Thursday, August 22, 2013

Let Us Work for Christian Unity -- Alternative Lectionary -- Proper 17 (David Ackerman)


As a Disciples of Christ pastor, it would seem imperative that I work for unity.  Unity is, after all, our "Polar Star" (Barton Stone).  In my personal life and ministry this has been a passion.  There are times and places, such as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and World Communion Sunday, when we focus on this topic.  But, do we really affirm the premise that Christians should seek unity?  In order to explore that question, the theme of David Ackerman's alternative lectionary --  Beyond the Lectionary: A Year of Alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary -- for Proper 17 is just that -- a call to work for Christian unity.  I should note that David is a pastor in the United Church of Christ, a tradition that also emphasizes the call to pursue Christian unity.  If you are looking for an alternative to the lectionary, perhaps this would be a good place to start!

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Proper 17


September 1, 2013
“Let Us Work for Christian Unity”
Call to Worship:  Psalm 119:57-64 NRSV
One:  The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words.
Many:  I implore your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
One:  When I think of your ways, I turn my feet to your decrees.
Many:  I hurry and do not delay to keep your commandments.
One:  Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
Many:  At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous ordinances.
One:  I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
Many:  The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes.
Gathering Prayer:  What a blessing it is to be here today!  God, we thank you that we can come together in this place as one.  Teach us to work through our differences so that in you we might show a unity that transcends all earthly barriers to being the people you call us to be.  Amen.
Confession:  In so many ways, we have promoted division and brokenness in our world over healing and wholeness.  When we look back on the ways that we have done this, we are truly sorry.  Forgive us, God, and help us to change, so that we might be drawn together into the perfect unity that you desire for us in Christ, our Savior.  Amen.
Assurance:  God has let go of the wrongs of our pasts and sets before us a future filled with hope.  Let us embrace this gift of mercy that God has given us, so we might grow more fully into the kind of life that God passionately wants for us.  Amen.
Scriptures:  1 Kings 12:1-20 – “Rehoboam and Division”
Romans 7:7-13 – “On the Inner Conflict”
John 7:40-44 – “Division about Jesus”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
Reflection Questions:
What do you think are some of the lessons to be learned from the powerful story of the division of Israel in 1 Kings 12?  Are we ever guilty of making the same mistakes Rehoboam made?
What is Paul talking about in Romans 7?  Have you ever had something that, because it was specifically prohibited, made it more tempting for you to do?
John 7 talks about a division in the crowd over Jesus.  Are people still divided about him today? In what ways is the church divided over Jesus?  Does your church work toward Christian unity, and if so, how?
Prayer of Thanksgiving:  God, we pray that we might be a family of faith whose members work to build each other up and not tear each other down.  Thank you for the ways in which we show such unity, and help us to work each day to make it a living reality in our world.  Amen.
Benediction:  Having listened for the wisdom of God today, may we go forth strengthened and encouraged to work for the unity of all believers in the name of our Messiah, Jesus.  Amen.

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