Worship for Sunday, March 13, 2022

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.   And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers close in against me to devour my flesh,
they, my foes and my enemies, will stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear.
Though war rise up against me, my trust will not be shaken.

One thing I ask of the Lord; one thing I seek;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek God in the temple.

For in the day of trouble God will give me shelter,
hide me in the hidden places of the sanctuary, and raise me high upon a rock.

Even now my head is lifted up above my enemies who surround me.
Therefore I will offer sacrifice in the sanctuary, sacrifices of rejoicing; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice, O Lord, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.

My heart speaks your message— “Seek my face.”
Your face, O Lord, I will seek.

Hide not your face from me, turn not away from your servant in anger.
Cast me not away—you have been my helper; forsake me not, O God of my salvation.

Though my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me in.

Teach me your way, O Lord;
lead me on a level path, because of my oppressors.

Subject me not to the will of my foes,
for they rise up against me, false witnesses breathing violence.

This I believe—that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!

Wait for the Lord and be strong.
Take heart and wait for the Lord! 

Philippians 3:17–4:1

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus,] “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.   Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wow! It just keeps coming and coming and coming – doesn’t it?

These past few years sure have been something – haven’t they!?!?

For so many of us – these past months have been just plain challenging.   And it appears that the challenging times in our lives are far from over.

In fact – it is kind of starting to feel just a wee bit “biblical” out there in the real world – isn’t it?

Natural disasters . . . flooding and tornados and hurricanes and wildfires that are so frequent and so massive – it shocks and saddens and frightens us. Natural disasters on a scale that gets the attention of even the most jaded and calloused among us.

A global pandemic that has made a mess of our lives and our world.   A global pandemic that has laid bare our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities and our very human humanness.

Then just to keep life interesting – there have been all of those strange supply chain issues.

Now gas prices have soared to near record highs. Economists warn us of a looming global recession. But all of that seems like small potatoes when we hear phrases like “World War 3” being bandied about on the evening news. Seriously – World War 3?!?!?

Nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons and nuclear war . . .

These are never the things we want to hear about in the news – NEVER – EVER – EVER!

And so the world holds its collective breath as the Chernobyl power plant in northern Ukraine makes the news again. We didn’t think it could get worse than the last time Chernobyl made the international news back in the 1980’s – but now we wonder and we worry and then we worry some more. Perhaps it could get worse . . . much – much worse . . .

We hold our breath as Vladimir Putin threatens the world with nuclear weapons. What does “special alert status” mean to Mr. Putin? What does “special alert status” mean for us?   For our future? For the world?

It kind of makes a Christian wonder doesn’t it . . . ?

What were those signs and warnings Jesus cautioned us about when Jesus spoke of his Second Coming in the Gospels? What should we be watching for again? What were those signs that would appear in the skies?

And what about the books of Daniel and Revelation? Don’t they foretell the End Times too? What were those 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse again?   Don’t those 4 riders represent – conquest – the violence of war – famine – and widespread death?

Hmmm . . . alrighty then – those horsemen are sounding just a bit too familiar aren’t they?!?!

Are we okay? Are we going to be okay?

Honestly – sometimes it just doesn’t feel okay! And sometimes we may find ourselves worrying that it will never be okay again.

The world we are living in right now can feel so big and so scary and so strange and so unsettled.

Sadly – all of these things are true. The world is unsettled right now. We are living in difficult times. We do face great – big challenges as a world and as a nation and a community and even as a church. To deny this would be just plain naive.

But as Psalm 27 so powerfully reminds us this morning – we do not face these challenging times alone. Our God is with us. Our God is always – ALWAYS faithful to us.

Psalm 27 boldly declares – “The Lord is the stronghold of my life!” And later in verse 5 – we hear the incredible reminder – “for in the day of trouble God will give me shelter!”

Hear those incredibly powerful words. Let them wash over you and sink in. God is our stronghold. God is our shelter in this uncertain world. God is our source of strength.

Our Lord promises us that he will care for us and be faithful to us – even when life in this world is frightening and unsettled and incredibly challenging.

God is our light in the darkness. Our salvation. Our sanctuary and our resting place.

God’s Word tells us again and again that God is ALWAYS faithful and God will help us in our times of need.

God promises he will never forget or forsake us. Because we are his beloved children.

The rest of the world may crumble around us. But our God will always be there for us to lean on and rest in.

The future may seem uncertain and difficult – especially now.   But – God will continue to be with you.   God will be your constant – loving – faithful companion. God will care for you and provide for you and watch over you. God promises to be your source of strength.

No matter what the future holds – know this – remember this – God is with you. Your God is – was – and will always be your shelter and your stronghold. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

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