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Worship Service: A Foolish Message - 1 Corinthians 1

A worship service plan focusing on the central message of the Christian Gospel: Salvation comes through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

The Foolishness of Our Faith

A four-part series that focuses on the counter-cultural aspect of the Christian faith

Theme of the Service

This service will focus on the central message of the Christian Gospel: Salvation comes through the cross of Jesus Christ. This message seems to be a very foolish according to unbelievers. They may find it offensive or unreasonable. The same is true of many dimensions of the Christian Faith. The response of believers should be shaped by a courageous faith that can stand against criticisms.


Prelude: "Holy Spirit, Mighty God" [see music notes]
"Holy God, We Praise Your Name"

*The Call to Worship [see liturgy notes]
Loving God,
we come to you in worship and thanksgiving.
You are greater than we can understand;
open our eyes that we may see the wonderful truths
you have shown to us in Jesus.
You are more loving than our hearts can respond to;
help us to give ourselves to you in worship
so that we learn what you want us to be.
You are wiser than we can know;
still our minds as we worship you
so that we can understand the things you are saying to us.
Loving God, in Jesus
you chose to come to the world in humility.
You chose the path the world saw as foolish.
You used what the world considered weak.
We worship and adore you. Amen. (The Worship Sourcebook, 1.4.42)

*Song: "Holy God, We Praise Your Name PH 460, PsH 504, RL 619, TH 103, TWC 3, UMH 79 [see music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
People of God, where is your trust placed?
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: "Holy Spirit, Mighty God PsH 278, RN 95 [see music notes]


The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession:
Merciful God,
you made us in your image,
with a mind to know you,
a heart to love you,
and a will to serve you.
But our knowledge is imperfect,
our love inconstant,
our obedience incomplete.
Day by day, we fail to grow into your likeness.
In your tender love, forgive us
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (The Worship Sourcebook, 2.2.44)

The Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 55:6, 7

Song of Devotion: "May the Mind of Christ, My Savior" PsH 291, RN 285, TH 644, TWC 560

God's Guide for Grateful Living: Matthew 5:1-12 [see liturgy notes]

Anthem: "May I Love You, Lord," Hopp


*Hymn of Preparation: "In the Cross of Christ I Glory" PH 84, PsH 474, TWC 209, RL 297 and 298, UMH 295

The Prayer for Illumination [see liturgy notes]

The Reading of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: A Foolish Message
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18
The Foolishness of Our Faith #1

The Prayer of Application


*Song: "Faith Begins by Letting Go" SNC 172

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory
The Offering of Music: "Lift High the Cross" [see music notes]
We offer our gifts for..


*Song: "Lift High the Cross" [see music notes and liturgy notes]

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*A Moment of Meditation

Postlude: "In the Cross of Christ I Glory" [see music notes]
or: "Lift High the Cross"

*You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

Our text for this sermon is generally well-known, and well-known texts involve a special challenge to make them appealing and attractive to the listener. An introduction may provide an effective "hook" for the listener. Possibly identify a time when you examined something you were considering buying, discovered it was an outrageously overpriced inferior product, politely set it back on the table, and walked away, feeling you had escaped someone's attempt to trap you. Or you may want to identify your feelings when an advertisement or commercial makes what you consider to be an overstated claim of how their product will "change your life," "solve all your problems," and give you instant success. Recall how foolish you consider such a claim to be.and how foolish folks are who fall for it. Then observe that many may react to the Christian Faith as we react to these "too good to be true" claims. So what do we do with the fact that the story of the cross, the message of the Christian Gospel, sounds exactly this way to a lot of people? Paul is being very candid in this passage about the offensive nature of the Gospel story, and in view of that candor, we ought to ask some questions about the "marketability" of the Christian message.

Paul's life story is a key to understanding this text. At one time a violent persecutor who wanted nothing to do with the Christian Faith, he was captured by the gospel and gave his entire life to its proclamation. He testifies that it is the "power of God" (v.18) by which we are saved (v.21), and Christ is the "power of God and the wisdom of God" (v.24). Yet, he tells us it is all "foolishness" to those who do not believe. The same is true of many dimensions of our faith: the inspiration of Scripture, the incarnation of Christ, and the crucifixion. Many of the Bible stories may also seem ridiculous: crossing the Red Sea, crossing the Jordan, the virgin birth, and all the miracles. In v.26 and following, Paul reminds us that God's method of using the "lowly" to do big things in the world also defies explanation in human terms. You might even add Jesus' claims about a "small gate and narrow road" (Matthew 7:14), that his followers must "deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24), or that "no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).

This does encourage the question of how we should respond. How should we feel about this faith we have embraced? We may acknowledge that embarrassment has at times knocked at our door and caused us to be timid about our professions and testimonies. We need to realize that our act of embracing the Christian Faith is an act of faith by which we give ourselves to something that is far bigger than our minds could ever fully imagine or understand! This act of embracing God and his redemption through Christ is possible only through the internal working of the Holy Spirit in us (see I Corinthians 2:6-16), but it also takes courage to remain faithful. When we encourage others to embrace the Christian Faith, whether our children or our neighbors, we must be honest with them and not appeal to them as though faith is easy and attractive. It is a step that requires grace, courage, and faith. After all, we were not called to be popular, but to be faithful!

Music Notes:
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)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

The prelude suggestions are based on the opening two hymns of the service, both of which highlight the "mighty" nature of God.

GROSSER GOTT ["Holy God, We Praise Your Name"]

Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 1. Fred Bock B-G0548 [1980] (E)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-754 [1991] (E-M)
Dahl, David P. Hymn Interpretations. Augsburg 11-10972 [1999] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Hymn Preludes for the Pentecost Season. Concordia 97-5517 [1979] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 5. Morningstar MSM-10-760 [1998] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (D)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 8. Concordia 97-5342 [1979] (D)
Peeters, Flor. 30 Chorale Preludes, set 3. Peters 6025 [1950] (M-D)

Wiltse, Carl. Holy God, We Praise Your Name. Stained Glass SGM-136 (4 octaves [3-4
octaves hand chimes], level 4)

LAUDS ["Holy Spirit, Mighty God"]

Wallace, Sue Mitchell. Hymn Prisms. Hope 270 [1985]

A choral concertato arrangement of the opening hymn can be found in the following resource:

GROSSER GOTT ["Holy God, We Praise Your Name"]

Choral Resource:
Ferguson, John. Holy God, We Praise Thy Name. GIA G-3167 [1988] (SATB, congregation,
organ and opt. brass quartet; M)

The hymn of response "Holy Spirit, Mighty God" also serves well as a sung call to confession.

The choral anthem "May I Love You, Lord" by Roy Hopp is scored for SATB voices with accompaniment and is published by Augsburg 0-8006-7541-X [2002] (E-M)

The offertory music suggestions are based on the closing hymn. They can be found along with a choral resource and alternative harmonizations, in the following resources:

CRUCIFER ["Lift High the Cross"]

Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-534 [1999]
Busarow, Donald. Processional on "Lift High the Cross". Concordia 97-5442 (M)
Callahan, Charles. Partita on Crucifier. Concordia 97-6456 [1994] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 9. Concordia 97-5556 [1980] (E-M)

Carter, John. The Wondrous Cross. Hope 1747 [1994] (E-M)

McChesney, Kevin. Lift High the Cross. Lorenz HB 230 [1988] (3-4 octaves, M)
Moklebust, Cathy and David. Lift High the Cross. Choristers Guild CGB 193 [1997] (3-5
octaves/organ, E-M)

Choral Resource:
Christiansen, Paul J. Lift High the Cross. Celebrations Unlimited CU 154 [1984]
(SATB with keyboard; E-M)

Alternative Harmonizations for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Cherwien, David & Wasson, Laura E. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Postlude suggestions are as follows:

RATHBUN ["In the Cross of Christ I Glory"]

Bingham, Seth. Twelve Hymn Preludes, set 2. H. W. Grey. GB152 [1970] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Augsburg Organ Library - Lent. Augsburg 11-11036 [2000] (M-D)
Cherwien, David. Toccata on In the Cross of Christ I Glory. Morningstar MSM-10-303 [1989]

Carter, John. The Wondrous Cross. Hope 1747 [1994] (E-M)

In addition, any of the above organ or piano suggestions on "Lift High the Cross" could serve well as postlude too.

Liturgy Notes:

1. Notice that the Call to Worship is consistent with the theme of this service about the "foolishness" of our faith. The worship leader may want to introduce this reading with a reference to the theme of the service. It will alert worshipers to recognize this theme along the way and will reinforce it.

2. The words of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) have been chosen as the guide to grateful living. Here, again, Jesus is reminding us that the way of faith is not built around what is attractive or popular.

3. The Prayer for Illumination should acknowledge that we will never be able to fully understand God's truth unless his Spirit illumines our heart and minds. The one who prays this prayer should be very familiar with the text, the sermon notes above, and the point of 1 Corinthians 2.

4. The introduction of "Lift High the Cross" could declare that the effort to proclaim the gospel of salvation through the cross of Christ is an act of faithful and courageous obedience before the world.