A worship service For Sunday March 29, 2020 the 5thSunday of Lent
During the season of LENT (40 days before Easter) we focus on the work of Christ – the atonement – what Jesus’ death on the cross did for us and how it brought about our salvation.
Isn’t is amazing the great lengths our nation is doing to halt the spread of COVID-19? Similarly, it is amazing to realize the tremendous lengths that God did to stop the spread of sin? It is called “reckless love” that sent Jesus to the cross so that we might escape the virus of sin and the sentence of eternal death.
This is a worship service that celebrates the atonement. It can be used for your personal worship as well as for a family group worship.
Come let us worship the Lord. Let us praise him in all situations, as the scriptures call us to do. For he is our God and we are his – the people who belong to him. He has a plan in the midst of our situation. He is preparing us for that which is ahead. We are to look to him and trust. This is an exercise in the development of our faith which, in God’s eyes, is more precious than gold.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen!
During Lent we read the Psalms of Lament – psalms of sorrow, loss and longing that call on God for deliverance.
In Psalm 88 the writer feels cut off from God, alienated and abandoned.
Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.
3 I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among [the dead] who are cut off from your care.
8 You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape;
13 But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.
Gospel Reading: John 4 Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
Reading from the NT: remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
Worship in Song
During the season of LENT we sing songs that remind of his blood that he shed which brought about our redemption. (Look up the words on your computer search engine)
- Glorious Freedom (once I was bound by sins galling fetters, chained like a slave)
- It Cleanses Me (Hallelujah tis his blood that cleanses me, tis his grace that makes me free)
- O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus (vast, unmeasured, boundless, free, rolling as a mighty ocean)
- I Am Redeemed (saved from all sin and purified I am, bought by the blood that flowed from calvary)
- Move (Jesus Culture) When You move, the outcast finds a family… the orphan finds a home
- Raise a Hallelujah I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee … fear you lost your hold on me!
Message: Colossians 1:21 “Once you were alienated from God”
Context: Colossians 1:15-22
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God [the Father] was pleased to have all his fullness (see 2:9-16) dwell in him [Christ], 20 and through him [Christ] to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation
Colossians 2:9-16 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self, ruled by the flesh[b] was put off when you were circumcised by[c] Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you [do not let anyone’s negative opinion of yourself – whether it is real condemnation or imagined condemnation – and do not let any of your own negative opinion of yourself – deter you from enjoying the love and the freedom you have in Christ!]
These days of COVID-19 remind me of the game played as children of “cooties” – when you do not know who is “it”. A friend who you think is safe might actually be “it” so you are afraid of being close to anyone. Wikipedia defines cooties as a term of rejection and a game of infection – one can “catch” cooties through close contact with an “infected”. The fear of catching “it” from close contact makes a person afraid of everyone. No one can be trusted.
And so, during this time of COVID-19 isolation, many are experiencing this disconnect and are feeling alienated from one another. The so-called social distancing of 6 feet feels weird. Plastic “cough barriers” at grocery stores exacerbates the feelings being cut off, alien, censored. For some, this social distancing, triggers them to feel the times they have been spurned, rejected, unchosen, and all the many hurts gathered during life.
So, we find ourselves in a Particularly Precarious Pandemic Predicament of Alienation.
The Psalmist (88) feels even abandoned and cut off from God. Rejected by the One who created us.
Yet Psalm 27 reminds us that 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.
Once we were alienated from God, but Christ’s physical death on the cross has reconciled us our Father God and made peace – free from accusation. This peace and reconciliation brings not only peace with God but also extends to our human relationships.
- we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1)
- if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse (1 Jn 1:9)
- confess your sins one to another and pray for one another that you may be healed (James 5:16)
- if one of you is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore him gently (Gal 6:1)
Many people could say …. “I am so glad that God forgives and cleanses …. But I am not so forgiving to myself and furthermore, I am not so sure about the forgiveness of others. And to the extent that I am fearful of others condemnation I live in fear of rejection and use complex pattens of social distancing to prevent people from knowing me too well. I live in alienation from the body of Christ even though I am part of the body of Christ – I fail to allow myself to really be known and accepted”.
In an old book, Why Am I Afraid tell you who I am? John Powell says, “because if I tell you who I am, you may not like me, and it’s all that I have”. And when we need the approval, support and acceptance of our parents, spouse, friends or associates we may laugh, lie, make excuses and adopt roles and play psychological games to protect our inner selves.
Sin alienates us from God.
When Adam sinned, he experienced loss of innocent joy, he became aware of shame and guilt and due to a fear of punishment he hid and made a covering. Alienation causes people to make elaborate coverings – some very beautiful – to hide the pain of guilt.
I think one reason that God created a “helper suitable” for Adam was the fact that God foresaw the alienation and loneliness that Adam would feel when he sinned. Eve was given as a gift even before Adam desperately needed the companionship of a human when the relationship with God would become clouded by sin.
Sometimes we crave human acceptance more than we crave God’s acceptance. We cover up our needs and our inner condition in order to gain human approval. Human approval at times is a substitute for Gods approval. Belonging and being with others seem better than being alone with God. Just reading the Bible or praying by myself does not satisfy the need for connection. We are wired for intimacy and to be known, accepted and approved. At times we place others and “fellowship” above intimacy with God. And anything, even good things, placed above God is idolatry and a sin – it prevents us from being the full person God desires us to be.
Sin alienates us from one another.
The story of Isaac and Rebekah and their twins, Esau and Jacob – is a story of alienation. I surmise that one reason that Esau was a man of the fields – a hunter – was because of the tensions at home between his father and mother and the competition with his brother for their parent’s affection and approval. Esau ran to the quiet lonely hills in rebellion to escape while Jacob stayed home in numbing submission. Esau, feeling alienated, despised his family’s values and therefore found it easy to “sell his birthright for a bowl of soup”. The family inheritance meant little. He did not seek his parent’s approval when he married and when he found out that his choice of wives displeased his parents, he even married two more of the same kind of women.
He may not have had a rebellious spirit as much as a hurt spirit that fueled his choices to isolate. The feelings of alienation drove a wedge between family relationships so that Esau was “driven” to express his alienation in acting out – rejecting his birthright and not seeking parental approval in marriage – perhaps not even inviting them to the wedding.
People can feel alienated to their country and seek to undermine or enter into conspiracies to overthrow their nation. People can feel alienated from their family and their work associates and lash out in violence that shocks a community. People can feel alienated and want to hide their bad and foolish choices where they might feel criticized due to: drunkenness, abortion, casual hook-up pregnancy, cheating on tests or business deal, dropping out of school, etc.
Alienation can fuel a person’s bad choices and in weakness, due to lack of the support they need, make them susceptible to the sinful choices that further drive a wedge. Alienation can make a person weak toward those things that can become addictions – drugs, alcohol, pornography, immorality, distortions of personhood, self-deceptions and self-hurt.
Alienation can fuel others to become workaholics – being driven to success. Others, fearful of shame, embarrassment, being laughed at, or not belonging can give in to compromises of all sorts in order to belong.
BUT God, because of his great mercy and love has reconciled us to the Father and one to another !!!!
Song: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”
How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
As said before – I am glad for God the Fathers love acceptance forgiveness and inclusion. He included me. I am his and he is mine.
But I am just not so sure about you.
Will you really accept me when I confess my faults, failures, sins, lies, feelings of rejection, feelings of self-doubt and self-hatred? Will you accept me when I confess my jealousy, fear, lust, sinful desires and temptations …. Because I can hardly accept the truth about myself. I can hardly bear to confess it to myself. So, it is easier to play it safe and to live in social isolation that pretends that all is well and when you say, “how are you?” I quickly cover up with, “great, fine, wonderful, blessed” because on one level that is true. So that when you come back with, “No really, how are you?” I can get offended and further hide or go on the offensive and ask you the same question whereby you then cover up. OR I can give a safe confession – one where everyone struggles – “I am not reading the Bible enough”.
But to really experience the radical relational reality of belonging, accepted, loved for who I am and even in spite of who I am …. That is freedom from alienation. And we only arrive at that by abiding in Christ – not just the spiritual reality but the actual Body of Christ. A true healing small group: the where-two-or-more-are gathered-in-his-name kind of reality. Where there is openness trust vulnerability honesty no games type of relationships. A place where everyone knows your name and accepts you. A place where you can say, “Hi I am ___, I am an alcoholic, a meth addict, addicted to porn, addicted to sex, addicted to work etc. and know that in that true confession of sin, we are not our sin but we are in Christ a new believer.
One reason people chose the alienation over honesty is because they do not find in others the love acceptance and forgiveness that Christ offers. They are then driven to find their own group that often condones their struggle with their particular sin … a group that even sanctifies their sin. Or they find a group that helps them in one area of disfunction but does not address the spiritual root of alienation – the need to be in the fullness of relationship with God.
Others chose alienation from human relationships even while accepting Christs forgiveness because of the fear of not being accepted by the persons they most want acceptance from – often they need approval from the people who have hurt them the most – parents, spouse, friend.
W. Glyn Evans in his devotional, Daily with the King, writes for March 25, that we often do not hate sin as sin, we just hate the mess we got ourselves in. But sin has a destroying power. It destroys the present benefit of God’s blessing – the song of Moses was wiped out by the creation of the golden calf. Sin alienates from the presence of God and it also destroys the strength of the community – alienating brother from brother.
We hate the alienation but are tempted to think that covering up is better than honesty.
Part of our fundamental problem as sinners is that we want to be self-sufficient. We hate to depend on one another. Yet God continually takes away my own resources until I am reduced to calling out for help and deliverance. Those who call for help – the Syrophoenician woman, the publican, the lame received the blessing of healing and inclusion while others went away empty and lonely. Jesus said, “blessed are the poor in spirit” – those who admit they need help.
And often our healing in human relationships is bound up in our confession to one another and the receiving of forgiveness and acceptance even for the mess ups we have caused.
And more over…
We can offer to others Christ’s healing power of forgiveness and healing only when we have come to the realization that “I am a sinner in need of God’s grace”. Until I know that my sins nailed Jesus to the cross – that I am not full of righteousness in myself – that I am poor blind and naked – and that in spite of my sins, God has forgiven me … then I can confess my sin before others who also feel alienated. Because God has forgiven me, I no longer live in judgment but in mercy – I can really forgive another for the sin in which has ensnared them.
Some are ensnared in mental illness because they have felt so alienated. Isolation and being cut off from loving supportive family groups creates mental issues for many. The fallen world often gives us more than we think we can bear. Mental health is declining (with one in five adults reporting suffering) while issues like addiction and broken families are increasing. These are not abstract social issues; they hit close to home.
- Some are engulfed in pornography – which is often not so much a moral problem as an intimacy problem – or better stated a fear of intimacy or lack of trust issue.
- Some are trapped in drugs or alcohol to deaden the pain of alienation.
- Some have been deceived by our cultures acceptance of casual sex and live under the cloud of guilt and shame due to their participation in abortion.
- Some are “driven” to accept their sin as God-given and to seek a common sin group because they have not found a person who will accept them and a willingness to walk with them through their struggle even though the struggle may be long with many relapses.
Sometimes we have caused others to feel alienated from us and even from God
- – our sense and opinions of right and wrong can make a person feel judged
- – our driven-ness to succeed and to achieve recognition may hurt and wound
- – our seeking righteousness, our piety, our religion may cause others to think we are too good for them and have pre-judged them
- – believers among us who fail may find the fear of rejection too great to confess their sin
- – children who desire their parental approval may hide their failure
- – spouses may hide their failure
- – friends may hide their failure
And many of those caught up in a struggle with sin are believers who hate the very sin that has ensnared them. And so, they feel compelled to pray more, read the Bible more and vow more only to experience repeated failure and relapse – sometimes they may even despair that God has rejected them. Others surrender to the sin and justify it – trying to accept God’s forgiveness but not gaining freedom from the bondage. They remain alienated.
And scripture says those of those caught up in a sin – that they need to be restored gently. Not condoning the sin but not condemning the brother either. Believing in a person’s forgiveness while walking with them through their addiction is not easy. But that is what God does all the time with our sin. And when I fully realize that I can lay all my sin on Jesus knowing he loves and accepts me – that my failure and weakness has not alienated me from him – then I an offer that same love acceptance and forgiveness to others. I can invite them to lay their whole self on Jesus – even the ugly that makes me fear rejection.
Song: I lay My Sins on Jesus, 1843, by Horatius Bonar, This is believed to be Bonar’s first hymn.
I lay my sins on Jesus, The spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all, and frees us From the accursèd load;
I bring my guilt to Jesus, To wash my crimson stains
White in His blood most precious, Till not a stain remains.
I lay my wants on Jesus; All fullness dwells in Him;
He heals all my diseases, He doth my soul redeem:
I lay my griefs on Jesus, My burdens and my cares;
He from them all releases, He all my sorrows shares.
I rest my soul on Jesus, This weary soul of mine;
His right hand me embraces, I on His breast recline.
I love the name of Jesus, Immanuel, Christ, the Lord;
Like fragrance on the breezes His name abroad is poured.
I lay my ________ on Jesus
- feelings of alienation, isolation, rejection, hurts
- self-loathing, condemnation, abuse
- success, work, fear of failure, self-sufficiency, pride
First, receive the forgiveness from God – confess your sin, sins, mistakes, failures to God. It is Christ’s death on the cross that paid the penalty for your sin. The charges against you are dropped. You are no longer alienated but brought into relationship with God.
Secondly, continue on with the greater freedom God has for you. Experience the freedom from alienation from others. Find another believer to whom you can confess – who will accept you in all that has caused you to hide. Mature believers are out there who will offer not condemnation nor will they offer unscriptural compromises. Ask God to give you such a friend.
Thirdly, can another person see that you are a safe person who will not
- reject, blame, accuse
- give ultimatums, set goals and timelines
but will find in you a person who
- asks: How do you feel? What are you wanting God to do? Do you want my help? What can I do? Etc.
- believes in you enough to walk with you through the ups and downs in the struggle to freedom
Sometimes churches, spouses, and parents are the least safe people. We desperately need their support and we will do almost anything to keep from being found out. Let’s be the people of God who are not shocked by sin and who are able to feely confess our sin so that others might find the freedom to confess theirs.
Psalms 32 says blessed is the one whose sin is covered …. who has experienced freedom for the alienation that sin has created.
Once we were alienated …. But now we are reconciled.
Psalm 87 says that those who once were aliens, enemies, now are registered as those who were born [again] and children belonging to God and they will be able to rejoice as one of the freeborn
1 He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
2 The Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.
3 Glorious things are said of you,
city of God:[a]
4 “I will record Rahab (prostitute) and Babylon (terrorists)
among those who acknowledge me—
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush (all enemies)
and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”[d]
5 Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her,
and the Most High himself will establish her.”
6 The Lord will write in the register of the peoples:
“This one was born in Zion.”
7 As they make music they will sing,
“All my fountains are in you.”
Closing Prayer: We thank you O God for your sacrifice and death on the cross that procured our belonging – no longer under the curse of estrangement and alienation – no longer accused and rejected. We come to you and ask you to forgive us of our sins and to forgive us of our judgments that may have caused others to feel alienated from us and may even have led them to feel alienated from you. We accept your forgiveness. And help us to seek the further freedom that comes from trusting in your council to confess one to another in order to find healing and our fullness in you. Amen.
Closing Song: I raise a Hallelujah – a song that encourages us to sing even amid the struggle
Fellowship – call some of the church family and share with them a praise and pray one for another.
Giving: Thank you for those who are faithful in giving through the mail, or on-line giving. There is good news from Janice that for now, we have funds to cover the bills. Praise God!
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace. (NIV)
A Lenten Activity of cleansing during COVID-19 isolation:
Together cleaning house or a closet and getting rid of clutter with the understanding that God is doing an inner spiritual cleaning in our lives.
Let’s keep in touch …
- Church web site is: maryvalechurch.org
- Also, from our website you can take a look at Facebook
- Pastors Carla, Deb, and I are making sure each member of the church family is being contacted on a regular basis by phone, text or emails and we encourage you do contact each other as well.
- Use these days at home to call each other in the church directory – those that you do know and also even if you do not know someone in the directory, give them a call and introduce yourself – pray one for another.