Second Sunday in Lent






God, your Son Jesus Christ bore the cross for our salvation
and was raised from the dead for the redemption of the world.
Give us the courage to take up our cross and follow him,
that through his grace we may accept the cost of faithful discipleship
and receive the joy of everlasting life with Christ,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.


PRELUDE                   “The Shores of Galilee”                    Ross Anderson



Let us not be ashamed of our Savior. Let us sing and praise our God out loud.

In the midst of the crowd, we will praise you. In our community, we will bear witness to our faith.

Let us set our minds on divine things.

Let us take up our cross and follow Christ.


*HYMN No. 215                     “What Wondrous Love Is This”

1 What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

2 When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down
beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul!

3 To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb who is the great I am,
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
while millions join the theme, I will sing!

4 And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
and through eternity I’ll sing on.



When we cry to God in prayer and confession, God hears. Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence and faith.



Savior God, the public spectacle of the cross calls us to account. We hesitate and hedge when opportunities arise to speak of you. We are shy in faith and not bold to proclaim. Your story saves, yet we keep it to ourselves. Forgive our reticence of faith. Forgive the ways we fail to serve as public witnesses. Help us be your candlelight, held high to set the world aglow. 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.



God does not forsake us. Our God is a gracious God, abounding in steadfast love. Know that in Jesus Christ, you are forgiven and be at peace. Amen.


*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                   “What Wondrous Love Is This”                  Mark Hayes





Please join me in the unison prayer…

Merciful, God, help us to seek you and the message you intend for us in your Word read and proclaimed today. Amen.


SCRIPTURE               Mark 8:31-39

31 Then he 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. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But 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.”


34 He called the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If any wish to come[a] after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For 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,[b] will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words[c] 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.”




This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!!


SERMON                   “IF ANY WISH….”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as many of you know, was a German pastor and promising theologian from a distinguished, traditional German family. Days before the end of the war, he was executed by the Nazis for his participation in a plot to assassinate Hitler.



In the introduction to his definitive biography, Union Seminary scholar Larry Rasmussen asks, “What explains the continuing interest in Bonhoeffer: documentaries, made-for-TV movies, musical compositions (including an opera), conferences, commemorative worship services,” not to mention countless references to Bonhoeffer in countless sermons?

Rasmussen thinks it’s because in Bonhoeffer we see an example of authentic Christian faith, a Christian whose life was an authentic combination of words and acts. I think it’s because to know his story is to understand that he actually did something that is at the very heart of what we mean by Christian faith, something none of us wants to do, perhaps would not do—namely take up a cross and follow Jesus and in the process lose our lives.

Just before the war, Bonhoeffer was in New York, at Union Seminary. Friends in the scholarly community had encouraged him to get out of Germany and to pursue his scholarly vocation in the safety of an American seminary. In June of 1939, he wrote a letter to his mentor, Reinhold Niebuhr:

I have had time to think and pray about my situation and that of my nation. I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through the difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. . . . Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose, but I cannot make the choice in security.

And so he boarded one of the last ships to sail from the United States to Germany. He joined the Confessing Church, a new denomination that spoke out against Nazism, organized a seminary to train pastors for a new and risky prophetic ministry, and he joined the resistance and a plot to assassinate Hitler. When the conspiracy was discovered, he was arrested, spent two years in prison, and was executed on April 9, 1945.

Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For 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.”

That may be the most radical, most important thing he ever said. It just may be the most important thing anybody ever said.

It happens in the middle of the story. Jesus and his disciples had been in Galilee, visiting and teaching in the synagogues. He healed the sick, received and welcomed those who were on the margins of society, touched the untouchable, broke bread with the unclean, welcomed the children. His reputation preceded him. Crowds were now waiting for him, following him.

And then one day, after three years, his attitude changes. He turns his attention away from Galilee, south to Jerusalem, from the pleasant serenity of fishing villages and fields of wild lilies to the noise and confusion of the capital city. It’s the day he startles the disciples by asking, “Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am?” And when Peter says it for them—a staggering claim—“You are the Christ, the Messiah,” Jesus chooses the occasion to introduce a totally new idea, chooses the occasion to teach them that this adventure is about to take a dangerous turn, chooses the moment to tell them that in all probability this is going to end with his suffering and death.

Peter again: “God forbid, Jesus. You’re not going to get arrested. You’re not going to suffer. If you’re half of what I just called you—the Messiah, God’s anointed, God’s man—you’re not going to suffer and die. That’s nonsense.”

“Get behind me, Peter,” Jesus says. “You missed the whole point.”

And that’s the moment he says, “If you would follow me, take up your cross. If you save your life, you lose it. If you lose it for my sake, you save it.”

He had never mentioned a cross before. They knew what a cross was—the Romans had introduced it—the appallingly cruel and brutal and public means of executing traitors and troublemakers, a very effective means of keeping order and peace. “Take up a cross?” Surely he was kidding. Someone said that you couldn’t find a more difficult marketing strategy than that. “Take up a cross and lose your life” is hardly a way to foster church growth.

In an essay in Harper’s in 2005, “The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong,” Bill McKibben argues that American Christianity has subtly exchanged biblical religion for a competing creed—or creeds. One of them is the wildly popular apocalyptic religion of the Left Behind series of best sellers, which teaches that Christianity is essentially about the end of the world, which is coming soon so you better get on board before it’s too late. Even more important, McKibben argues, is a cultural religion, a faith that reflects not the Jesus of the New Testament, with his call to deep sharing and self-sacrifice, but American consumer culture, with its relentless focus on you and me, on the self and its individual needs.

This new religion features sprawling new churches designed like shopping malls to meet every individual need, with “drive-through latté stands, Krispy Kreme doughnuts at every service, and lots of “how to” sermons: ‘How to raise your children, have a happy marriage, get ahead in your career, invest your money, reduce your debt.’”

None of that is bad. In fact, it is important to take care of yourself and to meet your needs. Some “how to” sermons are helpful.

It’s just that it’s not what Jesus said. In fact, it’s not about Jesus at all, McKibben argues. It takes what Jesus said, with his relentless and radical and demanding focus on others, and turns it completely around so that the focus is on me, my needs, my feelings, my relationships, my salvation.

“If you would follow me,” Jesus said, “deny yourself and take up a cross.”

Good religion ought to call you out of yourself for a while. That’s what public worship in our tradition is about: an invitation to redirect your focus, your attention, from yourself, your needs, your feelings, to something much greater. Theologian Doug Ottati said that’s what a great opening hymn of praise is for—to lead us to do something we haven’t done much of all week: forget about ourselves, our needs and desires, and lift up our hearts and minds and spirits to the holy mystery of God.

Furthermore, a faithful church is always about something other than itself. An authentic church of Jesus Christ is focused on his agenda, not its own. Its issues are not institutional maintenance, institutional strength, and numerical growth, but his issues: justice and peace, standing with the oppressed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, nurturing the children, welcoming the excluded, living its life for the sake of others.

This gospel of Jesus Christ, this Christianity, is not finally about finding a way to make ourselves feel good, or at least better. This is about truth to base your life on, truth about God, about human life, truth about your life and mine.

This is about a God who loves so much that the life of a beloved son is given.

This is about the amazing and mysterious idea that God holds nothing back in order to show us how powerfully and profoundly and unconditionally we are loved.

And this is about your deepest need and mine: to know that love and to live that love and to become our truest and best selves by finding a way, for the love of God, to give our lives away.

Bonhoeffer did it and we can’t forget about it. Tom Fox, a Christian peacemaker, of all things went to Iraq and was a fool for Christ, went to the most dangerous place on the face of the earth, in the name of the Prince of Peace, and lost his life. But not everyone can be a saint or a martyr. The call and challenge to deny yourself, to take up a cross, to lose your life, comes far more modestly to most of us, I think.


  • The new mother whose very need and desire comes in a distant second behind her infant’s needs and desires
  • The parent patiently nurturing a needy child.
  • A son or daughter tending to an aging parent.
  • A good neighbor spending time with a lonely friend.
  • A scientist working late into the night.
  • An attorney losing valuable billing hours to attend to the needs of a poor client.
  • A spouse caring for a sick husband or wife.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer died when he was 39 and so never had the opportunity to pursue and enjoy his vocation. But he wrote what has become a very important book, The Cost of Discipleship. It was important personally to me as I struggled with big issues. I had never before heard the call of Jesus Christ so clearly and the challenge of being a Christian so compellingly.

In the book, Bonhoeffer talks about “cheap grace”: religion without the cross, Christian faith with no cost, no demands, no sacrifice, and, he concluded, no life.

When Christ calls a man, he wrote in that book, “he bids him come and die.”

Bonhoeffer’s last weeks were spent with prisoners drawn from all over Europe. Among them was Payne Best, an English officer. Later he wrote,

Bonhoeffer . . . was all humility and sweetness, he always seemed to me to diffuse an atmosphere of happiness, of joy in every smallest event in life, and of deep gratitude for the mere fact that he was alive. . . . He was one of the very few men that I have ever met to whom his God was real and close to him. The following day, Sunday, 8th April, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer held a little service and spoke to us in a manner which reached the hearts of all, finding just the right words to express the spirit of our imprisonment and his thoughts and resolutions. He had hardly finished his last prayer when the door opened and two evil-looking men in civilian clothes came in and said: “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, get ready to come with us.” Those words “come with us”—for all prisoners they had come to mean one thing only—the scaffold. We bade him good-bye—he drew me aside—‘This is the end,’ he said. ‘For me the beginning of life.’

You and I have only one life to live, only one life in which to respond to the most important words ever spoken, the invitation:

If any want to become followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will find it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will find it.



Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), “Call to Worship” Website, AJ Levine, Teri McDowell Ott, Scott Hoezee, John Buchanana, 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. 167                     “Forty Days and Forty Nights”

1 Forty days and forty nights
you were fasting in the wild;
forty days and forty nights
tempted, and yet undefiled.

2 Shall not we your sorrow share
and from worldly joys abstain,
fasting with unceasing prayer,
strong with you to suffer pain?

3 Then if Satan on us press,
flesh or spirit to assail,
victor in the wilderness,
grant that we not faint nor fail!

4 So shall we have peace divine:
holier gladness ours shall be;
round us, too, shall angels shine,
such as served you faithfully.

5 Keep, O keep us, Savior dear,
ever constant by your side,
that with you we may appear
at the eternal Eastertide.



God our hope and our holy companion, we come before you on this Second Sunday of Lent, knowing we can be honest because you know us; you know our thoughts, our struggles, our joys. You know our prayers even before they form in our minds and are articulated with whispered words. You know how we struggle. You know how we hope. You delight in our joy. You desire our peace.


What is the point of this prayer, then, we honestly ask of you who already knows everything? Or of any prayer, our doubt cries, when the world’s struggles have opened a hole that seems impossible to fill? Can you stop the bombs from falling, God? Can you soften the hearts of war- ring dictators? Can you cure the cancer ravaging our loved one’s body? Can you unburden the depressed from the weight of their sorrow? Can you make the chaos make sense?


God, we are vulnerable, and we know it. We need you. As the thirsty deer longs for the flowing stream, our souls thirst for you. Our hearts ache for your love. Our spirits cry for relief from the turmoil and the sorrow. Our bodies yearn for the ecstatic movement of joy. Our minds want to be assured, without a doubt, of your presence among us and with us. Life is a wilderness, and so often we are lost.


Therefore, in these long wilderness days of Lent, we audaciously ask for your help and hope. Comfort the sick and the grieving. Heal our wounds of heart and body. Calm our frantic anxieties. Order the chaos.


Also, help us pay attention to your still, small ways of working beauty and awe into the ugly and despairing; the bump of a bee’s head on a windowpane; the spring crocus that’s begun its journey out of the dark soil; the uninhibited bounce of a child, dressed as batman, heroically saving his friends at the playground; the heavens ablaze in the pink, red, and orange of your glory at the morning sunrise; the reminders – in the squeeze of a hand, the kindness of a smile, the receiving of an encouraging note – that we aren’t alone in our wilderness wanderings; the grace that you make readily available when we are ready to receive it.


God, come near to us this Second Sunday of Lent, and near to those we love. Sit and stay awhile. And hear our prayers, as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us saying, “Our Father …”.


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.





God calls us to lives of grateful generosity. Let us praise the giver of all good gifts through our offering today.




*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.


God of grace, you provide for us in amazing ways. May our offerings provide for others and be used to further Christ’s ministry and mission. Amen.


*HYMN No. 156                     “Sing of God Made Manifest”

1 Sing of God made manifest
in a child robust and blest,
to whose home in Bethlehem
where a star had guided them,
magi came and gifts unbound,
signs mysterious and profound:
myrrh and frankincense and gold
grave and God and king foretold.

2 Sing of God made manifest
when at Jordan John confessed,
“I should be baptized by you,
but your bidding I will do.”
Then from heaven a double sign—
dove-like Spirit, voice divine—
hailed the true Anointed One:
“This is my beloved Son.”

3 Sing of God made manifest
when Christ came as wedding guest
and at Cana gave a sign,
turning water into wine;
further still was love revealed
as he taught, forgave, and healed,
bringing light and life to all
who would listen to God’s call.

4 Sing of God made manifest
on the cloud-capped mountain’s crest,
where the law and prophets waned
so that Christ alone remained:
glimpse of glory, pledge of grace,
given as Jesus set his face
towards the waiting cross and grave,
sign of hope that God would save.



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.