Worship Helps for Lent 4

Moses and the brazen serpent
Sebastien Bourdon
1653-54

Worship Theme: Traditionally this Sunday was called Laetare, Rejoice Sunday. We rejoice in the middle of Lent that God has so fully and so perfectly taken to heart our only real need as sinners, and satisfied it in Christ.

Old Testament: Numbers 21:4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!" 6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

1. Which flaws of human nature led to the painful, in some cases deadly, lesson of venomous snakes?

2. God could have saved the people without having them look at something. What did he want to teach them (and us) by having them look at the snake on a pole?

3. Today we don’t look at a snake on a pole to save us? Where does God direct us to look?

Epistle: Ephesians 2:4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

4. Find five different words or phrases in this precious section which highlight God’s goodness.

5. Find four different words or phrases Paul uses to emphasize that no part of the rescue is our doing.

6. If our good works have no part in paying for our eternal life, why do we still do good works? (See 2:10.)

Gospel: John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

7. How is Jesus like the bronze snake of today’s first lesson?

8. What is the criterion for God’s judgment? When does this judgment take place?


Answers:
1. The snakes came when people got impatient, complained, and were not thankful. They even criticized free daily food. It started with lack of trust and love for God. (“You brought us… to die in the desert.”)

2. By putting the snake on the pole, God said: “trust me”. God found a way to heal their soul and body at the same time. Their main problem was spiritual (lack of trust) and God taught them to trust his promise. Sure enough, anyone bitten who looked at the bronze snake lived.

3. God has us look at his Son in baptism’s waters and in his body and blood united with bread and wine in his supper.

4. Five key phrases which emphasize God’s goodness are: his great love for us, who is rich in mercy, riches of his grace, his kindness to us, it is the gift of God.

5. Four key phrases which emphasize that we cannot save ourselves at all are: “We were dead in transgressions,” “not from yourselves,” “not by works,” and “no one can boast.”

6. Good works result when people realize the great gift God has given them. A living fruit tree will naturally bear fruit; so also a person who realizes he has received eternal life at the cost of God’s own precious blood will then respond to that love with love for God and others. The reason God created us was to produce fruits of faith and love.

7. Both the snake and Jesus were lifted up. Both were lifted up so many could look, see the solution promised by God and be saved. Both required no payment or effort. Instead, both called dying people to look with trust to the only savior for their problem.

8. Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish. God’s criterion is that you trust in Jesus. This judgment is already valid, not just a future “will be so,” but already “is condemned.” Believers already cross over from death to life (John 5:24).


Putting your faith into action
God’s children did not lack what they needed. They simply didn’t have what they wanted! God’s holy anger burned, and there were painful consequences. Yet see his undeserved love in providing a remedy. All who turned away from their sin and turned to the remedy God provided were healed. May God move our hearts and eyes away from all that would harm and turn our hearts and eyes to Jesus who was lifted up on the cross so that all who believe in him might live. 


A reading from the Book of Concord for Lent 4
We believe, teach, and confess that not only the true believers in Christ and the worthy, but also the unworthy and unbelievers receive Christ’s true body and blood.  However, they do not receive them for life and consolation, but for judgment and condemnation, if they are not converted and do not repent (1 Corinthians 11:27–29).
We believe, teach, and confess also that there is only one kind of unworthy guests: those who do not believe.  About these guests it is written in John 3:18, “Whoever does not believe is condemned already.”  And this judgment becomes greater and more grievous, being aggravated by the unworthy use of the Holy Supper (1 Corinthians 11:29).
We believe, teach, and confess that no true believer—as long as he has living faith, however weak he may be—receives the Holy Supper to his judgment.  For the Supper was instituted especially for Christians weak in faith, yet repentant.  It was instituted for their consolation and to strengthen their weak faith [Matthew 9:12; 11:5, 28].
We believe, teach, and confess that all the worthiness of guests of this heavenly feast is and is founded on Christ’s most holy obedience and perfect merit alone.  We receive these for ourselves by true faith, and by the Sacrament we are assured of them.  Our worthiness is not at all in our virtues or preparations. – Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article VII, the Holy Supper of Christ (paragraphs 16, 18-20)

                       
Text of the Hymn of the Day: Sing, My Tongue, The Glorious Battle
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay.
Tell how Christ, the world's Redeemer,
As a victim won the day.

Tell how, when at length the fullness
Of th' appointed time was come,
He, the Word, was born of woman,
Left for us his Father's home,
Blazed the path of true obedience,
Shone as light amidst the gloom.

Thus, with thirty years accomplished,
He went forth from Nazareth,
Destined, dedicated, willing,
Did his work and met his death;
Like a lamb he humbly yielded
On the cross his dying breath.

Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
Be for all the noblest tree;
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit your equal be,
Symbol of the world's redemption,
For your burden makes us free.

Unto God be praise and glory;
To the Father and the Son,
To th' eternal Spirit honor
Now and evermore be done --
Praise and glory in the highest

While the timeless ages run.

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