The Fourth Sunday in Lent
Service of the Word
M: We worship today in the Name of our Triune God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Confession of Sins
M: We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children. But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment. Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.
C: Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth. In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child. But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray: Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love. Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.
M: God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins. By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever. You are His own dear child. May God give you strength to live according to His will.
Prayer and Praise
M: In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.
OH, TASTE AND SEE
C: Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed are they who take refuge in Him. Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues forever. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
M: Let us pray.
The minister says the Prayer of the Day.
Almighty God, we confess that we deserve to be punished for our evil deeds. But we ask you graciously to cleanse us from all sin and to comfort us with your salvation; we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
FIRST LESSON – Hosea 5:15-6:3 (Sermon Text)
The LORD receives in mercy those who turn to Him in repentance and faith. “Come, let us return to the LORD.”
“Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me. Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (NIV1984)
PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 42-43
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
Where can I go and meet with God?
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me;
let them bring me to the place where You dwell.
Then will I go to the altar of God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen
SECOND LESSON – Romans 8:1-10eba
Paul reminds us that in Jesus there is an end to condemning judgment for our sins.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (NIV1984)
VERSE OF THE DAY
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
C: These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 20:17-28
Jesus describes to His disciples the details of His coming death. Even in death Jesus serves us who are set free from death through Him.
Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NIV1984)
After the Gospel, the congregation says:
C: Praise be to you, O Christ!
SERMON The Amazing Season of Lent— God’s Amazing Patience!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I know this is going to be hard for you to believe but when our children were little there were times when they were disobedient. They would do things that I told them not to do. They refused to do things I told them they had to do. When necessary I disciplined our children with what I called my “God-given spanking tool.” Since I am not an overly patient person I would hold up my hand and count to five. If they were still being disobedient when I said “Five!” then they automatically got swatted on their behinds. There were times, however, when they would “push the envelope.” They would keep doing what they were not supposed to be doing or refuse to do what they were told to do until I got to “Three!” Then they would finally do or not do what they had been told. Unfortunately for my children I am not an overly patient person. Therefore there were times when I would hold up my hand and begin with, “Three!” They would balk and say, “Hey, you can’t do that!” My response was always the same— “Four!” They usually did as they were told.
The sermon text that we have before us today focuses our attention on the subject of the Lord disciplining His rebellious children. Thankfully, as we continue our sermon series on The Amazing Season of Lent our sermon text gives us an opportunity to see and to appreciate: God’s Amazing Patience! There are two things we want to make sure we understand this morning. First, we want to understand why God patiently disciplines His children. Then we want to understand how we, God’s children, are to respond to the discipline God patiently sends into our lives.
The prophet Hosea lived during the final tragic years of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Politically Israel was in complete chaos. Over the course of the final 25 years that this kingdom was in existence Israel had six different kings. Four of those kings were assassinated by their successors. One king was captured in battle. On a spiritual level the Northern Kingdom of Israel was in even worse shape. Israel had completely forsaken the covenant which the Lord had made with their ancestors. In chapter four of this letter God brings this charge against His people, “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (4:1-2).
The rebelliousness of God’s children was only getting worse as time went on. And yet in His amazing patience God sent servants such as Hosea to call His rebellious people to repentance. God even gave His people an amazingly powerful “object lesson.” God commanded Hosea to marry an “adulterous wife” (1:2) and then when Hosea’s wife was unfaithful to him God commanded Hosea to “redeem” his wife, to take her back and love her once again (3:1-3). This was done to impress upon the Israelites that while they had committed “spiritual adultery” and while they had been “unfaithful” to their God, the Lord was patiently calling His people to repent because He wanted to take them back as well.
Ultimately, however, the Lord got to “Five!”— which brings us to our text for today. If you have your Bible open to Hosea chapter five let’s back up a little and look at verses 14 & 15. The Lord says, “For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off with no one to rescue them. Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”
This is a very powerful picture of what the writer to the Hebrews meant when he said, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31; See also Galatians 6:7). Because of the impenitence of God’s rebellious people two very powerful punishments were allowed to take place. First, the Lord would allow the Assyrians to “tear them to pieces” and to “carry them off with no one to rescue them.” You may recall that the Assyrians first “dismembered” the Northern Kingdom and then utterly destroyed the Northern Kingdom with the capture of its capital city, Samaria, in 722 B.C. The people of the Northern Kingdom were carried off into exile never to be seen again. They became known as the “Ten Lost Tribes” of Israel. But even worse than the atrocities of the Assyrian army was God’s abandonment of His people. The Lord says in our text, “Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt.”
I want you to focus on the final part of that statement, my friends— “…until they admit their guilt.” Why did the Lord bring this discipline upon His own people? What was God’s purpose in allowing the Assyrians to destroy the Northern Kingdom? God was patiently calling His rebellious children to repentance, wasn’t He. God wanted His people to “admit their guilt” and to turn away from their sins. As I was studying this text and preparing this sermon the words of 2 Peter 3:9 kept going through my mind over and over gain, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” As I was studying this text and preparing this sermon I also couldn’t help but wonder if the things that we are currently experiencing in our lives, in our country and all across the world are perhaps tied in with the Lord’s words, “Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt.” Is this perhaps the Lord’s way of calling the people of our day and age to repent of their sins?
Since the Lord’s purpose in allowing disasters and tragedies to befall His children is to ultimately bring His rebellious children back to Him it is certainly not difficult for us to understand how we are to respond if such things take place in our lives today. Look at the opening verses of Hosea chapter six. “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Now I should let you know that there is some debate concerning the meaning of these verses of our text. There are those who believe that these words are a sudden proclamation of grace as Hosea once again calls God’s people to repent of their sins. Then there are those who see in these words an insincere “show of repentance.” Especially in the light of the verses which follow our text these words are probably spoken insincerely. God’s people knew all the right words to say, God’s people understood the language of repentance, but the words did not come from the heart. I, however, would like us to focus on the fact that when these words are understood properly they can indeed help us to understand what true heartfelt repentance is all about.
Let’s start by looking at the words of Hosea 6:1. Hosea writes, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” In my heart and in my mind these words can be seen as a beautiful expression of trust in God’s amazing patience. There are times when our rebelliousness and when our sins may lead the Lord to discipline us. But when we understand the Lord’s purpose in disciplining us then we will know that we can indeed trust in the Lord’s amazing patience! No matter how long it may have taken for us to “admit our guilt,” no matter how long it may have taken until the “words of repentance” come from our heart and not just from our mouth we know that the Lord will be there to “heal us” and to “bind up our wounds.” Remember once again the words of the apostle Peter, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Now let’s look at the words of Hosea 6:2. Hosea writes. “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.” Some people see in these words an allusion to Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. I don’t. I see in these words a very powerful realization. That realization is this: While God’s forgiveness is both complete and immediate— the cross guarantees that to us— the consequences of our sin may continue for at least a short period of time. While the good Lord will indeed bring both relief and blessings to His repentant children that relief and those blessings will come at the time God has determined to be best for us. Remember, my friends, that since the Lord our God lives in the “eternal present” His ultimate goal is that “we may live in his presence” in His eternal heavenly home.
Finally, let’s look at the words of Hosea 6:3. Hosea writes, “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” As surely as the sun came up this morning, as confidently as we expect the sun to rise tomorrow so also we can depend on the grace and the mercy, the love and the forgiveness that the Lord our God “showers” upon His repentant children.
My children learned from personal experience that their earthly father is not an overly patient person. I was willing to count to “Five!” but then there were consequences. Thankfully, you and I have the comfort of knowing that our heavenly Father is indeed a God of amazing patience! While God’s amazing patience does and will come to an end, while God’s amazing patience may allow difficulties and hardships to come into our life until we “admit our guilt,” it is God’s amazing patience that gives us the confidence to humbly approach His altar and in heartfelt repentance say, “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.”
To God be the glory!
I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
OFFERING During this time of uncertainty we still yearn to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior. We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Dear heavenly Father, we whom you love are weary and distressed because of the virus that is sweeping across not only our own country, but all across the world. We confess, O Lord, that we are not worthy of the least of your blessings. We are not worthy of the many good things which you are still showering upon us each and every day. We confess that we are sinners who deserve only your anger; but do not cast us away. We plead for your patience, your mercy, your love and for your strength knowing that you have tenderly invited us to come to you in Jesus’ name with all our cares, all our needs and all our problems; knowing that you have promised to hear us and to answer our prayers according to your will. We humbly beg you therefore to strengthen everyone who has been either directly or indirectly impacted by this virus. We also humbly beg you to give us the wisdom to find a cure for this virus. With joyful hearts we will always praise you as the fountain and source of all the “good and perfect gifts” that we have and enjoy. But most of all, with joyful hearts we thank and praise you for the gift of life— both our physical life and our eternal life with you in heaven above.
We also ask dear Lord that you would be with all of the doctors, nurses, first responders and scientists who are striving to help us at a time such as this. Grant them your strength and your protection. Bless them for their commitment and their dedication.
And finally, we ask that you bless our President. Give him the wisdom and the courage to do what is right for our great land and give to all of our elected leaders a heart that looks beyond politics and focuses on the greater good of our people.
In Jesus’ Name we ask this and in Jesus’ Name we pray:
C: 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 and ever. Amen.
M: O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
M: Brothers and sisters, go in peace. Live in harmony with one another. Serve the Lord with gladness.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.