Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio
A congregation of the Northwestern Ohio Synod
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Sunday, March 7, 2021
Third 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 third covenant in this year’s Lenten readings is the central one of Israel’s history: the gift of the law to those God freed from slavery. The commandments begin with the statement that because God alone has freed us from the powers that oppressed us, we are to let nothing else claim first place in our lives. When Jesus throws the merchants out of the temple, he is defending the worship of God alone and rejecting the ways commerce and profit-making can become our gods. The Ten Commandments are essential to our baptismal call: centered first in God’s liberating love, we strive to live out justice and mercy in our communities and the world.
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
Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17
After escaping from slavery, the Israelites come to Mount Sinai, where God teaches them how to live in community. The Ten Commandments proclaim that God alone is worthy of worship. Flowing from God, the life of the community flourishes when based on honesty, trust, fidelity, and respect for life, family, and property.
1God spoke all these words:
2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me.
4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13You shall not murder.
14You shall not commit adultery.
15You shall not steal.
16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Psalm: Psalm 19
The commandment of the Lord gives light to the eyes. (Ps. 19:8)
1The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky proclaims its maker’s handiwork.
2One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3Although they have no words or language,
and their voices are not heard,
4their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world,
where God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5It comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs about to the end of it again;
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7The teaching of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple.
8The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever;
the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11By them also is your servant enlightened,
and in keeping them there is great reward.
12Who can detect one’s own offenses?
Cleanse me from my secret faults.
13Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion over me;
then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
The word of the cross is pure foolishness and nonsense to the world because it claims that God is mostly revealed in weakness, humiliation, and death. But through such divine foolishness and weakness, God is working to save us. The center of Paul’s preaching is Christ crucified.
18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
We proclaim Christ crucified,* the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor. 1:23, 24)
Gospel: John 2:13-22
Jesus attacks the commercialization of religion by driving merchants out of the temple. When challenged, he responds mysteriously, with the first prediction of his own death and resurrection. In the midst of a seemingly stable religious center, Jesus suggests that the center itself has changed.
13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Meditation by David O’Brien
Through the written word, and the spoken word, may we know your Living Word Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen
God is speaking to each one of us, individually, in Exodus 20:1-17. He states, without qualification, that he is the Lord, our God. So many copies of the Ten Commandments start out with “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me” and leave out the part where God is talking how He brought Israel “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” The plaque outside the Lucas County Common Pleas Courthouse does this as well. I’m not sure why they make this editorial choice, except maybe to save space, but I think it’s unfortunate. The other words, which God spoke, show that God was then, as He is now, filled with a saving grace. The Ten Commandments, the law, is a gift, given to you and me by our God. Leaving out how the Lord has already been about His redemption of each of us is, in my opinion, an unfortunate choice.
The part that follows, “you shall have no other gods before me”, when looked at next to the second commandment, appears to be about idolatry. I don’t think that either of these commandments should be limited, however, to physical idols. We’ve all heard about the man who makes money his god, and how the pursuit of material wealth ends up being ultimately unsatisfying and damaging, not just to himself but also to those around him and in the wider community. Despite what some may say, greed is NOT good. People can make other things their gods as well. Drugs and/or alcohol are a common one. Making your life centered around these is self-destructive. In the prison, people often become part of a gang for protection. These gangs often become like a jealous lover, demanding all of their members time and devotion. Showing the slightest disloyalty to the gang can result in some grievous punishments. In effect, the gang becomes god to it’s members, but not a loving god like ours, more like an abusive slave master.
Some of the early Christian Churches had a very simple, three-word creed. Jesus is Lord. Those three words say a lot. For if Jesus is Lord, no one and nothing else can be. Not money, nor alcohol nor any earthly pleasures, nor any government. Similarly, no person should be elevated to the point of worship, whether that person is a leader of a nation or movement or a church or a celebrity. This often put the early Christians at odds with the Roman government which insisted that Caesar is lord. To assert that anyone other than Caesar was lord could often lead to a death sentence. It’s tempting to think back to one of the cult leaders when we think about individuals who were wrongfully worshiped, such as Jim Jones, but it can seem more benign, such as an admired singer. Elvis and the Beatles (yes I’m showing my age) had a devoted following back in the day. Sometimes we can even elevate ourselves as lord. In my Diakonia class, we’re reading “Reclaiming the L word” by Kelly A. Fryer. In that book she tells a story about a Church that wanted to move a piano in it’s tabernacle a grand total of five inches to make room for a set of handicapped accessible seats for the congregation. The choir director was so upset about this that she physically inserted herself between the piano and the movers and insisted that the Church do things her way. It seemed to me that she was prioritizing her will over that of the congregation who wanted to make sure that everyone that came to their Church was welcome and able to participate in worship of God. Did the choir director want to be the lord and master of that space?
Jesus is Lord. He is the loving and saving and redeeming God. May we always realize that simple truth and never seek to supplant Him with any other god.
Prayers of Intercession
Relying on the promises of God, we pray boldly for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
There is no God before you. Purify the faith of your church, that your people place their trust in nothing beside you. Your name is holy. Guide your church that in every situation your people’s words and actions honor your name. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
The heavens declare your glory. Renew your creation. Provide leaders in the struggle for clean air and water; protect creatures and crops that rely on healthy ecosystems; give all people the willingness to repent when our way of life pollutes the earth and skies. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Your foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. Fill leaders with the foolishness of your peace and mercy. Your law defends the vulnerable. Work through legislators, judicial systems, and systems of law enforcement to protect the well being and freedom of all. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Your weakness is stronger than human strength. Protect those who are vulnerable and give courage to all who are suffering, especially those we remember on our prayer list and those we hold in our hearts. Defend victims of crime and bring redemption to those who have harmed others. Give sabbath rest to all who labor. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You call us to proclaim Christ crucified. Give clarity to this congregation and our leaders, Elizabeth and Daniel, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, so that we might follow Christ beyond our own habits and comfort. Clear out anything in our common life that would obscure the gospel or that serves our own interests. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
The cross of Christ is your power for all who are being saved. Thank you for Perpetua, Felicity, and all the martyrs whose witness reveals the power of the cross. Give us the same trust in life and in death. 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.
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.
God of steadfast love, you gather your people into one body for the sake of the world.
Send us in the power of your Spirit, that our lives bear witness to the love that has made us new in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
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.
Go in peace. Share the good news that Jesus is Lord. Thanks be to God.