Worship Resources for February 28th, 2021—Second Sunday of Lent

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

Narrative Lectionary: Lament over Jerusalem, Luke 13:1-9, 31-35 (Psalm 122)

The second Sunday of Lent begins with the second of God’s covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures: the covenant with Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16. God gave Abram and Sarai new names, promising they would become the ancestors of a multitude of nations. This was an everlasting covenant, that God would be their God, and that they would have a son, and kings would be born from their descendants.

This portion of Psalm 22 praises God for God’s deliverance to a people yet unborn, in verses 23-31. The psalmist praises God for God’s deliverance when the psalmist was in need and calls upon the people of Israel to join in praise. All the families of all nations shall worship God and future generations told of God’s greatness.

Paul wrote to the church in Rome that the fulfilment of God’s promises to the people descended from Abraham came not from following the law but from faith, in Romans 4:13-25. Abraham’s faith in God fulfilled the promises made to him in his old age, that he and Sarah would have a son. That is what saved him, not his works of the law. The believer’s faith in Jesus’ resurrection is what saves believers, not the works of the law, according to Paul, and Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfills all righteousness.

Peter tried to talk Jesus out of going to his death, but Jesus rebuked Peter in Mark 8:31-38. Right after Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus began to tell the disciples that he must undergo suffering and death. This marked a shift in Jesus’ ministry, turning toward Jerusalem and death—a different direction that the disciples understood the Messiah to be going before this. Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him, but Jesus turned and rebuked him back with the famous words, “Get behind me Satan!” Peter and the others had set their mind not on divine things but human things. Jesus then addressed the disciples along with the crowd that had gathered, declaring those who were faithful must deny themselves and take up their cross. Those who wanted to save their life would lose it. Those who would lose their life for Jesus’s sake, for the sake of the gospel, would fine it. This passage marked a pivotal point for the Gospel of Mark, from the teaching and healing ministry, into who Jesus knew the Messiah would be, not what others thought the Messiah should be.

Mark 9:2-9, the Transfiguration, was also our lectionary passage two weeks ago. While Peter, James, and John are on the mountain with Jesus, Jesus was transfigured. His clothes appeared dazzling white—an unnatural brightness—and Elijah and Moses appeared with Jesus, talking with him. Peter didn’t really know what to say because he was afraid, but he said what he thought he was supposed to: he was glad to be there, and suggested making tents for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses: shrines to each of them. But a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice declared, “This is my Son, the Beloved: listen to him!” (A similar voice declared Jesus as the Son, the Beloved, at his baptism). When the three disciples looked around, there was only Jesus, and Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about what they had seen until the Son of Humanity had risen from the dead.

The Narrative Lectionary follows Luke, and in 13:1-9 Jesus was told about some Galileans killed by Pilate while they offered sacrifices. Jesus questioned those who thought perhaps the Galileans deserved what happened to them because of something they did. Jesus asked them also about another incident, where the tower of Siloam fell and killed eighteen people. The accident that happened wasn’t punishment for sin. However, unless people repent and turn back to God’s ways, everyone comes to the same end: death. Jesus then told parable of a fig tree (in Matthew and Mark, Jesus curses a fig tree). In this parable, a gardener begged a vineyard owner who wanted to cut down a fig tree that hadn’t produced any fruit to give this tree one more chance, one more year, to see if it would bear fruit, before cutting it down. The parable served as a warning—one does not know when their time would come. Repent before it is too late.

In 13:31-35, some Pharisees came to warn Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him, but Jesus told them to tell Herod he would continue to do his ministry, because Herod’s threat wouldn’t stop him. Jerusalem itself was where many of the prophets were killed, and Jesus lamented the death and destruction that happened there. Jesus longed to gather the people like a hen gathers her chicks, but Jesus knew what would happen: he would be killed, and a generation later, the temple destroyed by Rome.

Psalm 122 is a prayer for peace for Jerusalem, a pilgrimage song for when the tribes came to worship at the temple. The throne of David is in Jerusalem, and justice is served from there. The psalmist prays for peace for the city, for its inhabitants, and for the pilgrims coming there.

In this season of Lent, we remember in the Hebrew scriptures the covenant of God that endures forever—not because of anything we do, but because God established the covenant, and our faith that God will fulfill God’s promises sustains us. In faithfulness, Jesus turned toward Jerusalem, toward death, not afraid of Herod or of the religious leaders. The disciples didn’t understand, because their mind was set on human things. We often think the goal is to prolong our lives as much as possible. Jesus argues that to save our life, we must be willing to lose it. To deny ourselves and take up the cross. To become last of all and servant of all. It’s about living for God, living for others, that we find our lives, not in trying to save ourselves. Jesus came for the sake of the world, showing us an eternal life that begins now, not simply after we die. But it’s a hard transition to eternity thinking, as Peter and the others learned.

Call to Worship
The promises of God are like bulbs deep in the soil,
God is making all things new.
The promises of God are like crocuses peeking out of the snow,
God is making all things new.
The promises of God are like fresh turned earth,
God is making all things new.
The promises of God are all around us, though we cannot perceive it yet—
God is making all things new.
Come, worship our God, for we know the seasons will change,
And our God will make all things new.

Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Ancient of Days, we are a stubborn people. We become set in our ways. We only know the past, so we look back with nostalgia like the Israelites in the wilderness, who remembered only the good things about their past and forgot all the hardship and toil they went through. We, too, often only remember the good things and push aside the difficult memories. Call us into accountability. Help us to remember the sins of our past so that we might learn to live into a future with hope. Call us to repent, to turn back to Your ways, to seek to repair the damage we have caused, to dismantle systems of sin at work in our world and our lives, so that we can build a future that You have called us to with more mercy and grace. In Your name we pray. Amen.

Blessing/Assurance
The peace that surpasses all understanding is with us, now. Christ Jesus has shown us the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Your sins are forgiven. Rejoice, and reclaim the life that God has in store for you. Seek forgiveness where you have gone wrong, and work to repair and restore. Turn your hearts to the newness of God’s promises, and live into God’s ways. Amen.

Holy Light, shine bright in our lives when the shadows threaten. Shine bright in our lives when despair creeps in. Shine bright in our world when the systems of sin threaten to overpower us. Shine bright in our world when evil seems to prevail. Shine bright in us, so we may be beacons of hope for others. Shine bright in us so that nations will be drawn to Your light, as Isaiah spoke long ago. Shine bright in us, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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