Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year C)

Opening Sentences 

  • Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart.
    Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. --Joel 2:12-13
    Come, let us return to the Lord;
    for it is he who has torn and he will heal us;
    he has struck down and he will bind up.
    --Hosea 6:1
    I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, says the Lord,
    and your sins like a mist;
    return to me, for I have redeemed you. --Isaiah 44:22 

Prayer of Confession 

  • Gracious God,
    whose mercy is higher than the heavens,
    wider than our wanderings,
    and deeper than all our sin:
    Receive again your bewildered and broken people.
    Forgive our folly and our excess,
    our coldness to human sorrow,
    our passion for things of the moment,

    Change our hearts and turn all our desires to your way,
    that we may love what you love and do what you command;
    through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    (the prayer may continue in silence) 

Assurance of Pardon 

  • How are you right with God?

    Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
    Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned..,
    nevertheless, without my deserving it at all,
    out of sheer grace,
    God grants and credits to me
    the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
    as if I had never sinned, nor been a sinner,
    as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.
    All I need do is accept this gift of God with a believing heart.

    --from the Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 60

    People of God, hear the good news of the Gospel:
    The Father says to us, "Child,
    you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours." --from Luke 15:31 

Prayer for Illumination 

  • Loving God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to us who have gone astray from your ways, and bring us again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son. Guide us now by your Holy Spirit that through the words of scripture and sermon we might be led to him, who alone is the way the truth and the life. 

The hymn, "Our Father We Have Wandered" (Kevin Nichols, copyright 1981, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc.) is a retelling of the story of the prodigal son. It can be sung to PASSION CHORALE (O Sacred Head.) You may have the congregation sing a verse of the hymn after each portion of the Gospel lesson. E.g., Luke 15:11-19, followed by verse 1: "Our Father, we have wandered and hidden from your face...." Luke 15: 20-24, followed by verse 2, "And now at length discerning the evil that we do..." Luke 15: 25-32, followed by verse 3, "O Lord of all the living, both banished and restored,..."

Or this may be a Sunday when you modify the traditional order of worship and include the prayer of confession and words of assurance as a response to scripture and sermon. The hymn, "Our Father We Have Wandered" can then serve as the corporate prayer of confession.

The hymn is published in With One Voice: A Lutheran Resource for Worship(Ausgburg Fortress, 1995).

Written by John Paarlberg, pastor of First Church in Albany, New York

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