Fourth Sunday of Lent
A Grace-filled Way of Life
Numbers 21:4-9; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; John 3:14-21; Doctrine and Covenants 102:11a-d
Review the Focus Moment drama. Choose people of any age to participate. It will need some preparation but can be done with just a brief overview of the actions before the service.
Gathering Hymns Choose two.
“Lord, You Have Brought Us"
“O God of Vision"
"Jesu, Tawa Pano/Jesus, We Are Here"
Encourage participants to sing in languages other than their own.
Call to Worship: Psalm 107: 1-3, 21-22
Hymn of Joy
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee"
OR “Now Sing to Our God"
OR “Creator God We Sing/Cantemos al Creador"
Encourage participants to sing in a language other than their own.
As the disciples journeyed with Jesus there likely were times when things didn’t go the way they imagined, when detours forced them to make changes in both where they were going and what they were thinking. Our lives are also like that. Most of us have experienced detours too, perhaps abandoning a long-held dream, or facing life with limitations dictated by health challenges. This week consider where the detours have taken you. Do a mental check to see if you are still on the journey with Jesus.
Drama based on Numbers 21:4-9 See below.
Ministry of Music
"When We Are Tested"
OR “How Long, O God, How Long?"
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10
Based on Ephesians 2:1-10
Scripture Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 102:11a-d
Ring a chime or bell and light the Peace Candle.
Sung Prayer for Peace Add an Amen at the end.
“For the Healing of the Nations"
OR “O God of Every Nation"
Disciples’ Generous Response
One of Community of Christ’s Enduring Principles is Grace and Generosity. It is described in the following words. Listen closely and you may hear echoes of today‘s scriptures.
God’s grace, especially as revealed in Jesus Christ, is generous and unconditional.
Having received God‘s generous grace, we respond generously and graciously receive the generosity of others.
We offer all we are and have to God‘s purposes as revealed in Jesus Christ.
We generously share our witness, resources, ministries, and sacraments according to our true capacity.
—Sharing in Community of Christ,
Exploring Identity, Mission, Message, and Beliefs,
fourth edition, HeraldHouse.org, page 28.
During this time of Disciples’ Generous Response, we focus on aligning our heart with God’s heart. Our offerings are more than meeting budgets or funding mission. We can tangibly express our gratitude to God through our offerings, who is the giver of all.
As we share our mission tithes either by placing money in the plates or through eTithing, use this time to thank God for the many gifts received in life. Our hearts grow aligned with God’s when we gratefully receive and faithfully respond by living Christ’s mission.
If your congregation is meeting online, remind participants they can give through CofChrist.org/give or eTithing.org (consider showing these URLs on screen).
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
We Respond to God’s Grace
“Whatever You Do"
OR “Lord, Whose Love"
OR “To Be Your Presence"
Focus Moment Drama
- a few people of any age to represent a group of Israelites
- one person to represent Moses
- one narrator (could be from your online community)
- two people seated at the front of the worship space or online who observe the drama and then converse about it
If worshiping only online, invite folks to pantomime the action in the texts as they are read. The narrator can be someone present or online.
Props needed if meeting in person:
- a few toy snakes that are placed on the ground off to one side of the front of the worship space
- a pole with a toy snake attached to it that has been painted bronze and placed on the ground near the other toy snakes
Be sure to announce to the congregation that the snakes are not real.
When worshiping in person, the two people who will observe take their places. They might need a microphone to be heard later.
Once in place, the character of Moses leads the other people up an aisle in the worship space to an area near the toy snakes. While they are walking, everyone but Moses mutters and complains about how hard this journey is: they don’t like the weird food that is the same every day, they complain about the lack of water when they need it, and so on.
When the characters are in place near the toy snakes, they stop walking. The narrator reads the part in quotes in Numbers 21:5. The people mumble in agreement.
The narrator reads Numbers 21:6. While that is being read the crowd moves closer to the snakes and a few act as if they have been bitten, falling slowly to the ground.
The people who survive turn to Moses. The narrator reads the quote in Verse 7.
Moses pantomimes praying. The narrator reads Verse 8. Moses picks up the pole with the bronze “serpent.” The survivors still pretend they are being bitten, but immediately look at the bronze serpent and live. The people portraying the crowd and Moses leave the scene.
The two observers have a brief conversation commenting on how those folks did nothing but mumble and complain. They say times haven’t changed much, as even now people mumble and complain, with observers citing an example they know about. The conversation ends with one challenging the congregation with the question: Do we still trust God?
SERMON AND CLASS HELPS
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Exploring the Scripture
The letter to the Ephesians, traditionally credited to Paul, is considered by most scholars to have been written by followers of Paul. Often used during Lent, it is a significant text faithful to Paul’s understanding of God and God’s gift to humankind realized through Jesus Christ. The Ephesian letter is a rich reflection on the path of transformation experienced by those who follow Jesus. Although the setting of the message is first-century Greek culture, it contains timeless truths and poignant connections for every generation of disciples, regardless of their frame of reference.
The author candidly describes the reality of life before, from the viewpoint of one who experienced coming alive in Christ. The world’s ways and succumbing to the passions and desires of the flesh result in a living death. These can be revealed in countless ways. Some we control, and others we don’t. For example, circumstances or choices hold us captive to ourselves or society. No condemnation is intended in this part of the passage.
The passage offers a bold look at the reality of the world into which we are born
(vv. 1–3). There is a sincere recognition of the struggles, challenges, and suffering inherent in the human condition. We are all connected by that condition. Beyond that, the systemic nature of power and potential negative effect on human life is named and called into account.
Amid the world’s reality, the God of mercy and grace extended boundless love and grace through Jesus Christ. We were raised (resurrection) with him to experience transformation from living death to being “made…alive together with Christ” (v. 5), saved by grace.
The message is clear. God’s gift is given freely in love. It is not given in response to anything we do ourselves to earn it through “works” (v. 9). The good works we do as faithful followers of Christ naturally flow into our actions as we embrace all the dimensions of Christ’s salvation. Good works become “our way of life” (v. 10).
This journey of redemption affects both individual and community life. Coming alive in Christ brings healing and wholeness into our personal lives, allowing us to see the world’s ills. As we embody Christ in our new life of good works, we are empowered to effect transformation and change in our families, cities, and nations. During Lent, this passage provides a lens through which we can look inward and outward, and reflect on life before Christ and life after, life with and in Christ.
- We are made alive in Christ through God’s great love and become doers of Christ’s redemptive work.
- We experience the already-but-not-yet hope of redemption found in the resurrection through God’s gift of mercy and love.
- God’s gift is shared freely, not as a reward for good works. Good works flow out of life in Christ.
Questions for the Speaker
- What forces in our world today affect a living death in people and communities?
- How have you experienced or witnessed God’s merciful love amid weakness, struggle, or temptation in a way that transformed death into becoming alive in Christ?
- How are good works an expression of being made alive in Christ and bringing healing ministry of transformation to our world (as individuals and as a community of faith)?
SACRED SPACE: A RESOURCE FOR SMALL-GROUP MINISTRY
Year B Letters
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Ephesians 2:1–10 NRSVUE
We join with other Christians who for many centuries have observed Lent as the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, not counting Sundays. During Lent, we center our attention on Jesus as we remember his life and ministry. Lent also provides a means to sharpen our focus on our own lives in relationship to Jesus. And the Lenten season encourages us to turn away from whatever distracts or blocks our commitment to discipleship. May the season of Lent help us walk with Jesus, even though the path leads to the cross.
Prayer for Peace
Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.
Light the peace candle.
Spirit of wandering and rest, we come again to pray for peace. We know and trust your power. We know and trust that you provide what we need, just like you provided manna for the Israelites wandering the wilderness.
At times, the pursuit of peace feels like wandering in the wilderness. We do not know what lies ahead. We grow tired. We feel alone, yet in community. As we journey through this Lenten wilderness, remind us of your power. You are the Spirit of peace, and we humbly pray that you would invite us to join you in creating peace on Earth.
Grant us courage to continue walking into the wilderness, carrying your light to the world. In the name of Jesus, our Guide. Amen.
Practice of Silence
Practicing silence may be difficult at first. The mind may run wild. Allow yourself grace in this practice. We will begin when I ring the chime. We will be silent for five minutes. I will ring the chime again to conclude our time of silence.
Remember to breathe deeply. Focusing on each breath can help quiet the mind. Become aware of your surroundings; notice how the air feels on your skin; trust that you are in the presence of the Holy—fully surrounding and embracing you. Allow your inner conversations to stop for a while. Be fully present with the One who is fully present with you.
Ring the chime to begin.
Wait five minutes.
Ring the chime to conclude the period of silence.
Ask: How does it feel to be present with God in silence?
Adapted from a Guide for Lent
Sharing Around the Table
Ephesians 2:1–10 NRSVUE
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, doing the will of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else, but God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we may walk in them.
Often used during Lent, this text is faithful to Paul’s understanding of God and God’s gift to humankind realized through Jesus Christ. The Ephesian letter is a rich reflection on the path of transformation experienced by those who follow Jesus. Although the setting of the message is first-century Greek culture, it contains timeless truths for every generation of disciples, regardless of their frame of reference.
The author candidly describes the reality of life “before,” from the viewpoint of one who has experienced coming alive in Christ. Today’s passage offers a bold look at the reality of the world into which we are born. It sincerely recognizes the struggles, challenges, and suffering inherent in life. Those things connect all of us.
Amid the world’s reality, the God of mercy and grace extends boundless love and grace through Jesus Christ. We were raised (resurrection) with him to experience transformation from despair to being “made…alive together with Christ” through grace.
The message is clear. God’s gift is given freely in love. It is not given in response to anything we do ourselves. The good works we do as faithful followers of Christ naturally flow into our actions as we embrace all the dimensions of Christ’s salvation. Good works become our way of life.
This journey of redemption affects individual and community life. Coming alive in Christ brings healing and wholeness into our personal lives, allowing us to see the world’s ills. As we embody Christ in our new life of good works, we are empowered to effect transformation and change in our families, cities, and nations. During Lent, this passage provides a lens for looking inward and outward and reflecting on life before Christ and life after, life with and in Christ.
- How have you experienced or witnessed God’s merciful love amid weakness, struggle, or temptation in a way that transformed despair into becoming alive in Christ?
- When have you been inspired to do something good as a response to God’s grace and love in your life?
- How are good works an expression of being made alive in Christ, bringing healing ministry of transformation to our world?
Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.
—Doctrine and Covenants 165:6a
The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response.
The offering prayer for Lent is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:
Ever-present God, forgive us when we are less than loving, less than hope-filled, less than you have created us to be. Your mercy and grace are always with us. May we find strength in your presence, and may we respond to your love with generous spirits. Amen.
Invitation to Next Meeting
Community of Christ Sings 227, “Come Now, You Hungry”
Optional Additions Depending on Group
- Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
- Thoughts for Children
Thoughts for Children
This Lenten activity continues through the season of Lent.
You will need:
- Nest pictures from the previous week
- Eggs cut from white paper—enough for each participant to have three
- Pencils or coloring supplies
- Glue sticks
Throughout Lent, participants will build a piece of art that reflects their Lenten journey. Be prepared to collect the progressing artwork each week. Make certain to have extra pieces of artwork in various stages of completion for participants who miss a week or two.
Say: Today is the fourth Sunday in Lent. Lent is a time when we prepare for Easter by intentionally taking time to grow our relationship with God. We can deepen our relationship with God in many ways, but three are especially important: fasting, praying, and almsgiving. Over the next few weeks, we will talk about each of these in more detail. Last week we talked about prayer.
Ask: Who found a new way to pray this past week?
Say: This week, we are going to talk about almsgiving. Almsgiving is a fancy way of saying that we are going to share our time, talents, and resources with the world. We can share in lots of ways. We can give physical resources like food and clothing to those in need. We can give our time to help someone clean their yard. We can even give of our talents by creating a card to make someone feel better.
I am going to give you each three eggs to add to your nest picture. On each egg, I want you to write or draw how you can give and share with the world.
As participants write or draw on their eggs, ask them to tell you about what they plan to give.
Say: Once you have finished writing on your eggs, you can glue them into your nest. After the eggs have been glued, give your nest picture back to me so I can hold onto it until next time.
This week, as you go about each day, look for ways you can practice almsgiving by sharing with others.