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The Symbols of Lent: Year C

Responsive Readings for the Season of Lent and Easter Sunday

Coordinated with Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary

For an explanation and background of the liturgy see The Symbols of Lent.

Purple cross symbol

Lent 1: The Placard

Psalm Reading Old Testament Reading Epistle Reading Gospel Reading
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Romans 10:8b-13   Luke 4:1-13

Cross placardLeader: Our first symbol of Lent, the placard above Christ on the cross, proclaims, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Today in our Scripture readings we also consider Israel’s offering of the first fruits.  In presenting their first fruits to God the people of Israel began by telling their story, affirming their identity. So too, the sign above Jesus, despite the mockery intended, truly proclaimed His identity.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. You called us to Your Kingdom. Yet, we missed the truth of Your Identity. We mocked and denied Your claim. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: The first fruits were holy to the Lord, symbolizing grateful consecration of one’s self, and all one’s resources, to the God Who always gives generously.  In His life and death Jesus offered Himself, a consecration in obedience even unto death. In His resurrection He became the first fruit of all who, in grateful faith, would consecrate self and resources to God, and be raised to life in Him.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Too often, we miss the truth of Your Identity, but also of our own. We say we are Your people, but fail to thank You; we hold back our selves and our resources. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: Let us pray together . . .

ALL:

God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:
We look at Jesus, and we look at ourselves,
           and we confess the great difference.
Deliver us from ourselves;
           conform us to His Identity.
We admit our helplessness apart from Your grace.
We thank You that through the resurrection
           Your grace abundantly pardons and transforms us!
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Purple cross symbol

Lent 2: The Whip

Psalm Reading Old Testament Reading Epistle Reading Gospel Reading
Psalm 27 Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 Philippians 3:17-4:1 Luke 13:31-35 or Luke 9:28-36

whipLeader: The Lenten symbol we bring to the cross today is the whip, an instrument of power and violence. Today in our Scripture readings we also consider the promises of God to Abram, freely given, without coercion. Because Abram trusted God, he was brought into right relationship, into God’s own covenantal righteousness.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Too often we do violence in our relationships. We confess that we coerce, and are coerced, rather than living in trust. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: God’s covenant with Abram came in deep and terrifying darkness. The new covenant Jesus offered in His blood came in the deep and terrifying darkness of our violence. In His life and death Jesus offered Himself, absorbing our violence and returning only love.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. We live in the deep and terrifying darkness of our own violence. We confess our entrapment by the powers of this world. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: Let us pray together . . .

ALL:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:
We look at Jesus, and we look at ourselves,
            and we confess the great difference.
Deliver us from our violence;
           conform us to His love.
We admit our helplessness apart from Your grace.
We thank You that through the resurrection
           Your grace abundantly pardons and transforms us!
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Purple cross symbol

Lent 3: The Coins

Psalm Reading Old Testament Reading Epistle Reading Gospel Reading
Psalm 63:1-8 Isaiah 55:1-9 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Luke 13:1-9

bag of coinsLeader: Today we lay before the cross the bag of coins, reward for treachery toward the Son of God. Judas handed Jesus over to the authorities, in greed and self-interest deliberately betraying his Lord. Our Scripture readings today remind us of the futility of seeking to satisfy ourselves by such paths.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. We blame Judas for his greed, his selfishness, but excuse our own. We too are grasping and self-seeking. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: While Judas sought payment for unfaithfulness, Jesus died in faithfulness. In His life and death He became the Bread broken for us, the Blood poured out for us. Jesus freely offers to all who hunger and thirst the eternal nourishment of His very self.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. At times we too live unfaithfully. We spend our money for that which is not bread; we labor for that which does not satisfy. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: Let us pray together . . .

ALL:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:
We look at Jesus, and we look at ourselves,
           and we confess the great difference.
Truly Your ways are higher than our ways,
           and Your thoughts than our thoughts!
Forgive our unfaithfulness;
           conform us to His love.
We thank You that through the resurrection
           Your grace abundantly pardons and transforms us!
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Purple cross symbol

Lent 4: The Nails

Psalm Reading Old Testament Reading Epistle Reading Gospel Reading
Psalm 32 Joshua 5:9-12 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

hammer and nailsLeader: Today we lay before the cross the nails that pierced the hands and feet of the Son of God. The nails were our verdict, condemning this innocent Man to the undeserved suffering and disgrace of crucifixion. The empty tomb is God’s verdict, vindicating Him. Yet in Him God comes to roll away our own, deserved, disgrace.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. Forgive us our cruelty, and fear, and quickness to condemn. We see the disgrace You bore because of us, and confess it as our own. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: Despite God’s provision of manna, the Israelites feared, and refused to trust. They wandered in the wilderness, unable to enter the promised land. In His life and death Jesus was the true manna come down from heaven, true bread broken for us. Although He offers the eternal nourishment of His very self, we too fearfully refuse to trust, and to enter into God’s promises.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. In fear we refuse to trust You fully; we reject Your provision for us. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader:  Let us pray together . . .

ALL:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:
We look at Jesus, and we look at ourselves,
           and we confess the great difference.
Forgive us our fearful lack of trust.
Deliver us from our willful fear;
           conform us to His trust and obedience.
We thank You that through the resurrection
           Your grace abundantly pardons and transforms us!
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Purple cross symbol

Lent 5: The Crown of Thorns

Psalm Reading Old Testament Reading Epistle Reading Gospel Reading
Psalm 126 Isaiah 43:16-21 Philippians 3:4b-14   John 12:1-8

crown of thornsLeader: Today we hang upon the cross the crown of thorns. With a crown of thorns we rejected, and mocked, the One Who chose us, and formed us for Himself that we might declare His praise.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. With painful thorns we mocked Your Lordship. We refused You the honor due from Your creation; instead of praise we gave You suffering. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: The Lord Who made a way in the sea also makes a Way in the wilderness of our own chaos and disorientation. God’s new thing is fully displayed in the life and death of Jesus! He offers the provision and guidance of His very self; we fail to perceive and accept it.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. You Yourself are the Way made for us, but we have lost our way. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader:  Let us pray together . . .

ALL:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:
We look at Jesus, and we look at ourselves,
            and we confess the great difference.
Forgive us the dishonor we do you.
Deliver us from our wanderings;
            conform us to Him, Your Way for us.
We thank You that through the resurrection
           Your grace abundantly pardons and transforms us!
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Purple cross symbol

Lent 6: The Palms

Psalm Reading Old Testament Reading Epistle Reading Gospel Reading
Psalm 31:9-16 Isaiah 50:4-9a Philippians 2:5-11 Luke 22:14-23
 or Luke 23:1-49

palm branchesLeader: We place at the cross today the palm branches that welcomed Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem. The crowd shouting, “Hosanna!” expected to be saved by a great hero. They wanted him to overthrow the Romans. Instead he overturned their concept of greatness.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us. We cry for You to deliver us from suffering, and destroy our enemies. You come among us as a Suffering Servant, silently bearing the iniquity of us all. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: Palm Sunday is about worship. But the crowd turned it into a political parade. The heroes of our world ride in pomp and power. We hesitate to follow leaders who ride on donkeys, and pour out themselves unto death.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.  We turn to our own way of comfort and power. You show us what it means to offer One’s self and bear the transgressions of others. In the shadow of Your cross we cry, “Have mercy on us.”

Leader: Let us pray together . . .

ALL:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:
You redeem the very suffering we despise!
We look at Jesus, and we look at ourselves,
            and we confess the great difference.
Deliver us from our self-serving fear;
            conform us to His loving servanthood.
Burn our palm branches into ash.
We thank You that through the resurrection
            Your grace abundantly pardons and transforms us!
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Gold cross symbol

Resurrection Sunday

Psalm Reading Old Testament Reading Epistle Reading Gospel Reading
Psalm 114 Isaiah 25:6-9 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8 Luke 24:13-49

Leader:  All Lenten symbols—the reminders of death and sadness—have been removed from the cross today. In their place are signs of life and light. The stone has been rolled aside; the tomb is empty. Death is swallowed up in victory!  What we intended for evil, God in mercy has redeemed for good.

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we thank You for Your mercy! Like the women, we come to the tomb in our darkness. Perplexed and terrified, we fail to remember. Through Your resurrection You re-create us and call us to rejoice forever! In the shadow of Your transformed cross we rejoice in Your mercy.

Leader: The cross embodies both our sin and our hopelessness without God’s grace.  But Christ has made the cross an eternal revelation of God’s love, a borrowed tomb the symbol of everlasting hope. Being raised from the dead, He will never die again. Death and sin have lost their dominion; the wolf and the lamb lie down together!

People: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we thank You for Your mercy! Like the apostles, we disregard Good News. We dismiss resurrection power, and do not believe. Through Your resurrection You re-create us and call us to rejoice forever! In the shadow of Your transformed cross we rejoice in Your mercy.

Leader: Let us pray together . . .

ALL:

Almighty God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:
We confess that the cross and its dark symbols come from our hands.
We fail to remember, and fail to believe.
We look at Jesus, and we look at ourselves,
            and we confess the great difference.
But by the power of His resurrection
            You are re-creating us as Your people in His image!

Leader: Therefore, with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, we praise and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying:

ALL:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.
Glory be to You, O Lord Most High!  Amen.

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Related pages

Sanctuary Color for Lent:
Purple or Red Violet