Remember the Promise!
Theme God keeps the covenant with God’s people; we are to remember that covenant as well.
Call to Worship God invites us this day to discover the joy of the relationship that has been given to us through Jesus Christ. As we celebrate that relationship, let us give thanks that God’s promises to us are sure, and will never be broken.
*Hymn of Praise # 506 “O Jesus I Have Promised”
*Invocation (the Lord’s Prayer) As we progress through Lent, our Father, enable us to deepen our spiritual lives. Teach us to pray rightly that we may know the blessing of being rooted and grounded in your Spirit. Focus our minds upon Christ, for it is in him that we see the pattern we are to follow. in his name we pray.
Scripture Reading Jeremiah 31:31–34
Jeremiah predicts a time when God’s covenant with Israel and Judah will be renewed. The difference between this new covenant and the covenant given to Moses is that this covenant will be written on people’s hearts.
Just for Kids Loving from the Inside Out
Preparation: Bring heart stickers, a mask, and a change of shoes.
Today we hear a message from a prophet named Jeremiah. God loved Jeremiah and chose him to give the people messages from God. Jeremiah lived long, long ago – long before Jesus did. At that time, most of the people didn’t follow God’s laws. So Jeremiah said to them, “God will put God’s law inside of you and will write it on your hearts.” Jeremiah said that God would change the people into more loving people from the inside out. I wonder what this means.
(Put on the mask.) Can I change myself into a more loving person by putting on a mask? (No.) (Put on other shoes.) Can I change myself into a more loving person by changing my shoes? (No.) Only God’s love can change me into a more loving person. God’s love is changing us every day. God’s love starts inside us. It changes us into more loving people from the inside out.
I’m going to put a heart sticker on each one of you as a reminder that God’s love is working inside of you, changing you into a more loving person from the inside out. (Place a sticker on each child’s clothing.)
Prayer: Thank you, God, for sending your love to change us from the inside out. Help us to be more loving every day. Amen.
Our Offering to God (same as last week)
*Prayer of Dedication Generous God, receive the gifts that we offer, that they may be used to your glory. Let us never underestimate your ability to take what seems small and insignificant and use it to create a glorious miracle. Create within us willing spirits to serve you and generous hearts to share the blessings that you have given. Accept what we give, so that it might be used for the benefit of your mission and the glory of your will, for the sake of Jesus, your Son, our Lord. Amen.
*Hymn of Prayer insert Heal Me, Hand of Jesus
Pastoral Prayer Our world is a place of broken promises and shattered dreams. Help us look to you, O God, as the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Open our hearts to receive the gift of your compassion, and the strength of your promise. When relationships fail and dreams die, remind us that you gave your Son for us. Increase our trust in Christ, whose sacrifice for our sins has given us hope not only for this world, but also the world to come. Be with all who struggle to see that your promise to be our God can be trusted, and that we are your children. /// /// Why is it, O God, that we believe we can go it alone in life? Is it because we are captivated with our own self-reliance, ingenuity, or creativity? Is it because we truly think that in our world, filled with technological advances, we no longer need the miracle of your grace? On this day we pray that you would once again break into our world of shattered dreams and broken delusions. Shatter our own images of self-reliance. Forgive us and wake us up from our sleep. Help us trust that as hopes and dreams disappear and as human relationships are broken, your relationship with us continues throughout eternity. Amen.
*Hymn of Praise # 148 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
The long shadow of the cross now colors all Jesus’ words and deeds. In his signature hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” Isaac Watts uses language – “the Prince of Glory,” “so rich a crown” – pointing squarely to Christ’s glory, while the hymn’s closing idea reiterates Jesus’ words about losing and serving: “demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Scripture Reading John 12:20–33
The passage begins with those who are Greek asking to see Jesus. It comes to a conclusion with Jesus describing not only his death, but also teaching that his death will be the occasion to draw all people to himself.
Message Remember the Promise!
Broken promises are part and parcel of our existence. In contrast, God’s promise to be our God is a promise that will never be broken and leads us to trust God.
“But you promised, Dad!” eight-year-old Kyle cried out to his father. His father had come home late from the office on this hot summer day. As he pulled up the driveway, there sat Kyle, waiting with his fishing pole. When he saw Kyle, he didn’t even want to get out of the car. He remembered the night before when he said to Kyle, “Be ready at noon, because I’ll be home and we can go fishing!” He sat in the car and thought to himself, “He’ll never understand! He won’t understand that what started as a small problem at the office blew up into a major crisis! He’ll never understand, but then why should he?” As he got out of the car, Kyle walked away from him in tears. His dad wondered what he could say.
It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Either we break our promises or we are on the receiving end of broken promises. It happens to children and parents. It happens at work. It happens to young married couples, and couples who have been married for 40 or 50 years. It just happens.
When we experience broken promises, it’s almost as if a piece of ourselves, our trust, our integrity is chipped away. The more our trust and integrity are chipped away, the more we replace them with suspicion and mistrust, with disappointment and anger, with frustration and despair. Each broken promise we experience reminds us not only of our own failures, but also of the fact that we humans fail regularly in our attempt to be faithful – faithful to one another, faithful to God.
We’re not alone in our ability to break promises. We see that dynamic at work throughout the Bible. Jeremiah addresses the historical fact that both Judah and Israel have been unfaithful. They have broken their side of the covenant that God made with them. Jeremiah contrasts their unfaithfulness with God’s faithfulness. He writes,
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jer 31: 31, 34).
God, in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness, recommits to Israel. Isn’t that truly amazing? If we were God for a day, would we have continued in our journey to be with Israel? My sense is that our answer would clearly be no. Long before the prophet Jeremiah, our patience would have run its course. We would have ended that relationship long before this point.
This is the wonderful thing about God. Our God continues to try to win us over. Our God continues to renew covenant promises with us. Our God desires us as God’s own people. What would be impossible for us is possible for God. In fact, so great is God’s commitment to us, that Jesus Christ comes to earth to suffer and die, to seal God’s promise with his very blood. That is what we remember when we hear Jesus’ words, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of your sins” (Mt 26:27).
In contrast to everything we experience in our lives, God’s dedication to us is a refreshing change. In the midst of our despair, there is hope. As we experience broken relationships, we are offered healing. God never gives up on us, but God walks with us as we experience the failure of relationships and tells us that the relationship given to us in Jesus Christ will never fail. In the midst of death and sin, God gives us life and forgiveness. As we experience abandonment and loneliness, God continues to be at our side. When we are mistrusting and hardened, or suspicious because of what we have experienced, God wipes those attitudes away and points us to the Son on the cross for our sakes.
In the face of all that God has done for us, God calls on us to “Remember the promise!” God calls on us to be people of this new covenant. God then sends us out into the world to be conveyors of hope, reflectors of God’s love. God sends us out as people who can be trusted. For God gives us the grace and the hope that we need to make a difference in this world, not because of what we do, but because of what God can do in and through us. As we remember God’s promise to us, we can face the future without fear. Even though we do not know what the future holds, we can be confident that God will continue to hold us. We have a peace that the world cannot give, and this peace is ours today and throughout eternity. Amen.
– John R. Bucka
*Hymn of Response # 128 “One Day When Heaven Was Filled”
Communion Hymn # 385 “Take My Life and Let It Be”
*Sending forth Send us forth, Lord.
Send us forth, Lord,
full of confidence and hope.
Send us forth, Lord,
full of love and compassion.
Send us forth, Lord,
full of faith and filled with the passion
of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thought for the Day We live in a world that is littered with broken promises and failed relationships, but God promises a relationship with us that will never fail or be broken.