River of Life Lutheran Church
27400 SE Stark Street
Troutdale, OR  97060
Phone: 503.667.3141

Sunday worship service: 9:00am 


ORDER OF WORSHIP FOR THE 5th SUNDAY IN LENT  March 29, 2020


L: We begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

C: AMEN.


CONFESSION/FORGIVENESS:  

L: Before we begin our worship proper, let’s pause to recall that we are sinners who live by God’s grace: Dear Lord, we are trapped in our sin, and cannot free ourselves.

C: THEREFORE WE TURN TO YOU FOR YOUR GRACE TO FORGIVE US, AND TO FREE US FOR LOVING SERVICE TO YOU.

L:  God in his mercy has forgiven all of our sins, known and unknown, and invites you to be reassured once again: you are forgiven of all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

C: AMEN.


Opening Song:  Amazing Grace

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PRAYER OF THE DAY:

L: Let us pray: Thank you, gracious Lord, for removing the condemnation of our sin, so that we can live in the power and freedom of your Spirit; through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and forever.

C: AMEN.


LESSONS   [those present may share in reading the following lessons from a Bible]  

Ezekiel. 37:1-14  Ezekiel commands the dry bones to rise and live, a sign of God’s reviving Israel after their Exile in Babylon.

The Valley of Dry Bones

37 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley;[a] it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath[b] to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling,[c] and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LordI have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”



Romans 8:1-11  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ; the law couldn’t free us, only Christ could; we are dead to sin and alive in Christ,  by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Life in the Spirit

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.


John 11:38-45 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus Raises Lazarus

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,


CHILDRENS’ MESSAGE  


L:  Ever play a game where everyone wins? Probably not! Because if you’re playing a game, you’re playing to win – and so is everyone else. That means that if several of you are playing a game and someone wins,  the rest of you lose that game.  For example, let’s play the game “flip the quarter” – say an adult has a quarter, and you kids are trying to guess whether the quarter will land with heads or tails up on the floor. (flip the quarter) It landed tails! Did anyone pick tails? They won! The others of you who picked heads lost. But in the game of life, if we follow Jesus, the Bible tells us that we will all win, no losers. Whether we make good or bad choices, to the right or wrong things, God says we win, because we are his children either way. He blesses the good things we do and forgives the bad things, so either way we win!


SONG The Lion and The Lamb

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MESSAGE  “WE CAN’T LOSE” Rom 8:1

When I was a kid, I remember playing street ball with other neighborhood kids who were older and bigger than I. They would choose up sides for two teams, and I was always the last one picked, because I was the smallest and poorest player. I was a loser right from the start! And often times the team I was on ended up losing the game because I was only a hindrance to them, not an asset. Those times of being a loser tend to stick with us in our memories, more than the times we won. In fact, it’s part of human nature to remember most our failures, our losses, the bad things that happened in our lives, rather than the successes, the good things. Just think about it in your everyday life: 10 things go well and one thing goes bad during the day. You get home – and what’s the first thing you talk about? That one bad thing, right? You may mention the 10 good things eventually, but you have to get the one bad thing off your chest first. Negativity, problems, losses, failures, those stick with us it seems, more than the successes, the wins, the positives.

So it’s more than just a little striking when St Paul says that if we are living following Christ, we can’t lose! The way Paul actually puts it is that if we belong to Christ, if we are “in” Christ, the new “law” or rule of the Holy Spirit sets us free from the “law” or rule of sin and death. We were losers under the old law, but now in Christ we’re all winners. Now, how exactly does that work, you might ask? Well, because of our sinful nature due to the Fall into sin by our first parents, Adam and Eve, we humans are not able to keep God’s perfect law of love, as it is expressed in the 10 commandments. Remember the summary of those commandments? Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a good law in itself, and if we all could just live that way all the time, everything would be fine, and Christ would never have had to come into the world as a human being to keep that law for us.

But in our real world, we sinners just aren’t capable of living in perfect love for God and other people all the time. In fact, says Paul, those living under the control of the sinful human nature are actually hostile to God and cannot please God. It reminds me of a riding lawnmower I used long ago when working for a construction company. The lawnmower gave equal power to the wheels on both sides of the mower; the way you would steer the mower was to apply the brakes to the wheels on one side, and the wheels on the other side would keep driving full force, pushing you in the direction of the side with the brakes on. Well wouldn’t you know that the brakes on one side went out on that mower, so all I was capable of doing was steering in one direction. I simply couldn’t get the mower to turn in that other direction.

Due to sin, we aren’t able on our own to turn in the direction toward God…we keep wanting to go the other way. Try as we might, we can only turn away from God and his loving ways, like that lawnmower that could only turn one way. Sinful human nature on its own can’t help but keep steering away from God. As Paul also puts it, on our own we were blind, dead, and enemies of God.

But the very nature of God wouldn’t let us stay in that hopeless condition of sin and death. God so loved the world that he sent his Son as a human being like us, and in Jesus God condemned sin in our human flesh by fulfilling the law of love in our place. We aren’t able on our own to keep that law, but Christ did it for us. Or in the imagery of the sacrificial system, as Paul explains it, Christ was the ultimate sin offering to cover the sins of all human beings.  By keeping the law in our stead and by dying as the absolute sin offering on the cross, God has freed us from the condemnation of the law. For the law, while good in itself, continually shows us our sin, our failure to love God and others. But if Christ has condemned the killing power of the law, then he has freed us to live as his people, in the power of His Holy Spirit.

And that’s where the “we can’t lose” point of view comes in. If you’re living in the Spirit of Christ, you are free from any judgment, any condemnation that would come with the 10 commandments on their own. You are free to live as God’s child, free to live in his love as best you can. And that means that you’re free to take risks in trying to do the loving thing in your day by day activities. You can certainly try your best to decide what would be the most loving course of action might be, but then you’re free to take action without fear of doing the wrong thing, without fear of being condemned for what you decided to do.

 To use a concrete example in our current crisis situation:  you might decide that it is best to make all members of your family wear masks all the time, even at home, to protect against the coronavirus. If you may find out later on that it was unnecessary to make everyone wear awkward, uncomfortable masks all the time, you would still be a winner, because you were trying to do the loving thing, and God has got you covered. This may not be a perfect example, but you see what I’m getting at? You may make bad choices, you may “sin boldly,” as Martin Luther put it, I guarantee you, you won’t always act perfectly. But as long as you’re living in the Spirit of Christ, you can’t lose in the game of life. God is with us, we are not alone. And we will win, now and eternally, for we have the gift of salvation assured for us in Christ. As surely as he died on the cross, our sins are covered. As surely as he rose from the dead at Easter, we will rise to eternal life in him. We can’t lose! Amen.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH    

 

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to 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.


PRAYERS OF GOD’S PEOPLE  [here prayers may be shared, including thanks for blessings and requests for particular needs and concerns]

L: Lord in your mercy,

C: HEAR OUR PRAYER.


LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father, who is in heaven, holy be your name. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, now and forever, amen.


HOLY COMMUNION  [If you would like to share Holy Communion in your individual house church settings, I as your pastor remind you that you are part of the “priesthood of all believers,” meaning that in principle Christ gives each believer the authority to do all things related to worship, including prayer, confession, Scripture, Affirmation – and the Lord’s Supper. If you/your family or group are comfortable doing so, you (if you are alone) or one of the family or small group, perhaps the one who has been doing the “L” or leader parts of the service, can take some bread and wine/grape juice  and consecrate it as follows:]
L: [taking up the bread] Our Lord Jesus on the night of he was betrayed took some bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave to his disciples saying “Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way after supper he took the cup, [lifting up a cup of wine/grape juice] gave thanks, and gave it to all of them to drink, saying “Take and drink, this is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you and for all people, for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Then share the bread and the wine/grape juice. After all have communed, the leader can say “May this body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen us in our faith, to life everlasting.”


CLOSING BLESSING   L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all.

C: AMEN.


CLOSING SONG Whom Shall I Fear?  

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DISMISSAL     L: Go in peace. Serve the Lord.   C: THANKS BE TO GOD!.