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4th Sunday in Lent - "God So Loved" Homily by Pr. Jim



660 Frances Lane

Ashland, Oregon 97520


The Rev. James A. Kabel, Intentional Interim Pastor


14 March 2021



A warm welcome to all who worship with us this morning, especially those who have joined us as guests and visitors. May this time of prayer and praise make us eager to share in the proclamation of the Good News of God’s love and redemption in Christ as we go forth into another week of service in his Name. Guests and visitors, please honor us by signing our Guest Book in the entrance hall of the church as you leave this morning’s worship. If you have no church home of your own, we invite you to make Grace the center of your worship, learning, fellowship, and service. Come to worship with us again and often!

AS WE GATHER God So Loved the World

The fourth covenant of the Old Testament promises providing a baptismal lens this Lent is the promise God makes to Moses: those who look on the bronze serpent will live. In today’s gospel Jesus says he will be lifted up on the cross like a serpent, so that those who look to him in faith will live. When we receive the sign of the Cross in Baptism, that Cross becomes the sign we can look to in faith for healing, for restored relationship to God, for hope when we are dying.

As we worship today, we are drawn together by the most significant force in our lives—the love of God in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The riches of God are before us again. We have the Word, the Sacrament, and the fellowship of the saints gathered with us in worship. We are graced by God once more.


O God our Father, the battle of good and evil rages within and without, and our ancient

foe tempts us with his deceits and empty promises. Keep us steadfast in your Word so

that when we fall you will raise us again and restore us through your Son, Jesus Christ

our Lord. Amen


PRE-SERVICE MUSIC God Loved the World LSB 571

Amazing Grace LSB 744


In today’s gospel reading, Jesus compares himself to the serpent in the wilderness. He is lifted up on the Cross so that all who hold to him will be healed. God sent the Son, not to condemn, but to save the world. We who

have heard the words of love and mercy in today’s scripture readings go forth

to speak with forgiveness rather than condemnation. Our Baptism calls us to

a life of good works, not to point to ourselves but to the immeasurable riches

of God’s grace made known to all the world in Christ Jesus our Lord.

PRELUDE Give me Jesus—Mark Hays 

Tatsiana Asheichyk


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Return to me with all your heart,” says the Lord, “with fasting, with weeping,

and with mourning, with broken and contrite hearts.”

For the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding

in steadfast love.

Let us therefore humbly confess our sins to God our Father and in the presence of one another.

O God, in your kindness, have pity. O God, in your mercy, wash away our sins. Wash us clean of sins and guilt, the sins we cannot forget and those we cannot remember. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, turn your eyes from our iniquity, and cover our guilt, that we may know again the joy of your salvation. Amen.

Out of his mercy, God has answered our prayer for the sake of Jesus Christ

and assured us that it is his good pleasure to hear us and forgive us. In his stead and by his authority, it is my joy, as a called and ordained servant of the Lord, to forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Forgiven and reconciled by God, let us be reconciled with one another and share the peace of the Lord as we greet each other.


The grace and mercy of God, who in Christ Jesus bears our burdens and saves us from all our sin be with you all.

               And also with you.


In peace, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have


For the peace from above and for our salvation

let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For the peace of the whole world, for the well-being

of The Church of God, and for the unity of all let us

pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

For this holy house and for all who offer here their

worship and praise let us pray to the Lord.

     Lord, have mercy.

Help, save, and defend us, O God. Amen.    


O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death. Lead us into your

light, that all our deeds may reflect your love, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

FIRST LESSON Numbers 21:4-9

[Though God provides food and water for the Israelites in the wilderness, they whine and grumble. They forget about the salvation they experienced in the exodus. God punishes

them for their sin, but when they repent God also provides a means of healing: a bronze

serpent lifted up on a pole.]

From Mount Horeb [the Israelites] set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food or water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it on a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

PSALM of THE DAY Psalm 32 [Please join in singing the Refrain.]  

REFRAIN: Remember your mercy, O Lord; remember your mercy and love.                              

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sins are covered.

When I kept silent, your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you

and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”

And you forgave the guilt of my sin. REFRAIN

You are my hiding place;

You will protect me from trouble.

Many are the woes of the wicked,

but the LORD’S unfailing love surrounds

those who trust in him. REFRAIN

SECOND LESSON Ephesians 2:1-10

[While we were dead in our sinfulness, God acted to make us alive as a gift of grace in Christ Jesus. We are saved not by what we do but by grace through faith. Thus our good works are really a reflection of God’s grace at work in our lives.]

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of our own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

SPECIAL MUSIC Amazing Grace—Virginia Harmony 1831, arr. by Cindy Berry

HOLY GOSPEL John 3:14-21

[To explain the salvation of God to the religious leader Nicodemus, Jesus refers to the scripture passage quoted in today’s first reading. Just as those who looked upon the bronze serpent were healed, so people will be saved when they behold Christ lifted up on the cross.]

Jesus said:] “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to         condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deed may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

GRACE CHOIR Beneath the Cross of Jesus—Lloyd Larson

SERMON      God So Loved — Pr. Jim Text: The Gospel Lesson

+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

There’s probably no single sentence more important in all of Scripture than this one, John 3:16—which many of us love so well and know by memory … the Gospel in a nutshell.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever

believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

“God so loved the world …” Have you ever bothered to take a closer look at that little adverb “so?” It’s really an attention grabber … but all too often overlooked. Grammarians tell us that this little adverb so is an adverb of kind …not degree. That means that we can translate the text more accurately from the Greek with these words: “God loved the world in this way.” And the way in which He loves the world, of course, is that He gave His only Son. He gave Him to all of us. He gave Him for us all. It’s not just a love that is quantitatively greater than our own (He loves us so much more than we could ever love) although that is true … but loves us in this way that He gave His only Son. The loving and the giving of that which is nearest and dearest to Him—that is the love Christ reveals.

On this 4th Sunday in Lent, that point is critical for us as God’s people. For there’s a common heresy loose in the world that says love belongs on the sidelines …not the center of human affairs. Love … the world teaches … is a sentiment—a feeling. It’s all right at birthday parties … in valentines … at weddings … from the pulpit … and the sonnets of Elizabeth Barret Browning, but it has little or no place in the real dog-eat-dog world of every-man-for-himself. The heresy is that love is for mothers … small children … the elderly … and anywhere else where there is no call for strength … for getting things done … for understanding … for winning. That particular heresy of the world is damning. And it lies at the heart and core of our problems as a nation and society. Recently, we’ve begun to see the results of it … where greed … power … hubris … and wealth are the name of the game, rather than service and love.

But God loved the world in this way ... that He entered into the world of human need by an act of His strong, invincible will. God’s love is made of courage … of sacrifice … of strength … as well as tenderness, compassion, and mercy. His love is real—made real on the Tree of the Cross in the suffering and dying of His only-begotten Son for us.

In his first letter to the Early Christian Church, the blessed apostle St. John writes:

God is love, and in this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God

sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. …If God so

loved us, we also ought to love one another [I John 4:7,9].

The cross our Lord lays upon us is never separated from His love. In the waters of baptism, He calls us to join Him in His saving work … to be bearers and servants of His love. It is by grace that we are saved (today’s Second Lesson reminds us). That Divine love and favor, revealed once and for all in Christ Jesus, is the power that make us bearers of love in a world that is surprised by it. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that we should walk in them.” This is the truth that describes who we have become as baptized sons and daughters of God. This is our high and holy calling … returning good for evil … love for hate … service for neglect … blessing for insult … peace for violence … understanding for ignorance … and patience for outrage. And it is in our very own families that such love begins. In our homes, our neighborhoods, our community … and indeed within this very church family … that we are to keep a steady stream of love and acceptance flowing … not fitfully or only when the mood strikes.

Christians, you see, are those who are able to love regardless of the circumstances. As God’s people, the reason we build our outlook …attitudes … and actions of love towards others is found in this: God so loved! In this way, God takes care of the world. Not when it measures up to His expectations but loves us in this way in the midst of our sinning. And in this way, He asks us to take care of our little corner of the world … in love.

To be sure, the world gives God’s love a bad time and rap—our Lord’s Cross tells us that in plain English. In so many ways, we may be discouraged by the loveless and brutal events of the day … but much sadder is not to be able to love in the midst of those events. Christians, you see, are those who are able to love, regardless of the circumstances. And all this because—

God loved the world in this way that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes.

in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

St. Francis of Assisi captured the sense of that little adverb of kind “so” with this prayer …

Lord, make us instruments of your love.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is discord, union;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and

it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

God grant that it may always be so among us.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His 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 into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From thence 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. Amen


Relying on the promises of God, let us pray boldly for the Church, the world, and all in need.

O God, you sent your Son that the world may be saved through him. Inspire the witness of The Church through-out the world so that all may be saved. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Your steadfast love, O God, is shown from east to west. Nourish seas and deserts, wilderness areas and cities. Give water to thirsty lands’ nurture spring growth that feeds hungry creatures; bless farmers as they prepare for the growing season so that all may be fed and no one left hungry or wanting. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Your foolishness, O God, is wiser than human wisdom. Fill world leaders and governing bodies with the foolishness of your peace and mercy. Work through legislators, judicial systems, and systems of law enforcement to protect the wellbeing and freedom of all races and nationalities. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Your mercy endures forever, O God. Restore all who grow weary in their struggle with health concerns and healing. Guide all who provide medical care to your servants especially Shari, those suffering from COVID-19, together with those we name in our hearts [pause briefly] that they may receive hope, healing, and the mercies rendered by us as God’s people as we pray for them. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

With loving and tender care, O God, embrace all who are lonely or homebound, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, Elma, and those

we name in our hearts [pause briefly] that they may be assured of your loving presence in our compassion, prayers, and care for them. Lord, in your mercy, hear

our prayer.

By your grace we have been saved, O God, to proclaim Christ crucified. Fill this congregation with your grace, that we may sow mercy to others and give witness to your Son. Give us patience and courage when the call process seems long and never-ending. Keep us mindful that it is your Spirit who leads and guides us and will in due time provide us with a pastor—yet unknown to us, but known and loved by you. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Your Son was lifted up on The Cross, O God, that whoever believes in him might have eternal life. We thank and praise you for all the saints whom you have called to take up the Cross and follow you, revealing the power of the Cross in life and death. Give us that same trust that we may also confidently live and die in the mercy and love shown to all in the Cross. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Grant these prayers, merciful God, and all that we need, as we eagerly await the Easter feast; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


God of our salvation, we offer you these gifts as signs of our time and labor. Receive the offering of our lives, and feed us with your grace, that, even in the midst of death, all creation might feast on your unending life in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Holy God, our living Water, and our merciful Guide,

together with rivers and seas, wells, and springs

we bless and magnify you.

You led your people Israel through the desert,

and provided them water from the rock.

We praise you for Christ, our Rock, and our Water,

who joined us in our desert, pouring out

his life for the world.

In the night in which he was betrayed,

our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks;

broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying:

Take and eat; this is my + body which is given

for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks,

And gave it for all to drink, saying:

This cup is the new covenant in my + blood

shed for you and for all people for the forgivenessof sin. Do this in remembrance of me.

Remembering, therefore, his life, death, and resurrection, we await your salvation for this thirsty world. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Pour out your Spirit upon this holy food and on all who are gathered for this feast; wash away our sin, that we may be revived for our journey by the love of Christ.

Amen. Come, Holy Spirit.

Through him all glory and honor are yours, Almighty Father, with the Holy

Spirit, in your holy Church, both now and forever. Amen.

Now in the words of our Lord, we are bold to 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

forever and ever. Amen.


Distribution Song

Now we remain W&P 106


God of our pilgrimage, in this meal you nourished us with the gifts of faith

and hope. Sustain us on our journey that, refreshed by your grace, we may

reach the promised land, the Easter Feast of victory in Jesus Christ. Amen.


SONG We rejoice in the grace of God W&P 151


+ With Great Joy … Tell Everyone What He Has Done! +


Go in peace. Serve the Lord.

               Thanks be to God.

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