With this set of readings, we are looking to the Sunday following Christmas. The celebrations seem to be winding down and it's time to look forward to the coming new year. The three texts speak, each in a different way to the call to leadership. Even the genealogy in Matthew 1 has implications. The reading from 1 Timothy 3 will require some deliberation, in part because some of its stipulations cut against contemporary realities. But, the question is -- how do we hear these texts anew in our own day?
“God Leads Us over Time”
Call to Worship: Psalm 69:30-36 NRSV
One: I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Many: This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.
One: Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
Many: For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
One: Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.
Many: For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; and his servants shall live there and possess it; the children of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall live in it.
Gathering Prayer: God, you have come to us as a child born in a world torn apart by conflict, division, and failed leadership. Help us to look to you as our leader, who overthrows the oppressive powers of the world.
Confession: Your coming should change everything, yet we admit, God, that we’re just tired and want to go back to our old ways of doing things. We love to cling to what is familiar, and we resist the things that might actually lead us in new and Spirit-filled directions. Forgive us, God, for our lack of openness to your guidance in our lives. Help us to place our trust in you.
Assurance: As an old calendar year draws to a close, the good news God gives us this day is that the stuff of the past does not need to cling to us. God liberates us from the things that keep us imprisoned from grace. Thank you, God, for leading us into new life this day.
Scriptures: Exodus 18:13-24 – “Jethro’s Advice”
1 Timothy 3:1-13 – “Leadership Qualifications”
Matthew 1:1-17 – “Jesus’ Genealogy”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
· How is the story about Moses listening to Jethro in Exodus 18 an example of effective leadership? In what ways do you think church leaders/pastors follow this model or fail to follow it? What does good leadership mean to you?
· 1 Timothy 3 outlines “qualifications” for leadership in Christian churches. What do you notice about the kinds of characteristics that are listed? What qualities are absent from this list that we might associate with “professional” church leaders/pastors today?
· Does Matthew 1:1-17 seem like a boring reading to you If you look at it a little more closely, what are some things that might make it seem not so boring?
· Has your church been in existence for generations? How might you learn about your congregation’s present circumstances by looking at its past?
· Does your church change leaders at the end of a calendar year? If so, how might today’s readings fit this day?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: Thank you, God, for the gift of leadership. We pray that we might learn more about ourselves by being part of a community of people who have faith in you.
Benediction: God calls us to follow and teaches us to lead. As we go out to face the challenges of these times, let us share the good news of God’s love with a world that hungers for it. Amen.