Third Sunday of Lent
I Corinthians 1:18-25
The Power of Paradox
Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; John 2:13-22; Doctrine and Covenants 164:4a
For the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, prepare the Communion table with the usual trays or whatever is used in your location, but also have a loaf of round, uncut bread, a large roll, or a large tortilla, or other staples in a basket, and a small pitcher of juice along with a chalice or cup.
During the prelude, project or print this scripture for meditation.
Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.
Welcome and Sharing of Community Joys and Concerns
Call to Worship: Psalm 19:1-4a
“How Shall We Find You"
OR “With a Word, You Birthed Creation"
OR “This is God‘s Wondrous World"
OR “Creating God, Your Fingers Trace"
We have reached the halfway point on our Lenten journey. Like the disciples of old, we might be feeling a little tired and weary from the struggle of keeping up, staying hopeful, while yet feeling a bit anxious about where we are going. Take time to rest and to practice listening for God’s still, small voice. Allow yourselves to be filled with new energy as you steadfastly continue to travel with Jesus.
Prayer for Peace
If desired, ring a chime or bell. Light the Peace Candle.
Ask two people of any age to read or sing, “Why Should the Earth Disclose a Face,” CCS 284, for the Prayer for Peace, alternating stanzas. At the end both say “Amen” or sing it on the final note of the hymn.
We Confess and Prepare for a Sacrament
Invite the congregation to turn to “Come and Find the Quiet Center,” CCS 151 and read it silently while music is played.
Scripture of Invitation: Doctrine and Covenants 164:4a
Invitation to Communion
All are welcome at Christ’s table. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is a sacrament in which we remember the life, death, resurrection, and continuing presence of Jesus Christ. In Community of Christ, we also experience Communion as an opportunity to renew our baptismal covenant and to be formed as disciples who live Christ’s mission. Others might have a different or added understandings within their faith traditions. We invite all who participate in the Lord’s Supper to do so in the love and peace of Jesus Christ.
Hymn of Confession
“O Lord, How Can It Be"
OR “In the Quiet of This Day"
Ask the servers to come to the Communion table after the Hymn of Confession. During the reading of Matthew 26:26-28, have two of the servers act out the words as they are read: one tearing the bread item into two or more pieces, and the other pouring juice into the chalice or cup. Then continue with the prayer(s) of blessing on the emblems.
Communion Scripture: Matthew 26:26-28
Blessing and Serving of the Bread and Wine
For guidelines on the Lord’s Supper, including online participation, see CofChrist.org/our-ministry-tools.
Disciples’ Generous Response
The first Sunday of every month focuses the Disciples’ Generous Response to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering, which includes oblation ministry. Our offerings are about more than meeting budgets or funding mission. We focus on aligning our hearts with God’s heart and in doing so on this Sunday we assist in helping abolish poverty. We can tangibly express our gratitude to God through our offerings, for God 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 through eTithing.org (consider showing these URLs on screen).
Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes
What Is a Paradox?
If there are children present, use ideas written by Grant Snider and found at childrensbookacademy.com/blogfish/paradox-in-picture-books
to lead them in creating a short story of their own that entails paradox.
Lead the discussion below.
Share the definition of paradox: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained might prove to be well-founded or true.
Briefly discuss this statement as an example of paradox: A person can be twenty years old but only have had five birthdays. OR If I know one thing, it’s that I know nothing.
- Have you experienced a paradox? Ask a couple of people to share.
- What do you think it means to live with paradox?
- How might you bridge the gap between these seemingly contradictory statements?
A Scriptural Example of Paradox
Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Discuss: How can this be true?
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Invite the congregation to listen for something that sounds like a paradox.
Based on 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
We Are Ready To Serve
“In These Moments We Remember"
OR “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart"
OR “God, Whose Grace Redeems Our Story"
We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.
SERMON AND CLASS HELPS
Third Sunday in Lent
1 Corinthians 1:18–25
Exploring the Scripture
This text describes the gospel as counterintuitive. The word Paul uses is “foolishness” (v. 18). He was helping the church in Corinth grapple with the mystery of the cross. They would have more to learn if they thought they had Christ figured out based on scripture or philosophy.
The young church community at Corinth included Jews and Gentiles. Both likely struggled with the cross. They may have applied the tools of scripture, philosophy, or common knowledge and still had difficulty understanding what had happened on the cross and its meaning as a symbol.
Today, we may be familiar with some Old Testament scripture passages that Jewish Christians saw pointing to a coming Messiah. But Jewish scribes and scripture experts of Paul’s day likely had a hard time reconciling the final parts of Jesus’ earthly life with scripture. They read in the Hebrew Scriptures that God cursed those put to death by hanging on a tree (Deuteronomy 21: 22–23). The cross was a significant obstacle to considering Jesus as Lord.
Various schools of philosophy influenced Gentile thinking. None of those philosophies saw death by execution as something to be admired in a leader. Meanwhile, Gentile thought, as reflected in popular mythology, understood good fortune, or misfortune, to be tied to the gods’ intervening. If you were rich and powerful, it was because the gods were helping you. The opposite also applied. A surface reading of the Hebrew Bible could reveal similar assumptions. As a disciple, following a leader put to death by execution was problematic for Jews and Gentiles. It went against scripture, logic, and common sense.
Paul insisted the cross remain at the center of faith, despite these obstacles. Through the cross, God displays utmost solidarity with those in the world who are oppressed and suffering. God suffered with them.
The cross was more than just a symbol of solidarity. The cross meant suffering could no longer be seen as a clear sign of God’s judgment. Christ, their leader, had suffered horribly on the cross, and he was blessed. After the crucifixion, the conventional wisdom that God cursed suffering people was decisively overthrown by continuing to follow Christ. People were freed from assuming God must also be angry with them besides their suffering.
Paul also argued the cross had shown God’s power is different in its nature from other powers that can be seen in the world. At least God uses power differently. God doesn't use power for boasting or amassing more power. Instead, God’s power was used for lifting the lowly, freeing them from guilt. God’s power was used to stand in solidarity with the suffering.
Finally, the supposedly most powerful people of this world would not be allowed to have the last word. Their power would be overcome, unexpectedly, through what was the supreme symbol of their power. It’s not simply that God turned out to be stronger. While it may seem foolish, the fundamental mystery of Christianity is that God’s power is revealed on the very cross intended to humiliate and oppress.
- Neither suffering nor worldly success should be seen as simple expressions of God’s will.
- God’s power is different, in mysterious ways, from what people might recognize.
- Surprisingly, the empire’s symbol of oppression and death, the executioner’s cross, has become a symbol of God’s power.
Questions for the Speaker
- What are some moments when you’ve seen God revealed in times of suffering and oppression?
- What time or story can you think of where the powerful were crushing the weak while, at the same time, God’s love was being revealed in the community of the oppressed? Or think of where that marginalized community was, in fact, becoming more powerful? (Such as various civil rights movements.)
- Paul talks about “those who are perishing [and] us who are being saved” (v. 18). In your experience, are there two kinds of people divided like this? Or is it more a constant struggle where sometimes we see the power of the cross, and sometimes we instead look away?
- Today, how do people assume wealth and privilege are due to divine favor? How often do we secretly wonder what we did to deserve it when faced with a diagnosis or turn of events we didn’t want? In what ways should the cross upend this way of thinking for Christians? How is this liberating? How much do we still struggle with this?
SACRED SPACE: A RESOURCE FOR SMALL-GROUP MINISTRY
Year B Letters
Third Sunday of Lent
1 Corinthians 1:18–25 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.
God of abundance, at times, we forget that you are abundant in possibility! Humans have fought for centuries, and still, we fight. Still, we hunger. Still, we make poor choices. Still, we choose ease over what is best. Still, we harm and hurt until peace seems like a dream.
But you, God...you are the God of dreamers! May we dream boldly of peace, knowing your thoughts are higher than ours, your ways are higher than ours, and you are capable of peace! Open our hearts to the ways you are working in our neighborhoods. Let us wake from our dreams, gather our supplies, and build those dreams into being with you!
In the name of Jesus, the Dream Maker. 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, CofChrist.org/a-guide-for-lent
Sharing Around the Table
1 Corinthians 1:18–25 NRSVUE
For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of the proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews ask for signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Welcome to the “upside-down” world that is the kingdom of God. The word Paul uses is “foolishness.” He was helping the church in Corinth, a community of Jews and Gentiles, grapple with the mystery of the cross. They would have more to learn if they thought they had Christ figured out based on scripture or philosophy.
Jewish scribes and scripture experts of Paul’s day likely had a hard time reconciling the final parts of Jesus’s earthly life with scripture. They read in the Hebrew Scriptures that God cursed those put to death by hanging on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22–23). Meanwhile, Gentile thought, reflected in popular mythology, understood good fortune, or misfortune, to be tied to the gods’ intervening. If you were rich and powerful, it was because the gods were helping you. The opposite also applied.
A surface reading of the Hebrew Bible could reveal similar assumptions. As a disciple, following a leader put to death by execution was problematic for Jews and Gentiles. It went against scripture, logic, and common sense.
Paul insisted the cross remain at the center of faith despite these obstacles. Through the cross, God displays utmost solidarity with the oppressed and suffering. The cross was more than a symbol of solidarity. It meant that suffering no longer could be seen as a clear sign of God’s judgment. Christ, their leader, had suffered horribly on the cross, and he was blessed.
For Paul, the cross had shown that God’s power is different from other powers in the world. The supposedly most powerful people of this world will not be allowed to have the last word. “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.” It’s anything but foolish.
- When have you seen God’s love revealed in the community of the oppressed? How have you seen God’s “power” bring new life and strength to a marginalized community?
- Paul talks about the message of the cross being “foolishness” to some and “the power of God” to others. What role has the message of the cross played in your journey as a disciple?
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 198, “By the Babylonian Rivers”
Optional Additions Depending on Group
- Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
- Thoughts for Children
Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
—1 Corinthians 11:23–26 NRSV
All are welcome at Christ’s table. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is a sacrament in which we remember the life, death, resurrection, and continuing presence of Jesus Christ. In Community of Christ, we also experience Communion as an opportunity to renew our baptismal covenant and to be formed as disciples who live Christ’s mission. Others may have different or added understandings within their faith traditions. We invite all who participate in the Lord’s Supper to do so in the love and peace of Jesus Christ.
During this Lenten season let us share in Communion as an expression of blessing, healing, peace, and community.
In preparation let’s sing from Community of Christ Sings 526, “Is There One Who Feels Unworthy?”
Thoughts for Children
This Lenten activity continues through the season of Lent.
You will need:
- Nest papers from last week
Throughout the season of Lent, participants will be building 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 third 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. Last week we talked a bit about prayer.
This week, we are going to talk more about prayer. Last week, we created safe intentional space for God in our lives. We symbolized this space by creating nests.
Return the nests to each participant. Make sure everyone has a nest, even if they did not create one last week.
Say: Today, I want us to think about things we might pray about. You can decide to pray about whatever you want. As you think of things for prayer, write or draw them on the paper around your nest.
As participants write things to pray about, discuss some things they might include in their prayers.
Say: Once you have written some things you want to pray for, give your paper back to me so I can hold onto it until next time. The prayers we offer help us deepen our relationship with God. This week, look for new ways to pray.