Resources: Liturgies

Lent 2011: Taking the Jesus Way to God

Contributed by Jeanyne Slettom and Rick Marshall, co-pastors
Brea Congregational United Church of Christ

Extensive materials for children have also been created for this theme.

See also:
Lenten Candle Liturgy

From the authors: In these serivces, the liturgies are taken from the psalms and the sermons from the life of Jesus, following the Year A Gospel readings. In doing so, we’re following a three-fold pattern first pointed out by theologian Walter Brueggemann in The Message of the Psalms—a pattern we can trace in the psalms, in the life and ministry of Jesus, and in our own lives—of orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. As befits both the season and our understanding of God, we’ve added a fourth: transformation. Psalms were selected according to Breuggemann's classification. We've applied the pattern to the life and minstry of Jesus as follows:

Orientation: Jesus orients us to ethical living
March 13: Jesus as rooted in the Jewish prophetic call to justice 
March 20: Jesus embodies justice in his ministry    

Disorientation: Jesus upsets the status quo
March 27: Jesus’ acts challenge business as usual
April 3: Jesus challenges conventional wisdom 
New Orientation: Jesus embodies a different kind of power
April 10: Jesus shows us the divine within
April 17 (Palm Sunday): Jesus’ confrontation with empire re-orients us to God’s power 

Easter Sunday: Transformation
God does not leave things as they are but is an ever-present source of creative transformation

The services also incorporate a Lenten candle liturgy. Please feel free to adapt to your order of worship. The "invitations to reflection" are intended to be read by the liturgist/pastor and need not be printed in the bulletin.

Lent 1

Call to Worship  Psalm 104: 31-35

May the glory of the Lord endure forever,
May God rejoice in the work of creation,
God looks on the earth and it trembles,
God touches the mountains and they smoke!

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

May my meditation be pleasing to God,
For I rejoice in the Lord

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!

Invitation to Reflection
We live in a world of noise and distraction, with constant and competing demands on our time and attention. And then into this world of noise and distraction comes Lent—a quiet time that gives us social permission to slow down. Lent is an invitation to self-reflection, a time to look at ourselves honestly and consider those attitudes and practices we want to affirm, and those we want to change. To guide our reflection, we’ve chosen this year to take our liturgies from the psalms and our sermons from the life of Jesus. In doing so, we’re following a three-fold pattern first pointed out by theologian Walter Brueggemann—a pattern we can trace in the psalms, in the life and ministry of Jesus, and in our own lives—of orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. As befits both the season and our understanding of God, we’ve added a fourth: transformation.

Today all the candles are lit, but over the next six weeks they will be extinguished, one by one, as we retell the story of Jesus’ betrayal and suffering and death. We do this not to be morbid, but because in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, God is revealed—in endings transformed into beginnings and in dead-ends that become a source for new possibilities. It’s an old story, but if we approach it with a teachable heart, it still has the power to reveal, to heal, and to redeem.  

Prayer of Confession & Candle Liturgy  Psalm 104:1-4

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!

We forget that you are the Creator
And we are the creatures

You are wrapped in light like a cloak,
Who has stretched out the heavens like a tent,
Who has laid the foundation of your place on the waters,
Who makes the clouds your chariot,
Who rides on the wings of the wind,
Who makes the winds your messengers,
Fire and flame your ministers.

We have tried to create the world to our own design,
and we have succeeded beyond our dreams.
We fashion our future from fear and greed.
We reap the wind, the fire, the dust of our hands. (Silent time.)  

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of injustice in the world.
(A candle is extinguished.)  

Let us pray: Loving God, as we journey through this holy season of Lent, give us strength and courage to make the changes that are needed in our lives. Open our hearts and minds to your steadfast presence and help us to put our trust in you. Amen.

Sung response: “Tree of Life” (*See note at bottom about this hymn.)

Assurance  Psalm 145: 8-9

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
And the Lord’s compassion is over all that God has made.

Bible Reading  Matthew 4:1-11

Sermon Theme: Orientation  Jesus Orients Us to Ethical Living: Jesus as rooted in the Jewish prophetic call to justice                

Prayer of Thanksgiving  104 10-13

Thanks be to the One who makes springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
they give drink to every beast of the field;
the wild creatures quench their thirst.
By them the birds of the air have their place;
they sing among the branches.
From your high place you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
Thanks be to the Creator!

Commission and Blessing  Psalm 104: 24-30

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

This sea, great and wide,
which teams with things beyond counting,
living things both small and great.

There go the ships, and Leviathan which you shaped to play in it.
These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.

When you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

When you send forth your Spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the earth.
We go with gratitude that you have given life.

Lent 2

Call to Worship   Psalm 33

 Rejoice in the Lord!

Give thanks to God with the lyre; make melody on the harp.

Sing to God a new song.

For the word of God holds true; and all God’s work endures.

The Earth is filled with God’s unfailing love.

Let your steadfast love rest on us; for we have put our hope in you.

Invitation to Reflection
On Sunday morning, for a brief space of time, we leave behind the world of home and work and school—the world where we have our lists of things to do, activities to participate in, tasks to complete. We come here this morning seeking something else. We come here seeking a shift—from the ordinary to the sacred, from doing to being. I invite you to close your eyes. Let go of your list. Recall that it is the season of Lent. Remember the parable of the sower. The sower throws the seed . . . and where it lands determines if it will grow or not grow. Think of it this way: think of the season of Lent as the sower, the time when seeds of faith are thrown with special intensity, as a time a time when God calls to us in a low, urgent voice. Listen. Jesus is being drawn to Jerusalem. Where is God calling you to? What is God calling you to do? (Silent time.) 

Prayer of Confession & Candle Liturgy Psalm 119

Make me understand the way of your precepts;
And I will meditate on your wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow;
Strengthen me according to your word.
Put false ways far from me, and graciously teach me your law.
Give me understanding,
that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.
I am yours; save me.

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of injury done to the Earth and its ecosystems. (A candle is extinguished.)  

Let us pray: Loving God, as we journey through this holy season of Lent, may we be open to your presence. Give us the strength to make the changes that are needed in our lives and the courage to take on the work of transforming the world. Amen.  

Sung response: “Tree of Life”

Assurance Psalm 37
Trust in God and God will act. It is God who directs our steps. If we stumble, we shall  not fall, because God grasps us by the hand and holds us firm.

Bible Reading            John 3: 1-17 

Sermon Theme: Orientation
  Jesus orients us to ethical living: Jesus embodies justice in his ministry                   

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Psalm 145

I will meditate, O God, on your wondrous works.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
   and I will declare your greatness.
They will recite the story of your abounding goodness,
   and shall sing with joy of your righteousness.

Commission and Blessing Psalm 119, 37

Do not be vexed because of evildoers, or envy those who do wrong,
For like the grass they soon wither, and like green pasture, fade away.

We will trust in the Lord and do good;
We will commit ourselves to God’s way.

Dispose our hearts toward your teaching, not love of gain.
Turn our eyes from all that is futile; grant us life, according to your word.

Your word is a lamp to our feet, a light on our path
You deliver us from pitfalls; we hold a steady course.

Depart from evil, and do good; so you shall abide forever.
For God loves justice and will not forsake the faithful.

We give thanks to God, for God’s goodness and mercy endure forever.

Lent 3

Call to Worship  Psalm 13: 3-6

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
lest my enemy say “I have prevailed over him”; lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

We come to you O Lord, seeking answers to our questions.
We come to you O God, because you are the Creator.

But I have trusted your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

We come looking for a song to sing;
We wait for your voice to call us from beyond our fear.

Invitation to Reflection
There is so much during the day that clamors for our attention. Friends, family, work, classes, household tasks. And the noise! We are bombarded with sound, from the clock that awakens us to the telephone, the radio, the television, the conversation that we have or overhear. Where is the time and place to listen for the still, small voice of God? Sometimes it seems that God would have to speak in a whirlwind to be heard above the clamor! Listen now. There is a place of quiet rest, and it is the place where God dwells within you. Close your eyes. Be aware of the place. In Lent we journey to the parts of ourselves known only to God, beneath the clamor. Let the story of Jesus reach us there. Let it teach us wisdom in our secret hearts. (Silent time.)  

Prayer of Confession & Candle Liturgy Psalm 13, 74 and 79

Do not remember against us the sins of our ancestors;
let your compassion come quickly to meet us, for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and forgive us, for your name’s sake.
Why should the world say, “Where is their God?”

Sometimes our world seems dark and we feel alone.
We grasp for help, often seeking solutions that end up hurting us even more.
Hear our cry, O God of mercy.

How long, Lord? Will you always forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I scheme just to survive, my mind in anguish every day?
How long will my enemy rise against me?

Sometimes things fall apart; we are hurt and confused.
We look for guidance and turn to those who lead us astray.
See our dilemma, O Lord of hope!

Respect your covenant; for the dark places of the land are full of violence.
Do not let the humble be disgraced; let the poor and needy praise your name.
Arise, O God, plead my cause; remember how fools scoff at you all day!
Do not forget the cry of your foes, in constant uproar, rebelling against you.

We are tempted to trust only ourselves; we are angry and fearful.
We call on you, even demand that you hear our prayers.
For you are the one who created us.

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of violence in the world and to the Earth. (A candle is extinguished.) 

Let us pray: Draw us together in your love, O God. May our restless hearts not resist you, but continue to search until they find their rest in you. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Sung response: “Tree of Life”

Assurance  Psalm 46: 1-5

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear if the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the middle of the sea;
Though its waves roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its chaos.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the Holy home of the Most High. God is in the middle of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her quickly.

Bible Reading  John 4: 5-42

Sermon Theme: Disorientation
Jesus upsets the status quo: Jesus’ acts challenge business as usual

Prayer of Thanksgiving  Psalm 90: 14-17 

Be gracious to us, your servants. Kindly care for us each morning; all our lives let us sing for joy. Delight us as long as you have afflicted us, as many years as we have seen trouble. Let your work be plain to your servants, and show our children your splendor. Let God’s kindness rest upon us, and let the work we have done endure. What our hands have done--let it endure! Amen.

Commission and Blessing  Psalm 73

Whenever my mind is bitter, or I feel myself cut to the heart,
then I am foolish, without understanding, as dumb as a cow in relation to you.

But for me, the nearness of God is best;
Lord God, I have made you my refuge, that I may speak of all your deeds.

For I am always with you: You hold my hand in yours.
You guide me with your own counsel; you lead me toward your glory.

But for me, the nearness of God is best;
Lord God, I have made you my refuge, that I may speak of all your deeds.

Whom do I have in heaven but you?
My body and mind will come to an end;
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

But for me, the nearness of God is best;
Lord God, I have made you my refuge, that I may speak of all your deeds.
We go with the peace this brings. Amen.

Lent 4

Call to Worship   Psalm 32

Let every faithful heart pray to you in the hour of anxiety.

When the great floods threaten, they shall not touch us.

You are a hiding-place for us in distress. You guard us and enfold us in salvation.

Show us the way we must take, for our hearts are set on you.

Invitation to Reflection

It’s Sunday morning. Last week, with all its demands, is over. The coming week, with yet another round of challenges and demands, is not quite here. I invite you to close your eyes and be in the moment. No matter where you are in your thoughts and feelings—relieved about what you have accomplished, anxious about what’s left undone, concerned about people or projects—no matter where you are in your journey this day—I encourage you to set all that aside and consider where you are right now. Whatever is true for you right now, in this moment, whether it be joy or sadness, gratitude or anxiety, let it come forward. When it is fully present, then listen  . . . for God is present in these moments, too. God meets you where you are and calls you forward, moment by moment, guiding you slowly but surely toward transformation. (Silent time.)

Prayer of Confession with Candle Liturgy Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your hold spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain caused by the lack of basic needs—lack of food, of shelter, of education, of healthcare, of love. (A candle is extinguished.)

Let us pray: Loving God, we thank you that you are with us, and that we may call upon you no matter where we are, or what we are feeling. Keep us mindful of your presence and trusting in your promise—that you are working with us in the moment-by-moment unfolding of our lives. Amen.

Sung response: “Tree of Life”

Assurance Psalm 51, 32
God, who desires truth in our inward being, teaches us wisdom in our secret hearts. God washes us, and makes us clean. Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in God. Therefore be glad in the Lord, and shout for joy. Your transgressions are forgiven.

Bible Reading            John 9: 1-41 

Sermon Theme: Disorientation  Jesus Upsets the Status Quo: Jesus challenges conventional wisdom                 

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Psalm 140, 40

What great things you have done, O God! You maintain the cause of the needy, and execute justice for the poor. Your wonders and your purposes are for our good; none can compare with you. Happy are those who put their trust in you.

Commission and Blessing  Psalm 86, 143

Teach me your way, O Lord,
 that I may walk in your truth.

Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

and I will glorify your name for ever.

In the morning let me know of your love, for I put my trust in you.

Show me the way that I must take, for my heart is set on you

Lent 5

Call to Worship  Psalm 30

I will lift you up, O Lord, because you have lifted me up
and you have not let my foes rejoice over me.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from the Pit,
restored me to life from among those who have gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O all you saints,
and give thanks for God’s holy name.

For God’s anger is but for a moment, and Divine favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Invitation to Reflection
When we arrived this morning we entered into the normal bustle of a church on a Sunday morning: friends greeting each other, choir members getting their robes, children bringing their energy and enthusiasm. Now that we are sitting together in the pews, I invite you to close your eyes . . . and consider the word, “sanctuary.” A sanctuary is a place set aside for sacred things. It is a place of refuge and protection. This room is a sanctuary. The season of Lent is a kind of sanctuary, extended in time. And one of the things Lent teaches is that you, too, are a sanctuary. There is inside you a place for sacred things, a place where God abides.   (Silent time.)

Prayer of Confession  Psalm 30, 40

Do not, O Lord, withhold your mercy from me,
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness ever preserve me!

I feel distant and alone without your presence.
I think my life is in my own hands.

For evils have encompassed me without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me, till I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.

Without you, I lose my way.
The future becomes a terror and I am frightened.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, be quick to help me!
What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you? Will I tell of your faithfulness?

Where will I turn? Who can I trust?
I know that, with you, I can come through the darkness into the light.

Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me! O Lord, you be my helper!
As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of war and oppression in the world. (A candle is extinguished.)

Let us pray: Loving God, we open our hearts to you. We invite you into our inmost being, only to find you already there. Strengthen us in our quiet places and then lead us into the work of justice and peace. Amen.

Sung response: “Tree of Life”

Assurance  Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the Lord; God leaned into me and heard my cry. God drew me up from the desolate pit, out of my miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. God put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and respect, and put their trust in the Lord.

Bible Reading  John 11: 1-45

Sermon  Theme: New Orientation   Jesus re-orients our understanding of power: Jesus shows us the divine within                

Prayer of Thanksgiving  Psalm 30

You, O God, have turned my mourning into dancing; you have loosened my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

Commission and Blessing  Psalm 66

Come and see what God has done: God’s deeds are awesome among the people.
I give thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart.

God turned the sea into dry land; the people passed through the water on foot.
There did we rejoice in God, who rules by Divine power for ever.

I give thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart.

Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of God’s praise be heard,
who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

I give thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart.

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
You laid affliction on our hearts, we went through fire and through water;
Yet you have brought us forth to a spacious future.

Thanks be to God. Thanks be to God.

Palm Sunday

Call to Worship  Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into God’s presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God; it is God who made us.

We are God’s people,
and the sheep of God’s pasture.

Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and praise.
Give thanks to God, for God is good;

God’s steadfast love endures forever,
and God’s faithfulness to all generations.

Invitation to Reflection

 We have gathered here, week after week, sharing a common quest for a deeper faith and a deeper experience of the divine. I invite you now to close your eyes and let go of the things that distract and concern you. Listen! The time is drawing near. Jesus is preparing to enter Jerusalem. How will we greet him? Will we follow him all the way to the Cross? The power of Jesus is that he lived what he taught, even when it led to his death. He lived with an abiding awareness of God, radiating the light of God in all he said and did. But that light was too much for the world. There are forces today, as there were in ancient Judea, that conspire to put it out. Where are we in this drama? What are we willing to risk to follow Jesus? (Silent time.)

Prayer of Confession  Psalm 23 (Unison)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
For you are with me; Your rod and your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

As we extinguish this light, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of illness and disease in the world. (A candle is extinguished.)

Let us pray. Loving God, there are so many choices before us every day. Choices offered by our friends, our families, our culture, our own past. Some of them encourage the well-being of the earth, ourselves and our neighbors; others are destructive. Help us to distinguish between them. May we learn from the choices of Jesus and embody compassion, justice, and inclusion in all we say and do. Amen. 

Sung response: “Tree of Life”

Assurance  Psalm 91

Hear the words of the Lord: Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. When they call to me, I will answer them. I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them. I will show them my salvation.

Bible Reading  Matthew 21:1-11

SermonTheme: New Orientation   Jesus re-orients our understanding of power: Jesus’ confrontation with empire re-orients us to God’s power      

Prayer of Thanksgiving  Psalm 96

We bring you offerings, O God, acknowledging your marvelous works of deliverance. May these gifts, and the blessings they enable, be to your service for this earth and to its people. Amen.

Commission and Blessing  Psalm 95 and 96

Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord all the earth.

For the depths of the earth are in God’s hands;
and also the heights of the mountains.

The world is firmly established;
It shall never be moved.

The sea is God’s, for it is God who made it;
the dry land is God’s, for it is God who forms it.

Declare God’s glory among the nations;
Tell of God’s salvation from day to day.

We will rejoice with earth and exult with the heavens
like the trees of the forest, we will sing for joy

Honor and majesty belong to God,
Strength and beauty are in God’s sanctuary.

For God is great,
and greatly to be praised. Amen!


[This ends the pattern of psalm-inpsired liturgies. Suggested Easter liturgies for follow.]


The light which the world tried to extinguish cannot be put out. Today we light the candles again, proclaiming the transforming power of God. As the light returns, we give thanks that God’s transforming love has been, is now, and will ever be at work within us. Today we celebrate: new life, new joy, new possibilities. Christ is alive and living among us!

As we light the candles, we acknowledge that there is still pain and suffering in the world, but we place our trust in God and in the way shown by Jesus Christ. In the midst of darkness, there is light. In the pain of death, there is life. In the face of what appear to us to be overwhelming odds, God is at work in us and in the world, working for justice and peace, compassion and love, and life abundant. Christ is risen; Christ is risen in us, for wherever we gather in his name, he is there.

(All candles are re-lit.)

All: Alleluia, Christ is risen; Christ is risen indeed! 

Commission and Blessing

Go forth with renewed hope,
Trusting in the transforming love of God.

God does not leave things as they are;
With God, all things are made new.

All creation responds to God’s presence;
The world is alive with possibility.

We open ourselves to this truth;
With Christ, we trust our whole lives to this power.

Nothing is beyond the reach of God;
Neither evil, nor hardship, nor death.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed.

This hymn is by Marty Haugen and can be found in these hymnals:
    Gather (Catholic) #397
    Evangelical Lutheran Worship #334
    Voices United (United Church of Canada) #121

If you can't locate any of these hymnals, some folks have used the tune GALILEE, i.e., "Jesus Calls Us O'er the Tumult." The words fit perfectly with the tune.

Tree of life and awesome mystery,
In your death we are reborn.
Though you die in all of history,
Still you rise with every morn.

Lent 2010