Call to Worship/Psalm 27 (NRSV)
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes—they shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.
Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.
Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Walk with us, loving God, on the path to Easter. Take us slowly through this season so we may truly feel, clearly see and tenderly know the depths of your love that you shared with us in the life of Jesus. Let us take a step to see our own denials, the way we miss seeing you in the presence of those different from us. Let us face our own fears and angers, our fear of being alone, our anger that erupts like Peter’s sword. Let us face our own betrayals of those who are close to us. Loving God, walk with us through pain and searching, be with us through doubt and despair, and lead us to the joy of Easter. Amen.
Scripture Lesson/ Luke 23:1-12 (NRSV)
1Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” 3Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” 5But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” 6When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
There were many witnesses to the events which took place on that hill outside Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago. An angry crowd gathered to be certain that their verdict of “guilty” be carried out in the sentence of death by crucifixion. A small group of the condemned man’s followers milled about the crowd; still in shock over the injustice being meted out, many of them kept their identity secret to protect themselves from a similar fate. And some had to be there—those responsible for tending to the necessary tasks which went along with an execution.
But there were other “witnesses” as well, ones we don’t usually think about, although they were even closer to the events than the crowd. In fact, they actually participated in those events in unique ways. They are the Silent Witnesses. If only these things could speak! What might they tell us about the events from their viewpoint?
Throughout this Lenten Season we will have the unusual, imaginative, and challenging, opportunity to hear these normally “silent witnesses.” Today, we hear from The Robe.
Gracious and merciful God, the season of Lent is a time in which we journey with Jesus made to the cross.
It is also a season in which we take the time when we reflect on the deeper meanings of life and faith—
to examine our mistakes that we might learn from them.
to lay aside things, feelings, or attitudes that encumber us and keep us from living more fully into community with others.
to consider the meaning of the cross and reflect upon the depth and width of God’s mercy.
As Jesus walked the way of suffering, we pray this day for all who find themselves walking a hard journey—
for those who regularly cross paths with violence and abuse;
for those who did not want to leave home but were forced to;
for those who set out today in search of food and water;
for those whose journey is shattered by economic hardship;
for those whose journey is marred by pain, grief, or despair,
and for those who faithfully journey alongside them;
for those who are making a move and beginning again;
for those who are still clinging on to something that has ended;
for those who are being bullied,
and for those who are bullying;
for those who have just taken their first breath,
and for those who today will take their last.
May the life and example of Jesus give courage and strength to all whose journey is far from easy. And may it inspire us to risk Christ’s Way of love as we share this journey with others. We offer this prayer in the name of the One whose journey leads us to abundant life in this world and eternal life in the next, Jesus the Christ who prayed:
The Lord’s Prayer
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.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
May you know hope in the midst of doubts, assurance in times of questioning, and peace in the presence of conflict.
May your journey through Lent lead you ever closer to the heart of God, and may God walk with you along the way.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Amen.