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.

1 thought on “Worship Resources for March 17, 2024—Fifth Sunday of Lent

  1. Jenny Saperstein

    Thank you for all you have created and offered. It has been a gift to read and follow in these past few years as I started my ministry.


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