Monday, June 19, 2017

Clergy Planning for the Next Year: Lectionary and Missio Dei

There are great possibilities using the lectionary readings, or any plan of biblical readings for sermons and worship, to emphasize the mission of God. Note that missio Dei is more than mission projects and certain practices or people of a congregation. This is a focus on the whole church in God’s mission following the ways of Jesus and depending upon the Holy Spirit. Missio Dei as a driving hermeneutical lens helps a preacher get beyond only offering individualistic spiritual advice and in many ways further helps a congregation reclaim its role as part of the mission movement IN the community.  Here are some ideas on flow, concepts, and momentum building which you might then easily adapt with title and content that matches your context.

For example:

The September 10- October 1 readings in 2017 offer a nice movement toward World Communion Sunday. What better day to remember this global movement of God in Church and community? Think of this as a “Community Building” series. This also offers a great way to build momentum toward church, challenge the church to stretch more and be even more invitational and hospitable in community, and align all the ministries of the church (prayer, discipleship, all age level ministries, etc.) toward a theme and BIG Sunday.  You come u with your own themes

September 10- Matthew 18:15-20 “Time to be Free” might focus on our being free from sin and how we might use that to listen to each other, agreeing together, and that heavenly power possible as we team well.

September 17- Matthew 18:21-35  “Time to Forgive” offers many options relevant to our day which one might narrow down for a specific community context or best next steps of a congregation in community.

September 24 Matthew 20:1-16 “Time to Work” delves into the Kingdom of God and the laborers, the generosity of God, and offers plenty of room to prayerfully discover what this might look like in the community as God continues to work with all sorts of people.

October 1 Philippians 2:1-4 “Time to Celebrate!” Create a party atmosphere, a fiesta, a celebration that is easy to invite the community to which models serving others. In this day of incredible technology some churches incorporate an international mission partner church into worship and enjoy a simultaneous interactive worship experience. There are many ways that worship and discipleship on that day might reflect the dynamic global church and the salvation of God that is alive in so many countries and cultures.

Later in the fall you might find that even the momentum culminating in a stewardship Sunday can revolve around the larger community rather than only the congregational needs. This emphasis lends itself to a focus on love of God and love of neighbor (as we love ourselves) thus calling on the full range of stewardship in study, praying, giving, and going. Check out the lectionary starting October 8 through October 29 and see if the Epistle readings lend themselves to Gospel Power, Gospel Living, Gospel Rescue, and Gospel Witness. Or a congregation will find similarly powerful stories in the Old Testament with faithful hearing, faithful memory, faithful action, and faithful legacy. The Kingdom of God stories in Matthew offer similar movement that calls for participation and action.

Or consider the block of time from January 7- February 11. The start to the year offers a solid time to focus on new beginnings, epiphanies, covenant renewal, and gain some momentum as individuals and group launching into new beginnings. Why not have a special Sunday, maybe even something from the “cultural” lectionary like Super Bowl Sunday, to be a big, fun, invitational, party for the community? This could be like a “Friends Sunday” and “Rivalry Sunday” (built in competition!) all rolled into one with the ready made Super Bowl Sunday. Dress casually, have food and fun, and create a dynamic environment.

Your big event might be a Mission Celebration culminating on either February 4 or 11. This would have a strong, strategic focus in community mission that would require more than just your congregation and be easy to invite others to because of the inspiring worship, dynamic teaching, and incredible potential as a larger team gathers together for a God sized calling. So, the “Stairway to heaven” would intentionally be BOTH an individual faith exercise AND a congregational and community movement that better reflects the Kingdom of God being established in your community. This would require much planning, could be advertised in early Advent and especially at Christmas, and would certainly be publicized even more aggressively in both church and community throughout January. Plus all the prayer, education, age and stage level ministries, and whole life of the church would point toward this throughout January.  Get the picture of the potential of such a big event? Throw in some element of Valentines if that helps you. February 11 is Scouting Sunday in many congregations and your local scouts to easily be part of this. The more the merrier! But don’t lose your focus in worship, nor your hospitality and engagement of everyone as the church reflects who you are and who God’s family is called to be.

In March 2017 I heard that block of lectionary Scriptures from early January to early February read aloud (check out Kindling the Fire and imagine a bunch of creative clergy hearing the texts and dreaming/ planning for their context. See  ) I was drawn to the opposite imagery of the January 28 epistle reading from I Corinthians 8 about the stumbling block and wondered about a “Stairway to Heaven” worship series to start the year. You can easily create your own movement toward a big Sunday that engages and mobilizes your group to invite many others to the fun. For our “Stairway to Heaven” I thought about:

January 7- Genesis 1:1-5 with focus on “Our Creating God”

January 14- I Samuel 3:1-10 “Our Calling God”

January 21- Jonah 3:1-5,10 & Mark 1: 14-20 “Our Sending God”

January 28- Mark 1:21-28 marks a subtle shift with focus on Jesus as Lord with “God of Power”

February 4- Mark 1:29-39 “God of GO!” or “God of the City” (or Neighborhood or term that fits your context)

February 11- 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6 “God of Good News!” Mission Celebration

Missio Dei is a strong lens with which to develop sermons and worship, and can help with the development of congregational momentum and a call to action. As you reorient your congregation around missio Dei, and every member as a "sent" missionary, you will get beyond "business as usual" in your congregation and create a dynamic new chapter of mission and ministry. Give it a try, experiment in your context, and share your ideas and what you've learned with me.