Fifth Sunday in Lent
Jeremiah 31:31–34; Psalm 51:1–12; Hebrews 5:5–10; Omni 1:46–47; Doctrine and Covenants 165:1d, 2f
Lenten Reflections and Worship Setting
See information in the 18 February Lenten Reflections. Prepare the congregants, especially the children and youth, for their parts of the Confessional Psalm found later in the service.
Lenten Hymns (choose two)
“The Glory of These Forty Days” CCS 451
OR “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley” CCS 452
OR “What Wondrous Love Is This” CCS 454
Prayerfully consider the following statement from “We Proclaim Jesus Christ” found in Sharing in Community of Christ. How does this statement help you conclude your Lenten journey and lead you into Holy Week? Print or project the reading.
We live and serve in hope that God’s kingdom of justice and peace will indeed come, bringing healing to the whole, groaning creation. Putting our trust in the Risen Christ, present among us by the Holy Spirit, we press on together, giving blessing, honor, and glory to God, now and forever more.
—Sharing in Community of Christ, 3rd ed., (Herald Publishing House, 2012, ISBN 9780830915736), 23.
Scripture of Praise (print or project this text)
Leader: O God, you are my God,
Congregation: I seek you, my soul thirsts for you;
Leader: my flesh faints for you,
Congregation: as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Leader: So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
Congregation: beholding your power and glory.
Leader: Because your steadfast love is better than life,
Congregation: my lips will praise you.
All: So I will bless you as long as I live.
Hymn of Praise
“All Creatures of Our God and King” CCS 98
OR “Louez le Seigneur !/Praise, Praise, Praise the Lord!” CCS 106
OR “All Creation Sings God’s Music” CCS 110
Prayer for Peace
Light the peace candle.
Before the service, create several origami peace cranes. Directions can be found at www.origamiway.com/origami-crane.shtml or www.origami-fun.com/support-files/origami-crane-print.pdf. While the congregation sings “Put Peace into Each Other’s Hands” CCS 309, pass the cranes from person to person and ask the last ones who receive them to bring them back to the front to be placed on the altar or worship setting.
In our 40-day observance of Lent, we have experienced Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem and in a few days we will reflect on the unjust violence done to him. Many in our world experience injustice, hate, discrimination, and violence. We have received counsel in Doctrine and Covenants 165:1d to “Undertake compassionate and just actions to abolish poverty and end needless suffering. Pursue peace on and for the Earth.” Let us act on this counsel each day. As we sing the next song, I invite you to pass the peace cranes from person to person until all have handled one, and then bring them to the front and place them in the worship setting.
Peace cranes are considered by many to be tangible prayers for peace. Each person could offer a silent prayer for peace reflecting his or her hopes for a peaceful world as he or she passes the peace crane to the next person, or a verbal prayer for peace could be offered following the hymn.
Congregational Hymn of Peace
“Put Peace into Each Other’s Hands” CCS 309
Prayer for Peace
For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org /daily-prayer-for-peace.
Confessional Psalm (print or project the text)
All: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
High Voices: Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
Low Voices: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Children & Youth: Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
All: Restore to me the joy of your salvation.
—Psalm 51:1–2, 10–12
Reading of the Gospel Text
“A Man of Ancient Time and Place” (solo, duet, or instrumental) CCS 30
OR Congregational Hymn
“In the Bulb There Is a Flower” CCS 561
Based on John 12:20–33
Congregational Unison Scripture Response (print or project this text)
Now, my beloved brethren, I would that you should come to Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation and the power of his redemption.
Come to him, and offer your whole souls as an offering to him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord lives, you will be saved.
Put a handful of grains of raw wheat in a sandwich bag and place it and a small clear bowl in a shopping bag. Check larger grocery stores with a bulk-foods aisle for raw wheat.
Introduce the object in the shopping bag in your own words using these ideas: There is something in the bag that currently is lifeless, but under the right conditions could give life. What do you think it might be? Solicit a few responses. If someone guesses correctly (anything remotely related to seeds or grain, etc.), remove the wheat and hold it up. If not, say what it is and hold up the sandwich bag.
During Lent we are reminded that, like wheat, our lives will be fruitless unless we symbolically die to our self-interests, our needs, and our desires, rather than growing in faith in Jesus Christ. During Lent, putting the wheat back in the storage bin represents our dying to self—the old self dies. The grains in the bowl will help us remember that what seems lifeless can become fruitful and multiply.
Before placing the sandwich bag back in the shopping bag, pour half of the wheat into the clear bowl and place it in the worship setting.
Disciples’ Generous Response
Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 165:2f
Briefly explore this scripture as an invitation to generosity.
Six principles of A Disciples’ Generous Response guide us in managing and sharing our resources: Receive God’s Gifts, Respond Faithfully, Align Heart and Money, Share Generously, Save Wisely, and Spend Responsibly (www.CofChrist.org/disciples-gener ous-response).
When we consider the ways each principle applies in our lives, we respond faithfully and begin to align our priorities with God’s priorities, align our hearts with God’s heart.
Saving is a way to prepare for the future. It gives us the chance to extend our love and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the church’s mission, and the world.
Question for Reflection
Are you saving wisely? How are you extending your love to create a better tomorrow?
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
As you share financially through Mission Tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, please use this time to consider your commitment and how you will tithe to your true capacity of time, talent, and testimony.
For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Hymn of Commission
“Mighty God Who Called Creation” CCS 641
OR “When We Are Living/Pues si vivimos” CCS 242/243
OR “Lord, Whose Love” CCS 346
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Exploring the Scripture
It is the festival of the Passover. Just before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he raises Lazarus from the dead and receives Mary’s anointing of costly perfume. Greeks, disciples, supporters, detractors, and those conspiring against him are among those who surround him. The “hour” of his death draws near.
Jesus tells his disciples what is about to happen. He desperately wants them to understand his purpose, his mission, and what it means— that it will be an act of love and the culminating moment of his life. He speaks in tones of fear and anxiety, yet in contrast to other gospel accounts, he flatly states he will not ask to be spared. “…It is for this reason that I have come….”
We learn two ideas in this exchange. First, some interpret Jesus’ act on the cross as an atoning sacrifice of innocent blood required by a God who demands ransom for justice. However, to many that interpretation is out of harmony with the nature of God revealed in the life and ministry of Jesus. The God revealed in Jesus is one of boundless love and grace, healing mercy and peace. God’s action of healing love reaches out through Jesus Christ to reconcile all the creation to God. Not in anger, but in radical selfless love.
Second, through his act, Jesus teaches the powerful pattern of life as a disciple and what is required to follow in the way of the Christ. “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Using familiar agricultural imagery, Jesus speaks to the heart of suffering love, dying to self, transformation, and new life. It is not needless suffering, but suffering for the sake of others in acts of love that reflect the image of God seen in the face of Christ. In this way, we can stand in solidarity with those who suffer needlessly because of poverty and other forms of systematic injustice. Jesus goes on to clarify the difference between a deep constant relation with God and self-love, smitten with the ways of the world. The first claims the connectedness of all creation through life-giving, transforming acts of love, strengthening each member of the whole. The second focuses on world systems of power over others, a fallen world of winners and losers, which eventually chokes out life and holds the world captive to systematic injustice filled with poverty, violence, fear, and “isms” of all kinds.
Such is final death, in contrast to death that leads to new life. “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Jesus reveals God’s nature and purposes in our world. Jesus offers poignant commentary on the abuse of power and resulting disconnect from a loving God who yearns to draw the world close in the wide circle of transforming love.
Jesus goes on to underscore that what God does through him is for the sake of the world. It is for all nations and people of the Earth, represented by the presence of Greeks in the pressing crowd as well as the words he shares. “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine…And I, when I am lifted from the Earth, will draw all people to myself’” (v. 30, 32).
As we die to self and follow Jesus without reservation all the way to the cross, we embody the personality and love of Jesus Christ. In him, we realize the transformation, healing, and reconciling of humanity. Extravagant love affects every relationship, as we become one in community and one in Christ.
- Through the selfless act of Jesus Christ, we see and experience the extravagant nature of God’s love and wish to bring healing and reconciliation to all humanity.
- To follow Jesus with our whole lives means letting go of self and loving God and others without reservation. It calls us to suffering love for and with others for the sake of our world, binding our hearts and lives together in sacred healing community.
- Through Jesus, God’s boundless love and grace invite all into the circle of peace, reconciliation.
Questions to Consider
- How have you or your congregation experienced suffering love, dying to self, transformation, and new life?
- How does the “way of the world” hold us captive and lead to “death” individually and collectively?
- How can we (disciples, congregations, Community of Christ) be signals of the suffering love that bear fruit, bringing transformation and new life?