It's a question that we're frequently asking ourselves in the worship planning professions. What's next? What's needed? How do we tell the Gospel story?
In my congregation, and I suspect many others, one question I seem to be running into over and over again is:
"What do United Methodists believe?"
I come up against this in many ways, though maybe not as overtly as those words themselves. It happens in the hallways, in Sunday School classes, in the parking lots after worship. One of the problems in the UMC narrative, is that through our own doings, the message of Methodism has become watered down.
We're the church that believes everything.
Our founder, Mr. Wesley, would argue against that, to be sure.
So, I approached our Senior Pastor with an idea. What if we started the year off with a study on our Wesleyan roots? What if we gave a few basic lessons on the tent-poles of our faith? I wanted to take the start of the year and talk about our views of the sacraments, the social gospel, and of course, GRACE.
He really liked my idea, but put three requirements on it in order for us to bring it together.
- We need to follow the lectionary.
- It needs to take up the eight Sundays between Epiphany and Lent.
- We need to feature one sermon by John Wesley each week as a source of inspiration.
There's been a dearth of less-than-Wesleyan teaching across the board in our United Methodist Church, so we figure going to the source of our denomination's founder was a great way to talk about what we really believe.
With that in mind, this is what we've come up with:
Method: Our Wesleyan Way
Sundays after Epiphany
January 12 – March 2
For each Sunday, there's a scripture from the RCL, featured sermon by John Wesley (which is also the title for the message of the day - links provided), and the main topic for discussion.
January 12 – Baptism of the Lord Sunday
RCL Scripture: Matthew 3:13-17
Featured John Wesley Sermon (title of the message for the day): #18 “The Marks of the New Birth
Main Topic(s): Baptism
RCL Scripture: John 1:29-42
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #113 “The Difference Between Walking by Sight and Walking by Faith
Main Topic(s): Faith, Discipleship
RCL Scripture: Matt 4:12-23
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #7 “The Way to the Kingdom
Main Topic(s): Heaven (up there and down here), Kingdom building
RCL Scripture: Micah 6:1-8
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #2 “The Almost Christian
Main Topic(s): Justice, the Social Gospel, Works of Mercy, Communion…
RCL Scripture: Matthew 5:13-20
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #24 “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount
Main Topic(s): Holiness of heart and life
RCL Scripture: 1 Cor 3:1-9
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #39 “Catholic Spirit
Main Topic(s): Universality of the church, 'non-creedal-ness'
RCL Scripture: Matt 5:38-48
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #89 “The More Excellent Way
Main Topic(s): GRACE
March 2 – Transfiguration Sunday
RCL Scripture: 2 Peter 1:16-21
Featured John Wesley Sermon: #128 “Free Grace
Main Topic(s): Evangelism, More Grace, Sanctification, Election, Communion…
Feel free to use any or all of this! As always, all I need is a comment if you put it to use. God bless your future planning!