A Table in the Wilderness

A Lenten Worship Series Focusing on God’s Care and Provision
Modeled after Jesus’ forty days in the desert, Lent is a time to become more open to God through the vulnerabilities of life. It comes with an especially poignant invitation to join with others in bringing our doubt, fear, sorrow, loneliness, and dryness before God, hoping to taste God’s promised provision in the deserts of life. Lent’s invitation to slow down was made especially poignant amid the long months of global pandemic. We already felt small and vulnerable, making the concern of ancient Israel resonate in our hearts: can God really spread a table before us in the presence of global and personal fears and sorrow? The answer, of course, is yes! God spreads a table before us in the wilderness, in the face of all our greatest fears (Psalm 23:5). This series highlights one biblical character each week along with the way God provided food for them in their wildernesses.

  • First Sunday of Lent: Jesus (angel food cakes, Matthew 4)
  • Second Sunday of Lent: Israel (manna and quail, Exodus 16)
  • Third Sunday of Lent: Hagar (water, Genesis 21)
  • Fourth Sunday of Lent: Elijah (bread and water, 1 Kings 19)
  • Fifth Sunday of Lent: David (raisins and figs, 1 Samuel 25)
  • Sixth Sunday of Lent / Palm Sunday: Hungry Crowd (fish and bread, Matthew 14)
  • Good Friday: Our Savior (wine vinegar, Mark 15)
  • Easter Sunday: Disciples on the Beach (fish, John 21)

This worship series incorporates a communion liturgy written by Rev. Wilma VanderLeek and sermon notes prepared by Rev. Joan DeVries.



For this series we moved our communion table to the center of the stage, where the pulpit is usually located, and set a music stand behind the table, where the preacher stood. Every Sunday during Lent the table was set for communion. We included a special dish in the center of the table representing the provision of food in the wilderness from that day’s Scripture reading. These special dishes included angel food cake, small pieces of bread (or marshmallows) in a basket representing manna, a jug of water, a platter of raisins and figs, and a basket of real fish and bread. On the steps in front of the table we made a “desert” with sand and three large cacti. For Easter Sunday we removed the cacti and made a fake fire (real stones, wood, and translucent orange paper flames) with real fish “cooking” over it.

For suggestions of images to use in connection with this series, see the prayer station art suggestions on p. 15.


Our theme song for this series was “Speak to Us,” by Rachel Wilhelm (see above), sung before the Scripture reading and sermon. The first few weeks it was introduced as a solo, and we added a verse each week. We closed each service with a journey song such as “We Are People On a Journey” DeMey, LUYH 142 (Background information and performance suggestions for this song can be found at ReformedWorship.org by searching by the song title. Long-time subscribers can also find a lead sheet in RW 98, p. 26). Other songs that work with the wilderness theme are listed on page 5. Additional suggestions for congregational or choral songs specific to each service are found following each week’s sermon summary.

“O Give Thanks (Psalm 107)” Kimbrough

“Blessed Be Your Name” Redman, LUYH 343, SSS 449

“All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly” Dunstan, LUYH 534, GtG 509

“Desert Song” Fraser, SSS 52

“Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer” Williams, LUYH 43, GtG 65, SSS 51

“All Who Are Thirsty” Perry, LUYH 807

“Speak, O Lord” Getty and Townend, LUYH 755, SSS 561

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Chisholm, LUYH 348, GtG 39, SSS 48

Call to Worship

Our call to worship each week came from the psalms, particularly those of gratitude for God’s provision. We also used these psalms as the focus of our midweek online contemplative prayer service.

Children’s Involvement

We wrote one-minute summaries of the Scripture passages and asked children in the congregation to record videos of themselves reading it (or part of it). Each week we showed the week’s video at the beginning of the children’s message.

Communion Liturgy

At Fleetwood Christian Reformed Church we normally observe monthly communion. During Lent, however, we had weekly communion to heighten our awareness or experience of Christ’s journey to the cross. The liturgy we used each week is found on p. 6. The lines in green could be rewritten each week by the preaching pastor to reflect the text of that day.

Communion Liturgy


The pattern of faith and true life is clear enough: God gives, and we receive

God gives far more abundantly than we can ask or imagine, and we receive.

God gives life and breath to the world, gives miracles of deliverance and newness, and we receive.

God gives God’s very self in Jesus, and we receive.

People of God, this is the table where God intends for us to be well fed.

This is the table where the abundance of the whole creation and the angels surrounds us.

This is the way Christ comes to renew his people.

So come, all you who hunger and thirst

for a deeper faith, a richer life, a fairer world.

Christ has come. Christ will come again and again

to feed us in the wilderness of life.


Come, Lord, be our host at this table. Bread and wine are waiting.

On your words depend all our celebrating.

Send your Holy Spirit on us and these gifts of bread and wine,

that they may become for us vibrant with your life,

and that in them we may know Christ’s presence,

the Father’s provision, and the Spirit’s comfort, real and true.

The Story

Among friends, who were “be-wildered” (that is, in the wilderness),

and gathered round a table, Jesus took bread and blessed it.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.

Then Christ broke the bread and gave it to his disciples. Through that act Christ teaches that: 

This loaf, this table, symbolizes a new relationship with God and with each other,

sealed with Christ’s body, given for you.

Take, eat, remember and believe that God does provide a table in the presence of all our fears.

Participants eat the bread. 

In the same way, Jesus took wine and blessed it. 

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine. 

Then he poured the wine and gave it to his disciples.

This cup then and now symbolizes a new relationship with God and with each other. 

It is sealed with Christ’s blood, which is poured out and given for you. 

Take, drink, remember and believe that God does provide a table in the presence of all our fears.

Participants drink the cup.

Prayer of Confession and Recommitment

Having shared this bread and this wine, we can expect to be a little more keenly able

to notice the table of God’s provision through all the hours and days of our lives.

It is the table of Life itself.

We can expect to recognize Jesus Christ in all our meals and fellowship,

even when the table is set for one or on a screen. And we remember that our lives, like his,

are for the sake of the salvation of a suffering world.

Lord Jesus Christ, in deep gratitude for this moment and for the provision of this table,

we give ourselves to you.

We confess we so often labor for what does not satisfy; we try to drink from broken cisterns.

Having delighted now in your abundance, send us out to live changed lives,

for having shared in the Living Bread, we cannot remain the same.

Ask much of us this Lenten journey, enable much by us, encourage many through us. 

For we journey with you, Lord Christ, Spirit-led, into the wilderness of all our fears,

there to find the courage—and the manna, the quail, the raisins and nuts, the fish, the angel food cakes

that strengthen us to lean once more into the winds of grace that have sustained

your people through all the wildernesses of life.



Worship Series

First Sunday of Lent

Biblical character: Jesus

God’s wilderness provision: angel food cakes (Matthew 4)

Call to Worship

Psalm 107:1–9

Children’s Scripture Summary

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

—Mark 1:9–13

Sermon: “A Table in the Wilderness for Jesus”

Sermon Notes

“And angels attended him.” Jesus sets the example of provision in the wilderness. Despite modern conveniences and protections, we know that we still feel vulnerable to the anxieties of the world, especially in these last few years. The biblical witness is that no place is as transforming as the wilderness, and we can go there because Jesus went there first. The preacher could weave in an appropriate introduction to this series and how people are invited to participate, especially if the outdoor prayer path is used in conjunction with the worship series.

Music Suggestions

“Where I’m Standing Now” Wickham

“There’s A Voice in the Wilderness” Milligan

“Forty Days and Forty Nights” Smyttan, arr. McConnell, SATB

“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days” LUYH 132, GtG 166

“Jesus, Tempted in the Desert” LUYH 115

Second Sunday of Lent

Biblical character: Israel

God’s wilderness provision: manna (Exodus 16)

Call to Worship

Psalm 78:1–4

Children’s Scripture Reading

In the desert the whole community [of Israel] grumbled against Moses and Aaron. . . . “You have brought us out into this desert to starve!” . . . Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. . . . In the morning, . . . thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. . . . The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.

—from Exodus 16

Sermon: “A Table in the Wilderness for Israel”

Sermon Notes

Like the Israelites, we can grumble all we want, but it will not make the wilderness disappear. When we grumble, we forget about the God who takes care of us. The Lord responds to the Israelites in their grumbling and prepares a table for them in the wilderness. Exodus 16:9 highlights the invitation: “Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.”

Music Suggestions

“Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer” LUYH 43, GtG 43

“All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly” LUYH 534, GtG 509

“Be Not Afraid” Campbell, SATB

Third Sunday of Lent

Biblical character: Hagar

God’s wilderness provision: water (Genesis 21)

Call to Worship

Psalm 146:7–9

Children’s Scripture Summary

Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy [Ishmael]. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying. . . . Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.

—from Genesis 21

Sermon: “A Table in the Wilderness for Hagar”

Sermon Notes

Many women throughout history have found solace, compassion, and even critique in and through the story of Hagar. Many oppressed people have found comfort in her story. It is a fierce and hard story. Why is the story of a mother and son without water in the wilderness still being told today in so many contexts around the world? The brokenness of our world is revealed in our headlines, but the story of Hagar and Ishmael reminds us of this: God is a God who sees the suffering of his children. God does not abandon his children. God does not forget his promises.

Music Suggestions

“Precious Lord, Take My Hand” Dorsey, LUYH 465

“Goodness of God” Bethel Music

“Rivers of Living Water” Marrolli, SATB

“O God, Our Lives are Parched and Dry” Dalles, arr. VanAndel Frisch, SATB

“Song in the Night” Swain and Adams, arr. Zach Busch, SAB

“How Long?” Wardell

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Biblical character: Elijah

God’s wilderness provision: bread and water (1 Kings 19)

Call to Worship

Psalm 145:13–16

Children’s Scripture Summary

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life . . . a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom brush, . . . lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

—from 1 Kings 19:2–8

Sermon: “A Table in the Wilderness for Elijah”

Sermon Notes

The journey is too long. Every call of God is a journey of great challenge requiring more than what you have and needing what only God can provide. Elijah is exhausted; he has had enough. But a meal of bread and water provides for him. The water provides restoration; the bread provides strength. How have you let the wilderness shape the way you live out God’s call in your life? Have you waited long enough for God to show up with bread and water?

Music Suggestions

“Blessed Be Your Name” LUYH 343

“Come Out the Wilderness” Spiritual

“Jehovah Jirah” Watson

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Biblical character: David

God’s wilderness provision: raisins and figs (1 Samuel 25)

Call to Worship

Psalm 90:14–17

Children’s Scripture Summary

While David was in the wilderness, he asked a wealthy man named Nabal, whose shepherds David had protected, to give food to him and his men. Instead Nabal hurled insults at David. But Nabal’s wife, Abigail, acted quickly. She took bread, wine, meat, roasted grain, cakes of raisins, and pressed figs, loaded them on donkeys, and went out to meet David and his men. David said, “Praise be to the LORD, who has sent you to meet me and kept me from avenging myself.” He accepted from her hand what she had brought him and sent her home in peace.

—adapted from 1 Samuel 25

Sermon: “A Table in the Wilderness for David”

Sermon Notes

In this story, David and his men are literally in the wilderness, where they had retreated for their safety. In the two stories that frame the story of David, Nabal, and Abigail, David is thrust into an unexpected position of power over Saul, who is still the anointed king and hunting for David, his rival. Will David take matters into his own hands? Or will he put his trust in the Lord? God’s provision in this story is not just the loads of food that Abigail brings; God’s provision of grace is a person who is willing to risk herself, bare her soul, and speak truthfully to another. God’s provision is Abigail in all her wisdom, authenticity, vulnerability, and resourcefulness.

Music Suggestions

“Shalom Chaverim” GtG 540

“I Need Thee Every Hour” Hawks, Lowry, arr. Shepperd, SATB

“Christ Has No Body Now But Yours” Ogden, Porter’s Gate

Passion Sunday

Biblical character: crowd

God’s wilderness provision: fish and bread (Matthew 14)

Call to Worship

Psalm 118:19–29 or John 12:12–15

Children’s Scripture Summary

Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee. He looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him. He asked his disciples, “Where shall we find bread for these people to eat?” Peter said, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus took the loaves and the fish, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. “Let nothing be wasted,” Jesus said. And his disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers.

—adapted from John 6

Sermon: “A Table in the Wilderness for a Hungry Crowd”

Sermon Notes

The disciples are exhausted and want to send the hungry crowd of people away. But when Jesus sees the crowd he feels not revulsion, not self-protection, not hopelessness, but compassion. This is a miracle of multiplication. Jesus takes the little that his tired and overwhelmed disciples have and multiplies it to meet a need that, humanly speaking, his disciples could never meet. What a faith lesson for us, his overwhelmed people in a busy world, in a wilderness time of political unrest, wars, refugees, climate change, and everyday challenges in our local communities and congregations.

Music Suggestions

“Eternal Weight of Glory” Kimbrough

“Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me” Robinson et al.

“I Want Jesus to Walk With Me” Spiritual, LUYH 140, GtG 775

Good Friday

Biblical character: Jesus on the cross

God’s wilderness provision: wine vinegar (Mark 15)

Call to Worship

Psalm 42

Children’s Scripture Summary (for Three Readers)

Narrator: At noon, darkness covered the whole land. It lasted three hours. At three o’clock in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

Jesus: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”

Narrator: This means “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” Some of those standing nearby heard Jesus cry out. They said,

Speaker: “Listen! He’s calling for Elijah.”

Narrator: Someone ran and filled a sponge with wine vinegar. He put it on a stick. He offered it to Jesus to drink.

Speaker: “[Now] leave him alone,”

Narrator: he said.

Speaker: “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

Narrator: With a loud cry, Jesus took his last breath. The temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. A Roman commander was standing there in front of Jesus. He saw how Jesus died. Then he said,

Speaker: “This man was surely the Son of God!

—Mark 15:33–39, NIRV

Sermon: “A Table in the Wilderness for Our Savior”

Sermon Notes

It isn’t a table of sustenance that Jesus is being offered, but a sponge dipped in vinegar with a drug mixed in to dull the senses. Some might have seen this as a gracious act, but others saw it as a way to extend Jesus’ suffering to see if he would be miraculously saved. But despite Jesus’ thirst (John 19:28) he did not drink (Matthew 27:34). Neither was he rescued. Nothing could be as bleak as this darkest time, this most profound loneliness. But still, somehow, God’s glory broke through and the Roman guard understood: “This man was surely the Son of God!” What light do we see in the wilderness?


Music Suggestions

“Christ Jesus Knew a Wilderness” Huber

“Were You There” arr. Leavitt, SATB

“Beneath the Cross of Jesus” Clephane, LUYH 167, GtG 216

Easter Sunday

Biblical character: Jesus’ disciples

God’s wilderness provision: fish (John 21)

Call to Worship

Psalm 57:8–11

Children’s Scripture Summary

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. . . . When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. . . . Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

—John 21:4–6, 9, 12–14

Sermon: “A Table on the Beach for Us”

Sermon Notes

Jesus shows up after a long night of work. Jesus works a miracle. Jesus sits with us by the fire. Jesus invites us to bring what we have. Jesus feeds us. How do we respond? As Easter people, this is our one task: to point to the presence and work of Christ in the world every chance we get, to exclaim “It is the Lord!” every chance we get. 

Music Suggestions

“Come Out of the Wilderness” Spiritual

“Psalm 136: Let Us With a Gladsome Mind” Milton, PfAS 136A, 136B, GtG 31

“We Walk by Faith” Alford, Marrolli, SAB 

Going Deeper

We invited our congregation and broader community to go deeper into this theme of God’s provision in the wilderness in a few ways during the season of Lent. 

  • A letter of invitation was sent out that outlined everything we were doing for Lent. An editable template can be found at tinyurl.com/RW146Letter. Once you make your own copy you can edit the letter as you desire.  
  • An outdoor prayer path in the tradition of the Stations of the Cross was set up on our church’s property. For more information on the prayer path see the article “Journey in the Wilderness” on page 12 of this issue.  
  • To encourage additional individual, household, or small group reflection, we provided bookmarks listing the Psalm of Provision and other Scripture texts we were using in our weekly worship services. [See example on this page.] These were available at the back of the sanctuary and at the end of the prayer path and were also sent out with the invitational letter. Subscribers to Reformed Worship can find the free downloadable bookmark in the “Arts and Visuals” section of the digital library. 

Reformed Worship subscribers are free to use the below image with the following copyright line: Frank Gutbrod © Reformed Worship 2022. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


Pastor Natasha Vedder serves as the worship director and youth pastor at Fleetwood Christian Reformed Church in Surrey, British Columbia.

Reformed Worship 146 © December 2022, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.