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Proclaiming the Year of Jubilee

Four Service Plans on Isaiah 61:1-2

Jesus inaugurated his ministry in his home town of Nazareth with this quotation from Isaiah 61. Afterward, “the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he [said] to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:20-21). With these words Jesus proclaimed himself the Anointed One. He announced the inauguration of the “year of God’s favor,” a phrase that resonated with his hearers as the year of Jubilee, the messianic age, the kingdom of God. The kingdom where God reigns and everything is as it’s meant to be, where everyone has enough and all can flourish, where people are whole and relationships are restored, where creation is renewed.

This is the kingdom we are called to proclaim and to participate in. Our calling, as Christ’s body in this world, is to bring this good news to all who are still longing for a kingdom where everything is as it’s meant to be.

Our God calls us to be a remembering people. As we remember what God has done, and is doing, and will do, we share in God’s work of remembering those who are often forgotten: people who are hungry or in prison, people with disabilities, people who are oppressed.

These four services are designed around the Scripture passage (above) from Luke and Isaiah. Consider having your congregation memorize these words of Jesus, adding a phrase each week. The series would be suitable for a month in the summer or perhaps for the four Sundays of November:

Week 1: Remembering People Who Are Hungry—perhaps in conjunction with World Hunger Week.

Week 2: Remembering the Persecuted Church and Those in Prison—perhaps in connection with the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, see www.persecutedchurch.org)

Week 3: Remembering People with Disabilities—see also RW 79, p. 42

Week 4: Remembering Refugees—addressing refugees and the causes of migration as people seek a new home.

 

 

Week One
Remembering People Who Are Hungry


“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor . . .”

Call to Worship (see box)

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greetings

Song of Adoration
“Santo, Santo, Santo, mi Corazon/Holy, Holy, Holy, My Heart” SNC 19

Call to Confession
Jesus calls us to preach good news to the poor, but we have not remembered the poor and the hungry.

The world is making slow progress in feeding the hungry.

One billion people in the world are hungry each year.

Every day 18,000 children die of hunger—one child every five seconds.

Although people in the U.S. rarely die of hunger, one out of every ten households experiences hunger.

—Information obtained from www.thehungersite.org; www.frac.org/html/hunger_index.html; www.cafb-acba.ca

Confession, Song, Assurance of Pardon (see box)

Song (see box)

Prayer for Illumination (see box)

Scripture: Isaiah 25:6-8; Psalm 146; Luke 4:14-21 (or 29)

[Consider reading Psalm 146 along with the singing of SNC 28 as indicated for Week 4, above. During the Luke reading, ask the entire congregation to read verse 18 together.]


Sermon Notes

  • In Luke Jesus is announcing the kingdom of God; Isaiah 25:6-8 paints a beautiful picture of the kingdom.
  • You may wish to include Luke 4:21-29 to talk about the ways Jesus’ commitment to the kingdom and to justice challenge us.
  • Paint the vision of the kingdom—what God intends—instead of merely preaching “shoulds” or motivating people through guilt.
  • Consider relating the many stories of feedings throughout Scripture to relate the sermon specifically to our participation in God’s work of feeding the hungry.


Affirmation of Faith: “Blest Are They” SNC 123


Prayer
Let us pray.
Let us pray for those who hunger in this land:
whose only kitchen is a soup kitchen,
whose only food is what others don’t want,
whose diet depends on luck, not on planning.

[pause]

Lord, feed your people
using our skills and conscience,
and eradicate from our politics and private lives
the apathy to hunger which comes from over-eating.
Let us pray for the hungry and the fed.
Lord, have mercy.
Let us pray for the hungry in other lands,
whose economies, burdened by debt,
cannot respond to human need:
or where fields are farmed for our benefit
by low-wage workers courted by starvation.

[pause]

Lord, feed your people—
even if rulers must cancel debt,
and shareholders lose profit,
or diners restrict their choice—
in order that all may be nourished.
Let us pray for the hungry and the fed.
Lord, have mercy.
Let us pray for those hungry for justice,
who document inequalities,
demonstrate against tyranny,
distinguish between need and greed,
And are sometimes misrepresented or persecuted in the process.

[pause]

May their labor not be in vain
and may we be counted in their number.
Let us pray for the hungry and the fed.
Lord, have mercy.
So, in the presence of the Bread of Life
who refused food for himself
in order to nourish others,
we deepen our devotion by praying his words:
Our Father in heaven . . .

—A Wee Worship Book, pp. 45-47
© 1999, Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community, Scotland. GIA Publications, Inc., exclusive North American agent, 7404 S. Mason Ave., Chicago IL 60638, www.giamusic.com, 800.442.1358. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Offering
In addition to offerings of money, encourage your congregation to participate in an offering of letters for such organizations as Bread for the World (www.bread.org).

Blessing (see box)

Parting Song (see box)

 

 

 

Week Two
Remembering the Persecuted Church and Those in Prison

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners . . .”

Call to Worship (see box)

Song: “Lord Most High” SNC 47

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greetings

Song: “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service” PsH 603

Call to Confession

Jesus calls us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, but we have not remembered the persecuted and people in prison.

Some 200 million Christians today are living with serious persecution. A further 250 million Christians live without many basic human rights, simply because they choose to follow Jesus.

Religious persecution today stretches throughout the world, from China to the Sudan to Indonesia to Nigeria to Russia to Saudi Arabia to North Korea and beyond . . .

In the United States the criminal justice system is in crisis. Two million people are in the nation’s prison system. If arrests continue at the current rate, one out of fifteen people will serve time. Twenty-five percent of all the people in prison in the world are incarcerated in the United States.

—Based on information from www.bibleleague.org; Restorative Justice Report, www.crcjustice.org


Confession, Song, Assurance of Pardon (see box)

Song (see box)

Prayer for Illumination (see box)

Scripture: Psalm 139; Acts 16:16-40; Isaiah 49:1-9


Sermon Notes

  • Psalm 139 assures us that God knows where we are and is concerned for our welfare, regardless of how we got where we are.
  • Persecution often has to do with economic and social issues as well as with religion (as in this story from Acts).
  • Isaiah 42:1-9 offers a picture of God’s mercy and compassion and of the future kingdom when prisoners will be released and all things made new.
  • Use pastoral sensitivity in preaching on this topic—does the congregation include members or family members of those in prison? Does the congregation need to be reminded of Christ’s call to forgive and show compassion? Does reconciliation need to be addressed?


Song: “In Labor All Creation Groans” SNC 270


Affirmation of Faith
Following the apostles, the church is sent—
sent with the gospel of the kingdom
to make disciples of all nations,
to feed the hungry,
and to proclaim the assurance
that in the name of Christ
there is forgiveness of sin and new life
for all who repent and believe.
The church is sent to tell the good news
That our world belongs to God. . . .
We repent of leaving this work to a few,
we pray for brothers and sisters
who suffer for the faith,
and rejoice that the Spirit
is waking us to see
our mission in God’s world.

—Our World Belongs to God, st. 44

 

Offering
In addition to offerings of money, consider providing an opportunity for your congregation to sign Amnesty International letters to governments on behalf of the persecuted for and to learn about the ministry of Crossroad Bible Institute (www.crossroadbibleinstitute.org) and the Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (www.persecutedchurch.org).


Prayer
Leader reads Scripture passages indicated, interspersed by congregational response as indicated:

Luke 21:12-14

Give us the strength, Lord, to endure persecution for your name. Help us and all believers to stand firm in our faith.

Hebrews 11:36-38

Thank you for the faithful witness of those who have gone before us and gave their lives to share your hope with a dying world. May we learn from their example.

Mark 8:38

Give us courage, Lord, that we may speak forth light in this dark world. Forgive our weakness and our fear, transform our wavering into a certain proclamation of your salvation and justice.

In speaking of the body of Christ, Paul reminds us that “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it”

(1 Cor. 12:26). And elsewhere we are instructed, “Remember those in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Heb. 13:3).

[Silence; people may name places in the world where they know religious persecution is taking place and prisoners they know of or know personally.]

Forgive us when we forget.

Matthew 5:10-12

For all those who suffer for their faith—who face persecution, torment, imprisonment, separation from their families, violence, and hatred—we cry to you, Lord God. Have mercy on them.

Romans 12:14

We pray for those who persecute. Open their eyes and heal their lives; turn them toward peace.

Revelation 21:3-4

Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly; bring your healing to this earth.

Romans 8:35-38

—Rev. Jay Blankespoor, used with permission from www.crcjustice.org



Song: “Ososo/Come Now, O Prince of Peace” SNC 209, WR 157

Blessing (see box)

Song (see box)

 

 

Week Three
Remembering People with Disabilities

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind. . . .”

Call to Worship (see box)


Song: “Uyai Mose/Come All You People” SNC 4

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greetings

Song: “Spirit Song” SNC 212

Call to Confession
Jesus calls us to proclaim recovery of sight to the blind, but we have not remembered people with disabilities.

One out of seven people in the U.S. and Canada have a disability.

People with a disability are three times as likely to live in poverty as those without a disability.

Families with members with a disability have a lower income than other families, are less likely to own homes, and are more likely to live in poverty.

—Information from “Disability Statistics Abstract: Disability and Employment,”
www.dsc.uscf.edu; www.census.gov



Confession, Song, Assurance of Pardon (see box)

Song (see box)

Prayer for Illumination (see box)

Scripture: Luke 14:12-24; Isaiah 35; Psalm 103

Sermon Notes

  • The parable of the Great Banquet both urges us to welcome the forgotten and offers a warning to those of us who assume we will be welcome. It questions our priorities and motives in relationships.
  • Compare what our society values—wealth, intellect, beauty—with what Jesus values—trust, faith, and obedience.
  • Recognize the contributions of people with disabilities within the congregation, or question the absence of people with disabilities.
  • Use language that emphasizes the person rather than the disability (see preaching tips RW 68, p. 24).

Affirmation of Faith: “Psalm 103: Bless the Lord, My Soul” SNC 256

Offering
For action ideas, see RW 79, pp. 42-43.

Prayer
Let us pray for all God’s people: for people who are blind or cannot see well, and for people who can see but do not see those in need;

Lord, in your mercy make us see you and each other.

For people who are slow and cannot move well, and for people who are fast but will not slow their pace,

Lord, in your mercy help us move in step with you.

For people who are deaf or cannot hear well, and for people who can hear but block out cries of pain;

Lord, in your mercy make us hear you and each other.

For people who learn slowly or cannot think well, and for people who learn quickly but who close their minds;

Lord, in your mercy help us search and learn from you.

For people who are sad and cannot cheer up, and for people who are happy and avoid all pain;

Lord, in your mercy make us know you and each other.

For people who are sick and cannot get better, and for people who are well but do not thank you for health;

Lord, in your mercy help us serve you while we can.

For people who are kind and serve the needy, and for people who are awkward in the face of need;

Lord, in your mercy make us know we need each other.

For people who feel trapped by their impairments, and for people who feel strong and add to that despair;

Lord, in your mercy help us set each other free.

For people who feel worthless and unlovely, and for people who feel proud and do not recognize your love;

Lord, in your mercy make us know your love together.

For all the people in your whole creation, that we may cherish each other and learn to live in peace;

Lord, in your mercy teach us love and give us peace. Amen.

—From Disability Concerns of the CRCNA, used with permission


Song: “Jesus Heard with Deep Compassion” SNC 124

Blessing (see box)

Song (see box)

 

 

Week Four
Remembering Refugees

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed. . . .”

Call to Worship (see box)

Song: “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed SNC 120

God’s Greeting

Mutual Greetings


Song: “O God, Your Justice Towers” SNC 272

Call to Confession
Jesus calls us to release the oppressed, but we have not remembered refugees, people who are fleeing oppression.

Around the globe, 12 million refugees are caught between the future and the past.

Caught between looking for a new home while longing to return to their old homes.

Men, women, and children who have had their lives put on hold.

Waiting for the world’s solution to their predicament.

Waiting for the people of God to offer a hand of assistance.

—Information from www.churchworldservice.org


Confession, Song, Assurance (see box)

Song (see box)


Prayer for Illumination (see box)

Scripture: Ruth 2; Matthew 25:31-46; Isaiah 58:6-12

Sermon Notes

  • The story of Ruth tells how the people of God welcomed Ruth, a stranger. How do we receive refugees into our communities—with welcome or suspicion?
  • In Matthew 25 Jesus gives us a stern warning about the final judgment. We will be judged on the basis of how we treated “the least of these” and whether or not we invited strangers into our homes and communities.
  • Isaiah gives us a beautiful picture of God’s provision and of people returning and rebuilding their homes.
  • Highlight the experiences of any refugees your church has sponsored, including the situations they’ve left behind.

Song: “Siyahamba / We Are Marching in the Light of God” SNC 293

Affirmation of Faith

Let us celebrate and affirm our faith in the words of Mary’s song:

My heart praises you, O God,
My spirit rejoices in you, my Savior.
You have remembered me in my lowliness,
and now I will be called blessed.
You have done great things for me
and shown mercy to all who trust you.
You have stretched out your right arm
and scattered the proud with all their plans.
You have brought down the mighty from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
You have kept your promise to our mothers and fathers,
and come to the help of your people,
to Abraham and Sarah,
and to all generations for ever. Amen.

—Iona Abbey Worship Book pp. 83-84
© 2001, Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community, Scotland. GIA Publications, Inc., exclusive North American agent,
7404 S. Mason Ave., Chicago IL 60638, www.giamusic.com, 800.442.1358.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Offering

Help the congregation learn about which refugees have made their homes in your area and consider what opportunities there may be to sponsor one or more families into your fellowship. Church World Service (www.churchworldservice.org) offers information about legislation affecting refugees and immigration as well as action opportunities.

Prayer
God of Abraham and Sarah,

You are a God who cares for people, especially when they must leave their homes and travel to new places. We pray for all who are leaving home behind today, especially those who are leaving because of war or persecution. Protect them from danger and provide for all of their needs.

God of the Exodus,

You are a God who cares for people and who hears the cries of the oppressed. We pray for all who are suffering oppression, especially economic oppression. Bring relief. Send your Spirit to work among the rich and powerful. We pray that all peoples in our world may flourish. Use us to bring about change.

God of Ruth,

You are a God who cares for the stranger and who provides the homeless with homes. We pray for all who are settling in new homes in strange lands today. We pray for their embrace into new communities. We pray for work and ways to provide food for families, for help in learning new languages.

Lord Jesus,

You lived among us and showed us how to live. Please help us by your Spirit to show your love and compassion and to see you in the faces of those who are the least among us. Help us to feed the hungry and thirsty, to clothe the naked, to care for the prisoners, to welcome the stranger. And help us to work for justice. Bring your kingdom here on earth quickly. In Jesus name, Amen.

Song: “Canto de Esperanza/Song of Hope” SNC 282

Blessing (see box)

Song (see box)

 

Excerpt

Call to Worship: “Praise, Praise, Praise the Lord” (Psalm 146)

Week 1: Have a choir or worship team sing the refrain in English (SNC 28), with hand drum accompaniment. With drum continuing, worship leader reads Psalm 146:1, 5-7a, then choir/worship team sings the refrain again, this time signaling the whole congregation to join on the repeated lines.

Week 2: Add the final line of v. 7, and then have the choir/worship team add harmony on the repeated refrain.

Week 3: Read verses 1, 5, 6, 8.

Week 4: Read verses 1, 5, 6, 9. Consider doing the whole psalm. Choose a stately, rather than a dancing, tempo (q = 64-72). Begin with all the women on the alto melody, add the tenors after verse 4, basses after verse 10, then continue repeating a few more times, finally topping off the texture with sopranos on the descant. Use an energetic style, swaying and clapping on beats 2 and 4. This refrain was intended for singing unaccompanied except for percussion; use keyboard only perhaps to teach—let the percussion keep the joy. Perhaps you’ll want to try it in French also!

Here is a bulletin note for this song, from the leader’s edition of SNC:

This song was collected by Elaine Hanson, a Lutheran missionary who spent eleven years in Cameroon, West Africa, and was a member of Femmes Pour Christ (Women for Christ). This particular group used French as their common language; hence the French text here. This song was used as a processional for Communion Sunday.

 

Prayer of Confession
Eternal God, our judge and redeemer,
we confess that we have tried to hide from you,
for we have done wrong.
We have lived for ourselves and apart from you.
We have turned from our neighbors
and refused to bear the burdens of others.
We have ignored the pain of the world
and passed by the hungry, the poor, and the oppressed.
In your great mercy, forgive our sins
and free us from selfishness,
that we may choose your will
and obey your commandments;
through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Book of Common Worship, p. 54

Song
“Perdón Señor/Forgive Us, Lord SNC 59

Assurance of Pardon
Hear the good news!
Who is in a position to condemn?
Only Christ,
and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us,
Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us.
Thanks be to God: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven!

—Based on Romans 8:34

Song
“Goodness Is Stronger Than Evil” (There Is One Among Us, Wild Goose Publishing, 1998)

Prayer for Illumination
Liberator Christ,
you came into a holy place
and read the sacred word
about sight for blind folk and freedom for prisoners.
Come to this place now.
Read these words to us
till our own eyes are opened, our faith is unlocked,
and we can see the world as it is,
and as it could be;
till the yearnings of ordinary people are taken seriously,
and the visions of the young are valued,
and the potential of the old is released;
till your kingdom is celebrated everywhere,
and your church is good news to the poor.
Amen.

—Iona Abbey Worship Book, p. 157.
© 2001, Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community, Scotland. GIA Publications, Inc., exclusive North American agent, 7404 S. Mason Ave., Chicago IL 60638, www.giamusic.com, 800.442.1358. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

Blessing
May the God who feeds the hungry and frees the prisoners, who gives sight to the blind and release to the captives, fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in hope by the power of Holy Spirit as you work toward the kingdom. Amen.

—From Luke 4:18-19; Rom. 15:13

Parting Song
“Eviado soy de Dios/Sent Out in Jesus’ Name” SFL 249 (also found in RW 68, p. 33)

 
 

Suggestions for Visuals

  • Include images that portray how things are meant to be in the kingdom—people of all backgrounds feasting together, people in prison being set free, refugees rebuilding homes.
  • Jubilee by Ellen Yeomans, illustrated by Tim Ladwig (Eerdmans, 2004). This picture book is full of such images (See cover and p. 23).
  • Portraits of the Word: Great Verses of the Bible in Expressive Calligraphy by Timothy R. Botts (Tyndale, 2001) includes an interpretation of Luke 4:18-19, the theme passage for the series.
  • Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource (United Church Press, 1994) is another helpful resource.