May We All Be One! - World Communion Sunday - John 17
A service plan for World Communion Sunday. This service celebrates with the Church of Christ in all cultures.
Theme of the Service
The Sunday for which this service is designated is World Communion Sunday. On this day churches around the world will come to the Table of the Lord as an expression of their oneness in Jesus Christ.
The liturgy, sermon, and celebration of the Lord's Supper are all designed to highlight the unity of the Church of Christ world-wide.
WE GATHER IN WORSHIP
Prelude: "Jesus, We Love to Meet", Peery (Nigerian) [handbells]
"Come, Let Us Eat", Fields (Liberian) [organ]
*The Call to Worship:
The Lord our God calls us to worship him today.
We have come to worship the Lord.
On the holy mount stands the city he founded:
The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God.
Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
Philistia too, and Tyre, with Ethiopia -
"This one was born there," they say.
And of Zion it shall be said,
"This one and that one were born in it";
for the most High himself will establish it.
The Lord records, as he registers the peoples,
"This one was born there".
Singers and dancers alike say,
"All my springs are in you".
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
and bow down before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
(from Psalm 87 and 86, NRSV)
*Song: "In the Presence of Your People" (New Zealand, in the style of a Jewish "hora") 3 verses: SFL 25; 1 verse: PsH 160, RN 12, TWC 19, WOV 720
*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the
Anthem: "Halle, Halle, Halle", Haugen (traditional Caribbean)
The Children's Moment
What do you believe about the Church of Christ?
We believe and confess
one single catholic or universal church -
a holy congregation and gathering
of true Christian believers.
What binds them all together?
They await their entire salvation in Jesus Christ,
are washed by his blood,
and sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
How big is this church?
This holy church
is not confined,
or limited to a certain place or certain persons.
But it is spread and dispersed
throughout the entire world,
though still joined and united
in heart and will,
in one and the same Spirit,
by the power of faith.
(from The Belgic Confession, art. 27, © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI,
1-800-333-8300. Used by permission.)
Anthem: "We Are Singing for the Lord Is Our Light", Hopson (South African)
(During the singing of this anthem by the choir and congregation, the offering is received. The congregation will join the choir on the refrains at the cue of the director.)
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD
The Reading of Scripture: John 17:1-26
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
Sung Prayer for Illumination: "Like the Murmur of the Dove's Song" (American) PH 314, RN 280, SFL 191, SNC 171, TWC 286, WOV 685
Sermon: May We All Be One!
Text - John 17:20-23
The Pastoral Prayer for the Church around the World
WE CELEBRATE AT THE TABLE WITH ALL GOD'S PEOPLE
Anthem: "Let Us Break Bread", Gallina (African American Spiritual)
The Invitation and Welcome to the Table
The Prayer of Approach
Our Participation in the Bread (see alternative suggestions in
(Please join in singing songs of our brothers and sisters in Christ while the elements are distributed.)
"Santo, Santo Santo, Mi Corazón/Holy, Holy, Holy, My Heart" (Spanish traditional) SNC 19
"He Came Down" (Cameroon) SFL 136, SNC 92
"Christ, You Are the Fullness" (Korean) PH3 46, PsH 229, SFL 232
Our Participation in the Cup
"Oh, How Good Is Christ the Lord/Oh, Qué Bueno Es Jesús" (Puerto Rican) PH 346, PsH 401, SFL 232
"Come and See" (African American Spiritual) SFL 176
"Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ" (Jamaican) PH 514, SNC 258, WOV 754
"Santo, Santo, Santo, Mi Corazón" (see above)
The Prayer of Thanksgiving
WE GO OUT WITH THANKSGIVING
*Song: "God, the Father of Your People" (Appalachian Shape Note) PsH 322
Postlude: "God, the Father of Your People", Haan
* you are invited to stand
Approaching the 17th chapter of John may well fill us with awe. We are stepping into the privacy of Jesus' prayer to the Father. This is sacred territory! And it's a great privilege to be able to listen in!
When we listen well to what Jesus is praying we learn what is on his heart. He prays for himself (v.1-5) as he approaches the climax of his work on earth. Then he prays for his immediate disciples (v.6-19) because of the difficult tasks ahead. And finally he prays for other believers who will be coming into his Church (v.20-26). I find it striking that he did not pray for their health, success, growth, courage or safety, but their UNITY. When we listen in on someone's prayer we hear their heart speaking, and when it's a prayer offered from one who knows their days are short, we can be sure it is uppermost on their heart.
This message will show that Jesus uses his own relationship of unity with the Father as a pattern for our understanding of the unity of the Church. Three qualities will help us understand that oneness - of love and grace, of purpose, and of cooperation.
We can hardly talk about this deep desire of Jesus without coming to grips with the fact that he must have experienced a great deal of disappointment over the state and behavior of his Church through the centuries. From the early epistles to today we see a picture of constant fractures. On World Communion Sunday, Christians would do well to reflect on such a disappointment to Christ and grieve over the brokenness of the Christian Church.
But to grieve is only the beginning, though an honest one. The intent of Jesus' prayer is to encourage believers to practice their oneness, showing them that he intercedes on their behalf, and modeling in the prayer, by his life with the Father, how we should live and pray. The church that can live out its unity best is a church that:
treasures the truth of God
affirms its internal unity
accepts individuality and uniqueness
focuses on a common purpose
centers on Christ as Head.
It might be interesting to conclude this sermon with some musings on how we think Christ would pray about his Church today. When he looks at our local body, or the worldwide body, does he pray this same prayer in the same way, or would he modify it?
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult
- The origins of the music used in this service are included in the order of worship to increase awareness that we are one in Christ and we worship as his body.
- The first suggestion for prelude can be found in “Jesus, We Love to Meet” arranged by Charles Peery for 3 octaves of handbells and published by AGEHR AG-35064  (M). The suggestion for organ is entitled “Partita on ‘Come, Let Us Eat’ ” and arranged by Tim Fields. This work is published by Morningstar MSM-10-824  (E-M).
- The opening song, “In the Presence of Your People,” is written in the style of a Jewish “hora” (a circle dance from Romania or Israel that becomes progressively faster). Note that some hymnals contain only one verse of this song, which can then be repeated with a faster tempo each time.
- The SATB anthem “Halle, Halle, Halle” is arranged by Marty Haugen and published by GIA G-3961  (E). It includes a reproducible box with the refrain, for congregational use. This Caribbean song can also be found in SNC 44 (refrain only: RN 139, WOV 612).
- The anthem “We Are Singing for the Lord Is Our Light” is an arrangement by Hal H. Hopson of the South African song “Siyahamba/We Are Marching in the Light of God [the Lord]”. It is published by Agape HH3949  (E) and includes a reproducible refrain for congregational use. This song, with text in English and Zulu, can also be found in RN 306, SNC 293, and WOV 650 (SNC includes text in Spanish). Notice that we used this anthem during the offering time – it really becomes both a profession of faith and an offering of song.
- The anthem “Let Us Break Bread Together” is arranged by Jill Gallina for two-part choir and is published by GlorySound EA5114  (E-M). It could be sung by a children’s choir or by a mixed ensemble.
- The organ postlude “God, the Father of Your People” (Holy Manna) can be found in “O Worship the King” by Raymond Haan, published by Broadman 4570-42  (E).
1. It is important that all worshipers are aware of the significance of World Communion Sunday as the service begins. If your bulletin cover does not reflect it, perhaps a written explanation could precede the order of worship. If neither is possible, the worship leader should mention it at the outset. The Call to Worship and each song highlight different countries and cultures of the global Church. The song origins are identified on the worship sheet and can be noted as they are sung.
2. See the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship website for global resources (www.calvin.edu/worship, click on Resources, Worshiping Communities, Worship Worldwide). Images of worshiping communities from other cultures may be very meaningful for use during the prelude, the offertory, or perhaps while the elements of communion are being distributed. Various images are available from the website; contact Anne Zaki, Resource Development Specialist for Global and Multi-Cultural Resources, for more information on permissions (firstname.lastname@example.org). Additional materials not on the website are also available.
3. The Children's Moment is placed at this location in the service so that a worship leader/teacher/pastor can help make them aware of the global nature of the Church, and ask them to picture Christian children in many different churches and countries who are their brothers and sisters in Christ.
4. The profession of the worldwide nature of the Christian Church comes from the Belgic Confession of Faith. This ancient creed originated in what is now known as Belgium. Its chief author was Guide de Bres, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died as a martyr in 1567. De Bres prepared this confession in 1561. Though the confession is formulated in paragraphs, its form has been modified here for responsive use in question and answer format (PsH pp. 845-846). For copyright permission, please contact CRC Publications at (616) 224-0819, 1-800-333-8300 or email@example.com.
5. The Scripture Reading recommended is the entirety of John 17. Though somewhat lengthy, it seems best to read the entire passage, for it is the prayer of Jesus. It would hardly seem appropriate to read only a portion of a prayer that is so beautifully unified.
6. The Pastoral Prayer after the sermon is intended to be a prayer focusing on the entire worldwide Church. We give thanks for all our brothers and sisters, but we also intercede for them. Leaders of various churches around the world have suggested needs that could be included (see below). Different lay persons can be assigned each set of petitions. It would be helpful to introduce the prayer by asking worshipers to imagine a congregation of all nations standing together in prayer, even though thousands of miles apart.
Prayer for Bangladesh:
We ask for the Holy Spirit to do His transforming work in the hearts and lives of individuals so that by God's grace Christians in Bangladesh will be used to bring about holistic and lasting change in families, the government, and societal institutions.
Prayer for Costa Rica:
We praise you, Lord, for the new emissaries you are calling and sending forth from Costa Rica and other Latin countries to serve in your world-wide mission, especially to people in Islamic countries who have yet to hear the Good News. Bless their supporting churches with vision, commitment and resources to sustain them in their Kingdom service.
Prayer for Guam:
Lord, please protect us from typhoons and give peace on the ocean when the boats are going to the other islands, especially the islands beyond the horizon. We pray that the motors will not break down on the open ocean leaving the boatload of people to drift.
Prayer for Japan:
Here, O Lord, where your people so often feel like a lonely and tired Elijah facing hordes of hardened Baal worshipers, pour out your Spirit of encouragement that we may testify with boldness and grace to you, the only true God, in whom alone is light and life.
Prayer for Mali:
We, from Mali, ask for prayer for food. After two years of drought, the price of grain is very high and the new harvest isn't ripe yet. People are hungry.
Prayer for Mexico:
I thank the Lord that he has blessed us in abundance. There are many people with physical, emotional and spiritual struggles and we ask for prayers that God will use this testing to bring them to faith in Jesus.
Prayer for the Philippines:
Dear Lord, we are tired of the corruption that seems to weaken every sector of society, tired of the deception and double-talk, tired of the accepted injustices that the powerful perpetuate. We long for your rule, Sovereign Lord, Faithful, Just and True. Bring your kingdom here, Lord; place your Spirit-filled, obedient servants into places of authority here and let them govern with integrity.
Prayer for Rwanda:
We pray for a vibrant Church, filled with the Spirit and seeking God's presence so that it may be a source of unity and reconciliation, not division, for the people of Rwanda. We pray that God will use the Church to head this nation away from ethnic conflict and poverty and to heal the scars of the genocide, like HIV/AIDS, the countless orphans and widows, and lack of infrastructure, education and employment.
7. The Lord's Supper binds the whole Church together. We meet at table! At times we have used a variety of breads (in texture and color) to represent the entire body. If you sing while the elements of communion are distributed, please note the different cultures represented in songs from the global Church. Or you may choose to include some images and/or sounds of various worshiping communities. Another way to emphasize both the global Church and the Church of all ages is to include a Scripture reading in a variety of languages and translations/paraphrases. In our experience we used Ephesians 2:8-10 from both the King James version and from The Message. We also had members of the congregation read the passage in their native or studied languages - in our case those included Dutch, French, Spanish, Nuer and Bengali.