Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Ordinary Time
Racial Justice Day
1 Samuel 3:1–20; Psalm 139:1–6, 13–18; 1 Corinthians 6:12–20; Mosiah 1:52–54, Doctrine and Covenants 151:9
Gather First People’s art for today’s worship setting. Include weavings, blankets, paintings, artifacts, handcrafts, carvings, pottery, or sand paintings. An alternative worship setting could include stacked, flat rocks. As you create the stack, each flat rock is put in place with a prayer for a blessing you have received. This could be completed prior to the service or could be incorporated into the worship service.
Provide for each participant during the Focus Moment: a large sheet of newsprint and washable markers or cotton fabric and fabric markers or a sticky note and pens, pencils, crayons (pastels), or markers.
Experience Congregations in Mission
“Many and Great” CCS 3
“Heleluyan” CCS 119
“Ate, Wakaŋtaŋka, hoyewayelo” CCS 189
Sing along with Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings for drum and vocal accompaniment.
Adapt the following words of welcome to your specific congregation and particular needs.
Welcome! Welcome to this time and this place made sacred by our presence and purpose. Take a moment to slowly breathe. Let go of expectations, concerns, and worries. Be with us in this moment. Breathe.
Community of Christ identifies today as Racial Justice Day. This is an opportunity for members and friends to intentionally focus on issues of injustice that prevail in our world, towns, villages, and communities and to identify—as individuals and congregations—ways we can work to bring about God’s peaceable kingdom for all. We confess our duty to respond to the compelling need for justice in this place and time. Why? Because Jesus calls.
Call to Worship
Psalm 139:1–6, 13–18
“Weave” CCS 327
OR “Summoned by the God Who Made Us” CCS 330
OR “We Are Children of Creation” CCS 340
Reader: God, we confess our weaknesses, our brokenness, our separation from you and one another.
Congregation: Empower us with your strength—the force of love.
Reader: We confess that we are often afraid and deny our worth and strength.
Congregation: Forgive us when we fail to sense your love for us.
Reader: We confess that we are sometimes apathetic and turn from acts of justice.
Congregation: Fill us with a sense of your call to be strong and courageous.
Reader: We confess and repent from our powerless stance.
All: Forgive us, God, and renew us with your spirit, empowering us to be your people in this place and time.
—Barbara Howard in Prayers and Readings for Worship, vol. 1, Judy Judd, ed., (Herald Publishing House, 1987, ISBN 9780830904785), 58, adapted.
Pursue Peace on Earth
I say to you, my friends, that if you should concentrate all the thanks and praise which your whole souls have the power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has granted you the chance to live in peace one with another; then you should serve God according to your own will and with your whole soul.
—Mosiah 1:52–54, adapted
Hymn of Justice
“We Are the Ones the World Awaits” CCS 305
OR “Come and Bring Light” CCS 287
Develop and teach actions for the refrain that illustrate the images depicted in the song.
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
Have music of First People or a unique instrument playing softly during the prayer, recorded or live.
It is in the name of our brother Jesus that we seek your face, welcoming this time when your Spirit rests upon us.
As we feel the warmth of your Spirit, we pray we may become “Creating Beings” right along beside you.
Forgive us for our inaction, and help us transform into a people who put aside our selfishness, narrowness, and discriminating habits.
Oh, we desperately need your blessing upon us to see the giftedness that “difference” is; to be the hope for those who too long have doubted, and to be a faithful friend to those forgotten or alone. Help us draw out into the world those who have been mired down in despair; let our joy in you bring a promise of harmony where they may flourish in life.
May we see those who are burdened, with the same eyes as those we hold close. We pray our focus may be on their uniqueness and that we are able to recognize your face in them.
Our desire is to have a heart of compassion and grace. Help us, Creator, have in us that peace that passes all understanding as we seek the peaceable kingdom.
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Invite People to Christ
Focus Moment: Called to Mission
Make three or four short statements on current justice issues. Check the internet for issues addressed by these organizations: Outreach International, Amnesty International, NAACP, or other credible resources.
Display a child-size ‘‘mantle’’ (a cloak or cape). Ask participants what you are holding. Children may not know the term mantle, but will know a cape is something superheroes wear.
Share the scripture story in John 1:43–51. First, Jesus offers the familiar discipleship invitation—“Follow me”—to Phillip, who in turn finds Nathanael, who shares with Phillip who Jesus is, and links Jesus to representatives of the law and the prophets: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Phillip then invites Nathaniel to “come and see.”
Jesus Christ wants us to follow him and to come and see—to be ready to do the same as he did—to care for others and tell people about God. Are you ready to do this? Are you ready to wear the ‘‘mantle’’ as a disciple of Christ? One way to wear the mantle is to help bring about justice in our world.
Give each participant a large sheet of newsprint and washable markers or cotton fabric and fabric markers—or if it is more practical, give each person a sticky note to use as their own “cape” or “mantle” along with pens, pencils, crayons (pastels), or markers. Invite them to write and draw on the newsprint, cloth, or sticky note how they will engage in Christ’s mission for justice. Place these on display for the congregation to see.
Ask congregants for suggestions on how we can help create justice. Offer the following ideas:
- Join organizations that support justice advocacy efforts
- Write and submit a Prayer for Peace to be offered in the Temple
- Participate with Peace Pathways
- Listen to the stories of others
- Be aware of our own biases and lack of knowledge
- Support the Gateway to Peace Museum in St. Louis, Missouri
- Volunteer at the Children’s Peace Pavilion in Independence, Missouri
Develop Disciples to Serve
Ministry of Music or Congregational Hymn
“Though the Spirit’s Gifts Are Many” CCS 334
OR “For Everyone Born” CCS 285
OR “Dear God, Embracing Humankind” CCS 194
Based on John 1:43–51
Abolish Poverty, End Suffering
Disciples’ Generous Response
“For those who come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share,” is a line from the Australian National Anthem that beckons us to share generously our rich and abundant God-given resources, with those from lands near and far, and with all who are in need.
Today on Racial Justice Day, we are challenged to consider whether we too, like Nathanael, can so easily become dismissive of someone based on where they are from. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46). Are we ready today, to share our rich abundance, with all people, from unknown lands and across the seas?
Community of Christ is called to be “in the forefront of those organizations and movements which are recognizing the worth of persons and are committed to bringing the ministry of [Jesus Christ] to bear on their lives” (Doctrine and Covenants 151:9).
Let us acknowledge that all we are and have is a gift from God. As we give today, let us remember that we are called to share what we have with all people, no matter who they are or where they are from.
As you share financially through Mission Tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, please use this time to consider your commitment and how you will tithe to your true capacity of time, talent, and testimony.
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
Hymn of Sharing
“I Am Standing Waiting” CCS 298
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
“Take the Path of the Disciple” CCS 558
OR “Go, Make of All Disciples” CCS 363
Sioux Prayer of Sending Forth
Grandfather, Great Spirit All Over the World,
The faces of living things are alike.
With tenderness, they have come up out of the ground.
Look upon your children that they may face the winds
And walk the good road to the day of quiet.
Grandfather Great Spirit,
Fill us with the light.
Give us the strength to understand and the eyes to see.
Teach us to walk the soft earth as relatives
To all that live.
—traditional Sioux prayer (http://runningwolf.wolf-running.com/SiouxPrayer.html)
Second Sunday after the Epiphany Ordinary Time
Exploring the Scripture
Today’s text from the first chapter of John continues telling about the life and ministry of Jesus in stories interwoven with symbolism and meaning. We have already heard through the poetry of the first verses in John’s Gospel that Jesus is eternally significant. The author has introduced us to John the Baptist, who in turn identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, and who put Jesus with his first disciples.
Now we see how the church can grow when people like Phillip respond to their encounters with Christ by inviting others. This might be a good time to talk to your congregation about evangelism. Phillip’s enthusiasm for Jesus, who he believes to be the awaited Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures, is met by Nathanael’s doubt.
Maybe Nathanael was familiar with the scriptures and was skeptical because Jesus reportedly came from Nazareth, an insignificant town. The religious elite in Jerusalem looked down on the people from the province of Galilee because they were further away from the religious center in Jerusalem and because many foreigners lived in and traveled through Galilee. But Jesus and his first disciples were from Galilee. Even though he is from Galilee, Nathanael was ranking people’s worth within Galilee, placing those from the town of Nazareth at a lower social level. Nathanael might have been a victim of prejudice, but he still managed to carry prejudices against others within Galilee. We might learn from this text to be careful not to judge others based on their background.
Nathanael is converted when Jesus shows he already knows him and saw Nathanael under the fig tree. Jesus showed supernatural insight into Nathanael’s character and past. Calling him “an Israelite in who there is no deceit” (v.
connected him with the original Jacob (later known as Israel), who spent the night struggling with the angel of God, symbolically wrestling with God. Jesus praises Nathanael saying he has Israel’s best qualities and is not deceitful like his ancestor. By doubting Jesus, Nathanael has already, in a sense, wrestled with God like Jacob/ Israel did.
The fig tree was a favorite place for students of scripture to sit and study. Jesus’ statements show he knew all about Nathanael. Even though Nathanael was now convinced, Jesus said Nathanael still had much to learn. He will “see greater things” (v. 50). Seeing in John’s Gospel is about understanding, not just eyesight.
If using today’s text to talk about evangelism, the speaker might bring out the idea that Phillip extended the invitation to Nathanael but Jesus took over from there. Nathanael wasn’t converted by Phillip. Instead, Jesus converted Nathanael, and his further maturation as a disciple would come as he embraced the challenge to follow Jesus, to come and see. In the end it won’t be little supernatural demonstrations that cement a relationship with God through Christ; a lifetime of discipleship will.
The passage closes with Jesus reminding us of the founder of the people of Israel. Jacob/Israel encountered God in a particular place where angels traveled between heaven and Earth. By the time of Jesus’ life on Earth, that place of encounter had become a holy place for the people of Israel. People would go there on pilgrimages. But now, Jesus says to Nathanael and to us, the place to meet God is Jesus himself. Symbolically, the angels will be ascending and descending from Jesus. If we want to encounter God, we need only get to know Christ.
- If we will invite people to Christ, they will encounter a Christ who already knows them and invites them to a new way of life in relationship with God and others.
- Be careful not to judge others based on their backgrounds or based on your own expectations.
- It’s OK to struggle and doubt, but in the end, we are invited to mature in our faith by following Jesus, seeing and understanding.
Questions to Consider
- Are you ready to share clear affirmative testimony about the Christ with others?
- Who might be waiting for your invitation to come and see the Christ?
- What prejudices are common in the world in which we live? How have you been a victim of prejudices? When have you held prejudices against others?
- When have prejudices kept you from seeing the potential in someone?
- When have you doubted God? Have you ever overcome doubts about God by trusting and following?