Preaching and Praying “WITH” During the Thanksgiving Season
In the United States, images of overflowing piles of fruit and tables brimming with food begin to fill our inboxes, our computer screens and our televisions each November. These images also appear in many of our church newsletters, bulletins and worship spaces. Yet, just around the corner, next door or even within our churches and homes, the reality of food scarcity is a part of daily life for many persons.
The lectionary scriptures for Thanksgiving 2014 include: Deuteronomy 8:7-18 (remember that it was God who provided you this abundance), Psalm 65 (praise to God for all of the blessings we have), 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (giving with joy) and Luke 17:11-19 (healing of the 10 with skin diseases). Any of these will also work as the theme for an ecumenical or community-based worship service.
When the commercial world is blasting images of the perfect Thanksgiving season being filled with an abundance of food, how do you prepare to lead worship services for your local church or a community service? What can you do to help people open themselves to God’s Spirit calling them to serve their neighbors in need? And how we can we, as worship creators, help God’s people say thank you to God by sharing with their neighbors in need?
Learn and teach about food poverty and scarcity
Use these articles and others found on www.ministrywith.org to lay the foundation of understanding about poverty and food scarcity in the United States. Teach the Bible study. Share the links and pdfs with leaders in your congregation. Use your church’s social media to share short quotes from the articles to help get everyone engaged in learning.
Learn about your community
Spend time learning about your own community from members who serve members living in poverty.
- Contact the Social Services Department in your community to discern the number of families on assistance programs.
- Speak to the coordinator of your local food bank.
Ask how many families they serve each week.
Ask about the families and some of the stories of their lives.
Discover what types and amounts of food are in the typical bag given to families who visit the food bank.
- Visit the community homeless shelter and talk to the staff.
Ask what they feel the primary issues are that relate to homelessness in your community.
Ask how the shelter or other entities in your community try to respond to the needs.
Ask how they attempt to adjust the issues that are systemic in your community as they relate to homelessness.
- Volunteer in a food bank or homeless shelter as you prepare your sermon. Reflect upon the scripture and what you have learned. How has your understanding of the needs in your community changed?
- In the week prior to Thanksgiving Day encourage the members of your congregation to walk/drive around their neighborhoods, stopping at each home or apartment to say a prayer for the occupants.
- Develop a series of short prayer meditations on the scriptures and the issue of poverty in your community. Include these in your bulletin or newsletter, post them on your website or email them out to your congregation during the week of Thanksgiving.
- Invite your congregation to write prayer intercessions that can be shared and used during worship.
- Pray “with” the people who are serving in our name in many places, such as our Church and Community Worker missionaries. Earnestine Varnado offers this prayer intercession to add to your prayer for the day. Ms. Varnado (Advance #982905) is a Deaconess/Church and Community Worker serving with the poor in McComb, Miss. Her webpage is: www.umcmission.org/EVernado
- Gracious God, we offer prayers of intercession for those who do not have enough food. We pray that through the efforts of St. Andrew’s Mission and the community volunteers we will be empowered to meet needs through the soup kitchen and food staples to fill the void during the month. We ask that the crops from the community garden will be abundant so we can have the addition of fresh vegetables. Thank you for this opportunity to serve each other.
Engage a Church and Community Worker (CCW) missionary in conversation with your congregation. Go to www.umcmission.org/CCW to learn about these missionaries.
- Click on any of the pictures on the right of the webpage above to discover where the missionary is serving and to find his/her contact information.
- Ask the missionary to send you information about how he/she serves in the community.
- Consider Skyping the CCWs into your worship or Bible study. They could read the scripture of the day, lead the morning prayer and share their witness.
- No projection? Make arrangements to call the CCWs from a cell phone during the service and hold the phone next to a microphone so everyone can hear the missionary.
- No projection? You can easily become pen pals with the CCW. Invite a Sunday school class or other small group to intentionally write and pray for the missionary. Invite the missionary to write a prayer or other act of worship for your service.
As you learn “with,” pray “with” and invite others to be “with” your congregation, know that “God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, CEB)
Rev. Debra Tyree
Serving with the Global Praise program