Keeping the faith at home: Order of worship for Sunday March 22nd
4th Sunday in Lent
During Ontario’s declared state of emergency Friday, emails will send out Bible readings and prayers for Sundays with the idea that even though we are dispersed throughout the region, we might come together in spirit. So set aside time Sunday morning. Light a candle and read along with others in our congregational community.
This is the year in which Lent readings weave around the themes of baptism – on this 4th Sunday in Lent we’ll encounter themes of anointing and illumination or insight. The first reading is the story of Samuel anointing David. The Psalm is perhaps the most beloved of the 150 Psalms. The reading from Ephesians speaks to the ethics of being enlightened. The Gospel reading is long but don’t miss the subtle humour within it as the healed blind man becomes the teacher to the authorities. The introductory comments are from Sundays and Seasons.
Prayer of the Day
Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Jesus says, I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
First Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
The boy David was anointed by the prophet and then received the Spirit of God. In the early church, baptisms usually included an anointing with oil. So in baptism, we too are anointed, either metaphorically or literally, and having received the Spirit, we too reign in God’s kingdom. The title “Christ” means “the anointed one,” and Christians are those anointed with Jesus Christ to live a transformed life. This story parallels John 9 as a picture about baptism.
1The Lord said to
Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being
king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse
the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go? If
Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer
with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice,
and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom
I name to you.” 4Samuel did what
the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city
came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come
to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the
sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the
6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.
Psalm: Psalm 23
You anoint my head with oil. (Ps. 23:5)
1The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
3You restore my soul, O Lord,
and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14
Because we now live in the divine light which is Jesus Christ, we conduct our lives in ways that reflect the light of Christ, so that our activity is truly pleasing to God.
8Once you were darkness, but now in
the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—9for the fruit of the light is
found in all that is good and right and true. 10Try to find out what is pleasing
to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful
works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to
mention what such people do secretly; 13but
everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for everything that becomes
visible is light. Therefore it says,
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Gospel: John 9:1-41
At least since the fourth century, the church has used the narrative of the man born blind as a picture of every believer’s baptism, which in early centuries was commonly called “enlightenment.” Our baptism has given us the light of Christ, by which we live, and with which we illumine the darkness in and outside ourselves. Along with the seeing man, we affirm our Lenten faith, “Lord, I believe.” We too are sent by baptism to live a new life.
1As [Jesus] walked
along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His
disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was
born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this
man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be
revealed in him. 4We must work the works of him
who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I
am the light of the world.” 6When
he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread
the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying
to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and
washed and came back able to see. 8The
neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this
not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some
were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.”
He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But
they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called
Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’
Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?”
He said, “I do not know.”
13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
Prayers of Intercession
Turning our hearts to God who is gracious and merciful, we pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
God of insight, open the hearts of the church and the world to all who testify to your deeds of power like Jonathan Edwards, whom we commemorate today. Raise up voices in your church that are often silenced or overlooked due to age, gender expression, race, or economic status. With the global Christian community we pray this week for the churches in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of insight, empower us to care for the land and all living things that dwell in it and beneath it. Provide rich soil for crops to grow. Bring rain to lands suffering drought. Protect hills and shorelines from damage caused by erosion. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of insight, bring peace to all people and nations. Anoint leaders who seek goodness, righteousness, and truth on behalf of all. Frustrate the efforts of those who would seek to cause violence or terror. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of insight, you care for our needs even before we ask. Come quickly to all who seek prayer this day, especially Lois, Leonard, Ed, Clair, people affected by COVID-19 and other diseases as well as those we name in the silence of our hearts. [ a brief silence ] Accomplish healing through the work of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists, and all who tend to human bodies. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God of insight, help our congregation lift up the unique gifts of each person who enters, no matter their physical capacity, cognitive ability, or sensory need. Help us to be creative and brave in making our facilities and our ministries accessible to all. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Here other intercessions may be offered.
God of insight, you call out to those who are asleep and awaken them to new life with you. We give thanks for your saints. Join us together with them as your children in this world and the next. Be gently near to those who mourn and comfort them with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
According to your steadfast love, O God, hear these and all our prayers as we commend them to you; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Two possible hymns come to mind this Sunday. The first is “Amazing Grace”. The author, John Newton, was a slave trader who was “enlightened” and renounced slave trading to become a pastor in England. His hymn sings of transformation: I once was blind but now I see
Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound
1 Amazing grace! how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.
2 ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!
3 Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come;
’tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
4 The Lord has promised good to me; his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.
5 When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.
Text: John Newton, 1725-1807, alt., sts. 1-4; anonymous, st. 5
The second hymn is one that sings faith into our current pandemic state of emergency. “Now Thank We All Our God” was written by Martin Rinkhart in the 1600’s amidst Germany’s epidemic of bubonic plague. Pastor Rinkhart was doing up to 40 funerals a day, including the funeral of his wife and yet composed this hymn of thankful praise.
Now Thank We All Our God
1 Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who, from our mothers’ arms, has blest us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
2 Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us,
and keep us all in grace, and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all harm in this world and the next.
3 All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
the Son, and Spirit blest, who reign in highest heaven,
the one eternal God, whom earth and heav’n adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
Text: Martin Rinkhart, 1586-1649; tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1827-1878
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go our with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen
Here are some additional prayers from the Lutheran World Federation for the days ahead
Intercessory Prayer in exceptional times
In times of restraint and physical distancing, when the body of Christ cannot meet in one place, we gather through the Holy Spirit in our many different places – house, apartment, room – and call out to you. Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
Give courage and wisdom to national governments and local authorities to enforce public health regulations for the welfare of all and increase efforts to stop the spread of the virus that affects every human being. Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
Breathe a spirit of love and self-discipline into your church that it continually promote and protect regulations and restrictions for the well-being of all. Strengthen our witness to embody examples of compassionate self-restraint. Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
God, have mercy! Heal the sick, strengthen the elderly and vulnerable, protect all from the spread of COVID-19. Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
God, have mercy! Support and protect all health care workers and all who serve the sick and those at high risk of infection. We remember in particular refugees and those serving them today. Reinforce all agencies that support public health. Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
God, have mercy! Comfort and uplift those who are alone, isolated, oppressed by solitude and anxiety. Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
God, have mercy on the whole human family and on your creation, especially hear our specific prayers that are now spoken out loud or in the silence of our hearts (…) Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
Fill each and every heart with that trust in your grace that frees us and binds us together in communion in the one body of your son, Jesus Christ. Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
Send your Holy Spirit. Renew your church in its prayer and in solidarity with all its neighbors. Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
Remember in your mercy all those who have died and will die today. [pause] Hear our cry, O God, Listen to our prayer.
Trusting in your great compassion and unconditional promise always to be with us, we pray. Amen.