Second Sunday of Lent
Bradenton-Sarasota Congregation Online Service
February 28, 2021
Welcome and Statement on Lent
Lent is a time of preparation. A time when we move toward the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. A time to move intently toward God, ridding ourselves of the distance and distractions we have built into our relationships. Lent is when we are called to respond with radical generosity and spiritual discipline to God’s covenants that we may draw near to the One we seek.
Call to Worship/Invocation
This song by Audrey Assad encompasses God’s promises, His goodness and blessings
and a prayerful acknowledgement of both.
Prayer for Peace
We pause and breathe in this moment. Pause.
So often we can get caught up in the rush and hurry of life that we don’t see the needs of others or pay attention to the promptings you provide in our lives. So, we pause and breathe in this moment.
We don’t know how prayer works God, so in humility we offer up to you our hurt and broken-hearted, those living in wars and ramifications of other’s decisions on their lives, and those too afraid to change their circumstances. We pray that they might feel your peace with them, that in their despair they may find glimmers of hope.
Stir in us, God, unrest. We know that we too are part of the response to these prayers. Please give us courage to respond to the promptings you place in our lives. So that we may all work toward peace. So we pause and breathe in this moment.
In the name of your Son. Amen.
Ministry of Music – From “The Painter” by John Michael Talbot and Terry Talbot
Message by Elder Rick Lindgren
If you are like me, you might pronounce today’s theme in two different ways. When something good happens, I would say this word in one syllable: “I’ve been blessed.” But if I am reading the Beatitudes from Matthew 5, I would more likely say it in two syllables: “Bless–ed are the meek…” But they are the same word. Try reciting the Beatitudes with that one-syllable pronunciation to see if it changes any meanings for you.
Some Bible versions translate the word as “happy,” but I think most people also hear in this word connotations of “God’s favor.” But that begs the question, “Why me but not you?” or “Why you but not me?”
Christians and Jews have struggled with this word for centuries. Our theme scripture (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16) brings the word back in time as much as 4000 years to the account of how Abraham and Sarah were “blessed” as the patriarch and matriarch of the Hebrew people. But so many times those “blessings” have been hard to see. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust within the memory of some congregation members, the most recent big challenge to what that word “blessed” means. Our elders “bless” our children shortly after birth and we share in the “blessed joy” of the new birth, but most prayers acknowledge that this blessing does not guarantee a life free from tragedy.
And yet, when things are going well, I still very much feel blessed, even if I acknowledge that both the bad things in life and the good things are often hard to “logic out” in the Big Picture.
Different cultures and religions have approached this dilemma in different ways. The ancient Greeks had three goddesses assigned as “The Fates,“ which looks a lot to us like luck or probability. And we still use the word “fate” a lot even if we are Christian. The Hindus and Buddhists believe in “Karma,” which is the idea that “no bad deed goes unpunished,” but that punishment might not happen until we are re-incarnated back into a new animal or human. Christians typically do not believe in re-incarnation, but we still often use karma in common conversation to explain why someone has received their comeuppance (or if we hope for it).
The Apostle Paul, in the epistle to the Romans (4:16), brings non-Jewish Christians into “the blessed people” as those who, by the grace of God, “share the faith of Abraham.” The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner interpreted the saving power of Jesus to go to all who embrace part of the Jesus message, whether we “say the name” or not. He notes that the name “Jesus Christ” is a Hebrew-Greek-Latin-English mash-up that we humans evolved over 1000 years, but that surely God is more universal than that. Our own tradition’s scriptures extend “the glories” far into the world’s peoples, and a more recent message confirms this:
“God’s grace, revealed in Jesus Christ, freely moves throughout creation, often beyond human perception, to achieve divine purposes in people’s lives.” Doctrine and Covenants 164:2b
Sherry and I recently re-watched a great film called Shadowlands, starring Anthony Hopkins as Christian writer C.S. Lewis, and Debra Winger (daughter-in-law of our “emeritus” church historian Dick and Herald House editor Barbara Howard) as his wife, Joy Davidman, who died tragically. Lewis expressed that it is because of the blessing of love that we care so much, and we then suffer so much at the pain of another. He extended this analogy to his understanding of how Jesus loves us in the same way.
Blessing remains a Divine mystery. Just think of how many blessings you have received in your life by just sneezing! “Bless you!”
Disciples’ Generous Response
Spiritual Practice – Count your Blessings
Gratitude has shown to have many benefits in people’s lives from better physical and psychological health to improved sleep and better friendships. It helps us to be present in our loves and notice what is taking place around us. It gives us an opportunity to thank God for the blessings in our lives and be appreciative for what God has created. Spend a short time in contemplation, then write down five things you are truly grateful for.
As we hold our five things that we are truly grateful for in our hands, we offer up gratitude for God’s generosity.
During the Disciples’ Generous Response we focus on aligning our purposes with God’s purposes, aligning our heart with God’s heart. When you share your mission tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings.
Collectively and individually, you are loved with an everlasting love that delights in each faithful step taken. God yearns to draw you close so that wounds may be healed, emptiness filled, and hope strengthened. Do not turn away in pride, fear, or guilt from the One who seeks only the best for you and your loved ones. Come before your Eternal Creator with open minds and hearts and discover the blessings of the gospel anew. Be vulnerable to divine grace. Doctrine and Covenants 163:10a-b
Another song by Audrey Assad that sounds as if she read the above scripture right before she wrote it. I hope it’s message touches you and stays with you this week.
This service was prepared by Sherry and Rick Lindgren.