March 3, 2024

Third Sunday in Lent






Gracious God, whose power is made perfect in weakness,
whose wisdom appears as foolishness in this world,
we thank you for the scandal of the cross.
In Jesus Christ,
you overturn all our usual ways of behaving
and believing.
You scatter our false notions of discipleship
as easily as coins are spilled from a box.
You correct our notions of piety and order
with fierce passion.
Do not let your church become content or
contained as an institution.
Raze to ruins what is distorted in us,
and raise us to new life as a community
so that we may be the body of Christ in and for the world.
With fear and joy, we ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.


PRELUDE                   “In Heavenly Love Abiding”                        Horatio Parker



The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;

The decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.

The ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

They are more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey. Let us worship God!


*HYMN No. 214                     “You Are My Refuge, Faithful God”

1 You are my refuge, faithful God;
you shelter me from shame.
I put my spirit in your hands
and call upon your name.

2 Deliver me from hidden snares,
from sorrow, pain, and strife.
When troubles seems to smother me,
take heed, and save my life!

3 Be gracious, God, in my distress,
and dry my bitter tears.
My life is spent in misery;
I sigh away my years.

4 I am a wretched sight to see:
a broken, empty thing,
with only terror all around,
and deathly whispering.

5 And yet I trust in you, O God;
your covenant still stands.
Redeem me, in your faithful love:
my life is in your hands.



Christ calls us to live lives in harmony with our God and our neighbors. Even our best efforts fall short. Yet our God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Trusting that abundant mercy, let us confess our sin together.



God of righteousness, we confess that have not kept your commandments. We bow down before idols, declaring our allegiance to other powers and principalities. We take your name in vain, using it to justify our own prejudices and opinions. We do not make adequate time to rest and remember your goodness, nor to revel in the delight of family and friends. We look the other way in the face of violence and oppression, misogyny and sexual assault, land grabs and unjust economic practices. Our dishonesty and greed get the better of us. Yet you gave us commandments not for condemnation, but so that we might live in justice and joy. Purify us by your righteousness and enfold us in your grace. Sanctify our intentions and actions, that our lives may begin to reflect your Beloved Community. Amen.




*RESPONSE No. 551             “Lord Have Mercy”

Lord, have mercy;
Christ, have mercy;
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy;
Christ, have mercy;
Lord, have mercy upon us.



Hear these words from the Apostle Paul, “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” The grace of Christ is sufficient for us.
In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven!

Thanks be to God!


*RESPONSE No. 522            “Holy, Holy, Holy”

1 Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

2 Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest,
hosanna in the highest.



Christ is our peace.

He has reconciled us to God in one body by the cross.

We meet in his name and share his peace.

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you.


ANTHEM                   “Eyes of Heaven”                  Ruth Schram





Please join me in the unison prayer…

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock, and our redeemer. Amen.


SCRIPTURE               John 2:13-22

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.




This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!!


SERMON                   “God’s Dwelling Place”

~We, human begins, are impressed very often by all the wrong things.  In John 2 everyone was impressed with the physical Temple.  It had been undergoing construction for over four decades already and was not even finished.  It reminds me of the Ken Follett novel The Pillars of the Earth that narrates the construction of a European cathedral that literally stretches across generations of construction workers and craftsmen.  Some projects in days gone by were so grand, the person who laid the first brick just knew that if one day the final brick got laid high up on the spire of a bell tower, it might very well be his great-great-great-great grandson who put on that finishing touch.

How could one fail to be impressed with such a grand undertaking?

And in John 2 and in Jesus’ day, how could one fail to be impressed with Herod’s Temple?  It maybe did not quite hold a candle to the original splendor of Solomon’s Temple but since that building was long gone, one takes what one can get, and Herod’s edifice was quite something to behold.  And yet, we too are often impressed by all the wrong things or just aren’t paying attention to the Divine in our midst.  A modern-day example comes from a scene in our national capital from 2007.


One day in a busy Washington D.C. Metro station, a man with an open violin case in front of him played his fiddle for the passersby.  A typical scene in that part of the country – a musician busking for money.  Quite a few children and young people stopped and stared but were soon enough hustled off by their parents.  About half a dozen people stayed for a minute or two before moving on to catch their train.  A couple of dozen people threw money into the open violin case.  After a while the violinist had collected a total of $32.17.  This musician and his playing didn’t grab much attention, much like Jesus’ presence in the Temple and his comments about rebuilding.


In the Gospel of John, of course, we get a theological aside—a holy parenthetical—to inform us that the “Temple” in question was Jesus’ own body.  The very Son of the Living God was standing right in front of these people, but they were far more impressed with brick-and-mortar than they were with flesh-and-blood.  Even if they had understood the reference to his own body, though, you get the feeling they would have been unbelieving and unimpressed by also that claim.

Unless of course it was true.  Yes, it would have been ludicrous to hear someone claim to be able to restore the decimated World Trade Center site in three days’ time.  But what would be more impressive: claiming you could raise back up the buildings or claiming that you could (and would) reassemble the body of every last victim who died in that great terrorist cataclysm?

That would surely be the grand miracle because that would not be something we could do at Ground Zero or anywhere else.  Yes, we can re-build the physical structures.  It just takes years to do.  But we could take every second that has passed in the 13.7 billion-year history of the physical cosmos and it would still not be time sufficient to reconstruct a single human being who ever lived or raise someone up from the dust.  We cannot engineer that.

Jesus does that.  It happened to him first so that all may follow.  That is the One who stood in the midst of that allegedly “impressive” Temple that day in Jerusalem.

No one saw him for who he was.

No one recognized him nor what he was really saying.

Again, we, human begins, are impressed very often by all the wrong things.

We aren’t paying attention to the important things in our life – or impressive things that we encounter – say like a musician busking on the DC Metro:  But the musician in question was no less than Joshua Bell – American violinist and conductor.


Three weeks earlier he had played to a packed house in Boston where tickets for the good seats went for $100 a pop (and even the cheap seats cost more than Bell collected in the subway station that day).




Unbeknownst to the distracted passersby, Bell was playing one of the most difficult and intricate pieces ever composed for the violin, and he played it with not only the world-class skill that Mr. Bell possesses but he played it on the “Gibson ex Huberman” Stradivarius violin worth $4 million.  The whole stunt had been orchestrated by The Washington Post to see if anyone would notice.  No one truly did, save perhaps for a few children who sensed something was up.


Too often in life we don’t realize what is standing right in front of us. A world renown musician or the Messiah promising the rebuilding of the temple – that is to say promising us – eternal life.

But one day we will all see him for who he is.  The message of Lent is an invitation to spend time reconnecting to God, who is ever present.  These forty days are an opportunity to see Jesus Christ in our daily living and not get distracted by big, shiny things.    This season is to observe a holy Lent:

by self-examination and penitence,

by prayer and fasting,

by works of love,

and by meditating on Gods’ Word.



Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), “Call to Worship” Website, AJ Levine, Teri McDowell Ott, Scott Hoezee, Karoline Lewis, David Lose, Ginna Bairby, and The New Interpreter’s Commentary




I am empowered by God and led by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.  I will be a living witness through prayer, preaching, teaching, and outreach to all people.  I will encourage and challenge all to grow spiritually, to care for others, to share the Good News, and to do so with a loving, joyful heart.


*HYMN No. 523                    “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart”

You satisfy the hungry heart
with gift of finest wheat;
come give to us, O saving Lord,
the bread of life to eat.

1 As when the shepherd calls his sheep,
they know and heed his voice,
so when you call your family, Lord,
we follow and rejoice. (Refrain)

2 With joyful lips we sing to you
our praise and gratitude
that you should count us worthy, Lord,
to share this heavenly food. (Refrain)

3 Is not the cup we bless and share
the blood of Christ outpoured?
Do not one cup, one loaf, declare
our oneness in the Lord? (Refrain)

4 The mystery of your presence, Lord,
no mortal tongue can tell:
whom all the world cannot contain
comes in our hearts to dwell. (Refrain)

5 You give yourself to us, O Lord;
then selfless let us be,
to serve each other in your name
in truth and charity. (Refrain)



God is with you!
And God is with us all.
Open wide your hearts.
We open them completely to the Spirit of God.
May God’s love nurture your wandering spirits each day.
May God’s light sustain your souls each night.


Prayer of Communion
This is a season of wilderness-
The season we grasp to understand the Divine just a little more.
This is the time for us to reach inwards to find the self that God sees.
This is the chance for us to gaze outwards, caring for the Christ in our midst.

The Lenten roads are long
Yet full of gifts.
The Lenten paths often seem chilly
Yet warm with the winds of the Spirit.
The Spirit of God is the light that leads us in the hushed nights.
The Christ is our companion on the journey in the intense sunlight of day.
We remember his time in the wilderness-
The struggles. The hunger.  The peace.

And as we seek the Divine in our midst,
On this journey, we crave the bread of life.
On our desert roads, we thirst for the fruit of the vine, the cup of blessings.

Through Jesus the Christ’s story, we remember the night before his arrest,
The night of serenity, solemnity, and love.
Jesus took in his hands bread from the table.
He broke it and blessed it.
Eat in remembrance of me, he said.

And after supper,
As the night grew long,
Jesus took a cup, and filled it with the fruit of the vine.
As he blessed it, he spoke aloud to them
Take and drink and always remember me.

May the Spirit who traveled with Christ in the wilderness
And fills us with the hope of God
Surround these elements.
May the Spirit speak to us in this season of wilderness
Becoming our strength on this journey
And filling our lives with love.

We lift up these prayers and these elements in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who taught his disciples to pray saying…


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 debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.


Communion at the Table    Bread (pause)            Cup (pause)               Return


Prayer of Thanksgiving
Divine Light of Our Journey-
In a spirit of gratitude we give thanks for this time at your Holy Meal.
This time at the Table filled us with strength,
Knowing that as we continue on this Lenten journey,
We will find your peace surrounding us.





God’s house does not operate according to the logic of the market, but according to the abundance of God’s grace. Let us each give what we have, trusting that by God’s generosity, it will be enough. Let us receive the morning offering.




*RESPONSE N0. 605                        “Praise to God the Father”

Praise to God the Father;
praise to God the Son;
praise to God the Spirit:
praise to the Three-in-One.
Sing praise, sing praise to the Lord on high.
Praise to God Almighty;
praise to the Holy One.


We give thee but thine own,
whate’er the gift may be;
all that we have is thine alone,
a trust, O Lord, from thee.


*HYMN No. 839                    “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine!”

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine;
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. 


This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.


Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.


This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.


Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.


This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.



Beloved people of God;
I invite you, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent
by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting,
by works of love,
and by meditating on Gods’ Word.

May the grace, hope, peace and love of God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with us all, now and forever. Amen.