Worship Helps for Lent 3

Artwork: The Punishment of Korah
Artist: Botticelli
Date: 1481
Gallery: The Sistine Chapel
In 1481 Botticelli was summoned to Rome. He and several other artists had been selected by Pope Sixtus IV to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel. These artists included Ghirlandaio and Rosselli from Florence, and Perugino from Umbria.
This was some twenty seven years before Michelangelo began his work on the ceiling. The frescoes were completed in a relatively short period of time, about eleven months. The artists submitted a sample fresco for approval by papal officials and Botticelli's contribution was three paintings, "Events of the life of Moses", "The Temptation of Christ", and "The Punishment of Korah".
 The painting depicts three episodes and tells of a rebellion by the Hebrews against Moses and Aaron. On the right the rebels attempt to stone Moses after becoming disenchanted by their trails on their emigration from Egypt. Joshua has placed himself between the rebels and Moses protecting him from the stoning. The center scene shows the rebellion led by Korah and on the left the rebels group together waiting to receive God's punishment.
Worship Theme: Today’s lessons encourage us to take heart and trust in the Lord.  We also view numerous examples of people who lost their hold on eternal life because they gave in to their fears and doubts.  However, in his grace, God promises deliverance from whatever difficulty he may lovingly allow to come our way. Thank God!

Old Testament: Numbers 16:23 Then the LORD said to Moses, 24 "Say to the assembly, 'Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.'" 25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, "Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins." 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents. 28 Then Moses said, "This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt." 31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, "The earth is going to swallow us too!" 35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense. 36 The LORD said to Moses, 37 "Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to take the censers out of the smoldering remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy-- 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the LORD and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites." 39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned up, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the LORD directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the LORD, or he would become like Korah and his followers.

1. When Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebelled against Moses’ authority, what did Moses say would be the proof that the Lord had truly sent him and put him in charge? (See 16:30)

2. Why did God tell Moses to tell Eleazer the priest to hammer a bronze cover over the altar? (See 16:35-40)

3. Isn’t God full of mercy and patience? How could he do something like this?

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10:1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert. 6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did-- and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did-- and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did-- and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

4. What are the main dangers in being spiritually lazy or careless?

5. What is wrong with this statement?  “I can handle anything because I have a strong faith.” (See 10:12)

Gospel: Luke 13:1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." 6 Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 8 "'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"

6. What kind of judgmental words are we tempted to say when bad things happen to people?

7. How is Jesus’ answer different from what his disciples thought?

1. The proof would be the Lord doing something totally new and making the earth swallow up Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their families.

2. Not only had the earth swallowed the rebels and their families, but fire had come out from God and eaten up the 250 men allied with Korah who had been offering incense from bronze censers. The bronze overlay was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron was to act as a priest before the Lord and offer him incense, or they would suffer the same fate as Korah and his followers.

3. God is full of mercy and patience. He is also full of wrath against sin. (See 16:46) We must not test God’s patience. In the Bible God gives us many examples of his judgments to warn us about taking him and his commandments lightly.

4. Some of the main dangers of spiritual lethargy are: a) going through the motions in worship; b) losing focus on God-given goals (heaven, living to thank God, encouraging fellow believers in their faith, sharing Christ with unbelievers); c) main goals turning into “being comfortable” and “getting ahead.”

5. Thinking we can handle anything due to our strong faith is dangerous, for one, because we are focusing on ourselves, not on our faithful and powerful Lord. (See 10:13). Only through a watchful, child-like trust in him, his promises, and his protection can we live and die securely.

6. When bad things happen to others, it is tempting to say, “They must have done something bad to deserve this.” In pride we assume that we have not experienced something similar because somehow we are better.

7. Jesus visualizes every situation within the spectrum of pure grace. As God in the flesh, he reveals horrible situations, not as punishments for specific sins, but rather as God’s tools (real-life illustrations) to call people to repentance. Jesus wants all people to turn away from sin and to place their trust for forgiveness and salvation in him. He is the one who has promised to deliver them. They can’t do it.

Putting your faith into action
In the aftermath of a major tragedy, survivors often find themselves trying to find answers to questions like “How could this happen?,” “What do I do now?,” or the more fundamental “Why me?” Christians who have placed their trust in today’s popular “success theologies” may feel like they've received a sucker punch to the gut, as they’re now forced to ask, “Is my sin greater than that of those around me?” In this text, Jesus responds with a resounding “I tell you, no!” and then reminds the rest of us that “unless you repent, you too will all perish.” With his death on the cross, Christ paid the price for sin once and for all, and now lives to nurture and prune our faith. Although life’s hardships and tragedies remain, we may rest securely knowing that we are at peace with God.

A reading from the Book of Concord for Lent 3
Christ calls all sinners to Himself and promises them rest. He is eager ‹seriously wills› that all people should come to Him and allow themselves to be helped.  He offers them Himself in His Word and wants them to hear it and not to plug their ears or ‹neglect and› despise the Word.
We should not reach conclusions about our election to eternal life based on reason or God’s Law.  That would lead us either into a reckless, loose, life or into despair.  For if they follow their reason, they will think, “If God has elected me to salvation, I cannot be condemned, no matter what I do.” And, “If I am not elected to eternal life, it doesn’t matter what good I do; it is all in vain anyway.”
‹The true judgment about predestination› must be learned alone from the Holy Gospel about Christ.  It testifies, “God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all; not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance”, and believe in the Lord Christ.
Now, let whoever is concerned about God’s revealed will act on the order that St. Paul has described in the Epistle to the Romans. Paul first directs people to repentance, to knowledge of sins, to faith in Christ, to divine obedience. Then he speaks of the mystery of God’s eternal election. This doctrine is useful and consolatory to the person who proceeds in this way. – Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article XI, God’s Eternal Election (paragraphs 8-11)

Hymns for this Sunday: 738; 420; 423; 429; 765

452  Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus
1  Let us ever walk with Jesus, Follow his example pure,
Flee the world which would deceive us And to sin our souls allure.
Ever in his footsteps treading, Body here, yet soul above,
Full of faith and hope and love, Let us do the Father’s bidding.
Faithful Lord, abide with me. Savior, lead; I follow thee.

2  Let us suffer here with Jesus, To his image e’er conform;
Heaven’s glory soon will please us, Sunshine follow on the storm.
Though we sow in tears of sorrow, We shall reap in heav’nly joy,
And the fears that now annoy Shall be laughter on the morrow.
Christ, I suffer here with thee; There, oh, share thy joy with me.

3  Let us also die with Jesus. His death from the second death,
From our soul’s destruction, frees us, Quickens us with life’s glad breath.
Let us mortify, while living, Flesh and blood and die to sin,
And the grave that shuts us in Shall but prove the gate to heaven.
Jesus, here I die to thee, There to live eternally.

4  Let us gladly live with Jesus; Since he’s risen from the dead,
Death and grave must soon release us. Jesus, thou art now our head.
We are truly thine own members; Where thou livest, there live we.
Take and own us constantly, Faithful Friend, as thy dear brethren.
Jesus, here I live to thee, Also there eternally.

Text: Sigmund von Birken, 1626–81; tr. J. Adam Rimbach, 1871–1941, alt.


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