+ THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT +
GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH
660 Frances Lane
Ashland, Oregon 97520
The Rev. James A. Kabel, Intentional Interim Pastor
7 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 The Folly of The Cross
The third covenant in this year’s Lenten readings is the central one of Israel’s history: the gift of the law to those God freed from slavery (First Lesson). The commandments begin with that statement that because God alone has freed us from the powers that oppressed us, we are to let nothing else claim first place in our lives. When Jesus throws the merchants out of the temple (The Gospel Lesson), he is defending the worship of God alone and rejecting the ways of commerce and profit-making can become our gods. The Ten Commandments are essential to our baptismal call:
centered first in God’s liberating love (The Second Lesson’s “foolish of the Cross”), we strive to live out justice and mercy in our communities and the world.
PRAYER BEFORE WORSHIP
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
+ THE ORDER OF CELEBRATING +
In our day and age, even churches can become like marketplaces as people “church shop” … and congregational members often characterized chiefly as consumers. The drive to satisfy every taste and opinion can distract The Church from its center: Jesus Christ among us in the regular celebration of Word and Sacrament. In the Word of God and in The Lord’s Supper, the temple of Christ’s body is strengthened for its witness in daily life.
PRELUDE Andante Religioso—F. Thorne Tatsiana Asheichyk, Organ
ORDER OF CONFESSION
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Return to the Lord, you God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Today we hear the Law of God and confront the Christ who came to fulfill it.
+ A Brief Silence for Reflection & Self-examination +
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed. We have broken your commandments, and used the things of God for our own gain and pleasure. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your holy Name. 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. 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.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be our means of life. Grant us so to glory in the Cross
of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON Exodus 20:1-17
[After escaping from slavery, the Israelites come to Mount Sinai, where God teaches them how to live in community. The Ten Commandments proclaim that God alone is worthy of worship. Flowing from God, the life of the community flourishes when based on honesty, trust, fidelity, and respect for life, family, and property.]
God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the seventh day and consecrated it.
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness
against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s
house; you shall not covet your
neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave,
or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs
to your neighbor.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
REFRAIN: The Lord is my light and my salvation—of whom shall I be afraid,
of whom shall I be afraid?
Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.
Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper. Refrain
Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.
Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Refrain
I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Refrain
SECOND LESSON 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
[The word of the Cross is pure foolishness and nonsense to the world because it claims that God is mostly revealed in weakness, humiliation, and death. But through such divine foolish-ness and weakness, God is working to save us. The center of Paul’s preaching is Christ crucified.]
The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the
discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who care called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
SPECIAL MUSIC When I Survey the Wondrous Cross—Lowell Mason
HOLY GOSPEL John 2:13-22
[Jesus attacks the commercialization of religion by driving merchants out of the temple.
When challenged, he responds mysteriously, with the first prediction of his own death and resurrection. In the midst of a seemingly stable religious center, Jesus suggests that the
center itself has changed.]
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making 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. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was ritten, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answer-ed them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
GRACE CHOIR Compassion Hymn—arr. by Craig Courtney
SERMON This Foolish Gospel — Pr. Jim Text: The Second Lesson
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
To be honest … it’s really a bad world out there, isn’t it? The numbers of people without food … shelter … or minimal health services run into the millions. Living with terrorism … foreign and domestic … has come home to us. And In the midst of it all is the age-old question: “Where is God?”
All of us are humbled by that question. Why does God allow … century after century … wholesale carnage that maims millions as well as the individual heartaches that each of us has endured? What kind of God is He, anyway? Where in the world is He?
We’re not the first or the last overwhelmed with that dilemma. Read any account of life in the 14th or 17th centuries and you’ll read about the same questions and tears. Read what the Crusaders and Muslims did to each other a millennium ago, or, for that matter read the Old Testament history of Israel. Or think of Herod who ordered the slaughter of the innocents when Jesus was born. Where was God?
That’s just where the Christian story comes sharply into focus. God was present in a baby sleeping in the straw at the knee of Mary and Joseph … homeless and far from home. The Lord of all was in the common and the ordinary.
That ran against everything that Jews and Gentiles knew about the gods of their day. The Romans had their gods headquartered in Rome … embodied in the political power of Augustus … whom they called son of god.
The Greeks knew where he was present to their world … in the heads and minds of the wise at the University of Athens. In philosophy there was freedom and escape from the mud and mess of this grim world.
The Jews knew where He was. He had clearly withdrawn. They were in a holding pattern … awaiting His return to restore their dignity … freeing them from Rome to reclaim the glory days of David, the once great king.
In our day there are elements of all these ancient beliefs. The claim is that God is primarily present in one nation—ours, the one superpower on earth. God is present in fate, rock crystals, stock portfolios, in feelings … and whatever else can deliver people from the problems and pains of the world.
Sin … sorry to say … is the reality which lies behind it all … all the terrorism … all the superpower hubris … all the snipers, and yes—behind all the tragedies. We are not innocent bystanders in the mess we deplore. Either by commission or omission, we’re involved in what’s gone wrong.
The saving truth … the good news … that equips us to deal with the harsh realities of life is that God has dealt with the very things that seem unsolvable. He makes His ways known through dwelling with us in the ordinary things. He has come … not as a glorious and sensational Messiah … but in Jesus of Nazareth who heard the cry of the outcast … healed the leper … received sinners … offended the powerful … and carried His own Cross to Calvary to be crucified. This is the wisdom of God … the wisdom that defies our foolishness. It is the wisdom that does not give us answers to the unanswerable. It is the truth that works like a lifeline to the drowning. It is the sure path of deliverance for the bruised and battered. It is the good news that even a child can grasp by faith.
The Gospel tells us this saving truth that comes ever as a surprise. God is not present in the special and spectacular … the earthquake, the wind, or fire … but in the still small voice. He is present in the ordinary … through the extra-ordinary and beloved incarnate Son who gave Himself for us on the Tree of the Cross.
He is present in Jesus Christ … once and for all. And in that presence is the power of self-giving love. That doesn’t mean heroics as popularly defined … but in the ordinary. The late humorist Erma Bombeck put it this way:
“Wanted … woman to raise, educate and entertain child for a minimum
of 20 years. Be prepared to eat egg if the yolk breaks … receive anything
in hand child spits out … take knots out of wet shoestrings with teeth. Must
be expert in picking bathroom locks with shish kebob skewer. 24/7 …seven
days a week, 24 hours a day, including holidays. Comprehensive dental plan,
vacation, medical benefits, and company car negotiable.”
That dose of reality is where self-giving love lives. It is the place to look for hope and truth and strength when facing all the unanswerable questions that begins with “Where is God …”
God is here at work in the present … present in the ordinary that has become extra-ordinary in His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. It’s all there right before our very eyes. It’s one thing to look only at the tragic and have no answer for where God is. But it’s quite another to see the larger picture … the years of faith and hope and love … the struggles against all odds … the persevering in the face of loneliness and tears of despair … the sight of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church in action … offering a listening ear … … a helping hand … a hug of encouragement … a word or prayer of support. In and with and under it all is what St. Paul calls the foolishness of God’s wisdom … which is the final picture of what’s real and lasting. That’s where God is in this world.
On this 3rd Sunday in Lent …stay open to the foolishness of God’s wisdom—Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God—who sustains us … directs us … and strengthens us to be His faithful people in the midst of COVID-19 … the messiness of 21st Century life … and yes, even the call process.
+ 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.
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
Relying on the promises of God, let us pray boldly for The Church, the world, and all in need.
Holy and steadfast God, purify the faith of your Church, that your people place their trust in nothing beside you. Your Name is holy. Guide your Church, that in every situation your people’s words and actions honor your Name. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
All the ends of the earth worship you, O God, and the heavens declare your glory. Renew your creation. Provide leaders in the struggle for clean air and water; protect creatures and crops that rely on healthy ecosystems; give all people the willingness to repent and bring about change when our way of life pollutes the earth and skies. 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. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Your weakness, O God, is stronger than human strength. Restore all who grow weary in the 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 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 that they may be assured of your loving presence in our compassion, prayers, and care for them. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
You call us, O God, to proclaim Christ crucified. Give clarity to our congregation and leaders, so that we might follow Christ beyond our own habits and comfort. Clear out anything that in our common life together that would obscure the Gospel or that serves our own interests. As we continue the call process, keep us mindful that it is your Spirit who leads and guides us and will in due time provide a pastor—yet unknown to us, but known and loved by you. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
The Cross of Christ is your power, O God, for all who are being saved. We thank 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 GREAT THANKSGIVING
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 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 forgiveness of 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 I Am the Bread of Life WOV 702
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
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 On My Heart Imprint Your Image LSB 422
+ With Great Joy … Tell Everyone What He Has Done! +
DISMISSAL Go in peace. Serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!