Third Sunday in Lent
Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
CALLS TO WORSHIP
Call to Worship #1
L: A rich feast awaits those who call upon the Lord.
P: God offers to us all the bounty of God’s love.
L: How we have thirsted for hope and peace!
P: How we have longed for joy and love!
L: God continually blesses and heals us.
P: Praise be to God for God’s steadfast love. AMEN.
Call to Worship #2
L: Wrap yourselves in the healing love of God!
P: We seek God’s presence in our lives.
L: Know that God continually surrounds us with patience and persistence.
P: Even though we have not produced the “fruits” of hope that God seeks, yet God forgives and heals our weakness.
L: Rejoice! Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised!
P: We will turn our lives again to the Lord, to serve and seek God’s presence. AMEN.
Call to Worship #3
[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2216 “When We Are Called to Sing Your Praise”, offer the following call to worship as directed]
L: The journey began two weeks ago. We were called by God to look inward first, to find those things which have blocked our witness and discipleship. How hard it is to serve God when we are bound by our fears.
Choir: singing verse 1 of “When We Are Called to Sing Your Praise.”
L: Our voices quiver and shake. We cannot frame our words. We seek God’s forgiving love, but fail to recognize God’s presence in our lives. Help us to remember, Lord, that you have walked this path before us.
Congregation, singing verse 2 of “When We Are Called to Sing Your Praise”
L: Open your hearts, dear people, to God’s awesome love, given for you.
P: Help us to repent of our weakness and our indifference and serve you, O Lord. AMEN
Call to Worship #4
L: We have come this day to learn about what God expects of us.
P: Sometimes we really don’t want to know what God wants. We are afraid to make the commitments God seeks.
L: God is persistent. God will not let us off the hook so easily.
P: But we have failed so many times in the past. How can we possibly serve now?
L: Open your hearts to receive forgiveness and healing. Listen to God. Be ready to work with God for hope, peace, justice and love.
P: Be with us, Lord. Help us to turn around, to see you, to serve you, to witness to your Love. AMEN.
PRAYERS, LITANY/READING, BENEDICTION
Open our eyes, our ears, our hearts and spirits this morning, Lord, that we may be healed of our faithlessness, freed from our fears and anxieties, and placed on the pathways that lead to peace and service to you. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.
Prayer of Confession
This is the season of turning. We are called on this journey to turn our lives to the Lord, to turn away from all those things which have harmed us and others; to separate ourselves from actions and attitudes that demean and destroy. It is far too easy for us to sink into the mire of self-pity and self-serving attitudes, wondering why everything isn’t coming our way. We want comfort, contentment, no stress, no struggle. Yet our lives are filled with stress and discontent. We hurt, Lord. We hurt in our bodies and our souls. We hurt in our relationships with others. How we must try your patience! We don’t want to be like this - we want to feel the warmth of your love, the freedom of your spirit, the joy of serving you. Forgive us for our selfishness and stupidity. Heal us. For we ask these things in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
Words of Assurance
You are given another chance! God has heard your cries. Turn again to the Lord. Find comfort and strength in God’s eternal love for you. Be healed. AMEN.
We put everything off until the last minute, Lord. You have invited and encouraged us on this journey, reminding us of the struggles and of the hope. You ask us to let go of the things that bind us from serving freely, but we have a nasty tendency to wait until it’s almost too late - until the last minute. We can’t seem to let go of the hurt, fear, and pain. On this journey, remind us again of your healing love, your forgiving power. Help us to trust the goodness and potential for good that you have placed in all of us. We have come to this place to hear your word, to sing and pray to you in hope. Enable us to find the courage to really believe in you, that your healing love may permeate our souls and prepare us for true witness; for we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
[This reading is very effective if there is only one person who continually reads the part of “voice” and the person reading that part should not be visible in the worship setting. He/she may be using a microphone, or speaking in a loud voice from an area hidden from view. It is good to use four different voices for each of the readers]
Reader 1: I’ve tried, Lord. You know I have. It’s just that there are so many pressures on me right now. I’m not sleeping well, I worry about everything, I don’t know…..I just can’t seem to get things right. Maybe if I just sit here and let things pass by, I’ll be ok.
Voice: Place your trust in the Lord. God is with you.
Reader 2: Listen! You don’t understand! There’s more to be done here than anyone can do. I can’t fix all the problems. They keep coming at me, again and again and again. What do you want from me, Lord? What do you expect?
Voice: Place your trust in the Lord. God is with you.
Reader 3: I don’t see any God. I don’t see any evidence that God cares at all, if there is a good. Look at all the problems in the world. Why doesn’t God do something about them? Why doesn’t God fix it?
Voice: I have called you to be a witness, to bear fruit of hope and peace.
Reader 4: Who will know what I do? Will it make any difference? Will I have any effect at all on the pain and suffering, or will I just be another drop of water in the ocean?
Voice: My beloved child, I will know.
God has called you to bear witness to hope and goodness. Know that you have been healed of all that prevents you from serving God. Go forth with God’s love and blessing to bring Good News to this hurting world. AMEN.
Note: I recommend putting a brief paragraph describing or explaining the symbolism used in your visual display in the worship bulletin. This a good teaching tool for the congregation.
The traditional color for this Sunday is PURPLE.
The theme for Lent is JOURNEY INWARD/JOURNEY FORWARD. The idea is that discipleship is a journey that is first lived inward, introspectively, reality-check, and then lived forward in service. The worship center will remain covered with the base cloth of burlap or other neutral rough material. Each week something will be added to the worship center and perhaps other things removed, until all are placed at the foot of the cross. I recommend that you have someone construct an “old, rugged Cross”, about 6-7 feet tall, on a free standing base. This cross will be used during Holy Week, but you want to plan far enough ahead to have it ready.
The focus of today‘s gospel lesson is repentance. The lesson often sounds harsh, with the owner of the vineyard (i.e. God) wanting to destroy the unproductive fig tree (humanity). An intercessor (Jesus) pleads for the life of the fig tree, offering to pay special attention to its needs so that it may produce fruit. The vineyard owner relents, giving the tree another chance. How often we have let God down, saying that we will do something, believe something, serve in some way, and then we have not produced the “fruit” of that stand. Yet it is Christ who intercedes for us, who reminds us that we have been given special attention - a time to look again at what needs to be done, a chance to turn things around and serve fully and well.
SURFACE: Place several risers on the worship center. The tallest riser, approximately 1 foot above the main level of the worship center, should be placed to the upper left as you are facing the worship center. The other risers, about 4-6” high, may be placed, one at the center and the other slightly to the right of the middle one.
FABRIC: Cover the worship center in burlap or other neutral colored, rough fabric. Last week you placed, on one of the risers on the worship center, a piece of cream colored or rough blue fabric, approximately 15” square, draping over the riser. You will set a pile of rocks or bricks on this riser. This will remain in place. This week place a mottled (multicolored, such as hand dyed/tie dyed green) cloth, approximately 15” square over another riser, probably to the right of the center of the worship table.
CANDLES: On the middle riser, place a white pillar candle, about 10” high, representing Christ. Place votive candles, arranged in clusters, on several of the other risers. Place a small pillar candle, preferably white or purple, on the riser on which you are setting the branches for today’s worship. This is a reminder that in the depths of our indecision there lies the possibilities for growth or dormancy - we decide. God has already given the gift of potential.
FLOWERS/PLANTS: No plants or flowers on the worship center
ROCKS/WOOD: Some rocks and wood may be placed on the center and at the base of the worship center. Last Sunday you selected a riser on the worship center and placed a stack of old bricks or large stones - these rocks/bricks representJerusalem on it. Continuing with the same theme, place some gnarled branches on the riser to the right of the worship center. If you are placing a candle near it, please be careful about the proximity of the flame to the branches. Smaller pebbles may be placed near the base of the branches.
OTHER: No cross on the worship center at this time.