3rd Sunday in Lent, March 20, 2022

Lectionary Texts

Today’s scriptures speak of repentance, and hunger for God’s grace.

Isaiah 55.1-9 calls us to repentance, to stop working for “what is not bread:” what does not nourish our souls. God says, “My ways are not your ways.” We need to change our ways, not to avoid punishment, but because our sin is starving us, while God’s ways truly nourish us.

Psalm 63 confesses, “My soul thirsts for you,” and also rejoices: “My soul is feasted when I think of you.”

1 Corinthians 10.1-13
warns that simply “being a Christian” will not satisfy our hunger and thirst for righteousness, any more than simply being with Moses and eating the divinely provided food was enough to save the Hebrews on the way to the Promised Land. We have to truly change our ways.

In Luke 13.1-9 Jesus opposes the belief that God punishes sinners with suffering. God is like a patient gardener who will give an unfruitful tree another year to produce. God does not punish sin, Jesus says, but gives life. Since it is God who gives life, unless we repent, that is, turn to God, we will perish. To bear fruit, first we ourselves need to be nourished.

Guiding Thoughts

The difference between an image of God as a law-giver and God as a life-giver is huge. Jesus seems to strongly prefer the image of God as a life-giver. (He quotes Amos: “I desire mercy, not sacrifices.”) The law-giver demands obedience, and reward or punishes our performance. It’s a relationship based on demand and fear. The life-giver certainly wants us to love one another (as described in God’s laws) but our love is a fruit of our being loved. It’s a relationship of gratitude and trust. God’s response to our disobedience is not punishment but more love, until we bear fruit. Repentance is a matter of allowing God to love us out of our sinful ways.

Call to Worship

1.
Leader: Creator God, we come before you in humility and awe.
All: You receive us with love; you bless us with grace.
Loving Christ, you invite us to your table. We come with hunger and gratitude.
You welcome us gently; you feed us abundantly.
Holy Spirit, you work in us to re-shape us according to your will.
We open our hearts to your gracious work.


2. [Adapted from Psalm 63… also, obviously, it may be used for the Psalm reading]

Leader: O God, you are my God. I seek you. My soul thirsts for you.
All: My flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land without water.
So I gaze at your glory, your presence in every moment.
Your steadfast love is better than life. This is what I hunger for.
My soul feasts on you as on a rich banquet, a divine dessert.
I meditate on you all day, and in the dark hours of night.
I will bless you as long as I live.
Your strong hand upholds me.
My soul clings to you, and my lips will praise you.
In the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
Because your steadfast love is better than life
I will sing for joy.


3. [Based on Isaiah 55.1-3]
Leader: Listen! You who are thirsty, come to the waters!
You that have no money, come, take, and eat!
All: We have spent our money on that which is not bread,
and labored for that which does not satisfy.
Listen carefully to God, and you’ll have good nourishment.
You’ll delight yourselves in God’s gourmet fare.
We come to you, God. We are listening.
Hungry for grace, we gladly receive your Word that gives us life.


4.
Leader: O Holy Love, food of our souls, living spring of the water of life,
we worship you.
All: Our souls thirst for your presence; and we hunger for your grace.
O Christ, Bread of Life, sown and harvested, blessed and broken for us,
we thank you.
You have nourished our spirits and renewed our strength.
Our souls have feasted on your love.
O Holy Spirit, wine of new life, we have drunk deeply of your grace,
and we come to receive again.
Our cups overflow with your presence.
Fill us, become us, and transform us. Amen.


5.
Leader: Creator God, you made us, and you are with us in every breath.
All: We worship you, and open our hearts to you.
Jesus, you heal us and teach us, you change us and you love us.
We thank you, and we sing your praise.
Holy Spirit, you give us new hearts and fill us with the power of your love.
Create in us a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right Spirit within us. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, you call us to repentance: you offer us love we decline to receive and fail to share with others. Help us reclaim your love in our hearts. By your loving spirit re-shape us as vessels of your love. You are the vinedresser; we are your vine. In the Spirit of Christ, speak to us and make us new. Amen.

2.
God of grace, we are hungry for your presence and thirsty for your Word. Yet you are present with us always, and speaking to us in the silence. Open our hearts to you now, that we may behold you, that we may hear you, that we may know your life-giving grace. Amen.

3.
God of love, we are hungry for your Word, thirsting for your grace as in a dry and weary land. Speak your Word to us, your Word of life that cleanses us, renews us, and sets us free. Speak your Word in which you give yourself to us. Speak your Word that gives us back ourselves, radiant with your love. Speak to us; for we are hungry and thirsty for you. Amen.

4.
God, we do not live by bread alone, but by the Word that comes from you. We are hungry for your Word. We are thirsty for your peace. Speak to us, nourish our souls, and revive us with your love. Grant us grace and wisdom. Our hears are open. Amen.

5.
Loving God, our hearts grow hard so easily. We forget you, and we care about lots of things other than you. Our hearts fill up with fear instead of trust and selfish desires instead of compassion. So change our hearts. Speak your Word to us that changes our hearts into hearts of love. We pray in the name of Jesus, who is with us, and in the power of your Spirit, who is within us. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

1.
Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of gentle mercy,
we confess our sin,
for even the brokenness we don’t see
keeps us from loving perfectly.
Forgive us, God; in your infinite grace forgive us;
receive us, heal us,
and give us new life.

Silent prayer … The Word of Grace

2.
Pastor: The grace of God is with you.
Congregation: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
God of love, help us to see ourselves with the eyes of love.
By your grace we look at all in us that bears good fruit, and we give thanks.
…[Silent reflection]…
God of love, we thank you for your grace
We behold what in us does not bear the fruit of love.
Dig around the roots of our hearts, God,
and perfect your love in us.
…[Silent reflection]… THE WORD OF GRACE

3.
Life-Giving God, we have spent our lives on that which does not feed our souls,
and labored for that which is not life.
We have starved ourselves and others of your love.
We open ourselves to your presence, your forgiveness and your love.
Feed us life, that we may truly live,
and bear the fruits of your grace.

4.
Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Loving God, you alone are our life.
But we have not rooted ourselves in you,
and so our souls are hungry; our lives dry and thirsty.
We confess our hunger, and we return to you.
Forgive us, feed us, and grant us life in the flowing stream of your grace. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Our souls are rooted in you, O God.
Dig as you will; expose what you must,
prune what you must.
Feed the soil of our souls.
Let the power of your grace
flow up through our roots
and bear fruit in our love.


Eucharistic Prayer

[Go here for musical responses to the Eucharistic prayer—Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen—set to familiar tunes suitable for Lent.

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively by the pastor and congregation or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Holy One, our lives are rooted in you, and we give you thanks.
We hunger for life; and often look in the wrong places,
but you feed us what nourishes our souls.
So we come to your table, hungry, and glad,
singing your praise with all Creation.

     (Sanctus)

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who has fed us the bread of life,
who has dug, even with painful strokes,
at the roots of our hearts,
to nourish us that we may bear fruit.
Even as he faced his death at the hands of our injustice
he offered only life.

     (The Blessing and Covenant) *
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore with him we offer ourselves
as we proclaim the mystery at the heart of our faith:
     (Memorial Acclamation)

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
rooted in you,
nourished by your Spirit,
and bearing the fruit of your love
for the sake of the healing of the world.
(Amen.)

____________
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.


Prayer of Dedication / Sending

God of mercy, root us in your grace; send the energy of your love through us that we may bear the fruit of your love in our lives, that by your grace all the world may feast on your goodness. Send us, as we pray in the name and the spirit and the companionship of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

By Your Grace (Tune: What Wondrous Love Is This)

What wondrous love is this O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
That you so freely give the bread by which we live,
that you revive our soul, by your Word, by your Word,
and by your life in us make us whole.

Our lives we give to you, by your grace, by your grace,
our lives we give to you, by your grace.
Lord, use the gifts we give to help your children live,
that all may come and feast by your grace, by your grace,
the greatest and the least, by your grace.


Return, My Soul (Tune: Finlandia)

Return, my soul, from all your hungry wandering,
your fearful search for comfort and control.
Let go my grasp of things apart from God,
for God alone can heal and hold my soul.
Return to God, for God alone will love me,
and give me life, and bless and make me whole.

Return, my soul, from all the things that dull me,
that soothe my sense, but leave my sin in place.
My broken heart, return from tricks and bargains;
turn to the One who meets me face to face.
Return to God. Each moment turn again;
receive unending love and life and grace.

I turn, O God, to you who love with patience.
You walk beside me, though I cannot see.
You are my life in dry and weary deserts,
my spring of life that flows eternally.
I turn to you, from false desire and grasping,
and letting go, I find that you hold me.


Vine and Branches (Original song)
[In Lent you should omit the final verse, “Alleluia.”]

You are the vine and we are your branches,
one with your life and rooted in your heart.
Flowing with grace, with life you fill us,
strengthened that nothing can break us apart.

You are the vine and we are your branches.
Deep in our hearts your life is flowing through.
Rooted in you, we grow and flourish.
You live within us, and we live in you.

You are the vine and we are your branches.
One common blood flows though all of our veins.
We all are part of one another.
We all are branches of one living vine.

You are the vine and we are your branches,
flowing with power greater than our own,
bearing your fruit to all Creation,
till all the seeds of your love have been sown.


You are the soil (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)
[Includes a communion hymn suitable either as a free-standing song
or as Eucharistic Prayer Responses]

God, Holy Presence, source of life and blessing,
you are the soil and we the seed.
By your indwelling grace, we die in your embrace;
you raise us up and we are freed.

Jesus, Beloved One, healer, teacher, guide and friend,
in you we come to die and rise:
buried like seeds in earth, given new, gracious birth,
with your love shining in our eyes.

Spirit, let old forms die. From your soil let new life rise.
From broken seeds bring forth new shoots.
In us let your life grow; not ours but yours will flow,
that we may bear the Spirit’s fruits.