See the texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Para obtener más recursos leccionario, Estudios Exegético: Homiléticos.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
Lecionário comum revisado (português)
God makes a covenant with the earth not to destroy the earth by flood again. The rainbow is the sign of this covenant.
Psalm 25:1-10 (UMH 756).
Israel seeks God's deliverance from enemies. Unlike the people destroyed in the flood, Israel claims it has sought to follow God's way and wishes to learn it still better. If you sing the Psalm, use response 2 and chant using Tone 3 in E-flat major.
1 Peter 3:18-22.
Peter links the death and resurrection of Jesus with the story of Noah's flood and the sacrament of baptism.
Immediately after his baptism, the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert for a period of testing surrounded by wild animals, Satan, and ministering angels — all to prepare him to spend his life declaring the good news of the kingdom of God.
As the first Sunday in Lent, this marks the beginning of the church's journey toward Easter. For a succinct statement of the meaning of this season, see "Invitation to the Observance of Lenten Discipline" in the Ash Wednesday liturgy (United Methodist Book of Worship, 322).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation.
During this season converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.
It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins
and had separated themselves from the community of faith
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness,
and restored to participation in the life of the Church.
In this way the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial;
and by reading and meditating on God's Holy Word.
[Emphasis mine. Text public domain.]
Note the threefold focus of the season: spiritual preparation of the faith community, preparation of converts for baptism, and reconciliation of penitents.
In what ways is your congregation intending to engage these ministries of spiritual discipline during Lent?
If you did not have an Ash Wednesday service, or if few attended it, consider using this invitation as part of the service for this day, either as a prelude/call to worship, or as a response to the Word preceding an invitation to discipleship.
All Month: Women's History Month
March 6 World Day of Prayer
March 8 Daylight Saving Time Begins 2 a.m. (USA)
March 15 One Great Hour of Sharing (Special Sunday with Offering)
March 29 Palm/Passion Sunday/Holy Week Begins
April 2 Maundy Thursday
April 3 Good Friday
April 4 Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil
April 5 Easter Sunday/Easter Season Begins
April 19 Native American Ministries Sunday (DM Resources) and
Festival of God’s Creation
April 25 World Malaria Day
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Lent 1: Wilderness: Renounce, Reject, Repent
From now through Trinity Sunday (the first Sunday after Pentecost), the lectionary texts are chosen to complement each other, with the gospel as the centerpiece or chief lens for interpreting the others.
Keep this in mind as you and your worship planning team design worship through these Sundays.
Today’s texts, focused around the gospel reading, function as a powerful introduction to the work that lies before us in this season. God puts forth a covenant not to destroy with water, but to redeem with it. Baptism is the sign and means of being initiated into the redemption God offers in Jesus Christ. Those already baptized journey with some among us who are heading toward baptism at Easter, and along the way being supported in learning how to live as those who say Yes to God’s covenant of baptism.
The journey begins today where it did for Jesus immediately after his baptism: in the wilderness, the desert. Mark’s Gospel does not give us the account of particular temptations Jesus faced there, as do Luke and Matthew. But Mark does make it clear these forty days were a time of testing for him, a time to become very clear about the direction his life would take, the commitments he would make—and especially the commitments he would not.
The desert is the place where you learn what you can and must do without.
The desert experience thus corresponds to the opening vows of the baptismal covenant. We renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin.
Those of us who are baptized recall and reinforce the practices that help us continue to renounce, reject, and repent.
Those who are seeking baptism, or to affirm the faith for themselves, or return to the faith after having walked away for a time, spend today, this week, this season, and, truly, the rest of their lives grappling with what such renunciation, rejection, and repentance concretely mean for their lives as disciples of Jesus Christ into whom they seek baptism, or in whose body they seek full or restored participation.
Remember, worship cannot carry all the formational load for those seeking baptism, confirmation, reaffirmation, or reconciliation. What you are doing in worship, instead, provides a platform for what can be done in greater depth in formational groups for those in formation during this season. So while in worship, perhaps particularly in the sermon, you may raise questions about or provide examples, or others may offer testimonies of how they continue to practice renunciation, rejection and repentance, the work of the formational groups will be to discover and help hold folks in them accountable for ways they each can and will commit to practicing renunciation, rejection and repentance in their lives in the coming week and weeks.
In Your Planning Team
Water is the promise toward which we’re heading. Wilderness is the reality where we all must begin.
We all need to learn and keep rehearsing the practices of renouncing spiritual forces of wickedness, rejecting the evil powers of this world, and repenting of sin.
And wilderness is a terrific metaphor, a visual and imaginative metaphor, for getting at what we find we must do without in our lives.
So exploit that metaphor in the worship space today. What would convey the feeling of desert in your worship space? What must you have? What might you do without today? (And maybe throughout Lent?) Maybe what you decide to do without is projection, or electronic instruments, or the organ, or a robed choir. Maybe you go without more elaborate decorations or paraments, replacing them within something more spare. Maybe for Communion you use simpler vessels during this season, starting today.
None of these is really about the fundamental acts of renouncing, rejecting, and repenting. There is nothing necessarily wicked, evil, or sinful about amplified music, electronic instruments, robed choirs or more lavish appointments. But making a point of going more “bare bones” today and through this season might contribute to that sense of desert where Jesus (and many before and after him) have found it more possible to undertake these core callings.
Which brings your team to its next challenge: How to address these core callings, other than simply to name and describe them. How will worship help your congregation express a renunciation of the spiritual powers of wickedness, a concrete act of treason against and breaking of allegiance to them? How will worship help your congregation express rejection (casting aside, spitting out, casting out) of evil powers? (Yes, this means you need to be naming at least some of the evil powers you are rejecting!) How will worship today help your congregation not simply declare their sorrow about their sins (remorse), but actively turn away from sinful patterns of life in which they may currently be deeply embedded? (Note the language of the vows here is about repenting of “sin,” which points to unrighteous ways of life, not repenting of “sins,” which points to past misdeeds).
Again, remember what you can realistically accomplish in worship is limited. You can’t do the hands-on work with individuals that formational groups can and should be doing. But you can plan ritual that helps people take these actions symbolically throughout the service, in response to the word, and in the act of sending. You can sing hymns that speak of these things. As mentioned above, you can include testimonies of how people in your midst are doing some of these things and what they’ve learned as they’ve done them and continue to do them. And you can ask for people to stand and show with their bodies what each of these verbs looks like in action to them, ask individuals who are willing to share why they’ve taken the pose they’ve taken, and use this as a teaching time to help clarify what we mean by each in the baptismal covenant. You might even create the beginnings of a Baptismal Tai-Chi, a series of movements that embody the key verbs of the baptismal vows—starting with basic movements today that embody renounce, reject, and repent, perhaps while facing West (the setting sun, darkness, the direction early Christians faced when renouncing Satan in the first of their baptismal vows) for the first two, and for the third, turning East, since repent means “to turn around.” (Note: I’ve developed a full routine for a Baptismal Tai-Chi embodying all of the key verbs of the baptismal vows, and will post a copy of it led with my students at Drew to YouTube and the Discipleship Ministries website when the video is completed).
The Christian life starts with renunciation, but it is just as much about embrace. It is surely turning away from the "normal flow of life" as we usually know it. But that turning away brings with it a clear turning toward in our repentance — toward facing rather than fleeing our inner demons, toward people and places outside our normal comfort zones, and toward the possibility and experience of relying on spiritual support for our very sustenance. Experience these things "out there," and learn their lessons (live them, don't just theorize or talk about them!), and you, too, will be on your way to being able to declare the nearness of God's kingdom with joyful power.
The desert is no place for the merely curious. Without an experienced guide or the guidance of long experience, it can be a place of damage, destruction, and death. This is why the church does not expect people journeying toward baptism, reconciliation, or deeper understanding of vocation merely to "go it alone" out there. Instead, the role of the church is like that of the "ministering angels" to those we accompany on their journey — although we must be careful never to substitute ourselves for the deep reliance on God that those we accompany must discover and nurture themselves.
So may we embrace that fact that it is the Spirit who drove Jesus and drives us into this wilderness, this desert time, this time for learning or relearning what it means to be the body of Christ.
Worship suggestions from The United Methodist Hymnal (UMH) and United Methodist Book of Worship (UMBOW)
Greeting: UMBOW, 326 (Psalm)
Greeting: UMBOW, 329 (Mark)
WORD AND RESPONSE
Scripture Response: UMH, 368, stanza 3, "My Hope Is Built" (Genesis)
Scripture Response: UMH, 473, "Lead Me, Lord" (Psalm)
Call to Prayer: UMH, 347, stanza 1. "Spirit Song" (Mark)
Call to Prayer: UMBOW, 196, "Call to Prayer" (Mark)
Prayer of Confession: UMBOW, 490 (Mark)
Prayer: UMH, 253, "Baptism of the Lord" (Mark)
Prayer: UMBOW, 399, Week 3 (Genesis)
Prayer: UMH, 705, "For Direction" (Psalm)
Prayer: UMBOW, 333 (1st item, Mark)
Prayer: UMBOW, 509, "In Time of Natural Disaster" (Genesis)
Response to Prayer: UMH, 347, stanza 2, "Spirit Song" (Mark)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Germany, France
THANKSGIVING AND COMMUNION
A deacon or assisting minister/layperson could dismiss the people using UMBOW 559. The pastor could then speak the blessing, using UMBOW 561 or The United Methodist Hymnal, 669.
You have drawn near to the water.
Refresh us, Holy Spirit.
The Spirit drives you into the wilderness.
We will go where you take us, and undergo whatever you use to test us.
Jesus goes forth to declare God’s kingdom.
We go forth to follow and do as he shows us.