Aliens on the Way: Services for the six Sundays of Lent, page 1 of 2

Worship planning responsibilities at Bethany Church in Muskegon, Michigan, are shared by members of the congregation. Various people with gifts in art, drama, and music meet together throughout the church seasons to study the lectionary Scriptures and discuss their relevance to the celebration of each season. The Liturgical Coordinating Committee members are Lou Roossien, Pastor; Marlene Koster, Minister of Music and Church School; Carl Arkema, Judy DeBoer, Ellen Rock-wood, and Chris Spotts. The following liturgies have been developed by these members in their meetings together. Some of the passages were written by Jeri Schel-haas and Ruth Reberg, former members of the committee.

The suggestions for Family Worship were prepared by Carol Veldman Rudie (see "Homework for Worship," p. 10). They are to be distributed the week before each service.

God's people have long seen themselves as "pilgrims and sojourners," people who are "just passing through on their way to a better country," people who are "in the world, but not of the world." A more stark way of describing such people is to call them "aliens" (a term that is used thirty-two times in the NIV).

This notion of "aliens" seems a fitting focus for the Lenten season, as we see Jesus "on the way" to the cross and as we seek to follow him. It seems not only a timely metaphor to describe our journey as Christians, but also a contemporary description of life for many "aliens" in our world today.

To be "alien" is to be rootless, to not belong. An alien is a transient, temporary resident who is "on the way" to somewhere else. To be "alienated" is to be separated and estranged, to be a person in need of reconciliation.

Many people today are alienated from family and friends, from their cultures, from their roots. Some are homeless; others are displaced persons who exist in facilities; still others are refugees. All are people without roots and usually without hope.

God's Old Testament people were told to see themselves as aliens, and they did (1 Chron. 29:15; Heb. 11:13). In fact, God's special provision for aliens (a term also used to describe Gentiles) was the command to "love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt" (Deut. 10:10; cf. Lev. 19:34).

In the New Testament, the church is expected to incorporate aliens and strangers, so that they will be "no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household" (Eph. 2:19). And yet, there is a sense in which all of God's people are to continue to see themselves as aliens and strangers in this world (1 Pet. 2:11).

Long ago, God promised the Jewish exiles "hope and a future" (Jer. 29:11). Jesus comes as the one who identifies himself as "The Way," therefore it is no surprise that the first Christians became known as the followers of "The Way." Through the church today, God continues to give people new identity, to make reconciliation possible where there is estrangement, and to offer hope and help along the way into a better future.

The hymns in these service plans were selected from the most recent editions of the following hymnals: The Presbyterian Hymnal (PH), Psalter Hymnal (PsH), Rejoice in the Lord (PL), and Trinity Hymnal (TH).

WEEK 1

WE APPROACH OUR GOD

Organ Prelude: "Ah, Holy Jesus," Young, Manz, Johnson

Call to Worship: Psalm 30: "I Worship You, O Lord," stanza 1
[A soloist sitting in the congregation will sit/stand in place with a microphone to sing this stanza.]

Scripture Monologue (based on Deuteronomy 26:1-11):

God's children are aliens on an earth they cannot call home. They are strangers here on their way to their true home. As they walk along the way, they remember how they have been brought to the way:

The Lord God promised my fathers a land as an inheritance to possess and to settle. Now I come to the Lord to declare that I have come to this land to claim the promised inheritance.

My father was a wanderer when he went to Egypt with a few people. Though they became a great people, the Egyptians made them suffer. But the Lord, the God of my ancestors, heard and saw their misery and oppression. God brought them out with a mighty hand and delivered them with miraculous signs and wonders.

Now I come to the land the Lord promised. I bring the first-fruits of the land, and I bow before the Lord and rejoice in God's goodness.

Psalm 30: "I Worship You, O Lord," stanza 2
[PsH 30]

God's Greeting

Call to Confession:

The way of the cross is a dark way. We follow Christ, who said, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem."

As we follow him, we will remember the suffering of Jesus along the way. We will remember that our darkness put him on that road.

After Jesus was baptized, he "was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry."

Help us, Lord, to be ready to follow you, out of our wilderness, to take up our cross.

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Hymn of Confession: "O Christ, the Lamb of God"
[PsH 257]

Declaration of Forgiveness: Romans 10:8-13

Sharing of God's Forgiveness
[Members of the congregation turn to each other and say, "God's forgiveness is for you .. . and for you."]

WE RESPOND WITH THANKSGIVING

Hymn of Thanksgiving: "Sing Praise To God"
[PH 483, PsH 465, RL 146]

Prayer of Thanks and Petition

Tithes and Offerings

Piano Offertory: "Beneath the Cross of Jesus," arr. Ken Medema

Doxology: "Magnify the Lord"
[PsH 622]

Deaconal Prayer

Anthem: "In My Heart I Believe, O Lord," Camille Saint-Saens
[from Christmas Oratorio, ED. 338, G. Schirmer]

WE HEAR GOD'S WORD

Children's Sermon and Song

Scripture Lesson: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Sermon: "Remembering the Way"

Theme: In order to live as aliens on the way, we need to remember who we are, where we've been, and where we're going.

Objectives: To help people:

1. Clarify their spiritual roots and identity.
2. Decide/commit to continuing on the way to the cross with Jesus.

THE LORD'S SUPPER

Hymn of Preparation: "Come, Let Us Eat"
[PsH 303; consider using a cantor on lines 1 and 3]

Celebration of the Lord's Supper
[During the passing of the elements, members of the congregation introduce familiar hymns and Bible songs by simply beginning the first line and having the congregation join in.]

Hymn of Thanksgiving: "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds"
[PsH 487, RL 364, TH 647]

WE ARE SENT ON THE WAY

God's Word for Life in Christ:

The Creator pledged to be God
to Abraham and his children,
blessing all nations through them
as they lived obediently before him.
He chose Israel as his special people
to show the glory of his name,
the power of his love,
and the wisdom of his ways.
He gave them his laws through Moses,
he led them by rulers and teachers,
so that they would be a people
whose God was king.
[Our World Belongs to God, 22]

God's Farewell:

Once you were a people without an identity, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Go and live as a people of God, so that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness, into his marvelous light.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 2:9-10, 5:10)

Hymn of Dismissal: "How Firm a Foundation" stanza 2
[PH 361, PsH 500, RL 172, TH 94]

Alternate Anthems

"Glorious in Majesty," Jeff Cothran, Arr.
[G.I.A. Publications, Chicago, IL. G-1916]

"For He Shall Give His Angels," Mendelssohn (from Elijah).
[G. Schirmer. HL 50323790.]

WEEK 2

WE APPROACH OUR GOD

Organ and Brass Prelude: "Holy is God the Lord," arr. S. Drum-mond Wolf

Call to Worship: Psalm 30: "I Worship You, O Lord" stanza 1
[A soloist sitting in the congregation will sit/stand in place with a microphone to sing this stanza.]

Scripture Monologue (based on Genesis 15:1-11,17-18):

God's children are aliens on an earth they cannot call home. They are strangers here on their way to their true home. As they walk along the way, they receive the help of him who calls them to follow the way.

The Lord came to me in a vision to tell me not to be afraid, that he was my shield, and that he was my great reward. I asked what God could give me. I was childless. Then the Lord showed me the stars in the heavens and declared, "That will be the number of your offspring." The Lord told me he was the Lord who brought me from Ur to possess this land. I did not know how I would do that. Then the Lord told me to slaughter a heifer, a goat, and a ram, and arrange the halves opposite each other. In a deep sleep, I saw a smoking firepot and a blazing torch pass between the animals. God covenanted with me that his promise would come true.

Psalm 30: "I Worship You, O Lord" stanza 2
[PsH 30]

God's Greeting

Call to Confession:

The way of the cross is a dark way. We follow Christ who said, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem."

As we follow Christ, we will remember his suffering along the way, and we will confess that our darkness put him on that road.

Jesus said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:34-35).

Help us, Lord, to be ready to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow you.

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Hymn of Confession: "Lead Me, Guide Me"
[PsH 544]

Declaration of Forgiveness: Romans 10:8-13

Sharing of God's Forgiveness
[Members of the congregation turn to each other and say, "God's forgiveness is for you . . . and for you."]

WE RESPOND WITH THANKSGIVING

Hymn of Thanksgiving: "And Can It Be"
[PsH 267, RL 451, TH 455]

Prayer of Thanks and Petition

Tithes and Offerings

Piano Offertory: "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," Marilyn Ham, arr.

Doxology: "To God Be the Glory"
[PsH 632]

Deaconal Prayer

WE HEAR GOD'S WORD

Children's Sermon and Song

Scripture Lesson: Philippians 3:17-4:1

Anthem: "I Believe This Jesus," Loonis McGlohon
[from Songs of the Soul, Glory Sound A-5911]

Sermon: "Help Along the Way"

Theme: Living as aliens means we need help along the way. That help comes to us in the form of God's covenant promises. We experience God's help practically as we follow the example of those who have gone before us.

Objectives: We want people to:

1. Renew covenant with Abraham's God. 2. Identify individuals whose example we can follow and by whom we can be encouraged as we continue on the way as God's people.

Hymn of Application: "Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer"
[PH 581, PsH 543, RL 50, TH 598]

WE ARE SENT ON THE WAY

God's Word for Life in Christ:

God remembered his promise
to reconcile the world to himself;
he has come among us
in Jesus Christ,
the eternal word made flesh.
He is the long-awaited Savior,
fully human and fully divine,
conceived by the Spirit of God
and born of the virgin Mary.
[Our World Belongs to God, 24]

God's Farewell:

Once you were a people without an identity, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Go and live as a people of God, so that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness, into his marvelous light.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 2:9-10,5:10)

Hymn of Dismissal: Abide With Us, Our Savior"
[PsH 565]

Organ Postlude: "Our Father, Clothed in Majesty,"

Alternate Hymns

"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"
[PsH 253, RL 145, TH 53]

"Children of the Heavenly Father"
[PsH 440, RL 585, TH 131]

"He, Watching over Israel," Mendelssohn

WEEK 3

WE APPROACH OUR GOD

Organ Prelude: "Steal Away to Jesus," Warner

Call to Worship: Psalm 30: "I Worship You, O Lord" stanza 1
[A soloist sitting in the congregation will sit/stand in place with a microphone to sing this stanza.]

Scripture Monologue (based on Lectionary readings):

God's children are aliens on an earth they cannot call home. They are strangers here on their way to their true home. As they walk the way, they are warned by the One who judges their way.

The Lord said to Moses, "I indeed have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. The cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So goóI am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt."

The Lord said through the psalmist, "He made known His ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel."

The Lord said through the apostle, "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. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them .... Nevertheless, God was not pleased with them. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall."

Psalm: "I Worship You, O Lord" stanza 2
[PsH 30]

God's Greeting

Call to Confession:

The way of the cross is a dark way. We follow Christ who said, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem."

As we follow Christ, we will remember the suffering of Jesus along the way, and we will remember that our darkness put him on that road.

When the Passover was at hand, Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the temple he found .. . the money changers at their business .... And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away. You shall not make my father's house a house of trade."

Help us Lord, as we work for justice in our imperfect world. Help us to remember that bringing you less than our best added to your suffering.

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel."

Hymn of Confession: "O Christ, the Lamb of God"
[PsH 257]

Declaration of Forgiveness: Psalm 103:1-13

Sharing of God's Forgiveness
[Members of the congregation turn to each other and say, "God's forgiveness is for you . .. and for you."]

WE RESPOND WITH THANKSGIVING

Hymn of Thanksgiving: "My God, How Wonderful You Are"
<[PsH 499, TH 35]

Prayer of Thanks and Petition

Tithes and Offerings

Organ Offertory: "Rock of Ages," Don Hustad

Doxology: "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing"
[PH 466, PsH 501, RL 362-363, TH 164]

Deaconal Prayer

WE HEAR GOD'S WORD

Children's Sermon and Song

Scripture Lesson: Luke 13:1-9; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Anthem: "Abide with Me," Gilbert M. Martin
[Hinshaw Music, Chapel Hill, N.C., HMC-493]

Sermon: "Warnings Along the Way"

Theme: As aliens, we need to interpret God's warning signs and follow God's directions to our destination.

Objectives: We want people to:
1. Learn from the past stumblings of God's people.
2. Read the warning signs God posts for us today.
3. Be encouraged by God's patient grace.

Hymn of Application: "O Come, My Soul, Sing Praise to God"
[PsH 297, TH 6]

WE ARE SENT ON THE WAY

God's Word for Life in Christ:

When Israel spurned God's love
by lusting after other gods,
by trusting in power and wealth,
and by hurting the weak,
God scattered his people among the nations.
Yet he kept a faithful few
and promised them the Messiah:
a prophet to speak the clear word,
a king to crush the serpent's head,
a priestly servant willing to be broken for sinners.
And he promised the gift of the Spirit
to bend stubborn wills to new obedience.
[Our World Belongs to God, 23]

God's Faretvell:

Once you were a people without an identity, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Go and live as a people of God, so that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness, into his marvelous light.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 2:9-10,5:10)

Choral Response: "O Taste and See," Vaughan Williams.
[from The Oxford Easy Anthem Book, Oxford University Press, 43909, p. 106]

Organ Postlude: "We Shall Overcome," Arneson

Alternate Hymns

"If God Does Not Build Up the House"
[PsH 127]

"Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing"
[PH 538, PsH 321, TH 384]

Alternate Anthems

"Like as a Father," Lovelace
[Choristers Guild, CGA-156]

"Bless the Lord," Ippolitoff-Ivanoff
[Theodore Presser Company, 332-13770]

"O Bless the Lord, My Soul," from Godspell
[permanently out of print]

WEEK 4

WE APPROACH OUR GOD

Organ Prelude: "O Sacred Head Now Wounded," Buxtehude, Kirnberger

Call to Worship: Psalm 30: "I Worship You, O God" stanza 1
[A soloist sitting in the congregation will sit/stand in place with a microphone to sing this stanza.]

Scripture Monologue (based on 2 Cor. 5:16-21):

God's children are aliens on an earth they cannot call home. They are strangers here on their way to their true home. As they walk along the way, they learn of the price the Father paid to lead them in the way. The apostle explains:

"I once regarded Christ on the basis of purely human considerations. But no longer! The old has gone; the new has come! This is from God. He reconciled us to himself through Christ. God, the Father, had made him who had no sin to be sin for us."

Psalm: "I Worship You, O Lord" stanza 5
[PsH 30]

God's Greeting

Call To Confession:

The way of the cross is a dark way. We follow Christ who said, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem."

As we follow him, we will remember the suffering of Jesus along the way, and we will remember that our darkness put him on that road.

"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light. But he who does what is true, comes to the light."

Help us, Lord, to lift up our eyes to you on the cross as we make our journey out of the darkness into the light.

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Hymn of Confession: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"
[PH 100,101, PsH 384 RL 292,293, TH 252]

Declaration of Forgiveness: 2 Corinthians 5:17-18a

Sharing of God's Forgiveness
[Members of the congregation turn to each other and say, "God's forgiveness is for you . .. and for you."]

WE RESPOND WITH THANKSGIVING

Hymn of Thanksgiving: "I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord"
[PsH 169]

Prayer of Thanks and Petition

Tithes and Offering

Organ Offertory: "Beautiful Savior," F. Peeters

Doxology: "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow"
[PH 591-93, PsH 637-38, RL 556, TH 731-33]

Deaconal Prayer

WE HEAR GOD'S WORD

Children's Sermon and Song

Scripture Lesson: Luke 15:1-3,11-32

Anthem: "Live it Up," "My Son is Lost," "Kill the Fatted Calf," "There is More Joy in Heaven," from The Story Tellin Man by Ken Medema
[These numbers should be interspersed with the appropriate Scripture readings, above. It is suggested they be sung by a Youth, Junior High, or Senior High Choir.]

Sermon: "The Cost of the Way Home"

Theme: The cost of the way home for the alien is provided by the Father in the form of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Objectives: We want people to:
1. See their need for the Father's forgiveness.
2. Experience the Father's extravagant (prodigal), reconciling love for us.
3. Celebrate our forgiveness and status as children of God.

Hymn of Application: "Immortal, Invisible"
[PH 263, PsH 460, RL 7, TH 38]

WE ARE SENT ON THE WAY

God's Word for Life in Christ

What do you understand by the word "suffered"?

That during his whole life on earth,
but especially at the end,
Christ sustained
in body and soul
the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race.

This he did in order that,
by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice,
he might set us free, body and soul,
from eternal condemnation,
and gain for us
God's grace,
righteousness,
and eternal life.

[Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 37]

God's Farewell:

Once you were a people without an identity, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Go and live as a people of God, so that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness, into his marvelous light.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 2:9-10,5:10)

Hymn of Dismissal: "Forth in Your Name, O Lord, I Go"
[PsH 324, RL 79]

Organ Postlude: "Toccata in Seven"

WEEK 5

WE APPROACH GOD

Organ Prelude: Variations on "Jesus Priceless Treasure," Zachau

Call to Worship: Psalm 30: "We Worship You, O God" stanza 1
[A soloist sitting in the congregation will sit/stand in place with a microphone to sing this stanza.]

Scripture Monologue (based on Philippians 3:8-14):

God's people are aliens on an earth they cannot call home. They are strangers here on their way to their true home. As they walk along the way, they learn that the way is costly.

Everything is a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. For him, I've lost all things and consider them rubbish. What I want is to know him, his righteousness, the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his suffering. But these things I don't have yet. I press on. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me.

Psalm: "We Worship You, O Lord" stanza 2
[PsH 30]

God's Greeting

Call to Confession:

The way of the cross is a dark way. We follow Christ who said, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem."

As we follow him, we will remember the suffering of Jesus along the way, and we will remember that our darkness put him on that road.

"Now some Greeks came to Philip with a request: 'We would like to see Jesus.'"

Lord, draw us to you by your Spirit, that we may strive to see you and seek to know you in our hearts and lives

As we see and experience suffering in our lives from day to day, we realize what sorrow was Christ's when he walked on this earth. With overwhelming love for us, he left his Father and glory to save us.

Jesus' suffering on the cross is the door through which we may enter the kingdom of forgiveness, blessing, and light for eternity.

"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Hymn of Confession: "Lord, I Want To Be a Christian"
[PH 372, PsH 264, TH 530]

Declaration of Forgiveness: Psalm 126