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Dreamers and Waiters

Children's sermon
For March 10, 2019:
  • Dreamers and Waiters by Bethany Peerbolte — There are so many things we wait for. The waiting is terrifying and frustrating. Yet here is Moses this week telling us there will be an abundance and a time when the waiting is over, and a celebration will commence. Will we remember to schedule the party? Or will we move on and forget what God has brought us through the dessert.
  • Second Thoughts: Closer than you think by Chris Keating — Challenged by the frost of divisions and the artic blast of a never-ending winter, Paul’s words provide the warmth of hope this first Sunday in Lent.
  • Sermon illustrations by Dean Feldmeyer, Mary Austin and Ron Love.
  • Worship resources by George Reed that focus waiting for God; holding onto the impossible possibility.
  • Children’s sermon: 40 by Tom Willadsen — This is sort of a remedial lesson on the liturgical calendar that the adults who are eavesdropping might benefit from.

Dreamers and Waiters
by Bethany Peerbolte
Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Moses teaches about the abundance to come in the promised land. The community is instructed to take the firstfruits to God’s home and remember the times they did reside in abundance. Then in thanksgiving they should feast and party together to enjoy all that God has brought them through and to. It must have been a beautiful scene to imagine by a community that was still wandering in a dessert. The hope it sparked within them kept them going, dreaming of a day when they would have it all, but for now they had to wait.

There are so many things we wait for. DACA dreamers wait to hear if they can remain in the country. Refugees wait at the southern border to see if they can enter the country. The nation waits for the Mueller investigation to tell us what is going on. Churches wait to see if their theology is big enough to welcome all God’s children to lead and love in the church. The waiting is terrifying, frustrating, and a whole lasagna of feelings underneath.

Yet here is Moses this week telling us there will be an abundance and a time when the waiting is over, and a celebration will commence. When that happens will we remember to schedule the party? Or will we move on and forget what God has brought us through and our Armenian ancestor wandering through the dessert.

In the Text
In the wilderness, even the promise of a feast is life giving. Life in the wilderness is not easy, it takes work to find enough food. It is nearly impossible to stay positive about the current situation. So hard, some have begun to suggest the community abandon the escape and go back to Egypt. They argue that at least as slaves they had easy access to food, dependable water, and did not worry about foreign attack. Moses’ teaching about the firstfruits reminds them why they are putting up with the hardship. It will all be worth it when they bring in that first harvest in the promised land.

Moses knows though that with abundance comes a new normal. When their bellies are consistently full the definition of hardship will shift, and the gifts of the promised land will look like poverty to the children raised off its land. To counter this acclimation Moses advises the community to remember all that they have come through at the firstfruits feast. To remember their ancestor was a wandering Armenian who did not have a plot of land to call home. He did not stick around long enough to care for crops or livestock. Even if Israel becomes a great nation they are told to remember. To remember their numbers did them no good in Egypt, they still found themselves enslaved. During this remembering they are to remember most of all that through it all God was working. To remember if they are feasting it is because God has been faithful to the promise.

Until that day of remembering and feasting Moses asks the community to close their eyes and dream about the day. Since God has already brought them so far it is not implausible to ask the community to imagine the day when they have spent a year tending crops and livestock. A luxury their ancestors did not have. It is not unreasonable to think of a day when everyone would bring a portion of their harvest to the temple for a feast. An extravagance they currently lack. When the day is still far off they easily commit themselves to selflessly providing for one another and inviting the foreigner and friend to the feast.

It is easy to dream of a welcoming inclusive feast day while still in the wilderness. There is no objection to inviting widows, orphans, foreigners, and Levites. Even though they do not help with the planting, caretaking, or harvesting they will be welcomed at the celebration. The community knows what it is like to struggle, because they are currently in the struggle, and they of course will help those who cannot help themselves when they have plenty to share.

These verses show an idealistic dream of what life will be like in the promised land. The remaining pages of the Bible show us this was a much harder dream to enact than it was to think up. Once Israel gets into the promised land, they argue about who should have to bring firstfruits, who can be involved in the feast, and loads of other issues. But here, now, in the wilderness, the vision is secure and shiny. It will be a utopian dream, and nothing will be taken for granted because they will always remember what they have come through.

In the News
For 8 years the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients has been unsure. The DREAM Act has been introduced in various forms since 2010. “This bipartisan, bicameral bill would provide Dreamers — young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and have lived in the U.S. at least four years — protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain legal status if they meet certain requirements.” In the last year their status has gotten even more insecure as the current administration seeks to tighten immigration regulations.

The immigration issue also brings a lot of stress to agencies and their clients at the southern border of the United States. As fears of illegal immigration grows, the people who are seeking asylum find it harder and harder to meet all requirements. This causes long wait times as agencies process legitimate asylum seekers. The longer waits means more time spent in shelters with thinning resources.

Another news story people have been forced to wait on is the Mueller investigation. Even though the public has gotten clues to the investigation’s work, it never seems to be enough. With each new accusation or indictment, the thirst for more information only grows. Some have speculated that no one is going to get what they want from Mueller. The time spent waiting has given both sides of the audience a chance to decide what their outcome will be. No matter what the truth is, they will interpret it through the lenses they have designed while they waited.

There are moments when the waiting seems to be a waste of time. A time when time does not heal all wounds. The United Methodist Church confronted a decision this month that they have been heading toward for a while. The special session of the General Conference decided to uphold a traditionalist plan to continue banning self-avowed LGBTQIA+ ministers from being ordained and same-sex marriages from being performed. For members of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies it was a difficult blow to take. The time spent fighting seems to be a waste, or maybe it needs more time.

In the Sermon
Every once in a while I read a section of scripture and realize all previous readings have missed a huge detail... Okay fine, it happens all the time. This week the “firstfruit” teaching stabbed me right in the heart. It is tax season, and every year I tell myself all my return money will go toward my student loans. I have yet to keep that promise. In fact, every time I have gotten some “firstfruit” I have pledged to put it toward my student loans. I have never kept that promise. Something happens to me when the return or raise hits my bank account. I suddenly forget that I have been living just fine without the extra cash and need the firstfruit to survive. This makes me wonder if Israel ever got around to their feast.

Whether they did feast or not does not change the presence of this moment and these verses in Deuteronomy. While God’s people waited, they dreamed. They broke up the worry with visions of best-case scenarios. Aligning their minds with the will of God. They reminded themselves that God wants great things for them and will bring them through the wait. God did it before for their ancestors and will do it now in this wilderness.

The waits mentioned in the section above are only the ones that make the headlines. The people in the pews are all waiting for something — test results, a phone call, a pay check, a hug. These verses about dreaming of the day beyond the wait can bring them hope — if only for a moment lift the weight of the wait to think on what will come next.

Others may be in the promised land already and their wait is over. They are living in abundance and the harvest is upon them. When we find ourselves amid abundance our survival instinct is to horde or use the resources to immediately improve our lives. This reaction to firstfruits denies us the chance to remember the hard times. Forgetting that things have been worse often leads to dissatisfaction with one’s current situation. These verses remind us to look back and appreciate how far God has brought us

Everyone who is waiting for a promised land, figuratively or literally, wants their hard work to pay off. They want to time spent wandering the wilderness to be worth something. When one comes over the crest of a mountain, full of hope it is the final one, only to find another hill, the defeat is physically painful.

Closer than you think
by Chris Keating
Romans 10:8b-13

During a particularly prickly presbytery meeting a few years ago, a speaker waited his turn to argue against whatever was being debated. When he approached the microphone, he grabbed a book out of the pew, waving it wildly for the assembly to see. His anger spilled out into the debate. “God dictated every word in this book! We cannot set it aside.”

After he sat down, a speaker on the other side of the issue whispered to the man that the book he had been waving was not the Bible but rather the Presbyterian hymnal — the same hymnal, by the way, which had created waves of anxiety in the 1990s by omitting “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

“Look how they love one another,” the ancient theologian Tertullian imagined pagans describing Christians, “and how they are ready to die for each other.”

Tertullian’s little phrase is handy when thinking about contentious church meetings such as the recently concluded United Methodist Special General Conference meeting in St. Louis. Delegates to the Methodist meeting adopted several resolutions supporting more conservative positions on homosexuality. The actions will likely lead to schism within the denomination.

Those divisions were already present, just as they have been within all mainline Protestant churches. For decades it’s been said that wherever two or more Protestants gather there will be an argument in the midst of them. On the surface it looks like all we argue about is sexuality, though wise observers note that the battles are about power and control. Except, of course, when the debates are about money, and then the real issue is probably sex.

All of this offers a framework for listening to Paul’s arguments over inclusion and grace in Romans 10:8b-13. This first Sunday in Lent is an opportunity to consider the heavy lifting of Christian faith, and no one is better skilled at that than Paul. The apostle presents his understanding of the essence of what it means to confess Jesus Christ as Lord. He argues that God’s promises extend beyond our arbitrary divisions, suggesting that there is “no distinction” within God’s household.

That may seem like a hard sell at the moment, especially to progressive and centrist Methodists who were hoping for an easing of the church’s restrictions on ordaining gay clergy and participating in same-gender weddings. Retired United Methodist Bishop William Willimon noted that while the meeting was hardly a decisive victory, it has opened the way for division:

Now it is the UMC’s turn to experience the agony previously endured by the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Lutherans, though I fear that our interlocked, connectional polity will make our pain worse. We bishops believed in unity but couldn’t figure out how to lead it. As we called for generosity and openness from the podium, Traditional Plan politicos were busy on the floor counting votes and making deals. The Traditional Plan carried the day but with a majority so slim that few could call it a victory.

Willimon is correct that the meeting and the furor following it has created a mess, though the mess was likely existing before the conference convened. It is a mess which mirrors deep-seated conflicts across society, including cast iron division political divisions, frustrations over emerging pluralism, and anger over the role of immigrants. In this multi-ethnic and increasingly diverse world, it seems as though words of hope, unity, and grace are far away.

Maybe not, says Paul.

The Roman church faced similar challenges. It was trying to balance the tensions between Jewish and Greco-Roman traditions. Rome was an ethnically diverse city challenged by a myriad of differing cultures. What Paul wrote could apply to any number of hipster urban communities today.

“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart,” Paul begins. Those who have experienced the surpassing grace of Christ know that the real divisions of the world have been healed. This is not as hard as it may seem, he says. God’s expansive grace is available to all.

Susan Cottrell, an author and progressive Christian, discovered that startling expansive grace after her daughter came out to her as bisexual. As a member of a large evangelical church, Cottrell turned to her Bible study for support. Yet instead of grace, they offered her rules and proof texts condemning her daughter. A pastor urged her to choose between her church and her daughter. Without hesitation, Cottrell said, “I choose my daughter.”

It was the beginning of a path which has lead Cottrell into a ministry of outreach to parents and families of LGBTQ children.

Paul continues, delivering a stunning conclusion. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Not only is the word near to you, but it is a word of inclusive grace.

This possibility of grace challenges the church on the First Sunday of Lent to think beyond the tried and true ways of “doing church.” It is a possibility rooted in the promise of Christ who remained faithful even as he was challenged. It is a possibility which calls our churches to see how persons who look and act differently from us may help us express faith in new ways.

Donald Musser notes that Paul’s words in Romans offer us “an impossible possibility” which light up “the dark sky that is clouded by our smoldering sins.” (See Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.) The promise of the hope offered in Christ bring warm to hearts chilled by church debates, and souls weary from the pummeling blasts of winter. They point to the spring of resurrection, confident that the promise of God is nearer than we imagine.

In a world weary of winter and torn apart by division, may that be our hope and prayer.


From team member Dean Feldmeyer:

Wating for Redemption
Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown pardoned a man who served 39 years in prison for two murders he didn't commit. He signed the pardon Wednesday, the same day Craig R. Coley, 70, walked out of the state prison in Lancaster.

Brown said in a statement announcing the pardon that Coley pursued religion and stayed away from gangs and violence. "The grace with which Mr. Coley has endured this lengthy and unjust incarceration is extraordinary."

Coley has maintained he didn't kill Rhonda Wicht, 24, with whom he previously had a relationship, and her 4-year-old son at her apartment in Simi Valley, California, in 1978.

Coley had dated Ms. Wicht for nearly two years and worked as a night manager at a restaurant. His first trial ended with a hung jury in 1979. He was found guilty in a retrial the next year and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. On appeal, his conviction was affirmed.

Last week, Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten and the Simi Valley police chief David Livingstone announced that they were supporting a clemency appeal by Craig. They said new DNA tests conducted during a yearlong investigation supported a "finding of factual innocence."

"This case is tragic," Totten and Livingstone wrote. "An innocent woman and small child were murdered. Craig Coley has spent 39 years in custody for a crime he likely did not commit." They added, "The real murderer or murderers have not been brought to justice."

* * *

The Effects of Waiting
David Allred is the creator of CFW (CreateFinancialWealth.com) and a serious critic of procrastination. He offers these seven things that happen when we decide to wait to do something that needs to be done.
  1. You may never stop waiting. If we measure success as if it were a journey, which it is, then someone who is waiting would still be considered “behind” the starting line. That would be the person who isn’t even on the journey to success. Now, I always thought that in order to win the race, you actually have to be on the track. Am I confused?
  2. Your confidence will fade. I learned a new word today, “Obnubilate”, which means to cloud or obscure. The longer you wait, the more clouded your vision gets. If it is a business you are waiting to start, due to indecision, your passion for wanting to start a business will begin to fade almost immediately.
  3. Fear will increase. You’ve probably heard of the term, “Cold Feet!” Well, the longer you wait, the colder your feet will get. Why do you think salesmen are so persistent? Those who are left to sit on a decision will probably remain sitting on that decision. If they’re sitting on it, obviously it’s not in front of their face and not a priority.
  4. Expecting something for nothing will land you right where you are. A wise man once said, “A bird waiting with mouth open wide for a worm to fall out of the sky might be waiting for a very long time!” Waiting only produces waiting, nothing more. If you expect your dream lifestyle to drop into your lap by waiting to make a decision to create your dream lifestyle, pull up your recliner, get out your TV remote and enjoy those soap operas as you are currently living the lifestyle of your choice, not your dreams. Your friend Wait has chosen this lifestyle for you.
  5. If neglected and ignored, goals will fade and go away. If you have children or have ever been a child, you can relate to this example. What will your child think of you and of their importance in your life if when they ask you a question about something important to them and you keep telling them to “wait” because you are glued to American Idol or your computer game. If it is just once and for a brief moment, they will understand. But what happens if that “wait just a second honey” turns into an hour, or maybe happens all the time? What happens to your children? They will fade away, they won’t ask you very many questions anymore and may not even enjoy being around you because you have put them off! Why are your goals and aspirations any different than children? The more you wait, goals will disappear and become a fuzz of a memory because doing whatever you are doing and waiting is obviously more important. They will fade away!
  6. The opportunity may pass you by! I am looking for action takers. I look for people who can make decisions right out of the gate to get started. I don’t sit around waiting for someone that contacted me 6 months ago to maybe finally make a decision. I move on as does opportunity.
  7. Waiting can become a habit. If someone takes 6 months to make a decision to get started in a business, how long will they wait before they choose to place their first ad or make their first call. It’s a ripple effect!

* * *

Spiritual Development and Challenges
A 1992 survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them:

1. Materialism.
2. Pride.
3. Self-centeredness.
4. Laziness.
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.
5. (Tie) Sexual lust.
7. Envy.
8. Gluttony.
9. Lying.

Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
(Discipleship Journal, November / December, 1992.)

* * *

Death by Temptation
In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the "sundew." It has a slender stem and tiny, round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Woe to the insect, however, that dares to dance on it. Although its attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky and will imprison any bug that touches it. As an insect struggles to free itself, the vibration causes the leaves to close tightly around it. This innocent-looking plant then feeds on its victim. (Our Daily Bread, December 11, 1992.)

* * *

Punished by Temptation
While my wife and I were shopping at a mall kiosk, a shapely young woman in a short, form-fitting dress strolled by. My eyes followed her. Without looking up from the item she was examining, my wife asked, "Was it worth the trouble you're in?" ( Drew Anderson (Tucson, AZ), Reader's Digest.)

* * *

The Temptation of Marshmallows
It’s called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment even though it’s been conducted with cookies and candy. The original version has stuck, however.

The series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s were led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index, and other life measures. A replication attempt with a more diverse sample population over 10 times larger than the original study failed to support the original study's conclusions and suggested that economic background rather than willpower explained the results.

* * * * * * * * *

From team member Mary Austin:

Luke 4:1-13

As Jesus faces the tempter in the desert, Lent also forces us to consider the things that lead us away from God. It turns out that our temptations are much smaller. A survey by the Barna group concludes that we are too tired to be tempted by sex, drugs and rock and roll. “A new survey, however, gets specific about the type of temptations most Americans battle against, and shows that men and women seem to wrestle with different vices… the moral struggles that vex most Americans aren’t the salacious acts that drive the plotlines of reality television shows. Most Americans are too worn down or distracted to get snared by those vices, the survey concludes. The top three sins seducing most Americans: procrastination, overeating and spending too much time on media.”

The survey broke down temptations by age and gender, and “Even young people put sex and drugs way down on their list, according to the survey…It was the lowest percentage attributed to any vice by millennials. Their top two temptations were worrying too much and procrastination. The battleground for temptation has also shifted — it’s gone digital… ‘Nearly half of Americans admit to being tempted to use too much media and one in nine admits to expressing their anger digitally.’ Temptation also seems to affect men and women differently — more women said they’re tempted by gossip and overeating, and only 8% of women admitted to being tempted by online pornography versus 28% of men.”

More worrisome is that we don’t know how — or are too tired — to resist the things that carry us away from God. “Many Americans who admit to being tempted aren’t putting up a big fight. The study said that 59% of Americans admit that they don’t do anything to avoid temptation and half can’t explain why they give into temptation.” Lent invites us back into a deeper relationship with God, resisting the things that lure us away.

* * *

Luke 4:1-13
In the Desert

Jesus is led (or driven, depending on which gospel we’re reading) in to the wilderness to spend forty days, and we picture him there in an empty, barren place. Still, there’s more happening in the desert than we imagine. This year, scientists say that the California desert is ripe for a “super bloom,” an infusion of blooms and color.  “That sound you hear from Southern California in the coming days and weeks could be the deserts exploding in Technicolor. Desert-watchers say the Golden State is likely in for another ”super bloom” of wildflowers like the one we experienced in 2017. All the ingredients for the colorful cocktail are in place: Deserts parched by recent years of drought. An uncharacteristically rainy fall and winter season that have effectively put the kibosh on that drought. And a cold winter, like the one at that wildflower ground zero called Anza-Borrego, to further lock more moisture into the ground. The timing for super bloom is perfect, with annuals normally blooming in mid-March. These flowers leave seeds each spring that lie dormant all winter. And then — just add water! — the desert’s floors and hillsides go into full Carmen Miranda mode.”

God is always at work, even in the driest, most barren places, even when we can’t see it yet.

* * *

Luke 4:1-13
Travel in the Desert

Jesus goes to the desert, or the wilderness, for a spiritual purpose, but the desert is also a trendy travel destination for other reasons. For people who love the outdoors, the desert offers spectacular views, and no mud. In Namibia, you can find “the Namib, the world's oldest desert, which is home to the world's second-highest sand dunes that top out at nearly 1,000 feet. Get a floor-to-ceiling view of those iconic shifting formations from one of 23 chalets or two honeymoon suites at Sossus Dune Lodge (doubles from $280 per night). On the eastern edge of Namib-Naukluft Park near the iconic Sossusvlei dunes, the lodge is a magnet for photographers and who want to seek the most sublime sunrise or sunset in Southern Africa or, possibly, the world. The wildlife viewing isn't bad either. Hartmann's mountain zebra, kudu, gemsbok, klipspringer, duiker, steenbok, leopard, baboon, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, African wild cat, caracal and aardwolf all live here.”

Bolivia offers a “4,086-mile expanse, the world's largest salt flat, holds an estimated 10 billion tons of salt. It's also where 50 to 70 percent of the world's lithium reserves originate — a good reason to see the Salar de Uyuni now, before the world's cell-phone and electronics manufacturers gobble it up. The appeal of this place is the play of light on these wide-open spaces: Sitting at almost 12,000 feet above sea level on the Altiplano of southern Bolivia, the Salar de Uyuni is almost entirely devoid of wildlife and vegetation, save for three species of pink flamingos (who get their coloring from the pink algae and crustaceans they ingest), a rare hummingbird species, and an occasional Andean goose. In the middle of all this desolate white sits the Isla de Pescadores, a bizarre, fish-shaped island dotted with cacti. The real bragging rights for the visit will be the nights you spend at the salt hotel, where the walls, bar and tables are built of salt — just don't lick the walls.”

Or, even if we stay home, we can experience the mystery of meeting up with God in a deeper way this Lent.

* * * * * * * * *

From team member Ron Love:

Deuteronomy 26:2 “you shall…”

Toni Myers directed three feature-length Imax space documentaries: Space Station 3D (2002), about the construction and occupation of the International Space Station; Hubble 3D (2010), which documented a 2009 shuttle flight to repair the Hubble telescope; and A Beautiful Planet (2016), which concentrated on the images of earth from space. As narrator for the first film she had Tom Cruise, for the second Leonardo DiCaprio, and for the third film Jennifer Lawrence. Before each flight she taught the astronauts how to use cameras and have the best setting for filming. Myers said teaching astronauts was easy because, “... astronauts are really smart, and they wouldn’t be astronauts if they weren’t the best learners in the world.”

* * *

Deuteronomy 26:5 “you shall make this response…”

W.E.B. Griffin, who was born in 1929 in Newark and lived to be 89, published more than 150 books in his lifetime. The exact number will be difficult to ever know with certainty since he wrote under several pseudonyms and was also a ghostwriter. He realized that his writings were void of any literary excellence since, as he said, “Basically, I’m a storyteller.”

* * *

Psalm 91:2 “My refuge and my fortress”

Wima Mankiller finished three years serving as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. It was 1996 and she accepted a new assignment as a Montgomery Fellow as Dartmouth College. Shortly after starting in this position she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, already in the second stage. Due to a kidney transplant her options for treatment were very limited. During her treatment Mankiller realized that even though she could not control her body she could control her mind. To keep from having dark thoughts and to avoid depression she surrounded herself with bright colors and flowers, played her guitar and danced. Looking in the mirror one day she saw a gaunt bald figure looking back at her. She was pleased to affirm that her appearance did not match her spirit which was always soaring. With illness testing her strength and her will, she began each day with her favorite Cherokee prayer that begins, “First, let us remove all negative thoughts from our minds so we can come together as one…” This simple prayer reminded her that she may not always be able to control what happens to her in life or that of her body, but she can always control her thoughts. The prayer allowed her to find value in the most difficult situations.

by George Reed

Call to Worship:
Leader: Let us who live in the shelter of the Most High say to God,
People: My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.
Leader: Because we have made our God our refuge and dwelling place
People: No evil shall befall us, no scourge come near us.
Leader: God will command the angels to guard all our ways.
People: With long life God will satisfy us and show us God’s salvation.


Leader: We have gathered today to meet with our God.
People: With joy and anticipation we await God’s coming.
Leader: God comes with impossible possibilities for our lives.
People: We need possibilities for the world we face.
Leader: Trust in God and look for answers we are sent.
People: Our trust is in our God who comes to us.

Hymns and Songs:
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty
UMH: 64/65
H82: 362
PH: 138
AAHH: 329
NCH: 277
CH: 4
LBW: 165
ELA: 413
W&P: 136
AMEC: 25
STLT 26:
Renew: 209

For the Beauty of the Earth
UMH: 92
H82: 416
PH: 473
NCH: 28
CH: 56
LBW: 561
ELA: 879
W&P: 40
AMEC: 578
STLT: 21

Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates
UMH: 213
H82: 436
PH: 8
NCH: 117
CH: 129
LBW: 32
W&P: 176
AMEC: 94
Renew: 73

Rise, Shine, You People
UMH: 187
LBW: 393
ELA: 665
W&P: 89

This Is a Day of New Beginnings
UMH: 383
NCH: 417
CH: 518
W&P: 355

O Come and Dwell in Me
UMH: 388

Be Thou My Vision
UMH: 451
H82: 488
PH: 339
NCH: 451
CH: 595
ELA: 793
W&P: 502
AMEC: 281
STLT: 20
Renew: 151

Open My Eyes, That I May See
UMH: 454
PH: 324
NNBH: 218
CH: 586
W&P: 480
AMEC: 285

Open Our Eyes, Lord
CCB: 77
Renew: 91

Great Is the Lord
CCB: 65
Renew: 22

Music Resources Key:
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELA: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who is infinite possibilities:
Grant us the faith to trust in you
and the possibilities that await us;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.


We praise you, O God, because you are infinite possibilities. In you lies the answer to all our problems. Help us to trust in you and the possibilities that you hold. Give us patience as we wait for the future you hold for us. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Leader: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our doubts about God being able to bring good out of all situations.

People: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We profess our faith in you and we say we know that all things work together for our good and yet our actions speak otherwise. We become distressed and discouraged by the things going on in our lives and we lose our hope in your bringing a good resolution. We act rashly instead of waiting patiently for you to reveal what you desire us to do for our own good. Strengthen our faith and help us to trust in you in all things. Amen.

Leader: God does work for our good and grants us all that we need. Receive God’s grace and love as you share these with others.

Prayers of the People
Praise and glory are yours, O God, because you are the fount from which all the possibilities of the universe flow. You are the good that permeates all creation.

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)

We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We profess our faith in you and we say we know that all things work together for our good and yet our actions speak otherwise. We become distressed and discouraged by the things going on in our lives and we lose our hope in your bringing a good resolution. We act rashly instead of waiting patiently for you to reveal what you desire us to do for our own good. Strengthen our faith and help us to trust in you in all things.

We give you thanks for all the ways in which we have been blessed by your goodness. You love us and watch over us constantly. We thank you for those who live in your love and share it with us and others.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for all your children in their needs. We pray for those who struggle to find the good that you are offering even in terrible situations. We pray that we may be open to how you are reaching out to others through us.

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service)

All this we ask in the Name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Amen.

Children’s Sermon Starter

Talk to the children about waiting. We are now waiting for Easter and all that will happen then. Waiting is hard but it is easier when we know something or someone is going to come. Sometimes we wonder whether or not it will be there. But when we are waiting on God we know God will be here.

by Tom Willadsen
Luke 4:1-13

Today’s children’s time doesn’t require any props and it’s sort of a remedial lesson on the liturgical calendar that the adults who are eavesdropping might benefit from.

Since this is the first Sunday in Lent, a new liturgical season, I believe it’s wise to point out that the colors are different from what they were last week. You may be wearing a purple stole, for example. There may be other places where purple makes an appearance this Sunday where green had been before.

Ask the children what they think of when they see the color green, and also the color purple. Green is a pretty obvious one; growing plants are green and lime candy. Most of the church calendar is green for Ordinary Time, which points to the reality that the ordinary thing for one to do is to grow in Christ.

There’s more to explain with purple. Purple is the color of mourning — clarify that’s not “morning” — which anticipates the sadness Christians will experience on Good Friday. Purple is also the color of royalty; don’t forget, Jesus is a king! And grape flavored things.

Ask the kids if they can think of a time where the number 40 is important in the Bible. You might want to sing “Rise and Shine (Arky, Arky)” which has this elegant lyric:

It rained and poured for forty daysies, daysies
It rained and poured for forty daysies, daysies
Drove those animals (clap) nearly crazy, crazy, children of the Lord

When I went to Presbyterian Church camp (Gerald Ford was president then) we’d always clap on the rest right after “animals.”

Okay, so that’s one time where 40 was an important number. Can they think of others? The Israelites were in the wilderness 40 years; Eli judged for 40 years; Goliath taunted the Israelites for 40 days; David reigned 40 years; and Jonah warned Nineveh that they had 40 days to repent. There are probably others. No need to mention all of them, just make the point that 40 is a number associated with hardship and struggle in the Bible.

So why was Jesus fasting in the wilderness for 40 days? You may need to clarify that a 40 day fast would pass very slowly.  (Yes, yes, pun intended.)

Luke has some interesting wording — after Jesus was baptized he was full of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit led him to the wilderness where he was tempted by the Devil.

Why would the Holy Spirit do that? Why would the Holy Spirit do that for 40 days? It’s the same wilderness that the Israelites wandered in. Is there a connection between Jesus and the Israelites? Yes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Immediate Word, March 10, 2019 issue.

Copyright 2019 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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