Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio
A congregation of the Northwestern Ohio Synod
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Sunday, March 27, 2022
Fourth Sunday in Lent
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 psalm sets the tone this day: “Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away!” Happy are those who have “become the righteousness of God” in the merits of Christ Jesus. Happy are those for whom the forgiveness of God has “rolled away the disgrace” of former times. Happy is the father at the return of his prodigal son. Happy are we that our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Rejoice!
Confession and Forgiveness
All may make the sign of the cross, the sign that is marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.
In the name of God,
who makes a way in the wilderness,
walks with us,
and guides us in our pilgrimage.
Silence is kept for reflection.
we confess that we have wandered far from you:
we have not trusted your promises,
we have ignored your prophets in our own day,
we have squandered our inheritance of grace,
we have failed to recognize you in our midst.
Have mercy on us!
Forgive us and turn us again to you.
Teach us to follow in your ways,
assure us again of your love,
and help us to love our neighbor.
Beloved in Christ,
the Word draws near to you,
and all who call out to God shall be saved.
In Jesus, God comes to you again and again
and gathers you under wings of love.
In ☩ Jesus’ name, your sins are forgiven.
God journeys with you and teaches you how to live in love.
Prayer of the Day
God of compassion, you welcome the wayward, and you embrace us all with your mercy. By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace, and feed us at the table of your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
First Reading: Joshua 5:9-12
By celebrating the Passover and eating the produce of the promised land instead of the miraculous manna that had sustained them in the desert, the Israelites symbolically bring their forty years of wilderness wandering to an end at Gilgal.
9The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.
10While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. 11On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.
Psalm: Psalm 32
Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord. (Ps. 32:11)
1Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,
and whose sin is put away!
2Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt,
and in whose spirit there is no guile!
3While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,
because of my groaning all day long.
4For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.
5Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not conceal my guilt.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.
6Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble;
when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.
7You are my hiding-place; you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
8“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that | you should go;
I will guide you with my eye.
9Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding;
who must be fitted with bit and bridle, or else they will not stay near you.”
10Great are the tribulations of the wicked;
but mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord.
11Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord;
shout for joy, all who are true of heart.
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
One way to describe the gospel is the promise that in Christ everything is transformed into newness. All mistakes, all deliberate sins, all old history is reconciled with Christ’s resurrection. This is Paul’s strong message to the congregation in the city of Corinth.
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
I will arise and go to my father and say, I have sinned against heaven and before you. (Luke 15:18)
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Jesus tells a parable about a son who ponders his father’s love only after he has spurned it. The grace he receives is beyond his hopes. That same grace is a crisis for an older brother who believes it is his obedience that has earned his place in the father’s home.
1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3So he told them this parable: 11b“There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”
Meditation by David O’Brien
I’ve been watching this show about a doctor in a small town in Cornwall, UK. He used to be a surgeon in London, but somehow developed an aversion to the sight of blood! That would really made him kind of useless as a surgeon, wouldn’t it? He’s got all this training for surgery, and from what they say he was pretty good at it too. But now he’s unable to do that job. So he moves from London to this small town and becomes their general practitioner. (The health care system works differently over there, so he’s the doctor for the entire town.) The point I’m trying to make is that this doctor is going somewhere that he’s needed to do a job that he’s been trained for. Caring for sick people.
The opening paragraph of our Gospel reading today reminded me of him because, while the Pharisees are all grumbling about it, Jesus is going where he’s needed to do the job he’s been sent to do. Caring for the broken people of this world and saving the sinners. All the Pharisees can see is that Jesus is spending time with sinners and eating with them. To a certain extent, I understand the thinking of the Pharisees. When I was young, we always got dressed up in our Sunday finest for church. If a man was there and not wearing a suit and tie, it was considered shocking. Some folks may have even looked down their noses at them, just as the Pharisees are looking down their noses at the sinners. If you have to be able to afford to dress a certain way to attend church, to my way of thinking, that creates a bar that some might not be able to reach and thus keep them from being able to hear the word of God there. That’s not a very good way for a church to love its neighbors, is it? Similarly, if someone had to be free of sin before they could approach Jesus, that would defeat the purpose. The Pharisees don’t seem to get this, so to help them, and us, Jesus tells them three parables. We only have one in today’s reading, the story of the lost son. The others are the story of the lost coin and the lost sheep.
The parable of the lost sheep tells of how a shepherd, having lost one sheep out of a flock of 100 will leave the 99 a go looking for the lost one. Similarly, when a woman loses one of her ten coins, she turns the house inside out to find the lost one.
The parable we are given tells the story of a man with two sons. One who takes his share of the family inheritance and goes off to live the life of Riley, while the other stays with his father and continues to work the family farm. When things go badly for the son that left, he decides to return to his father hoping that Dad will at least let him work as one of the laborers. Instead, Dad welcomes him back with open arms. The other brother is not happy about this at all. Dad tries to explain it to him, telling him how his brother was dead, but is now alive. We aren’t told if the son comes around and ends up rejoicing in his brother’s return, but I’d like to think that he did.
The Pharisees are like the son that stayed home in this story. They’ve done what they have been told they were supposed to do. The tax collectors and sinners did not. The Pharisees are having a hard time understanding why they aren’t being rewarded for their good deeds and are frustrated that Jesus is spending his time with those who have done wrong. Jesus tries to explain it to them in the parable, but we don’t know if they got it.
So what about us today? Are we like the Pharisees, looking down our noses at those we consider to be sinners or otherwise not worthy of God’s grace? Or can we find new ways to open our congregation to other folks who are in need of hearing God’s word? Is Grace Lutheran Church here for us or are we here to bring God’s word to the people who need it most? The poor, the desperate and also the sinner. Can we, like Jesus, welcome people to our table who are most in need of saving?
Prayers of Intercession
Drawn close to the heart of God, we offer these prayers for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
Jesus formed the disciples in the ways of extravagant mercy and profound welcome. Inspire Elizabeth & Daniel, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, and all pastors, deacons, priests and lay leaders to lead your church to be a community marked by forgiveness, hospitality, and celebration. Send us to transform a world plagued by fear and condemnation. Merciful God, receive our prayer.
You make the land to produce a harvest that sustains your entire creation. Equip farmers and farm workers who till the soil. Nourish the earth with ample rainfall and abundant sunshine. Heal grounds tainted by pollution or misuse. Merciful God, receive our prayer.
Countries are divided and leaders often harbor grudges. Reconcile nations that experience conflict especially Ukraine and Russia as well as other nations at war which don’t make our daily news feeds. Act quickly to bring an end to war. Anoint peacemakers trained in the art of diplomacy and foster a spirit of collaboration among political rivals. Merciful God, receive our prayer.
Your people cry for help in times of distress. Resolve disagreements among family members. Save those experiencing financial hardship. Hear our prayers for those who are sick or grieving, especially those on our prayer list and prayer board and those whom we remember in the quiet stillness of our hearts. Console us with the promise that everything can become new. Merciful God, receive our prayer.
Your love comes to us when a table is set, and a feast is prepared. Bless the feeding ministries of this congregation. Bring an end to hunger in our community and around the world. Merciful God, receive our prayer.
The one who was dead is alive again. We give thanks for those who have died, confident that steadfast love surrounds them. Shelter them in your love until we are gathered at your heavenly banquet. Merciful God, receive our prayer.
Accept the prayers we bring, O God, on behalf of a world in need, for the sake of Jesus Christ.
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, continues to teach us, we boldly pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
You are children of God,
anointed with the oil of gladness
and strengthened for the journey.
Father, Son & Holy Spirit,
☩ bless you this day and always.
Go in peace. Jesus meets you on the way.
Thanks be to God.