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.

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