Preaching Plan: Lent Year A and Advent Year B

Preaching Plan: Lent Year A and Advent Year B
Levi C. Jones

Ash Wednesday through Lent – Year A – (March 5 – April 13, 2014)
Theme for Ash Wednesday and Lent: “40 Days in the Wilderness”
Color of Ash Wednesday: Ashy Gray
Color of Lent: Purple
Sermon Series, Pastoral, Theological Rationale:
This sermon series is called “40 Days in the Wilderness.” This imagery will play on the themes of Exile, journey, sorrow, dependence on God, fasting, and repentance. This ties in with the themes of Lent, which is a journey toward the Cross and Easter. This also parallels Israel and Jesus’ days in the wilderness. Through this time, we will learn to empty ourselves so that we might be filled with God’s Spirit. We will be challenged to reflect, to be quiet, and to be empty. We will also encounter our humanity and our brokenness. This is counter to our cultural proclivities. This series would be particularly helpful given our contemporary lack of discipline. We want the harvest without plowing the ground. Lent cultivates the soil of our lives so that we might enter into Resurrection with joy! Some of the questions that concern us are practical and some theological. We want to be explicit in walking people through the reason for this time of preparation. It’s faithful to the Church and to Christ. We walk with Christ through this journey. Our theological concerns revolve around learning to grieve and sorrow for our (personal and social) brokenness and sin. It also seems appropriate to hear again our call and invitation from God to be His people, faithful and obedient. More importantly, a desire for the congregation to have an enlarged view of God’s character and nature, which directly correlates with our calling and how we live that out, corporately and singularly.

Ash Wednesday (March 5)
Call to Worship: Isaiah 58
Invocation:
“Almighty God, who formed us from the dust, breathe new life into us. Take the shards of our broken lives and restore us, O God. Breathe life into us, awaken us with Your Spirit. Journey with us as we walk the desert road of Exile. Restore, redeem, and renew us so that we would be Your people and You would be our God.”
Song of Prayer:
“The Lord’s Prayer” (Sing to the Lord #622)
“Be Thou My Vision” (Sing to the Lord #460)
Reading from the Psalm: Psalm 51 (Responsive reading)
Song of Response:
“Change My Heart, O God”
Sermon Text: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 – “Whenever You Fast”
This passage from the Sermon on the Mount leaves no room for a life of discipleship that does not also have the discipline of fasting. Jesus tells the crowd “whenever” rather than “if” you fast. As such, we will explore the parameters of proper fasting as we begin our Lenten journey. We will be challenged to be hungry for the things of God through fasting.
Song of Response:
“Beautiful Things” (Gungor)
Explanation of the Ashes
“Dear People of God: The first Christians observed, with great devotion, the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. It became the custom of the early Church to prepare by a season of repentance and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful, were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith. I invite you, therefore, in the name of our Lord, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. To make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.”1
Blessing of the Ashes:
“Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and repentance,that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.”
Imposition of Ashes:
Open altars with a time of silence. When people are ready to receive the imposition of the ashes, they come forward, kneel at the altar, and are prayed with by one of the pastors. The pastor imposes the ashes on the forehead with their thumb. As the ashes are imposed, the pastor says, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return.” Pastor then prays with parishioner about specific requests (confession), concluding in summation: “Father, grant to (name) true repentance and holiness – without which no one will see the Lord. May these days of Lenten journey be days of spiritual renewal and deepening so that they will experience anew the joy of Easter resurrection.”
Benediction:
“May the peace of Christ be yours in this wilderness journey. May he strengthen you in your weakness, give light to your darkness, sustain you in your frailty, and give life in the valley of the shadow of death.”

First Sunday in Lent (March 9)
Call to Worship: Psalm 103 (Responsive Reading)
Collect for Purity (Corporately prayed):
“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Song of Invocation:
“The Kingdom of God” (Taizé)
Scripture: Romans 5:12-21
“As the Deer”
“This is the Air I Breathe”
“Hungry (Falling on My Knees)”
Pastoral Prayer:
“Almighty God, you who call us to prayer and who offers yourself to all who seek your face, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us today and deliver us from coldness of heart, a wandering mind, and wrongful desire. By the power of your Spirit, place within me steadfast love and devotion, so that today I may worship and serve you with all of my life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”2
Offering
Sermon Text: Exodus 16 – “Starving to Death”
Our conception of plenty is not always God’s idea. In fact, God’s bounty often looks like a desert in our eyes. God’s provision leaves us wondering – “What is it?” Lent is similar. How can such a place and time, such as the desert or Lent, be filling? God’s provision doesn’t look like excess, it is simply enough. We will be challenged to live into this “liturgy of abundance.”
Communion
Benediction: “May the True Bread of Heaven satisfy your hunger in this wilderness
journey. Go in His Peace.”

Second Sunday in Lent (March 16)
Call to Worship: Psalm 33 (Responsive Reading)
Collect for Purity (Corporately prayed):
“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Song of Invocation:
“The Kingdom of God” (Taizé)
Scripture: Romans 4:1-17
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” (Sing to the Lord #2)
“How Great is Our God” (Chris Tomlin)
“How Great Thou Art” (Sing to the Lord #33)
Pastoral Prayer:
“Almighty God, by the power of your Holy Spirit open our eyes, ears, hearts, and very lives to your presence so that today, we may worship and serve you in faithfulness, be blessing and healing reminders of your love to all whose lives we touch. We offer our prayers in the name of Christ. Amen.”3
Offering
Sermon Text: Exodus 24 – “A Consuming Fire”
We will explore the idea of holiness. Entering into God’s presence is like entering into a consuming fire… all that can remain is that which is God’s or reflects God’s holiness. Lent is a time to reflect on God’s commandments, respond in obedience, and to seek God’s presence. It is a time to reflect on God’s covenant with us. Our prayer will be that God takes anything which is impure in us and changes it for His glory.
Reflection and Response:
Use “flash paper” to write those things that have been a barrier in our relationship with God. What might God want to consume in us? Crumple these up, use tweezers to place over a lit candle, and allow those barriers to be “consumed.”
Communion
Benediction:
“May God, who is holy and just, purify us through and through so that we would be radiant with God’s presence. Go in His peace.”

Third Sunday in Lent (March 23)
Call to Worship: Psalm 95 (Responsive Reading)
Collect for Purity (Corporately prayed):
“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Song of Invocation:
“The Kingdom of God” (Taizé)
Scripture: Romans 5:1-11
“Change My Heart Oh God” (Hillsong)
“I Need Thee Every Hour” (Jars of Clay)
“Take My Life, and Let it Be Consecrated” (Chris Tomlin)
Pastoral Prayer:
“Lord of life and love, help us to worship thee in the holiness of beauty, that some beauty of holiness may appear in us. Quiet our souls in thy presence with the stillness of a wise trust. Lift us above dark moods, and the shadow of sin, that we may find thy will for our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”4
Offering
Sermon Text: Deuteronomy 8 – “Tested: To Know What’s in Your Heart”
This passage serves as a warning to the Israelites entering into the Promise Land. When they have every good thing, they should take heed not to forget God. They are not to follow false gods. The same warning is appropriate in our culture. Part of the wilderness journey was to “test” us, to know what’s in our hearts. Thus, each year we go through the Lenten season, so that we might be reminded and called to faithful obedience.
Communion
Benediction: “May the God who tests your faith also gift you faith. Go in His peace.”

Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 30)
Call to Worship: Psalm 23 (Responsive Reading)
Collect for Purity (Corporately prayed):
“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Song of Invocation:
“The Kingdom of God” (Taizé)
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:1-14
“Seek Ye First” (Sing to the Lord #90)
“Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” (Chris Tomlin)
“I Surrender All” (Sing to the Lord #486)
Pastoral Prayer:
“Lord God, you who are the source of all truth, wisdom, justice, and love, lead us through this time of worship and throughout this day of service to you. Help us constantly to rest our life upon the eternal foundations of your love and presence. Save us from haste and confusion, from wrongful desire, and the net of evil. Through the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, enlighten, instruct, and guide me all the day long. In the name of Jesus. Amen.”5
Offering
Sermon Text: Joshua 5:1-12 – “Removing Egypt from the People”
The people are fresh out of Egypt. Still, they look back longingly. Their slavery, they think, is preferable to this desert of “death.” God is in the process of not only removing the people from Egypt but removing Egypt from the people.
Communion
Benediction:
“May the Savior God deliver you from bondage so that you might live obediently. Go in His peace.”

Fifth Sunday in Lent (April 6)
Call to Worship: Psalm 130 (Responsive Reading)
Collect for Purity (Corporately prayed):
“Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Song of Invocation:
“The Kingdom of God” (Taizé)
Scripture Reading: Romans 6:16-23
“Spirit of the Living God” (Sing to the Lord #297)
“Spirit Song” (Sing to the Lord #311)
“Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” (Sing to the Lord #560)
Pastoral Prayer
“O God our Father, renew our spirits and draw our hearts to thyself, that our work may not be to us a burden but a delight; and give us such love to thee as may sweeten all our obedience. Help us that we may serve thee with the cheerfulness and gladness of children, delighting ourselves in thee and rejoicing in all that is to the honor of thy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”6
Offering
Sermon Text: Matthew 4:1-12 – “Led by the Spirit into the Wilderness”
We try to avoid the desert. Yet, there are times where God intentionally leads us there. Perhaps it is to test our hearts. Maybe it is to humble us. Or, it is possible that God wants us to fully rely on Him for all things. Jesus underwent such a time in the wilderness. We will observe how Jesus handles his time of temptation, which are the temptations (in some sense) that we all face: self-sufficiency, self-promotion, and self-preservation. We will find that the Kingdom of God’s priorities are far different.
Communion
Benediction:
“May the Spirit of God keep you from stumbling as you are led through the wilderness. Go in His peace.”

Palm Sunday (April 13)
Call to Worship: “Hosanna” (Carl Tuttle) (Congregation marches into sanctuary waving
hands and palm branches)
Psalm 118:19-29 (Responsive Reading)
Song of Invocation:
The Kingdom of God (Taizé)
Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:5-11
“All Hail King Jesus” (Sing to the Lord #123)
“Majesty” (Sing to the Lord #122)
Pastoral Prayer:
“Jesus, we exalt your name before the nations. We proclaim that you are King. Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! We anticipate your reign and rule, not only in our lives, over all of Creation. May your justice be enacted and your righteousness shine forth in the darkness like the noonday sun. Bring equity, break the oppressor’s stronghold. Proclaim your peace, Your shalom over us. May your Kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”
Offering
Sermon Text: Matthew 21:1-17 – “A Lowly King… But No Pushover”
Jesus enters into Jerusalem, heralded as the coming messiah. His first act? Clearing the Temple. He confronts the worship practices of Israel, which have become self-serving and exclusivistic. It is to be a “house of prayer for all nations” not a “den of thieves.” We proclaim Jesus king, but are we willing to be purged from our thievery? We will be challenged by a lowly king that comes in unexpected ways to re-arrange our world… and us.
Communion
Benediction:
“Go in the strong name of Jesus Christ, for in His Name He will sustain you.”

Bibliography

Gross, Bobby. Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2009.

Job, Rueben P, and Norman Shawchuck. A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants]. Nashville: Upper Room, 1983.

Nielson, Merritt J. Ashes to Fire Devotional: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2011.

The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David. New York: Church Hymnal Corp., 1979.

Wallace, Robin Knowles. The Christian Year: A Guide for Worship and Preaching. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011.

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