Ordinary Time (Proper 16)
The Demands of Discipleship
Joshua 24:1–2a, 14–18; Psalm 34:15–22; Ephesians 6:10–20; Moroni 10:29; Doctrine and Covenants 165:1a–d
Prepare pieces of yellow and blue paper. Cut a full sheet of paper into fourths. Hand out one piece of each color to everyone as they enter or during the service. Have pens or pencils available. If congregants will bring their offerings, joys, and concerns forward, provide baskets or trays to accept them. For the Focus Moment, you will need a bowl or platter of salt or sand.
Call to Worship
Doctrine and Covenants 165:1a–d
Writing of Joys and Concerns
Hand out the pieces of yellow and blue paper to the congregation. Invite everyone to write their joys on the yellow paper and their concerns on the blue paper. These will be collected and prayed over later in the worship.
“Lord, You Have Brought Us” CCS 76
OR “God Is Here!” CCS 70
OR “A Man of Ancient Time and Place” CCS 30
Congregational Invocation for Peace
Light the peace candle.
Leader: We witness to you, O God, that we are willing to take upon us the name of your Son,
People: Lord, we are willing to proclaim Jesus.
Leader: and always remember him and keep the commandments which he has given us,
People: Lord, we remember, and we are ready to follow.
Leader: that we may always have his Spirit to be with us.
People: Lord, we feel the Spirit in our presence.
—based on the Combined Communion Prayer
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.
What does it mean “to confess”? Accept the answers given and provide some of your own: admit or acknowledge something about yourself. President Steve Veazey shared these words about confession at the 2013 Peace Colloquy, “Most of us need help with the spiritual disciplines of confession and repentance. Just like Isaiah realized in his encounter with the Divine, we come to understand that we are indeed people who knowingly and unknowingly rebel from God.”
Fill the bowl or platter with salt, sand, or something similar. Allow people to use their fingers to write a word or draw a symbol in the salt or sand that represents something they want to ask God to forgive. If using a platter, several could do this at the same time. Once everyone has “written” their confession, ask them to silently pray for forgiveness as you tilt and swirl the dish so the words or symbols disappear.
“Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” CCS 215
Read as a congregation or have an individual read all stanzas, or ask four people to each read one stanza.
Hymn of Confession
“It’s Me, It’s Me, O Lord” CCS 208
OR “Humble Yourself” CCS 211
“Lord, Have Mercy” CCS 197
OR “Alleluia” CCS 103
(sing through several times)
Based on John 6:56–69
OR Testimonies (by two or three people)
- When have you been called to be a participant rather than a spectator in your faith journey?
- Share how you have become one with Jesus.
- Include in your testimony a time when you were expected not just to believe, but also to act on the words of Jesus, and even allow them to become part of your being.
Disciples’ Generous Response
Announce that during the next hymn, the offerings and the Joys and Concerns written at the beginning of the worship will also be received. Alternatively, ask those who are able, to bring forward their joys, concerns, and tithes following the hymn. Arrange to have someone assist those who wish to remain seated.
“Give Thanks” CCS 134
OR “Take My Life, That I May Be/Toma, oh Dios, mi voluntad” CCS 610
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, Joys and Concerns
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples -generous-response-tools.
Sing or play the vocal recording from Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings for one of the following hymns.
“Dios está aquí/God Is Here Today” CCS 150
OR “Santo, santo, santo/Holy, Holy, Holy” CCS 159
Reflection on The Cost of Discipleship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor in Germany in the years leading up to World War II. He was on the staff of the seminary of the Confessing Church, a place for ordinands who were willing to defy the Nazi regime. In 1935 the Gestapo turned their attention to this seminary and eventually closed it in 1937. That was the same year Bonhoeffer published his book, The Cost of Discipleship. Even though the seminary was closed, he continued to teach. In 1939 friends convinced Bonhoeffer to flee to America. But after a short period, he returned to Germany. He wrote:
I made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.
—“Dietrich Bonhoeffer: German Theologian and Resister,” Christianity Today, (www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/martyrs/dietrich-bonhoeffer.html)
Bonhoeffer was arrested in April 1943 and imprisoned. At the concentration camp in Flossenburg, he was tried for treason, found guilty, and hanged.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” and, “Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship” (1995, 11, 91).
During the next few moments of silence, reflect on the cost of discipleship for Bonhoeffer and for you.
For more information about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, read The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Touchstone, 1995, ISBN 9780684815008); Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, by Greg Ligon (Holman Reference, 1999, ISBN 9780805491982).
“By Gracious Powers/Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben” CCS 268
This text is based on the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
OR “Summoned by the God Who Made Us” CCS 330
OR “Bring Forth the Kingdom” CCS 387
Congregational Mission Prayer
Print or project this prayer so all in the congregation can share it.
God, where will your Spirit lead today?
Help me be fully awake and ready to respond.
Grant me courage to risk something new and
become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.
Come to Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength.
—Moroni 10:29, adapted
Ordinary Time (Proper 16)
Exploring the Scripture
This final passage from the sixth chapter of John holds several challenging themes. In earlier verses, 1–21, two miraculous experiences describe feeding the 5,000 and Jesus walking on water. Then, in verses 25–71, Jesus delves into the meaning of these miracles.
Specifically, in verses 56–69 he presents the shocking image of the bread and wine as metaphor for his flesh and blood. Many were repulsed by the thought of eating “flesh” and drinking “blood.” While this also may be difficult for us, the faithful Jews hearing these words would have been horrified by the implied violation of their cleanliness laws. Reaction to the physicality of Jesus’ statement about flesh and blood overlooks the deeper meaning: Jesus is the “bread that came down from heaven” (v. 58). Similar to Jesus’ experience of providing “living water” to the woman at the well (John 4:1–42), here he is bread: “…the one who eats this bread will live forever” (v. 58). Jesus compares this bread to manna provided to the wandering Israelites. Those who ate the manna eventually died, but those who eat this bread will have eternal life. Jesus uses the symbols of bread, wine, flesh, blood, and water to teach us about the gift of life.
Looking back to verse 51 we find a summary statement: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Besides presenting the bread of life image, Jesus refers to his approaching death and the sacrifice of his flesh and blood for the sake of the world. In today’s scripture verses, the followers of Jesus are challenged into mission that would require similar sacrifices. It not only was difficult to hear Jesus’ words, it was becoming clearer that following him was going to be difficult.
In verse 63, Jesus goes on to explain more about his use of the word flesh: “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” While there is a physical factor to Jesus’ words, he again wants us to go deeper in our understanding. It is spirit that brings flesh to life—a joining of physical and spiritual.
Doctrine and Covenants 90:5e (adapted) states a long-held belief within Community of Christ: “The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fullness of joy…”
The Enduring Principle of Sacredness of Creation includes this descriptor: Spirit and material, seen and unseen, are related” (Sharing in Community of Christ, 3rd ed., 12).
Like the early followers, we can be limited to an understanding of physical or worldly facets of Jesus’ words. However, our life as a disciple is not complete without grasping the depth of the spirituality involved. Merely eating bread does not guarantee eternal life. What is needed is belief and faith in Jesus and the One who sent him.
Why do so many turn away from Jesus during this conversation? Perhaps it is fear— fear of moving outside the norm. Perhaps it is the literal meaning of Jesus’ words that was off-putting—the failure to grasp the text at a deeper level. Perhaps some were beginning to understand that being a disciple of Jesus would not be a comfortable path.
Witnessing the loss of many disciples, Jesus asks the 12 if they also want to leave. Peter, despite the “hard sayings” and difficult journey, asserts that Jesus has the words of eternal life and is the “Holy One of God.” Where else would they go? Peter declares belief and faith in what Jesus is teaching, and the 12 continue to form a community of faith, following Jesus.
Perhaps as we deal with budgets, declining attendance, building maintenance, and many other physical realities, it would be good to remember that it is our commitment to follow Jesus that forms us into a faith community.
- Jesus is living bread. He is not the same as manna, which satisfies a purely physical hunger. He offers the gift of life that joins physical and spiritual qualities of living within God’s sacred creation.
- Eating the bread and drinking the wine during the Lord’s Supper represents Jesus’ flesh and blood as symbols of his sacrifice and our willingness to continue on the path of discipleship.
- It takes faith and belief to embrace the death and resurrection of Jesus and then embody his mission through our living.
Questions to Consider
- How do you understand the symbols of the bread and wine? When might your congregation need to hear the jarring message of “eating flesh” and “drinking blood”?
- What does “living bread” mean to you?
- Can you place yourself and your congregation in the crowd of disciples who heard this message? How do you think you would react to the “hard sayings”?
- What were the characteristics of Peter and the other 11 that kept them on the disciples’ path when so many others turned away? Are these characteristics present in your life? In your congregation?
- When your congregation struggles, how might this passage offer a perspective of discipleship in community that combines physical and spiritual features in a more holistic faith community?