Introduction & Welcome Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time!
God is good!
The second covenant in this year’s Lenten readings is the one made with Abraham and Sarah: God’s promise to make them the ancestors of many, with whom God will remain in everlasting covenant. Paul says this promise comes to all who share Abraham’s faith in the God who brings life into being where there was no life. We receive this baptismal promise of resurrection life in faith. Sarah and Abraham receive new names as a sign of the covenant, and we too get new identities in baptism, as we put on Christ.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God, the keeper of the covenant, the source of steadfast love, our rock and our redeemer.
God hears us when we cry, and draws us close in Jesus Christ. Let us return to the one who is full of compassion.
Silence is kept for reflection. Fountain of living water, pour out your mercy over us.
Our sin is heavy, and we long to be free. Rebuild what we have ruined and mend what we have torn. Wash us in your cleansing flood. Make us alive in the Spirit to follow in the way of Jesus, as healers and restorers of the world you so love.
Beloved, God’s word never fails.
The promise rests on grace: by the saving love of Jesus Christ, the wisdom and power of God, your sins are ☩ forgiven, and God remembers them no more.
Journey in the way of Jesus.
Prayer of the Day
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life. Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
First Reading: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
As with Noah, God makes an everlasting covenant with Abraham and Sarah. God promises this old couple that they will be the ancestors of nations, though they have no child together. God will miraculously bring forth new life from Sarah’s womb. The name changes emphasize the firmness of God’s promise.
1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”
15God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
Psalm: Psalm 22:23-31 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD. (Ps. 22:27) 23You who fear the LORD, give praise! All you of Jacob’s line, give glory.
Stand in awe of the LORD, all you offspring of Israel.
24For the LORD does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither is the LORD‘s face hidden from them; but when they cry out, the LORD hears them.
25From you comes my praise in the great assembly;
I will perform my vows in the sight of those who fear the LORD.
26The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
Let those who seek the LORD give praise! May your hearts live forever!
27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; all the families of nations shall bow before God.
28For dominion belongs to the LORD, who rules over the nations.
29Indeed, all who sleep in the earth shall bow down in worship; all who go down to the dust, though they be dead, shall kneel before the LORD.
30Their descendants shall serve the LORD, whom they shall proclaim to generations to come. 31They shall proclaim God’s deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying to them, “The LORD has acted!”
Second Reading: Romans 4:13-25
Paul presents Abraham as the example for how a person comes into a right relationship with God not through works of the law but through faith. Though Abraham and Sarah were far too old for bearing children, Abraham trusted that God would accomplish what God had promised to accomplish. 13The promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.
May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14)
Gospel: Mark 8:31-38
After Peter confesses his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus tells his disciples for the first time what is to come. Peter’s response indicates that he does not yet understand the way of the cross that Jesus will travel.
31[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, and give glory to Your Name, Oh Lord. Amen
My father had this expression. He’d say “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”. I sometimes wonder if Peter might have benefited from hearing that from time to time. In today’s reading, Peter attempts to substitute his own reasoning in place of the Lord’s plan. Admittedly, he is doing so out of concern for Jesus. He had just heard the Lord say that He was going to suffer greatly and die. Peter didn’t want that for Christ. To be honest, I’ve often felt that way as well. Had I been there, in Peter’s shoes, I might have expressed the same feelings. But that comes from only hearing part of what Christ was saying. As we know, Christ was also telling them that isn’t the end of the story. He also told them that He would rise again, winning victory for all mankind over death. I think it’s safe to say that Christ, being fully human, was not looking forward to the suffering that would accompany His crucifixion and death. It must have been tempting for Him to want to find a way to avoid it. Perhaps that is why spoke so harshly to Peter, even calling him Satan, as he might be seen as trying to tempt Christ into a different path. But also being fully divine, he understood what was necessary about it.
I can’t say that I do or ever will understand it myself. I’ve read some of the theological explanations for it such as the corollary to the Jewish system of sacrifices to pay for their debt of sins and that Christ, being without sin, was the only suitable sacrifice for all of our sins. By sacrificing himself for us on the cross, he took the punishment for all of our sins at once. This made him the ultimate sacrifice —once and for all satisfying the demands God’s justice required. That is why we call Jesus “Lamb of God.” But that doesn’t mean I will ever understand it in this lifetime. 1st Corinthians 3:19 teaches us that our wisdom is but foolishness in the sight of God. Man’s wisdom might have told Christ to avoid the pain of death and use His divine power to bend the world to God’s will. But I don’t think that God wants us to follow Him like a robot. That’s why He gave us free will. Perhaps what’s required here is not understanding, but faith. Faith that what is incomprehensible to us, as humans, makes perfect sense to God.
God says some things that are pretty hard to believe. Imagine being Abraham at 99 years old, married to Sarah who is also well along in years, and being told that she would bear him a son. Abraham didn’t fully understand how this would come about, so like Peter, he attempted to insert his own wisdom in the place of God’s plan. Instead of trusting that Sarah would bear him a son, he did as was common in his culture, and took Sarah’s handmaiden into his bed and conceived a son with her. Ishmael, however, was not to become Abraham’s heir. This of course, created tension when Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the son through whom God intended to keep His promise to make Abraham the father of nations and kings. Once again, what seems to be required here is not a human understanding of God’s plan, but faith that God’s plan will work itself out in such a way that all of His promises are kept.
I believe that God has a called me to His ministry. My human understanding asks “How will this be possible?” After all, like Abraham, I’m no spring chicken. I also have my faults and sins. Like Peter, I sometimes tend to open my mouth before my brain is fully engaged. I pray that God will give me faith that His plan for me will work out for my benefit and to His glory.
Prayers of Intercession
Relying on the promises of God, we pray boldly for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
Your gift of grace is for all people. Give confident faith to all the baptized, that they may follow you wholeheartedly. Give new believers joy in your promises; give hope and courage to those who suffer for their faith. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
All the ends of the earth worship you. From galaxies to microorganisms, preserve your creation. Teach humanity to wonder at your works and to join you in tending to creation’s well-being. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You rule over the nations. Raise up advocates for peace and justice within and between nations. Give life where hope seems dead; call into existence new realities we cannot even imagine. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
In Jesus you joined humanity in suffering and death. Reveal to all the depth of your love shown on the cross. Accompany all who suffer in body, mind, and spirit. Restore all who are sick or grieving. Bring vindication for victims of injustice, exploitation, and oppression especially those we remember on our prayer list. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You made Abraham and Sarah the ancestors of a multitude of nations. Bless grandparents, parents, and foster parents, and the children who look to them for care and guidance. Console those who deal with infertility, parents who have entrusted their children to adoption, and children longing to be adopted. Equip ministries and services to families. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Grant your guidance to those in leadership roles in your Church on Earth, especially Daniel and Elizabeth, our bishops, Howard, our pastor, our Church council, transition team and call committee, that you might guide them in the deliberations, for this Church community. Heal our divisions so that we may more perfectly reflect your love to all the world, and for all the intentions we speak now and those we hold in our hearts, that if they be in conformity with your will, you will see fit to grant them to us. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
We await the day of Christ’s coming in glory. Lead us by the example of all the saints whom you have called to take up their cross and follow you, that together we may find our lives in you. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O faithful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Faithful God, you walk beside us in desert places, and you meet us in our hunger with bread from heaven. Accompany us that we may pass over from death to life with Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.* On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Blessing You are what God made you to be: created in Christ Jesus for good works, chosen as holy and beloved, freed to serve your neighbor.
God bless you ☩ that you may be a blessing, in the name of the holy and life-giving Trinity.
Dismissal Go in peace with faith in god’s plan! Bless the world and be God’s grace! Thanks be to God!