Planning -Sixth Sunday of Easter
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.
Paul responds to a vision to go to Macedonia, arrives at Philippi, and finds opportunities for witness and a leader (Lydia) ready to begin a congregation in her house.
Psalm 67 (UMH 791).
God's way made known in all nations. Use the response with Tone 1 in C Major.
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5.
In the Spirit, John sees a vision of the New Jerusalem and the way the whole world works in the fullness of God's kingdom.
Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit will guide his disciples to understand, remember, and live out his teaching in all Truth.
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It is still Easter! This is the sixth Sunday of Easter. After today, there are two more Sundays in the Great 50 Days (Ascension/Easter 7, and Pentecost). If your congregation uses a Paschal Candle, continue to light it through the Day of Pentecost (or at least Ascension Day) and at all baptisms and funerals. For more on the Paschal Candle, see "The Paschal Candle."
Easter Season has two main formational purposes: to teach Christian doctrine richly and to prepare persons for ministry in the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit and in Christ’s name.
This week, the Scriptures build around a common theme of "Guided by the Holy Spirit.”
The doctrinal focus is on the basic work of the Holy Spirit
The ministry focus is on learning to live in the Spirit.
Next Sunday, May 12, offers a choice of two different sets of readings. One is for Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter (May 9), which may be transferred forward to the following Sunday (May 12) when not celebrated on that day. The other is for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.See Come to the Waters, pages 94-95, 120-121, for further reflection on the season.
See DIY Tools for Spiritual Gifts Discernment and Ministry Deployment for guidance on building a spiritual gifts assessment process.
Also see Pentecost Commissioning of Laypersons in Christ's Name.
For more about Eastertide, see Planning Worship for Eastertide, Year C.
Denominational Calendar for May and June
May is full of cultural and program calendar celebrations. Always remember theScriptures for the day or season in the Christian calendar are the first priority in planning. Plan all of worship around the Scriptures, and weave other programmatic or cultural emphases into worship as may be appropriate given the Scriptures and series or seasonal emphasis for that day.
Next Sunday, May 12: Mother’s Day and Festival of the Christian Home are celebrated on May 12. This is also Ascension Sunday and The Seventh Sunday of Easter. Plan around Ascension and/or Easter 7 themes.
May 19 is Pentecost, Heritage Sunday, and the Sunday in Change the World Weekend. Plan around Pentecost themes. Consider whether other emphases belong best in worship or in other formational settings, such as Sunday School, small groups, or other programming outside of worship.
Pentecost is the culmination of Eastertide and a major feast day in the life of the whole church.
Heritage Sunday is one of the official program days of the church. The theme this year is "The Power of Place: The Contemporary Mission of Heritage Landmarks and Historic Sites."
It is also the Sunday in Change the World Weekend, sponsored by United Methodist Communications.
May 26 is Peace with Justice Sunday. 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.
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.
The unifying theme of today’s readings is “Guided by the Holy Spirit.” The doctrinal focus is on the work of the Holy Spirit. The ministry focus is on living in the Holy Spirit.
Christian art has typically depicted the Spirit as dove, wind or flame, all of which are grounded in Scripture. Today’s texts use none of those images.
Instead, the Spirit is One who calls, One who sends dreams and visions, One who opens hearts and reveals new leaders, and One who leads people into all Truth.
What kinds of artwork or images would support the understanding of the Spirit present in today’s readings? What other elements of your worship space already offer support for the understanding of the Spirit offered in today’s readings? How might you help call attention to these? Since the baptismal font is where we are initiated into Christ by water and the Spirit, where and how might the font be more visible in worship today?
Visions are an integral part of two of today’s readings (Acts and Revelation). How does your worshiping community respond to the idea of visions? What are “visions” in their minds? What distinctions do people where you are draw between visions, daydreams, and hallucinations? How might these “perceptual realities” on their part inform the ways you present these texts today, both in art and in teaching and preaching?
Paul has a vision or dream of a man from Macedonia calling him to come help the people there. In response to this, Paul led his traveling companions on a journey that ended in Philippi.
The travelers "hung out" there a few days, long enough to get the lay of the land and to discover where a group of Jewish women normally met for Sabbath prayers just outside the city walls. Here Paul found warm reception for his message of Jesus Christ, a message he did not "preach" or “argue” but rather "chatted about" with them. The result: a leader of the group, Lydia, was baptized with her household and invited Paul to stay for a time to help her host the fledgling Christian community that met in her home.
This story is "Missiology 101" for a growing number of Christians in the U.S. and worldwide today — especially for those who may use the term "emerging missional church" to describe their way of ministry. They listen for the Spirit's call to a place and go there. They trust that God's kingdom is already bearing fruit in that place. They look for signs of where that may be happening. They join the effort, whatever it may be, and in the process talk about what brought them there — the call of God to bear witness to God's kingdom as disciples of Jesus Christ. And they let the Spirit establish who will provide leadership and when.
The technique Paul used here is less important that the reason Paul approached this work this way. Paul relied on the Holy Spirit to direct him in mission. If you go back a few verses, starting in verse 6, you will see several instances right before this where Paul had intended to preach or teach in Asia Minor (Turkey), but the Holy Spirit stopped him. Instead, as revealed in the dream, Paul was to go across the sea to Macedonia. Upon receiving this vision, Paul and his companions set sail right away.
The mission is the Spirit’s first. Ours is to follow where the Spirit calls and leads.
Paul trusted the Spirit who called him to open opportunities for sharing the gospel, starting with any of his fellow Jews who may live there. There was no synagogue in Philippi, so Paul visited the prayer meeting by the river outside the town walls. He continued to show he trusted the Spirit. He did not try to “take over” the prayer meeting, but rather joined in conversation with the women there. And then, despite all sorts of non-Philippian convention to the contrary, he and his companions accepted the invitation of a woman to stay at her home after she and her household were baptized. She then began to host and probably lead the nascent Christian community there. The Spirit was doing all of this. Paul was a vessel of the Spirit to facilitate it, not a brilliant community organizer who “made it happen.”
What stories of listening to and following the Spirit to an unexpected place, learning the lay of the land, discovering a possible point of contact, and beginning a new ministry can people in your congregation or community tell? If you’ve been using these weeks of Eastertide to prepare people to begin a new ministry or recommit to ministry, today may be a good time for some to share what the Spirit is calling them to do, how they’re developing that, and what they anticipate the beginning of this new ministry may be after commissioning at Pentecost.
Use images and soundscapes or perhaps interview clips in audio or video from these current stories, visions, promptings of the Spirit and plans to illustrate the ways in which the work of the Spirit described in Philippi is still happening in your worshiping community today.
Doctrine: The Holy Spirit directs us in discipleship and mission, closing some doors and opening others.
Ministry: Living in the Spirit requires that we be open, listening, and watchful for what the Spirit is already doing in the lives of others around us, wherever we may be sent or find ourselves.
Last week, we heard of new creation and the New Jerusalem, a sure sign that our promised hope is in a renewed earth with a renewed human culture. This week we see the new creation not simply as one city, but indeed as a whole planet with nations, political leaders, energy that flows from God, an economy built on the tree of life and the water of life from God, and a renewed world order in which dishonor and falsehood are thoroughly driven out and security and shalom abounds for all whose names are "written in the Lamb's book of life."
In Revelation, this world order reflects the goal and summit of God's new creation. As disciples of Jesus, we are empowered to be witnesses and bearers of that new creation now, while recognizing it is always only God who makes all things new.
At first glance, it may not be obvious how this text connects with today’s theme, “Guided by the Holy Spirit.” Easter is the season, par excellence, for teaching the mysteries! Here the Spirit appears not as air or wind, but as light from the lamp (the Lamb, Jesus) and the flowing water of the River of Life. People find their way by the light, and their lives, personally and politically, are sustained and made whole by the water that also nourishes the Tree of Life. The Holy Spirit thus irradiates and flows through everything in this final state, the fulfillment of the life we already have now because in baptism we have been reborn of water and the Spirit.
How well do people where you are already see and experience the Spirit radiating and giving life even to these mortal bodies and corrupted political and economic systems? What is it like to draw not just guidance (light) but also sustenance (water) and healing (leaves of the Tree of Life), and not just personally but even politically, from the Spirit, here and now?
What stories or music or artwork capture these experiences among you, and how might these be shared as part of worship today?
Doctrine: The Holy Spirit shows the way and continually gives life to all who will receive it.
Ministry: Sharpen your awareness of the light that guides and the water that gives life, and learn to draw on both, personally and socially.
If we needed some “mystagogy” to decipher the work of the Spirit in Revelation, or we had to back up and read between the lines to find it in Acts, in John the teaching is as clear as day. If we love Jesus, we keep his commandment to love one another as he loves us (last week’s text, and the heart of sanctification). As we do this, we will find the Holy Spirit teaching us everything we need to know and reminding us of everything Jesus has said.
The Spirit is empowering, powerful, and demanding, continually driving us to do things we could not have imagined we could ever have done, all in obedience to Christ and love to God and neighbor. The peace Jesus offers in these verses is indeed not as the world gives, not a quieting but a "couraging," not a stilling but a stirring of our hearts to follow where Jesus continues to lead. Christ’s peace and the Holy Spirit give us the capacity to do all of this, regardless of circumstances, unshaken.
How is the Spirit continuing to teach all things and remind people of the words of Jesus where you are? Capture testimonies on video or audio, create art or music, and sing of the Spirit’s continuing empowering guidance in your midst.
Doctrine: The Holy Spirit continues to teach and guide us in obedience to the word of Jesus.
Ministry: We abide in the Spirit as we cooperate with the Spirit leading us.
A Wesley Hymn for This Sunday
(based on Revelation and John — A "sequence hymn" between the two readings)
Suggested Tunes: JOSEPHINE (not in UMH, but score and midi available at the Cyber Hymnal website. )
BE it my only wisdom here
to serve the Lord with filial fear,
with loving gratitude;
Superior sense may I display,
by shunning every evil way,
and walking in the good.
O may I still from sin depart!
A wise and understanding heart,
Jesus, to me be given;
And let me through thy Spirit know
to glorify my God below,
and find my way to heaven.
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Greeting: BOW 385 (Psalm, Revelation)
Opening Prayer: UMH 335 (John)
Prayer: BOW 399 Week 6 (Easter)
Prayer: BOW 503, For the Church (Acts, John)
Intercessory Prayer: BOW 397 (Revelation)
Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda
Great Thanksgiving for Easter Season: BOW 66-67 or UMH Word and Table II, pp. 13-14.
For online alternatives see our collection of Great Thanksgivings for a variety of occasions.
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