Worship Service for the 5th Sunday in Lent

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 5th Sunday in Lent, landing on April 3, 2022! We are glad that you are here!

The worship bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will have the order and words of worship, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. The words that you need to know will also be on your screen and the sermon is included on this page after the worship video itself.

For an enhanced worship experience at home, you may have a lit candle for the service that can be extinguished at the end of the sending hymn. And you can have something small to eat and drink for communion, and further instructions for when to consume will be given during the service.

May God’s redeeming love unite us all as the one body of Christ, now and forever!

If the video is not working, please go to our YouTube channel here and find the properly listed video.

By the power of your Spirit, O God, break open for us the wisdom in your Word, that its fragrance of love and grace fills our hearts and our lives, anointing us to be your faithful servants in the world, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

In the past several days, if you have read the news, listened to the radio, watched any kind of tv, browsed social media of any sort, or just eavesdropped on someone’s conversation while standing in line at the grocery store or coffee shop, you must have learned about what happened at Oscars last week.  But by the slim chance you didn’t, the main event was how comedian Chris Rock made a comment about Jada Pinkett’s shaved head and her husband Will Smith walked up to Chris and slapped him in the face in retaliation.  I know, headline worthy for sure.

Now, I should say that I literally haven’t seen or even kept up with the news around the Oscars for the better part of 20 years as I don’t really care what some stuffy rich people thought about movies just as long as entertaining movies just kept coming out.  But my goodness did I ever hear about this.  Turns out Will Smith won best actor that night too, which I guess was a pretty big deal for him.  But either case, no one is going to remember that.  They’ll just remember the slap.  No one is going to remember all the other nominees and award winners.  They’ll just remember the slap.  No one is going to remember the other exciting things that happened that people watch these award shows for, they’ll just remember the slap.

This was apparent in how much people kept talking about it all week. It’s like everyone forgot everything else that is happening in the world right now and all they can think about is why did Will Smith do this this and what did Chris Rock do wrong and hey let’s make meme after meme after meme.  But what wasn’t so surprising to see was that as more and more interpretations of the event popped up all over the place, the division between people was exasperated.  Some say any kind of violence is wrong while others say it’s ok to protect those that you love.  Some say that comedians will be comedians and will say that they’ll say, while others say that everyone should be held accountable for their offenses of being offensive.  Some say that there needs to be harsh consequences and accountability for being wrong, and still others just say who cares.  This wedge between people keeps getting driven deeper and deeper over pretty much anything.

Because, really?  Do we need another reason to hate?

I mean the world is divided enough as it is, do we really need to concern ourselves with what a couple of rich and famous people do on live television?  Do we really need to take the effort to dissect the situation and psycho-analyse everyone involved?  Do we really need to spend the prime time sermon real estate to even talk about it at all?

Whether we need to or not, it’s what happened and continues to happen.  And it’s so surprise as people have always looked for a reason to hate, even in today’s gospel lesson, where we get another reason why Jesus was taken to the cross, another reason for the division, another reason to hate.

“You’ll always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me.” 

This was Jesus’ response to Judas balking at the cost of this perfume that was just wasted all over Jesus’ feet.  This pound of perfume was estimated to be worth about a year’s wages.  That is indeed a lot of money and it probably could have done a lot of good for a lot of poor people.  But Jesus claps back with this response and I’m wondering what it must have sounded like at the time.  Because really, Jesus, do you have to throw it in Judas’ face like that?  I know we have the privilege of reading that bracketed note of Judas being a scoundrel, but does that mean he deserves this kind of vocal open-handed slap?  Without that comment in the brackets, this just sounds like a crispy burn directed at Judas.

So I’d imagine that Judas was hurt by this comment.  I’d imagine Mary perhaps felt a bit awkward for coming in between them.  I would imagine the disciples going “oooooohhh” and maybe snickering a bit under their breath, but perhaps also wondering what on earth Jesus meant by this statement.

I mean, if you take out that bracketed note about Judas being a thief, he actually has a point.  That money could have been better spent almost anywhere else other than over Jesus’ feet.  To be honest, I would have thought the same thing.  Not because I’m a thief and want the money for myself mind you, but because I’m super cheap.  I know I’d think twice and probably even thrice before spending that kind of scratch on perfume for someone’s feet. 

But that’s just me.  Maybe Judas was like that too, or maybe he really was just a thief.  Mary clearly wasn’t like this at all, but wanted to openly show Jesus her love and devotion by sitting at his feet and listening to his words and spending exorbitant amount of money on helping him smell better.  And the rest of the disciples watched on, perhaps not knowing what to think or what to do or even what to say.  But it is clear there was tension in this room, and in the middle of it was Jesus, with is quippy type quip about the poor always being with them.  Something that to us might sound so dismissive and almost selfish, something that could have tipped Judas over the edge on his betrayal plans, and something that I know leaves us scratching our heads.

But I also think it’s something that is more profound than perhaps we would recognise or give Jesus credit for.  See, while it might sound like Jesus is being dismissive of the poor by saying it would be futile to give the proceeds of this perfume sale to them, Jesus is actually reminding them that we will always watch out for the poor, we will always care for them, we are called and commanded to always have them, like saying we got them, we got their backs.

In this light then if by “you always have the poor with you,” Jesus meant that we’ll always have the backs of the poor, then by “but you do not always have me” must mean that Jesus is foreshadowing not just how Judas will betray him, but how all the disciples will by abandoning him, denying him, and just losing their trust and faith in him.

Because that is exactly what happens.  When the chips were down, each one of them ran in their own direction.  When Jesus needed them the most they were nowhere to be found.   When all Jesus did was ask them for a little faith, they just saw it as another reason to run, another reason to divide, another reason to hate.

This is what happened in that home of Lazarus, that is what happened in Jerusalem among all the people just a week later, this is what happens with us.  Perhaps we too, get so offended by the things that Jesus says that we would just be like NOPE and get out of there.  Perhaps we don’t like how Jesus calls us to be forgiving and inclusive so much that we would intentionally interpret his words differently so we wouldn’t have to.  Perhaps we can’t handle the amount of love that Jesus shows to those we don’t like or even to ourselves, and instead of accepting it we use it as our reason to hate.

You see, my friends, Jesus doesn’t call us to be divided but united in his name.  Jesus doesn’t call us to point our fingers at others and call them sinners but to understand how his grace and forgiveness and salvation are for all.  Jesus doesn’t call us to twist his words around and hate who we hate, but to listen to his words of generosity and charity, and strive to love as he first loved us.

This is a tall order, I know.  And it isn’t easy as a lot of people out there give us a lot of reasons to hate.  But an important question to ask ourselves is, “does Jesus hate these people like I hate these people, or does he love them in spite of my feelings for them?”  Because even though Jesus knew exactly what Judas was about, he still welcomed him in.  Even though Jesus knew exactly how each and every one of his disciples would abandon and desert and even deny him, he still calls them.  Even though Jesus is fully aware of how we all will stumble and fall and disappoint and not show up, but he continues to bridge the divide between us him with arms open wide and a heart of peace and love.

And so maybe, just maybe, our eyes could be opened by God’s graciousness, our arms could be spread out in light of God’s welcome, and our hearts be softened by God’s love, as we do our best to faithfully serve our God, follow Jesus’ example, and be guided by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

As we are here at the end of Lent, may we move forward toward the triumphal entry and passion of our Lord with grace, healing, and love.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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