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The Journey Begins worship series

We seem to be always beginning. Or at least we have a tendency to speak about how we start our journey of faith. To some, that seems redundant. “We began long ago,” they might think. And that could be true. Yet, each day is a new beginning, a reaffirmation of the desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. So, once again, the journey begins.

Even though there are those of us who are more seasoned travelers on the journey of faith, we are constantly met with new disciples. Rather than being slowed down by this, we are rejuvenated by the zeal that new converts often bring with them. “The journey begins” then is a time of celebration and of hopefulness. We are looking forward to becoming the community that we long to be and are described as being by the very one we follow.

So, here in the late summer and beginning of fall, when some things are winding down and other things are starting up, it is time for us to remember who we are and to whom we pledge our ultimate allegiance. Let’s go back to our first love and embrace our God with passion and with joy.

We are also on the brink of the Season of Creation, which means that creation and ecology will be a consideration in this series (and the next, as the Season of Creation goes from September 1 through October 4). It is up to you, of course, to determine how this will feature in the worship in your local context. But this is an opportunity to lift up the themes of creation care in a particular way throughout this series. It is a reminder that God works through the world as it is and that our call to be stewards and to care for creation is still with us and guides our worship and our work.

Week 1: Who Do You Say?

Out of nowhere, it seemed, as they traveled along, Jesus asked his disciples a question of identity. “Who do you say that I am?” It’s a question we must answer again and again as we seek to become disciples of Jesus Christ.

We want to know God, as we begin our journey of faith. We want to be able to call God’s name, to know something about God’s nature, to be able to trust in God’s presence as we seek to follow. Our worship this week can be full of names for and images of God, including the incarnated face of God that is Jesus the Christ. If you aren’t in the habit of reciting a creed or affirmation of faith, this would be a good week to do so. Pick one that provides an image of God that speaks to you and your congregation. What aspect of God most resonates with the mission and ministry of your church?

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Week 2: Who Am I?

Knowing God and making a declaration of faith is an important part of the journey of faith. But then what usually follows an encounter with God is an acute and often painful awareness of self. Moses, following his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness, far away from a shady past, stumbles across a God who calls him to a mission of liberation. One of his many objections is that he doesn’t know who this God is. “Tell me your name,” he asks. Who are you, so that I can answer when they ask who sent me.” But alongside that question is a realization that he does not measure up to this ideal or to this calling. “Who am I,” Moses asks again and again in an attempt to crawl out from under this call. Our awareness of self is an important element of the journey. But like our understanding of who God is, our understanding of ourselves changes and grows with time.

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Week 3: What is the Sign?

As we launch or continue our journey of faith, are we called to look for signs of God’s presence or are we called to be a sign of God’s presence? The answer, as you might expect, is yes! We are the ones who are trying to be tuned into God’s wavelength, listening to God’s broadcast. Therefore, we look for the signs that God is at work in and around us always. One of the things we do when we gather for worship and for fellowship is to celebrate those signs and share them with one another. Is there space in your worship for folks to share “God-sightings” within the body? Or might we call for such sightings ahead of time, on social media perhaps or in small groups within the church. We are encouraging one another to be alert to the movement and activity of God in our lives.

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Week 4: How Many Times?

Our series ends with a question. It isn’t our question, of course, it is Peter’s question. “How many times must we forgive?” This is one of those questions that we know how we’re supposed to answer, but it is harder to do in practice than in theory. When we gather for worship and hear the story from Matthew where Jesus tells Peter that we forgive 77 times, or 70 times 7, or in fact, we just keep forgiving, we smile and nod and clap our hands. “Of course,” we think, “we worship a forgiving God, and we know we need God’s forgiveness over and over again.” But then we realize that this means we also must be forgiving of those who offend us, again and again, perhaps. And then we wonder if that’s even possible.

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Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.

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