Fourth Sunday of Lent
Midway through the season of Lent, the joy of Easter is on the horizon. The story of the prodigal son reminds us that we will receive love and compassion when we come home to God.
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God of compassion, you await the sinner’s return and spread a feast to welcome home the lost. Save me from the temptations that lead me away from you, and draw me back by the constancy of your love, that I may take my place in your household and gladly share my inheritance with others. Grant this through Christ, my liberator from sin, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, holy and mighty God for ever and ever. Amen.
Hymn: “Faithful one” – Robin Mark
A Reading from the Old Testament: Joshua 5:9-12 (NLT)
[The story of the Israelites’ first Passover after their years wandering in the desert.]
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day.
While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan.
A Reading from the Psalms: Psalm 34:2-7 (NLT)
I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart. Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.
Psalm: “Let Us Exalt His Name Together” – CFC Doha Qatar
A Reading from the Letters: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NLT)
[We are a new creation, ambassadors for Christ.]
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
A Reading from the Gospels: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 (NLT)
[The story of the Prodigal Son, the Loving Father and the disapproving older brother.]
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
So Jesus told them this story:
“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
Hymn: “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” – Selah
Father God, you rescue your people from all our distress. Listen to me now….
+ That all who follow Christ may return to your embrace during this season of Lenten reflection…. Lord, hear me.
+ That people who have fallen out with each other may be reconciled…. Lord, hear me.
+ That families who are experiencing difficulties may learn how to forgive….. Lord, hear me.
+ That refugees from the Middle East may find safe havens while they wait to return home…. Lord, hear me.
+ That all children may grow up in healthy, safe, loving environments…. Lord, hear me.
+ That all who have died in Christ, especially our family and friends, may find their rest in heaven…. Lord, hear me.
Gracious God, you love your people unceasingly, hear my prayers through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.
Hymn: “Hejuru mukirere (Up Beyond the Skies)” – 2016 Ambassadors of Christ Choir
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 24-25
+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen