Planning - Trinity Sunday/Peace with Justice Sunday
NRSV texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos basados en el leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31.
Wisdom speaks and understanding raises her voice to remind all of her presence with God in and through all creation.
Psalm Response: Psalm 8 (UMH 743).
Two musical responses based on hymns. With Response 1, use Tone 3 in E-flat major. With Response 2, use Tone 2 in C minor.
The character of our life in our Triune God: We are reconciled to God through Jesus and we boast in the sufferings of this age because they lead us to hope in God's love poured out upon us by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, declaring to the disciples all the truth that is his from the Father.
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It’s another “United Methodist Multiple Emphases Sunday!” Today we share Trinity Sunday with all Christians in the western tradition. United Methodists also celebrate Peace and Justice Sunday. And in the United States, tomorrow is Memorial Day.
Above all, and at the guiding center of worship where you are, today is Trinity Sunday, the first of the two “bookends” for the Season after Pentecost (the other is either All Saints or, more typically, Christ the King, depending on when you start Advent). On these bookend Sundays, all the readings are chosen to relate to one another.
During the Season after Pentecost in Year C, except for the bookend dates (including today), the readings do not relate to one another. Instead, they are offered in three separate streams of semicontinuous readings in prophets, epistles, and Luke.
Today, however, the readings are related and themed around the celebration of the Triune nature of God.
In a way, this “bookend Sunday” is also a “culmination Sunday.” During Advent we lived in the expectation that the Father will send the Son again just as the Father sent the Son in the conception and birth of Jesus long ago. From Christmastide through Lent, we witnessed the ministry of the Son among us, until his execution. And from Easter through Pentecost, we celebrated the resurrection of the Son and the church, his body, continuing his ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.
So while we always confess (or should always confess!) our Triune God in worship, this is a day to do so with particular gusto! And be sure to celebrate Holy Communion on this major feast day! Consider using the new "Great Thanksgiving for Trinity Sunday,"which uses “God of Wonders” and the readings for today.
Today is also Peace with Justice Sunday on the United Methodist Program Calendar. This is a Special Sunday with a special offering. Half of the offering collected stays in each annual conference to support conference-based peace and justice ministries. Half is forwarded to the General Council on Finance and Administration, where it becomes a fund used by the General Board of Church and Society to support grant requests for peace and justice ministries across the global church.
It is also the day before Memorial Day weekend in the United States. For the most part, Memorial Day itself is kept on Monday, not Sunday, and usually as a civil celebration in a public venue rather than a congregational one. Consider adding prayers for those who have died in war during the past year as part of your prayers of the people this Sunday. If you desire to have a service dedicated to Memorial Day, consider doing so at a time other than Sunday morning, and perhaps at a cemetery (or a “traveling” service at several local cemeteries where veterans are buried) rather than as the centerpiece of “regular” worship this Trinity Sunday.
The Season after Pentecost begins in earnest next week. 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 one another, 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.
May and early June are “graduation season” in many places. See our Graduation and Baccalaureate Resources for helps and suggestions.
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.
- June and July often mark transition points for pastors and congregations receiving new appointments. Whenever the final day for your current leadership comes, consider using Holy Communion for the End of An Appointment from the Open Source Liturgy Project, and send your comments about how this worked for your worshiping community to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are receiving a deacon, consider For the Celebration of the Appointment of a Deacon. And for persons who are retiring, consider Order of Service with Colleagues Retiring.
No images can do justice to the breadth and depth of the love, grace, and power of our Triune God revealed in our texts for today. Wisdom active from before creation (Proverbs), Reconciler whose power drives us into places of suffering with hope (Romans), Truth declared by the Spirit revealing all the Father has given the Son to share (John )— all of these come with a lushness that goes far beyond the static symbols, icons, and paintings Christian art has typically used to portray the Trinity.
Today is a day to move more fully into that very lushness, into the depths of the mystery of our life in God, Three in One and One in Three.
It is not a day for philosophical speculation or for trying to figure out what may seem to be a mathematical conundrum.
It is a day for living into the poetry the Scriptures have offered us, for being re-minded of the multidimensionality of this God who is One, yet known to us as Father, Son, Spirit, as Way, Truth, Life, as Mother, Child, Breath, as Reconciler, Companion, Hope-Giver, and so much more.
There is a Greek word that has been used to describe something of the life of Divine Co-Unity we worship: “perichoresis” (perry-COR-ee-sis). The word literally means “dancing around” or “dancing in a circle.” Christian theologians have used it since the third century to describe the dance of the Eternal-Three-in-One, each distinct yet interpenetrating the other, each pouring out grace and love to the other in the dance. It is into this eternal dance of the Eternal Trinity that we have been invited. So consider how today may be a dancing day with our Triune God!
If you have choreographers who could get your worshiping community up and dancing a simple three-step in threes, bring them on!
If you have artists in your congregation who could create new art or soundscapes — whether in paint or ink or clay or midi or drums or pixels — to illustrate today's texts, commission them!
And since we worship the Triune God always, and not only on this Sunday, consider how you can use whatever the artists create or the choreographers teach throughout the coming year, a reminder that we are always surrounded and invited into the Dance of this Divine Community.
Proverbs begs to be read by a confident female voice, especially verses 4 and 22-31, where Wisdom speaks. If you have access to a projector and good images (such as those available without royalties from NASA.gov’s Visible Earth Project) consider beginning the reading in darkness, illuminated only by projected images of the earth, ocean depths, springs, mountains, fields, hills, and soil. Move back into the darkness, as verses 22-26 are read. Then shift the images to pictures of the night sky or galaxies, and keep them persistent, then add images of the sky at day and shorelines for the ocean, then a pull-back view of a continent (verses 27-29). Then send your reader dancing with joy, or bring in a female dancer to "rejoice before the Lord because the Lord delights in her” during the reading of verses 30 and 31.
If you've done anything like the above, do not rush into the next reading. Invite people to contemplate the mystery of the Trinity in what they've just seen and heard. Then sing the Psalm, or pray it (do not reduce this to a mere reading or “call to worship” today!), with the rapt sense of its composer's wondering "How majestic is your name! Who are we that you should be mindful of us?"
Romans begins to answer that question. We are those who, despite all our wonder and rapture and delight in God's creation, have put ourselves at odds with God and this creation and need the reconciliation God freely offers us in Jesus Christ. Images of brokenness restored and resolving into brilliant light might accompany the reading of verses 1-2. We have reason to boast in that light because it is our hope and our inheritance in Jesus Christ.
And our boasting is not only in the by and by, but even, Paul reminds, in the here and now of our sufferings and the sufferings of others we enter. If there is music or sound accompanying the imagery of the bright light, sustain that same music to accompany images of human suffering, personal or corporate, individual or national, private trial or public tragedy that your congregation knows well. We are accompanied even in such sufferings, and accompanied in such a way that hope only grows stronger, and boasting more deep and real. Conclude with images of "pouring light" to accompany verse 5.
And again, allow no rushing into the next hymn or the reading of the gospel. Give these images and words time to sink in, to pour over and through the people, so they have an opportunity to experience our Triune God as profoundly in this path of sin, reconciliation, glory, suffering and spiritual power.
The first words of John's gospel may seem like an anticlimax. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now." Use no imagery or soundscapes here. If possible, use no sound amplification. Let the words offered, words describing the inner life of our Triune God, speak for themselves with a clear, unadorned human voice. This really is no anticlimax, but an invitation to go deeper still, an invitation issuing from the very Being of God as the Spirit offers us even in these moments, and indeed in every moment we pay attention, the words of Jesus given him by the Father, the very truth we need to hear. The mechanics of the Godhead, if you will, conspire to keep drawing us in and leading us on so we can be active partners in the fulfilling of our Triune God's mission for the world.
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Embodying the Word: The Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed has been the most regularly confessed creed in Sunday Christian worship since its development in the late fourth century. It was indeed THE creed for the Mass, East and West, and has retained that place in much of Protestant Christianity as well. The Apostles Creed, while important, is understood to be the creed for baptism — a beginning point. In the Nicene Creed, the church more fully confesses its faith in our Triune God.
John Wesley deleted the article on the Creeds from the Church of England's 39 Articles when he developed the Articles of Religion for the Methodists in North America. He also deleted the Nicene Creed from the services he sent over for use by the Methodists, using instead the Apostles Creed. We know something of why he did the former: He did not want the new American church to be beholden to creeds that could be used to divide people more than to unite them in common cause with Christ. Why he eliminated the Nicene Creed altogether, however, remains unknown.
The United Methodist Hymnal in a small way reclaims the primary role of the Nicene Creed for the confessional life of our church by placing it first among the Affirmations of Faith (#880). If your congregation does not ordinarily use the Nicene Creed in worship, Trinity Sunday is an excellent day to do so.But do not simply read it. Help your congregation confess it. Lead the reading enthusiastically, boldly. Encourage your congregation to do the same. Help them to hear the power of the mystery they confess.
And having so confessed, pray, confess sin and make peace with God and neighbor, and feast at Christ's heavenly banquet he offers us at his Table.
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Today's Texts and Peace with Justice Sunday
The Christian understanding of peace (Shalom) and justice (Mishpat) is grounded in the Trinitarian nature of God. God as Three-in-One, as our readings reveal today, is alive, active, vibrant, ever-creating, ever-reconciling, and ever driving us toward truth. We cannot possibly “capture” the liveliness of that peace or the life-giving mercy of that justice in any human agenda. God cannot be so reduced.
Instead, it is the very Triune life of God that inspires all we do, in myriad ways, to embody peace with justice in the world around us. We start with God, God’s power, God’s mercy, God wisdom, God’s life. We start with that bold humility made possible through the Divine Mystery we especially worship and adore this day. Buoyed by the very life of God, we never lose hope in the face of sufferings caused by war, conflict and injustice, but, as Paul reminds in Romans, find ourselves more than able to endure, build character and abound in hope that never disappoints.
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Worship planners may be tempted to avoid the fullness of the mystery of the Trinity on this day out of a concern about taxing the minds and imaginations of the people. Resist that temptation! The texts for today, if read and presented and preached and prayed well, can blow your minds. Let them! This is a day for ecstatic praise.
The liturgy and ritual of the church are designed to help your congregation enter and rejoice in the mystery and dance of the Eternal Three-in-One. Through use of the Word and Table pattern as outlined in the Hymnal and Book of Worship, we gather and praise the Father (first person of the Trinity), remember and proclaim the liberating work of the Son (second person of the Trinity), and invoke the Holy Spirit (third person of the Trinity). This way of worship is dynamic, biblical, and faithful to the historic and ecumenical church.
This week would be a good time to help the congregation recognize the transition Christians are making from the Great Fifty Days of Easter to the Season after Pentecost and Ordinary Time with an article in the bulletin or church newsletter. See page 409 of The United Methodist Book of Worship.
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- Greeting BOW 391 or 411 (Trinity)
- Opening Prayer BOW 511, For God's Reign (Peace with Justice)
- Canticle UMH 80, "Canticle of the Holy Trinity" (Trinity)
- Canticle UMH 112, "Canticle of Wisdom" (Proverbs)
- Litany BOW 495, For the Church and World (Peace with Justice)
Affirmation of Faith UMH 880, Nicene Creed (Trinity)
If you use one of the creeds, you will find basic information on each version in The Worship Resources of The United Methodist Hymnal, pages 199-200.
- Prayer UMH 456, For Courage to Do Justice (Peace with Justice)
- Prayer BOW 412 (Trinity)
- Prayers BOW 515-519, 526-527 (Peace with Justice)
- Ecumenical Cycle of Prayer: Botswana, Zimbabwe
- Response BOW 178, "Amen, Praise the Father" (Trinity)
- Response BOW 193, "Prayer for Wisdom" (Proverbs)
- Doxology BOW 180, "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow" (Trinity)
- Great Thanksgiving (Communion): almost all ecumenical eucharistic prayers are Trinitarian in shape and content.
- Closing Prayer UMH 76, Trinity Sunday (Trinity)
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