The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
Second Sunday in Lent
March 13, 2022
Creator God, in this time of repentance, we call out for your mercy. Turn us back to you and to the new life Christ restored by his perfect obedience, even to death on a cross. For he lives and reigns as our Redeemer with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.
PRELUDE “Forty Days and Forty Nights” Robert Stillwell
CALL TO WORSHIP
Lent calls us to journey, this and every day,
following Jesus wherever he leads us.
Lent calls us to journey:
to the place where God covenants with us,
to receive the new names we are given.
Lent calls us to worship together,
to tell future generations the good news.
Lent calls us to practice justice,
to bring God’s hope to all people.
Lent calls us to faithful living,
to trust the One who gives us life.
Lent calls each of us to take up our cross,
to trust the One who bears it with us.
Lent calls us to journey with God.
Let us worship God, who walks with us,
this and every day.
*HYMN No. 415 “Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy”
1 Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
full of pity, love, and power.
I will arise and go to Jesus;
he will embrace me in his arms.
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.
2 Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome;
God’s free bounty glorify,
true belief and true repentance,
every grace that brings you nigh. (Refrain)
3 Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
lost and ruined by the fall;
if you tarry till you’re better,
you will never come at all. (Refrain)
4 Let not conscience make you linger,
nor of fitness fondly dream;
all the fitness he requireth
is to feel your need of him. (Refrain)
*CALL TO CONFESSION
Given a test on our faith, would we have a passing grade? Looking at our lives of discipleship, would we be considered good models for others? When we fail to trust God, we discover that we do indeed lead barren lives. Let us be honest as we stand before our God, and bring our confessions for forgiveness and hope.
*CONFESSION OF SIN
God of Sarah and Abraham, in this holy place, we know how weak is our discipleship. We can spend hours at the computer, but only give you fleeting moments of our time. We can talk endlessly on our cell phones, but fall silent when it comes to sharing our fears, our worries, our hopes with you. We seek quick fixes for our problems, rather than seeking your vision and future for our lives. God of Peter, Paul, and the psalmist, forgive us: for our lack of trust; for our faithless living; for our closing our ears to the call of Jesus. Forgive us, so we may lay aside all the keeps us from you, so we may take up the life you offer to us, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
*DECLARATION OF FORGIVENESS
This is the good news: God does not go back on the promises made so long ago. God does not reject us, God redeems us. God does not withhold love, God pours it into our barren lives.
Forgiven of our sins, filled with hope, living in relationship with God and one another – we are a new people. Thanks be to God. Amen.
*RESPONSE No. 565 “Holy Holy Holy”
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power, God of might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest,
hosanna in the highest.
*PASSING OF THE PEACE
Since God has forgiven us in Christ, let us forgive one another. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
ANTHEM “For God So Loved the World” traditional
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Open your good news to us, O God…and open us to your good news, that we may find ourselves in your abundant life. Speak, Lord, and help us to listen. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Mark 8:31-38
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 want to become my followers, 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,[a] 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[b] 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.”
Do we have the eyes to see God’s near presence? Do we have the ears to hear the word of the Lord spoken in and through the ordinary? Will we open ourselves to the holy not only in heaven but also on earth and right in front of us? Can everyday objects remind us to stay awake and pay attention?
Ten of the forty days of Lent have passed already. These days are moving no more mysteriously than all the days since mid-March last year, and yet perhaps we may feel a bit more urgency that fully one-quarter of the contemplative, reflective, and introspective days we are given during our Lenten journey as Christians are already behind us.
I find myself wanting to make better use of the “day in-day out” existence that this virus has forced us into during this season. Lent seems tailormade for social distancing and separation and even quarantine – even as we begin to return to the new normal. This all began during this season in 2020. We “feel” the end coming and a new beginning preparing itself. I want to be … different … better prepared … more excited when we are given the chance to begin again gathering as we always have and yet like we’ve never done before. I hope you do, too.
I sense Lent as a special opportunity this year. Thirty days left. Let’s not waste them.
This year for this season we are using the devotional book Lent in Plain Sight to better prepare and get more excited about who we are now and who we are becoming. We’ll are expanding our understanding of “GOD”, itself – “God” Godself, to personalize the reality that shapes our lives. But, we’re not doing it by looking “up” or “beyond.” We’re doing it by looking at what’s right in front of us, what’s all around us. The author of our book, Jill Duffield, explains that “God works through (and so, is found in) the ordinary. Ordinary people, everyday objects, things we bump up against moment by moment.
Last Sunday we began a week discovering GOD in ordinary bread – literal bread and “bread” understood as that which is intended to sustain us in the lives we’ve created for ourselves and for others. What does that “bread” consist of? Bread was our “lent in plain sight” last week. I hope you took some time to consider it, to see it, to nourish yourself with it, to thank those who prepared it for you, and to bake it for others in deeper ways.
This week we discover GOD in another “ordinary” object: A cross. Wait, what? A cross?!
A cross … Jill Duffield chose the third of her ten ordinary objects to be a cross. I was taken a bit aback this week as I read and prepared to share this through the week’s sermon and to present it to you for your week’s contemplation. When I first think of the “cross”, I find it anything but ordinary. I mean, I walk by bread, both literal and figurative bread, every day and don’t notice it. But I rarely see a cross without wondering “who’s wearing it,” “what’s inside the building that’s displaying,” or “why is it being used in this way?” That’s because I’m a Christian, of course, but I’ll bet many non-Christians do the same thing. But even before Christianity, the cross was anything but ordinary. It was a symbol of Roman intimidation and domination, the electric chair of the 20th century. How am I, how are we, to consider a cross “ordinary?”
But then, how many of us really go much deeper than the questions I just asked when we wear, otherwise display, or encounter a cross? I’ll bet there is a cross in your line of sight right now. You may have to turn around from your computer or screen, but I’ll be you can see one right now. How often do you pass it, perhaps giving it that first thought, but not a second one. It’s become ordinary in its simple, constant presence. Hanging empty, almost always. Why is it really there? What does it really mean for you? Imagine now … a cross. What do you see … in your mind’s eye? Is it one on your wall, or around your neck? Is it from your past, or in a place you see regularly now? Picture it.
My first image is of the cross in our sanctuary during the Lenten season every year draped with purple paraments. It’s simple two-by-four wooden cross whose vertical board, called the “stipes,” is almost twice as long as its horizontal one, the “patibulum” (puh-TIB-u-lum). A cross built by members of this congregation. It’s a cross that’s empty. It’s not a crucifix, it doesn’t include the body of Jesus. We protestants look to the cross, not the crucifix to spur us onward.
Still … during this season, our cross is draped. There is an attention we’re supposed to “pay” during Lent.
From the fifteenth chapter of Mark we read one verse this morning, a verse well into the passion of Jesus. After his last meal with the disciples, after his prayers in the garden, after the betrayal, his arrest, the denials, the trial, the flogging and the mocking:
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.
No one knows for sure who this Simon is. He is “compelled” to carry Jesus’ cross in three of the four gospel accounts, but there is no clear understanding of who he, or his sons Alexander and Rufus, are or why Simon is where he is in these moments.
Lent is a time that we are given a chance to figure out who we are and why we are, where we are; to consider how we are “compelled” to walk in the Way of Christ. Lent is a time when we must consider the cost of our discipleship and to contemplate a world without the Way of Christ. A life in which the powers and principalities of this world do decide our fate; where death does have the last word; and where sacrificial love is scorned, beaten, and … well, crucified on a cross. (I shuddered as I typed those words. I shudder now as I read them.)
Perhaps Simon of Cyrene is where he is to embody the power of GOD to use any one of us and all of us to take up the cross ourselves in spite of our ignorance, fear, or reluctance. For if we don’t … Well, I shudder again.
Our cross, we know, will lose even the symbolic drape we put on it in a few weeks time, becoming once again the symbol we have come to be comforted by. But maybe this year, having spent this time considering it’s “extra-ordinariness” we will realize its power in the everyday.
The cross hangs on our necks and on our walls. It is affixed to the sides of our buildings and the tops of our steeples. It stands on our mantles and, in our bookshelves, … empty and ordinary, a symbol of the triumph of Life over death, because we are loved by an extraordinary Love. One that could change the world if we could only understand it. Maybe this year. Let us pray …
God of the cross, you work through us and often in spite of us. As we fail to follow your Way when it challenges our comfort, use us anyway to embody the Love that will save the world. Abide with us, Help of the helpless. Amen.
Commentary and Liturgy provided by Karoline Lewis, Elisabeth Johnson, David Lose, Joel Weible, Jill Duffield, and Sara Koenig
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
A portion of the Brief Statement of Faith
We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, teaching by word and deed and blessing the children, healing the sick and binding up the brokenhearted, eating with outcasts, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel. Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, Jesus was crucified, suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world. God raised this Jesus from the dead, vindicating his sinless life, breaking the power of sin and evil, delivering us from death to life eternal. Amen.
*HYMN No. 345 “In an Age of Twisted Values”
1 In an age of twisted values
we have lost the truth we need.
In sophisticated language
we have justified our greed.
By our struggle for possessions
we have robbed the poor and weak.
Hear our cry and heal our nation;
your forgiveness, Lord, we seek.
2 We have built discrimination
on our prejudice and fear.
Hatred swiftly turns to cruelty
if we hold resentments dear.
For communities divided
by the walls of class and race,
hear our cry and heal our nation;
show us, Lord, your love and grace.
3 When our families are broken,
when our homes are full of strife,
when our children are bewildered,
when they lose their way in life,
when we fail to give the aged
all the care we know they need,
hear our cry and heal our nation;
help us show more love, we plead.
4 We who hear your word so often
choose so rarely to obey.
Turn us from our willful wandering;
give us truth to light our way.
In the power of your Spirit
come to cleanse us, make us new;
hear our cry and heal our nation
till our nation honors you.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
God our creator, you made us for community and communion. You call us to the path of love and justice. You entrust us with gifts and talents and a planet that resources and provides. In a world torn by greed and violence we pray for peace. In our nation, communities, and homes tense with conflict and division, we pray for mutual respect and an ear for understanding. Within our own stressed souls, stretched thin by responsibilities, exhausted by conflict, disappointed to not be heard or seen or understood, we pray for sabbath, for rest and refresh, for friends and neighbors who can and will understand. God of comfort, stand with us in these distressing times so we may recall your promise that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, shall separate us from your love through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Merciful God, as war rages and bombs fall and innocent lives are destroyed, we pray for the people of Ukraine and others who long for the day when they can live safe and free. Prince of Peace, intervene on behalf of your people, beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Diffuse our bombs, missiles and nuclear warheads. Turn our hearts to your way of righteousness, stockpiling goodwill and diplomatic relationships so we can wage love rather than waging war.
Compassionate God, you bear the pain of the world. Bless those who are sick, suffering and struggling. May we turn to you for help and healing, instead of the shallow comforts and superficial sources the world is so hip to sell us. Be the rock to which we cling, strengthening and steadying us when we are at risk of falling. Open us to your presence, especially when we are distracted and you feel hard to find.
Eternal God, as we work and wait for your renewed creation, hear these prayers of your people. Now, we lift up the prayer Christ taught us by praying together, “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.
TITHES & OFFERINGS
Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below. Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully known; Creator, Word and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Generous God, as we travel this Lenten journey, allow us to walk beside Jesus as he makes his journey into Jerusalem. As we offer our gifts this morning, may it be our way of saying we won’t turn away from the problems and conflicts of this world; but like Jesus, we will walk toward them. All we take for the journey is the compassion, mercy, and sacrifice that he carried—moving toward what waited in the Holy City. We journey in Christ’s steps and pray in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
*HYMN No. 734 “Hope of the World”
1 Hope of the world, thou Christ of great compassion:
speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent;
save us, thy people, from consuming passion,
who by our own false hopes and aims are spent.
2 Hope of the world, God’s gift from highest heaven,
bringing to hungry souls the bread of life:
still let thy Spirit unto us be given
to heal earth’s wounds and end our bitter strife.
3 Hope of the world, afoot on dusty highways,
showing to wandering souls the path of light:
walk thou beside us lest the tempting byways
lure us away from thee to endless night.
4 Hope of the world, who by thy cross didst save us
from death and deep despair, from sin and guilt:
we render back the love thy mercy gave us;
take thou our lives and use them as thou wilt.
5 Hope of the world, O Christ, o’er death victorious,
who by this sign didst conquer grief and pain:
we would be faithful to thy gospel glorious;
thou art our Lord! Thou dost forever reign!
Go now with God, on your journey through Lent.
We will discover the new name given to each one we meet.
Go now with Jesus, walking wherever he leads.
We will put all our fears, as well as our longings, behind us.
Go now with the Spirit, who is always full of surprises.
We will share the good news called Jesus with everyone.
The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
67 S. Broad Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096