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PC(USA) webinar helps those in charge of worship gear up for a year with Matthew

 

David Gambrell and Sally Ann McKinsey explain what’s possible with the ‘A Year with Matthew’ and Call to Worship resources

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

“Art in the Christian Tradition,” Vanderbilt Divinity Library (library.vanderbilt.edu/divinity), Nashville, Tennessee. This image adorns the “A Year with Matthew for a Matthew 25 Church” resource. The original source is Librairie de l’Emmanuel (librairie-emmanuel.fr), Paray-le-Monial, France. The image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.

LOUISVILLE — Beginning with Advent, preachers, music leaders and the people who hear them each week will enter a year with Matthew’s gospel, thanks to the Revised Common Lectionary, which turns the focus to Year A beginning Nov. 27.

Fortunately for Presbyterians working to put together thoughtful and meaningful worship for the year that follows, two resources, “A Year with Matthew for a Matthew 25 Church” and the quarterly publication Call to Worship, are available. During a 38-minute webinar Tuesday, the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell and the Rev. Sally Ann McKinsey gave examples of ways the resources might be put to best use. Watch and listen to their discussion here.

McKinsey is editor of Call to Worship. Gambrell is Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology and Worship.

The Rev. Sally Ann McKinsey

Scholars believe Matthew was written after 70 CE, McKinsey noted. Intended primarily for a Jewish audience, in Matthew Jesus is depicted as a new Moses who has come to lead people to redemption. Matthew’s structure mirrors the five books of the Torah; stories from Jesus’ ministry are each followed by accounts of Jesus’ teaching. Accounts that are distinctive in Matthew include the visit of the Magi, the Sermon on the Mount and the Great Commission.

Year A culminates in November 2023 with a three-week series of readings from Matthew 25. “The return of Year A,” McKinsey said, “offers an excellent opportunity for us to immerse ourselves in the gospel of Matthew and engage the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 vision throughout the coming year.”

“A Year with Matthew for a Matthew 25 Church” offers worship leaders these resources, Gambrell said:

  • An introduction to Matthew and its use in the Lectionary
  • Theological, pastoral and liturgical guidance
  • Sermon prompts and music suggestions
  • Seven reading plans for Matthew
  • A public reading of the Gospel
  • Hymn festivals on the Sermon on the Mount and the ten miracles of Jesus
  • Reading Matthew 25 in daily prayer
  • An index to the Gospel of Matthew.

Call to Worship, a publication of the Office of Theology & Worship and the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, can be used side-by-side with “A Year with Matthew” for planning worship and other celebrations, McKinsey said. “For more than 50 years, this journal and its precursor publications have sought to advance, interpret and enliven the theology and practice of Reformed and ecumenical worship,” McKinsey said. Recent thematic issues explored in Call to Worship have included poverty and liturgy; worship during the time of Covid; dismantling racism in worship; and new topics in music, reconciliation and baptism.

The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell

During Advent, “We watch and pray with expected hope for the establishment of God’s justice and the return of the Prince of Peace,” Gambrell said. “As the weeks progress, the focus shift to thanks and praise for the birth of the One who has already come, Jesus Christ, our savior.”

The phrase “kingdom of heaven” appears 32 times in Matthew’s gospel, the final reference occurring in the first verse of Matthew 25. Gambrell asked viewers: How will we know when God’s kin-dom comes? How does it differ from earthly powers?

More specifically, “What does this realm mean for people who are poor, for societies struggling with racism and for churches longing for renewal? How might we participate in God’s realm here and now through our work to dismantle structural racism, eradicate systemic poverty and build congregational vitality?”

Here’s an example of how worship leaders might use “A Year with Matthew” for worship on the first Sunday in Advent, Nov. 27. The gospel reading is Matthew 24:36-44, which implores us to keep awake since we don’t know what day the Lord is coming. The sermon prompt for this first Sunday in Advent is “Good new, bad news.” “The bad news is Christ is coming at an unexpected time to judge the world. How will Christ judge us?” Gambrell asked. “The good news is Christ the judge is also Christ our savior. How are we longing for salvation?”

With help from his guitar, Gambrell played and sang one of the suggested hymns for that Sunday, “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning.”

While themes from the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 invitation are present throughout Year A, they’re harder for some worshipers to see during Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, according to Gambrell.

“Concerns about systemic poverty, structural racism and congregational vitality may seem distant from the minds of many worshipers and discordant with the festive nature of the season,” Gambrell said. “However, for many children of God, these are inescapable realities and ever-present struggles.”

Gambrell invited viewers to sign up for the Matthew 25 Facebook group, where he’ll be offering a weekly forum for preaching prompts and worship ideas. He and McKinsey signed off with this ancient blessing from Numbers 6: “The Lord bless you and keep you.”


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