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A year with Matthew

Presbyterian Center worship takes its cue from a Matthew 25 resource

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the Office of Theology and Worship, helped to lead worship in the Chapel at the Presbyterian Center Wednesday. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — Subtly and quietly, Wednesday’s worship service in the Chapel at the Presbyterian Center took shape from a resource designed to allow Presbyterians to spend a year with Matthew’s Gospel.

A Year with Matthew for a Matthew 25 Church,” a component of the Welcome Kit prepared for churches and mid councils who accept the Matthew 25 invitation, has sermon prompts and music suggestions for each Sunday between Advent and Pentecost, which falls on May 31 this year.

“A Year with Matthew,” developed by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Theology and Worship, has three primary components:

  • A brief introduction to the Gospel of Matthew and how it functions in the lectionary.
  • Theological, pastoral and liturgical guidance for the seasons of the Christian year, with a focus on the three Matthew 25 themes — building congregational vitality, eradicating systemic poverty and dismantling structural racism.
  • Sermon prompts and music suggestions that highlight Christ’s call to righteousness, justice and reconciliation in Matthew’s Gospel.

Wednesday’s worship showed how easily churches, worshiping communities and other groups can use the resource. Worship leaders the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the Office of Theology and Worship, and Melonee Tubb, associate for Financial Aid for Service, focused on the gospel lectionary reading for Sunday, Matthew 4:12-23, the story of Jesus calling the first disciples.

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” Jesus tells the first pair of brothers, Simon (who’s called Peter) and Andrew. They immediately leave their nets and follow Jesus, as do two other brothers, James and John, who must give up even more to follow Jesus: the family fishing business and their father Zebedee’s boat.

“How do you fish for people?” the “Year with Matthew” resource asks. “Sometimes discipleship is like ‘casting a net into the sea’ (Matt. 4:18) — reaching out in new forms of ministry. At other times it may mean ‘mending our nets’ (Matt. 4:21) — tending to the relationships and communities that sustain our service.”

Gambrell led worshipers in two selections from the Glory to God hymnal, both suggested in the resource: “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore” and “From the Nets of Our Labor.”

Melonee Tubb, associate for Financial Aid for Service, read Matthew 4:12-23 Lectio Divina style. (Photo by Rich Copley)

It was Tubb’s task to read the lectionary passage three times, Lectio Divina style. Before she read, she asked God to allow worshipers to “feel the nets and smell the sea breeze. Give us a sense of your presence as we listen to your Word.”

Following the third reading, worshipers gathered in groups of two or three to discuss just how they might fish for people.

“As you send us out to fish for people and bless our work minding our nets,” Gambrell prayed before the closing hymn, “surprise us. Push our boundaries. Help us to more fully honor all you’ve made.”

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