April 3, 2022 - Home Worship Service

April 3, 2022 – 5th Sunday in Lent

Morning prayer: Giver of the most expensive gift of all, help us to learn from You. May we who are so adept at catering for our own wants, make ourselves more vulnerable to the needs of others. Let us live unselfishly and more sensitively, that we may spread love’s fragrance wherever the odor of cynicism and despair hangs in the air. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen! (Discipleship Ministries)

Call to Worship – Psalm 126

Leader: When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

People: Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."

Leader: The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

People: Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

Leader: May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

People: Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

Hymn #117 O God Our Help in Ages Past

  1. O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
    our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.
  2. Under the shadow of Thy throne, still may we dwell secure;
    sufficient is Thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.
  3. Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame,
    from everlasting, Thou art God, to endless years the same.
  4. A thousand ages, in Thy sight, are like an evening gone;
    short as the watch that ends the night, before the rising sun.
  5. Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all who breathe away;
    they fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
  6. O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come;
    be Thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.

Children’s Time:  Exodus 12:12-14

For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

I'm sure that most of you have played with a yo-yo. A yo-yo is a simple toy, but it is a lot of fun. Some people can make the yo-yo do amazing tricks, but the main thing a yo-yo does is go up and down, up and down. That is also a good picture of some people, too...even you and me. We all have our "ups and downs," don't we? Sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are sad. We may be hardworking one day and lazy the next. We may be honest one day and dishonest the next. Can you think of other ways that we have "ups and downs?”

In our Bible lesson today, we will see that Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, also had his "ups and downs," and we will see how God punished Pharaoh for his wicked ways. When you think the people are having an “up,” stand up while I make the yo-yo go up. If you think they are having a “down,” sit down while I make the yo-yo go down.

God had spoken to Moses from a burning bush and told him to go to Pharaoh and tell him to set His people free. (Up) They had been slaves in Egypt for many years. (Down) So Moses and his brother, Aaron, went to see Pharaoh and asked him to set God's people free, but Pharaoh said, "No, I will not let them go." (Down)

Because Pharaoh refused to obey, God began to send terrible plagues on Egypt. (Down) One time, God sent frogs all over the land. There were so many frogs that Pharaoh thought he would croak. At other times, God sent gnats, flies, and locusts. That really bugged Pharaoh! Well, Pharaoh had more ups and downs than a yo-yo. When God would send one of the plagues, Pharaoh would tell Moses that if God would make it go away, he would let His people go. (Up) But after God made the plague go away, Pharaoh would change his mind and refuse to let the people go. (Down) Since Pharaoh was so hard-hearted and refused to let God's people go, God continued to send plagues upon Egypt—there were ten in all. (Down)

The final plague was the worst of all. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh that the last plague would be so terrible that it would change his heart and he would let the people go. Every firstborn son and every firstborn male animal would die. How sad! It is always sad to see what happens to people when they refuse to obey God. Since Pharaoh and the people in Egypt refused to do what God told them to do, they suffered terribly! That may be hard to understand, but remember—God had given them many opportunities to do what He told them to do, but they refused. (Down)

God gave Moses instructions on how His own people were to prepare for the last plague. He said that every family was to take a one-year-old lamb, one that was perfect in every way, and prepare a meal. They were to take some of the blood from the lamb and smear it on the sides and tops of the doorway of their houses.

God warned the people that there was going to be a lot of death in the land. God said to His people, "The blood will serve as a sign on the houses where you live. When I see the blood I will pass over you—no harm will touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Up)

After God sent that tenth plague, Pharaoh changed his mind and freed God's children. (Up)

God cares for us just like He cared for His children in Egypt long ago. In fact, He made a way for us to get out of our messes too. (Up) Just like Pharaoh, we have our ups and downs, but Jesus died on the cross for all the wrong things we have done. If we believe in Him and ask Him to come into our hearts, He makes a way for us to go to heaven.

Dear God, we know that some of the things we do are not pleasing to You. We are thankful for Jesus who sets us free from our sin. In Jesus, we have forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, amen. (Sermons4kids.com)

Prayers of Intercession:  Lord we cry to you for help.  You answer in words, in the deeds and acts of kindness, in the people around us.  Hear the cries of our hearts for those we hold dear.  We now pray as You have taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight:  The summer camping season is approaching.  LUMC will pay for half of the camping fees for our children to attend one of the United Methodist Camps.  Summer church camp is a great experience; one that provides unique discipleship rewards.  Contact the church office or www.susumcamps.org.    

Offertory prayer: Loving God, You give and give, and didn’t think the life of Your Son was too high a price to pay for our salvation. Jesus’ life was an example of sacrificial giving, all the way to the cross. As we give this day, we want our gifts to impact the world, but even more, we want them to bring glory to Christ, who lived and died for all Your children. Help us to not hold back anything. We pray in the name of Your Son, our Savior and Redeemer, Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn of Preparation #338 Where He Leads Me

  1. I can hear my Savior calling, I can hear my Savior calling,
    I can hear my Savior calling, "Take thy cross and follow, follow Me."

Where He leads me I will follow, where He leads me I will follow,
where He leads me I will follow; I'll go with Him, with Him all the way.

  1. I'll go with Him through the garden, I'll go with Him through the garden,
    I'll go with Him through the garden, I'll go with Him, with Him all the way.
  2. I'll go with Him through the judgment, I'll go with Him through the judgment,
    I'll go with Him through the judgment, I'll go with Him, with Him all the way.
  3. He will give me grace and glory, He will give me grace and glory,
    He will give me grace and glory, and go with me, with me all the way.

Message scripture: John 12:1-8

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for Him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with Him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (the one who was about to betray Him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

Message:  Becoming Comfortable with Receiving a Gift Too BIG      Pastor Becky Cuddeback

I want you to envision the best gift you have ever received. If you were to close your eyes, can you really see it? Can you recall the entire event, unwrapping it (possibly), the emotions involved – maybe you can picture the entire scene. Was it your birthday, Christmas maybe? Or was it a complete surprise? Do you have a picture in your mind? Does that gift still bring you joy? Okay, how about the person that gave you that gift? Can you picture them in your mind giving you the best gift you've ever received?

But as you are thinking about this gift and the person that gave it to you, I hope this is a positive experience for you. I know for me I have a hard time receiving gifts. I mean, I can, in my mind's eye, hold that gift and everything that goes with that experience of first receiving it and then continuing to have a relationship with the gift and The Giver. But not everyone is comfortable receiving gifts. A quick Google search will reveal to you this is not an uncommon experience. There are 61 million responses particularly in regard to being uncomfortable receiving gifts. Because there's just something, sometimes that makes us reluctant or hesitant to accept a gift even if it is something that we truly wanted from someone we deeply love, respect, or desire a relationship with. Some of that can be attributed to our upbringing or our religious training, something makes us unable to fully accept a gift given to us because of prior trauma, abuse, or manipulation. Something makes us feel unworthy of the gift given to us.

Then we come to today's Gospel, where we now find ourselves outside of Luke's gospel. To take this side trip to get a glimpse back into Jesus's personal relationships because we are still looking for these highlights of how to live a life of discipleship so we have to look at Jesus's personal or rather interpersonal relationships. Because although He's coming in and teaching to the masses and teaching to His friends, it's the interactions between Jesus and His friends that help inform us about our interactions with our friends, our colleagues, and our peers and we aren't unfamiliar with Mary and Martha.

Mary and Martha are sisters and we are to see them as a balance of one another. The balance between what the expectation is in society for a woman's role in hospitality and we put that up against the importance of being present with the teacher and we're back in their house again. They've opened it up and they've prepared a meal and this time are very present with Jesus and the other disciples. Mary decides to offer to Jesus the most valuable thing she owns and offers it up to Him but not in a way that He can decline it or defer it to another. Mary uses it completely up on Jesus. There's no saving any of this expensive perfume for later. It is a gift in the moment for the moment but yet will be remembered eternally. This anointing of Mary of Jesus is the complete surrender of all Mary has and all that Mary is, given directly to Jesus. She is fully focused on Jesus even though the other disciples are there, even though her sister is present, even though her brother is there, the gift is for Jesus. Everyone in that house will experience the smell of this expensive perfume. It will overwhelm their home and even though the others aren't anointed with it they are all second-hand recipients of this gift to Jesus.

What disturbs or what dissolves the beauty of this gift, this surrender to Jesus by Mary, is Judas Iscariot’s response to the gift. His comment in regard to this perfume is that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor, which John says Judas's response is coming from a place of thievery. Judas, because he holds the common purse, would want to fill that purse with the value of that perfume because maybe Judas used the common money to pay for things he wanted. I know the scripture says that he called him a thief and used to steal out of what was put in it, but what if there's more to it than that? I think we can hold in tension Judas' character flaws when it comes to money and feeling even if that is all true. What if it's just that Judas is uncomfortable seeing someone else receive a gift this lavish? Because if we look at Judas, his response in regard to this which is, “Hey, this could have taken care of the poor”. His response is one of social justice. I mean imagine if we all weighed out every single decision based upon who would benefit more from the suspending or investing of any money. I'm sure we could come up with a better formula for taking care of the poor if we weighed out all of our decisions that way. But the problem here is this – Jesus never slighted the poor. Jesus was the champion for the poor. He fed thousands. He healed without regard of merit or standing. He was always advocating for the poor. Judas's response then becomes fake piety. And I know that you know what I'm talking about. We look at people's possessions, assets, bank statements, etc. etc. etc. and place value judgments with an off-handed comment of – well with these resources, “they” could have done much better for those that were in need. Or we could be so bold as to say if I were the owner of a b c and d I would do X Y and Z. Which may very well be the case but we cannot look at a gift that someone gives another and diminish it because it would have been better spent to care for the widow, the orphan, the homeless, the hungry, the naked. It's not our call to make. The gifts people receive and give are of no concern to us.

I see Judas's response more as a realization of his unworthiness to receive Mary's gift or any gift for that matter. Not that Mary was looking to give it to Judas and then decided it's a better idea to give it to Jesus, but Judas just doesn't know what to do with a gift that big. I can see Mary's anointing of Jesus – this offering of this perfume, where she declares Jesus as her Lord and Savior, pouring out the best of herself in relationship to grace. Does Jesus need to be anointed? No. Jesus is the Son of God; whatever He would want, need, or desire, that is all taken care of. He knows the financial state of Mary and Martha. Jesus doesn't need to be the recipient. He could decline the gift, yet He receives it. In receiving this gift from Mary, Jesus shows us, models for us how to accept grace.

Grace is that gift that is too big for us to understand, yet we are to accept it and give it. Jesus is offering grace all along the way, we look at how He put up with Peter teetering back and forth between being the disciple with the most insight to the goofball wanting to build three tents on the mountain at the Transfiguration. We see Jesus offer grace with James and John and they're bantering back and forth about who will sit at the right hand and who will sit at the left hand and even in those very human moments when Jesus offers correction or instruction it's always with grace that He leads them and loves them. And the same grace that Jesus offered the disciples and those that followed Him is the grace that we get offered as well. We have to accept it. What keeps us from accepting the grace that will change our lives and the lives of those around us is our sense of unworthiness. We do what Judas does, we deflect and take on a fake piety: offering that this grace would be better spent on this one or that one, grace would be better spread somewhere else. And the reality is the grace that is offered to you and to me is the exact grace that we need and there is no shame in accepting Jesus’ gift to you, because we need a gift that is too big.

Let us pray: Holy God, through Jesus You offer us Your greatest gifts: salvation and grace. Remove whatever is keeping us from accepting Your gifts and living the lives You desire for us. Gently remind us there is always enough of You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Closing Hymn #577 God of Grace and God of Glory

  1. God of grace and God of glory, on Thy people pour Thy power;
    Crown Thine ancient church’s story; bring her bud to glorious flower.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour, (of this hour)

For the facing of this hour.

  1. Lo! the hosts of evil round us scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways!
    Fears and doubts too long have bound us; free our hearts to work and praise.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days, (of these days)

For the living of these days.

  1. Cure Thy children’s warring madness, bend our pride to Thy control;
    Shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,

(kingdom’s goal) lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.

  1. Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore;
    Let the search for Thy salvation be our glory evermore.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving Thee who we adore, (we adore)

Serving Thee whom we adore.

Benediction:  Go into this week with the blessings of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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