Community of Christ

Worship Resources - 29 April 2018

Worship Suggestions

Fifth Sunday of Easter

JOHN 15:1–8

Bear Fruit!

Additional Scriptures

Acts 8:26–40; Psalm 22:25–31; 1 John 4:7–21; Doctrine and Covenants 163:1–2a, 165:1c


Preparation

Create a worship center that encourages focus and contemplation on the scripture throughout the service. Items for the worship center could include a vine-like plant or a variety of plants with branches, a candle, or products of plants—fruits, vegetables, flowers.

Prelude

Welcome

Call to Worship

Reader 1:             Let us love one another, because love is from God.

Reader 2:             God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

Reader 1:             If we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.

Reader 2:             God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Reader 1:             There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

Reader 2:             The commandment we have is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

—1 John 4:7–21, adapted

Our Hearts Are Grateful

“How Can We Name a Love”       CCS 2

OR “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”              CCS 87

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.

Response

Pursue Peace on Earth

Prayer for Peace

Doctrine and Covenants 163:1–2a

Light the peace candle.

Prayer in Song

“Prayer of Peace”            CCS 164

Have the congregants stand to sing this hymn as a prayer, using the motions as an offering of themselves to the pursuit of peace. For motions, see http://ateneo.edu/ateneoishome/article /unconventional-form-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.

Experience Congregations in Mission

Lectio Divina: John 15:1–8—Vine and Branches

Vine and Branches is a scripture meditation on the vine and branches metaphor used in John 15. It is a way of deepening our relationship with Christ through creative reflection on the word. The full practice can be found at www.CofChrist.org/spiritual-practice-vine-and-branches.

Share some background on lectio divina. This will help your congregation center on the purpose for engaging in this spiritual practice.

Lectio divina is Latin for divine or sacred reading. It is a holistic, experiential way of reading scripture that uses mind, emotion, imagination, the senses, and prayer. It is letting scripture soak deeply into us as we interact with a particular passage or story. It is listening prayerfully for what God wants to say to us through scripture.

We Center Our Hearts

This can be a vocal or instrumental ministry of music, perhaps playing the accompaniment track from Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings.

“Come and Find the Quiet Center”             CCS 151

OR “Be Still”       CCS 156

Ask the congregants to close their eyes and let an image or a sense of the vine and branches come into their minds. For those not comfortable with this, an alternative is to focus on the worship center.

Develop Disciples to Serve

Scripture Focus: John 15:1–8

Project or print the reflective questions. Read the scripture, then pause for a minute and ask these questions:

  • What images do you see or sense as the scripture is read?

  • What does the vine in your mind look like?

  • Is it green or some other color, healthy or unhealthy, moist or dry, producing fruit or barren? If there is fruit, what does it look like?

  • Are there colors, fragrances, temperatures, sounds, or other awarenesses that come to you as you enter the scripture with your senses?

Read the scripture a second time.

Ask congregants to turn to someone near them and share a response to these questions:

  • What images did you see or sense as the scripture was read?

  • What does the vine look like in your mind?

  • How do you feel about the vine and branches you see?

Allow 3–5 minutes for people to share with a partner, then bring the group back together with singing.

We Listen with Intention

“Listen in the Silence”     CCS 153

OR “Come, Holy Spirit, Come”     CCS 154

Sing three or four times. If you notice some people are still sharing, continue leading the song—or ask accompanist to—until everyone is centered again as a group.

Time of Prayer and Reflection with God

During this time, depending on typical practices in your congregation, you could choose to play soft meditative music (instrumental music without words). This music could either be provided by an instrumentalist or be recorded music.

Ask congregants to prayerfully converse with God about feelings, questions, or insights that came to them from their meditation images. Allow 2–5 minutes, depending on your congregation’s level of comfort, for this time of silent prayer. Again, bring the group back together through song.

We Open Our Hearts

“Spirit Fill Us”     CCS 160

OR “Listen in the Silence” CCS 153

Can be sung both times in the service.

Pose the questions below:

  • See and feel yourselves as part of the vine. Where are you located in the maze of branches and leaves?

  • How do you feel about the connection between yourself and Jesus?

      Read John 15:1–8 again.

What Is My Invitation?

Read John 15:1–8 one last time. This time ask congregants to let go of the images that came to their minds and be open to God’s call to them through this scripture.

Take time to allow people to share their insights through interaction with this scripture. Use the questions below to prompt sharing. Project or print these questions for people to see.

  • What does this scripture say to you about your relationship with Christ? With God? With the world around you?

  • What is your invitation as you reflect on your experience with this scripture?

Close the time of sharing with the next song.

Our Hearts Are Called

“According to the Gifts” CCS 591

OR “If by Your Grace I Choose to Be”        CCS 587

Abolish Poverty, End Suffering

Disciples’ Generous Response

Be a Moon

One night on my way home, I was summoned by the bold intensity of an almost-full moon which was demanding my attention. I pulled my car over and rolled the window down sensing the need to regard this sight with a contemplative heart.

Although the sun’s light was being overshadowed by the position of the earth, the moon was reflecting that light from 93 million miles away and casting a glow that allowed me to see the outline of the quiet world around me.

There are many times when things of the earth can overshadow the light. And yet, there is a moon. It reflects the sun when the light cannot be seen.

The moon reflects the sun.

Be a moon.

Reflect the Son.

—Nina Warriner

We are called to reflect the light of the Son:

to be the hands and feet and beating heart of Christ in the world,

to bring light where there is darkness,

to bear the fruits of hope, peace, and love.

May our offering today be a representation of our reflection of the light of Christ in our world.

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

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.

Invite People to Christ

Send Us Forth

Hymn

“I, the Lord of Sea and Sky”          CCS 640

OR “Your Cause Be Mine”             CCS 639

Doctrine and Covenants 165:1c

Benediction

Have the congregation share the Mission Prayer in unison. Project the words, print them in the bulletin, or read the words as a call and response. Individual Mission Prayer cards can be purchased through Herald House and handed out to each person www.HeraldHouse.org /products/mission-prayer-cards.

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.

Postlude

Sermon Helps

Fifth Sunday of Easter

JOHN 15:1–8 

Exploring the Scripture

Ubuntu, a Swahili expression, is one of those words you cannot translate into a single word in another language. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu offers this definition: A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirms others, and does not feel threatened that others are capable and good.

Ubuntu is based in a confident self-assurance that comes from knowing one belongs to a greater whole. It helps us realize we are lessened when others are humiliated, tortured, or oppressed. 

Tutu further described Ubuntu as the essence of being human. Ubuntu relates especially to the idea that one cannot exist as a human being alone. It speaks to our interconnectedness and interdependency.

We think of ourselves far too often as mere individuals, separated from one another. On the contrary, we are all intimately connected. What we do affects the whole world. When we do well, our influence spreads out and blesses the entire human community.

According to Nelson Mandela, the late president of South Africa, Ubuntu means people should not look out only for themselves.

Rather, the accompanying questions to their motives should be: “Am I going to do this to enable the community around me to improve? Will my goals and motives help create an economically and environmentally sustainable future in my village?”

Like Ubuntu, our passage today says much about being one and abiding in Christ. The text affirms there is and should be a mystical sense in which the Christian is in Christ and Christ is in the Christian. Jesus worked with familiar pictures and ideas that were part of the lives and culture of the Jewish people.

Israel was pictured as the vine or vineyard of God. The vineyard of the Lord was the house of Israel (Isaiah 5:1–7). The vine had become the symbol of the nation of Israel. Jesus called himself the true vine. The point of Israel’s picture was the vineyard had run wild.

Jesus was telling the Jews to abide in him because the nation was a degenerate vine. Simply being a Jew would not save a Jew. All that could save a Jew was to have intimate living companionship with Jesus, for Jesus is the true vine of God and Israel must be the branches joined to Jesus. Jesus was explaining that faith in him, not Jewish blood, was the way to God’s salvation. No external qualification can set a person right with God; only belief in Jesus Christ can do that. Therefore, we are called to be one with Christ because we are chosen for joy and love. Jesus called us to be his friends, partners, and ambassadors.

When we are one with Jesus, we experience an important source for living life well despite the environment in which we live. If there are strained or broken relationships between individuals or communities, it aids everyone in finding mutually acceptable cures that strengthen lives and relationships. Being one in Christ helps us realize that our welfare depends on the welfare of others. This way of life will shape, form, and guide our behavior and character.

When we are one with Christ, this deeply influences our experience in Community of Christ culture and expresses a relevant and non-negotiable Ubuntu commitment that calls us to be involved in Christ’s mission of changing lives and communities. Because we are one, Christ uses our availability and vulnerability to transform lives and communities where we live and we discover how to be human beings in community.

Our individual and corporate welfare lives in one another. We are brothers and sisters blessing one another. Our salvation—the world’s salvation—is necessarily and essentially communal. We cannot be human alone. 

Disciples in Community of Christ have been counseled that God is calling for a prophetic community to emerge. The community is to be drawn from the nations of the world and characterized by an uncommon devotion to the passion, compassion, and peace of God as revealed in Jesus Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 163:11a, adapted).

We are one. We are made for interdependence. We are made for family. Together, we can begin to narrow the huge gap between the rich and the poor. We can provide powerful and strengthening opportunities for effective, strategic human development on behalf of the weak and poor.

Our initiative to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering helps create relationships of mutual respect much like those within Ubuntu.

Central Ideas

  1. Ubuntu reminds us we are interconnected in a global community; when something happens to some, it happens to all.
  2. Jesus helps us understand we are not only connected with one another, we are one in him.
  3. As members of Community of Christ, we are called to be passionate about sharing the peace of Jesus Christ because when we do, we can change the world through our connectedness—through Ubuntu.

Questions to Consider

  1. Have there been times when Ubuntu has been made real to you? How have you seen this in your life?
  2. How can you help your congregation members feel connected to the idea that when one struggles, we struggle; when one rejoices, we rejoice?
  3. Can you think of another modern-day analogy related to Jesus as the vine and us as the branches?
  4. What are ways you and your congregation can share the peace of Jesus Christ?

Small-group Worship Suggestions

Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 15:1–8 NRSV

The Facilitator Notes provide an overview of Sacred Space and how to use the resource to best meet ministry needs. This is a must read for first-time users.

The weekly outline and handouts provide everything needed to plan and facilitate a scripture-focused Sacred Space gathering and includes additional options such as Thoughts for Children.


Gathering

Welcome

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.

Lord God
Creator of all
Giver of all gifts
Lover of all:
We pray to you on behalf of our troubled world,
fraught with conflict, injustice, and misunderstanding.
The peace that we seek often seems so unreachable,
so far from possibility.
We yearn for things to be different than they are—for the
old world to become new.
We acknowledge our own participation in the difficulties of
your times, and so we pledge our intent and resources
to the cause of peace.
In our lives may we accept your presence, which calls us to be
peacemakers.
May we unite with others to make our world a better place to live.
We pray in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Peter Judd

Spiritual Practice

Dwelling in the Word

I will read a scripture aloud. As you hear it, allow words, images, or phrases to come to mind. Try not to focus on them. Let them rest with you.

After a moment of silence I will read the scripture a second time. As you hear it again, listen how God’s Spirit nudges you or catches your attention.

Read the scripture:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.

—1 John 4:7–21 NRSV

Pause. Read the scripture a second time. Invite group members to share responses to these questions:

  1. What words, phrases, or images came to mind?
  2. How is God’s Spirit nudging you to share God’s love?

Sharing Around the Table

John 15:1-8 NRSV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

Israel was pictured as the vine or vineyard of God. Jesus calls himself the true vine as a way of explaining that faith in him, not one’s heritage, race, or bloodline, was the way to God’s salvation. Jesus is the vine, and we are called to be unified in Christ (to be the branches of the vine).

When we are the vine, one in Christ, we no longer are simply individuals; we see ourselves as part of the whole body of Christ. We begin to understand more fully that we all are connected intimately. What we do affects others. When we act in the loving and compassionate ways of Christ our influence spreads and blesses the entire human community.

According to Nelson Mandela, the late president of South Africa, people should not look out only for themselves. Rather, the accompanying questions to their motives should be: “Am I going to do this to enable the community around me to improve? Will my goals and motives help create an economically and environmentally sustainable future in my village?”

Being one in Christ helps us realize that our welfare depends on the welfare of others. Because we are one, Christ uses our availability and vulnerability to transform lives and communities where we live. Living as one in Christ means making choices and engaging in actions that challenge injustice, foster healing, and bear hope in our neighborhoods, communities, and around the globe.

Questions

  1. When have you been affected by the choices or actions of others?
  2. What are some everyday things we do that have far-reaching consequences?
  3. How can you can work with others to challenge injustice and share blessing and hope?

Sending

Generosity Statement

“Sharing for the common good is the spirit of Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 165:2f).

We receive God’s grace and generosity. The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing small-group ministries as part of your generous response.

This offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

God of rejoicing, we share our gifts joyfully and with thanksgiving in response to the generous gifts you have given us. May the offerings we share bring joy, hope, love, and peace into the lives of others that they might experience your mercy and grace. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

CCS 210, “The Love of God”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group


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