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!
Rooted in the past and growing into the future, the church must always be reformed in order to live out the love of Christ in an ever-changing world. We celebrate the good news of God’s grace, that Jesus Christ sets us free every day to do this life-transforming work. Trusting in the freedom given to us in baptism, we pray for the church, that Christians will unite more fully in worship and mission.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
whose teaching is life,
whose presence is sure,
and whose love is endless.
Let us confess our sins to the one who welcomes us with an open heart.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God our comforter:
like lost sheep, we have gone astray.
We gaze upon abundance and see scarcity.
We turn our faces away from injustice and oppression.
We exploit the earth with our apathy and greed.
Free us from our sin, gracious God.
Listen when we call out to you for help.
Lead us by your love to love our neighbors as ourselves.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
By the gift of grace in ☩ Christ Jesus, God makes you righteous.
Receive with glad hearts the forgiveness of all your sins.
Prayer of the Day
Gracious Father, we pray for your holy catholic church. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in need, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34
The renewed covenant will not be breakable, but like the old covenant it will expect the people to live upright lives. To know the Lord means that one will defend the cause of the poor and needy (Jer. 22:16). The renewed covenant is possible only because the Lord will forgive iniquity and not remember sin. Our hope lies in a God who forgets.
31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Psalm: Psalm 46
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. (Ps. 46:7)
1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains shake in the depths of the sea;
3though its waters rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be shaken;
God shall help it at the break of day.
6The nations rage, and the kingdoms shake;
God speaks, and the earth melts away.
7The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
8Come now, regard the works of the Lord,
what desolations God has brought upon the earth;
9behold the one who makes war to cease in all the world;
who breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, and burns the shields with fire.
10“Be still, then, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”
11The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Second Reading: Romans 3:19-28
Paul’s words stand at the heart of the preaching of Martin Luther and other Reformation leaders. No human beings make themselves right with God through works of the law. We are brought into a right relationship with God through the divine activity centered in Christ’s death. This act is a gift of grace that liberates us from sin and empowers our faith in Jesus Christ.
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
Alleluia. If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,* and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. Alleluia. (John 8:31-32)
Gospel: John 8:31-36
Jesus speaks of truth and freedom as spiritual realities known through his word. He reveals the truth that sets people free from sin.
31Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
Why do we, as human beings, always try to make things more complicated than they really are? Thanksgiving, which is coming up next month, is a really good example of this. Thanksgiving is all about being grateful to the Lord for the gifts of a bountiful harvest and family. We say grace before we have a nice meal and then enjoy each other’s company. Yet somehow, we need advice from experts on how have the “perfect” Thanksgiving celebration. There are literally thousands of books on the topic when all you really need to do is invite the people you love and who love you and have a good meal.
We do the same thing with our faith and we have all throughout history. God gave Moses the law, which was complicated enough. But the priests had to complicate it to the point that they got upset when some of Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands in the prescribed manner. Then we Christians did the same thing with our faith. About the time of the Reformation, the Church had all sorts of rules, such as how much one had to donate to receive forgiveness, weekly individual confession, Holy days of obligation and even rules about when one could eat meat. The feeling was that one had to do the right things, and donate to the right funds, to deserve God’s love and forgiveness. They should have paid closer attention to Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he says that “we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law”. Martin Luther and other reformers hung their hats, at least partially, on that particular passage. The principle of justification by faith is a central part of the teachings of the Lutheran Church. And it’s really a pretty simple concept. If you look earlier in Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome, he explains that “since all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God; they are now justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is Christ Jesus”. Or put another way, we just aren’t good enough and we’re not going to be, but God loves us anyway. That includes ALL of us, from the most pious of worshipers to the guy sitting in a prison cell because of something horrible that he has done.
Jesus also speaks to this in the Gospel when he says that “if you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”! And what was Christ’s word? He said that the most important commandments were that we love God and then that we love each other. Again, it sounds pretty simple to me. Even so, we still have people who will say that we have to worship in one particular manner, or it won’t be pleasing to God. All God really wants from us is to love Him and to love each other. I’m pretty certain that he doesn’t care if we light the candles from left to right or right to left.
Recently, we’ve had an argument regarding which version of the Lord’s Prayer we should say. The one approved in the 70’s, or the older one. When you ask someone why they don’t like the newer version, they will most likely respond with something like “because we’ve always said it that way”. That sounds to me like they’re more concerned with keeping things the way they’re used to be than anything else. But again, I don’t think that God will get really worked up about whether we say, “lead us not into temptation” or “do not bring to the time of trial”. They’re both perfectly valid in my mind.
In some ways, it’s understandable that we make things more complicated than they have to be. When we’re young, our world is rather small. In most cases, we have our family and our school and maybe our church community. As we get older, it gets bigger and more complicated and so to make sense of it, we get more complicated. I remember having a children’s Bible at one time that had bright pictures and had the stories we all know edited down to make it understandable to a child. The Bible we read as adults is much more detailed and, well, complicated. It contains 66 books over which scholars have argued for thousands of years. And we’re supposed to understand all of this? As we get older and presumably more mature, or understanding of thing is also supposed to grow, but it’s small wonder to me that we end up making it more complicated than it has to be.
As we approach Thanksgiving and then Advent and Christmas after that, let’s resolve to keep it simple. Simple about Christ’s saving grace and about what we need to do in response to that. Let’s focus on loving God and then one another and make all the other stuff secondary.
Prayers of Intercession
Set free from sin and death and nourished by the word of truth, we join in prayer for all of God’s creation.
A brief silence.
We pray for all who long for a word of truth and for the radical grace that flows from the cross. Inspire congregations to freely and boldly proclaim your love for all people with persistence and hope. Inspire our bishops, Elizabeth & Daniel, and our pastor, Howard, to lead us in ways that help us to do just that. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We pray for your creation, for mountains, rivers, streams, cities, homesteads, and neighborhoods. Write in our hearts a new love and care for creation. Give us the will to curb wasteful habits and to hold accountable those who neglect the vulnerable. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We pray for all who aspire to public office and for all who will vote on Tuesday at local polling places. Pour wisdom and understanding upon all who govern so that communities of justice and peace may thrive. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We pray for all who long for healing in mind, body, or spirit, especially those who are remembered on our prayer list and those whom we remember in our hearts. Strengthen hospitals, clinics, counseling centers, nursing homes, and recovery centers to be holy spaces of renewal that all might live the abundant life you intend. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We pray for all who seek to grow in faith and love of you. Guide teaching and learning in confirmation, small groups, Sunday school, youth groups, schools, seminaries, and universities. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We give thanks for all the saints and reformers who have gone before us who dwell in your holy habitation (especially). Give us courage through their example to challenge unjust systems and work toward life-giving reformation. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Confident that you hear us, O God, we boldly place our prayers into your hands; through Jesus Christ, our truth and life.
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.
People of God,
you are Christ’s body,
bringing new life to a suffering world.
The holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
bless you now and forever.
Go in peace. Bless the world by being God’s grace!
Thanks be to God!