Worship Resources for April 28, 2024—Fifth Sunday of Easter

A note on Rev-o-lution:

After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.

I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. Thank you for all your kind words.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:25-31; 1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8

Narrative Lectionary: Church at Corinth, Acts 18:1-4, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 (Mark 9:34-35)

In this season of Easter, we continue to read from the book of Acts in lieu of the Hebrew Scriptures lesson. Philip, one of the disciples, was told by an angel to go south of Jerusalem. On the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, he met a court official of the queen of Ethiopia, who was a eunuch. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home, reading from the prophet Isaiah. There were non-Jews who believed there was one God, and who read and studied the scriptures. Non-Jews were allowed to worship in the outer court of the temple, but not all were able to convert. A eunuch would have been prevented by tradition. Instead, Philip explained the passage of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:7-8 and interpreted it through the lens of Jesus. When they found water near the road, the eunuch asked Philip what was preventing him from being baptized, and Philip baptized him. The eunuch was one of the first converts, and church tradition holds he was the first missionary to Africa.

(We must understand that Jewish tradition has long interpreted the Suffering Servant passages of Isaiah as referring to the people of Israel and their suffering in exile. Early Christians, who were Jewish, resonated with those passages because of what they had witnessed Jesus experience in his death on the cross. We can hold both interpretations as Christians, in our struggle to understand Jesus’ suffering, as the people of Israel were challenged to find meaning in their suffering, as long as we do not erase the experience of the Jewish people.)

The end portion of Psalm 22, a prayer for help, turns to praise in verses 25-31. God has remained faithful despite the hardships the psalmist has faced, and the psalmist calls upon the people to praise God, vowing to declare God’s goodness before the congregation. God is the one who has dominion over all the nations, over the earth. Even the dead are part of God’s congregation of praise, and those living shall live for God, even the generations yet to come.

The writer of 1 John declares that God is love in 1 John 4:7-21. If you know love, you know God, and if you do not love, you do not know God. God’s love was revealed through God’s Son, and he has called us to love one another. No one has seen God, but we know God through the love we have for one another—that is how God is made known to us. We love because God first loved us. “Fear has to do with punishment” the writer declares, but love casts away fear. There is no fear in love. Note that this is not the same use of “fear” as often in used in the term “fear of God,” for that word fear in the Hebrew scriptures might be better translated as “trembling awe.” Perfect love from God as known through Jesus is not about a fear of hell or punishment, but instead mirroring the image of God’s love in us. If we do not love our neighbors, we do not love God, for this is God’s commandment through Christ. If we cannot love those we have seen (or known by other senses), we cannot love God whom we have never seen.

Jesus uses the example of being a vine and we are the vine branches in John 15:1-8. God is the vine-grower, and through Christ we are called to bear fruit. We cannot bear fruit if we do not abide in the true vine, which is Jesus. Branches that do not bear fruit are useless. We must live out our faith, otherwise, we are useless branches.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the church in Corinth. In Luke’s account in Acts 18:1-4, Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish exiles from Rome, and he stayed with them. The three of them, by trade, were tentmakers. While Paul stayed with them, he would argue in the synagogue, testifying before Jews and Greeks.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he addresses the conflict that he has heard about in 1 Corinthians 10:1-18. The church has fractured, with some claiming to follow Paul, others claiming to follow Apollos, others Peter, and still others Christ. Paul stated that Christ sent him to proclaim the gospel, the message of the cross of Christ. Paul urged the church that there be no divisions among them. No one was baptized in the name of Paul, but all belong to Christ, and that is the gospel he preaches.

In the supplementary verses of Mark 9:34-35, Jesus overheard the disciples arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus declared that whoever wanted to be first must be last of all and servant of all.

How does fear hold us back? Philip could have used fear as a reason not to help the stranger he met on the road, but instead, he listened to the Holy Spirit and went to the Ethiopian Eunuch’s chariot and answered his questions. Fear could have kept the foreign traveler from asking Philip his questions, and instead, he boldly suggests he be baptized. The psalmist is not afraid to declare what God will do for “generations yet unborn,” though the singer knows not what the future holds. Fear can keep us from loving our neighbors, our siblings, but the early Christian writers knew that love is stronger than fear, greater than death. Fear can divide us into us and them, but as Jesus reminds the disciples, we are stronger together, as branches of the vine. We belong to one another.

Call to Worship (1 John 4:7-9, 13)
Beloved, let us love one another,
Because love is from God;
Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way:
God sent the only Son into the world so that we might live through Christ.
By this we know that we abide in God and God in us,
Because God has given us the Spirit.
Let us love one another and join in worship of our God,
For God is love.

Prayer of Invocation
Gardening God, cultivate in us a sprit of openness in this time of worship. Help us to till the soil of our hearts, to dig deep into Your scriptures, to nourish our bodies and spirits with song and praise. Help us to love one another more fully, and to bear spiritual fruit, for You are the vine, and we are the branches, and in You will live, grow, and have the fullness of life. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Awesome God, we confess that we have allowed fear to rule our lives. We have allowed fear to keep us from loving our neighbors who are different than us. We have allowed fear to close our doors, our hearts, our minds. But You are Perfect Love, and You cast out all fear. Help us to let go of what holds us back and to be open to Your Spirit, to love freely, and to love deeply. We know that our hearts may be broken, but help us anyway to love those most in need, the most vulnerable, and guide us into ways of love and care that help heal our brokenness. In the name of Christ, the One who laid down his life for us because he loved us so much, we pray all things. Amen.

We come together with grateful hearts, remembering all that Christ has done for us, and knowing we can never repay that kind of love, except in how we love one another. So share God’s love. Share God’s peace. Share God’s joy, and know that own love, peace, and joy in your heart. You are forgiven, loved, and restored. Amen.

Mystery of Mysteries, help us to seek Your wisdom by living into Your truth, and Your truth is found in the love we have for one another. May our love be fearless. May our love be without judgment. May our love call us into Your ways of justice, Your ways of practicing kindness, and Your ways of building peace. Mystery of Mysteries, we only know You in a glimpse; but we know You most fully in the abiding love we have for one another, a love that comes only from You, who gave Your life for us. Amen.

Worship Resources for April 21, 2024—Fourth Sunday of Easter, Earth Sunday

A note on Rev-o-lution:

As I shared in previous posts, I will stop posting new weekly content on Pentecost (May 19, 2024). I have been posting on this site for over 13 years, and almost seventeen years counting my old Blogger site.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Narrative Lectionary: Church at Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-9, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (Mark 13:9-11)

The selection in Acts is a continuation of the same story from last Sunday. Peter and John, after healing a man who used to beg at the temple gate, and after speaking to the people at Solomon’s Portico on the east side of the temple after that miracle, were arrested and held until the next day. They came before the high priest and his family and questioned them about the healing miracle. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke to all assembled, recognizing that he and John were arrested because they did something good. He answered their question about the power behind the miracle: the man who used to beg stood before them was healed by the name of Jesus Christ, the one crucified and now raised from the dead. Peter concluded with quoting Psalm 118:22, which Jesus quoted when he was questioned in the temple, and Peter declared salvation is found in no other name.

The shepherd’s psalm of Psalm 23 has long been attributed to David and understood as a song of comfort in the face of death. God is the shepherd who leads the faithful, the sheep, to safety and security, restoring those who are downtrodden. Even in the face of death (the valley of the shadow), the shepherd comforts the sheep, their rod and staff are there for protection and assurance. Switching metaphors, the psalmist understands God as the one who justifies those who have been wronged, preparing a banquet table and anointing the faithful before their enemies. The psalm concludes with a blessing of goodness and mercy for all the life of the faithful, and that they will live with God forever. This psalm might also be used for Earth Sunday, in thinking of the Good Shepherd and how God cares for all of creation and provides for us good, green spaces and still, clean water.

This section of 1 John 3:16-24 echoes John 15:12-13, that one who loves lays down their life for their friends. There is no greater love than this, for Christ laid down his life for us. Love must be lived out, to meet the needs of others. Lived-out love is greater than words. Our hearts will let us know when we’ve let down one another, but God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. God will forgive us and restore us to the work of loving one another. For the commandment that the faithful must obey is to believe in Jesus Christ, and to love one another.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd in John 10:11-18, the one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired hand runs away when the wolf comes, but the Good Shepherd cares for the sheep and knows them. The Good Shepherd knows there are sheep not of this fold but will bring them together (alluding to Gentiles). In John’s account, no one has the power to take Jesus’ life—only Jesus has the power to give it up, and Jesus does so by laying down his life for all, so that life may be taken up again.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the church in Thessalonica. In Acts 17:1-9, Luke gives the account of Paul and Silas arriving in Thessalonica and speaking in a synagogue there, taking three weeks (three Sabbath days) to argue and explain his belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Some Greeks, especially women in leadership, began to also listen to Paul and Silas. Some of the leaders went to arrest Paul and Silas, but couldn’t find them. Instead, they took Jason into custody, who had been Paul and Silas’ host. The accusation from the leaders was that Paul and Silas were trying to get people to worship another king (other than Caesar) named Jesus, but the city officials took bail from Jason and others and let them go.

Paul’s own words share greetings to the church in Thessalonica and how the church responded to him in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. This letter is considered by scholars to be the earliest letter of Paul, therefore, the oldest part of the New Testament. The church in Thessalonica had a special place in Paul’s heart because of how they took on the message of Christ that Paul shared with them, and they became an example to believers in the surrounding areas. The believers nearby heard how the Thessalonians turned away from idols and began to worship the living and true God, and wait for the return of Christ.

In the supplementary verses of Mark 13:9-11, Jesus foretells that the apostles will face persecution and be turned over to the local authorities. They will be beaten and abused, but they are not to worry about being put on trial—God will be with them, and will speak through them, as they proclaim the gospel.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, our Cornerstone, the one who watches over us and who is our foundation in faith. Jesus has shown us all the Way, the Truth, and the Life—to love one another as he has loved us. There is no greater love than this. Jesus has laid down his life for us, and calls us to listen to his voice and follow him. The ways of the world humanity has made will lead us astray. The ways of this world are power and greed. The ways of this world can buy out the hired hand, but no one can pay the price that Jesus paid.

On this Earth Sunday, we look at all that God has provided us, the sheep of God’s hand, and that God is the Good Shepherd. God cares for us as a shepherd cares for their sheep—providing all the good things of the earth for us. We are called upon to care for the earth the way God has cared for us, and to love one another as God has loved us. We love one another by making sure there is enough for everyone, by not overusing the good earth’s resources and ensuring clean water and enough food for future generations.

Call to Worship
The call of Christ is this:
Love one another.
The law and the prophets teach this:
Love one another.
The world calls us to fulfill our desires;
Christ commands us to love one another.
We do this best not in word or speech,
But in truth and action.
Beloved, let us love one another,
For Christ first loved us.
Come, worship God, who is Love.

Prayer of Invocation
Creator God, we give You thanks for all You have provided us: the good green earth, the crisp, clear waters, the bright, clean air. You have made everything for us and all of creation. Guide us in this time of worship to have full and grateful hearts, to be generous in remembering all You have done for us and given to us. May we give back of what we have received in word, service, and deed. May we be good stewards of all You’ve given us, and be filled in this space with Your holy presence. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Gentle Shepherd, we confess we have gone astray. We have followed the hired hands. We have listened to the silver tongues that have promised us wealth and power. We have ignored the needs of our fellow sheep and certainly the sheep that know Your voice in far-off places. Call us back from the paths that lead to ruin. Call us back to Your green pastures and still waters. Journey with us in the valley of the shadow of death, steering us away from the dead-ends of this world’s many paths, and instead into the way that leads to life in You. In the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (1 John 3:21-24)
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from God whatever we ask, because we obey God’s commandments and do what pleases God. And this is God’s commandment, that we should believe in the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as Christ has commanded us. All who obey God’s commandments abide in God, and God abides in them. And by this we know that God abides in us, by the Spirit that Christ has given us.

Beloved, know that You are God’s precious child. God loves you madly. When you seek forgiveness from God, know that You are forgiven. Know the ways in which you have wronged others; seek forgiveness, and work to repair and restore. Forgive those who have done the same things as you. Know Christ’s love is here to mend you, to make you new, for you are a new creation in Christ. Everything old has passed away; everything has become new. Go in peace. Amen.

Loving One, we know that Your promise of resurrection is always around us, in the leaves and seeds falling to death, and bulbs and shoots sprouting into life. You gave us this awe-inspiring earth and entrusted it to our care. Remind us to put Your love first and foremost, a love that seeks to bless and build and create rather than break down and destroy. Call us into accountability for care of Your beautiful earth and for all our neighbors, including all the creatures and plants of the wondrous world. Help us to pause now and then in amazement of all You have made, and all You continue to do, and lead us in ways to participate in care of Your creation. For You are our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Amen.

Worship Resources beyond Rev-o-lution

As I hang up my hat blogging on Rev-o-lution at least weekly after May 19, (I’ll keep this site up for some time for you to access the archives), here are some other writers with fresher words than mine:

Katy Stenta, katyandtheword.com

Dana Cassell: Dana, Defrocked danacassell.substack.com

Illuminations: cliffwoodorganic.com/illuminations/

I also highly recommend Rev. Wil Gafney, Ph.D and her incredible work A Women’s Lectionary For the Whole Church. Years W, A, and B are available now and Year C will arrive in the summer of 2024. On her website are additional prayers and resources. wilgafney.com/womenslectionary/

Have any other sites you like to use? Comment and I’ll add them!

Worship Resources for April 14, 2024—Third Sunday of Easter

A note on Rev-o-lution:

As I shared in previous posts, I will stop posting new weekly content on Pentecost (May 19, 2024). I have been posting on this site for over 13 years, and almost seventeen years counting my old Blogger site.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

Narrative Lectionary: Beautiful Gate, Acts 3:1-10 (Mark 6:53-56)

For the Revised Common Lectionary in the season of Easter, in lieu of a Hebrew Bible lesson we read passages from Acts. The lesson of Acts 3:12-19 takes place right after the Narrative Lectionary lesson in Acts 3:1-10, so we’ll start there for background information. At the beginning of this chapter, soon after Pentecost, Peter and John were going to the temple at the hour of the afternoon prayer and encountered a man who couldn’t walk from birth being carried in. He would beg from the temple gates every day, because in that time, if you were disabled, the only way you could survive was to beg. However, Peter called out to the man and told him to look at him and John, then told him in the name of Jesus to stand up and walk. The man leaped up, praising God, and all the people recognized him and were amazed. In vs. 12, Peter addressed the people, declaring they didn’t heal the man, but it was Jesus. He continues sharing that Jesus was the servant of the God of their ancestors, the very one rejected by the people and crucified by Pilate, while a true criminal was released. Peter assures the crowd that they can repent and turn to God so their sins may be wiped away, for God fulfilled what had been foretold through the prophets about the Messiah, according to Peter.

The psalmist cries out for God to answer their prayer in Psalm 4. The psalmist addresses the ones who have spoken against them, who have gossiped and lied. God is with the faithful, the psalmist sings, and God hears the psalmist’s prayers. They instruct their enemies to turn to God’s ways instead. The psalmist knows that the faithless are still seeking, but as a faithful one, the psalmist rests assured in God’s presence and safety.

The writer of 1 John speaks of the love God has for all of us who are faithful, all of us called children of God in 3:1-7. We are God’s children now, but are to become something new, something yet to be revealed. We live into this hope, so we live into God’s ways. Everyone who lives into God’s ways is righteous, for that is right-living. Sin, however, deceives us, leading us astray; but in Christ there is no sin, for Christ removes our sin. Instead, we are called to flee from sin, and live into God’s ways.

The resurrection account continues in Luke in 24:36b-48. Jesus appeared before the disciples, and they were frightened. Jesus shows them his hands and feet (similar to John 20:19-31). The disciples, while full of joy, continue to struggle with their doubts and disbelief, but Jesus asks them for something to eat, and has some broiled fish (similar to John 21). Repeating the discourse with the two travelers on the road to Emmaus in 24:13-35, Jesus goes through the scriptures with the disciples, to understand that the Messiah was to suffer and die, and on the third day rise again. The disciples are witnesses of his death and resurrection, and the proclamation of repentance of forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name. They are called to go forth from Jerusalem to proclaim what they have seen and heard.

(The Narrative Lectionary focuses on Acts 3:1-10—see above).

The supplementary verses for the Narrative Lectionary are Mark 6:53-56. After Jesus had fed five thousand d people, and then appeared to the disciples later walking on water, they crossed over the lake to Gennesaret. There, the people recognized Jesus and the whole region brought those who were sick for him to heal. Wherever he went, people begged that they might even touch the fringe of his cloak to be healed, as the woman who hemorrhaged for twelve years did so in 5:24-34.

Resurrection is new life that begins now. When we read the scriptures of the miraculous healings we must be mindful that the worldview of the first century and our worldview now are quite different. The spiritual world was seen alongside the physical world, and therefore physical ailments were often given spiritual characteristics. We now know so much more about biology, and our worldview has changed. But we can understand that Jesus, and those who followed him, desired a full life, much as anyone desires a full life here and now. Jesus, and Peter and John, in their acts of healing restored people to society, to living a full life where they would have been excluded for their disability or illness. We ought to understand healing as restoration, and that we can participate in restoration in the work of disability justice, accessibility, and inclusion. Where do we make assumptions about what people can and cannot do, instead of asking the questions of what someone needs for accessibility and what do we need to do for inclusion?

We are witnesses of a resurrected Jesus who has all his scars, whom his own disciples doubt and disbelieve when he is actually among them. How often do we talk about disabled people as if they are not already in the room with us? The miracles can happen when we look at people and actually see them—their whole selves—accept them, and work to include them in all aspects of our lives, including leadership.

Call to Worship (from 1 John 3:1-2)
See what love our Beloved Parent has given us,
That we should be called children of God, for this is who we are.
The reason the world does not know us,
Is that it did not know God.
Beloved, we are God’s children now.
What we will be has not yet been revealed.
What we do know is this: when Christ is revealed, we will be like Christ,
For we will see Christ as he is.
Join together as the body of Christ in worship,
For we are God’s children: beloved, and still coming into who we are.

Prayer of Invocation
We open our hearts to You, O God, and invite Your presence to be made known to us. We open our minds to You, O God, and ask that You transform us. We open our lives to You, O God, and ask that You guide us on this journey of faith. We open ourselves to You, O God, as the body of Christ, that You may live, move, and be among us, Your beloved children. We welcome You in this time of worship. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Risen Savior, we confess that we live as if You are not among us now. We do not see Your face in those we pass by on the street. We do not see You amongst the rubble and ruins of war. We do not see You in those who beg of us. We do not see You in those we have left out, unintentionally or intentionally. We have failed to remember that when we care for the most vulnerable among us, we are caring for You. We have made You into our own image, instead of seeing Your image reflected among the ones most in need. Call us into accountability. Guide us into repentance and reparation. Help us to seek restoration and forgiveness for where we have failed, so that we might live into Your kin-dom here on earth as it is in heaven. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (Psalm 4:3-5)
But know that the LORD has set apart the faithful for God’s self; the LORD hears when I call to God. When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.

God hears our prayers, and God restores our souls. God will renew your spirit when you turn back to God, and will give you the strength you need for the journey of faith. You are not alone. Put your trust in the Lord, and God will make themself known to you. Go forth with this good news. Amen.

God of rain and sunshine, sand and mud, You made everything with a purpose, including us. Help us to remember Your intention for us was to be fruitful upon this earth, to care for all of creation the way You care for us. May our actions bear fruit, our words build up, our lives bring hope. May we remember Your intention for us in all we say and do. Guide us into ways of living that are more sustainable and restorative, instead of being seduced by convenience and speed. Help us not to be reckless with Your gift of life but to honor and treasure all You have made for us. Lead us into Your ways of love not only for our human neighbors but for all of creation, to love this good earth You made for us, and to care for it as if it were our own body, for You commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Keep us to Your created intention for us from the very beginning, to be Your children. Amen.

Worship Resources for April 7, 2024—Second Sunday of Easter

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Narrative Lectionary: You Shall Be My Witnesses, Acts 1:1-14 (Mark 6:7-13)

A note on Rev-o-lution:

As I shared in previous posts, I will stop posting new weekly content on Pentecost (May 16, 2024). I have been posting on this site for over 13 years, and almost seventeen years counting my old Blogger site.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

During the season of Easter, the Revised Common Lectionary uses selections from the Acts of the Apostles instead of the Hebrew Scripture reading. The early church, in the days after Pentecost, came together through the Holy Spirit and shared all that they had. Reflecting Acts 2:42-47, the early believers brought everything they had to hold in common, not claiming private ownership of anything. No one went hungry or in need, because everyone cared for each other. This sense of communal responsibility, however, was short lived. In the following chapter, two early leaders held back some of their property and lied about it, and Paul wrote to the church in Corinth because of the abuses at the Lord’s table, where some feasted and some went hungry. Nonetheless, in this season of Easter, we cling to the hope of new life now, and that we always have the opportunity to live into the reign of God here on earth.

Psalm 133 is a brief psalm, perhaps shared at a wedding: a blessing when family comes together and lives in harmony. It is like an anointing from God, the way the priest Aaron was anointed with oil, or the way God refreshes the hillsides with dew. When family joins together and lives in unity, it is a blessing ordained by God.

The letter of 1 John begins with the writer’s intentions: to testify to the life revealed in Jesus Christ. From the same community as the author of John’s gospel account, the writer uses the same imagery as John’s gospel in identifying Jesus and God with light. The writer addresses their audience by beginning with confession: we cannot be in community with one another when we participate in sin. If we say we are without sin, we are deceiving ourselves. Instead, if we come before Christ and confess our sins, we will receive forgiveness. For Jesus came as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, and we have an advocate in Christ and in God our heavenly parent.

John’s account of the resurrection continues in 20:19-31. On the evening of the same day that the tomb was found empty, the disciples had gathered together in fear of some of the religious leaders (we must be careful to read and interpret John’s account, knowing that the disciples, Jesus, and the writer of John were all Jewish as well). Jesus appeared before them, the first appearance to the disciples after the resurrection besides Mary—except Thomas wasn’t with them. It’s important to follow Thomas’ story. Back in chapter 11, he is ready to go to Jerusalem to die with Jesus. However, by chapter 14, Thomas is unsure of what Jesus is saying. When Jesus tells them they know the way, Thomas argues they do not know the way. Jesus then tells them that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Thomas started off as a strong, faithful disciple, but grew uncertain and questioned what Jesus said. And it’s only after a second appearance that Thomas believes. Jesus then declares that those who have not seen but have come to believe are blessed—an indication to the reader/listener who has not seen the risen Christ that it is more blessed to believe without seeing.

The Narrative Lectionary follows Acts with the account of Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1:1-14. Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, who hoped that Jesus might tell them when the kingdom would be restored to Israel. Jesus tells them this is not for them to know, but only God knows. Instead, the Holy Spirit will come upon them soon, and they will be witnesses to the whole earth. As Jesus ascends into heaven, two angels remind the disciples that they shouldn’t be staring up into the sky, but rather know that Jesus will return. The male disciples gather in Jerusalem along with the women followers of Jesus, and Jesus’ mother Mary, where they devoted themselves to prayer.

The supplementary verses of Mark 6:7-13 contain Jesus’ mission for the twelve disciples, sending them out in twos, to go minister among the people, taking nothing with them and relying on the hospitality of others. The disciples called upon the people to repent, and they cast out demons and healed many who were sick.

In this season of Easter, we are reminded that we are called to live into God’s reign. How can we do that when so many are suffering right now? We recall that the disciples still lived under the threat of Rome. They proclaimed Christ is Risen among people who had witnessed his death on the cross, and the death of anyone else who opposed empire. However, that is exactly how they resisted empire: by proclaiming life. By living into Christ’s teachings. By loving one another and sharing what they had with those in need. They cultivated community, devoting themselves to prayer. They had the goodwill of all around them. People were drawn to their way of life. We resist in protest, we resist in civil action, but most of all, we resist the evil of this world when we live into the eternal life promised in Jesus Christ by living into it here and now. Believe it by living into it.

Call to Worship (1 John 1:5-7)
This is the message we have heard from Christ and proclaim to you:
That God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with Christ while we are walking in darkness,
We lie and do not do what is true;
But if we walk in the light as Christ is in the light,
We have fellowship with one another, and we are cleansed from all sin.
For Christ is faithful and just,
And we have gathered to worship and follow Jesus our Lord.

Prayer of Invocation
God of Hospitality, throughout the Scriptures, You have shown us that we are called to welcome the stranger because we may be entertaining angels without knowing it. You welcome us in despite our shortcomings and flaws, and You make us whole. In this time of worship, we ask for Your presence to be made known to us, and at the same time, we accept Your welcome of us with gratitude, as faulty as we are, and receive Your love as Your children. We welcome You, and You welcome us, and we extend this invitation to all, to know You through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty One, we know You desire us to seek You with all our hearts. We confess the times we have misunderstood that doubt is part of faith, and we confess the times we have discouraged others from questioning what they’ve been taught. Help us to embrace the challenges and to journey together through the struggles, living with the mystery that is faith, for You are both Known and Unknowable, Seen and Unseen, Creator of the Universe and also within our heart. Help us, O God, to embrace doubt as a part of faith. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (Matthew 7:7-8)
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
We do not have all the answers now, but we rest assured that the One who made us, who molds our hearts, who knows our inmost thoughts and desires, will help us on the journey of faith. The questions may lead to more questions, the searches may lead to more quests, and the doors may lead to even more doors opened, but we know this: we will never be on this journey alone. Come, walk with Christ, and know Christ is with you, now and always. Amen.

Risen Christ, You live again with Your scars. Risen Christ, You come before us with the words, “Peace be with you.” Risen Christ, You embody healing and hope. You accept us with our wounds from the world, our scars that still haven’t healed quite right, our questions and our doubts. Risen Christ, You call us to follow. Help us to accept the invitation: help us to accept that we don’t have to be perfect, that we will never have it all straightened out, that we will always be a bit of a mess, and that You love us exactly as we are. Risen Christ, lead us on. Amen.

Worship Resources for March 31—Easter Sunday

A note on Rev-o-lution:
As I shared in previous posts, I will stop posting new weekly content on Pentecost (May 16, 2024). I have been posting on this site for over 13 years, and almost seventeen years counting my old Blogger site.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary: Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

Narrative Lectionary: Resurrection, Mark 16:1-8 (Psalm 118:21-27)

Christ is Risen! For the season of Easter, the first reading will often be a reading from Acts in lieu of the Hebrew scriptures in the Revised Common Lectionary.

The first selection from Acts 10:34-43 contains Peter’s bold revelation from both a vision he beheld from God earlier in chapter 10, vs. 9-16 and in his encounter with the Roman centurion Cornelius in 17-33. In the vision, God gave Peter food to eat that was both from clean and unclean animals, with the lesson that whatever God declared holy, others must not call profane. In Peter’s conversation with Cornelius, a Gentile, Peter understood that Cornelius’s own encounter with the Holy Spirit was valid and true. There was no need for Cornelius to become Jewish, he knew God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. God shows no partiality between Jewish and Gentile, for Jesus is Lord of all. Peter and the other disciples were witnesses of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and called to testify in his name. Peter confirmed that everyone who believes in Jesus may be forgiven of their sins through Christ’s name.

An alternative reading is from Isaiah 25:6-9, of the prophet Isaiah’s vision of the great heavenly banquet table, where all people will gather for a feast with rich foods and well-aged wines. On that day, death will be swallowed up forever, and there will be no more grief and sorrow, for God is their salvation.

As with Palm Sunday, the psalm reading is from 118, overlapping a bit with last week’s reading with verses 1-2 and 14-24. This different selection covers how God is the people’s salvation, and the psalmist’s declaration that they shall not die but live. Though the people have suffered punishment, they have survived because of God. The gates of the temple, the gates of righteousness are opened, and the people who were rejected by the world are the foundation of God’s covenant. God is the people’s salvation, and they will rejoice.

The Epistle selection is either the reading from Acts 10:34-43 (see above) or 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that was suffering deep division within itself. This was a church divided by economic standing, by a hierarchal understanding in spiritual gifts, and by which human leader of the church they followed. Paul argued that they were one body in Christ. In chapter 15, Paul declared what ought to unify them: that Christ died for their sins, Christ was buried, and Christ was raised from the dead on the third day. Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples, to his brother James and the apostles, and to many others, and then to Paul, who persecuted the church. However, even Paul was called to proclaim the good news by the grace of God. It does not matter who you are, God called believers to proclaim the good news in Jesus Christ, not in any human authority.

In John’s account of the resurrection, it was still dark when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found it empty. She told Peter and the disciple that Jesus loved, and they both ran to the tomb. Peter saw the empty tomb and the linen wrappings, but the other disciple saw after him and believed. However, they both returned to their homes, leaving Mary behind. Mary, in her grief, saw two figures in the tomb, and was concerned that Jesus’ body has been taken away. She then thought the person in the garden—whom she supposed to be the gardener—took his body, but when he called her name, she immediately recognized Jesus, calling him Teacher. Mary followed Jesus’ instructions, and told the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” Jesus did not scold her for not recognizing him, but rather commissioned her to go and tell the others what she had experienced the moment she came to believe.

The Narrative Lectionary selection is the same as the second selection from the Revised Common Lectionary, Mark 16:1-8. Mark’s account of the resurrection, according to scholars, is the earliest, and it’s also the shortest. Because it is so brief, and ends with no sighting of Jesus, there are later additional endings in most of our Bibles. In Mark’s account, the sun had already risen but it was early, and Mary Magdalene and another Mary went to the tomb, wondering who might be up to roll the stone back from the tomb so they could anoint Jesus’ body. However, when they arrived, they found the stone had already been rolled back. They entered the tomb and discovered a man dressed in white, who told them, “Don’t be alarmed.” Jesus wasn’t there; he had been raised. The two women were told to go and tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus would go ahead of them to Galilee, but they fled from the tomb and said nothing to anyone out of fear. The rest of the story is left to us, to know that at some point, their fear left them, and they did go and tell the others. We might ask ourselves the question—are we acting out of fear, or out of hope? If we are afraid, when will we overcome our fear—or when will we act despite our fear?

The Narrative Lectionary supplemental verses are also from Psalm 118, choosing a slightly different selection of verses 21-27 (last week’s selection for the Narrative Lectionary included verses 25-29; the Revised Common Lectionary included 19-29). The psalmist calls for the gates of the temple to open and calls the people to worship. The psalmist speaks of how God has chosen the people rejected by the world, the chief cornerstone. The psalmist calls upon the congregation to process toward the altar, giving thanks to God with praise and offerings.

On Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, it is hard to come up with something new every year. I have been blogging for thirteen years on the lectionary. And every year, the world seems bleaker. Right now, with more than thirty thousand dead in Gaza, our hope of resurrection must not simply be a hope for after this world. The people of Gaza need a cease fire now. The people of Gaza, the people of Ukraine, the people of Sudan, Myanmar, India, and so many places in our world need hope now. The hell on earth needs to be defeated, now. How can we preach resurrection where there is starvation and death? How can we preach good news when all seems hopeless? Maybe Mark 16:8 is what we need. There is good news but we may be running away because it seems so far fetched. There is hope but we are hiding in fear because we don’t know what to say, or how to make it stop even when we scream at the top of our lungs. Resurrection, as Jesus demonstrated from the empty tomb, is not about a far-off hope after we die. It is new life, now. It is hope now. It is claiming a victory now, that death will not have the final word.

Call to Worship
The stone has been rolled away!
Christ is Risen!
The tomb is found empty!
Christ is Risen!
The angel has told us, “He is not here.”
Christ is Risen!
Death is vanquished!
Christ is Risen!
Hope lives!
Christ is Risen!
Love wins!
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen Indeed!

Prayer of Invocation
Creator God, You make all things new. On this Easter morn we remember that Your steadfast love endures forever, through life and death. There is nothing that can hold us back from Your love. On this morning, may our hearts be broken open to hear the message of Your love for us, through Jesus Christ, the one who gave himself up on the cross so that death would not have a hold on us. The love of Jesus leads us to eternal life, a new life that begins now, and today, we celebrate, give thanks, and praise Your name. Amen!

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty God, You are limitless, and we confess our limitations as human beings. We confess our sins, that we have failed to love one another as You have loved us. We confess our short-sightedness, that we have lived for this moment or the next, instead of seeing the fullness of life You desire for all of humanity and all creatures on this planet. We confess our greed that often puts ourselves above others needs. We confess our violent ways, whether active or passive, that cause harm to others. Guide us into Your way, Your truth, and Your life, to become whole people, whole persons who wholly love others, who desire to meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us. Help us to break down the systems and structures of oppression and to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice. In the name of Christ, who destroyed the power of empire by rising from the grave, we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (Romans 8:38-39)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Know this: you are loved beyond measure. There is nothing that will ever separate you from God’s love in Jesus Christ. You are forgiven and loved. Go and share the Good News. Amen.

Loving Savior, we give You all praise and honor and glory. We remember today that every day is an Easter day. Every day is a Resurrection day. Every day is a day of new life and new hope. Help us to live as resurrected people. Help us to let go of fear, and to live into Your love. We give You all thanks and praise. Amen.

Worship Resources for March 24, 2024—Palm and Passion Sunday

A note on Rev-o-lution:
After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.
I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.
It has become more difficult to say something new week after week, and also, I’m now writing novels, and it has taken more of my time than I can give.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks. Thank you for all your kind words over the last few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary
Palm Sunday: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-26
Passion Sunday: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39 (40-47)

Narrative Lectionary: Triumphal Entry (or Anointing at Bethany), Mark 11:1-11 or 14:3-9 (Psalm 118:25-29)

We begin Holy Week with Psalm 118, a song of praise to God, calling the people to worship God in the temple. The psalmist speaks of how God has chosen the people rejected by the world, the chief cornerstone. The psalmist calls upon the congregation to process toward the altar, giving thanks to God with praise and offerings.

Mark’s account of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem in 11:1-11 (also the scripture for the Narrative Lectionary), portrays Jesus as having entered Jerusalem for the first time. He arrived at Bethpage and Bethany, outside of Jerusalem, for the city was crowded for Passover. Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him to find a colt, and they found one exactly as he said they would, to borrow for a short time. The disciples threw their cloaks on the colt, and Jesus rode on it into Jerusalem. People spread their cloaks on the road like a red carpet rolled out, and cut leafy branches to wave, and shouted “Hosanna!” which means “Save us!” They called out blessings to the one who came in the name of their Lord, referring to Psalm 118, and the kingdom in the name of their ancestor David. There is some thought among scholars that Jesus entered Jerusalem the same time that Pilate did, and that Jesus’s act is an act of protest against Rome. Jesus went to the temple, looked around at everything—for he had not seen it before—and then returned with the disciples to Bethany to stay for the night.

John’s account of Jesus’ entry is much shorter. In John’s account, the people call him the King of Israel, and John links both Psalm 118 and Zechariah 9:9 as prophesying Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey with proclamations from the crowds. But his disciples did not understand everything until after the resurrection.

The Passion readings with the Suffering Servant passage found in Isaiah 50:4-9a. In this passage, the prophet Isaiah personifies Israel as a people who have suffered in exile. Because the people have remained faithful to God, God has taken notice of them, and they will not be put to shame or be disgraced for what has happened to them. God knows their innocence, and God will vindicate the people.

The psalmist has suffered in Psalm 31:9-16. Unlike the Suffering Servant, the one suffering in this psalm has experienced shame and disgrace by their neighbors, who scheme and plot to take the psalmist’s life. Yet the psalmist trusts in God’s deliverance, and they call upon God to save them, for God’s steadfast love endures.

Paul shares the ancient confession of the church—quite possibly a hymn—in Philippians 2:5-11. Paul urged the church in Philippi to be humble like Christ in their dealings with one another, both inside and outside the church. Christ did not take advantage of being the Son of God, but became one of us, humble and obedient as a faithful servant of God, to the point of death on the cross. God raised Jesus so that everyone, at the name of Jesus, would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God.

The longer Passion narrative in Mark, from 14:1-15:47, begins two days before the Passover, with the plot to betray Jesus, and the preparation of Jesus for his death. Both threads are found throughout the Passion narrative: some religious leaders plot to kill Jesus; Jesus is anointed as in preparation for burial. Judas betrays Jesus; two days later, the other disciples prepare for the Passover meal and Jesus tells them that one will betray him. Judas asks, “Surely not I, Lord?” and Jesus replies, “Take, this is my body.” In the garden, Peter assures Jesus he will not abandon him; Jesus says before the rooster crows twice Peter will deny him three times. Judas and the others come to arrest Jesus; Jesus reminds them that he was among them day after day, and they did nothing. Jesus is brought to trial and accused of blasphemy; Jesus tells the religious leaders that they will see him seated at the right hand of power. Jesus defends himself in the court; in the courtyard, Peter denies he knew him. Jesus is brought before Pilate but refuses to answer him to stop his execution. Barabbas is released, Jesus is brought to execution. The Roman soldiers mock him, crying out, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Jesus accepts the thorn of crowns in silence. The soldiers crucify Jesus; Jesus refuses the wine to ease his pain. They mock and taunt him; Jesus cries out to God. The threads weave their way through the narrative until Jesus is placed in the tomb.

The shorter narrative is only 15:1-39, or through 47, focusing solely on the events of Good Friday after the trial, when Jesus is brought before Pilate. Even though in the Gospel accounts Pilate is portrayed more favorably, he still hands Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus is tortured and killed by the Roman Empire as a criminal. Even though Pilate seems to believe Jesus is innocent, he relents to the crowds and has Jesus crucified. Jesus dies at the hands of the empire, of soldiers who mock him and beat him and deride him. The crowds may have called for his death, but it is the instruments of the empire who cause all the physical harm and kill him. The systems and structures of this world designed to keep the world’s ways of peace, the Pax Romana, killed Jesus.

The Narrative Lectionary follows Mark this year, so the initial passage of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem is the same. The alternative passage of Mark 14:3-9 is of Jesus’s anointing at Bethany. In Mark’s account, this happens at the home of Simon the Leper—already a place of stigma. A woman anoints Jesus with a costly alabaster jar of nard. Some (Mark’s account doesn’t say if they were disciples) were upset by this, probably because she was a woman touching Jesus, but the argument was that the jar could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 15:11, reminding those around him that they always have an opportunity themselves to show kindness to the poor. Instead, they are attacking this woman who has performed a good service for him, preparing him for burial. Jesus then tells them that whenever the Gospel is proclaimed in the world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her. Remember her. Remember God’s commandment to always show kindness to others and bless those who are among you.

The secondary reading of Psalm 118:25-29 is the latter portion of what is in the Revised Common Lectionary for Palm Sunday above. The psalmist prays to God to save the people and blesses the one who comes in the name of the Lord. The psalmist instructs the procession to bring branches up to the altar and gives thanks to God.

If anything, Palm Sunday reminds us that our ways are not God’s ways. Our ways are to show power and strength through dominance. God continually lays down God’s power. God covenants with us, the people, throughout history, instead of domineering over us. God promises an abundant life. God shows us how to live. God’s desire throughout our scriptural history is not punishment, but restoration. Jesus embodies God’s desires for us by living as one of us, and laying down his life for us. He enters Jerusalem not on a war horse but on a donkey, not on a red carpet but on the coats of the poor. He comes before Pilate not promising revenge but willing to die. He suffers the abuse of the Roman soldiers—and a reminder that it is the Romans who called him the “king of the Jews,” not the Jewish people. Jesus’ own friends abandon him, just like we have abandoned God time and again when our lives get difficult. We look to save ourselves instead of saving others. Jesus literally laid down his life for us.

The woman who anointed Jesus laid down her own reputation to bless him. We can be like those arguing that she should have done something different, or we can accept that each of us has an opportunity to be a blessing for others, and we ought to take it, every chance we get. We ought to take the chance to live as God called us to live. We ought to take that chance for God and for each other.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 118:1-2, 24, 26)
O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good;
God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Let all the people say,
God’s steadfast love endures forever.
This is the day that the Lord has made,
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
May we bless one another, and our God, in this time of worship.

Prayer of Invocation
Creator of All, we give You thanks on this day that we are able to gather together. We give You thanks that we can bring our prayers and petitions before You. We give You thanks that we can worship with one another and care for each other. We give You thanks that You have made Your ways known to us, through the teachings of our ancestors, the Scriptures handed down, and the love shared with us, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we confess that we sing Your praises in one breath and curse one another in the next. We fail to follow You and to live into Your ways. We follow the ways of this world, the crowds of power, and feed the fears of the powerful. We abandon faith in You to chase a passing glimpse of worldly satisfaction and security. Forgive us for our foolishness. Call us back into Your ways of love, compassion, and hope. Call us into living into Your ways of healing and reparation and restoration. In the name of Jesus Christ, who entered Jerusalem as one of us and died for us all, we pray. Amen.

We know that our Redeemer lives. We know that in the face of all our faults and shortcomings, Christ lifts us up, embraces us, and forgives us. You are loved. You are forgiven. You belong to Christ and can never be forgotten. You are valued. Know your worth—you are God’s beloved child, and with you God is well pleased. Go forth and share the good news of God’s hope to the world. Amen.

God of Death and Life, You have made us to become like seeds that fall to the ground, so that we will bear much fruit by dying to the ways of this world and being born in Your way. We are afraid to let go. We have known only this way that the world has taught us, to put ourselves and our desires first, but we know Your Way is the Truth and the Life. Help us to let go of the worldly understanding of success. Help us to let go of the world and to fall into You. Help us to take root and to bear fruit, so that all may know Your abundant love. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Worship Resources for March 17, 2024—Fifth Sunday of Lent

A note on Rev-o-lution:
After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.
I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.
It has become more difficult to say something new week after week, and it has taken more of my time than I can give.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks.

Thank you all for your kind words over the past few weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33

Narrative Lectionary: End of the Age, Mark 13:1-8, 24-37 (Psalm 102:12-17)

Through most of Lent, the Hebrew scriptures have followed the theme of the covenants of God, starting with all of the earth (Genesis 9 after the flood), with Abraham and Sarah and all of their descendants (Genesis 17), and then with the people of Israel (Exodus 20). Last week’s lesson from Numbers was a reminder of what happens when the people forget the covenant. This week, the new covenant that God shares through the prophet Jeremiah 31:31-34 is a covenant that cannot be broken. It is a covenant written into the people’s very hearts. No one can say, “Know the Lord” because everyone will know God, because everyone is beloved by God. God’s love is that powerful that even though the people are about to be taken into exile, God will not forget them. Their identity is in God’s love for them. God will forgive them, remembering their sin no more.

Psalm 51 is a song of confession to God and plea for forgiveness, for the psalmist knows they have sinned. Attributed to David, admitting his sin after the prophet Nathan confronted him, the psalmist prays not only for forgiveness but to be purified before God, restored in relationship with God in a way that they might sin no more. They seek a new heart from God, and a new spirit that is right with God and may rejoice again, for while they acknowledge their sin, the guilt remains. The psalmist desires full restoration with God and asks for the willing spirit to keep themselves true to God’s ways.

The psalmist seeks God and desires to stay in God’s commandments in Psalm 119:9-16. This is a very long psalm about observing the commandments and ways of God, but in these verses, the psalmist writes of how they treasure God’s word in their heart. They live their life into God’s ways, by living out the ordinances, statutes, and precepts, reciting them on their lips and finding joy in living out God’s word. This section concludes with a vow not to forget God’s teachings.

Jesus is now the high priest according to Hebrews 5:5-10. Jesus has fulfilled the role of the high priest in the temple, the perfect priest who saves all who are faithful by his sacrifice, submitting to God and suffering by human hands. He is the eternal priest and source of salvation. The writer of Hebrews declares Jesus in the line of Melchizedek, a priest who met Abraham and blessed him in Genesis 14:7-20, but again mentioned in Psalm 110:4 in an obscure verse about a line of priests established forever. Because Jesus cried out to God to save him, those prayers were heard by God, and Jesus’s salvation is salvation for all humankind.

When some Greeks come to see Jesus in John 12:20-33, he knew the time had come to prepare for his death. He told those who wished to follow him that they must follow and serve him. Those who loved their life would lose it. Those who would hate their life in this world would keep it for eternal life. For a grain of wheat must fall to the earth and die in order to bear fruit. Jesus was troubled by what was to happen, but knew it must happen. Jesus knew that after his death, when he was lifted up, all kinds of people, including Greeks and other Gentiles, would be drawn to him, and seemed to recognize that the hour was at hand when Greeks were drawing close to the disciples and wanted to see him. Those around him did not understand, and thought he was speaking to an angel as he spoke about his time to be glorified. The writer of the Gospel of John’s view is that Jesus spoke plainly, but the people around him did not get it. Jesus made it obvious, in John’s account, that he was the Messiah sent by God, but others refused to recognize him as the Messiah.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the End of the Age in Mark 13:1-8, 24-37. While Jesus taught in the temple during his last days, he spoke about how the temple would eventually be destroyed, and warned there would be wars and destruction. There would be teachers who would lead others astray. However, they ought not to be alarmed, for those events did not mean the end. However, after those things, Jesus declared that the Son of Man would return, and this age will pass. Jesus states that only God the Creator knows, but he urged the disciples to watch for the signs just as they do for the signs of the seasons, and to keep awake, to be ready for Christ’s return.

The supplemental verses of Psalm 102:12-17 sings of God’s enduring reign, and how God will restore Zion. God will rise up, restoring what was destroyed, and all nations will turn to God.

As we near the end of our Lenten journey, we are reminded by the Narrative Lectionary to keep alert. In the United States, we are in an election year. We are a world involved in wars. The massive amounts of death and destruction in Gaza are unquestionably horrific. Christian Zionists point to the end times as if it was something predictable and according to God’s plan. We know from scripture God does not desire destruction but restoration. God does not want war or suffering. These are the sins of human beings. Instead, we must look to the signs as Christ did, and keep awake: when we see insurmountable suffering, we must be doing our part to act in love. We must do our part to stop violence. We must do what we can to rebuild and restore and repair. Even if it seems impossible, this is our work to do. So many wanted Jesus to begin a revolution, to restore the earthly kingdom of Israel, but that was not what Jesus came to do. Jesus came to save the world, and he did so through giving up his own life, refusing to return violence for violence.

The world does not recognize Jesus still as a Messiah because they still want a conqueror, a glorified war hero, a victorious god who is on their side. Jesus will always be on the side of the oppressed, the crushed, the hopeless, the ones who have lost everything. The ones amidst the rubble, either in Ukraine or Myanmar or Gaza. And until we see the signs for what they are, we are doomed to perpetuate the systems of destruction and death.

Call to Worship (Psalm 105:1-4)
O give thanks to the Lord, call on God’s name,
Make known God’s deeds among the peoples.
Sing to God, sing praises to the Lord,
Tell of all God’s wonderful works.
Glory in God’s holy name,
Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the strength of our God,
And seek God’s presence continually.

Prayer of Invocation
Blessed are You, O Lord our God. We come before You in humility, recognizing that You are the God of all creation. We ask You to open our hearts, to hear our prayers, to listen to our songs, to fulfill our needs, and to encourage us in our faithfulness. In this time of worship, may we be full of awe and wonder, knowing You are the Author of Salvation, the First and the Last, the Almighty One our God. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Covenanting God, we confess we have broken all our promises. We have not remained faithful. We are caught up in so many things that we sometimes forget to give thanks, to turn to You and acknowledge You, to even take a single moment for a deep breath, a reminder of Your Spirit among us. Call us into a holy pause. Remind us to slow down. Guide us into a more contemplative path of seeking You in every moment. Turn us away from the busy-ness of the world, and turn our hearts to Your pace, savoring all that You have made for us, this one holy and precious life. We give thanks for Your Son, Jesus the Christ, who taught us how holy and precious our lives really are by laying down his own for us. In his name we pray. Amen.

Take a deep breath, and know God’s spirit is in you. Breathe out, and know God’s peace is all around you. Remember this: God is in every breath, God is in every moment, and you are beloved to God. You are cared for. You matter. Give thanks to God, and give grace to one another, and live into God’s peace. Amen.

God of all seasons, as we near the vernal equinox, we give You thanks for the turning of the world, that all things become new. In the northern hemisphere, we are seeing the signs of spring: the birds returning, the buds forming, the worms and bugs crawling. The days are growing longer. We know that while horrible and terrible things are happening in our world, You are still making everything new. The trees are older than our conflicts. The migratory patterns are older than our roads. You continue to turn us again and again to something new. We give You thanks for the seasons in our lives, that nothing lasts forever, and that the struggle and suffering we see now will not last forever. We are reminded in this election year in the U.S. that this, too, will not last forever, but we must be prepared for the long journey of justice, hope, and peace. The seasons will turn, but Your love is the one constant in this universe. May we cling to Your love, live into Your ways, and speak and act from Your love into this world. Amen.

Worship Resources for March 10, 2024—Fourth Sunday of Lent

A note on Rev-o-lution:
After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.
I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.
It has become more difficult to say something new week after week, and also, I’m now writing novels, and it has taken more of my time than I can give.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks.

Revised Common Lectionary: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

Narrative Lectionary: Great Commandment, Mark 12:28-44 (Psalm 89:1-4)

The lesson today in the Hebrew Scriptures from Numbers veers from the theme of covenants that we have been following. The lesson is not about a covenant, but that God provides a way to life even when the people disobey God’s ways. The people once again are complaining against Moses for bringing them out of Egypt. They complain there is no food or water, except that they “detest this miserable food.” They were tired of the manna God provided. So poisonous serpents came and bit the people, and many died. The scripture reads that the Lord sent the serpents, but what if the serpents biting the people were really the people “biting” each other with their complaining and slander? The people came to Moses and confessed their sin, and Moses prayed for the people. God told Moses to make a poisonous serpent and set it on a pole, for everyone who looked at the serpent on the pole would live. Moses did so—he made a serpent of bronze, and everyone who was bit lifted their eyes, and upon looking at the serpent, they lived. Once the people stopped looking at the problems right in front of them and lifted their eyes, they were able to find a way to live together.

Psalm 107 is a song of thanksgiving and remembrance for what God has done for the people throughout time. The psalmist begins by addressing “the redeemed of the Lord,” which implies those coming out of exile. Verses 17-22 speaks of a time when the people were “sick through their sinful ways,” and “loathed any kind of food,” and how God healed and delivered them. This psalm pairs well with the story in Numbers, reflecting that God does not desire punishment, but restoration and healing.

In Ephesians 2:1-10, the author (purporting to be Paul) writes about how we live in the world versus God’s intentions for us. We have followed the course of this world which leads to sin and death—worldly measures of success, wealth, notoriety—all those lead to dead ends. None of it will last and all of it leads to supporting systemic sin—oppression, enslavement, cruel workplace practices, racism, marginalization, etc. By grace, however, Christ came for us. By grace we have been saved and shown the immeasurable riches of God. Because of Christ, none of us can boast about what we have or haven’t done. Rather, Christ restores us to God’s intentions, which is for goodness and good works. This was God’s intention from Genesis 1. We have been restored, and God has prepared this to be our way of life.

John 3:14-21 is the second part of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a Pharisee who has come to see Jesus by night. Verse 14 begins with using the story of Moses and the serpents in Numbers 21:4-9. The people were saved when they looked to the serpent on the pole, when they looked beyond what they could see in front of them—the poisonous grumblings that had infiltrated the camp—and instead looked to God and God’s ways. So the Son of Man must be lifted up, according to John’s account, on a cross. As the people in Moses’ day were saved from poison when they looked up, those who believe will be saved when they believe in Jesus and will have eternal life. While vs. 16 is one many know by heart, it is just as important to know vs. 17, that God did not send the Son to condemn the world, but to save the world. The condemnation comes for those who love the ways of the world more than the ways of God, but those who know the truth know the goodness of God’s created intention for us, and their works reflect that intention.

The Narrative Lectionary focuses on the Greatest Commandment in Mark 12:28-44. These verses contain the content of Jesus’ teaching in the temple, during the days before his betrayal and arrest. A common way of learning in Jewish community in the first century was through health debate, and the rabbis debated each other. When a scribe heard Jesus answering the questions of others well, he asked him which commandment was the greatest. Jesus responded with the Shema, the call to prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4, that everyone present would have known by heart. He also quoted Leviticus 19:18 about loving one’s neighbor as one’s self, which other rabbis of Jesus’ day also linked together. The scribe responded that Jesus was correct, and the scribe offered his own thoughts on living into those commandments, that they meant more than the burnt offerings and sacrifices of the temple worship. Jesus responded that he wasn’t far from the kingdom of God. Jesus then asked those gathered around him about the Messiah and David’s son, quoting Psalm 110, and warned against those scribes that wanted to be looked upon for their position rather than the work they did. Lastly, Jesus observed a poor widow putting all she had into the temple treasury, and taught his disciples that the sacrifice she made was greater than what all the rich gave out of their abundance.

The supplementary verses of Psalm 89:1-4 begin with praising God as the one who chose David as king and made the covenant with David. The psalmist declares that God’s steadfast love endures forever, as David’s reign and descendants will endure forever.

What turns us away from the promises of God? If the theme of the Hebrew scripture lessons has been on covenants, today is a day to remind us that we human beings are the ones who break them, not God. Yet God always provides a pathway to life—and not just life after death, but new life that begins now and lasts through eternity. God has prepared a way for us, for we were created for good works, though we have gone astray. For God so loved the world that Jesus came to show us this way through his life, death, and resurrection. The way to get out of the dead ends of the world is to lift our gaze to Christ, who has shown us that death has no hold on us. Get out of worldly thinking in which we attack and harm one another, in our words and actions, fighting over the things of this world. Remember that we serve a risen Savior. Whoever believes will not die, but have eternal life, a gift that no one can take from us.

Call to Worship (paraphrased from Psalm 107:1-2, 21-22)
O give thanks to the LORD, for God is good;
For God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
For God has redeemed us from trouble.
Let us thank the LORD for God’s steadfast love,
For God’s wonderful works to humankind.
Let us come before God with thanksgiving,
And tell of God’s deeds with songs of joy.

Prayer of Invocation
Everlasting God, we gather together knowing You are present among us. Guide our hearts and minds to listen for Your word: in our hearts, in our movement, in our prayers. Open us to new insights, to be challenged by the scriptures, to be assured by our songs, to be encouraged in prayer, knowing that You are making all things new, including us. May we be open to the Spirit in this time. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Holy One, we confess that we have failed to live into the covenants You have made with us. We have turned aside from Your ways and sought our own gain. We have ignored those in need among us and fought with our neighbors. We have abandoned our love for You and failed to love one another, loving instead the things of this world: wealth, power, security, notoriety. Forgive us for not living the life You have assured us. Guide us away from the empty promises of the world we have made and into the promise of eternal life in You, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (from Ephesians 2:4-10)
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

You have been created for good works in Christ Jesus. Remember your created intention. Remember your purpose. Go back to your roots, and know God’s love and grace and forgiveness have always—always—been there. Accept it, know it in your heart, and live into the life Christ has promised you, now and through eternity. Share the good news. Amen.

Sojourning God, as we move through the halfway point of Lent, journeying toward the cross at Calvary, we remember where we have gone astray on our own journey of faith. At times we have taken You for granted. We have taken the church for granted. We have assured ourselves that we are good people, and that we do good things. Remind us that the journey is as important as the destination. We are called to help others in this world, not only to know You, but to know Your love through our love of them. Call us to truly love our neighbor, in which we take notice of their needs, understand the systems and structures in place that continue to oppress and harm, and work for justice in this world. For it is this life that matters. It is in this life that we measure ourselves, whether we have lived into Your ways. It is in this life that we have the opportunity to practice hospitality, welcome the stranger, lift up the poor, work for justice, and pursue peace. In the name of Christ, who journeys with us, we pray. Amen.

Worship Resources for March 3, 2024—Third Sunday in Lent

A note on Rev-o-lution:
After seventeen years of blogging, first on an old Blogger site and then for the past thirteen years at this domain, providing worship resources on the Revised Common Lectionary (and for the past ten years on the Narrative Lectionary), it is time to hang up my blogging hat.
I will continue to post new resources through Pentecost (May 19, 2024) and keep the website up through at least November 2024, perhaps longer, for access to the archives.
It has become more difficult to say something new week after week, and also, I’m now writing novels, and it has taken more of my time than I can give.

Thank you for your support of Rev-o-lution over all these years. It has meant a lot to me that my resources are useful to local pastors and that I have been able to provide them for free. But all things come to an end and there are other people blogging on the lectionary currently, with fresher words than mine. I’ll be sharing those sites in the coming weeks.


Revised Common Lectionary: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

Narrative Lectionary: Parable of the Tenants, Mark 12:1-12 (13-17) (Psalm 86:8-13)

We continue during the season of Lent to turn to the covenants between God and the people in the selection from the Hebrew Scriptures. Exodus 20:1-17 focuses on the covenant at Sinai and the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. The commandments teach that there is only one God, and the people are to worship no other gods. They are not to make idols, nor misuse God’s name. God will show steadfast love “to the thousandth generation” for those who remain faithful, for God is the one who brought them out of their oppression in Egypt. Verses 8-9 teach that keeping the Sabbath is a way to honor God, and they are to remember it each week, for they were not allowed to rest when they were in Egypt. Verses 12-17 are about how to live in this new community: honor one’s family, especially one’s parents, and remain faithful in relationships. Don’t lie, kill, steal—don’t want what others have. This is the covenant: God will be their God, and to be God’s people, they need to remember who they are, how to live with one another, and who they worship.

Psalm 19 praises God for both God’s work in creation and in the law. Creation is orderly, and even the sun rises like a bridegroom ready for their wedding day. The sun was often associated with ancient deities and the psalmist links God to the sun, who lights and brings warmth, but also brings the law. As creation is orderly, so is God’s law. God’s teachings are more valuable than any worldly pleasure, they are their own reward. But the psalmist knows they may stumble, they may have erred unknowingly, and they ask God to keep them safe from going astray. The psalmist concludes with the famous meditation of seeking God’s acceptance for their words and meditations.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 reveals that the power of God is revealed through the cross, according to Paul. The cross was the instrument of torture and death in the Roman Empire, but for those who believed in Jesus, it was also the symbol of eternal life, that the cross—that death itself—was not the end. The wisdom of God is not the world’s wisdom. Paul declares that the “Jews demand signs”—in other words, their Jewish neighbors, in Paul’s view, wanted proof that Jesus had resurrected, and “Greeks desire wisdom”—the Greek philosophers wanted to understand from a human point of view. Paul proclaims Christ crucified—which worldly wisdom cannot understand, but both Jewish and Greek believers could attain by faith in Christ. This might seem foolish to the world, but wiser than human wisdom to God.

John’s account of the Gospel differs greatly from the Synoptic gospels in that Jesus travels to Jerusalem early on in his ministry for the first time at Passover, enters the temple, and drives out the moneychangers with a whip of cords. In John 2:13-22, it appears that when Jesus calls the temple, “my Father’s house,” the other religious leaders present want a sign from Jesus. He tells them to destroy the temple and in three days he will raise it—a reference to his own death and resurrection, but those present refuse to believe the temple can be destroyed. This is the temple that Herod had begun restoring, but was destroyed by the Roman Empire in the year 70 C.E. It is important for us to remember that while John’s account purports to tell what happened in Jesus’ day, John was most likely written around 90 C.E., well after the events of the destruction of the temple. John’s account is trying to show how wrong the people were about Jesus, to prove his account of Jesus is the right one. It’s interesting to note how many times in John’s account the Jewish people demand signs, when it seems that the gospel account itself is all about proving who Jesus was, as if over-responding to that demand for a sign. It’s important to look at these passages with a critical eye, in light of how John’s account has been used to fuel antisemitism, and at the same time, recall the reforms Jesus brought to practice and religious life (and in all four accounts of the Gospels, Jesus did enter the temple and drive out the moneychangers).

The Narrative Lectionary turns to the Parable of the Tenants in Mark 12:1-12. In this parable, told after Jesus had entered Jerusalem and driven out the moneychangers, Jesus echoes back to the Song of the Vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7. In Isaiah, God uses the metaphor of planting a vineyard, but the grapes have grown wild, so God has taken down the protective hedge and fence and destroyed the winepress. In this parable in Mark, Jesus tells of a vineyard leased to tenants, and when the landowner sends back servants to check on the vineyard, the tenants beat one servant, insult another, and kill a third. They keep mistreating the servants so the landowner decides to send his son, thinking they will respect him. But the tenants kill him to try to gain the inheritance of the vineyard. Jesus then asks the question, “What will the owner do?” The owner’s intention was to send his son to change the behavior of the tenants, not to die. Nonetheless, because the tenants did not change their ways, Jesus declares that the owner will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Jesus then quotes from Psalm 118, of the stone that the builders have rejected becoming the chief cornerstone. The religious leaders know that Jesus has spoken this parable as a warning against him, but they do not do anything because they are afraid of the crowds.

In verses 13-17, Jesus is further questioned by some Pharisees and Herodians about paying taxes. The Herodians were those who supported Herod and his position in government and his family. They would have supported taxpaying to the Roman government because Herod served under the rule of Caesar. However, Jesus refuses to be trapped in the question put forth to him, stating “Give to the emperor what is the emperor’s, and to God what is God’s.”

The supplementary verses of Psalm 86:8-13 is the portion of the psalm that gives praise and thanksgiving for God who has helped the psalmist and the people. There is no God like God, and all nations turn to God. The psalmist calls upon God to continue to teach them God’s ways so they may draw close to God and give thanks for God’s steadfast love and deliverance.

How do we live into God’s ways today, in 2024? The death of Christendom is all around us (we’ve been talking about it for over 30 years now). The institutions we have built up will not survive—they may not even survive us. But the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. Our ancestors have passed down the wisdom of the faith. Jesus teaches us that what will remain with us are his words, his teachings, and everything else will pass away. How do we draw closer to God, and to one another in faithful community, while understanding that the things we make of this world will come to an end—good or bad, whether we like them or not? The temple that was central to our ancestors was destroyed a generation after Jesus’s death. The churches that Paul visited and helped to begin no longer exist. Neither Jesus nor Paul imagined the institutionalized Western church that many of us have known as the only way to be church, but it is not the only way to live faithfully. If we think of the world as the vineyard we have been entrusted to care for, how good of a job are we doing? How well are we caring for those who serve one another, those who speak out for justice, those who cry out for mercy? How do we live into this faith, understanding that the systems and structures we as human beings made are no longer adequate?

I believe there is hope. We are being made into something new, individually and collectively. We are being called back into a way of life that centers God’s ways and not our own. A way that lives into the commandments we have been taught and passed down, less focused on boards and bylaws and structures and more focused on the love we express and the kindness we practice and the justice we do. What that looks like yet we do not know, but what we know is this: the stone that the world rejects becomes the chief cornerstone. What the world’s systems that fuel the gain of wealth and power by the elite would reject: rest, respite, care for the earth and one another, kindness, compassion, slowing down from the busy nature of our world—this is the chief cornerstone.

Call to Worship (from Psalm 86:8-11a, 12)
There is none like You among the gods, O Lord,
Nor are there any words like Yours.
All nations You have made shall come and bow down before You, O Lord,
And they shall glorify Your name.
For You are great and do wondrous things,
You alone are God.
Teach me Your ways, O Lord,
That I may walk in Your truth.
I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
And I will glorify Your name forever.

Prayer of Invocation
God of the Covenant, we give You praise and honor and glory, for You have always remained true. Your steadfast love endures forever. We gather our hearts and minds in worship, knowing that You are faithful and just. Guide us away from distracting thoughts, worries and cares, and instead, help us to focus on You so we can know Your great love in our lives, Your mercy and forgiveness and compassion, and be filled with hope to live out Your gospel into the world. Amen.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Almighty and Everlasting God, we confess that we have failed to live into Your covenants. We have declined to follow Your commandments. We have forgotten Your teachings, Your ordinances and statutes. We have disobeyed the simplest of teachings to love our neighbors as ourselves. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and selfishness. Remind us that when we love one another, we are loved. When we care for one another, You care for us. When we meet the needs of others, especially the most vulnerable among us, You make sure there is enough for everyone. Guide us back into Your way, Your truth, and Your life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance (from Psalm 85:9-11)
“Surely God’s salvation is at hand for those who fear God, and God’s glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness look down from the sky.”

God gives what is good and leads us in the way of righteousness. When we live by God’s ways, we know God’s blessings in the love of one another. Extend hospitality and grace and forgiveness when possible, participate in the reparative and restorative work of justice, and it shall go well with you. Share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ in how you live your life. Amen.

Creative Spirit, help us to think outside of the box the world has put us in. Erase the lines that we have drawn. Draw the circle wider. Color outside the lines. Pull back the veil that has us divided. Remove the wall that creates binary thinking. Open our hearts, our minds, our souls, to the inescapable love You have for us, and may we be full of that love for one another. Help us always to be open to more and to shut out less, for hate and fear keep us small, but love is always expanding us. Amen.