Lent 2

February 25, 2024

Lectionary Texts

Genesis 17. 1-7, 15-16 — God makes a covenant with Abram and Sarai, a promise of offspring and land.

Psalm 22. 23-31
— God tended to me in my affliction. The poor shall eat and be satisfied.

Romans 4. 13-25 —Abraham was considered “righteous” by trusting the promise. Our righteousness is a gift of God’s grace; we see it in the resurrection.

Mark 8. 31-38 — Jesus predicts he will be killed, and Peter objects. “Take up your cross and follow. Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose it will save it.”

Preaching Thoughts

Today’s scriptures continue the theme of trusting in God’s promises.

 God’s covenant makes Abram and Sarai new people, so they receive new names: Abraham and Sarah. Repentance isn’t just shedding bad habits. It’s opening ourselves to God’s promises, which changes our lives as much as having a baby does. Repentance isn’t as much like becoming a new person as it is discovering the real person that’s inside of us already—like a miraculous child within Sarai.

    “Dominion belongs to God. To God, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down” (v. 29). You can take this in a triumphalist way: everybody on earth will convert to our religion. Or you can take it in a more inclusive way: everyone in the world belongs to God and receives God’s blessings.

Abraham was considered “righteous” not by being law-abiding, but simply by trusting God’s promise. Our righteousness is not a matter of believing the right things or being theologically or morally correct, but trusting in God’s grace. It’s not about us being good, it’s about surrendering our lives to God’s goodness.

Jesus’s “passion prediction” isn’t necessarily knowing the future. Jesus knows how things work, how power represses resistance, how evil fights back against good. He sees who has power, who’s threatened, who is against him. It doesn’t take a seer to know what’s happening.
    Jesus’ rebuke of Peter isn’t merely that Peter is disagreeing with Jesus, or contradicting “God’s plan,” but that Peter is thinking life is something we cling to rather than something we give away. “Divine things” is not God’s intent to get Jesus killed. It’s grace. It’s the miraculous gospel that when we give our lives away in love God gives us new life. You ”lose” your self-centered, self-enclosed life, and are given life as a part of God’s infinite life, what Paul will come to call the Body of Christ. The little, ego-driven self thinks of it as loss… but the result is life—“and abundantly.”
      What Jesus means by taking up our cross is being willing to suffer for the sake of love. It’s not a nuisance. It’s not all about unpleasantness. We trivialize it when we treat it like that: enduring an unpleasant uncle is “your cross to bear.” Bearing the cross certainly involves suffering, but it’s not just taking on suffering for the sake of being miserable or winning piety points. It’s entering into the suffering of others for the sake of healing, justice reconciliation, or even simply accompaniment. And because it’s an act of love it is therefore a joy. Because, remember it’s not really your cross: it’s Jesus’, and he’s carrying it with you. What better thing, even if it’s painful, than to be side by side with Jesus? “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus says to Julian of Norwich, “Lo, how I loved thee!… And now is all my bitter pain and all my hard travail turned to endless joy and bliss to me and to thee…. If I might suffer more, I would suffer more.” To avoid pain and suffering is the task of what Jesus says to Peter is “human things,” what Paul calls “life according to the flesh.” To love, even at the cost of pain, is what Jesus calls “divine things,” what Paul calls “living in the Spirit.” Death on the cross of love is the doorway to the resurrection to Real Life, infinite life, eternal life. So even the suffering of the cross is joy.
      Ponder “gaining the world and forfeiting your life.” How do we trade away life in God for the sake of worldly “profit?” When do we choose reputation over love, or comfort over justice, or riches over relationship? Life is more than financial security or even biological survival. It’s relationship with others and with God.
      Jesus comment about the Son of Man being ashamed of those who are ashamed of him sounds like a writer’s addition to Jesus’ words. Jesus did not trade in shame. He also seemed to be OK with people not agreeing with him, not following him, not seeing things his way. I don’t think Jesus was preparing to judge humankind. I think he was just trying to teach people to trust God and love.

Call to Worship

Leader: God of mercy, you hear the cries of the afflicted.
All: God of love, you hear the voice of our pain.
You save us, and we praise you.
You bless us, and we worship you.
By the mystery of the cross you are with us in our suffering.
Redeem us, and bring us to life.

Leader: God of infinite love, you have suffered in Christ for our sake.
All: This is a mystery!
You have suffered because you love us.
This is a gift!
You call us to take up our cross and follow Jesus,
to enter into the suffering of the world.
This is our calling!
But to follow, we need you.
So we come to you, to give thanks,
to pray, and to worship. Bless us with your grace. Amen.

Leader: We are gathered in the grace of God.
All: Holy One, hold us in your love.
We journey with Jesus toward the cross.
Beloved, sustain us with your love.
We lay down our lives and follow.
Holy Spirit, fill us with your love. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Gracious and loving God, we want to follow Jesus. So we open our hearts to your living Word, that it will bless us and change us, and draw us closer to you, to our neighbors, and to all Creation. We pray in the name and the company of Jesus. Amen.

Loving God, your passion for the world is infinite. Jesus bore the cross in the power of your love, and calls us to do the same. Be our faith and courage; be our love. Speak to us, we who cling to life, and call us to life. Amen.

Gentle God, Christ did not cling to his status, but emptied himself and became humbly obedient, even to the point of death on a cross, so that we might have life. Therefore you have highly exalted him, that everyone should honor him. Grant that in gratitude for his grace we may humble ourselves, become obedient, and take up our cross for your sake and for the sake of the Good News, to your glory. Amen.

God of our lives, we are hungry for your Word. We cling to many things that do not give us life. Feed us the Word that gives us life. Help us to follow Jesus. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

Christ, you who bear the cross,
you share our suffering in love.
You draw near to us in our struggles.
We open our hearts to you,
that your love may become ours.

Prayer of Confession

God of love, in the mercy of Christ, who dies on the cross of our sin, yet forgives,you receive our whole lives with grace.Forgive what is hurtful, heal what is fearful,and redeem us in the power of your Spirit.

Gracious God
our sins are too heavy to carry,
too real to hide, and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name,
what our hearts no longer can bear,
and what has become for us
a consuming fire of judgment.
Set us free from a past we cannot change;
open us to a future in which we can be changed;
and grant us grace to grow more and more
into your likeness and image;
through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

Gentle God, we confess that we have not loved you wholly, nor have we loved our neighbors as ourselves. We confess our lack of compassion, our assent to violence and injustice, as individuals and as a nation, and we humbly repent. For our rebelliousness and our pride we ask your forgiveness. Forgive our sin, O God, change our hearts, and renew us in your Spirit, to live in the spirit of your love alone.

The grace of God is with you.And
also with you.
Christ bids us to take up our cross and follow him. Yet we assert our own will, and go our own way. In the Spirit of Christ, we return to God, confess our sin, and open our hearts to be transformed, that we may follow Christ in the Way of the Cross.
God of mercy, we confess that we have not loved you out of our whole heart and soul, our understanding and our actions. Nor have we loved our neighbors as ourselves. Heal our broken hearts, forgive our sin, and make us new, so that we might do your will alone.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

Leader: Eternal and almighty God, creator of the universe, we worship you.
All: You are infinite in Being. Your glory is beyond our words.
Yet in Christ you have come to us in love, as a humble servant.
In tender compassion, you have suffered for us. We thank you.
In Christ you have called us to follow, in love for one another.
Grant us your Spirit, that with Christ
we may truly love you with all our heart, mind, soul and strength,
and love our neighbors as ourselves.

May we serve you with courage, trust and hope.
Spirit of life, transform us by your grace. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

In your Love, a song, below, may serve as a musical Eucharistic Prayer.

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
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.

We thank you, God, for you create life,
life that is not mere existence, but life in you.
You create us in your image and put your Spirit within us.
By the power of life-over-against-death
you confront the powers of evil, and set us free.
Because we betray our true life in you
you send us Jesus, to show us your love.

So in gratitude we sing with all of Creation:
            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name, and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He loved and taught, he created a community of the outcast,
and he touched those who were in pain.
He shared our suffering so that we might share in your grace.
He called us to take up our cross,
to be willing to suffer for love.
In this meal we behold the mystery of the gospel:
when we surrender our lives in love you give us new lives.
In this meal Jesus gives himself for us,
and in that love, though he died, he lives on.

[ 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, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, that we may be the Body of Christ,
broken for the world in love.
Give us courage to enter the suffering of the world with Christ,
trusting in your Resurrection.
By your grace may we lose our lives in love,
serving the world in the name of Christ, and receive eternal life
in the power of your Spirit, to your eternal glory.

     [Spoken or sung]

* 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 / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Our lives are taken up into the life of Christ, crucified and risen. No longer alone, no longer afraid, we are one in Christ. May we take up our cross and follow, for the healing of the world. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have filled us with the love by which Jesus bore the cross. Send us into the world with your compassion for those who suffer, in the name of Christ and the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) In laying down his life, Christ has given us life. Filled now with his spirit, may we go forth to lay down our lives for the sake of your good news, so that, dying and rising with him, we may know eternal life. For the sake of the redemption of the world, send us forth in the name of Christ, and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) You have poured out your life for us, and we have received. Grant that we may pour out our lives for the world, knowing by your grace we will receive life. Send us, accompany us and guide us, in the name of Christ and the life-giving power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

                               Brief (repeatable) prayer songs

Kyrie, Six Versions (All original tunes. Some are part of Eucharistic settings.)
     Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.
          (Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.)

The Jesus Prayer     (Original song)
       Jesus, Beloved of God, have mercy on me, for I need you.

God, Be Merciful to Me (Original song)
        God, be merciful to me.
        With empty hands and open
        I turn to you for mercy.

Eucharistic Responses
(Eleven sets of Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen set to the tunes of familiar hymns appropriate for Lent. Two of them also include “table songs” of invitation/preparation for communion.)

Table Song: Feed Us Your Grace (Tune: Finlandia)
          (Can be found in Table Songs, songs of invitation and preparation for Communion.)

You call us, Christ, to take our cross and follow,
but first you bring us here to feast with you.
Our gifts we bring, to celebrate your loving.
Our lives we give, to die and rise anew.
Feed us your grace, your spirit of compassion;
make us your body now, your will to do.

                                  Regular Songs

Christ in Your Pain (Original song)

Christ, in your pain for the world, we are healed.
       May our hearts be yours.
Christ, in our pain for the world, we are one.
       Grant your Spirit, Lord.
Christ, in your pain for the world we are saved.
       May your heart be ours.

I Take Up My Cross (Original song)

Letting go, I am held. I take up my cross and follow.

1. Jesus, you call to me, and draw me into your life.
2. Christ, I leave all behind, to follow you in love.
3. I yield my life to you, for you alone are God.
4. Loved with your costly love, I’ll suffer for the sake of love.
5. Christ, make my one desire to be to serve you in love.

In Your Love        (Tune: What Wondrous Love)
[May serve as a Eucharistic prayer]

Our thanks we give to you, holy God, Loving One.
All earth and heaven shine with your love.
You form us wonderfully, and love us faithfully,
and come and set us free by your love, by your love.
Hosanna, God on high, Loving One!

How blest is Christ, who comes in your name, in your love,
who blessed and taught and healed in your love.
In love your Christ has died, is risen at our side,
and still will come again in your love, in your love,
and Christ will come again in your love.

Pour out your Spirit, God, on this bread, on this wine:
for they are Christ made real in your love.
Make us the Body, too, of Christ, now sent from you,
that we your will may do in your love, in your love.
We offer you our lives in your love.

Into the Darkness (Original song)

Only the seed that has died and is buried
lives to bear fruit, Jesus said.
Lead me then into the darkness and dying,
so you can raise me up from the dead.
Jesus, help me die and rise.

All of my living, my loves and desires,
all of the things that I cling to,
now I surrender to die and be buried.
Raise me in following, serving you.
Jesus, help me die and rise.

Lead me to truth and have mercy and wash me
deep in the dark of my being,
a spirit like bread that is taken and broken:
this is the death that is freeing.
Jesus, help me die and rise.

Give me a clean heart, a heart pure in spirit,
willing and steadfast and made new.
My life I lose; let your cross lift me up now.
One joy restore to me: life in you.
Jesus, help me die and rise.

O Jesus, Wounded Sovereign
(Tune: O Sacred Head Now Wounded)

Dear Jesus, you who suffer and walk among the poor
whose hearts and lives are broken, whose faith is still unsure:
despised, accused and battered, you do not say a word.
So powerless, yet loving!— you are my Sovereign Lord.

You bear no arms but loving, no threats nor flags unfurled.
You wear no kingly robes, but the sorrows of the world.
Yet your forgiveness conquers each worldly rule and reign,
and rises, whole, undaunted, from evil, death and pain.

While emperors abuse you, and people shrug or stare,
and dark injustice troubles the ones for whom you care,
your mighty grace arises, and hidden from our sight,
enfolds all living beings in your triumphant light.

O Jesus, wounded Sovereign, I pray, give me the nerve
without this world’s armor to love and bless and serve.
My master and companion, rule all eternity
with grace and deep compassion, and, Love, begin with me.

Your Healing Cross       (Tune: The River Is Wide)

Dear gentle Christ, in love you died;
for us you wept, were crucified.
and, through your pain, the blood they drew,
we see the love that carried you.

And so for you, we gladly live,
our love, our hearts we freely give.
We neither fear despair nor death,
but trust your grace in every breath.

As one with you who died and rose,
we give our hearts and hands to those
who suffer need, or pain or loss;
in love we bear your healing cross.

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