The 4th Sunday of Lent – 31 Mar 2019 – Luke 15:11-32 ~ lost and found

Fourth Sunday of Lent

+ 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 us from the temptations that lead away from you, and draw us back by the constancy of your love, that we may take our place in your household and gladly share our inheritance with others.

Grant this through Christ, our liberator from sin, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, holy and mighty God for ever and ever.
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“Good Good Father” – Chris Tomlin

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

Parable of the Lost Son

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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Prayer:

Heavenly Father: You love us and happily welcome us home from our distress in far countries.  Hear our prayers and show us your mercy –

+ That all who follow your Son, Jesus Christ, may return home to your embrace during this season  of Lent….
+ That people who have quarreled with each other may be reconciled to you and one another….
+ That families experiencing difficulties and conflict may learn to forgive one another as you have forgiven them….
+ That believing communities in every country may live in peace and be respected….
+ That believers who are suffering great persecution may be delivered from evil and their lives restored….

Heavenly Father: Show us your mercy and rescue us from the darkest places of our exile. Restore us to our families and faith communities, that heaven and earth might rejoice in our return to your household. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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“Lion and the Lamb” – Big Daddy Weave

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Blessing – 1 Corinthians 5:20-21

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.

+ 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.
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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:
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“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

Fourth Sunday of Lent: 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137:1-6; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21 ~ God so loved

Fourth Sunday of Lent

This Sunday we come to the midpoint of Lent, and the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus is nearer to us.

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

Opening prayer:

O God, rich in mercy, you so loved the world that, when we were dead in our sins, you sent your only Son for our deliverance. Lifted up from the earth, he is light and life; exalted upon the cross, he is truth and salvation. Raise us up with Christ and make us rich in good works, that we may walk as children of light toward the paschal feast of heaven. We ask this through Christ, our deliverance and hope, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, holy and mighty God for ever and ever.
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A Reading from the Old testament: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 (NLT)

Likewise, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful. They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations, desecrating the Temple of the Lord that had been consecrated in Jerusalem.

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple. But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.

Remnants of the 1st century Stairs of Ascent, discovered by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, to the entrance of the Temple Courtyard. Pilgrims coming to make sacrifices at the Temple would have entered and exited by this stairway.
Remnants of the 1st century Stairs of Ascent, discovered by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, to the entrance of the Temple Courtyard. Pilgrims coming to make sacrifices at the Temple would have entered and exited by this stairway.

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Then his army burned the Temple of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, burned all the palaces, and completely destroyed everything of value. The few who survived were taken as exiles to Babylon, and they became servants to the king and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power.

So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go there for this task. And may the Lord your God be with you!”
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A Reading from the Psalms: Psalm 137:1-6 (NLT)

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of poplar trees. For our captors demanded a song from us. Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!” But how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a pagan land?

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to play the harp. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I fail to remember you, if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.
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A Reading from the Letters: Ephesians 2:4-10 (NLT)

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
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A Reading from the Gospels: John 3:14-21 (NLT)

wounded-healer-Rouault
Head of Christ Georges Rouault

And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
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Intercessions:

Our Father in heaven: Your love for us has no end. Hear the cries of our hearts and the longings of Your people:

+ For church leaders throughout the world, and all who minister in the church – that they may have wisdom and sound judgement as they walk in the footsteps of Christ…. Lord, hear us.
+ For those preparing to celebrate baptism this Easter time – that this may be a season of refreshment and great joy for them and their families…. Lord, hear us.
+ For peace and reconciliation in our country and throughout the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa – that Your people may live safe and secure lives as they seek to follow You…. Lord, hear us.
+ For exiles, displaced persons and refugees – that Your people may reflect Your compassion and provide practical help and comfort…. Lord, hear us.
+ For Christians suffering persecution today – that You might deliver them from evil and that the world may not forget them…. Lord, hear us.
+ For those who have died in Christ, especially those who have been martyred for their faith…. Lord, hear us.

God of love and mercy, Your gifts to Your people are boundless: give us Your grace and hear our prayers, we ask in faith, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Benediction:

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6)

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