The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
February 21, 2021
First Sunday in Lent
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Holy One, whom alone we worship and serve, your Word and Spirit sustain us in the wilderness. Keep us faithful in times of struggle and testing so that we may enter into your glorious realm with Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
PRELUDE Ostinato on “Germany”
CALL TO WORSHIP
O God, we lift up our souls and put our trust in you.
Make us to know your ways, O Lord; teach us your paths.
O God, lead us in your truth, and teach us, for you are the God of our salvation; for you we wait all day long.
God leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble God’s way.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
We come to our 40-day journey of Lent with penitence in our hearts. The polarization, enmity and fissures that have scarred our country and world are in us as well. We yearn for truth, peace and justice. Yet we know that we have not lived as those who are formed in the truth, peace and justice of Christ. We confess our sin, assured of God’s mercy and empowering grace.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
Merciful God, we confess our complicity in the divisions that have wounded our country and our world. We have turned aside from your way. We have failed to love you and our neighbor, neglected justice and ignored your truth. Forgive us, and restore in us your Spirit of compassion and justice-seeking love. Amen.
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God in Christ is steadfast in love and mercy. So friends, hear the good news of the gospel. In Christ we are forgiven and set free from the sins that bind and enslave us. We are empowered to love God with all of who we are, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Thanks be to God.
PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”
ANTHEM “The Call” Riehle
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Gracious God, You are our way in the wilderness. Your Word will guide us through these 40 days of Lent so that we may reformed, restored, and renewed. Amen.
SCRIPTURE 1 Peter 1:22-25
22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth[a] so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply[b] from the heart.[c] 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.[d] 24 For
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
That word is the good news that was announced to you.
SERMON I’m Being True to Myself!
You know how it goes; we’ve done it countless times. At the airport security check-point we’re required to show our identification. When you and I use a credit card, we are asked to show identification. I needed to show my identification to buy some wine the other day at the local liquor store. Identification is immensely important nowadays. Think about your identity, it’s important isn’t it?! Your identity distinguishes you from the other 6 billion people on this earth. Your identity distinguishes who you are; it gives you a purpose, and direction for your life! So, the question to consider today is “Who are you?”
Seriously, who are you!
People like to say, “I’m being true to myself!” How can you be true to yourself if you don’t know your true identity? How can you be true to God if you’re not sure about your identity? When Jesus was on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Oh, the ones who crucified Jesus were being true to themselves. Judas the betrayer was being true to himself. But they crucified the Son of God! It’s a soul-searching question: Who are you?
Maybe you say that you know who you are: you’re a Christian! That’s what we expect, sitting here in church doing Christian things. But let’s push. How many of you are still looking for a purpose for your life? You may be bold enough to say you attend worship and Bible class on a regular basis, but how many of you are still searching for your true place in life? Those of you who are older grew up in times of less media. Maybe you got a newspaper, had a radio, and in time a TV, only one TV to be sure. Today it’s different. We are constantly bombarded from every direction. All the media messages, the commercials, the pundits, the self-help programs, the life-style magazines… They all undermine a sure sense of identity. How many of you have your own Facebook page or Twitter account or Instagram or Snapchat? Is that who you really are? Talk about an identity crisis! We can literally create our identity, projecting what we want people to perceive of us! How about your values and morality? Even the “best” Christians pick and choose parts of the Bible they would like to live by. And then there’s identity theft. What a terrifying experience! People can actually steal someone’s identity—social security number, banking information, personal information, and so on. Talk about an identity crisis! Perhaps a good way to describe our identities might be to think of a patchwork quilt. A patchwork quilt is made of a bunch of very different, brightly colored patches, all a little different. The patches of our lives come through a variety of ways. Through relationships, occupations, and past times we fabricate our own realities like assembling a patchwork quilt. We take a little from our parents, a little from our experiences, a little from work, a little from the media, a little from the Bible, a little here and a little there. “I’m being true to myself!” Our lives resemble that patchwork quilt, crafted from whatever we consider is best for us. “Father, forgive us for we know not what we do.” We don’t know who we are and we’ve lost sight of our true identity. We’ve let the ways of the world influence who we are, what we believe, and how we behave.
I ask you again to consider the question, “Who are you?” But this time let’s not look at ourselves from our own perspective. Rather, consider the question from God’s perspective. “How does God see you?” To answer that question, we need not look any further than God’s Word. Our true identity is found in only one place, in only one man, Jesus. Today’s sermon is based on 1 Peter 1:22-25. Peter says, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God” (23). “You have been born again.” That makes us think of baptism. Because you are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus your identity is changed and you are given a new identity. Your identity as a condemned sinner is changed to an identity of forgiveness from Jesus Christ. Your identity of trusting no one but yourself is changed into an identity of trusting our heavenly Father who has given us an eternal salvation. We talked about trust last week. Your identity as a patchwork of all the influences upon your life is changed to one core fact: Your life is bound to Jesus Christ. That’s true for you, for me, and for us all. Our “Life Together” is about our identity as children of God! We don’t have to pay for this identity and cannot earn it through hard work. God sees you and me through His Son Jesus. By the way, this new you isn’t like that driver’s license picture you hate so much. He sees you perfectly. Of ourselves we’re unsure who we are. God gives us identity in his Son Jesus. That’s our “Life Together.”
Our identity in Christ is constantly threatened. As we said, our weekday lives are bombarded with messages about who the world wants us to be. When you think about it, so much around us is here today and gone tomorrow. Think about your interests, do you change hobbies often? How about the arrangement of furniture in your house? How about your relationships? Consider movie or television stars; they are constantly getting married and divorced and remarried and divorced. It seems like the only constant in this world is change. Do you let the changes of life change who you are? Do you let the world’s purposes take you away from your true purpose? Peter quotes the prophet Isaiah, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (40:6, 8). Like grass, human life is temporary and fleeting, much like our personalities and desires.
Peter tells us that two things are constant. Change, yes, and something else that is constant for all eternity, God’s word. “This is the word that was preached to you” (v. 25). God’s Word never changes, but engages our ever-changing lives so that we can live and grow into the identity to which we’ve been given in baptism. Our lives are marked with constant change, but God’s reality is marked by His Word which stands forever. You have been baptized into that reality. Week by week the preached Word grows and strengthens your identity. Week by week the preached Word engages our lives to keep us true to who we are in Christ. Your identity, the way in which God sees you as His perfect child, does not change, just as God’s Word does not change. The Father heard the Son’s words— “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”—and he has forgiven you and through his Word continues to forgive you. As God considers you, He does not see a poorly crafted patchwork quilt. Instead, he’s painted the portrait of your reality—a portrait of the cross and resurrection of Christ. That’s our identity, proclaimed by God’s Word that will stand forever. As you share in the death of Jesus through your baptism so you too will indeed share in His resurrection! “Father, restore us, for we cannot live apart from you!”
In discovering your identity in Christ, God opens the door to learning about who you are, what you are called to be as His child, and to embrace the hope for your life in this world and the world to come. Now we say, “In God being true to His Word and His self, He has shown us who we are to be!” We can boldly proclaim, “We are to be true to Him” because the identity He’s given us is imperishable and everlasting. We are His children, born again in baptism from the imperishable Word of God. We can be sure of who we are in Christ because although all things around us wither and fade like grass, God’s Word stands forever. His promise spoken to you is forever, “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Your identity is not a patchwork quilt crafted by you or any other person. Rather, we are God’s church, a community that comes together around His Word to be the body of Christ and a foreshadowing of what’s to come in the New Creation. Born again of the imperishable Word, this is our “Life Together.” This is what God sees. This is our identity. God is being true to His Word and to you! Amen.
Commentary provided by Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, Steve Wilbraham, Karl Jacobson, Eric Barreto, Carla Works, Scott Hoezee, David Lose, Karoline Lewis, and Roger Gench
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
THE PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
O Lord, we remember that the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord stands forever.
O Lord, we remember that life alone is nothing
without life together,
and life together is nothing
without life in you.
O Lord, we remember that if we are being true with ourselves,
we will know that our true self is found only in you.
O Father, forgive us,
for we know not what we do.
O Father, we lay before you this patchwork world:
Bind it together with the thread of your truth.
O Father, we lay before you the patchwork church, your people everywhere, and this congregation:
Bind us together with the thread of your love.
O Father, we lay before you the sick and suffering . . . .
We lay before you those who grieve . . . .
We lay all these lives before your gracious mercy:
Bind them together with the thread of your healing.
All these burdens and cares, and all that weighs upon our hearts, we lay before you,
so that you might bind us together in faith, hope, and love.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, who taught us to pray 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.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
In Lent, we remember the gifts of nourishment that God gives us during our wilderness journey. Let us now share our gifts in joyful response to God’s sustaining grace.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
O God, giver of all good gifts, may the gifts we offer here today bear the fruits of peace, love, and justice in our community and our world. Amen.
As we journey in Lent,
let us be empowered to follow in the way of Jesus,
who, though tempted, was steadfast in love and faithful in the way of justice.
So, let us lift up the brokenhearted and stand with the oppressed.
Let us love God with our whole lives and love our neighbors as ourselves. Amen.