Worship Resources for February 25, 2024—Second Sunday in Lent

Revised Common Lectionary: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38 or Mark 9:2-9

Narrative Lectionary: Bartimaeus Healed, Mark 10:32-52 (Psalm 34:11-14)

During Lent, the selection from the Hebrew scriptures focuses on the covenants of God. This week’s reading tells of the covenant of God with Abram and Sarai, who are given new names: Abraham and Sarah. God promises they will be ancestors of a multitude of nations, with kings as their descendants. God’s covenant is not only with the two of them, but with all generations descending from them, who will be known as God’s people. God promises that they will have a son, securing their own immediate future and needs for passing on inheritance, but that generations and kings will be descended from Sarah.

The portion of Psalm 22:23-31 is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God who has responded. God answered the psalmist’s cry, and the psalmist calls the congregation to praise God. God remembers the poor and all those on the margins at the ends of the earth. All the families of the nations will praise God, for God is the one who is sovereign over all nations. Future generations, even those yet to be born, will be told about what God has done for them.

Romans 4:13-25 contains Paul’s argument that it is not the law that brings faith. Abraham was the ancestor of all nations, and it was his faith that was reckoned to him as righteousness, not the acts of the law. The law does not bring faith, Paul argues, so for Jewish Christians it is faith in Jesus that saves, not adherence to the law. This same faith is available for Gentiles without living under the law, for those who believe that Jesus is raised from the dead, for Christ was raised for the justification of all.

The first selection for the Gospel reading is Mark 8:31-38, part of the Narrative Lectionary reading two weeks ago on February 11th. This is the pivotal moment in the Gospel of Mark (from here through the Transfiguration in Mark 9:2-9). Before this, in Mark’s account, Jesus did not speak about his suffering and death and resurrection—this is the first time he did so, and he did so very openly. And Peter was horrified by it, so much that he pulled Jesus aside to rebuke him. However, Jesus rebuked Peter and called him Satan, a stumbling block fixed on human things and not on the divine. Jesus further instructed the crowd how to be his disciples: to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. This is the moment when Jesus turns toward Jerusalem, and began to teach what it really meant to follow him, but the disciples did not fully understand.

The second selection for the Gospel lesson is the Transfiguration, Mark 9:2-9, which was the Gospel reading on February 11th. Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the mountain. The mountain in this passage is similar to crossing the Jordan in the 2 Kings passage: they have passed into a space where both the spiritual and physical world are present. Suddenly, Jesus’s clothes become dazzling white as he is transfigured before them, and they see Moses and Elijah talking with him. Peter, who previously had the right answers before he rebuked Jesus, also gets this one wrong: he wants to make dwellings for the three of them, tents to signify that all three were divine (the Common English Bible uses the word “shrines” here to get the point across of what Peter was trying to do). At this moment, a cloud overshadows them, and tells them, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” The only other time we hear that voice is at Jesus’s baptism. Then suddenly, only Jesus is left with them. In verse 9, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about what they have seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. Peter, and perhaps the other disciples, truly did not understand what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Whatever they had imagined, it wasn’t a Savior who openly talked about suffering and death. It wasn’t about giving up everything to follow him. And for a brief moment on the mountain, perhaps they thought they could still have their own vision of what a Messiah, or Messiahs, could be.

The Narrative Lectionary turns to the story of Bartimaeus healed by Jesus in Mark 10:32-52, but there is a lot that happens before they find Bartimaeus on their way out of Jericho. In 32-34, Jesus again told of his upcoming suffering and death. The first time Jesus spoke of his suffering and death Peter tried to talk him out of it. This time, James and John ignored the suffering and death and focused only on the coming kingdom, not understanding that they also would suffer. The other disciples were upset about James and John’s request, and Jesus reminded them that they didn’t know what they were asking for. Jesus then taught the disciples that they were not like the Gentiles around them who lorded their power over others, but that whoever wished to become great must become a servant, as Jesus came to serve all.

When the disciples and Jesus passed through Jericho, they encountered Bartimaeus on their way out. He was a blind beggar and began shouting at Jesus, calling him the Son of David and to have mercy on him. Even though others ordered him to keep his mouth shut, he kept calling out to Jesus, and Jesus then called out to him. Jesus asked him what he wanted, and the man said he wanted to see again. Jesus told him to go, for his faith had made him well, and the man regained his sight. In this story, Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted—he didn’t presume—and he answered Bartimaeus’s call with a call of his own. When we call out to God, God hears us, and calls to us to follow.

The supplementary verses are Psalm 34:11-14, in which the psalmist gives instructions similar to the Proverbs. Learn how to be in awe of God. Don’t speak evil, don’t tell lies or falsehoods. Leave behind evil and pursue peace.

What does it mean to trust in God’s ways? Abraham and Sarah had to wait a long time, and even though God promised them they would be the ancestors of a multitude, they still had to wait for one baby boy to be born, long after they hoped for him. Peter wanted to trust Jesus but thought in that moment, when Jesus spoke of his death for the first time, that Jesus must be wrong. Peter had the audacity to try to call out Jesus on it, but Jesus instead called him Satan, the one who had set his mind on human ways and not on God’s ways. Paul spoke to the church in Rome that God’s ways were about faith, trust in God, pursuing God, and that the law was not necessary for that. The psalmist reminds us that trust in God is a pursuit of God’s ways of peace and justice, of giving thanks for all God has done for us and resting in the assurance of what God will do. We are called to deny ourselves—our own selfish desires, safety and security, wealth and power, the assurance of this world—and take up our cross. Put to death what holds us back, what makes us try to trust the world’s ways that will continue to fail us—and instead, put our trust in God and the assurance that God will continue to be with us, and will continue to fulfill the promises of old.

Call to Worship
We are in it for the long haul,
Our God is an everlasting God.
From the beginning to the end, Alpha and Omega,
We know that God is with us, now and always.
When life is difficult, we know God’s presence through the love of one another,
Trust in God and lean into the love of your neighbors.
Focus your hearts and minds in this time of worship,
For in all things and all times, we shall praise the Lord our God!

Prayer of Invocation
Gracious and loving God, You are slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. We have joined our hearts in this time of worship, for we remember all You have done for us and all You will continue to do. In this time and space, quiet our minds, slow our hearts, and remind us that You are with us, now and always. We give this time and space to be reminded of Your love and grace given to us, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Timeless One, we are so focused on the short-term that we forget You have carried our ancestors and You carry us. We are focused on the next election, the next paycheck, the next shoe to drop. We are afraid of the unknown and yet You have not abandoned us. You call us back to You, time and again. May we hear Your call in our hearts to turn away from the fleeting satisfaction of worldly wealth and gain. May we be moved by Your call to work for justice and peace beyond today but also for future generations. May we be driven by You to care for Your earth that You entrusted to us. Call us to listen and feel where You are nudging us to move and act in ways that build up Your reign on earth, a reign that is eternal. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
You are beloved by God, and that love is eternal. There is nothing you can do, no place you can go, where God’s love cannot find you. You are God’s child. Go and share the good news with others, in word and deed. Amen.

Creator of the Stars, You made us out of stardust. You are the one who knits us whole when we unravel. You are the one who carefully shapes us back together when we fall apart. You are the One who makes all things new, and You are continuing to remake us into vessels of Your love. There is so much heaviness among us: climate change, politics, education, war, genocide, fear, and so much pain. Remind us that we do Your work when we love one another, when we care for the most vulnerable in our society. Keep us to Your ways of reparation and restoration, and no matter how difficult it gets, keep encouraging us to do better. For You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.

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