Worship and Education Hour Materials
“This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And you are my friends, if you do what I command you. I no longer speak of you as subordinates, because a subordinate doesn’t know a superior’s business. Instead I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learned from Abba God. It was not you who chose me; it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit. Your fruit must endure, so that whatever you ask of Abba God in my name God will give you. This command I give you: that you love one another.”
— John 15: 12-17, The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation
Call to Worship
Jim Hopkins, pastor, Alliance-affiliated Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif.
One: Since Baptists first gathered for worship over four hundred years ago our worship has included the singing of psalms, the reading of Scripture, the preaching of the good news and the sharing of prayers.
Many: We give thanks for our living tradition.
One: As we gather in worship we join our voices with all who have found courage in singing together.
Many: As we gather in worship we turn to the Scripture knowing it is our story, the story of God and God’s people.
One: As we gather in worship we trust that in diverse and joyous ways the good news will once again meet us where we are.
Many: As we gather in worship we with join a great cloud of witnesses in lifting our prayers believing that as we pray with our community, we will be changed.
One: Befriending God, we give you thanks for the gifts of Song, Scripture, Proclamation and Prayer
Many: Befriending God, we give you thanks for a community of faith, a history of courage, a tradition of worship.
Prayer of Invocation
Millard F. Eiland, member, Alliance-affiliated Covenant Church, Houston, Texas
God you have asked us to love everyone,
We want to do your will, but
loving everyone is so hard to do.
Sometimes we don’t even love ourselves.
Holy One, you have asked us to be friends to everyone.
—like you are. . .
—like we want to be. . .
—like we know to be.
Eternal One, take us, all of us,
into your loving arms,
into your strong presence and
into your gracious patience. . .
Help us to overcome our discouragement,
Mold us, we pray–somehow in your mercy–
into genuine friends to ourselves,
to each other, and to those whom we touch.
Empower us to honor your friendship
in our lives, and
to demonstrate your love
to a world in aching need.
The Lord’s Prayer
adopted by Craig Davis-Johnson, Alliance board member, Alliance-affiliated Immanuel Baptist Church, Portland, Maine
One: Our Father, who is in heaven,
Many: Our God, our faithful friend, who is closer to us than we can imagine and present to everyone at all times,
One: Hallowed be your name.
Many: your name is praised by all who seek you and need you: poor and rich, educated and illiterate, hungry and full, obedient and lazy.
One: May your kingdom come,
Many: Let your kindness be known among everyone who is lonely, misled, and pressed down by people and events, just as it is among all who are loved, free from fear, and lifted up by faith.
One: May your will be done
Many: Let all of us who live in houses and all who survive in slums, caves, and jungles, unite under your sheltering hope.
One: On earth as it is in heaven.
Many: Let your love which flickers in our fickle hearts shine over all creation and within each of us.
One: Give us this day our daily bread,
Many: Thank you for our lives, for friends and loved ones, for the happiness of giving, and for your permission to take pleasure from your good earth.
One: And forgive us our our debts
Many: Thank you for your merciful forgiveness, but let us never take your faithful friendship for granted at any hour of any day,
One: As we forgive our debtors.
Many: because those we perceive as debtors are our equals before you,
One: Lead us not into temptation,
Many: and the habits of this world are relentless, sly, and overwhelming when our faith lacks your discipline and wisdom.
One: But deliver us from evil.
Many: We trust your faithful friendship to keep us from keeping to ourselves when you are calling us to give our lives to our friends and to those who could be our friends;
One: For yours if the kingdom,
Many: because you are controlled by no one,
One: and the power,
Many: no group, organization, ideology, or structure,
One: and the glory forever.
Many: for you are the only God and the most faithful friend of us all.
All in unison: Amen.
The following hymn suggestions are taken from the Presbyterian Hymnal—page number, title and tune provided.
Fran Avera, Minister of Music, Alliance-affiliated Covenant Church, Houston, Texas.
Please adhere to the appropriate copyright laws when using these hymns.
Jesus, Our Divine Companion, Pleading Savior, 305
Called As Partners in Christ’s Service, Beecher, 343
Great God, Your Love Has Called Us Here, Dasneugeborne Kindelein, 353
Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples, Kingsfold, 434
We Are Your People, Whitfield, 436
Mary Andreolli, minister for outreach & communications
Paula Clayton Dempsey, minister for partnership relations
Hebrew scripture companion texts to John 15:2-17
Ecclesiastes 4:9–12, Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation
Two people are better than one,
for they get a better return for their work.
For if one flags, the other gives support;
but woe to the solitary person who falls
and has no one to provide support.
And if two sleep together
they keep each other warm;
how can a person stay warm while alone?
One alone is easily overpowered;
two provide protection for each other;
and a rope of three strands is not easily broken.
Ruth 1:16-17, Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation
But Ruth said to her, “Please don’t ask me to leave you and turn away from your company. I swear to you:
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge.
Your people will be my people.
and your God, my God.
Where you die, I’ll die there too
and I will be buried beside you.
I swear—may YHWH be my witness and judge—
that not even death will keep us apart.
The basis of faithful friendship is mutual relation where both individuals come to the relationship with equal sacred power and human dignity regardless of the weight of the social power—economic, racial, sexual, physical or professional—each independently carries. A powerful scripture reference to illustrate the power of faithful friendships can be found in the story of Jesus and Simon Peter at Lake Tiberias, John 21:15-17, Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation.
When they had eaten their meal, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon ben-John, do you love me more than these?” Peter, said, “Yes, Rabbi, you know that I am your friend.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” A second time Jesus put the question, “Simon ben-John, do you love me?” Peter said, “Yes, Rabbi, you know that I’m your friend.” Jesus replied, “Tend my sheep.” A third time Jesus asked him, “Simon ben-John, do you love me as a friend would?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” a third time. So he said, “You know everything, Rabbi. You know that I am your friend.”
In this story, Jesus relativizes the power he has over Peter as a teacher, healer, and Messiah by posing the very human question, “Do you love me?” Peter’s response each time in the Inclusive Bible version is “Yes, I am your friend.” Said another way, we are not in a one—sided relationship where we may call Jesus our friend and Jesus holds all the sacred power. Jesus too, longs to be a friend and to be loved as we do and as our marginalized brothers and sisters around the world do. This reciprocity in “sacred loving” and the desire to be loved empowers us to share the love of Christ with everyone we meet regardless of class, geography, race, sexuality or religious beliefs.
Consider using a story from a mission experience individuals in your congregation have shared where a friendship from the margins made a lasting impression and perhaps even shifted your perceptions of power within the relationship.
Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl, Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality In Service and Mission, Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill., 2010. (see chapter “Mutuality in Mission”)
Carter Heyward, Saving Jesus From Those Who Are Right: Rethinking What it Means to Be Christian, Augsberg Fortress: Minneapolis, MN, 1999.
Stephanie Ford, Kindred Souls: Connecting Through Spiritual Friendship, Upper Room Books: Nashville, Tenn., 2006. (see chapters “Gifts from the Tradition,” “Ruth and Naomi: Loyal Love,” “Jesus as Friend: Kingdom Love“ and “Friendship with God: Longing Love”)
Sallie McFague, Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age, Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1987.
Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, ed., The Women’s Bible Commentary, Westminster/John Knox Press: Louisville, Ky., 1992 (see section by Amy Jill-Levine on the book of Ruth.)
Ruth Forman, Renaissance, Beacon Press: Boston, 1997 (the second book of poems by a Barnard New Women Poets Prize winner)
When we join hands
it is hard to remember
why the world so lonely
Deborah and Craig Davis-Johnson, pastors and partners, Immanuel Baptist Church, Portland, Maine
Do you know anyone who is living near you or goes to school with you who has moved here from another country? Maybe someone in your class dresses very differently from you or speaks a different language. It can be really hard for kids to move here and to look different and sound different from most of the other kids they are with in school.
But still, they can jump rope and ride bikes. They can play tag and hopscotch. So you can find ways to welcome them and help them feel that they can have friends even though they are in a very new place.
Jesus told us to love each other just as He loves us. Now, that’s a big job—to love each other as Jesus loves us. Jesus also told His disciples to “obey” God. That seems like such a big job that some people don’t like the word “obey.” But when Jesus told his disciples to “obey,” He said that we “obey” when we love one another just as Jesus loves us. Whenever we trust Him and follow Him, He will help us. We will be something like the branch of a tree—or of, say, a grapevine. As long as we remain attached to Jesus, He’ll keep feeding us and teaching us how to love others and ourselves.
All his disciples knew how much Jesus loved, and they had seen that when Jesus made someone His friend, they changed and began to learn how to love.
Did you know that Jesus reached out to be friends with people who looked really ugly because they were so sick? And Jesus once got up really close to a man who most people did not like because he had cheated them out of money. Jesus looked him right in the eye and said, “I want to be your friend.” When the man learned to be Jesus’ friend, he also was happy to stop cheating people.
Jesus wanted each person He met to be His friend. He didn’t care what they looked like or how they talked. Jesus was showing you and me how to be friends, too. And He promised that if we loved others and trusted Him, we would become better and stronger and braver at loving others—and also at making friends like Jesus did.
Let’s pray: Thank you God for Jesus who shows me how to be a friend. Amen.
Education Hour/Sunday School
Laura Mayo, minister, Alliance-affiliated Covenant Church, Houston, Texas
Our hope is that this curriculum can be used for children, youth, and adults. If you would like help adapting this curriculum to a specific age, please contact Laura Mayo. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Discover what it means to be a “faithful friend” as embodied by the Alliance of Baptists.
- Explore John 15:12-17 as a calling for the Alliance of Baptists and each of us.
2011 Bridges of Hope Mission brochures and VOICES magazine
12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from God. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that God will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
—John 15:12-17 NRSV
Opening: If you have you ever attended an Alliance of Baptists Convocation then you know the feeling of friendship with people you have perhaps just met and have known for some time. Each year as I travel to our annual meeting, I feel tremendous excitement about seeing old friends and making new ones. Being progressive Baptists can be isolating. Sometimes I forget our church is part of a friendship of other congregations who share common goals, ideas about God, and openness.
Today, we will be talking about The Alliance of Baptists and specifically about our friendship with each other and with God.
Scripture Exploration: For the 2011 Alliance of Baptists Sunday we are using John 15: 12-17 to think about and talk about what it means to be a friend of God and a friend to each other—faithful friendship.
What is a friend? How do you know if someone is a friend to you or just an acquaintance? (If you are working with children/youth, you might ask them to name their friends and to describe what is special about them.)
How can we be friends with God? (Expected answers: prayer, reading, yoga, meditation, helping others, sharing what we have with those in need)
How do we feel God’s friendship with us? (Expected answers: love from other people, feelings of comfort and love, the ocean/sunrise/sunset)
This passage from John emphasizes that God calls us friend, not servant, but friend. What is the significance of this difference? (Expected answers: friends are partners, friends work together on projects–God does not command us but rather compels us to be co-creators, co-workers, partners)
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
Believing that we are friends of God–partners in the work of love, peace and justice in the world, the Alliance of Baptists has 23 local and global mission partners. We work with these partners to do the work of God. We come alongside our mission partners in an effort to support, encourage, and befriend.
Is this way of doing ministry work different from other ways you have experienced? How so? What do you make of the differences? (This is likely not a helpful question if you are working with children/youth.)
Break up into small groups (at least 3 groups). Give each group a copy of the Bridges of Hope Missions brochure and/or VOICES:
In your groups, pick one of our mission partnerships and prepare to give a brief (2 minute) presentation on the work of the mission partner your group selects.
Think about your own mission experiences and how they may or may not have reflected friendship.
Small groups give presentations.
After presentations: What did you notice about our partners? Do you feel like you know these friends a little better now? When you give money to the Alliance of Baptists Missions Offering you are giving money to help these friends do God’s work. We are all friends to each other and friends to God through the work of love.
We tend to talk about community a lot. We talk about caring for each other and loving each other. We talk about our church as a family.
We might also want to talk about our churches as groups of friends—equals who share and show love. Paula Clayton Dempsey, minister for partnership relations, has talked about a visual image of friendship as “two figures embracing—and in the embrace it is difficult to discern which figure is giving and receiving support. Out of the freedom we know in Christ, we gather as friends bearing one another’s burdens.”
What burdens do we share as the national body of the Alliance of Baptists?
What burdens do we share as this particular church within the Alliance of Baptists?
We do not face any of these burdens alone. We have each other. How does it feel to know we have friends and that we do not walk this journey alone?
I want to challenge you to attend this year’s Alliance of Baptists Convocation in Austin, Texas. When you come and experience the friendship and the sharing of burdens and joy, I believe you will feel the friendship of God within the friendship of the Alliance.
Noticings: Does anything stick out to you about today’s discussion? Are there ways we could be better friends to God? Are there ways we could be better friends to each other?
Contemporary poet Ruth Forman writes in her poem entitled “Friends”
When we join hands
it is hard to remember
why the world so lonely.
What do you think of this poem?
Think: Who do you know who is lonely?
Answer: What could you do to be a friend to that lonely person?
Answer: How can we be better friends to each other when we are lonely?
Let’s close with a prayer. I will say an opening prayer and then you are each invited to voice any prayer. I will end our prayer with ‘Amen.’
God, thank you for the opportunity to be part of the Alliance of Baptists. Show us in new ways that you are our friend. Help us to share your faithful friendships and love as we travel our journeys. Compel us into relationship with you and with each other.
Thank you for participating in this year’s Alliance Sunday joining other Alliance congregations around the world in the celebration! We are excited to announce this is the second year the Alliance of Baptists is celebrating Alliance Sunday!
This year’s theme is Building Faithful Friendship based on John 15:12, “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you.”
In this document you’ll find a rich selection of worship materials and education hour curriculum that can be used to discover what faithful friendship means to the Alliance of Baptists and to your congregation.
If you would like to receive additional copies of VOICES magazine, the 2011 Bridges of Hope Mission Offering or Alliance giving envelopes please contact Mary Andreolli, minister for Outreach and Communications.
If you have any questions or comments about how to use these materials please contact Laura Mayo, chair, communications community.
We look forward to hearing about your Alliance Sunday celebration!