Ordinary Time (Proper 7)
Discipleship and the Cross
Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Romans 6:1b-11; Alma 16:182, 184;
Doctrine and Covenants 163:1, 2a
Invitation to Worship
Leader: Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
People: for I am poor and needy.
Leader: Preserve my life
People: for I am devoted to you.
Leader: You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord,
People: for to you do I cry all day long.
Leader: Gladden the soul of your servant,
People: for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
—Psalm 86:1–4, adapted
Hymn of Rejoicing
“Now Sing to Our God” CCS 108
OR “Great and Marvelous Are Thy Works” CCS 118
OR “O God of Vision” CCS 78
Read each scripture passage followed by the question for consideration. Pause, allowing participants to meditate on their personal response before moving on. Print the scriptures and questions in the bulletin or project them.
Scripture: O God, you have been merciful to me and heard my cries in the midst of this congregation; and you have also heard me when I have been cast out, and have been despised by my enemies…
—Alma 16:182, adapted
Question for Consideration: When have you felt as if you were shunned or made fun of for your beliefs?
Scripture: I will cry to you in all my afflictions; for in you is my joy…
—Alma 16:184, adapted
Question for Consideration: Have you ever felt God was “hiding” from you? How can you renew your relationship with God and find joy?
Song for Meditation: “O God We Call” CCS 195
Sing this several times. Can be sung as a call and response, with a leader singing each phrase, followed by the congregation repeating the phrase.
Prayer for Peace
Light the Peace Candle.
Prayer: O God, our loving Creator, Sustainer, and Friend,
We live in a world torn by violence, hatred, prejudice, anger, and bitterness. We find it sometimes difficult to live our lives as dedicated disciples, feeling the hurts thrust upon us, leaving us impotent and frustrated. We lose sight of your counsel to pursue peace on Earth when the waters are muddied and we cannot clearly find our way.
Yet we remember you have promised that if we will discern and embrace our name, Community of Christ, we will discover our future and become a blessing for others.
Help us to follow Christ in the way that leads to God’s peace (adapted Doctrine and Covenants 163:1, 2a). May we be found engaged in ministries that share that peace with others. 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.
Read A Love Letter from God by P.K. Hallinan; Publisher: WorthyKids, 2014 ISBN-13: 978-0824956622
Upon hearing the passage from Matthew, congregants old and young will be able to identify with Jesus’ command to not fear, and with the reminder that we are precious to God.
Everyone matters to God just as they are. We work to help all know they are special and a loved child of God at any age. The book ends with “I love you, My child, so hear what I say: Nothing can pry me or drive me away.” We all need to hear from time to time that we are valuable to God, and that we matter, and that in our fear, frustration, sadness, and joy we can turn to God. It’s in our fear that we need this reminder most.
OR What about Love?
Discuss the responses to some or all of these questions either in small groups or as a congregation or invite the children and youth to the front to share their answers. Adapt the questions to fit your needs.
- When did you give the most love today?
- When did you give the least love today?
- Why do you love your favorite person or persons so much?
- What does it mean to be a child of God?
- How do you become a child of God?
- Do you think God loves us when we are angry? Sad? Sick? Injured?
- Do you think God loves piano players? Poets? Painters? Teachers? Children?
- How much do you think God loves you? Can you show me with your hands, your feet, or your arms?
- How does God show love to you?
“Take the Path of the Disciple” CCS 558
OR “Beloved Community of God” CCS 588
OR “Lord, Speak to Me” CCS 179
Based on Matthew 10:24-39
Disciples’ Generous Response
Statement: Generosity frees us from stringent formulas and careful calculations that bind the spirit of true giving. We give with joyful abandonment stirred by a spirit that says one cannot do enough for God! God’s grace has no measure—it simply cannot be calculated.
—Danny Belrose, Wave Offerings, page 24, Herald House.
Used with permission.
During the Disciples’ Generous Response we focus on aligning our purposes with God’s purposes, aligning our heart with God’s heart.
As you share your mission tithes or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings. When we understand God’s love and grace are given freely to us, we respond out of gratitude and are liberated to share freely in return.
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.
Hymn of Commitment
“Community of Christ” CCS 354
OR “Called by Christ to Love Each Other” CCS 577
OR “Christ, You Call Us All to Service” CCS 357
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Go in peace.
Ordinary Time (Proper 7)
Exploring the Scripture
The disciples have been on a journey with Jesus and he has just shared with them some of the mission to which they are being called. Then he begins to tell them what might happen next. It was Jesus’ way of preparing them to expect the unexpected. Jesus warns his followers they need to be prepared to be rejected and face persecution because they will be labeled as his followers.
The passage opens with clear warnings and guidelines for the disciples. They are to share what Jesus shared, what they are learning, there won’t always be a glorious reception. They must also be prepared to share in his suffering.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a minister in Germany during the rise of Adolf Hitler. He was one of the few ministers in Germany who stood up to the dictator and could see through Hitler’s rhetoric.
In 1937 he wrote The Cost of Discipleship, a powerful book that paints a picture of what it means to follow Jesus Christ. He says, “Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God” (p. 45).
As the disciples proclaim the kingdom of heaven coming near, they are also told they must remain focused on the mission and do what they must to attend the Spirit’s leading. This begins the transition into a commonly difficult portion of the passage. Beginning in Matthew 10:34–36, Jesus recites a familiar passage from Micah 7:6 where God and the prophet are engaged in an exchange about being faithful in their relationship amid unfaithfulness in the community. When people challenge the status quo, they are often labeled as being unfaithful to what has become a way of life. Jesus seems to be telling them he didn’t come to keep the peace or harmony with what’s been happening in their lives of faith. He’s come to shake things up and invite followers to a new way of life: the kingdom of heaven here and now!
Betrayal in relationships is nothing new. A person blindly following someone else’s path to avoid stress in a relationship is nothing new. Jesus helps the disciples understand that following him is about being liberated from the expectations of others and they are being grounded in what God wishes. Faith is about discovery, not simply defending positions and defining people according to predetermined standards.
Jesus then clearly defines what the expectation is for life as a disciple. Notice that Jesus does not say to love someone instead of him, but to love no one more than you do him. The expectations are stated in value and degrees not estrangement. It is about loving more rather than instead of, or in place of, whatever relationship we have.
According to Jesus following him means we can’t set aside the gospel for another relationship. We find hope in the reality that God will never betray us. Our value is immeasurable by God and God’s fidelity to us is always promised. It is in that relationship we can lose our life.
- When we choose to follow Jesus, people will challenge us.
- To take up the cross of Jesus involves a wholehearted response and willingness to give up our lives for his sake.
- Following Jesus is about being liberated from the expectations of others and being grounded in what God wishes.
Questions to Consider
- What are the ways in which you seek to “save” your life? What would it mean for you to make a choice to “lose” your life for God’s sake?
- Beyond some of the obvious public and historical figures, who in your life has lived out the challenge in these words of Jesus?
- What does it mean for you to deny yourself and take up your cross?
- What are some things that need to be surrendered in life? Is there a time when you surrendered to something and found freedom in your life as a disciple and ministry?
Small-group Worship Suggestions
Ordinary Time (Proper 7)
Matthew 10:24–39 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.
Ordinary Time runs 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 a faith community.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
Spirit of peace, Today as we consider how we can effect PEACE in our daily lives, we ask that you help us to:
Speak and act KINDLY, as it is amazing how far a little kindness goes in setting the tone in our lives, our homes, and those around us.
LAUGH often to share the joy of our love with our family, friends, and those we meet.
Give GENEROUSLY to share our time, our talents, and our treasures. To give with a grateful heart brings joy to our souls and furthers your work in your kingdom.
LOVE unconditionally to share our love and your love with everyone we meet. We may be the key to making a difference in one person’s life; help us to not miss that opportunity.
This is how we can effect PEACE in our small corner of the world. Let the efforts we make have a rippling effect in your world. Amen.
Read the following to the group:
The Enduring Principle we are focusing on today is All Are Called. We believe all people have unique gifts, and we are given opportunities in community to share our giftedness with one another. By practicing Holy Listening, we can learn more about the gifts people share in community, how they feel called to serve, and how we can support one another in discipleship and ministry.
Read the following to the group:
Ask the person next to you to join you in conversation. Find a spot to get comfortable and face one another. You will take turns sharing what you see as your giftedness and how you feel called to share that giftedness with others. It can be anything: friendship, music, compassion, reading aloud, laughter, or tidying up. You each will have three minutes to share. During this time the listener will listen and nod, but not comment. At the end of the three minutes, the listener may respond with this one sentence. “I noticed that…” Then switch places and repeat.
Read the following to the group: Before you start this exercise please repeat this prayer with me. “Help me be wholly present to this person.”
You may begin your conversation.
Start the timer. After three minutes let the listeners say a one-sentence response and then ask them to switch places.
Start the timer again.
When each person has shared, invite the group to share reflections on this spiritual practice.
Sharing Around the Table
Matthew 10:24–39 NRSV
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”Remember your place. Keep your priorities straight. Share with others what I share with you. Expect persecution and be prepared to have family and friends turn against you. But remember, if you do all this, I’ll say good things about you to my Father.
Not exactly the reassuring words of a recruitment speech by the Prince of Peace. Especially if your understanding of peace includes protecting the comfort and status of some at the expense of others. To persons holding such an understanding of peace, the peace of Christ is like a sword.
Like the community of disciples to whom Matthew wrote, we are to proclaim the kingdom of heaven coming near while remaining focused on the mission and doing what we must to attend to the Spirit’s leading. Jesus helps us understand that following him is about being liberated from the expectations of others and being grounded in what God desires. Faith is about discovery, not simply defending positions or defining people according to predetermined standards.
Jesus does not say to love someone instead of him, but to love no one more than him. It is about loving more rather than instead of other relationships. Our value is immeasurable to God, and God’s love for us is always promised. It is in that promise that we can lose our life.
- What is your understanding of the kind of “peace” Christ came to bring?
- How have you experienced peace that comes from following Jesus?
- How have the expectations of others conflicted with how you feel the Spirit is leading you?
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
CCS 289, “Friend of the Streetwalker”