Lectionary -- Lent 4 Year B -
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Numbers 21:4-9 Moses set up a serpent of bronze
Psalm 107:1-3,17-22 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good
Ephesians 2:1-10 By grace you have been saved through faith
John 3:14-21 God loved the world so much that he gave his only son

Suggested Hymns (From Denis Towner. TIS = Together in Song; AHB = Australian Hymn Book; SA = Sing Alleluia)

Numbers 21: 4-9
Dear Father, Lord of humankind TIS.598 AHB.519
Jesus, we look to thee AHB.369
O my Saviour, lifted TIS.600 AHB.521
There is a green hill far away TIS.350 AHB.266

Psalm 107: 1-3, 17-22
Great is your faithfulness TIS.154 SFGP.95 NJS.48
Now thank we all our God TIS106 AHB.14

Ephesians 2: 1-10
Amazing grace (how sweet the sound) TIS.129 AHB.56
Comfort, comfort all my people TIS.647 SA.25
Just as I am, without one plea TIS.584 AHB.497
Nature with open volume stands TIS.343 AHB.259
Rock of Ages, cleft for me TIS.222 AHB.157
There's a wideness in God's mercy TIS.136 AHB.72

John 3: 14-21
Behold the amazing gift of love TIS.115 AHB.36
Christ is the world's light, he and none other TIS.246 AHB.191
I want to walk as a child of the light TIS.643
My song is love unknown TIS.341 AHB.257
The great love of God is revealed in the Son TIS.164 AHB.105
To God be the glory, great things he has done TIS.147 AHB.85

Other Possible Hymns
(Numbers refer to The Australian Hymn Book and Sing Alleluia.)

7 Praise to the living God
152 Come, O fount of every blessing
179 Christ is the world's true light
202 The people that in darkness walked -
254 Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended -
295 Hail thou once despised Jesus
392 Lord of light whose name shines brighter
482 How can a sinner know/ his sins on earth forgiven? -
564 'Forgive our sins as we forgave' -

Sermon summary (Click here for complete sermon)

Lifted up

The hymn "Pieta" that I wrote originally for this day as well as Good Friday is in the order of service to provide a response to the message today about the sacrifice of Christ, based on the text in John 3:14-15 about his being "lifted up". I do not, however, begin with this but with the Old Testament [Numbers 21: 4-9] lesson where the story about Moses making a bronze image of a snake is told. It is a strange very symbolic story about people who rebelled against God, even wondering if they might not be better off back in slavery from which God had saved them. The word translated "poisonous" -- the Lord sent "poisonous snakes" -- also means "fiery". So the image Moses made was of a "fiery serpent."

There are other places where "fiery serpents" or "flying fiery serpents" figure in strange code like the saying of the prophet Isaiah [eg 14:29] about the threat of a foreign army. Those sayings deal with real threats to life and well being. What Moses did was to make the image of the threat a kind of promise of escape.

Then there is a more strange use of the idea of "fiery" things helping people to be reconciled to God. In Isaiah's vision of God in the Temple when he was called to become a prophet, a "fiery" being called a "Seraph", a kind of angel, flew to him with a burning coal from the alter, which touched his lips and his sins were forgiven. The strange image of an agent of God bringing forgiveness and reconciliation is taken up again in the gospel.

After speaking with Nicodemus about making a new start in life, being born again, Jesus, who came from God, likens himself to the image of the snake, the "fiery serpent" that Moses had set up in the wilderness for the people to look at and be assured of their escape from death [John 3:14-15]. By taking himself the form of the rebel Jesus liberated humanity: by looking to him on the cross the antidote to their poison was found. What more I could say about the cost of it, and the wonder of our salvation, is better said in the poem, which is called "Pieta".

Order of service - Lent 4 Year B - | DB Home | RCL Resources Index |

The Gathering of the People of God

CALL TO WORSHIP The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;  for his steadfast love endures forever. -- Psalms 107:1

HYMN 85 To God be the glory, great things he has done

O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!
Lord Jesus, preaching good tidings to the people, proclaiming release to captives, setting at liberty those who are bound:
We adore you.
Lord Jesus, friend of the outcast and the poor, feeder of the hungry, healer of the sick:
We adore you.
Lord Jesus, denouncing the oppressor, exposing the hypocrite, overcoming evil with good:
We adore you.
Lord Jesus, pattern of gentleness, teacher of holiness, prophet of the kingdom:
We adore you.
Lord Jesus, dying to save us from our sin, rising to give us eternal life, ascending to prepare our heavenly home:
We adore you.

Most merciful God we confess that we have sinned against you and our neighbour. We have taken great benefits with little thanks and we have been more ready to insist upon our rights than to see the needs of others. Have mercy and forgive us, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. -- 1 John 2:1-2
Hear then Christ's word of grace to us: Your sins are forgiven.  Thanks ber to God.

DOXOLOGY: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.


Service of the Word

INTRODUCTION OF THEME: The power of Christ crucified to draw all people to himself.
OLD TESTAMENT Numbers 21:4-9 Moses set up a serpent of bronze
PSALM 107:1-3,17-22 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good
EPISTLE Ephesians 2:1-10 By grace you have been saved through faith

CHOIR: The Aye Carol

GOSPEL John 3:14-21 God loved the world so much that he gave his only son
HYMN 295 Hail thou once despised Jesus


HYMN Pieta [See link for music]

O painful, painful, painful day!
My Lord, my flesh, my son;
the breath of life you breathed away,
was life in God now won.

The pain of birth you chose to make
a sign of God's new life.
So for God's Kingdom you now take
the pain, the curse, the knife.

"Here is, your son", you said to me,
"Mother", to one well loved.
Disciples all, we are to be,
in grief and love embraced.

O painful, painful, painful day!
That joy through tears may come,
I do believe, and hope to say,
when you have led me home.

©David Beswick, 1997

SHARING TIME [Notices, celebrations, requests for intercessions]
THE LORD'S PRAYER [Front of the Hymn Book]

The Sending Forth of the People of God

HYMN 191 Christ is the world's light, he and no other
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. -- John 3:16

DISMISSAL Go in peace to love and serve the Lord:
In the name of Christ. Amen.

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