV, adapted)

Ask participants to tell you what they think the mind of Jesus is like. Write these on a flipchart or posterboard. Phrases might include: shares God’s love, is not selfish, thinks of others, takes care of others, etc. Ask how we can be like-minded with Christ (think and do the same things).

Taken from: Scripture Based Focus Moments

(https://www.heraldhouse.org/products/scripture-based-focus-moments-pdf-download)

Worship Resources

Ordinary Time (Proper 22)

Philippians 3:4b-14

Press On!

Additional Scriptures

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Matthew 21:33-46

Prelude

Consider using CCS 90, “O God beyond All Praising,” as the final piece of the prelude and continue playing it softly in the background during the Welcome and Call to Worship. Then transition to the introduction of the first hymn.

Welcome

Call to Worship

Reader 1: “O God beyond All Praising,” CCS 90, stanza 1

Reader 2: “O God beyond All Praising,” CCS 90, stanza 2

Hymn

“When, in Awe of God’s Creation” CCS 283 OR “Dios está aquí/God Is Here Today” sing several times CCS 150 Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own. OR “Each Breath Is Borrowed Air” CCS 144

Invocation

Response

Focus Moment

OR

Read the book, “Giraffes Can't Dance” by Giles Andreae.

ISBN-10:0545392551. Cartwheel Books; Illustrated edition (March 1, 2012).

This book tells the story of Gerald the giraffe who can’t dance like the other animals until he finds his music. It upholds the importance of encouraging each other and pressing on even when times are tough.

Print or project the text to the heritage hymn, “Higher Ground,” by Rev. Johnson Oatman, Jr., written in 1898 (The Hymnal 350). Consider having a musician play this softly as background to the discussion.

8 October 2023

1. I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day; Still praying as I’m onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Refrain

Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith, on heaven’s tableland, A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

2. My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay; Though some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim is higher ground.

3. I want to live above the world, though Satan’s darts at me are hurled; For faith has caught the joyful sound, The song of saints on higher ground.

4. I want to scale the utmost height, and catch a gleam of glory bright; But still I’ll pray till heaven I’ve found, “Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”

Facilitate a discussion around the idea of an upward way and higher ground. Possible discussion questions include:

1. What do you think the author meant by higher ground?

2. What does higher ground mean to you?

3. In what ways might this text align with Community of Christ today? In what ways does it not align? Why do you think this hymn isn’t in our current hymnal (2013)?

4. How might we hear this text in 2023 as a desire to press on?

Ministry of Music or Congregational Song

Play a vocal/video recording of “Higher Ground”(The Hymnal 350) or ask someone to sing it. Be sure to find the text that starts, “I’m pressing on….” because there are many versions of songs called “Higher Ground.” The song is in public domain, but make sure you have permission to use a recording from the recording copyright holder. OR "When the World Is Babbling Round Us” CCS 217

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle.

Prayer

God who calls us to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before you, we pray for peace in our lives, in our families, in our neighborhoods, and in our world. Where there is darkness, let us shine the light of your Son. Where there is hate, let us share your unconditional love. Where there is brokenness, let us speak words of comfort. Give us wisdom to see ways to bring about justice. Give us mercy to share. And keep us humble as we press on through the valleys and the mountains of life. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen

For additional ideas: Find this day’s Prayer for Peace service on the church’s website at www.CofChrist.org.

Scripture Reading

Philippians 3:4b-14

Hymn of Affirmation

“Be Thou My Vision”

167 OR “Lord of All Hopefulness” CCS 193

CCS

Message

Based on Philippians 3:4b-14

Disciples’ Generous Response Statement

Take a moment to reflect on this past week. Think of a moment when you were discouraged or feeling down. What did you do to press on and move past that feeling? Did you reach out to a friend? Did you say a prayer?

Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes the down moments can feel overwhelming. As disciples, we rely on our faith and the support of our faith community, to help bear each other’s burdens. Turns out that being grateful is another way we can gain strength to press on.

Research shows that being grateful is good for our mental and spiritual health (https://www.christianpost.com/voices/gratitude-rewires-your-brain.html). One researcher called being grateful the vegetables for our spiritual life. Consider incorporating a spiritual practice into your life focused on being grateful. The church’s website has several examples: https://cofchrist.org/spiritual-practicesgenerosity/

As we share together in the Disciples’ Generous Response, we focus on aligning our heart with God’s heart. Collectively, we can fund and support local and worldwide mission. Our financial tithes that are undesignated or marked for Local Mission Tithes help our congregation meet the local budget and all that it supports. Our financial tithes designated for Worldwide Mission Tithes support the ministries and services of our global church. Through our tithes, we tangibly express our gratitude to God who is the giver of all.

As we share our mission tithes either by placing money in the plates or through eTithing, use this time to thank God for the many gifts received in life. Our hearts grow aligned with God’s when we gratefully receive and faithfully respond by living Christ’s mission.

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at CofChrist.org/spiritualpractices-generosity/

Closing Hymn

“God Is Calling” CCS 172 OR “Lift Every Voice and Sing” CCS 555 OR “Onward to Zion” CCS 390

OR “Spirit of Christ, Remember Me” CCS 221

Prayer of Blessing for the Week

Response

Sending Forth

“…press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus”

(Philippians 3: 14)!

Postlude

Sermon Helps

Sermon Helps Year A - Letters Ordinary Time (Proper 22)

Philippians 3:4b – 14

Exploring the Scripture

In the verses just before today’s passage, Paul criticizes Christian leaders who insist that Gentiles must be circumcised before becoming Christians. They were teaching the need for specific religious credentials to be acceptable to God. Paul uses his own life as an example of how unimportant those religious credentials are.

In this autobiographical passage, we have a rare personal glimpse into Paul’s faith journey from his pen. With remarkable brevity, he summarizes his privileged life, his unblemished religious background, his misplaced zeal, and his transformation:

• He was circumcised by his parents on the eighth day following Jewish law, the mark “in the flesh” of a Jew, inheritor of the covenant of Abraham.

• He belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, named for the beloved youngest son of Jacob, who took no part in selling his older brother Joseph into slavery. Paul’s inclusion of his tribe in this brief account shows his pride in belonging and affirms that he continues to see himself as a Jew.

• He was born into a Hebrew-speaking family and claimed Hebrew as his native tongue.

• He chose to join the Pharisee sect, committed to strict adherence to the multitude of Jewish laws governing daily life, thought, faith, and action. Although his choice required meticulous discipline in every part of daily life, it also gave status, privilege, and honor.

• His zeal for law and Jewish faith led him to persecute actively the Jewish Christians, to cleanse the Jewish faith of heresy.

• In doing so, he considered himself righteous, blameless and fully justified. His zeal and self-righteousness become a statement of confession and repentance as he writes of the joy he has found through living “in Christ.” Like Jesus, in Philippians 2:5-11, Paul discarded his cherished credentials as “rubbish” to claim Christ Jesus as Lord.

Paul set before the Philippians two ways of defining righteousness. In his previous life, he considered himself righteous because he kept the law righteousness dependent on his effort, obedience, and achievements. In contrast, the righteousness he now values is a gift given by God. It is not grounded in past accomplishments but based on present trust and future fulfillment. It comes simply by reaching out to make Christ his own. It is possible only because Christ has already claimed Paul as Christ’s own. He cannot take credit for his faith because it, too, is a gift from God.

Paul highlighted the process of becoming more Christlike rather than reaching a completed goal. He has not arrived and is not perfect in faith. He continues to press on “toward the prize” instead of reveling in the progress he has already made. Using imagery well-known to the Gentile Christians of Philippi, he speaks as if he were in a footrace, with the prize (or trophy) being “the heavenly call of God in Jesus Christ.” For this calling, Paul gave up his past privileges and entered a new life in Christ.

Central Ideas

1. Paul’s early faith journey and zeal led him to an encounter with the living Christ, which transformed his faith and the purpose of his life.

2. Paul willingly gave up all he was, all he had, and all he once valued, to witness of Jesus Christ

3. Righteousness defined by legal observance fails because of the righteousness which God gives to those who claim life in Christ as their top priority.

4. A Christian is always becoming becoming more faithful, becoming more trusting, and becoming more Christ-like.

Questions for the Speaker

1. How have your own life experiences and faith journey equipped you to be a witness for Jesus Christ?

2. What further transformation would be necessary for you to be an “apostle” one who is commissioned as a witness and sent to others to share the Good News?

3. What does it mean to “gain Christ and be found in him?”

4. What images would you use to contrast legal righteousness with God’s righteousness in today’s world?

5. How is your congregation or faith group moving away from the past and becoming more Christ-like?

Sacred Space – Small Group Resources

Year A Letters

Ordinary Time, Proper 22

Philippians 3:4–14 NRSV

Gathering

Welcome

Ordinary Time is the Christian calendar period from Pentecost to Advent. This part of the Christian calendar is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and as a faith community.

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly. Light the peace candle

Today’s Prayer for Peace is inspired by Community of Christ Sings 303, “Till All the Jails are Empty,” by Carl P. Daw, Jr.

...in classroom, church, and office, in shops or on the street; in every place where people thrive or starve or hide or meet: God has work for us to do.

Servant God, sometimes we forget that you serve as often as you lead. You are the lawyer working to make the system just. You are the teacher empowering the timid youth. You are the kind coworker standing up for the ignored new employee. You are the scientist working for a more sustainable future. You are the volunteer unlocking the doors and cleaning the floors. You arrive early and stay late. You see beauty and wonder in it all!

When we grow tired of working for peace, remind us that seeds crack before they sprout into tiny leaves, which take many sunrises and sunsets to grow and to produce fruit. Open our eyes to see the beauty in the work, so we would be energized to do your good and beautiful work of bringing peace to our world!

In the name of the One who sows seeds with us, Jesus. Amen.

Spiritual Practice Unity

Our Enduring Principle for this week’s spiritual practice is Unity in Diversity. Not one person on Earth is exactly like another. We all are shaped by our culture, genetics, upbringings, families, experiences, beliefs, etc. But we all have one thing in common: We all are divinely made. Unity in Diversity respects the differences while honoring the Divine in all voices.

But God has so arranged the body…that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

1 Corinthians 12:24–26 NRSV

Think about the past week. Who showed compassion when you felt sad or were suffering? Who rejoiced with you in the good things that happened? Invite people to share. Who do you know who has suffered this week? How were you able to share this burden with them?

Who had cause to rejoice this week? How have you celebrated with them? Invite people to share.

Offer a short blessing of unity and close with “Amen ”

Sharing Around the Table

Philippians 3:4–14 NRSV

Even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

In our hyper-competitive world, street cred is one thing people use to get an edge, just a little step ahead of the competition. In most communities around the globe, an organization or church counts as its members some if not all community power brokers.

This is so common in some societies that no thought is given to the dynamics it represents. Those who find their meaning and purpose wrapped up in belonging to the power church and fix their identity on righteousness as defined by the church will tend to ignore those on the outside or at worst persecute them. This was Paul’s life before his road to Damascus experience.

Afterward, the Apostle Paul spent the rest of his life trying to understand the meaning of this experience with Christ. It was so profound that his entire worldview changed. The realization that being in right relationship with God through our own actions or by following the rules exactly comes into stark contrast to the righteousness found in faith in Jesus and the liberty of the gospel. When Paul says he wants to be found in Christ, he is saying he wants the righteousness that comes to us through what God has done instead of what we, ourselves, have done, which is always short of the mark.

Questions

1. Paul discovered that his time and effort trying to save himself was lost to him when he found himself in Christ. Have you ever had a sense of wasting time and effort chasing salvation by your own means?

2. Paul alludes to the grace of God expressed in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. If grace is true, what implications does that truth have on your life, neighborhood, city, the world?

3. According to the letter, being in Christ is Paul’s sole pursuit. What does “being in Christ” look like in your daily life?

Sending

Generosity Statement

Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.

—Doctrine and Covenants 165:6a

The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response. This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

Discipling God, as we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In this way may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

CCS 550 “We Are Pilgrims on a Journey”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group

Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

Thoughts for Children

Thoughts for Children

You will need:

• playdough or clay (homemade or store-bought)

• various small objects that will leave an imprint when pressed into playdough (It is especially good if these objects represent joy, hope, love, and peace in some way.)

In today’s scripture, Paul writes to the Philippians to encourage them to continue pressing toward their goal of God’s preferred future. In Community of Christ, we call this preferred future Zion. We believe that in Zion peace and wholeness will exist for all creation.

Just as Paul encouraged the Philippians to press on, we are invited to press on in Christ’s mission. Pressing on means we keep trying, no matter what. Even when bad things are happening, we are called to believe that a better way is possible. Then we are to work to make that better way a reality.

When we press on, we leave our mark on the world and hopefully help it move closer to God’s preferred future.

Today, I am going to give you each some playdough. I want you to press the various objects I’ve brought into the playdough so you can see how they leave a mark.

After participants have explored pressing objects into their playdough, say: You each can take your playdough with you. Each time you play with it, remember to press on and leave an impression of God’s joy, hope, love, and peace on the world.

Worship Resources

15 October 2022

Ordinary Time (Proper 23)

Children’s Sabbath

Philippians 4:1-9 Be What You Believe

Additional Scriptures

Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Matthew 22:1-4; Doctrine and Covenants 164:9e-f

Preparation

This service has been prepared as a joyful reflection on the guidance Community of Christ has received from God, the journey, and the transformation that continues to occur.

For the collage in the Focus Moment, find and write down quotes about joy, gratitude, and peace on colorful paper. You will need enough quotes for each participant to have one. Spread these papers throughout the worship space. You will need blank butcher paper or poster board and glue sticks. Pictures of joy, gratitude, and peace as well as markers, crayons, stickers, or other art supplies should be on hand to decorate the finished product.

Prelude

Invitation to Worship: Jump for Joy

Sing several of your congregation’s favorite joyful songs or choose from options below. If the songs are unfamiliar, consider having a leader at the front of the congregation for call-and-response style singing, rather than using hymnals. While singing, invite action motivated by the joy of gathering and singing together. Ideas include:

• prepare a group (be sure to especially include children) to sing a joyful song with actions;

• have a congregational dance circle and take turns in the center;

• hold a “Jump for Joy” contest and see who can jump the highest and longest;

• take selfies with smiles or funny faces that encourage laughter;

• ask someone to prepare a joyful Ministry of Dance.

Songs of Joy

“Rejoice in the Lord Always, and Again I Say Rejoice” (campfire song)

https://my.hymnary.org/song/dynamic/734/rejoice_in_the_lord_always_and_agai n_i_s?toolkit=veroviostatic

OR “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart” (campfire song)

https://www.psalty.com/track/687853/joy-joy-down-in-my-heart

OR “Halle, Halle, Hallelujah” CCS 86 OR Takwaba Uwabanga Yesu!/There’s No One Like Jesus!” CCS 121 OR “Siyahamb’ Ekukhanyen’ Kwenkhos’/

We are Marching in the Light of God” CCS 95

Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own.

Welcome

Welcome participants with a smile and some humor that is appropriate for your congregation. Example:

“Each of you is perfect the way you are… and you can use a little improvement.”

-Shunryu Suzuki, Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who is renowned for founding the first Zen Buddhist monastery outside Asia.

Include an introduction to the Children’s Sabbath. Information can be found at:

https://www.childrensdefense.org/childrens-sabbath-celebration/. The founder of The Children’s Defense Fund was Marian Wright Edleman, a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged children. She received Community of Christ’s International Peace Award in 1995.

Call to Worship ask a child or youth to read the scripture

Psalm 106:1-3

Invocation: Body Prayer

Ask children and youth to model some prayer postures in front of the group from https://goodgodideas.wordpress.com/2018/07/19/postures-of-prayer/, inviting participants to adopt a comfortable posture while a simple invocation is given, or use the prayer below. Ask a child or youth to offer this prayer.

Holy One, We offer you joy.

May our joy welcome your Spirit.

Holy One,

We seek your Spirit. May the Spirit bring us Joy. Amen.

Response

Focus Moment

Invite participants to find one of the quotes spread around the worship space Take turns reading the quotes and then bring them to the large, empty butcher paper or poster board to be pasted into an artful collage. Once the quotes are all pasted into a collage, ask the children and youth of the group to continue enhancing the collage using the supplies and pictures provided during the remainder of the service while everyone else returns to their seats. Ask an artistic person to assist with creating the collage and to remain with the children and youth as they continue to create. The collage needs to be completed in time for the Guided Meditation.

Scripture Reading

Philippians 4:1-9

Hymn of Reflection

“Dear God, Embracing Humankind” CCS 194 OR “O Senhor é a minha força/In the Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful” CCS 129 Sing several times. Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own.

Message

Based on Philippians 4:1-9 OR

Congregational Sharing

Everyone has a testimony. Consider asking some of the following to share their stories:

-A child’s testimony of why they decided to be baptized.

-Long-time member’s memories and lessons from their faith journey.

-A historian’s perspective on Community of Christ’s ongoing transformation.

-A testimony about finding joy or peace amid difficulty

-A youth’s hopes and dreams for the future.

-A story about finding joy in the mundane, ordinary things of life

-An evangelist’s experience of offering the sacrament of evangelist blessing.

Hymn of Discipleship If using testimonies, divide stanzas of the hymn between speakers. “You Are Called to Tell the Story”

CCS 625 OR “Teach Me, God, to Wonder

CCS 176 OR “Fanana”

CCS 596

If this is unfamiliar, sing along with the vocal recording found on Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings available from Herald House. Point out the meaning of the text found at the bottom of the page.

Disciples’ Generous Response Story

Share “The Joy of Supporting Local and Worldwide Mission” by Steve Graffeo, located in Principle 4 of the Community of Christ resource, Choose Generosity: Discovering Whole-Life Stewardship, pp. 78-79, available from Herald House.

OR

Testimony

Ask someone to share a short, personal testimony of how generosity has brought joy to their life.

Statement

During this time of a Disciples’ Generous Response, we focus on aligning our heart with God’s heart. Our offerings are more than meeting budgets or funding mission. We can tangibly express our gratitude to God through our offerings, who is the giver of all.

As we share our mission tithes either by placing money in the plates or through eTithing, use this time to thank God for the many gifts received in life. Our hearts

grow aligned with God’s when we gratefully receive and faithfully respond by living Christ’s mission.

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle.

Prayer 和平祈禱

親愛的上帝,懇請以祢的平安祝福我們。當我們處於痛苦和困 難中時,請賜給我們信心、力量和智慧。當我們被恐懼包圍時,

請賜給我們希望。賜予我們祢的平安,以確保我們在孤單的時

候有祢的陪伴。當我們迷茫或迷失時,請引導我們在心中找到 祢的平安。全能的上帝啊! 請住在我們心中,賜予我們平安。請 幫助我們了解和平並不是來自叛逆或悲傷,而是通過思想和靈 魂的平靜而獲得的。在這裡,我們祈求祢的平安住在我們心中。 阿門。

Dear God,

Bless us with your peace. Give us confidence, strength, and wisdom when we are in suffering and difficulty. Give us hope when we are surrounded by fear. Give us your peace. Ensure us that you are with us when we seem alone. When we are confused or lost, please guide us to find your peace in our minds. Almighty God, please live in our hearts and give us your peace. Help us to understand that peace may not come with rebellion or grieving. It is often obtained through the calm of mind and soul. Today, we pray for your peace to reside in our hearts. Amen.

-written and translated by George Chu, Taiwan

For additional ideas: Find this day’s Prayer for Peace service on the church’s website at www.CofChrist.org.

Hymn

“God of Grace and God of Laughter” CCS 100 OR “Of All the Spirit’s Gifts to Me CCS 45 OR “Je louerai l’Éternel/Praise, I Will Praise You, Lord” CCS 115 Sing at least twice, encouraging participants to sing in a language other than their own. OR Sing along with the vocal recording from French Polynesia found on Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings

Guided Meditation: Future

Ask the children and youth to bring the collage created in the Focus Moment to the front for all to see. Encourage observations especially from the children and youth about the messages the collage sends, and the community needed to create it After the discussion, enter into this Guided Meditation.

Find a comfortable position.

Close your eyes or allow them to focus softly on one spot.

Turn your thoughts to your breath. As you think about your breath, notice if it automatically lengthens and deepens.

Challenge yourself to take the deepest breath you’ve taken all day. Breath in and make a little natural noise as you breathe out.

One more time in and let go of any tension as you breath out.

Let this breath fuel your imagination.

Slow the pace. Don’t rush visioning the future.

Envision the future of the church.

Breathe in joy, breathe out hope.

What is the best future you can imagine?

Where do you fit into this picture?

Breathe in joy, breathe out hope.

Let go of negative thoughts that may arise, and allow the Spirit to suggest ideas, even if they seem radically different or difficult. Be specific if you like. Who’s there? Where are you? What are you doing?

How can you “Be what You Believe?”

Breathe in joy, breathe out hope.

Take a few longer, deeper breaths as you bring yourself back to the community around you.

Allow the joy to come to your face… into your heart.

Allow hope in as well.

Open your eyes and refocus on your surroundings.

Welcome back from the future. --Scripture Reading:

Benediction

Sending Forth

Go! Be what you believe! Go with God!

Postlude

Closing Hymn “Holy Presence, Holy Teacher” CCS 601 OR “We Limit Not the Truth of God” CCS 69 OR “Community of Joy” CCS 631
Doctrine and Covenants 164:9e-f

Sermon Helps

Sermon Helps Year A - Letters Ordinary Time (Proper 23)

Philippians 4:1-9

Exploring the Scripture

Paul’s messages to church leaders at the end of his letters provide a glimpse into the early church’s personalities and everyday life. We hear Paul’s love for the church in Philippi, his joy in their faithfulness, and his yearning for them to remain steadfast and fearless. He advises two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to put aside their differences to join in ministry. He asks his “companion” perhaps the church pastor or Epaphroditus, the messenger bringing Paul’s letter to help with reconciliation.

From prison and in chains, Paul calls the Philippians to rejoice (live joyfully) despite persecution, arguments, and strife. Joy goes beyond fleeting happiness. Joy outlasts prosperity, celebrations, and frivolity. It embodies trust in God, longing for the things of the Spirit, and selflessness. “Gentleness” can also be translated as generosity or consideration for others, given unconditionally to “everyone” (v. 5). Focusing outward lessens anxiety about one’s sufferings and reflects the life of Christ.

“The Lord is near,” is an echo of Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call on him.” Prayer implies humility and trust as we turn our worries over to God. Prayer is an invitation to Christ’s presence now and his future return. Paul calls the people to face both the present and the future with rejoicing, gentleness, patience, acceptance, and thankfulness in all things.

Many of the disciples at Philippi would have been poor, struggling for existence. Some would have been slaves, anxious, insecure. Paul counsels them to rely on God rather than worldly matters and remember the gift of life they have been given. Gratitude reminds us to look to the needs of others, who may have less than we, and build up the community for which God’s blessings have been given. Paul’s thankfulness expresses gratitude for God’s unconditional gift of love, grace, and presence among us. We receive the best of God’s gifts, not because we ask, but because God gives before we ask. As an antidote to anxiety, gratitude offers all our concerns to God, and we find Christ’s peace.

In verse 8, Paul moves from the thankful heart to the Christ-mind, which can fill life with uplifting thoughts and values instead of anxiety and conflict. It does not dictate but is a gift. We can choose what is true, honorable, just, and pure. All that is pleasing, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy, fosters the same attitude as Christ Jesus.

In verse 9, Paul encourages the Philippians to put those thoughts into practice by learning and to do what they have heard and seen Paul model. By aligning their lives with the traditions and teaching of Christ, they will indeed receive the peace of Christ. This peace is founded on a trusting relationship with God and is present despite difficulties. It is an irrational peace, a gift we receive when we surrender our thankful hearts, Christ-mind, and kingdom-living to God without reservation. It comes one small step at a time, to banish anxiety and fear indeed a peace beyond our understanding but held in the heart of God.

Central Ideas

1. Paul urges the Philippians to embrace the deep joy that life in Christ offers even amid difficulties.

2. Christ is near to transform us and make us like himself.

3. Christians display gratitude as a Christian way of life, both within and outside the community of faith.

4. Both a grateful heart and a Christ-like mind combat anxiety, despair, conflict, and hopelessness.

Questions for the Speaker

1. How has deep, lasting joy been a source of strength to you in facing diversity and despair?

2. When have you felt Christ near to you, in your prayer life, in your daily activities, and your conflicts?

3. How can thankfulness banish anxiety in your own life? In the life of the church?

4. What does it mean for us, as a community, to have the mind of Christ?

Sacred Space – Small Group Resources

Year A Letters

Ordinary Time, Proper 23

Philippians 4:1–9 NRSV

Gathering

Welcome

Ordinary Time is the Christian calendar period from Pentecost to Advent. This part of the Christian calendar is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and as a faith community.

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly. Light the peace candle

Today’s Prayer for Peace is inspired by Community of Christ Sings 299, “We Call Out to You,” a Nepali song.

...a song of proclamation to end discrimination; each voice is heard, sung in chorus to you…

Spirit of mystery, we come with open hands, ready to receive your tools of peace. We come for discernment for our vision, strength for our feet, bravery for our hands, and compassion for our hearts. You grant gifts freely! Together, we have the power to end the violence, discrimination, and injustice on this beautiful planet. If only we would listen…if only we would sing in chorus.

Teach us to listen for your melody, to harmonize with peacemakers in our communities, and to follow the drum of justice until the song is complete.

In the name of Jesus Amen

Spiritual Practice

Holding in the Light

Our Enduring Principle focus this week is Blessings of Community. We are taught to create communities of peace in our families, neighborhoods, congregations, nations, tribes, and around the world. A spiritual practice that helps us feel connected to our communities is called Holding in the Light. It is a form of intercessory prayer/meditation adapted from the Quaker movement. We will stand, forming a circle. I will have a candle to light in my hand. Each of you will hold your hands in front of you as if also helping me hold the light.

Pause to let group get situated.

While looking at the light from the candle, center yourself and breathe in the word love; breathe out the word light. Repeat three times.

Say the names of the loved ones, communities, or countries you are holding light for. You can name them aloud to hold as a group or keep them in your heart.

Pause to let people offer names aloud or silently.

Now imagine these persons being surrounded by the light as bright as the candle. We will hold these loved ones in the light for three minutes.

Pause for three minutes.

Offer a moment of gratitude for your loved ones, your communities, and this experience of Holding in the Light.

Next time you see the light of a sunset or sunrise, you can remember to hold a loved one in the light.

Sharing Around the Table

Philippians 4:1–9 NRSV

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my coworkers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

We are smack in the midst of Ordinary Time for the liturgical year. There are no feasts or special celebrations now We recall the wind and fire of Pentecost, but that was six months ago, and Advent is two months in the future. We might get lulled into lethargy in our faith journey this time of year, but the text from Paul to the Philippians causes us to look at our faith as a daily expression of the extraordinary gift of grace through Christ Jesus. The text for today is quite appropriate for Ordinary Time. How does a person live? Paul says we should think of those things that are honorable, true, beautiful, and just. What would the world be like if all of Jesus’s followers approached each day as Paul suggests?

In his best-selling book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey shares that there are two creations: the creation of the mind an idea, theory, or attitude and the second creation of an idea or attitude being lived or implemented. It seemed revolutionary in the 1990s, but in reality, Paul was saying the same thing. Look for the good and beautiful and live in that world.

In the Northern Hemisphere, during the fall season we must do certain things to prepare for winter But in early October, we can choose fall festivals or activities with friends and family in parks, forests, or sports venues. In farming communities the crops are nearly finished, and a deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction sets in.

Life is good, and now is a good time to begin a new practice it will be easy to look for the beautiful and good this time of year.

Paul suggests that in the ordinariness of life disciples can live extraordinarily by being gentle and kind to everyone they encounter in day-to-day living. “Do the things that you learned from me,” Paul says. The letter to the Philippians helps us to know what those things are.

Questions

1. Try to recall a time when you consciously chose to be kind and gentle to someone who seemed distant or even “prickly”? What transpired?

2. Share a time when receiving a compliment changed your attitude.

3. Share around the table how sharing a compliment with someone else changed the dynamic of the relationship.

4. Recall a time when you were surprised by a positive trait or position that you did not expect to be part of another person.

Sending Generosity Statement

Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.

Doctrine and Covenants 165:6a

The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response. This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

Discipling God, as we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In this way may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

CCS 246, “I Know Not What the Future Hath”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group

Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper Thoughts for Children

Thoughts for Children

In today’s scripture, readers are encouraged to rejoice in God and not to worry. Worry is a natural response our minds have when we are dealing with something uncertain or scary.

Ask: Can you all show me what your face looks like when you are worried?

Where do you feel worry in your body?

If worry were a color, what color would it be?

Say: Your answers to these questions show me that you can recognize when you are starting to feel worried.

It is OK for us to feel worried. However, it also can be helpful for us to develop skills and practices for when we start to feel worried. That way, we can help ourselves find peace and calm, even when things are uncertain or scary. Today, I want to share a practice that might help you when you feel worried.

For this practice, we are going to walk around the space we are in and see if we each can find something for each color of the rainbow. By intentionally looking for each color, we are grounding ourselves in our space and focusing on things we can manage, rather than on things that make us worry. Let’s spend a few moments quietly walking around our space and seeing if we can find something red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

Once participants have had a few moments to walk around the space, invite everyone to return to where they began.

Ask: What did you find that is red? Orange? Yellow? Green? Blue? Purple? (Allow participants to share what they found.)

Thank you all so much for sharing. I hope that next time you start to worry, you remember this practice and try to focus on finding the beautiful colors in your surroundings as a way to help your body feel less worried.

Worship Resources

22 October 2023

Ordinary Time (Proper 24)

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Make Your Faith Known

Additional Scriptures

Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; Matthew 22:15-22; Doctrine and Covenants 163:3a

Preparation

Create a worship center on a table with 3-5 small mirrors and one flashlight. If appropriate, have enough mirrors for each participant. Cover the mirrors and flashlight with a cloth.

Prelude

Hymn of Praise

Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own.

84 OR “Jesu, Tawa Pano/Jesus, We Are Here” sing several times

“Uyai Mose/Come All You People” sing several times

71 OR “All Creatures of Our God and King”

Welcome

Call to Worship

Psalm 99:9

Hymn of Invitation to Worship

“Jubilate Deo” sing several times

Can be sung a cappella and in a round with up to 6 parts. OR “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!

OR “I Will Sing, I Will Sing” sing at least twice

Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own.

OR “Sing to God as Sings the Ocean”

Invocation

Response

CCS
CCS
CCS
98
CCS
123
CCS 52
CCS
112
CCS
104

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle.

Scripture Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 163:3a Prayer

Gracious, loving, and pushing G-d, We come to you in this specific space and time seeking your guidance and wisdom as we strive to be grace-filled and vulnerable to make our faith and trust in you known. This is hard work.

Too often there are forces pulling and pushing us in so many directions- work, family, soccer practice, choir rehearsals, town council meeting, and quite frankly, sometimes church council meetings it can be a challenge to remember the ultimate goal. We can get caught up in the minutia and lose track of placing our faith and actions in the direction of you, G-d.

We ask for your guidance through the whispering and forceful Holy Spirit to keep us accountable so that you may shine forth through us. May we, through the tribulations and joy, continue to be faithful persons as a testament to your grace among us in this world.

In hope and determination, Amen.

- Brinna Kolitz, used with permission

For additional ideas: Find this day’s Prayer for Peace service on the church’s website at www.CofChrist.org

Focus Moment: “Reflections” see below

Hymn of Inspiration

“Holy Presence, Holy Teacher”

601 OR “The Vision of a Life to Be”

OR “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed”

Message

Based on 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Ministry of Music or Hymn of Response

507 OR “Fountain of All Revelation”

“O Christ, My Lord, Create in Me”

67 OR “Jésus est le rocher de ma vie/Jesus Is the Rock for You and Me”

265 Sing along with the vocal recording found on Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings, available from Herald House. Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own. Consider adding actions that mirror the text, as in “…above, below, in front, behind, and all around.”

Disciples’ Generous Response

The Generosity Cycle

CCS
CCS 487
CCS 633
CCS
CCS
CCS

Video

Today marks the beginning of the Generosity Cycle. During this season, focus is on the four phases of the Generosity Cycle: Invite, Discover, Respond and Reflect. This is a season where we are invited to remember God’s extravagant grace and generosity, to discover a deeper joy in discipleship living Christ’s mission, and to respond through whole-life stewardship by intentionally pausing and reflecting on our journey as generous disciples.

The following video shares more about this meaning full season in the life of the church. Play https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY4xxernG1o if technology means are available.

OR

If technology is not available, consider incorporating the following into your thoughts: Week One - introduces the Generosity Cycle and invites people to participate Weeks Two through Four - focus on the Discover phase and explore how gratitude shapes our generous response

Week Five – asks members to consider a commitment to sharing their time, talent, treasure and testimony as the Disciples’ Generous Response focuses on the Respond phase.

Week Six – invites members into a year-long reflection period as the church heads into the season of Advent.

As we embark on this adventure, may we do in a spirit of openness and exploration. God’s grace abounds, and together we’ll discover where it will lead us next!

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools

Hymn of Making Our Faith Known

“We

Benediction

Sending Forth

Be a people who embody the fullness of the gospel. Reflect God’s love into the mysterious of life. Do not be afraid. Even the smallest of light can illuminate an unseen path. Make your faith known, share your light, and be the presence of Christ! Postlude

Are a Family of Faith” CCS 350 OR “When We Lift Our Pack and Go” CCS 634 OR “Make Us, O God, a Church That Shares” CCS 657

Focus Moment: “Reflections”

Preparation

Be sure to read through this activity prior to worship. It will be helpful to have volunteers identified to help with the mirror portion.

Bring volunteers to the front of your meeting space so the congregation can see. Be sure to include children and youth as volunteers.

Activity

Ask the volunteers to guess what’s under the cloth. Feel free to describe the silhouettes of the items on the table. Reveal the items after several guesses. Tell the congregation what you see.

Share the following

What do mirrors and a flashlight have to do with God?

In the letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wants his readers to be imitators of God and to share joy! Even on bad days, God wants us to generously share our love for God, the earth, and all creation. Even you!

Give one volunteer a mirror. With the flashlight in your hand, demonstrate how light is reflected off the mirror. Be careful that light does not shine into someone’s eyes!

After demonstrating the reflection, give another volunteer a mirror. Try to align the mirrors so light reflects off one mirror and onto another. You’re encouraged to try and get as many mirrors to align as possible.

God’s love is the light, and you are the mirror! Just as the light bounces off the mirror, God’s love reflects off of you – your whole self! No matter how dark the room gets, the light will always shine from God onto you. Wherever you go, even far from home, as long as you reflect the light, all people will know you are child of God.

Conclusion

Sing: “This Little Light of Mine”

https://www.christmassongsandcarols.com/products/this-little-light-of-mine Replace mirrors and flashlight on the table upon completion. Place items so the congregation can see them on the worship center.

Sermon Helps

Sermon Helps Year A - Letters Ordinary Time (Proper 24)

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Exploring the Scripture

According to many scholars, the letter to the Thessalonians was written around 50 CE, the earliest of Paul’s letters. It predates the Gospels and is the most ancient of all the New Testament writings available. Acts 17:1-10 provides Luke’s account of organizing the church in Thessalonica, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. This letter supports some of that history. Although Acts suggests Paul first preached to the Jews, Thessalonians was written mainly to Gentile Christians, who faced persecution for their faith.

The letter lists the authors as Paul and his missionary companions Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy. Characteristically, the letter begins with thanks for the church members’ faith, steadfastness, and missionary zeal. Thanksgiving and joy are obvious throughout the letter, a pastoral message of support and encouragement for a congregation Paul loved and prayerfully supported.

Paul’s memory of the time he spent among the Thessalonians presents a remarkable snapshot of a dedicated, compassionate community of faith. He affirmed God’s love for them and called them “chosen.” The Gentile Christians would have known enough about the Jews to recognize the importance of being God’s chosen people. The Jews traced their elect status to God’s covenant promise to be their God if they would be God’s people. Paul extended that covenant relationship to the Thessalonians. This letter is the first written record we have that affirms the Christian faith community has inherited the privileged status of being numbered among God’s chosen people.

He remembered their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope,” Christian virtues coupled with Christian action. He stressed the gospel was not just a set of beliefs but a faith strengthened by the Holy Spirit’s presence, “with full conviction,” to help sustain their efforts. It was not human speech that caused their conversion, but rather the Divine voice and Spirit’s action among them.

Paul referred to himself as a model for them to follow but qualified it. With Jesus, he is a faith model amid suffering, which they, too, experienced. In accepting persecution fearlessly, they inspired others to endure faithfully in Macedonia, Achaia (Greece), and “every place your faith in God has become known” (v. 8). For the first time in our written record, we read the example of Jesus Christ is a key witness in spreading the gospel, but so is the courageous, undaunted example set by Christ’s disciples.

In the last two verses, Paul summarized the heart of the gospel that had transformed the Thessalonians. They had turned from worshiping idols to worship the one true and living God. They had embraced Jesus as God’s Son, crucified, and resurrected. They awaited Christ’s return to rescue them from the “wrath (judgment) to come.” Paul and the early disciples believed God’s judgment was imminent. The letter moves from the opening statement of thanksgiving and remembrance to Paul’s advice and teaching. Then, Paul returned to the doctrine of the last days and Second Coming.

Community of Christ disciples and friends now face the challenge of survival in a society indifferent and often hostile to our cherished values and beliefs. Paul’s letter reminds us to hold fast to the heart of the gospel and continue to be a community that shares God’s love in the world.

Central Ideas

1. Thanksgiving and joy permeate this writing from a spiritual father to his beloved children in the faith.

2. Paul praised the Thessalonians for their work of faith, the labor of love, and steadfast hope, Christian virtues coupled with Christian action.

3. Christians inherited the coveted status of being God’s chosen people.

4. The example set by Christ’s disciples is vital in spreading the gospel.

5. Monotheistic worship and affirmation of Christ as God’s Son, crucified and risen, are the heart of the transforming gospel.

Questions for the Speaker

1. How would Paul characterize your congregation about Christian virtues coupled with Christian acts?

2. What does it mean today to be among God’s chosen, covenant people? How is that idea helpful? How has it been abused?

3. What example are you setting? How is it spreading the gospel?

4. In one sentence, summarize the heart of Christ’s message from your faith perspective. Would others understand and be changed by that sentence?

Sacred Space – Small Group Resources

Year A Letters

Ordinary Time, Proper 24

1 Thessalonians 1:1–10 NRSV

Gathering

Welcome

Ordinary Time is the Christian calendar period from Pentecost to Advent. This part of the Christian calendar is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and as a faith community.

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly. Light the peace candle

Today’s Prayer for Peace is inspired by Community of Christ Sings 556, “Lord Jesus, of You I Will Sing,” from Les Petites Soeurs de Jésus

Lord Jesus, of you I will sing as I journey, I'll tell all my neighbors about you wherever I go.

Beckoning God, we’ve lived, laughed, and loved as Zion for so long that it sometimes becomes commonplace for us. Commonplace to the point where we forget we have dedicated our lives to following in the footsteps of Jesus. Footsteps that lead us through rivers and valleys, thunderstorms and snow, in order to journey with our friends and neighbors as we pursue peace.

Grant us the courage to step into new places, reaching out to new friends and neighbors who are walking in uncertainty. Help us spread your peace to them. Grant us the courage to find friends and neighbors who are working for peace. Help us have the courage to join them. Grant us the courage to speak out when politicians and powerful people steer others astray. Help us have the courage to speak against this noise.

Grant us the courage to sing again, God, to remember that which excited us about the vision of Zion, so that we may draw others to you and in that act draw all of us to your peace.

In the name of Jesus, who gave us the courage to sing. Amen.

Spiritual Practice

Receiving with Gratitude

Enduring Principles are a foundation of Community of Christ. Today we are focusing on the Enduring Principle of Grace and Generosity. The first thing we do in this life is receive. Our first breath is a gift. The spiritual practice for today, is in breath-prayer form. During the prayer we use words to breathe in and words to breathe out. Today we will breathe in the words receive life and breathe out the words thank you

Slowly read the following instructions: Sit with relaxed posture and close your eyes. We will spend three minutes in breath prayer.

Breathe in a regular, natural rhythm.

As you breathe in, receive life; as you exhale, respond with thank you.

Breathe in and out, focusing on what you are inhaling and exhaling. Watch the time for three minutes. Urge participants to continue the breath prayer for the full three minutes. When time is up ask these questions for a short group discussion:

• What is one thing you are grateful for in this moment?

• How do you feel about receiving?

After the discussion say:

Thank you, God, for another day. Thank you for the opportunity to connect with others, to receive and to give to one another. Amen.

Sharing Around the Table

1 Thessalonians 1:1–10 NRSV

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

During the financial crisis of 2009 thousands of people lost jobs. Many families were completely unprepared for the loss of income and the resulting pressures of mortgages that were in arrears, along with utilities and other expenses.

A Community of Christ congregation in the Pacific Northwest (USA) responded to these extraordinary circumstances by offering help to neighbors. The pastor and financial officer became skilled at navigating community-aid services and programs offered for deferment of payment by utility companies.

One day the pastor found a woman in tears, sitting on the flower box outside the office door. The pastor asked if she could help. The woman confessed that she did not understand how her family had gotten into the situation it was in. She and her husband had good jobs and were living the “American Dream”; it all crashed down after they both were laid off.

The pastor helped her complete a form to begin the process of providing aid. When the form was completed, the pastor asked how the woman had come to the church. She replied that a few days before her visit she was sitting on her front step, sobbing about the situation A neighbor came to comfort her.

The woman shared her story. Her neighbor replied that she did not know if the members could help, but that she should go to the big church with the green roof because they really care.

Paul writes to the Christian community in Thessalonica, congratulating people on their reputation a reputation built around care, hospitality, and service. It is a special kind of feeling to be able to write such a letter and recognize the goodness of others. It is not hard to imagine that a neighbor of a person experiencing tough times in the city of Thessalonica might say, “I don’t know if they can help, but you should go to that group of Christians that meet under the green roof; they really care.”

Questions

1. How important is a reputation to you? Do you consider a business’ reputation before you go to it for goods or services?

2. As a disciple or seeker, how would a reputation impact your decision to join or journey with a community?

3. What actions and behaviors do you exhibit that would cause people to say you care?

Spiritual Practice

Love Letter

Have writing utensils and paper for each participant. Read Thessalonians 1:1–10 aloud, as if you were reading a love letter. Make sure everyone is comfortable and then consider the community gathered with you. Think about the gifts and skills of the individuals. What binds you together? How does your community live the principles of Jesus Christ?

Now, imagine yourself separated from the community but receiving updates on how the witness of Christ is being lived through them. Write a letter to the group. These epistles may be very private and may include things not widely known But if participants wish to share what they have written, provide time and space for that to happen. End with a prayer of thanksgiving for the life of Christ that is being incarnated in your community.

Sending Generosity Statement

Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.

Doctrine and Covenants 165:6a

The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response. This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

Discipling God, as we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In this way may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

CCS 552, “We Are Companions on the Journey”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group

Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper

Thoughts for Children

Thoughts for Children

You will need:

• paper

• coloring supplies

In today’s scripture, Paul is offering encouraging words to the people of Thessalonica. Ask: Has a friend or family member ever encouraged you? What did they say to encourage you? (Be prepared with sample situations where someone might need encouragement to generate response from the participants.)

Say: Those are really great examples of encouraging words, thank you for sharing! Today, we are going to practice encouraging others. I am going to give each of you a piece of paper and some coloring supplies. I want you to write or draw an encouraging message on your paper for someone else. Your message doesn’t need to be specific; you can offer general words of encouragement. Does anyone have ideas of what they might write or draw?

Once you have finished your writing or drawing, you can take it with you. Find some place to leave your encouraging message for someone to find during the day. This could be a place in your house, school, or community. You decide!

Worship Resources

29 October 2023

Ordinary Time (Proper 25)

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

What Is Your Gospel Message?

Additional Scriptures

Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; Matthew 22:34-46; Doctrine and Covenants 161:1b; 165:2b

Preparation

This worship is designed to be a reflective service. Worship leaders are encouraged to create a tranquil setting for participants. Setting considerations include soft music playing, dimmed lighting, pre-recorded water soundtracks, candles lit, etc. Be mindful of worship participants need to safely navigate the worship setting

For the All Saints’ Day Remembrance, provide poster board or newsprint paper and markers posted in a location all can see and reach. Be prepared to help those who can’t come forward. Arrange candles (battery operated or wax with a lighter) in the worship center for everyone to be able to light at least one candle.

WE GATHER

Prelude

Hymn of Gathering

“All Creatures of Our God and King”

Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own. OR “Praise to the Living God”

CCS 98

CCS 8 OR “Called to Gather as God’s People”

Welcome

Call to Worship

Psalm 90:1-2

Hymn of Centering

WE CENTER

CCS 152

CCS 162 OR “Open My Heart” CCS 171

“Meet Me in a Holy Place”

OR “Come, Holy Spirit, Come” sing at least twice CCS 154

Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own.

OR “Ubi Caritas et Amor” sing several times CCS 152

Invocation

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle. Ring bell/chime and pause.

Prayer

Let there be peace on earth…

And let it begin with those who are willing to risk courageous love.

Ring bell and pause.

Let there be peace on earth…

And let it begin with a community who is dedicated to the pursuit of justice and equality.

Ring bell and pause.

Let us walk with each other…

And let us shine your radiance into the darkness of the world.

Ring bell and pause.

Let peace begin with me…

And let this be the moment where we walk a new path towards healing and reconciliation.

Ring bell and pause.

Amen.

-by Ryan Pitt, paraphrase from “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” CCS 307, by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson

For additional ideas: Find this day’s Prayer for Peace service on the church’s website at www.CofChrist.org

WE REFLECT

All Saints’ Day Statement

This week on November 1st in the Christian calendar it is All Saints’ Day. We want to pause today to begin our remembrance of friends and colleagues who, in the past year, now rest from their labors in God’s loving embrace. We do not simply remember people who have passed but acknowledge those who walk with us on our journey toward the peaceable kingdom.

Hymn of All Saints

“For All the Saints” CCS 331

As we pause for this moment of reflection, consider those in your life who have walked with you and helped shape your discipleship. They might have been parents, teachers, pastors, writers, or friends. Today, we celebrate spiritual companions from our past, the present, and those moving together with us into the future.

On the poster board/newsprint paper provided, come forward and write down the names of those you are remembering First names are fine. Then, light a candle as a symbol of this remembrance. Play quiet music in the background.

Hymn of Reflection

“Teach Me, God, to Wonder” CCS 176 OR “Searcher of Hearts” CCS 178 OR “Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire” CCS 166

Scripture Reading

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Ministry of Music or Congregational Hymn

“He Came Singing Love” CCS 226 OR “We Are the Ones the World Awaits” CCS 305 OR “God Forgave My Sin in Jesus’ Name” CCS 627

Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own.

Message

Based on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Disciples’ Generous Response Statement

WE SHARE

God’s generosity is revealed in beautiful sunrises, waves on the shore, the face of a newborn child, music that touches our soul. But it’s also revealed in things as simple as the chairs we sit on or the clothes we wear. Discover what you’ve already received, where it came from and how you can use it for God’s purposes and vision for creation.

Sharing

Share your thoughts on what you have generously received from God.

Scripture Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 165:2b

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools

WE RESPOND

Hymn of Renewal

“Spirit of the Living God” sing several times CCS 567

Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own.

OR “Called by Christ to Love Each Other” CCS 577 OR “When Holy Ghost Shall Come in Power” CCS 628

Pastoral Prayer

Sending Forth

Doctrine and Covenants 161:1b, starting with, “Be faithful….”

Postlude

Sermon Helps

Sermon Helps Year A - Letters Ordinary Time (Proper 25)

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Exploring the Scripture

When teachers, philosophers, or parents wrote letters of advice to children or students in Paul’s day, they used reminders of their relationship and shared history. Today’s passage focuses on such reminders, as Paul reminisces about his first trip to Thessalonica.

Acts 16:16-40 records the difficulties Paul experienced in Philippi, just before he traveled to Thessalonica. The Philippians accused him of greed, unlawful conversions, and deception. In writing to the Thessalonians, Paul refers to the suffering and opposition he experienced in Philippi. God gave him the courage to share the gospel despite the opposition. When he testified to the Thessalonians, he used no deceit or trickery to convince them. Paul spoke the truth from the heart to please God, not human beings. They are his witnesses that he did not flatter them, seek personal gain, or try to promote his worth by seeking their approval and praise. The defense of his conduct gives us an insight into the behaviors of others who sought fame and financial gain by evangelizing.

In verse 7, Paul refers to himself, Silvanus, and Timothy as “apostles.” The Greek word for “apostle” meant “one who is sent” and was not a title or officer of the church. All who were sent by the spirit of Christ to share the Good News could be called apostles. Paul often used the term for outstanding men and women, who were diligent, Spirit-filled leaders among the Gentile churches. He recognizes that he and his companions could have made demands common for traveling rabbis, philosophers, and teachers. Such sought payment for their instruction, wanted comfortable accommodations and demanded privileged treatment from their followers. Paul, however, earned his living to avoid burdening the infant churches with his needs.

Some philosophers taught by scolding and insulting their students. But Paul’s team spoke gently, like a nurse caring for her children or suckling a baby. Later in the chapter, Paul switches to the image of a father lovingly caring for his child. Both images reinforce the idea the new disciples in Thessalonica are young in their faith and must continue to mature in the gospel. Paul is ready and willing to help them on that journey.

Paul’s ministry went beyond words to the ministry of presence. He and his team remained in Thessalonica long enough to get to know the people. Only when they knew the people’s hearts and minds could they encourage the witness that went out from Thessalonica to other areas. Ministry is an empty shell if the minister does not offer the gift of self and presence while sharing the gospel.

Paul’s rehearsal of his evangelistic methods was more than casual reminiscences. They served as a model for the Thessalonians to follow in their mission to others. “Do as I did,” Paul was telling them. Avoid seeking privileges and status. Minister humbly and fearlessly, even when faced with persecution. Go live among the people and get to know them. Nurture them as they grow. Speak the truth gently, with transparency, guided by the Holy Spirit. Witness for the glory of God, not human gain. And God will bless the work in the future as in the past.

Central Ideas

1. Paul’s team began the mission in Thessalonica after persecution in Philippi and despite opposition in Thessalonica.

2. Paul’s team avoided trickery, deceit, flattery, and false pride as they shared the gospel. They intended to please God, not humans.

3. Instead of demanding payment or privilege, Paul and his leaders earned their living, spoke gently, and tenderly nurtured the new converts.

4. The Thessalonians followed that model of ministry as they continued to spread the gospel.

Questions for the Speaker

1. What helped the Thessalonians move from being imitators to models of ministry?

2. How would you translate Paul’s model of ministerial ethics from the 1st century into today’s world?

3. When have you been tempted to profit by your calling as a minister?

4. When have you found yourself placed on a pedestal by the people despite your wish to avoid status and honor?

Sacred Space – Small Group Resources

Year A Letters

Ordinary Time, Proper 25

I Thessalonians 1:2–8 NRSV

Gathering

Welcome

Ordinary Time is the Christian calendar period from Pentecost to Advent. This part of the Christian calendar is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and as a faith community.

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly. Light the peace candle

Today’s Prayer for Peace is inspired Community of Christ Sings 314, “When the Darkness Overwhelms Us” by Jim Strathdee.

...Free our minds for dreaming of a time when war shall ever cease, Free our eyes for vision that leads us to the ways of peace.

Freeing God, our shoulders are sore. Our eyes are strained. Our backs ache. Time feels heavy. Darkness overwhelms us. Grayness suffocates us. Light eludes us. Peace seems impossible and a foolish pursuit. And yet…

We come together and share our stories: stories of communities overcoming apathy; stories of friends sharing heavy loads; stories of the Spirit breathing life into our bodies. These stories light a small flame in our hearts.

Today, we pray that you would feed those flames of peace and that we would carry them carefully, yet boldly, to all corners of darkness. And in doing so, justice will prevail, and peace will cover the earth.

In the name of Jesus, who frees us and leads us. Amen.

Spiritual Practice

Body Prayer

Today we are focusing on the Enduring Principle of Sacredness of Creation. Our bodies are amazing! Sometimes we don’t feel fully connected to our bodies. Our bodies often know things before we allow our mind to think them. Sometimes, when we pray with the movement of our whole body instead of our normal prayer stance, we can receive different insight. Read the following to the group: I will show you the movements with some explanations. Then we will repeat the movements three times silently together.

We start with our hands in prayer pose (hands pressed together in front of you). This centers us.

We raise our arms high. This opens us to the all-encompassing love of God. We put our hands on our hearts. This reminds us to listen to the voice within. We open our hands in front of our bodies. This offers our love to others. We lift our hands to the sky. This reminds us to open to all. We bring our hands down. This helps us gather and bring all to our heart. We bring our hands back to a prayer pose. This brings us back to stillness and peace. Repeat the movements three times. Then read the following to the group: Bow to one another and say, “Namaste.” (I bow to you.)

Sharing Around the Table

I Thessalonians 2:1–8 NRSV

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God, who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

In this day and age of televangelist and Internet preachers, the text for today is quite poignant. Within the Christian tent a disciple can find those who preach a gospel of prosperity (God wants you to be rich) or a message of guilt and shame (be good or go to hell). Paul is casting shade on this kind of preacher. In his day some traveling philosophers (no Internet yet) would gather people to teach or debate. They would do this to gain money and status. Some folks think that the text for today is Paul blowing his own horn, but most scholars believe he is trying to remind the readers that when he came to town, he came as a humble servant and asked for no more than his keep. Paul’s sole motivation was sharing the good news that God had visited humanity in Jesus. He reminds the Thessalonians that he did not strong-arm, flatter, or coerce them Rather, he came to then gently and led them into a life-giving faith.

Questions

1. Recall a person who epitomizes for you the image of servant minister. Share the traits that cause you to think of this person in this way.

2. Share a time you were able to offer selfless service for no other reason than that it was the right thing to do. What feelings were associated with that time?

Sending Generosity

Statement

Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.

Doctrine and Covenants 165:6a

The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response. This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

Discipling God, as we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In this way may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn CCS 649, “With a Steadfast Faith”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper Thoughts for Children

Thoughts for Children

In today’s scripture, Paul explains to the people of Thessalonica that he shared the story of Jesus with them and treated them kindly because he cared about them so much. There are so many ways we can show others we care for them.

Ask: What are some ways you show others you care for them? (Affirm all answers.)

Say: Those are wonderful examples! Thank you so much for sharing and for letting others know you care about them!

Before you head back to your seats, I want to show you that I care about you. I am going to come to each of you, one at a time, and show you I care. I want you to tell me how you would like me to show it. You can ask for a hug, a high-five, or a dance move it’s your choice! After I’ve shown I care for you, you can head back to your seat.

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