Worship Elements: March 11, 2018

February 11th, 2018

Fourth Sunday in Lent

COLOR: Purple
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21


God’s love for humanity explodes like light from a supernova in these lections. In these readings, we hear three phrases that paint the backdrop for God’s saving action: “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16), “his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1b), and “out of the great love with which he loved us” (Ephesians 2:4-5). Even the Mosaic story of the serpents in Numbers serves as a prelude for the loving mission of Jesus Christ when the battered Savior is lifted up on a rapidly approaching Good Friday. Yet, for love to be fully realized, it demands a response. The appropriate response to God’s love is faith. Jesus calls on us to believe, and the psalmist reminds us that faith is often the action of knowing from whom to ask for help, as the Israelites “cried to the LORD in their trouble, / and he saved them from their distress” (Psalm 107:19).


Call to Worship (Psalm 107, Ephesians 2, John 3)

God loves us with a steadfast love.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!
God loves us so much he gave us his Son.
Let us believe and have eternal life!
God loves us with a great love, rich in mercy.
Let us have faith to receive this grace!
Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.

Opening Prayer (John 3, Ephesians 2)

Great Triune God,
we have gathered here in your name
as an act of faith,
believing that you are not only among us,
but that you love us.
It is often hard to recognize your love,
see your mercy, and feel your presence.
Help us today in our worship,
that we might be transparent to your grace,
as you reveal yourself to each one of us. Amen.


Prayer of Confession (Numbers 21)

God, we have sinned against you.
We have spoken against you and your servant Jesus.
We have uttered lies.
We have cursed you and others.
We have said vulgar things.
We have been consumed by doubt.

We have been bitten with the venom of hatred
in our world.
We have oppressed the helpless.
We have been intolerant of others.

We have delighted in violence.
We have spent money foolishly.

Please, Lord God, forgive us our transgressions,
that we may be healed of our sin.

Words of Assurance (John 3)

Hear now the loving truth of God:
God did not send the Son into the world
to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Those who believe in him are not condemned.

Passing the Peace of Christ (Psalm 107)

(Divide the congregation into sections to announce the Passing of the Peace.)
Around us, our brothers and sisters are gathered:
from the east,
from the west,
from the north,
from the south.
Share the steadfast love of God and community
as the peace of God is passed.

Response to the Word (Ephesians 2)

We have heard the word of God—
the word of love.
Lord, have mercy.
We have heard the word of God—
the word of grace.
Christ, have mercy.
We have heard the word of God—
the word of service and ministry.
Lord, have mercy.

Introduction to the Sermon

To preach the love of God is to preach the heart of God. Whether our message addresses ministry to the sick, global missions, evangelism, social justice, or family issues, this message is always rooted in God’s love, or it is not rooted in God. May the Holy Spirit open up our innermost being to what God wants most: to give love to us and to receive love from us.


Invitation to the Offering (Psalm 107, Ephesians 2)

We are created in Christ Jesus for good works, and this is his gift to us. Let us now do the loving, good work of giving our gifts back to him. Let us bring our gifts of thanksgiving to celebrate his deeds and his wonderful works to humankind.

Litany of Thanksgiving (Psalm 107, John 3)

Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.
God’s steadfast love in Christ endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.
God’s steadfast love gave us salvation
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.
God’s steadfast love has not left us to perish.
Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.
God’s steadfast love provides eternal life.
Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.


Benediction (Ephesians 2)

God’s great love and rich mercy
have made us alive in Christ.
Let us depart to live lives of grace,
and to do good works.


Contemporary Gathering Words (John 3)

For God so loved (name of church or faith community)
that God gave his only child, Jesus Christ,
so that any human being,
of any background,
who believes in the mission,
work, and atonement in Christ
will not suffer punishment,
but instead have the gift
of eternal joy and life.

Praise Sentences (Ephesians 2)

God’s great love is amazing.
Amazing love makes God great.
God’s great love is amazing.

From “The Abingdon Worship Annual,” edited by Mary J. Scifres and B.J. Beu, Copyright © Abingdon Press. 

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