Community of Christ

COVID-19  Ongoing Response

Worship Resources - 15 November 2020

Worship Suggestions

Ordinary Time (Proper 28)

MATTHEW 25:14-30

In Search of Whole Life Stewardship

Additional Scriptures

Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Doctrine and Covenants 163:9


Preparation

Find Aesop’s fable about the goose that lays the golden eggs. Versions of the story are available online.

Prelude

Gathering Hymn

“When Morning Gilds the Skies” CCS 89

OR “God Is Here“ CCS 70

Welcome

Call to Worship: Psalm 123:1-2

Hymn of Praise

“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” CCS 87

OR “Let Us Give Praise to the God of Creation” CCS 607

Opening Prayer

Response

Prayer for Peace

Light the Peace Candle.

Prayer

Challenging God,

Your love challenges us to love like Jesus. You challenge us with the teachings of Jesus. You challenge us to live peace and seek justice. When we think of these challenges we are humbled by our human limitations. At the same we are determined to do your will and work for peace. Help us by your Holy Spirit to rise to the challenges. Help us recognize needs and opportunities to make peace around us. Give us courage to speak out for justice. Help us be the balm of peace when there is injustice and violence. Amen.

For more ideas, the Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA, can be found at www.CofChrist.org /daily-prayer-for-peace.

Hymn of Peace

“God Is Still Speaking”   by congregation or solo CCS 282

OR “God’s Melody of Peace” CCS 319

Focus Moment

Let’s talk for a minute about one of our Enduring Principles—Responsible Choices.
“God gives humans the ability to make choices about whom or what they will serve. Some people experience conditions that diminish their ability to make choices. We are called to make responsible choices within the circumstances of our lives that contribute to the purposes of God.”

—Sharing in Community of Christ, 4th edition, page 30.

Our choices usually are better when they are made patiently and unselfishly. The opposite is illustrated by the expression “kill the goose that lays the golden egg.” The story behind this saying is credited to Aesop as printed in Aesop’s Fables. One version goes like this:

Versions of the story are available online. One such source is on Wikipedia. Additional information there might be helpful in your discussion.

The people in the story were greedy. They wanted instant gratification rather than waiting for the next day to have more money. As a result they made a poor choice.

God gives us the ability to make choices, and hopes that we will make good choices. When we do, we create more good things in the world, we have better friendships, and all of creation is healthier. Even when people have made bad choices that hurt others or the Earth, we can work with God to make things better.

Jesus asks us to use different priorities than the people in the story: to think of others first and to act out of God’s love for all. Then we make responsible choices.

Disciples’ Generous Response

This is the sixth week of the Generosity Cycle. Today is a kickoff to a season of reflection that continues the generosity cycle throughout the rest of the year. More information about the Generosity Cycle can be found at www.CofChrist.org/generosity-cycle.

Scripture Reading

Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment of constraint. Break free of the shackles of conventional culture that mainly promote self-serving interests.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

Statement

Community of Christ’s statement on discipleship: “Being a Christian is more than holding a list of right ideas; it is about radical obedience to Jesus in every part of life. God’s boundless love sets us free for lives of responsible stewardship in which we generously offer our lives in service to God’s reign. Discipleship is both an inward and outward journey. Jesus calls us to follow him and to invite others to experience the transforming power of his grace (Sharing in Community of Christ, 3rd edition, page 16)

Receiving God’s grace and love allows us to reclaim our true nature. It is our nature to be generous like God. God’s generous sharing transforms us. We respond by changing our lifestyles.

This transformation is an ongoing process of becoming what we were created to be. So while we have reflected on gratitude and generosity through the Generosity Cycle over these last six weeks, this is really just the beginning. Learning to live generous lives comes as we open our lives to God often and intentionally. Thank you to all those who have faithfully and willingly participated as we have explored the four phases of the Generosity Cycle: Invite, Discover, Respond and Reflect.

Now the real work begins. During the Disciples’ Generous Response this morning, reflect on how we can continue to explore grace and generosity over these next months and year. May God bless and guide us in our unfolding search to embrace whole-life stewardship through receiving God’s gifts and responding faithfully moving ever onward to Zion.

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

Scripture Reading

Matthew 25:14-30

Ministry of Music or Congregational Hymn

“A Diligent and Grateful Heart” CCS 539

OR “Take My Gifts and Let Me Love You” CCS 609

Morning Message

Based on Matthew 25:14-30

Closing Hymn

“Send Me Forth” CCS 651

OR “Now Go in Joy” CCS 659

Closing Prayer

Response

Postlude

Sermon Helps

Ordinary Time (Proper 28)

MATTHEW 25:14–30

Exploring the Scripture

This passage records the parable of the talents and is also found in Luke 19. This parable is often interpreted to be about good stewardship of financial resources. Its placement in Luke would support the financial stewardship interpretation. However, its placement in Matthew leads toward a broader interpretation about trusting in God, moving beyond our fears, and taking risks to help set up God’s reign on Earth.

In Matthew, this parable is the third of four stories told by Jesus that give insights about the coming of God’s kingdom. Through this parable, Jesus is trying to help people trust in what God has already done for us. Jesus teaches that we should respond to God’s invitation to help build God’s vision of shalom and not worry about trying to earn God’s love which we already have unconditionally.

The return on investment by the slaves who received five and two talents was amazing. Although the master praises their efforts, his response seems understated given the significance of their earnings. The focus of the story quickly moves to the slave who chose to bury his single talent. The master’s response to this slave seems extreme and harsh from the perspective of the slave who was trying to keep the master’s talent safe. The slave’s action seems lazy and misguided from the perspective of the master who trusted the slave to make responsible choices about the use of the talent.

As we go deeper in the story, we realize the slave who buried the talent makes his choice out of fear. The slave does not trust the nature of his master. He is afraid of what the master might do so the slave chooses what he thinks is the least risky path by burying the talent to protect it. The master asks why the slave would lose the safe opportunity to earn interest in the bank if he thought the master was so demanding. Ironically, we recognize the slave’s fear blocked him from making a responsible choice. At a minimum, the slave should have made the safe choice to at least earn guaranteed returns on the talent in the bank. However, if the slave had trusted the master who first trusted him with the talent, the slave would have risked choosing to do all he could to aspire to the master’s intents.

Jesus tells this parable in his last few days of life on Earth. He is in the middle of making a series of choices that are not responsible if his goal is to stay alive. However, we learn from the meaning of the parable and from Jesus’ example, that making responsible choices is about being willing to take risks to proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace. It is about choosing to get involved in changing the world based on God’s vision of shalom.

When we fail to trust God and fear that God will harshly judge the choices we make, we sit idle and frozen in our fear. Like the slave, we bury our “talent.” We must remain centered on God’s unconditional love and grace through Jesus Christ. We must recognize God trusts us as stewards of our choices to help set up God’s reign on Earth. This helps us trust God, break free from our fear, and take the risks Jesus took. Like the slaves who created miraculous earnings on their “talents,” we are led by the Holy Spirit to make responsible choices that contribute to God’s restoring purposes on Earth. As we risk making responsible choices like Jesus did, we share in the joy of being God’s kingdom builders.

Central Ideas

  • We must learn to trust in God’s unconditional love and grace through Jesus Christ.
  • God trusts us as stewards who will make responsible choices on how to use all we have received to pursue God’s vision of shalom.
  • Making responsible choices requires us to break free from our fears and our wish to “play it safe” and take risks like Jesus did.

Questions to Consider

  • How can you stay centered on God’s unconditional love and grace through Jesus Christ to deepen your trust in God?
  • Where is God acting in your world and calling you to risk getting involved?
  • What gifts has God given you that you can use to help restore God’s vision of shalom through Community of Christ Mission Initiatives?
  • What do you fear about taking risks to use your gifts to help change the world?
  • How do you overcome your fear and follow the Holy Spirit's leadings to use your gifts to engage in mission?



Small-group Worship Suggestions

Ordinary Time Proper 28

Matthew 25:14–30 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

Ordinary Time is the period in the Christian calendar from Pentecost to Advent. This part of the Christian calendar is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and as a faith community.

Prayer for Peace 

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

God of all time and space, I stand waiting for your peace to enter my broken and chaotic soul, just as you wait for me to pause long enough to breathe and simply be. May your peace fill the space that I now create with my breath and my being. Hear my often-impatient cry, “Be with me, O Prince of Peace, and make me whole.”

Pause.

Source of our being, we stand waiting for your peace to enter our broken and chaotic relationships, just as you wait for us to pause long enough to invite you in. May your reconciling presence bring us to a point of apology and forgiveness…of offering and receiving…and unity. Hear our impatient cry, “Be with us, O Prince of Peace, and make us one.”

Pause.

Lord of all Earth’s people, the world stands waiting for your peace to calm the warring nations and stem the tide of violence we inflict against one another, just as you wait for us to stop the madness long enough to see one another as family. We remember all nations, including São Tomé and Príncipe, the country we pray for today. May your profound compassion for your children flow within us. Enable us to surrender our hatred and fear and be filled instead with your loving kindness and mercy. Hear our often-impatient cry, “Be with our human family, O Prince of Peace, and make us one.”

Pause.

Creator of all, your creation stands waiting for your healing touch to restore all living things to oneness and wholeness, just as you wait for us to revere what you have given us as a sacred gift. May your generous offering of water, earth, air, and all that has life remind us of our physical and spiritual connection with everything that was, is, and will be. Help us honor our call as stewards of the Earth. Hear our impatient cry, “Be with our Earth, O Prince of Peace. Make all things one.”

Pause.

We ask for this blessing of your peace in and through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Spiritual Practice

Receiving with Gratitude

Read the following: 

Enduring Principles are foundational for Community of Christ. We will rotate through each principle with a spiritual practice during Ordinary Time. Today we will focus on Grace and Generosity.

The first thing we do in this life is receive. Our first breath is a gift. It is a gift that is given freely. The spiritual practice for today is a breath prayer. During the prayer we will use words to breathe in and words to breathe out. Today we will breathe in the words receive life and breathe out the words thank you.

Slowly read the following instructions:

Sit with a relaxed posture and close your eyes. We will spend three minutes in breath prayer.

Breathe in a regular, natural rhythm. As you breathe in, silently say, “receive life.” As you exhale, silently respond with, “thank you.”

Breathe in and out, focusing on what you are inhaling and what you are exhaling.

Watch the time, and encourage participants to continue the breath prayer for the full three minutes.

When time is up, ask these questions in a short group discussion: 

  1. What is one thing you are grateful for in this moment? 
  2. How do you feel about receiving?

After the discussion share the following prayer:

Thank you, God, for another day. Thank you for the opportunity to connect with others, to receive and to give to one another. Amen.

Sharing Around the Table

Matthew 25:14–30 NRSV

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

This parable, also found in Luke 19, is often interpreted to be about good stewardship of financial resources. However, its placement in Matthew leads toward a broader interpretation about trusting in God, moving beyond our fears, and taking risks to establish God’s reign on Earth.

Being afraid of what the master might do upon his return, one of the slaves in the parable chooses what he thinks is the least risky path by burying the talent he has been given. Had he not been stifled by fear of the unknown (or of his misperception of the master), he might have made a different choice. 

We learn from the parable and from Jesus’ example, that making responsible choices is about being willing to take risks to proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace. It is about choosing to get involved in changing the world based on God’s vision of shalom. When we fail to trust God and fear that God will harshly judge the choices we make, we sit idle and frozen in our fear. 

When we center ourselves in God’s unconditional love and grace, we realize God trusts us as stewards of our choices to help build God’s Kingdom. Like the slaves who created miraculous earnings on their “talents,” we are led by the Holy Spirit to make choices that contribute to God’s restoring purposes on Earth. 

Questions

  1. How do you center yourself in God’s love and grace?
  2. What “talents” has God given you that you can use to help restore God’s vision of shalom?
  3. When did fear keep you from risking for the sake of the God’s peaceable kingdom?

Sending

Generosity Statement

Note: If you are using Thoughts for Children, now is a good time for the kids to share with the group their representations of God.

Faithful disciples respond to an increasing awareness of the abundant generosity of God by sharing according to the desires of their hearts; not by commandment or constraint.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:9

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 our discipleship, 

As we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us to save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In these ways may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

Community of Christ Sings 636, “I Have Called You by Your Name”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on the Group

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