What Are You Looking For - Fifth Sunday of Easter - 1 Kings 3 (Commissioning Graduates)
A service for the fifth Sunday of the Easter season based on 1 Kings 3 intended to honor those who are graduating, giving encouragement to them from God's Word, and praying for God's blessing on them.
Theme of the Service
At this time of the year, most congregations have a number of youth who are graduating from various levels of education. Graduation is an important time of passage for youth, not only because it marks an academic and educational milestone, but also because it is a marker in their development into mature kingdom citizens. We encourage the inclusion and participation of graduates from Middle School, High School, College, and Graduate School.
Therefore, it is fitting that their congregation joins them in observing this occasion. The purpose of this service is to honor those who are graduating, give encouragement to them from God's Word, and pray for God's blessing on them.
WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Prelude: "Four Chorale Preludes on 'Praise to the Lord, the Almighty' ", Visser
The Introduction to This Service and the Call to Worship
*Song of Praise: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" PH482, PsH253, RL145, RN57, TH53, TWC77
*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 Holy Spirit.
*Response: "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow" PH591/592, PsH638, RL556, RN83, SFL11
The Offertory Prayer
Offertory: "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow", Krapf or Cherwien [organ]
or: "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow", Hayes [piano]
WE CELEBRATE WITH GRADUATES
*Song of Thanksgiving: "What Gift Can We Bring" SNC 232, TWC 794
The Presentation of all Graduates
The Remembrance of Baptism and Words of Encouragement
A Litany for Graduates:
Congregation: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Graduates: We will trust in the Lord.
C: My children, says the Lord, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.
G: For length of days and years of life they will give us.
C: Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you, says the Lord.
G: Inscribe them on the table of our heart!
C: Then, O Lord, we shall find favor in your sight,
G: And good repute among the people.
C: Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
G: And do not rely on your own understanding.
C: In all your ways acknowledge him,
G: And he will make your paths straight.
C: Honor the Lord and turn away from evil.
G: It will be healing and refreshment for our body.
C: Keep sound wisdom and prudence,
G: And they shall be life for our soul.
C: Then you shall walk on your way securely,
G: For the Lord will be our confidence.
C: Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words, or swerve from them.
G: We will seek wisdom.
C: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
G: We will guard our heart.
C: Now then, listen to instruction and be wise: do not ignore it.
G: We will hear the words of the Lord.
(selected from Psalms and Proverbs)
Song of Blessing: "May the Lord Bless You" SFL 80
Anthem: "If You Search with All Your Heart", Courtney
Prayers of the People:
Thanksgiving for Schools and Educators
Thanksgiving for Families and Parents
Requests for God's Leading
Encouragement for Prayer Partners
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD
*Song of Preparation: "Earth and All Stars" PH 458, PsH 433, TWC 357
Scripture Drama Reading – 1 Kings 3
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
Sermon: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
The Pastoral Prayer
WE LEAVE TO CONTINUE OUR JOURNEY
*Song of Encouragement: "Go Forth for God" vv. 1,2 RN 291 (Geneva 124), PsH 325 (Anima Christi/Woodlands)
*Song of Encouragement: "Go Forth for God" vv. 3,4
Postlude: "Chant Heroique", Young
* - you are invited to stand
Though one principle of sermon construction is that it is prepared with the entire congregation in mind, we suggest that you violate that principle in this service and write this sermon specifically with the graduates in mind. Be up-front about that and explain you are speaking primarily to the graduates though all others are welcome to listen in…and they just may find something for themselves too. (They'll probably listen better than ever!)
Graduates should be able to identify well with a young man (probably late teens) who ascends to the throne of Israel and takes on the responsibilities of king, so tell the story of Solomon that is inherent in this passage. There is great drama and feeling in that story. Tell it in such a way that will help all to understand Solomon's heart and emotions. He was a young man who had just entered the "job market."
Take note of matters such as:
-God's invitation to Solomon to "ask" (v.4,5)
-Solomon's keen awareness of the kindness of God to his father David (v.6)
-Solomon's firm conviction that he had been appointed King by the Lord (v.7)
-Solomon's awareness of his own inadequacies and accompanying anxiety (v.7)
-Solomon's great respect for the people he is to lead (v.8)
-Solomon's request for discernment (v.9)
-God's pleasure at this request and his promise of blessing (v.10-15)
The message should center on the gift of discernment as the key to a life of service and leadership that constantly confronts issues of right and wrong. We have, therefore, the key criteria to a successful life – not power, not wealth, not longevity – but discernment. Spend some time developing and clarifying what "discernment" is.
Then make the transition to the words of Proverbs, many of which were also written by Solomon. Survey his words in the opening few chapters and note how they could only be written by one who had asked for discernment from God, and notice also the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs. Then move to 1 Corinthians 1:30 where Paul says that Christ has been made the wisdom of God for us.
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 Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult
- The organ music of the prelude is a collection composed by Larry Visser and published by Wayne Leupold Editions, WL600064  (M-D). The title of the collection is "Four Chorale Preludes on 'Lobe den Herren' ". These preludes, all of which can stand alone, are well worth the investment of time in learning them. You may also want to consider spreading them through the service as the offertory and postlude. This service could also provide opportunity for graduates who are musicians to play all of the service music.
- Notice that the opening music of prelude and hymns is praise-oriented in both text and spirit. This opening needs to strike the tone of celebration and thanks.
- The organ offertory options can be found in "Sing and Rejoice" vol. 3 by Gerhard Krapf, published by Sacred Music Press KK278  (E) or in "Interpretations" vol. 8 by David Cherwien, published by AMSI SP-105  (M-D). The piano transcription can be found in "Lord Be Glorified" by Mark Hayes, Word 301 0047 312  (M)
- The Song of Thanksgiving, "What Gift Can We Bring", is appropriate as an expression from the congregation – it both serves as an expression of thanks and as anticipation for the joy of the remembrance of baptism that will soon be expressed.
- The anthem can be sung by an ensemble or choir as an encouragement for the graduates or it could be sung by the graduates as their testimony of trust in the Lord's leading. This anthem is based on Jeremiah 29:11-14, a text often used on occasions of graduation. It was composed by Craig Courtney and published by Beckenhorst BP1434  (E-M).
- The text of the hymn "Earth and All Stars" incorporates the language of many vocations.
- "Chant Heroique" by Gordon Young is published by Galaxy GMC2161  (E-M).
1. In a service like this, it's important that the graduates be very visible. Include a list of all graduates in the bulletin or on the worship sheet, indicating their level of education and the institution from which they are graduating. When they are presented to the congregation, read each name and ask them to come forward and stand before the congregation. When they are all present, the pastor or a lay leader/elder of the congregation may speak personal and warm words of congratulations and encouragement. The words of encouragement should be based on a remembrance of their baptism and the claims and promises that God gave to them at that time, so the graduates see that their commitments to continue seeking God's will need to be based on a renewal of their baptism covenant with God.
2. The "Litany for Graduates" is intended to be read responsively between the congregation and the graduates (while they remain standing together before the congregation.) The number of graduates will influence how this is done, but we highly recommend that all graduates meet together before the service to rehearse so they are comfortable reading in unison.
3. The song "May the Lord Bless You" (SFL 80) should be sung to the graduates by the congregation as their personal blessing to them. It would be wise for the worship leader to explain it as such.
4. Three key people of the congregation should lead in the prayers. The first one could be either a graduate or someone else. The second should be a graduate who gives thanks on behalf of all graduates for their parents. The third prayer should be spoken by a leader of the congregation.
5. Some churches pair up a graduate with someone committed to be their prayer partner during the transition of the next 12 months. At this point in the service it would be appropriate to call the prayer partners forward to stand with their respective graduate, and words of encouragement given to all of them.
6. The Scripture reading is taken from The Dramatized Old Testament (vol.1), ed. Michael Perry, Baker Book House (1994). The script follows. This material is used by permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, copyright 1994. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company. Though this book is out of print, you may use the reading in your worship service, but you will need to secure copyright permission for such use by contacting Baker Book House, Permission Department, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, or fax your request to Baker Book House, Permission Department, at (616) 676-9573, or email at email@example.com. Permission is usually granted without fee, for as many photocopies of each reading as there are parts for a worship service.
7. The closing song of the service is a song of challenge and sending. We've embedded the benediction in the middle of the song to communicate that we cannot carry out this challenge without the blessing of the Lord: when his blessing is given, we are ready to "go to the world in strength" (stanza 3). It will aid congregational singing to note this.
Scripture Drama Reading Script of 1 Kings 3:5-15a "Solomon Asks for Wisdom":
(Cast: Narrator, the Lord [voice only], Solomon)
Narrator: At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream [and God said:]
The Lord (voice only): Ask for whatever you want me to give you.
[Narrator: Solomon answered:]
Solomon: You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?
Narrator: The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.
The Lord (voice only): Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both riches and honor – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statues and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.
Narrator (slowly): Then Solomon awoke – and he realized it had been a dream.
Narrator: The Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God!
The Dramatized Old Testament, vol.1, ed. M. Perry
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1994)
1 Kings 3:5-15a