Second Sunday in Lent, Year B
February 28, 2021

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
Amen.

Let us pray.
A brief silence is kept before the prayer.

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life. Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen.

Then the readings for this day may be read, as follows:

First Reading:  Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”

15God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God.

The Psalm may be sung or read in response to the First Reading.

Psalm 22:23-31

23You who fear the LORD, give praise! All you of Jacob’s | line, give glory.
Stand in awe of the LORD, all you off- | spring of Israel.
24For the LORD does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither is the LORD ‘s face hid- | den from them;
but when they cry out,  | the LORD hears them.
25From you comes my praise in the | great assembly;
I will perform my vows in the sight of those who | fear the LORD.
26The poor shall eat | and be satisfied,
Let those who seek the LORD give praise! May your hearts | live forever!
27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn | to the LORD;
all the families of nations shall bow | before God.
28For dominion belongs | to the LORD,
who rules o- | ver the nations.
29Indeed, all who sleep in the earth shall bow | down in worship;
all who go down to the dust, though they be dead, shall kneel be- | fore the LORD.
30Their descendants shall | serve the LORD,
whom they shall proclaim to genera- | tions to come.
31They shall proclaim God’s deliverance to a people | yet unborn,
saying to them, “The | LORD has acted!”

Second Reading: Romans 4:13-25

13The promise that Abraham would inherit the world did not come to him or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all Abraham’s descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom Abraham believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18Hoping against hope, Abraham believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made Abraham waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what God had promised. 22Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God.

Gospel: Mark 8:31-38

The holy gospel according to Mark.
Glory to you, O Lord.

31Jesus began to teach them that the Son-of-Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32Jesus said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son-of-Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Thoughts from Pr. Phil:

It couldn’t happen. It just couldn’t happen.  A man 100 years old could not father a child.  A woman 90 years old could not give birth to a baby.  Imagine this man and woman going to an obstetrician to make plans for the birth of their baby.  They would get laughed out of the doctor’s office.  Imagine them going to the Baby Superstore and pricing cribs and bassinets for their forthcoming infant.  They would be regarded as “out of their minds.”  Imagine them stocking up on diapers and baby bottles, not for their great-grandchild, but for their own child to be born.  The neighbors would diagnose it is as senility.  And yet, Abraham and Sarah were anticipating their first child at their advanced age.

It's very similar to the story I recently heard of the elderly couple in the obstetrician’s office.  He was 75 and she was 72.  They explained to the doctor that they had married later in life, just four years before.  And yet it was very important for them to have an heir to carry on their name and to someday take over the family business.  They wanted help from the doctor to produce an heir.  Well, the doctor looked at them, noting their advanced age, and finally said, “You folks may be heir-minded, but you are not heir-conditioned!”

How could Abraham and Sarah at 100 and 90 years of age, respectively, have a baby?  Science, anatomy, human experience, and reason all argued against it.  It was humanly impossible. But Abraham believed it because God promised it. Sarah believed it, too, but not at first.  She laughed when she first heard that it would happen.  It was a big joke to her, but she came to believe it later on because God promised it.

When the child was born, his parents called him Isaac, which means in Hebrew, “he laughs.”  Because God promised this humanly impossible thing, Abraham believed it.  Even though everything in the world would declare that such a thing could never happen, yet if God promised it, they believed it.  Abraham and Sarah firmly believed that God could do what was humanly impossible.

Notice then how the Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Rome, used the example of Abraham’s faith in God’s promises to illustrate what pleases God most.  The question Paul is dealing with here is:  How good is good enough?  So, Paul contrasted two entirely different outlooks on what puts a person right with God.  One system of belief claims, that, if a person lives a good life according to what God has commanded, that person is fully accepted by God.

Remember that Jesus taught, “No one is good but God alone.”  And, thus, Paul says you have to be as good as God to be accepted by God on that basis, and no one is.  So, Paul writes to the Romans and says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  In other words, nobody is perfect.  Only God is perfect.  So, we would have to be as good as God to be in fellowship with God on the basis of goodness.  Human goodness is only a relative term.  God is an absolute when it comes to goodness.

Now, the other system of belief that Paul talks about claims that Jesus Christ was the only person who ever lived a perfect life on earth, he being fully divine and fully human.  When Jesus died on the cross, it was not for his sin, but for the sin of the whole world at that time and for all time.  By his atoning death he did away with all the sins of those who repent and trust in him as their Savior, and he credited his perfection and innocence in exchange to us who repent and believe.   When God raised him from death to life on the third day, he guaranteed this to repentant believers.

So, Paul writes to the Romans that righteousness “will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”

Now, it may be difficult to believe that a carpenter who lived and died 2,000 years ago is the Savior of the world, but look at what Abraham believed.  God promised him when he was a century old that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the grains of sand on the seashore, but at that time Abraham didn’t even have one child by his wife, Sarah.

Furthermore, when Abraham considered his own body at that age it seemed to him “as good as dead.”  When he remembered that Sarah, his wife, had not been able to have a child all her adult life, what reason did he have to believe that she would have a baby at 90 years of age?  Both of them were wrinkled and frail, the years had left their mark.

Yet, Abraham “did not weaken in faith.”  God had promised that he would become “the father of many nations,” and Abraham believed God would do what God had promised.  Human probability was not a factor. God’s word was all that mattered. Abraham was not perfect. He committed some serious faults.  He never would have gained acceptance with God by his own goodness.  Rather it was his faith in God’s promises that put him right with God. Paul says in Romans, “His faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

Abraham is described in Romans as “hoping against hope.”  I love that term; “hoping against hope.”  Abraham was hoping against hope that at 100 years of age he could become a father.  “Hoping against hope” conveys the impression that it was humanly impossible, but Abraham hoped for it anyway because God had promised it.

There are two reasons Paul gives in this passage for hoping for such an improbability.  First of all, God is able to give “life to the dead.”  So why could he not give an heir to a 100-year-old man?  Secondly, God is able to call “into existence the things that do not exist.”  God is able to create something out of nothing. No human being can do either of these things.  Since God can do them both, God can easily cause a 90-year-old woman to become pregnant.  God can do anything God wants.  When God promises something, God can readily fulfill it.  So, we also can hope against hope about any human impossibility when God promises it.  As the Apostle Paul reminds us, it is sheer faith that puts a person right with God. Sheer faith bring sheer grace through Christ.  And God’s power alone can bring this about.

And so, friends in Christ, the Bible is a book bursting with the promises of God, all kinds of promises to all kinds of people in all kinds of circumstances.  As Abraham was reminded, it doesn’t matter at all how humanly impossible something is. If God has promised it to those who believe, it is divinely possible.

Thanks be to God, that we, like Abraham, can hope against hope, because circumstances, no matter how threatening, cannot prevent the promises of God from being fulfilled.  Amen.


Reflection

Having read these readings, think on this:

In Mark, Jesus’ identity is a secret until it is told openly in the church after his death and resurrection. But in today’s Gospel reading, the first of three “passion predictions” in Mark, Jesus speaks boldly and openly about that coming death. All three of the passion predictions are accompanied with words about our discipleship. Today, resisting Peter, Jesus makes clear that this discipleship involves honesty about death. “Taking up the cross” is not self-torture. There is already enough suffering in the world. Rather it is telling the truth that we die and it is being ready to suffer for the gospel if we must. So Peter did suffer martyrdom. But death is never the last word. By the power of the Spirit poured out from Christ’s death, we are brought to faith like the faith of Abraham — trust in the God who gives life to the dead; trust from two old people who were “as good as dead.” In the resurrection, Jesus our Lord is made alive. By baptism God makes us alive together with Christ. Like Abraham and Sarah, we too are given a new identity: we are named children of God and co-heirs with Christ. And we are turned in love and service towards all those many people who are being invited also to trust in God like Abraham and Sarah.

If you have a hymnal, you may now sing or read “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 750), All My Hope on God Is Founded” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 757). Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart

Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart

Then pray these intercessions:

On this second Sunday in Lent, let us pray for the church and for all people in need, responding to each petition with words from today’s psalm, “hear us, we pray.”

A brief silence.

God of mercy and might, bless your church throughout the world. Uphold those believers who suffer for the sake of your gospel. Strengthen the faith of all the baptized, and make your presence felt by those unable to assemble for worship.

A brief silence.

When we cry out, O faithful God,
hear us, we pray.

As this week we commemorate John and Charles Wesley, we ask you to bless the Methodist churches around the globe. Unite them in the promises of baptism, and in due time return us all to the joy of singing the hymns that Charles wrote.

A brief silence.

When we cry out, O warm-hearted God,
hear us, we pray.

Bless the earth. Save the animals and their habitats from wild and uncontrolled weather. Teach humanity to live respectful of nature and to join you in tending to creation’s well-being. We ask you to smile also on Mars.

A brief silence.

When we cry out, O wondrous God,
hear us, we pray.

Bless the nations of the world. Raise up advocates for peace and justice within and between nations, and give life where hope seems dead. Lead all people around the world to receive the COVID-19 vaccine with gratitude to you. Grant to our Congress the wisdom and the will to improve the lives of all our residents.

A brief silence.

When we cry out, O righteous God,
hear us, we pray.

Bless all who suffer in body, mind, and spirit. We beg that you bring an end to the pandemic. Restore medical systems, and comfort all who are sick or dying. Lead us out of the practices of discrimination. Bring vindication for victims of injustice and relief to oppressed minorities. We remember before you . . . .

A brief silence.

When we cry out, O benevolent God,
hear us, we pray.

Bless families: those in our community, those waiting at national borders, those whose struggles are known only to you. Keep children safe; sustain expectant parents and those facing infertility; protect women in childbirth. Accompany everyone who lives alone. Equip the ministries and services of church and state that attend to families in their needs.

A brief silence.

When we cry out, O loving God,
hear us, we pray.

Fill each one of us with hope, and receive our personal prayers.

A brief silence.

When we cry out, O gracious God,
hear us, we pray.

Praises to you, O God, for centuries of saints whose faithfulness inspires our Lenten journey. Bless those who mourn the half million dead of the virus. Be our way, our truth, our life, and strengthen our faith in the gift of your final salvation.

A brief silence.

When we cry out, O everlasting God,
hear us, we pray.

We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Amen.

If you have a hymnal, you may now sing or read “How Firm a Foundation” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 796), Lord Jesus, You Shall Be My Song” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 808). Selected hymns are provided below for those without a hymnal at home.

How Firm a Foundation

How Firm a Foundation

Then conclude with these prayers:

Let us pray.
A brief silence is kept before the prayer.

Gracious God, who has named and claimed us,
calling us your beloved children,
you know the secrets of our hearts.
When we sin and stray from your paths,
you astound us with your saving grace.
For this Word of life,
we give you thanks.

Loving Jesus, living Word,
in you the Kingdom of God has come near;
through you all that was lost has been found.
Help us to boldly follow wherever you may lead,
trusting your promise that we need not fear,
for you are with us.
For this Word of life,
we give you thanks.

Holy Spirit, the mystery in which we dwell,
into our scarcity, your abundance flows.
Enliven all communities with your good news.
Guide us to love and serve Jesus,
giving ourselves away for the sake of the world.
For this Word of life,
we give you thanks.

All glory to you, holy God, now and forever.
Amen.

Merciful God, accompany our journey through these forty days. Renew us in the gift of baptism, that we may provide for those who are poor, pray for those in need, fast from self-indulgence, and above all that we may find our treasure in the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Amen.

Gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, let us pray as Jesus taught us:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and forever.
Amen.

Then speak the Blessing:

Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless us now and forever.
Amen.

Devotional Music Links: For your individual or group devotion, you may choose to listen to the following choral recordings made available through Augsburg Fortress

Be Thou My Vision

We Trust in God Alone

Jesus Calls Us

Search

©2021 Messiah of the Mountains Lutheran Church. All Rights Reserved. Designed By Blue Ridge Visions of Spruce Pine, NC logo image: https://pngtree.com/so/mountain-clipart