Lent 4 – March 14

So Loved
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Sunday, March 14, 2021

Numbers 21:4-9, Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21

Since Congregations are returning to “in-person” services at different paces, Worship Ways for will be edited for online use. “Rubrics” for virtual services will be noted in red; take and adapt as you need!

Leader should speak the lines of the people, along with the Leader’s lines
One: Beloved in Christ,
why have you come to worship this morning?
All: Out loud but muted
We come to celebrate the love of God
in the form of Jesus Christ.

One: This love reaches through the shadows of our lives to embrace us.
Our challenge is to trust the light of God’s love in the midst of our struggles.
All: Out loud but muted
We come to celebrate the light of God in Jesus
who offers love and acceptance,
not judgment and rejection.

One: If only we will trust,
Jesus leads us in the way of light and love.
All: Out loud but muted
We come to celebrate our God
who loved and loves us so much!

(As a way to prepare one’s minds and hearts for prayer, you are invited to read the following. This also offers the congregation an image on which they may focus rather than be distracted with external thoughts.)

Settle into your seats and close your eyes.
Visualize a place of emptiness, of shadows.
What comes up for you?
(If this first image is too disturbing,
find another place of imagination that offers you comfort and peace.)
Imagine your presence there.
Now imagine that with you  
is the presence of Jesus as a glimmer of light.
What does that light look like?
Stay there a moment with Jesus, the Light.
As you focus your attention on the glimmer of light, hear this:

For God so loved the World that God gave God’s only begotten child
For God so loved the World that God gave
For God so loved the World
For God so loved
So loved
The World

O God of Comfort and God of Challenge,
we come to you this morning the way the Israelites did,
full of complaints and dissatisfaction.
Nothing is enough;
we do not recognize your blessing at work in our day to day lives.
All: Out loud but muted
Forgive us.
In our complaints, challenge us as you did the Israelites,
to consider the bigger picture
of oppression, injustice, and inequality around us.
All: Out loud but muted
Forgive us when we close our eyes
for fear of what you might show us;
Lift up loving and compassionate leaders
to open our eyes until we see what you see in our world.

You are blessed because God’s image resides deep within each of you.
So return God’s blessing by the way you love others.

Notes for the worship planners in 2021:
Consider a simple message or even an interactive Bible Study that engages people with the Scriptures for today.

For the Prayers of the People, you might use a bidding prayer (“God, we pray today for those who are sick, including ….”) and encourage folk to type in their prayers using Zoom chat or Facebook Live; allow for more time in silence for those prayers to be typed and read. Consider a collective response at the end of each bidding prayer.
o A caution regarding prayers of the People online: Folks gathered in-person often recount a lot of detail in their prayers concerning other members or family (“Elderly Name, living alone, experiencing isolation…” In a private, in-person gathering, this information may be safe, but online, it can expose vulnerable people to harm, since we can’t control who will join the gathering or access it later online. Invite people to be prudent in offering prayers: “For First name only, in need of healing”; “For First name only, comfort in grief” etc.
Encourage people to contact the pastor directly with news of those needed extra pastoral care.

Consider the steadfast love of God in every breath you breathe.
May that steadfast love inspire you to give generously.
so that we may live into God’s Reign of peace and compassion
through the offerings of our own church.

All: Out loud but muted
O Generous One, we give thanks to you
for your steadfast love endures forever.
May these gifts be used to feed the hunger and satisfy the thirst
Of all those you love throughout your creation. Amen.

Let us rejoice: God so loves the world!
May God your Maker
send you back into the world with creative energies refreshed.
May Christ the Light
illuminate your fearful moments.
And may the Holy Spirit of steadfast love
guide you until we worship together again.
This day and forevermore. Amen!

So Loved: Service Prayers for the Fourth Sunday of Lent was written by the Rev. Dr. Ginny Brown Daniel, Conference Minister for Missouri Mid-South Conference, UCC.

Copyright 2021 Justice and Local Church Ministries, Faith INFO Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.