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)
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16.
El Shaddai (God of the Mountains/God of Compassion) calls Abram to be exclusively loyal and offers to covenant with him to make him (renamed Abraham) the father and Sarai (renamed Sarah) the mother of many nations.
Psalm Response: Psalm 22:23-31 (UMH 752-753).
The Lord's acts of deliverance for one people in one age will lead to generations of praise to the Lord worldwide. Verses 23-24 are not included in our hymnal version (it reflects a previous version of the lectionary). Use response one and verses 25-31. If you sing the psalm, use Tone 4 in A minor with Response 1.
Paul reminds the Jewish-Christian congregations in Rome that the founding stories of Judaism point to a God who graciously offers to include people in covenant on the basis of faith rather than perfect obedience to the law.
Following Jesus means following him to his death, and possibly our own. Jesus tells the disciples he will suffer and die at the hands of the religious authorities. Peter rebukes him privately, but Jesus rebukes Peter in front of all the other disciples. Jesus then turns to the crowds to declare that all who want to be his followers must take up their cross and follow him. If you're in this for yourself, you will lose everything. But if you're in this to follow Jesus and see the gospel lived, even if you die, you've gained it all.
The early church developed Lent as a season to prepare those to be baptized at Easter to respond to the questions they will be asked and the vows they will take.
This gospel theme this week is “Expectations” or “What It Takes to Be My Disciples.” This may be a good time to review these questions in worship, in classes, small groups, and through text, email, and social media.
Last week, we engaged the first set of baptismal questions, and called one another to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of (turn away from) our sinful ways.
This week, we build on the list: accept the freedom and power Christ gives to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
In taking on the expectation of Jesus for his disciples to take up the cross, we together and each of us individually learn and practice what it means to accept the freedom and power Christ gives us. And that power is precisely to help us continue to resist evil, injustice and oppression, however, wherever and whenever it makes itself known.
For the themes and suggestions for formational group focus for each week of Lent and Easter season, see Planning Lent and Easter Worship for Discipleship (Year B). For a webinar that gives more in-depth discussion of what you might do each week of these seasons and how, see Planning Lent and Easter for 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
Atmospherics --Lent 2: Expectations: Accept, Resist
The God who initiates covenant with Abram also expects Abram’s faithfulness to the terms of the covenant, including exclusive loyalty.
The same God in Jesus expects no less of his disciples. Follow him, including into death as may be needed.
As Paul reminds, it’s not about law, but relationship. There was no law when Abraham proved himself faithful to God’s voice ( Romans 4:15). There was only the covenant God had initiated. And that covenant was about being found faithful to God’s direction moment by moment, even (and especially!) in moments of deathly crisis.
To follow Jesus is to accept the freedom and power he gives us. Failure to follow him is to reject that freedom and power. Following him means staying in relationship with him. Failing to follow him is to walk away from that relationship. Following him is to be given what it takes to continue to resist evil, injustice, and oppression. Not following him is, inevitably, to find ourselves overwhelmed and perhaps even colonized by evil, injustice, and oppression. Following him is thus to find life. And not following him, as we do if we seek to preserve our lives on our own terms, is to face destruction of the very things we sought to defend.
These are hard sayings. But the promise of the freedom and power to live this way is precisely what Jesus offers, if, like Abraham, we remain faithful to his leadership in our lives.
The bottom line is his call that we follow him no matter what, even when that means discomfort or danger to ourselves.
Note which comes first: the call to follow, not the call to self-endangerment.
And note, as well, the call to follow has always, throughout the gospels come just after Jesus has declared and demonstrated the good news of God’s kingdom drawn near. Freedom and power are on display. The question is, “Do we want it?”
We are called and invited to follow Jesus into the fullness of life with God, which also means we are called and invited to enter God’s own struggle against the “powers” the bring chaos, destruction, and death. Joining God unreservedly in God’s mission as Christ’s disciples, we become conduits of God’s life, cleansing, healing, and delivering love to those who have been damaged or destroyed by the powers that be.
Genesis opens up to us two realities at once: God’s gracious intention and our responsibility to live it out. God calls Abram to enter into a covenant when Abram and Sarai are very old and still without a proper heir. God will make Abram and Sarai the ancestors of many nations (17:4). Abram, in return, is to “walk before me and be blameless” (17:1) and to keep the sign of this covenant alive (circumcision of all males henceforward, 17:9-14).
God does not abrogate God’s side of covenants. But there would be two means by which Abram or his descendents could do so. They could fail to “walk before God and be blameless” or they could fail to perpetuate the covenant sign of circumcision.
Reading this story through the lens of the gospel for today opens up another vista. Discipleship to Jesus is another invitation into covenant with God, to “walk before God and be blameless.” To “walk before God” means to carry out one’s life in the face of God. To be “blameless” (NRSV) means to have complete integrity, or as it is often translated, to be perfect.
Jesus, Son of God, true God of true God, calls those who would be his disciples to nothing less. The covenant signs he tells us to keep are the new covenant in his blood-- the meal, Holy Communion-- and the sign of our rebirth-- the bath, baptism. Keeping these signs alone is not the substance of our discipleship any more than circumcision alone was the substance of the covenant with Abram. The substance of our discipleship is following Jesus, walking in the mission of Jesus with integrity, toward perfection in love in this life, even in the face of the potential of a shameful execution at the hands of powers that are threatened by his Way.
Romans is the exegetical hinge here. The heart of Paul’s argument in this week’s reading is that God has always operated toward humankind graciously and on the basis of faith, starting with Abraham. In Romans, the faith we exercise is faith in the “one who raised Jesus from the dead.” It is not enough that we merely “keep the law” or even keep the signs of the covenant given to us (baptism and Holy Communion), though we are certainly called to do the latter. What God called Abram to do, God also calls us to do: trust and actually follow in God’s way.
Mark’s Gospel lays this week’s theme before us the most directly. “Whoever wishes to follow after me, deny yourself, take up your crossbeam, and follow me.”
Denying self here does not mean “engage in extreme ascetic practices.” Nor does it mean “Give up chocolate for Lent.” The word is not “discipline” oneself. Self-discipline, as Paul and James remind, is important as well. But that is not the point here. The verb “aparneomai” (commonly translated “deny”) comes from the realm of legal and property transactions, and it means to renounce a relationship with someone or a claim upon property. To deny oneself, take up one’s crossbeam and follow Jesus, means to renounce claim upon one’s own life, facing the possibility that following Jesus can mean shameful execution head on. Jesus alone has claim over our lives if we are his disciples—not death, not other powers, and not ourselves.
We know about renunciation, and we are learning more concretely what it means for each of us and all of us. We spoke of it last Sunday in worship, and we invited people to work on it in formational groups throughout the week.
Today in worship and this coming week in formational groups, we take the next steps. We are invited to accept the freedom and power Christ offers and continue to follow in his way.
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In Your Planning Team
If water gave way to wilderness in a worship-scape calling us to renounce, reject, and repent, what does a worship-scape look like that takes us on the next step of this journey, into the second movement of baptismal vows and baptismal living, to accept and so be enabled to resist?
Might something like the image of a waterfall (as at the top of these helps) begin to evoke some of this in your team? The gospel reading for today takes place near this site, and possibly within view of it, “in the region of Caesarea Philippi” (Mark 8:27). The water in this river “follows” other water over the cliff, and so loses the river it once was, only to regain itself in a new body of water below, a body of water that eventually joins the Dan River to become the Jordan. The imagery of the water also evokes the baptismal life the baptized seek to live, and those preparing for baptism, confirmation, reaffirmation or restoration seek to learn how to live.
Setting the scene may only help set the stage for the focus of this Sunday and of the formational groups this coming week. What, concretely, does it mean for us to take up the cross and follow? What, concretely, does it mean for us to accept the freedom and power Christ gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression?
Time for more testimonies as part of worship today from seasoned saints in your midst or in your wider community! Find those in your midst with stories to tell about how they’ve learned to live “in the flow” of Christ’s freedom and power and by that flow have been given power to resist rather than be regularly overcome by evil, injustice, and oppression.
And it's time to sing some freedom songs as part of worship, yes, songs sung by many in the U.S. and around the world over time to announce they were indeed embracing freedom as an ultimate reality, even in the face of oppressive circumstances; and were prepared to sing it and march it and pray it to break down oppression with the power of God’s saving love. Anyone who has sung these songs as part of any such movement knows what it means to take up the cross and follow.
Sing. Pray. Hum. Exhort. Invite. Rejoice in Christ’s freedom and power—freedom and power given to all who will follow the path to freedom land.
And feast at the table of Freedom and Power today, that all who have come to worship this day will know themselves fed and ready to take up the cross, and follow.
Praise in Lent?
The Psalm this Sunday is Psalm 22. We may be more familiar with it from Good Friday or references to the death of Jesus. But this week’s verses are from the latter part of the psalm, offering praise for deliverance from death.
Yes, praise… in Lent!
United Methodists continue a long habit of thinking of Lent as an extended Holy Week, full of penitence and the suffering of Jesus. Help break the United Methodists where you gather of this habit!
Remember, the readings and calendar for the Sundays in Lent are not particularly penitential or focused on Jesus' suffering. While today’s Gospel reading does foretell his suffering and ours when we follow him, the point of all this season isn’t his suffering, but our preparation to “take the plunge” into the baptismal waters and follow him wherever he leads.
Our ministry of intercession as the church can be enriched by using comprehensive forms of intercessory prayer that include the whole scope of the needs of the church and the world, including world affairs, missional issues in the life of the congregation, prayers for the churches in the world (see "Ecumenical Prayer Cycle" below), and prayer by name for those in your congregation and every congregation who are preparing for baptism, confirmation, reaffirmation or reconciliation. See UMBOW 495, UMH 877, or TFWS 2201 for examples of "Prayers of the People" that help facilitate this more comprehensive and interactive way of congregational prayer. See Intercessions for the Christian People for weekly forms of intercession based on the Revised Common Lectionary. If you have a deacon, it is part of her or his ministry to lead your congregation in these prayers.
Given the focus on the cross in the gospel lesson, today may be a good time to consider commending the sign of the cross to those who are preparing during this season if you have not used this rite at an earlier time in the initiation process, perhaps immediately prior to or following the intercessions. See Come to the Waters, page 111.
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Call to Worship: UMH 292, stanza 1, "What Wondrous Love Is This"
Greeting: UMBOW 343 (1st item, Mark)
Opening Prayer: UMBOW 467 (Genesis)
Opening Prayer: UMBOW 469 (Genesis, Romans)
Call to Prayer: UMBOW 187, "Jesus We Are Here" (Mark)
Call to Prayer: UMBOW 196, "Call to Prayer" (Mark)
Prayer of Confession: UMBOW 476 (Mark)
Prayer of Confession: UMBOW 483 (Genesis, Romans)
Prayer: UMH 268, Lent (Mark)
Prayer: UMH 403, For True Life (Mark)
Prayer: UMBOW 336 (Mark)
Prayer: UMBOW 511, For God's Reign (Psalm)
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino
Prayer of Great Thanksgiving with Communion: UMBOW 60-61
Prayer of Thanksgiving (if no Communion): UMBOW 551 (2nd item, Genesis, Mark)
Benediction: UMBOW 189, "May This Mind Be in Us" (Romans)