Lent | 4th Sunday 27 Mar 2022: Josh 5:9-12; Ps 34; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Luke 15:11-32 ~ “Come back to God!”

Lent | 4th Sunday 27 Mar 2022

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down
from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world:
Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in
him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, now and for ever. Amen.

God is making his appeal through us.
We speak for Christ when we plead,
“Come back to God!”
(2 Cor 5:20)

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There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy (Calvin Hampton)
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder, CO

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OT Reading: Joshua 5:9-12 (NLT)

5:9 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.

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Psalms: Psalm 34 – The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – Psalm 34 (Live)

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NT Reading: 2 Cor 5:17-21 (NLT)

5:17 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.

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Hosea – Come Back To Me
K Y

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Gospel Reading: Luke 15:11-32 (NLT)

Parable of the Lost Son

15:11 To illustrate the point further, 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!’”

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Found (Official Lyric Video) – The Church at Brook Hills

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Prayer: ACNA | BCP2019

+ O God, our heavenly Father, you manifested your love by sending your only-begotten Son into the world, that all might live through him: Pour out your Spirit on your Church, that we may fulfill his command to preach the Gospel to all people. Send forth laborers into your harvest; defend them in all dangers and temptations; and hasten the time when the fullness of the Gentiles shall be gathered in, and faithful Israel shall be saved; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

+ O God, you desire that all people be saved and come to knowledge of the truth: Prosper all those who live, preach, and teach the Gospel at home and in distant lands [especially those in the Ukraine]; protect them in all perils, support them in their loneliness, sustain them in the hour of trial; give them your abundant grace to bear faithful witness; and endue them with burning zeal and love, that they may turn many to righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

+ Almighty God our Savior, you desire that none should perish, and you have taught us through your Son that there is great joy in heaven over every sinner who repents: Grant that our hearts may ache for a lost and broken world. May your Holy Spirit work through our words, deeds, and prayers, that the lost may be found and the dead made alive, and that all your redeemed may rejoice around your throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Closing: faith and worship | John Birch

Be the Life I live
Be the Love I give

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, 04 Jan 2020, 2 Corinthians 5-7 ~ “Come back to God!”

Saturday, 04 Jan 2020

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Opening:  (A Collect for Sabbath Rest – Saturday)

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and set aside a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared to meet you in worship, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Reading: 2 Corinthians 5-7 (NLT)

New Bodies

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

We Are God’s Ambassadors

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 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.

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says,

“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

Paul’s Hardships

We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors.  We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!

The Temple of the Living God

Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said:

“I will live in them and walk among them.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Therefore, come out from among unbelievers,
and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.

And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Please open your hearts to us. We have not done wrong to anyone, nor led anyone astray, nor taken advantage of anyone. I’m not saying this to condemn you. I said before that you are in our hearts, and we live or die together with you. I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.

Paul’s Joy at the Church’s Repentance

When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right. My purpose, then, was not to write about who did the wrong or who was wronged. I wrote to you so that in the sight of God you could see for yourselves how loyal you are to us. We have been greatly encouraged by this.

In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was about the way all of you welcomed him and set his mind at ease. I had told him how proud I was of you—and you didn’t disappoint me. I have always told you the truth, and now my boasting to Titus has also proved true! Now he cares for you more than ever when he remembers the way all of you obeyed him and welcomed him with such fear and deep respect. I am very happy now because I have complete confidence in you.
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Reflection:

“Come back to God!”

We are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.
We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
– 2 Corinthians 5:20 –

In today’s reading, Paul explains how Christ’s love changed his viewpoint since his conversion.

  • Previously he had looked at people from a human perspective – in terms of their ethnicity, or social status, rather than their position as believers.
  • Now he recognized believers as new creations in Christ – their old life and relationships no longer exist, others had taken their place.
  • Prior to conversion they had only their old sinful nature – now they have the life-giving Holy Spirit living within them, transforming them into a temple of the living God.

All of this was made possible through God’s gracious provision of reconciliation in sending His Son to die for us. He  brought people to Himself by dealing with our sins in Christ. God is the reconciler, but people still need to respond to the offer of salvation by believing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

And now, God has committed the message of this provision to those of us who have experienced reconciliation, and our ministry is to present it to all people.We are ambassadors of Christ, and our message of reconciliation is always the same: “Come back to God!” And now is the right time.

 Questions for consideration:

  • How did your life change when you first believed in Jesus Christ? What has changed since then? Please explain.
  • How has the love of Christ changed how you view others who are different from you? Please explain.
  • Have you been an ambassador for Christ, bearing God’s message of reconciliation? Please explain.
  • What do you think “Today is the day of salvation” means? Who is that message for? Please explain.

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Prayer:

For the Unrepentant

Merciful God, you desire not the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn to you and live; and through your only Son you have revealed yourself as the God who pardons iniquity. Have mercy on the unrepentant and those who do not believe. Awaken in them, by your Word and Holy Spirit, a deep sense of their sinfulness and peril. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of your Word. Grant them to know and feel that there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which they must be saved, but only the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so bring them home and number them among your children, that they may be yours for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
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Oh have you looked around
Have you heard the sound
Of Mama’s cryin’
Or do you turn away
When you see the face
Of the innocent dyin’
In these darkest days
Are you not afraid
That it’s too late

” Back to God ” – Reba McEntire, Lauren Daigle

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
Gotta keep on praying
You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving
Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

Have you lost a love?
Do you feel like givin’ up?
Has your heart been broken?
Are your kids okay?
Will they come home safe?
Do you lie there hoping?
You can make a wish, you can knock on wood
Oh it won’t do no good

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
Gotta keep on praying
You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving
Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
Keep on praying
You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving
Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
You can hope the best
Make a wish
The only answer is

We give this world back to God
Oh, give it back
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Closing:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Daily Reading: 02 Aug – The Apostles’ Teaching: A New Creature in Christ – 2 Corinthians 4:1-6:2

Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

+ In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

E100:19.b – The Apostles’ Teaching

A New Creature in Christ – 2 Corinthians 4:1-6:2 (NLT)

Treasure in Fragile Clay Jars

2 Corinthians 4  Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 2 We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.

3 If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. 4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

5 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

broken-vessell

7 We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.

13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

New Bodies

2 Corinthians 5  For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. weary of present bodies3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

We Are God’s Ambassadors

11 Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. 12 Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. 13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

new life in Christ

16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

18 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. 19 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. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 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.

2 Corinthians 6  As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. 2 For God says,

“At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.
__________

Prayer

Merciful God – you have claimed us as your own through faith in your Son, Jesus Christ. And yet, we are fragile containers of this heavenly treasure you have so graciously given us. You alone are our source of power and strength; for apart from you, we can do nothing.

Heavenly Father – protect your beloved children who are undergoing great persecution throughout the world.

+ that those who are being pressed on every side by troubles, never be crushed.

+ that those who are perplexed, never be driven to despair.

+ that those who are being hunted down, never feel that you have abandoned them.

+ that those who are being knocked down, never be destroyed.

Heavenly Father – redeem their sufferings – that as they share in the death of Jesus, so too may the life of Jesus be seen in them. Renew their spirits today. And may they focus their attention on the eternal glory that awaits them, rather than their present troubles. May your grace reach more and more people through them, and may you receive all the glory. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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“Press On” – Selah


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Closing Sentence

The Lord bless us, and keep us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.

+ In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Fourth Sunday of Lent, 06 March: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 34:2-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 ~ “Come back to God!”

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.

Opening Prayer:

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.
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Hymn: “Faithful one” – Robin Mark


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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.

Hand-harvesting wheat for Passover in Israel
Hand-harvesting wheat for Passover in Israel

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.
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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


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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!

ambassadors for Christ

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.”’

Prodigal_Son_by_glastonburied1

“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!’”
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Hymn: “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” – Selah


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Intercessions:

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.
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Hymn: “Hejuru mukirere (Up Beyond the Skies)” – 2016 Ambassadors of Christ Choir

Benediction:

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

Ash Wednesday: 18 Feb – Jl 2:12-18 ; 2 Cor 5:20—6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 ~ Come back to God!

Ash Wednesday

ash wednesday cross

Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting, is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity. It occurs 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. The Gospels tell us that Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent originated as a mirroring of this – fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening sentence and prayer:

My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready.
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Merciful and compassionate God: cleanse my heart and strengthen me in love through the Holy Spirit. Lord, Your word is life; may my life be nourished and sustained by every word You speak. In the life of Jesus You have shown me the way of love; teach me to follow this way in the great and small events of life. Grant me a spirit of self-denial, and move me to help my brothers and sisters in their need. Let me bear witness to the death of Your Son, for in His death You have brought me to life. Give me, Lord, your Holy Spirit.
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A Reading from the Old Testament: Joel 2:12-18 (NLT)

That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.”

Jewish prayer

Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the Lord your God as before.

Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem! Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Gather all the people — the elders, the children, and even the babies. Call the bridegroom from his quarters and the bride from her private room. Let the priests, who minister in the Lord’s presence, stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar.

Let them pray, “Spare your people, Lord! Don’t let your special possession become an object of mockery. Don’t let them become a joke for unbelieving foreigners who say, ‘Has the God of Israel left them?’”

Then the Lord will pity his people and jealously guard the honor of his land.
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A Reading from the Letters: 2 Corinthians 5:20—6:2 (NLT)

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.

As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.
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If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95:8)
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A Reading from the Gospels: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 (NLT)

Kori Dirks, Kolton Dirks

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
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Canticle

Christ, as a light illumine and guide me. Christ as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right.

This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.

Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me on my left and my right.

Blessing:

May the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen