Lectionary Planning Helps for Sundays

May 19, 2013

Read the texts online at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library:


Acts 2:1-21 or Genesis 11:1–9
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (UMH 826)
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17 (25-27)

Color: Red

Planning - Pentecost

Revised Common Lectionary Readings
See the texts (NRSV), artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.

Acts 2:1-21.
The Holy Spirit empowers disciples to make a bold public witness for Jesus at the feast of Pentecost. Pilgrims from every nation where Judaism had spread hear the proclamation of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus in their own language.

Psalm Response: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (UMH 826).
Praise to God for the vast variety of all creatures, a parallel of praise for people of all nations who are regathered in Christ at Pentecost. If you sing the Psalm, use Tone 5 in E minor with the sung response.

Romans 8:14-17.
The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are free, adopted as God's own children, and heirs of God's promises as we suffer with Christ as his body.

John 14:8-17 (25-27).
Through the coming of the Holy Spirit, disciples of Jesus will continue the works of Jesus and even greater works than these.

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Worship Notes


Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter. The earliest church has completed forty days of ongoing teaching from the Risen Lord, followed by a ten-day prayer vigil after his ascension. On this day, the church began to move out in and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we celebrate the culmination of Eastertide by welcoming the gift of the Spirit and commissioning people into new ministries with our support and prayer for the Spirit’s power (See Pentecost Commissioning of Laypersons in Christ’s Name). Unless your tradition is to use the paschal candle only until Ascension Day, keep it burning bright today.

Today is also day is also Heritage Sunday, on the United Methodist Program Calendar. See The United Methodist Book of Worship #426 for official resources. The theme this year is “The Power of Place: The Contemporary Mission of Heritage Landmarks and Historic Sites.”

Today is also the Sunday in Change the World Weekend, sponsored by United Methodist Communications.

May 26 is Peace with Justice Sunday is May 26. This Special Sunday coincides with Trinity Sunday, another major feast day in the life of the church (first Sunday after Pentecost). It is also the day before Memorial Day.  Plan based on the texts and themes for Trinity Sunday.

The Season after Pentecost begins in earnest in June. See Worship Planning for the Season after Pentecost Year C for lectionary-based and other series starters to get your worship planning team “up and running” for the months ahead. Remember and remind your planning team that starting after Trinity Sunday, the lectionary readings no longer relate to each other, other than the Psalm to the Old Testament, except for All Saints and Christ the King Sunday. If you or they need a little more prompting not to look for connections between texts where none are intended, you might share “A Gentle Reminder” with them.

June 16 is Father’s Day and the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. For the Season after Pentecost, GBOD advocates developing sermon series using one stream of the lectionary texts (Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel readings are not related during this season) or another theme. Attend to Father’s Day during worship in relationship either around the texts for the day or the thematic series you have chosen.

June 19 is also known as Juneteenth, the oldest known African-American worship celebration, commemorating the date in 1865 the last of the former slaves (in Galveston, Texas) was notified of the end of the Civil War and their freedom guaranteed in The Emancipation Proclamation. 

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The Day of Pentecost is the “bookend” to the Easter Season. It is a day to be as festive as you can be in worship. Fill the place with reds and oranges, signifying the flames of the Holy Spirit. Sing joyous hymns and songs. Bring in additional instrumentalists to support your singing. Rejoice in confirming, reaffirming or remembering baptism. Commission people into their ministries, new or ongoing. Recognize those who may have been involved in special ministries on this Change the World weekend. Celebrate Holy Communion with gusto. Rejoice!

The theme of today’s texts is “Continuing the Works of Christ in the Power of the Holy Spirit.”
The doctrinal focus for this last “Sunday of mystagogy” is on the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
The ministry focus today is on commissioning persons into ministry in Christ’s name and the Spirit’s power.

We begin the readings today with an account of the first Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection.  The text is full of imagery and soundscapes: mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire, people speaking in many languages, large astounded multinational crowds, and the clarion voice of Peter. Some congregations have several readers read this text in different languages all at once. To take a cue from the text itself, you might consider having a single narrator read verses 1-7a, then several readers in several languages reading the remainder of this text all at once, while you project or provide the words in the primary language of your congregation on a screen or in the bulletin.

Be authentic in this. If your congregation does not have people who speak other languages, don't fake it! Consider calling a congregation that does, or perhaps gathering several congregations or others in your community willing to help to create an audio or video of this part of the text for playback after verse 7a.

And be wise in this, too. The point of offering a more lavish, involved reading of this text is not to focus on the act of reading, but on what this text says. However you decide to present this text, let the presentation enhance rather than distract from the main message.

And the main message is found in Peter's refrain, taken from the prophet Joel: "I will pour out my Spirit."

This is the point.

God pours out the Spirit and everything changes.

Children prophesy, young males see visions, old males dream, and servants prophesy. These things are entirely unexpected in that culture, and perhaps in ours as well. In their culture and ours, adults, not children, prophesy. In their culture and ours, older women and perhaps men see visions (not young males!), young women and men dream dreams (not old men!), and servants are given little opportunity to speak (so how can they prophesy?).

Discuss in your worship planning team how the hope declared in the Pentecost sermon reverses or challenges expectations in your own local cultures. What happens to children's voices in your community? Are young males able to declare a vision that catches on? What about people in lower social and economic classes, what voice do they have?

Talk about the signs of the Spirit already reversing these "usual realities" in your congregation or community.

Then, design worship together informed by this framework of the Spirit’s activity described in scripture and present among you today.

Doctrinal Focus: The Holy Spirit is poured out not just once or for just this day, but continues to be poured out in all the ways Peter’s quote from Joel describes.
Ministry Focus: Those you commission in ministry today are signs and bearers of the outpouring of the same Holy Spirit poured out on the Day of Pentecost.

We hear an echo today of “those who washed their robes” from the text from Revelation last week (Easter 7 readings). We experience the blessings of our adoption as God's children, witness to it in the power of the Spirit in worship, and hope in an inheritance from God in Christ, if we suffer with Christ. The power of the Spirit in our lives, both to adopt us as children, to speak through us in worship and to offer ministry is given to propel us into ministry, particularly with those who suffer.

We, like Abraham, are blessed … to be a blessing. In French, the word "blessure" means "wound." We are called to be present with those who are wounded and to suffer wounds with them and on their behalf in the name of Jesus.

Who are the wounded in your midst who have a testimony of blessing others in the Spirit's power? Ask them for their stories and consider using images and soundscapes from their stories in the reading of this text or perhaps in the sermon, at prayers, or during Holy Communion.

Doctrine: The Spirit continues to assure us of our relationship with God and empower our ministries as we suffer with Christ.
Ministry: The Spirit continues to drive us into places of suffering, in our own lives and the lives of others.

This week’s gospel reading is both theological and practical. The theology in this passage is a description of the relationships of the persons of the Holy Trinity with each other and with us. The Father is known in the Son through the works of the Son. The Son calls upon the Father to send the Spirit, who will dwell in us. We will do the works of Jesus, and even greater works, a sign that the Father and the Son are knowable through us as we abide in the Spirit. And as we pray in the Spirit who abides in us when we ask the Son for anything, he will do it to bring glory to the Father.

The practical side of this text calls us into three things: doing the works of Jesus, obeying his commandments (which is the result of entrusting our lives to him), and praying for what we need to accomplish his will.

Abiding in the Spirit requires and enables us to do all three—the works, the obedience and the prayer. This is especially important for those who may be commissioned today. We are not sending them out just to do good works, or just to live in obedience to Jesus, or just to pray. Activity in mission, integrity in morality and obedience to Jesus, and submission and relationship through prayer are inseparable if we are to serve fully as “Christ’s representatives in the world” (Baptismal Covenant I).

The question for each of us is not whether we pursue all three, but where each of us, according to our own gifts and calling, may focus our energy among the three, not neglecting the others.

Who in your midst is clearly doing the works of Jesus? Who seems to be in close touch with his commandments and living them out? Who are your "prayer warriors," folks who pray in the Spirit for what people need to accomplish the will of Christ? How are each of these “specialists” actually doing all three? Find these people, talk with them, and use images from their stories (with their permission, of course!) to illustrate this text in its reading or proclamation.

Doctrine: The Holy Spirit enables our life in the Triune God and calls and enables us to do the works of Jesus, to obey his commandments, and to pray as we ought.
Ministry: Commissioning is the church’s sending of persons, our of our own prayer life in the Holy Spirit, to abide always in the Spirit in your works, your obedience and your prayers.  

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Embodying the Word: Commissioning for Ministry

The whole of the Easter Season leads up to today. The Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Sunday morning were the launch. The following weeks were weeks of preparation. Today is the goal. This is the day to commission people into ministry, especially the recently baptized or new professing members who have been discerning their calling through this Easter Season.

Commission means "a sending forth together." The whole congregation recognizes the ministry to which individuals have discerned their calling, and the whole congregation sends them out to begin it with their support, prayers, and blessing.

Note that the direction of commissioning is sending out. While some people commissioned this day may offer their ministry within the structures of the congregation, the historic norm for acts of commissioning has to do with sending people into ministry in the world, whether in daily life where they already are or in another place. This matches the Wesleyan model of doing all the good you can to all the people you can, and especially by visiting the sick and the imprisoned and working in community with the poor wherever they are (General Rule 2).  

This commissioning for ministry may function best as a response to the Word offered from around the font, since the ministry these persons are sent to perform is in fulfillment of the baptismal covenant. Those commissioned may be invited to lead the prayers of intercession, to receive first from the Lord's Table, and to serve Holy Communion.

You may use or adapt "An Order for the Installation or Recognition of Leaders in the Church" (UMBOW 599 ff.), or this form on our website.

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Charles Wesley Hymn for Today

(Opening, John)
Long Meter.
Recommended Tune: ERHALT UNS HERR (UMH 265)
Vs. 6, altered.

JESUS, we on the word depend,
spoken by thee while present here,
"The Father in my name shall send
The Holy Ghost, the Comforter."

That promise made to Adam's race,
now, Lord, in us, even us, fulfil;
and give the Spirit of thy grace,
to teach us all thy perfect will.

That heavenly Teacher of mankind,
that Guide infallible impart,
to bring thy sayings to our mind,
and write them on our faithful heart.

He only can the words apply
through which we endless life possess
and deal to each his legacy,
his Lord's unutterable peace.

That peace of God, that peace of thine,
O might he now to us bring in,
and fill our souls with power divine,
and make an end of fear and sin;

The length and breadth of love reveal,
the height and depth of Deity;
and every child of glory seal,
and change, and make us all like thee!

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Resources in The United Methodist Book of Worship

Pentecost Overall:  See BOW 405-408.

  • Greeting: BOW 406 (Pentecost)
  • Opening Prayer:
    • A Responsive Prayer

In the first spank that jolts us to breathe naked from the womb,
we receive the Holy Spirit.
With the first breaths drawn into our lungs this morning,
we receive the Holy Spirit.
On windy fall days storming down leaves,
we receive the Holy Spirit.
In the spring's waking the landscape,
we receive the Holy Spirit.
By the inspirations that prompt us to do good and resist evil,
we receive the Holy Spirit.
In the breathing in and out that animates today's talk, song and work,
we receive the Holy Spirit.
Recalling the story of risen Jesus breathing on the disciples,
we receive the Holy Spirit.
Remembering our baptism and the laying on of hands,
we receive the Holy Spirit.
In gratefulness for this day's light and life,
we receive the Holy Spirit.
Copyright © 2001 The General Board of Discipleship. Used with permission.

  • Call to Prayer: BOW 214, "Spirit of God" (Acts)
  • Prayer: UMH 574, For Renewal of the Church (Pentecost)
  • Prayer:
    • UMH 542, Day of Pentecost
    • BOW 400, The Day of Pentecost (Pentecost)
    • BOW 407 (Pentecost)
    • Invocation of the Spirit

O Holy Spirit, Love of God, infuse your grace,
and descend plentifully into my heart.
Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling,
and scatter there your cheerful beams;
Dwell in that soul that longs to be your temple;
water that barren soil, over-run with weeds and briars,
and lost for want of cultivating,
and make it fruitful with your dew from heaven.

O Come, as the refreshment of those that languish and faint.
Come, and like a star,
guide those that sail the tempestuous sea of the world.
You are the only haven of the tossed and shipwrecked.
Come glory and crown of the living,
only safeguard of the dying.
Come, Holy Spirit, in much mercy,
and make us fit to receive you. Amen.

St. Augustine of Hippo, 354-430; adapted. Copyright © 1993, 2000 Order of Saint Luke Publications.
Reprinted with permission. This prayer might be preceded or followed by a hymn, such as "Love Divine" (UMH 384)
or "Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness" (TFWS 2120).

  • Litany:
    • UMH 556, Litany for Christian Unity (Acts)
  • Prayer of Thanksgiving: BOW 408 (Pentecost)
  • Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Malawi, Zambia
  • Great Thanksgiving for Pentecost:
    • BOW 68-69
    • BOW 46-49 with preface for Pentecost
  • Dismissal:
    • BOW, 218. "Benediction for Pentecost" (Pentecost)


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Notes for Genesis 11:1–9

For ancient people, stories like this one served to explain why human beings spoke in different languages and were thus unable to communicate verbally between tribes. By this explanation, it is because God is responding to a humanity that has grown arrogant and out of control and that is no longer aware of its dependency on God. In other words, it is God’s punishment for humanity’s desire for independence and power apart from God.

But for modern people, perhaps instead of seeing punishment in this story, we can understand that God’s design and plan for humanity is, was, and always has been for us to be a diverse people. Perhaps if we approach the diversity of language, culture, gender, sexual orientation, race, and everything else that makes each human being unique as God’s creative GIFT to the world, rather than a barrier, we can preach this story as a word of encouragement and hope.

  • I love quilts. What makes them beautiful is the coming together of different fabrics, textures, and colors into a piece of art.  Painting, poetry, literature, and music are the same. (My dad loves to say that artists are the true prophets.) How much more beautiful and interesting is it when we sing in harmony, rather than all singing the same note? How much more beautiful and interesting is it when we hear more than one language being spoken in a worship service? What reminds you of the beautiful and interesting diversity of God’s creation?
  • What are some ways that the diverse voices, gifts, talents, and abilities in your congregation create a more beautiful body? On this “birthday of the church,” is there a way you can celebrate the unique diversity in your community of faith?
  • If God’s plan for humanity is for us to be a widely diverse people, how can we increase the diversity that is within the congregations we serve? Are there other language or cultural groups in our communities that are not yet a part of your congregation? If so, how can your congregation be more intentional about bringing more diversity to the body?

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Notes for Acts 2:1–21

If the Tower of Babel story calls us to celebrate God’s intention for humanity to speak in many different languages, then the story in Acts shows us how the power of the Holy Spirit can build a bridge across differences.

Pentecost is a time to think about what it means to be united as a family in Christ.  It is a reminder of this moment some two thousand years ago, when it was discovered that, in spite of our apparent differences, we are all God’s children. Even though we may look different from one another, have different gifts, different traditions, different languages, different politics, and different theologies and denominations and genders and cultures and orientations, we who call ourselves Christians have a common bond that comes out of our common confession of faith: That there is one Lord, crucified and risen, and now present among us, who calls us to be one family, one BODY, in spite of our diversity as human beings.

  • The spirit of new life and new creation is given in the assembly of believers, where it radically transforms the ability of people to express themselves and communicate with one another.  
  • Pentecost is a time and place in which genuine communication and understanding among people of every culture, background, and tongue can occur in a totally new way, the result of an action of the Spirit, because the substance of communication is not the mighty works of human beings, but the mighty works of God. 
  • Paul’s sermon gives an interpretation of these mighty works of God.  He quotes the prophet Joel, and says that as a result of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his vindication by God, Jesus has now poured out the Spirit of God into living human beings.  In Jesus Christ, the ancient promise has been given new life.  Through the Pentecost event, communication barriers among folks are broken down, creating new life and community among the people. 
  • Individuality and uniqueness are respected and affirmed.  Each is heard in his or her own language.  The spirit doesn’t make everyone the same, but celebrates individual gifts while opening the community up to being able to function harmoniously.  The people want to be together, to share a common life.

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Notes for John 14:8–17

On this final evening with his disciples, what did Jesus want to communicate to them? What were his final instructions for his followers?

  • Servants are not greater than their masters, nor are messengers greater than the one who sends them. 
  • Followers of Christ should love one another just as he had loved them, and that it was by their love that other people would know that they were his disciples.
  • If they have known Jesus, they have known God.
  • The followers of Jesus will do even GREATER WORKS than what Jesus himself did.
  • The Spirit of God known in Christ will reside always in the community of his followers.

The church is the body of Christ that continues to live in the world and speak the words Jesus spoke and do the works that Jesus did while he was on this earth.  AS A COLLECTIVE BODY, the church has been able to do some amazing things that Jesus, as one person, could probably not have done on his own.

For example, in the lesson today from Acts, Peter, empowered by the Spirit, the SAME SPIRIT that had dwelled in Jesus, stood up and began to speak to the whole crowd. He told about Jesus.  Then he and the other disciples started laying hands on folks as Jesus had done and offering healing in the name of Christ.

And they didn’t stop there. They went out and preached good news to the poor.  They restored sight to the blind.  They visited those who were in prison. They took care of the widows and the orphans and the hungry and the lame. They invited the lepers and the prostitutes and the tax collectors and the other cast-off members of society to be a part of their community.

The amazing thing about the story of the disciples is that because there were so many of them, they were able to go to many different communities and speak the words of Jesus in whatever language people spoke.  Some of the disciples traveled around to faraway places to bring the good news to increasing numbers of people all over the Roman Empire.

We, as followers of Christ, are empowered to continue to do what those first disciples did. We are the ones who must continue to share the words of Jesus and do works of healing, love, and mercy in his name.

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Notes for Romans 8:14–17

In his communication to the church in Rome, Paul urges followers of Christ to be led by the Spirit rather than by the law. What might it look like to be a Spirit-led congregation rather than one that is led by law?

  • A Spirit-led congregation stops focusing on “being good” or following the rules and understands that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are equally in need of the saving grace of Jesus Chris.t
  • A Spirit-led congregation no longer judges or condemns anyone because it knows that no one can totally fulfill the law.
  • Freed from the law, a Spirit-led congregation can focus on loving the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart and mind and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves.


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Almighty God who comes to us in wind and fire, may the doors of our hearts be open to let your Holy Spirit blow in and your love and grace flow out! As we offer up these gifts to you this morning, may they empower mission and ministries that spread across all your creation like wildfire. May our giving help your church to be born anew, not as bricks and mortar, but as hearts on fire to serve others and make disciples for Jesus Christ. In his holy name, we pray. Amen. (Acts 2:1-21)

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Lectionary Planning Helps

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BOW - The United Methodist Book of Worship

CLUW - Come, Let Us Worship (Korean)

MVPC - Mil Voces Para Celebrar (Spanish)

SOZ - Songs of Zion

TFWS - The Faith We Sing

UMH - The United Methodist Hymnal

URW - Upper Room Worshipbook

WSM  - Worship & Song, Music Edition

WSW  - Worship & Song, Worship Resources Edition