Fifth Sunday in the Season of Prayer & Fasting
A pastoral note from Byron:
The point of this liturgy is two-fold: Exalt and Equip. I’ve prepared this liturgy to exalt Christ and equip His Church. I am equipping you to learn how to lead yourself or your family to worship Jesus when luxuries are taken away. Let me be crystal clear: our church will not be left crippled in our suffering. You will be given the opportunity to be cared for and equipped. Suffering in strange ways is not new to humanity or to followers of Jesus. In our suffering, we entrust ourselves to the Loving Creator (1 Peter 4.19). I referenced this in an email March 15, the first Sunday we did not gather: “The Holy Creator, Who speaks to us through the Spirit of Christ – in Whom all things are made and all things hold together – grants us this promise: after a time of suffering, He Himself will Restore, Empower, Strengthen and Establish us. What a relief! What a promise!”
If you commit to trusting a Sovereign and Good Creator and do the hard work of learning to lead yourself or others in worship, then our first gathering together may very well spark an awakening. I don’t think anyone wants to advocate an easy religious consumerism. Let us root ourselves in the knowledge of Christ, standing together, united in one spirit, struggling together to remain faithful to the good news of Jesus (Philippians 1.27). We will harvest what we plant. Commit to the hard work now and experience later the reward of knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection and the participation of His sufferings (Philippians 3.10). While these may be difficult times, these are opportune days for the Church, for you and me, to grow in new ways.
- Find an intentional place to spend time in worship, inside or outside. BTW, do you notice how there seems to be more birds, bees and butterflies than normal? This is our Creator’s world!
- Light a candle to remind yourself the Light of the World is gathered with you, even though we are scattered from one another.
- Put out a piece of purple to be reminded of the suffering and royalty of Jesus. My family used some purple mardi gras beads.
- Have a Cross in the room since we’ll be sending our problems to the Cross of Christ.
- Set aside at least an hour to truly have a meaningful time of worship.
- Get out an instrument and play along. The chord charts are under the song links.
- Read everything aloud and sing along with the music, even if no one else is physically gathered with you; consider video-conferencing with someone or your House Church. If others are gathered with you, take turns reading each part of the liturgy. Have fun! Let children participate! And be sensible with their attention span (and yours!).
Let us tend to His Presence while He nourishes and shapes us.
Call to Worship – May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us as we are scattered and awaiting to be gathered.
Glory be to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
It is the first day of a new week. Be assured my dear friend, there is nothing you’ve done this week – even if it’s criminal – that can separate you from the love of the Creator in Christ Jesus. There may be consequences to foolish decisions, but there is no condemnation in Christ. Find spiritual renewals in these truths: Jesus is powerful enough to change me. Jesus is powerful enough to heal me. Jesus is powerful enough to love me as I am.
United In Truth
We are united in the truth that Christ has come, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. Say aloud the truths of “the faith handed down once and for all” (Jude 3) as taught by Jesus to the Apostles. Be reminded and proclaim with joy what you, what we, believe:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,— Apostles’ Creed
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 the dead.
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 catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Pray-Sing Psalm 130
Pick a tune and sing along – http://psalms.seedbed.com/psalm-130/
The Lord’s Prayer
This is a powerful moment. Your voice is joining an untold number of the heavenly host and other worshippers of Jesus scattered around Baton Rouge who are in this exact moment pouring up praise to the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. Let us pray as our Lord instructed…
Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.Matthew 6
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen.
Musical Worship – the songs are selected on the theme of being drawn to the Cross of Christ where we find the security of God’s Love and the sufficiency of God’s Spirit. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, when we begin the holiest week of the Church Calendar: the journey with Jesus to the Cross and the Grave. We want to draw near to His Cross where we find His Love for us.
“Draw Me Nearer”
“Lord I Need You”
“There Is A Fountain”
sheet music: https://gracemidcity.com/there-is-a-fountain/
Expressing the Love of Christ to the Children
Pray for the children and youth of Grace:
“Father, fill the children and youth of Grace with the Spirit of Your Son, Jesus.”
We’re going to say each name aloud. This is not a list to race through, say each name then picture the person in your mind. After you picture them, move to the next name.
Lois, Micah, Naomi, Emma, Nora, David, Sophia, Noelle, Jace, Sophia, Beckett, Easton, Iva James, Colton, Rose, Paul, Amaya, Miles, Lizzie Mae, Nezzie, Simone, Samuel, Virginia, Evie, Thomas, Karli, Grant, Cailyn, Rayana, Jack, Greyson, Caroline, Travis, Ethan, Arin, Liam, Rachel, Sami, Thomas, Grant, Whernska, Levi, Judah, Natalie, Benjamin. What a group!
Kids – enjoy singing Lean On Me! https://gracemidcity.com/lean-on-me/
You may remember we were being guided in prayer based on the book, Spirit Walk. The premise of the guided prayer was SWAP:
Surrender to God
Wait on God
Pursue the promptings of the Spirit
In accordance with the Season of Prayer and Fasting, we’re in, coupled with the Scriptures passages for today, we are going to ask the Spirit to help us avoid sin. If you’re with other people, ask each person these questions. Answer as much as you are comfortable answering. Parents, give your children the freedom to answer without fear that you’ll start lecturing them. While God may have entrusted a child(ren) to you, He is the ultimate Parent.
- To be truly human is to be like the True Human, Jesus Christ, who loves God and loves people. Do I believe the Holy Spirit desires to shape me into a person who is truly Human? That is, a person conformed into the image of Jesus?
- Crisis reveals character. What am I learning about myself through this pandemic crisis?
- What aspects of my character, my thought life, or daily living, hinders me from fully loving God and people?
- Do I believe The Spirit of God can restore me into a person of Life and Peace?
- Do I need to schedule a pastoral visit to talk through anything?
Recognizing Our Dependence Upon Christ
When we make an offering, we give what already belongs to Christ; Of Your own, O Lord, do we give. Money is not the only offering, we offer our talents, abilities, and gifts to the exclusive use of King Jesus and His Kingdom. We offer every bit of ourselves in service to Christ and His Creation. We don’t want to be tone-deaf about economic crisis facing some in our church, nor do we want to presume financial instability in our church. If you are facing an economic crisis today, please let Byron know your need so your church can support you in some way. If you have financial security and even abundance, share generously with those in need.
Our online giving link is https://gracemidcity.churchcenter.com/giving
Offertory song – https://gracemidcity.com/speak-o-lord-2/
sheet music: https://gracemidcity.com/speak-o-lord/
Shaping the Church by the Scripture and Spirit of Christ
Read one or all of the passages. If you’ve got children with you, be sensible with how long they can sit and listen. Act out one of the stories.
The Scripture passages are Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45
These are powerful images of resurrection; the dead being brought to life. The physical resurrection testifies to the ability of the Spirit to give spiritual resurrection now, and make us into new people today.
- In a dream, Ezekiel saw the power of resurrection when a valley of dry bones came to life!
- The apostle Paul teaches that people restored by the Spirit of Jesus are not selfish, they are people of Life and Peace. The Scripture here will threaten every one of us: “People who are self-centered cannot please God” (verse 8).
- Jesus resurrects Lazarus “for the benefit of the crowd” so they (the crowd) will believe Jesus was sent by God (see v42).
Which of these passages resonates with you today? Where are the Scripture and Spirit intersecting with your mind and heart today?
Give glory for Jesus Christ’s work in our lives, give thanks for His mercy, and receive His Hope for new life today.
Lauren sings a powerful song that captures the message of today’s Scripture readings.
Nourishing the Church with the Body and Blood of Christ
I plan to celebrate communion / Lord’s supper/eucharist (the New Testament word for “thanksgiving”) when we have gathered again in one room. It is one more reminder that life together with Jesus Christ is a communal way of life. During this season of Prayer and Fasting we are reminded that although we don’t need bread to make it through the day, we do need Christ, the Bread of Heaven.
We are scattered this morning. Physically, we are not together. Spiritually, however, we are as close as we’ll ever be. In the prayer of Jesus, as recorded in John 17.26, He says I’ve made Your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that Your love for Me will be in them, and I Myself will be in them.
Lord Jesus, You have made known to us the name of the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. By Your Holy Spirit, You continue to make God’s great name known. Father, increase our love for Your Son, Our Redeemer, and King, Jesus. Make us aware of the work You are doing in us and through us. Truly You are working in our waiting. Continue to give us imagination and creativity with our lives and our church. Grant us the courage to join You in Your work. Protect us from reacting to anything in haste. Protect us from desperate thinking. We want to walk by faith. We are fully dependent upon You for any success in our lives and ministry. We are reminded today that though we are separated, by the power of Your Holy Spirit we are fully united with You and one another now and forever. Amen.
But you have drawn near to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, to countless angels in a festival gathering, to the assembly of God’s firstborn children who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous who have been made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks better than Abel’s blood.Hebrews 12.22-24
The word Zion refers to the place God dwells. When Jesus returns on the Day of Resurrection to make all things new, we will feast in the House of Zion!
Facing the Cross in your room or on your table, cast your cares upon Him Who cares for you. Send your worries to Jesus and leave it all with Him.
Lord Jesus, You are our Refuge and Fortress.— Kenyan Prayer
All our problems –
we SEND to the Cross of Christ!
All our difficulties –
we SEND to the Cross of Christ!
All the devil’s works –
we SEND to the Cross of Christ!
All our hope –
we SET on the Risen Christ!
Calling All Creatures To Praise Our Triune God
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all Creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. A-men.
Sending The Church To Witness
May the God of peace,
who brought back the Great Shepherd of the sheep,
our Lord Jesus,
from the dead by the blood of the eternal covenant,
equip you with every good thing to do His will,
by developing in us what pleases Him through Jesus Christ.
To Him be the glory forever and always. Amen.
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirits (Phil 4.23).
I would love to say “Hi!” to you this week to touch base and be sure you’re being cared for. Please let me know what time works for you if none of these times work: https://calendly.com/gracemidcity/pastoral-meeting