Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

God says in Isaiah 58:6-7

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints,
untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
& breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
& bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. (John Birch)

May these 40 days before Easter be a time of spiritual spring cleaning, of removing what hinders and renewing what facilitates our relationships with God, the world, and one another.

The Worship of God for Second Sunday in Lent

Passing the Peace 
Say to one another, “May the peace of Christ be with you.”
And reply, “And, also with you.”

Invitation to Worship
based on Psalm 19

Listen to the Invitation to Worship and/or read below.

The heavens are telling the glory of God
May our worship reflect God’s glory.
The firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
May we see each other as the handiwork of God.
Let our prayer and praise, our singing and proclamation project the love of God.
We commune with Christians around the world,
with Christians throughout time.
With Christians across geography and across time,
Let us worship!

Song of Praise
We Will Walk With God
Words: Eswatini Traditional (trans. J.L. Bell)
Tune: SIZOHAMBA (Eswatini Traditional)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

See-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay,
woh woh woh,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Goom-shlah wen-jah-boo-lah,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

Opening Prayer
Let us pray:

Listen to the prayer being offered and/or pray below.

We acknowledge you, O God, as creator and as liberator. You are the One who brought the captives out of Egypt and delivered them from the oppression of slavery. You gave laws which shaped how people were to relate to you, to each other and to the whole environment. You implored people to worship only you, knowing that whatever was put in your place would become the object of idolatry – would become the priority of people’s lives. In this time of worship, help us to focus on you, O God, as the priority of our lives. Remind us of your steadfast love revealed so clearly in the new commandment of love which Jesus disclosed with his life and, as we especially remember in this period of Lent, with his death. Speak to us anew as we offer this prayer and our worship in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen

Psalm 19
Common English Bible

Listen to the Psalm being read and/or read below.

Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
     the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
2One day gushes the news to the next,
     and one night informs another what needs to be known.
3Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
     their voices can’t be heard—
4but their sound extends throughout the world;
     their words reach the ends of the earth.

God has made a tent in heaven for the sun.
5The sun is like a groom
coming out of his honeymoon suite;
          like a warrior, it thrills at running its course.
6It rises in one end of the sky;
     its circuit is complete at the other.
     Nothing escapes its heat.

7The Lord’s Instruction is perfect,
     reviving one’s very being.
The Lord’s laws are faithful,
     making naïve people wise.
8The Lord’s regulations are right,
          gladdening the heart.
The Lord’s commands are pure,
     giving light to the eyes.
9Honoring the Lord is correct,
     lasting forever.
The Lord’s judgments are true.
      All of these are righteous!
10They are more desirable than gold—
     than tons of pure gold!
They are sweeter than honey—
     even dripping off the honeycomb!

11No doubt about it: your servant is enlightened by them;
     there is great reward in keeping them.
12But can anyone know what they’ve accidentally done wrong?
     Clear me of any unknown sin
13and save your servant from willful sins.
     Don’t let them rule me.
Then I’ll be completely blameless;
     I’ll be innocent of great wrongdoing.

14Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
          be pleasing to you,
          Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Song of Praise
Let All Creation Dance
Words: Brian Wren
Tune: DARWALL’S 148th

1 Let all creation dance in energies sublime,
as order turns with chance, unfolding space and time
for nature’s art in glory grows,
and newly shows God’s mind and heart.

2 God’s breath each force unfurls, igniting from a spark
expanding starry swirls, with whirlpools dense and dark.
Though moon and sun seem mindless things,
each orbit sings: “Your will be done.”

3 Our own amazing earth, with sunlight, cloud and storms
and life’s abundant growth in lovely shapes and forms,
is made for praise, a fragile whole,
and from its soul heav’n’s music plays.

4 Lift heart and soul and voice: in Christ all praises meet
and nature shall rejoice as all is made complete.
In hope be strong. All life befriend
and kindly tend creation’s song.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25
New Revised Standard Version

Listen to 1 Corinthians and/or read below.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Lenten Prayer
Let us pray,

Hear the Prayer and Words of Assurance and/or read along below.

Liberating God,
in love You have set us free:
free from slavery to sin and self,
free to know and love You,
free to follow and serve You.

We praise You for Your faithful love toward us,
and for the many ways You have demonstrated that love to us.
We see Your love in the natural world around us—
in the sky and trees and rivers.
We see Your love in the gift of Your commandments—
the rules for living that guide us into right relationship with You,
and with the people around us.
And we see Your love in Jesus Christ,
who lived and died to bring us life.

Because we have experienced Your love,
we come before You with confidence,
bringing our needs and the needs of the world.
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who live surrounded by violence—
whether from war or political unrest, crime or domestic violence.
We pray for those who have been victims of violent crime,
and for those whose loved ones have been injured or murdered.
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who find themselves involved in crime,
whether by choice or through coercion;
those caught up into gangs or prostitution,
those who have turned to crime to pay for their addictions,
those who are imprisoned.
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

We pray for our homes and families:
for parents juggling the responsibilities of work and family,
for children chafing under parental authority or expectations,
for men and women caught up in adultery or adulterous thoughts,
and for partners whose marriages are breaking down,
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

We pray for the many people in our world who do not yet know You,
who have not yet experienced the new life that comes from knowing You through Christ Jesus;
who continue to search for purpose and meaning.
God, in your unfailing love, hear our prayer.

Merciful God,
give us strength and courage to keep Your commandments,
to live in faithful obedience to Your will.
Guard our lives and minds from all that might distract us
from living out our commitment to You.
Help us to find our true worth in knowing You more fully,
and serving You more faithfully.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Cornerstone. Amen.

Words of Assurance and Hope
God loves us. (Romans 5:8)
We do not need to be afraid. (Matthew 10:31)
Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:21)
Jesus says to us, “You are my friends.” (John 15:14)
And Jesus promises, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)

Anthem
O Thou, My Soul, Forget No More
Text by Krishnu Pal (1764-1822), translated by J. Marshman (1801)
Composed by Ronald Turner based on the tune DISTRESS

O thou, my soul, forget no more
The friend who all thy sorrows bore;
Let ev’ry idol be forgot,
O thou, my soul, forget him not.

We taste thee, O thou living Bread,
and long to feast upon Thee still;
we drink of Thee, the fountainhead,
and thirst our souls from Thee to fill.

O Jesus, joy of loving hearts,
Thou fount of life, thou light of all,
from the best thought that earth imparts
we turn unfilled to heed thy call.
Forget not us, we pray.

Reflection on Exodus 20:1-17
Rev. Jeffrey Vickery

Let me invite you to enter your imagination. Imagine that you are an Israelite born in Egypt during the time of the slavery described at the beginning of the book of Exodus. Years later, after nearly a lifetime of harsh treatment and hard work, you and your family along with thousands of your Israelite kin are freed from slavery by a surprising series of miracles. How is it that you pray for a miracle all these years without any clear sign from God? Then all at once miracles in the form of plagues seem to happen every day … for weeks? Before too long your greatest hope is realized! You are told to gather your family and some food and walk to freedom. On that day, you leave Egypt and your slavery behind. You marvel at the dry sea bed beneath your sandals. You gasp as the army pursuing you is defeated by yet another miracle. God is surely watching over all of you. But the weeks moving south through the desert are hard, nearly as harsh as slavery. You don’t even know what the destination is or when you will arrive. After exactly three months, you and the whole company are standing at the foot of Mount Sinai and word spreads that this is the place. You are given three days to prepare to hear from God. The rumor is that you will actually hear God speak. Wonder swirls – what will God say? During those three days, you are told to wash your clothes and remain holy. The leaders build a fence at the foot of the mountain which no one is to touch or go through on pain of death, except for Moses, and eventually Aaron. On the third day, as you and your family gather with the whole company of the Israelites, a rainless storm seems to be sitting on the mountain. Thunder and lightning are accompanied by the sounding of a ram’s horn that is blown like a pleading trumpet. Smoke envelopes the mountain as though from a hot furnace. The loud blast of the horn means Moses is speaking to God. God answers him in thunder as the mountain itself shakes. Honestly, it’s all a bit scary. Finally, the time has come. God addresses you and all the people directly.  

[What follows next are the words recorded in Exodus 20:1-17] 

20:1Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 

4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 

7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 

8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9For six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. 

12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 

13 You shall not murder. 

14 You shall not commit adultery. 

15 You shall not steal. 

16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 

17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. 

Shew! That must have been a powerful moment in history! It remains the only time in the entire biblical story when God speaks out loud to all the people. No wonder that we remember this part of the Exodus story so often. No wonder that posting these words on a flimsy yard sign as an act of pride or protest seems an underwhelming gesture. Posting the ten commandments is not an act of faith. Living them is. 

Despite the way we think of these as “commandments” for all of us, I want you today to take them personally. God said these words to you. You hear them from God. We have come to call them commandments, but I like to think of them as God’s first ten teachings. Hundreds more come after these ten although the rest are mediated by someone else who hears God that we trust to relay the message truthfully. Someone like Moses, or Elijah, or Deborah. Nothing is wrong with calling them “commandments.” I grew up with people who had adopted the description of Exodus 20 as God’s “commandments, not suggestions.” Even as a child, I knew that the people who said this intended to mean that they wanted other people to be commanded to follow them like laws. But the words of God, especially these ten, are always to be freely chosen and never imposed by force of law or threat of penalty. Without a doubt, we definitely need a secular legal law against murder and stealing and lying in court. The other seven, on the other hand, should never be legislated even if I think they should always be followed. Commandment #4 should never become “You must require other people to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Instead, the “you” in each of God’s teachings is singular. “You, Jeffrey, shall not use God’s name for your own purposes.” “You, Jeffrey, shall honor your parents.” “You, Jeffrey, shall not want what other people have.” It does not say, “You shall not let other people make idols, or steal, or lie.” They are God’s words for me to follow, not for me to impose. 

Anyone who claims to follow God as a Christian must take these words personally. They are for me to choose freely, to practice daily, to set as a standard for myself. None of us are holy by association. We are not part of God’s covenant because of our family. Another person cannot maintain my relationship with God. No one else can speak my prayer for me. Others can assist my spiritual journey and guide my understanding and teach me God’s Way, but I am the only one who can choose to live in God’s Way. Yes, we find a sustainable community of goodness and justice when all of us let these words orient our Way of living, but that equity is violated when they are forced on any one of us. Yes, our work for justice and fairness and the ending of oppression sometimes requires us to advocate for the forced change in law or behavior so that others can live free and healthy and whole. But the act of loving and following God is not determined by imposition of community or social requirements. The practice of faith in God is personal. One of the historic Baptist distinctions that I will hold the tightest and longest is religious liberty in its fullest sense. Not only am I able to freely choose to follow Jesus myself, I will advocate for others to have the freedom to choose the same, or another religious faith, or no faith at all with the same freedom and an equal amount of respect and kindness. 

Since we are in the Christian season of Lent, these teachings of God take us back to the basics. Exodus 20 gives us God’s message as both an imperative and in the present. Do this. Don’t do that. On this day and with the opportunities before me and among the people with whom I live, do this, don’t do that. A simple and direct message from God such as Exodus 20 gives us a fertile field from which other seeds of faith grow. This kind of simplicity is part of our Lenten discipline. Just like a baseball team reporting to Spring Training starts with the basics of throwing and hitting, during Lent we are called back to the common and simple acts of faith. Put God first. Yes, we work, and we have children or grandchildren, and we volunteer to help, and we need to exercise and have a hobby that helps de-stress us, and there are books to read and television shows to binge, and viruses to avoid. Lent calls us back to the building blocks that started us on this faith journey – put God first. Before my schedule. Before my stress-relief. Before my political advocacy. Put God first. Many things in our world compete to take the place of God in our life. We think that we worship only one God, but are we more committed to something on our schedule than we are too God? Are we more passionate about our political insightfulness than our religious understanding? Are we more committed to grandchildren or children more than we are committed to God? Do we watch more football on television than time we spend in prayer, worship, and scripture? Do our choices in lifestyle, or how we spend our money, or what we want other people to think of us have more of an influence on our decisions than what is pleasing to God? The answer to these questions are personal. Only you know the truth. During these weeks of Lent, these questions stand before us and require an honest appraisal.  

Barbara Brown Taylor notes that in the Book of Common Prayer, the ten commandments are used in public worship during Lent in a specific way. The people in the church kneel while these verses from Exodus 20 are read. After each commandment, the people respond by saying, “Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.” [from notes written by Barbara Brown Taylor in Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2.] It presents worshippers with a tangible whole-body way to note that failure to follow these teachings is part of our reality, but it serves as a call to forgiveness and restoration rather than scorn and pity. “Lord, have mercy upon us.” Yet worshippers are also given the opportunity to voice a renewed call to obedience — “And incline our hearts to keep this law.” Our past may require mercy, but our present offers us opportunity to practice our faith anew. Lent will not let us forget our failures, but will equip us for obedience today.   

While everyone seems to know the ten commandments, the question of whether I choose to follow them or not is not a given. With these teachings, God is saying “trust me and my commandments. There are other teachings you can follow, but they are not good for you, they don’t honor me, and they likely keep others from living justly in the human community. If you do trust me and my commandments, live them today.” It is that simple, and also that difficult, but it is worth the commitment. 

Prayer of Thanksgiving 
Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow
deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
Gifts of Love Our Lord has Given
Words: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Tune: I WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN

1 Gifts of love our Lord has given, Words of life: “I’m your God!
I have brought you out of Egypt; now I call.
Listen here, listen well:
When you live in gratitude you’ll keep my law.”

2 “Have no other gods before me, says the Lord God Most High.
Don’t choose idols that you worship in God’s place.
Know God’s name, use it well.
Keep the Sabbath for it is God’s gift of grace.”

3 “Honor father, honor mother, and rejoice! God will bless you.
Take no life, for God loves every child on earth.
Celebrate gifts of love;
Take to heart what marriage promises are worth.”

4 “Do not steal from one another, nor speak lies, hurting others;
Do not wish for what your neighbor has in greed.”
Ten great Words, gifts from God,
Help us live in thanks for all we have received.

Sending Out

Listen to the Sending Out and/or read below.

Know that the ever-present mystery we name God
is in your past forgiving you,
in your present loving you,
and in your future meeting you.

And may the blessing of the Source of life, love and hope,
the Word of life, compassion and wisdom
and Breath of life, grace and truth
surround, sustain and surprise you,
this day and all your days. Amen

Blest Be the Tie 
by John Fawcett 

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. 
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements:

  • The words by John Birch are posted on “Prayers for the season of Lent (faithandworship.com).” Accessed February 18, 2021. https://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Lent.htm.
  • The image was retrieved from https://i2.wp.com/www.catholicteacher.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Lent-prayer-service.png?fit=1000%2C667&ssl=1.
  • The Invitation to Worship is offered by Michelle and comes from Jesus Sets the Table, resources by the United Church of Christ, posted on their Worship Ways website.
  • We Will Walk with God is sung by Mindy, accompanied by Kendall on the djembe.
  • The Opening Prayer is offered by Onifer and was written by Moira Laidlaw.
  • Psalm 19 is read by Kendall.
  • Let All Creation Dance and Gifts of Love Our Lord has Given are sung by Mindy, accompanied by Tonya on the piano.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 is read by Mike.
  • The Lenten prayer is offered by Tonya and was posted on the website re:Worship under Lent 3B.
  • The Words of Assurance are offered by Carmen.
  • Oh, Thou My Soul, Forget No More is sung by Ally, Elizabeth, Laura, Tonya, and Mindy, accompanied by Tonya on the piano.
  • The blessing is offered by Tonya and comes from “Words of Dismissal and Benediction | The Billabong.” Accessed February 18, 2021. http://thebillabong.info/lectionary/additional-resources/words-of-dismissal-and-benediction.

    Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

Read Full Post »

God says in Isaiah 58:6-7

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints,
untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
& breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
& bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. (John Birch)

May these 40 days before Easter be a time of spiritual spring cleaning, of removing what hinders and renewing what facilitates our relationships with God, the world, and one another.

The Worship of God for Second Sunday in Lent

Passing the Peace 
Say to one another, “May the peace of Christ be with you.”
And reply, “And, also with you.”

Invitation to Worship
based on Psalm 22

Listen to the invitation and/or read below.

Let us glorify God who created all things,
yet who hears and responds to the cries of the weak and the needy.

We declare the glory of God – ruler over all nations,
whose greatness is revealed in gracious and loving acts.
Let us worship and witness so faithfully
that future generations will believe
and glorify God in their hearts and with their lives.

Let us worship and praise God with thanksgiving in our hearts.

Song of Praise
We Will Walk With God
Words: Eswatini Traditional (trans. J.L. Bell)
Tune: SIZOHAMBA (Eswatini Traditional)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

See-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay,
woh woh woh,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Goom-shlah wen-jah-boo-lah,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

Opening Prayer
Let us pray:

Listen and/or read below and pray along.

We pray, O God, that today will be the time when we hear you and that our hearts will not be hard or cold. We pray rather, that our hearts will be warmed, and our lives energized by your Spirit so that we can worship you with our whole being. Amaze us anew with the faithfulness of Sarah and Abraham and their belief in your staggering promises of a fruitful future. Confront us afresh with wonder at your desire to relate to humanity through a covenant established by you. We worship you, O God, with awe, knowing that you care so much for us – knowledge deepened and confirmed through the bringing into being of a new covenant through the suffering and death of Jesus. Accept, we pray, this worship which comes from thankful hearts, for we offer it in Jesus’ name. Amen

Psalm 22:23-31
Common English Bible

Listen to and/or read the Psalm.

All of you who revere the Lord—praise him!
All of you who are Jacob’s descendants—honor him!
All of you who are all Israel’s offspring—
stand in awe of him!
24 Because he didn’t despise or detest
the suffering of the one who suffered—
he didn’t hide his face from me.
No, he listened when I cried out to him for help.

25 I offer praise in the great congregation
because of you;
I will fulfill my promises
in the presence of those who honor God.
26 Let all those who are suffering eat and be full!
Let all who seek the Lord praise him!
I pray your hearts live forever!
27 Every part of the earth
will remember and come back to the Lord;
every family among all the nations will worship you.
28 Because the right to rule belongs to the Lord,
he rules all nations.
29 Indeed, all the earth’s powerful
will worship him;
all who are descending to the dust
will kneel before him;
my being also lives for him.
30 Future descendants will serve him;
generations to come will be told about my Lord.
31 They will proclaim God’s righteousness
to those not yet born,
telling them what God has done.

Song of Praise
The Living God Be Praised!
Author: Daniel ben Judah
Tune: LEONI

The living God be praised!
Give honor to God’s name,
who was, and is, and is to be,
for-e’re the same;
the one eternal God
before all now appears,
the first, the last, beyond all thought
God’s timeless years!

2 God’s Spirit still flows free,
high surging where it will;
in prophet’s word God spoke of old
and God speaks still.
Established is God’s law
and changeless it shall stand,
inscribed upon the human heart
on sea and land.

3 Eternal life has God
implanted in the soul;
God’s love will be our strength and stay
while ages roll.
The living One be praised!
Give honor to God’s name,
who was, and is, and is to be,
for’e’er the same.

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
New Revised Standard Version

Listen to the scripture being read and/or read below.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”

15God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Lenten Prayer
Let us pray,

Listen and/or read the prayer as we pray.

Gracious God, you reached into Abraham and Sarah’s lives
and asked them to dream the impossible dream –
that you would transform what appears to have been
a barren and lifeless situation into one overflowing with promise and hope –
and, through faith in you, they believed your promises.

Forgive us, O God, if we never get beyond thinking of your call on our lives
as an impossible dream or even as an unwelcome interruption.

Forgive us, O God, when we find it hard even to hear your promises
above commercial assurances of transformation—
tempting us to trust the newest and trendiest product to realize our dreams.

Forgive us, O God, when we allow the power of evil to flourish
because we are afraid of what the cost might be to truly follow and walk with you.

Silent reflection on these words

Gracious and loving God, forgive our lack of trust in you;
Have mercy on us and forgive us.
Help us when we hesitate, and strengthen us when we are weak
Breathe your Spirit afresh into our hearts and minds – our lives -so that we have the courage to follow Jesus wherever he takes us. Amen

Words of Assurance and Hope
God loves us; we do not need to be afraid.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
“Stand up and do not be afraid.”
“You are my friends. I am always with you.”
Amen.

Anthem
Be Still, and Know that I am God
Composer: Carol McClure

Be still, and know that I am God;
Be still, and know that I am God.

Long before you were formed,
Long before you were born,
I knew your face and called you by name;
My love for you is always the same.

Be still, and know that I am God;
Be still, and know that I am God.

You are made in the image of God;
You are redeemed by my love.
You are made in the image of God;
You are redeemed by my love.

Be still, and know that I am God;
Be still, and know that I am God.

Reflection on the Old Testament
Rev. Tonya Vickery

Listen to the reflection and/or read below.

“Faith includes faithfulness, strength of waiting, the acceptance of [God’s] concealment, defiance of history.”

We all have felt the frustrating paradox of on the one hand knowing God’s constant presence and on the other hand, experiencing God’s silence, or rather our inability to hear, see, or feel God.  Sometimes life feels like we are attending a celebration or victory dinner. Like the Israelites, we have been freed from our “Egyptians” and we join Moses in song.
“The LORD is my strength and my might;    
the LORD has become my salvation.
This is my God
  whom I will praise and exalt!” (Exodus 15:2).
But then there are those days when heavy hearts, confused and lost, feeling defeated we sit down with Job and say,
“Look, God passes right by me,
    but I do not see God;
God moves on,
    but I do not perceive.” (Job 9:11)

God is not indifferent to our struggle of knowing God.  As we look for God around us, as we hope to hear God’s voice, as we long to feel God’s holy presence, God is mindful of our quest to find God in our days and in our world. Without a doubt, we need God. But surprisingly God, the Almighty God, needs us too. The story of Abraham and Sarah following on the heels of the story of Noah highlights God’s need for us.

God created this amazing world and God is good. So therefore everything is good because God created it. But the world has fallen short of the glory of God out of which it was created. It’s like paths of darkness have made their way through the world and across our lives. Paths of misery, callousness, and defiance.

These pockets of shadows and darkness where the light of God does not shine, these are not places where God is at home. The Iranian regime made the news Friday. Our nation striking back at them for killing an American contractor who was working for the US government. But take a deeper look into what life is like for Iranians living under this dishonest, fear mongering leaders. It doesn’t take long to run across pictures or stories of Iranian children rummaging through the garbage. They sell the garbage for less than a dollar a day just so their family can buy a loaf of bread for the day. What a miserable life for a child. Misery is not the kind of home which God has created for us.

God isn’t at home with callous attitudes either. We have read about callousness in the hearts of Americans who before the Civil War forcefully separated children from their mothers to sell them as slaves.  What a horrible scene, callous to the cries of the children and their mothers. Such brutal behavior is not the kind of life for which God created us.  But unfortunately we Americans still commit such ironhearted acts. Callous hearts of Americans who forcefully separated children from mothers who were seeking asylum. Who could possibly do such a thing? and receive wages for such soulless actions?  Callous, hard hearts towards others speaks nothing of the way of God. This is not the type of life for which God created us.

And then there’s defiance, defiance by 10% of the world’s population. Ten percent of us make over $38,000 a year and we are the ones heating up the planet. Our refusal or reluctance to make changes or adjustments to our daily living as to cool things down shows how stubborn and self-serving we truly are. Our current lifestyle is set to increase the temperature of the planet at least 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit). It doesn’t sound like a lot. You change the temperature in your house by 5 or 6 degrees, and it’s really no big deal. But when you change the temperature of the planet by 5 degrees Fahrenheit, we won’t be living like we did a couple of years ago.  If you think a pandemic is an interruption to life, what do you think will happen when the earth heats up 5 degrees? Those before us were not aware of the impact of burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, but we are aware. Do you recall the first thing God told humanity to do?  Take care of the earth. We have more understanding and knowledge of how to do that, and how we have harmed the earth. But we are still being pigheaded about making uncomfortable money costing changes. A defiant life is not the way of God.

Last week we read in Genesis that the earth had become a place God didn’t like. Corruption and violence filled the earth. It was not how God envisioned life to be, not for God, not for the earth, and not for people. However, God sees his friend Noah living honorably and righteously among this misery, callousness, and defiance. Genesis says Noah is blameless. So God says to Noah, “Come, walk with me.” And while they are walking together (actually riding safe inside a very large enclosed boat), God brings a flood that destroys everything but Noah and Noah’s family and those animals safe inside the boat.  It was like a tactical rescue mission. Get the good people out and destroy the rest.

That’s how we want to see it done sometimes. God would you just wipe out all corrupt leaders from the world, especially in Iran where children are having to dig through the garbage? Where their lives are hopeless and robbed of the joys of being a child. And while you are at it, just take care of people with callous hearts and defiant self-serving minds however you see fit. Did you notice that we don’t tend to pray that God would wipe out those of us with callous hearts toward caring for others and defiant attitudes towards care for the earth? What do you think God would say to such prayers? Can’t do that Peach. I made a promise a long time ago to never do that again. And it is an everlasting covenant. We remember the promise of God by the bending of light–a rainbow.

But God, the earth, and humanity needed more than just a promise from God that erasure or destruction would not be used against the darkness. God offers more. God invites a family to go out from their country into a new land, to set up house there, and fully live the way of God. It sounds like an escape plan. You know those times when life gets rough and you are like, “I just need to get out of here and move to Norway.”  But this new idea was definitely not an escape. Look at Genesis 17:1. God says to Abram, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.”  Ah, we have already heard that word blameless. Noah was blameless. He lived an honorable and righteous life. We have also already heard that word walk. The change between the two invitations is in the word that come before walk  –  a preposition in the case of Noah becomes an adverb in the life of Abram. The invitation from God to Noah was “Walk with me.” The invitation from God to Abram is “Walk before me.” There is a shift here. There is a purpose to Abram’s walk that goes beyond himself and his family being rescued, saved from the darkness. At first it sounds like God is asking Abram to lead the way for God, as if God didn’t know which way to go. But that’s not what’s intended here. Remove the ideas of competition and ranking. This isn’t about pecking orders or the first one in the line is the best.  Abram coming before God means Abram is to be like a shining light. Abram’s life is to illuminate the presence of God to the world, making more room for God and less room for those dark paths of misery, callousness, and defiance.

The dark paths running across the globe today are not much different from those in the days of Noah. And we know without a shadow of a doubt, that God does not  like such things. Misery, callousness, and defiance are not the ways of God. However, God will not provide an escape route, nor will God wipe out everything that is wrong.  Instead, God asks us to bring the presence of God into the world and into our lives and into the lives of others. The misery, the callousness, and the defiance fade away over time when God is brought into these places. Like Abraham, we are illuminate God’s presence along these paths so the world can know the goodness and love and grace of God.

But, here we are again. Sometimes we see God clearly and we sing at the top of our lungs with Moses. Yes, we can illuminate the presence of God in the world. But there are times when we cannot see God, and we sit alongside Job, wondering. How can we illuminate a presence which we cannot perceive. But even when we cannot see, hear, or feel God, we can still illuminate the presence of God to the world, but it will require us to be faithful to our faith in God. When God seems gone, we must remember that there is nothing closer to us than God. There is nothing closer to you than Almighty God. One bridge to get us over the emptiness is being in awe of God, living every day in awe of God.

We all adore something or someone. I have the pleasure of seeing Millie each Tuesday night on Zoom for Bible study with the young adults. I adore little Millie.  We are all awe struck by something. We watched a documentary on the Grand Canyon Friday night. I can only imagine that if I stood in that deep canyon, I would be awe of such massive colorful walls of rock. So who or what in your life are you in awe of? But turn this question and refine it. What are you in awe of that is worthy of your supreme worship? Now, you can stand outside on a clear night and gaze at the stars above and stand in awe. Nature is full of awestriking things. But we don’t worship nature. We can see those chubby Millie cheeks and we star struck, but we don’t worship Millie. Instead infants, nature, and the vastness of the universe create an awe within  us which illuminates for us the works of the Creator God and our hearts are pointed to God.  These things nurture within us the awe of God Almighty!

If you want to increase your awe of God, start by asking yourself this question: what is God’s relationship with humanity?  The biblical stories of Noah and Abraham and Sarah reveal this relationship more and more. What is God’s relationship with you?  Your presence in this world is not a mistake or a chance happening. Always remember that God is unwilling to be alone, and God has chosen, not just Noah, not just Sarah and Abraham, but God has chosen to share life with us, with you. Faith in God is our response to God choosing us.  Faith in God may begin with a decision or a desire. But when we nurture our faith in the living God with awe, that faith grows.

As we work to diminish and eradicate misery, callousness, and defiance in the world, deepen your sense of the mystery of God. Realize that faith is not just a belief, but faith is an act. Faith in the living God is the core of who you are, what you do, how you think about things, what you love. Faith is not an achievement, but it is a way of life. And it is something that has to be worked at, nurtured, tended to. Faith requires faithfulness, what Abraham Heschel called “strength of waiting.” Our active living faith in the living active God reveals God’s presence to the world. So like Abraham, walk before God don’t promise escape routes or destruction of evil or easy answers, but walk before God, illuminating God by your life to everyone that God is here with us always.

Prayer of Thanksgiving 
Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow
deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
Put All Your Trust in God
Author: Paul Gerhardt; trans. John Wesley; ad. by Tonya Vickery
Tune: ST THOMAS (Williams)

1 Put all your trust in God,
in duty’s path go on;
walk in God’s strength with faith and hope,
so will your work be done.

2 Commit your ways to God,
your works into God’s hands,
and rest on God’s unchanging word,
who heaven and earth commands.

3 Though years on years roll on,
God’s covenant endures;
though clouds and darkness hide God’s path,
the promised grace is sure.

4 Give to the wind your fears;
hope, and be undismayed:
God sees your heart and feels your pain;
and hears the words you’ve prayed.

5 Through waves and clouds and storms
our God will clear the way:
expect to see the darkest night
become the brightest day.

Sending Out

Listen to and/or read the sending out.

Know that the ever-present mystery we name God
is in your past forgiving you,
in your present loving you,
and in your future meeting you.

And may the blessing of the Source of life, love and hope,
the Word of life, compassion and wisdom
and Breath of life, grace and truth
surround, sustain and surprise you,
this day and all your days. Amen

Blest Be the Tie 
by John Fawcett 

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. 
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements:

Read Full Post »

God says in Isaiah 58:6-7

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints,
untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
& breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
& bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. (John Birch)

May these 40 days before Easter be a time of spiritual spring cleaning, of removing what hinders and renewing what facilitates our relationships with God, the world, and one another.

The Worship of God for First Sunday in Lent

Passing the Peace 
Say to one another, “May the peace of Christ be with you.”
And reply, “And, also with you.”

Invitation to Worship
Listen to the invitation and/or read below.

God does not remember us
according to our sins and wrongdoing.
God remembers us
according to God’s own compassion and faithful love!
God teaches us God’s paths
and leads us in God’s truth.
God saves us.
We put our hope in God all day long!

Opening Prayer
Listen to the prayer and pray along, or offer your own prayer to God.

Creator God
the sun, moon, and stars
shower us with light
yet clouds form and vanish
the earth turns
and the light changes

Redeeming God, you are the true light
constant, never dimming
stable, never wavering
anchored, never shifting
eternal, never ceasing

Sustaining God
shower us with your light
shatter the darkness
clear the clouds
sharpen our vision
so we might see and live
so as to love you better
and live for your glory.
Amen.

Song of Praise
We Will Walk With God
Words: Eswatini Traditional (trans. J.L. Bell)
Tune: SIZOHAMBA (Eswatini Traditional)

Here are the lyrics in Swazi:
Sizohamba naye
wo wo wo,
Sizohamba naye. (Repeat)

Ngomhla wenjabula
sizohamba naye. (Repeat)

“Sizohamba naye” means “We will go with him.”
and “Ngomhla wenjabulameans “On a happy day.”


Now, here is how to pronounce the Swazi words:
See-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay,
woh woh woh,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay.

Ngahm-hlah wen-jah-boo-lah,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay


Listen, sing along, and smile!

Sizohamba naye
wo wo wo,
Sizohamba naye. (Repeat)

Ngomhla wenjabula
sizohamba naye. (Repeat)

We will walk with God, my brothers,
we will walk with God.
We will walk with God, my sisters,
we will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
till the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

Psalm 25:1-10
Common English Bible
Listen to the Psalm and/or read below.

I offer my life to you, Lord.
2 My God, I trust you.
Please don’t let me be put to shame!
Don’t let my enemies rejoice over me!
3 For that matter,
don’t let anyone who hopes in you
be put to shame;
instead, let those who are treacherous without excuse be put to shame.

4 Make your ways known to me, Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth—teach it to me—
because you are the God who saves me.
I put my hope in you all day long.
6 Lord, remember your compassion and faithful love—
they are forever!
7 But don’t remember the sins of my youth or my wrongdoing.
Remember me only according to your faithful love
for the sake of your goodness, Lord.

8 The Lord is good and does the right thing;
he teaches sinners which way they should go.
9 God guides the weak to justice,
teaching them his way.
10 All the Lord’s paths are loving and faithful
for those who keep his covenant and laws.

Song of Praise
My Soul in Stillness Waits
Author: Marty Haugen
Tune: O LORD OF LIGHT, OUR ONLY HOPE OF GLORY

For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits,
Truly my hope is in you.

O Lord of Light, our only hope of glory,
Your radiance shines in all who look to you,
Come, light the hearts of all in dark and shadow. (Refrain)

O Spring of Joy, rain down upon our spirits,
Our thirsty hearts are yearning for your Word,
Come, make us whole, be comfort to our hearts. (Refrain)

O Root of Life, implant your seed within us,
And in your advent draw us all to you,
Our hope reborn in dying and in rising. (Refrain)

O Key of Knowledge, guide us in our pilgrimage,
We ever seek, yet unfulfilled remain,
Open to us the pathway of your peace. (Refrain)

Come, let us bow before the God who made us,
let every heart be opened to the Lord,
for we are all the people of God’s hand. (Refrain)

Here we shall meet the maker of the heavens,
Creator of the mountains and the seas,
Lord of the stars, and present to us no. (Refrain)

Lenten Prayer
Listen to the prayer and pray along, or offer your own prayer to God.

Let us pray,

God, we have fallen short of the life you created for us.
We may confess to you what we have or have not done,
but we don’t take responsibility.
Instead we believe it isn’t our fault
or we couldn’t have done anything different.
On the other hand,
sometime we only apologize when everyone else does the same.

But you are God.
You know us better than we know ourselves.
So instead of saying to you,
“I’m sorry” or “I apologize” or “I regret.”
we humble ourselves and ask,

Reveal to us, God
the extent of what we have done.

Provoke us, God
until we understand the hurt.

Inspire us, God
to see how it’s possible
to live by your principles.

Transform us, God
holding us tight until we believe
in fresh starts
and the value of trying again.

silent prayer and meditation

Words of Assurance and Hope
God loves us.
We do not need to be afraid.
Jesus said,
“I am the light of the world.”
“Stand up and do not be afraid.”
“You are my friends. I am always with you.”
Amen.

Anthem
Steal Away
Arranger: Malcolm Archer
Tune: Traditional

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus.
Steal away, steal away home, I ain’t got long to stay here.

My Lord, he calls me, he calls me by the thunder;
The trumpet sounds within-a my soul;
I ain’t got long to stay here.

Green trees a-bending, poor sinner stands a-trembling;
The trumpet sounds within-a my soul;
I ain’t got long to stay here.

Genesis 9:8-17
Common English Bible
Listen to the scripture and/or read below.

God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “I am now setting up my covenant with you, with your descendants, 10 and with every living being with you—with the birds, with the large animals, and with all the animals of the earth, leaving the ark with you. 11 I will set up my covenant with you so that never again will all life be cut off by floodwaters. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12 God said, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I am drawing up between me and you and every living thing with you, on behalf of every future generation. 13 I have placed my bow in the clouds; it will be the symbol of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember the covenant between me and you and every living being among all the creatures. Floodwaters will never again destroy all creatures. 16 The bow will be in the clouds, and upon seeing it I will remember the enduring covenant between God and every living being of all the earth’s creatures.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I have set up between me and all creatures on earth.”

Reflection
Rev. Jeffrey Vickery
Listen to the reflection and/or read below

The season of Lent began a few days ago on Ash Wednesday. I have come to think of these seven weeks leading up to Easter as unique. The Christian observance of Lent is unlike the hopeful anticipation and joy of Christmas, or the glory and praise of Easter. Lent asks us to focus on the limits of our humanity, but not in a way that is hurtful, shameful, or false. During this season, our faith draws us into a healthy and honest appraisal of ourselves, without tearing us down or beating us up.  Every year as the winter landscape turns grey and brown and cold, Lent hands us a mirror into which we see ourselves honestly. Far too often someone else has told us what we see in that mirror, and they use their words that they have presumed are God’s words to describe what they see – harmful words that paint much too dire a picture of God’s children made in God’s image. Pastors and preachers and parents and partners have all pronounced us – totally depraved, sinful from birth, incapable of love, bound to original sin and thus incapable of goodness. In short, they have told us we are hell-bound and are deserving of its punishment. These are not the intentions of the season of Lent. Now is not the time to be scared into heaven, or reprimanded for our human limitations, or led to believe bad theology based upon old patriarchal idealism that demeans being human.  

The season of Lent is, instead, a reminder that we are God’s children, created in God’s image, yet not God ourselves. We don’t live forever. We can’t do anything we want. We do have the ability to practice self-discipline, or seek to follow God in humility, or show the grace of gentleness, or celebrate the gift of knowing we are limited.  

Lent calls us to a re-discovery of the basic truth of our humanity: we are not God, and we are not evil.  As God’s good creation we hold a balance between these two poles. We are not God and we are not evil. And yet we often find ourselves pulled toward one or the other of these two extremes. When we manipulate and threaten and control others to our benefit we are presuming that we are the human extension of God’s authority and we have the right to command others. When we live as though we are the ultimate reality of life, as though all others revolve around us, as though we are deserving of all that is right and good beyond what others should have or receive, we are claiming ourselves nearly divine. Likewise, when we pity ourselves, underestimate our goodness, sweep aside the necessity of our life as part of God’s will in the world, we push away from the inspired goodness of the life God has given us.  Lent is a season to bring our humanity into its center, balanced between the temptation to act as though we are God and the fall into a misappropriated view of human sin. We are not God and we should stop acting like it. We are not evil, and we should let our goodness lead us into a right relationship with God and others. For the next seven weeks, we are called to return to this human center.  

Our story this morning comes from the end of the story of Noah. Although we sanitize this biblical masterpiece with cute pairs of our favorite animals and cheery rainbows that decorate our minds, in many ways the story of Noah is problematic. God looks at people and feels regret. That’s not the kind of assessment I want God to pronounce over me. Yet in Noah’s day the intent of people had turned to something other than goodness, or holiness, or righteousness. When the Noah story begins in Genesis 6, we are not given a description of what the people are doing wrong, only a clear declaration from God that their thoughts and intentions were only on sin. As Genesis 6:4 says, “… humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and … every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil.” And so one answer … destroy all creation. Maybe I should end that sentence with a question mark. Destroy all creation? I told you it was problematic. It’s also no surprise that some people read this story as an example of what God is secretly planning for us: create them, regret having created them, and then kill them all. But don’t be misled. That’s not the point of the Noah story.  

Like other stories in Genesis, these stories are intended to communicate a certain meaning rather than facts. I’m certain that a major destructive flood did in fact effect a widespread area of the ancient Middle East. The Egyptians, Sumerians, and Akkadians (just to name a few) all had a story of an epic flood that involved their god. Some remarkable flood did in fact rain upon that part of the Earth at some point in history. At the same time, the parts of the story that are exaggerated are in fact used to make a point rather than to be taken literally. No, not “every kind of animal” was on the ark. No, the waters did not cover all the mountains on all the earth with 23 feet of water. No, not every single living creature on Earth was killed by this one flood. These exaggerations are used to highlight the meaning of the story, not the details. If we use this story as a prop for the kind of fundamentalism that must have a literal interpretation of every word of the Bible, then we will miss the meaning of it. More directly, when the Noah story becomes a bit player in the argument for creationism against evolution, it runs the risk of completely misunderstanding the biblical intent and ends up using it to argue for something that the Bible never intended. We must consider both what the story says and what it means, and do so in a way consistent with its original message and God’s divine nature. 

I don’t claim to have all the insight into the Noah story, but on this Sunday in Lent, I find these three meanings in Genesis that I think are worth our prayerful consideration. 

First, the most important meaning is found in the overall movement of the story. Through Noah, his family, the animals, and the flood, God un-creates Eden, preserves a faithful remnant of that original creation, and re-establishes the world with a new covenant. More succinctly, God’s purposes are always to create, re-create, and restore relationships with humanity. While the flood story follows this pattern, so does an individual human life. We are born, but not in Eden. We are pronounced as “very good” (see Genesis 1:31) when we are created by God and born.  Yet we all lose our sinless created state. We all choose disobedience at some point. The end of the story could simply be destruction. God could become angry and just kill us when we sin. But the biblical story of God’s relationship with humanity is not “be perfect or be killed.” Story after story in the Bible shows that God’s intent is to create, forgive, and restore – to create, forgive, and restore – and then to do it again – create, forgive, and restore.  Noah’s story uses water as a central character in the story to illustrate this idea. What begins as a means of destruction (the flood waters) becomes transformed from a vehicle for death into an image of birth (as in the issuing of water from a mother’s womb before a baby is born). We humans are re-born by God through the water. God gives birth to us again. This mothering of God that brings us into life and also re-creates our life is consistently present in the biblical stories. There’s no “three strikes and you’re out” with God. When Jesus said to “forgive seventy times seven” times, he was asking us to treat each other with the kind of patient forgiveness that God extends. The real surprise in the Noah story may not be enormity of the flood, but that God does not give up on us. In fact, when humans were at their worst in all of human history, God continues to give life.   

Second, Another crucial meaning I find in the Noah story is that all creation is affected by human sin. Not just the people who were continually evil, but the animals and the Earth is affected by the flood in Genesis. In a more positive perspective, not just eight humans were saved on the ark, so was creation – bird and animal, domestic and wild. It is not difficult, then, to come to the conclusion that this story tells us that all creation is loved by God, and the consequences of human sin take a toll on the non-human created world as well. If human thoughts are always evil, then we will exercise that same evil in our relationships with the environment, with animals, with creation as a whole. It seems to me that when Christians take the Noah story seriously alongside our insistent confession that God is Creator of all, then Christianity will be at the forefront of helping the Earth heal from a century of human sinful action against it. It is without a doubt that we are at a tipping point in the human destruction of creation. By one estimate, we are down to nine years’ time in which we must re-program our human sin against of creation before its doom (our doom) is assured. It’s not a stretch, then, to say that our relationship with God’s creation has been sinful, and it must become a central understanding of our faith that the restoration of creation is a matter of faith in God and love for God’s gift of life. Honestly, I think we’re passed the time in which theological “problems” like original sin, or speaking in tongues, or biblical inerrancy take priority. If Christians ignore the detrimental effects we continue to have on God’s creation, then we risk violating God’s law in ways that we willfully ignore. If we don’t repent of our ravaging of the environment during Lent, in this year, on this day, then we risk continuing the evil that seeks to undo God’s goodness in creation.  

Third, and finally, the Noah story reminds us that God is in power, but we are responsible. God determines life and death and life again, and those things are beyond us. Yet the Noah story insists that we are responsible for how we live our life, we are called to a goodness that is within our capacity to achieve, we are responsible for the welfare of both the human community and the created world around us. Upon leaving the ark, God makes a new covenant with Noah. God willingly doubles-down on the commitment to sustain human life. Never again will this kind of destruction and flood come our way. Again, like the other portions of the Noah story, it is rich with meaning even if not literal. It means that we can read this new covenant as God’s unwillingness to give up on human goodness despite any past human evil. In popular lingo, it’s time to pull ourselves up by our own boot straps and rise to the moment. God continues to have confidence in our ability to respond and re-enliven our world. God’s not going to magically heal creation for us. God’s not going to unilaterally bring about a healthy human community on our behalf. God’s not going to impose God’s will on our social or political or economic systems and resolve the injustices of our society. We must do these things, and we must do them as part of God’s calling to live in God’s Way. And, we can have the confidence that God thinks we are capable of peaceful, holy, righteous, equitable living. Go and populate the Earth, God says to Noah at the end of the flood. What does God say to us? The same thing. Go and populate the Earth, with justice and mercy.  

Just maybe we come to the end of the Noah story, and we can still ooh and aah when we see a rainbow, but also begin to see the colors in the sky as a calling to take responsibility for a just and merciful Earth in a way that brings life to all. And we can do so, as God’s good creation who have been created, re-created, and restored to what God intends for us all. 

Prayer of Thanksgiving 
Thank you, God for constant love.
Please help our church family grow
deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
Shades of purple, shades of blue
Text: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Tune: DIX (Konker)

Shades of purple, shades of blue, green and yellow, orange, red —
Noah and his family, too, saw the rainbow overhead.
God, Creator, high above you displayed your sign of love.

Soon new life was springing forth, filling land and sea and air.
God, you chose to bless the earth with the promise of your care —
And your promised love extends far beyond our human friends.

In the rainbow, you were clear: every living thing has worth.
You love every creature here on this planet we call Earth.
God, forgive when we destroy gifts from you that bring you joy.

May your church begin to see in that rainbow high above:
We are daily called to be stewards of this world you love.
Since the earth is dear to you, may we treat it kindly, too.

Blessing
Listen to the blessing and/or read below.

Know that the ever-present mystery we name God
is in your past forgiving you,
in your present loving you,
and in your future meeting you.

And may the blessing of the Source of life, love and hope,
the Word of life, compassion and wisdom
and Breath of life, grace and truth
surround, sustain and surprise you,
this day and all your days. Amen

Blest Be the Tie 
by John Fawcett 

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. 
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements:

  • The words by John Birch are posted on “Prayers for the season of Lent (faithandworship.com).” Accessed February 18, 2021. https://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Lent.htm.
  • The image was retrieved from https://i2.wp.com/www.catholicteacher.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Lent-prayer-service.png?fit=1000%2C667&ssl=1.
  • The call to worship and opening prayer were written by Tonya based on Psalm 25 and James 1:17 respectively. The call to worship is read by Tyler and the opening prayer is offered by Kendall.
  • The first song of praise is sung by Mindy, accompanied by Kendall on the djembe.
  • Psalm 25 is read by Laura.
  • The second song of praise is sung by Mindy; accompanied by Tonya on the piano, Michelle on the guitar, and Emily on the oboe.
  • The Lenten prayer was written and is read by Tonya who adapted it from a prayer written by Katherine Fox, “It’s easy to say sorry,” Ruth Burgess, ed., Spring: Liturgical Resources for February, March, and April, Wild Goose Publications, a division of the Iona Community, copyright 2019.
  • Steal Away is sung by Ally, Elizabeth, Laura, Michelle, Mindy, and Tonya.
  • Shades of purple, shades of blue is played by Tracy on the organ and sung by Mindy.
  • The blessing is offered by Jeffrey and comes from “Words of Dismissal and Benediction | The Billabong.” Accessed February 18, 2021. http://thebillabong.info/lectionary/additional-resources/words-of-dismissal-and-benediction.

    Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: