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Were You There in the City When They Plotted? - Luke 21

A service plan for Lent recalling how Christ entered this world and faced his enemies, part of a Lenten series following specific events that led up to Christ's death and resurrection.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Since this is the first Sunday of Lent, the theme of this service must be shaped by the spirit that you will aim to communicate throughout Lent. Lent should be a deeply devotional time to make our personal preparation for marking the death and resurrection of Christ. In that spirit, most of the music for the service is drawn from the African-American spiritual tradition. While many of the songs can be found in numerous hymnals, we have chosen to use Lead Me, Guide Me, the African-American Catholic hymnal published by GIA, as our primary musical resource for this service.

This first service of Lent aims to introduce Lent and also to introduce a new series of sermons. Therefore in this service our theme is that Christ entered this world and faced all his enemies. While his entire ministry was marked by opposition, near its end the opposition intensified and Jesus' enemies plotted to destroy him. When we observe these plots we see the opposition of this world to the work of Christ.


Prelude: "There Is a Balm in Gilead"
or "Calvary"
or "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me"
or "Lord I Want to Be a Christian" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

Introit: "Calvary" (st. 1-2) Lead Me, Guide Me 38, SNC 140 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Worship

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

*Song: "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" (st. 1, 4) Lead Me, Guide Me 119, PH 372, PsH 264, RN 145, SFL 40, TH 530, TWC 563, UMH 402

Choral Anthem: "Steal Away to Jesus" Lead Me, Guide Me 319
or "Now Behold the Lamb" SNC 144


The Call to Confession

The Scriptures tell us that God desires to forgive his people. We have sinned and Jesus has
come to pay the price for it. The prophet Isaiah says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all"
(Isa. 53:6).
Therefore, trusting the grace and mercy of God, let us confess our sins to
God and to one another.

Sung Prayer of Confession: "O Christ, the Lamb of God" PsH 257, RN 216, SFL 44
or "Kyrie" RN 86, SNC 52, 53, UMH 483
or "Lamb of God" SNC 253

*The Assurance of God's Pardon
Please rise for the Gospel Reading. [pause]
Hear the reading of the Holy Gospel in which we are told the story of the suffering and death of
Jesus Christ for our pardon and salvation.
[read John 12:20-26]
This is the Gospel of Christ: “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by
his wounds we are healed"
(Isaiah 53:5b).

*The Passing of the Peace
Leader: The peace of Christ be with you.
All: And also with you.
(The worshipers greet each other saying, "The peace of Christ be with you.")

*Our Sung Response: "What Wondrous Love" (st. 1, 3) PH 85, PsH 379, RN 277, SFL 169, TH 261, TWC 212, UMH 292
or "I Love the Lord" SNC 227

Offertory Prayer

Offertory: "What Wondrous Love" [see<href="#music" > music notes]


The Children's Moment

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Luke 21:37-22:6
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: "Were You There in the City When They Plotted?"
(Were You There - #1)

Response: "Were You There?" Lead Me, Guide Me 43, PH 102, PsH 377, TH 260, TWC 218
1. "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"
2. "Were you there when they plotted for his death?"
3. "Were you there when he schemed to sell our Lord?"

The Prayers of the People
[Concluded with the Lord's Prayer in unison.]


The Welcome

*Our Profession of Faith: The Apostles' Creed [in unison]

The Institution of the Lord's Supper

Our Participation in the Bread
Song and Reading of Scripture

Our Participation in the Cup
Song and Reading of Scripture

The Prayer of Thanksgiving


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Soon and Very Soon" Lead Me, Guide Me 4, RN 276, SFL 194, SNC 106, TWC 677, WOV 744, UMH 706
1. "Soon and very soon . . ."
2. "No more plotting there . . ."
3. "We're alive in Christ . . ."
4. "Soon and very soon . . ."

Postlude: "Were You There" or "Soon and Very Soon" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

  1. Because this sermon begins a new series, it will be worth the time to introduce the entire series either before the Scripture reading or in the introduction to this sermon. Explain that we will aim to exercise the ancient Hebrew custom of stepping back into the experiences of our ancestors as though we really are there. The Old Testament Israelites did this every time the Passover was observed. Give your hearers an idea of the scenes you'll be visiting together. It might also be helpful to make some copies of a map of Jerusalem and have them available to worshipers throughout this series; this will help them to "be there." Take some time to describe the city and some things about Jesus' presence in the city.
  2. A "plot" is usually a cleverly devised plan to accomplish a task that can't stand the light of day and cannot be publicly known. Most plots have several ingredients: a goal that is evil, passion to accomplish it, obstacles in the way, and a key person to carry it out. Look at each of the steps revealed in Luke 22:1-6. Some plots, as this one, often have a long "brewing period." Tracing the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders throughout John's gospel will show that the brewing period involved his entire three-year ministry. Note also John 12:10. Explore the reasons for this conflict. Why were the leaders so angry at Jesus? Why could they not accept his claims?
  3. The success of this plot cannot be fully understood apart from the role Judas played in it. We'll look at him more next week, but his actions should be exposed this week. He was the "hit man," fitting right into the plot at an opportune time.
  4. Perhaps it's hard to imagine how this could ever happen among the people who were involved-religious leaders and a disciple! However, if we remember several facts of life, we'll be better able to understand: (1) It's easy to be blind. Certain factors can cause us to be blind to the most glaring truths in front of us. (2) Plots brew slowly. It may be possible to stop them when they are in early stages, but once they have had time to reach the boiling point there is no turning back. (3) Religion can become dangerous. Misguided beliefs, coupled with religious zeal, can be very dangerous!
  5. One may wonder if there is any possibility that we might have responded the same way if we had lived there under the same influences. What do you think?

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA ; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America ; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America ; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America ; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice ( Augsburg Fortress)

1. The role of the choir or ensemble in this service is to reinforce the devotional nature of this service. We encourage the musicians to lead in a simple and meditative manner-with either unison singing or in parts, unaccompanied where possible.

2. The prelude can be based on the following spirituals:

BALM IN GILEAD PH 394, PsH 494, RL 465, TWC 611, UMH 375, WOV 737


  • Jordan, Alice. A Season and a Time. Broadman 4570-37 [1977] (E-M).
  • Powell, Robert J. Sing a New Song. Augsburg 11-10766 [1996] (E-M).


  • Edison, June. Great Day! Houston B41 [1991] (M).
  • Sanborn, Jan. Piano Music for the Care of the Soul. Ron Harris RHP0403 [1997] (M).



  • Billingham, Richard. Augsburg Organ Library - Lent. Augsburg 11-11036 [2000] (E-M).

I WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN PH 372, PsH 264, RN 145, SFL 40, TH 530, TWC 563, UMH 402


  • Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 1. Fred Bock B-G0548 [1980] (E-M).
  • Haan, Raymond H. O Worship the King. Broadman 4570-42 [1979] (E-M).
  • Kerr, J. Wayne. I'll Praise My Maker. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7570-3 [2003] (E-M).


  • Edison, June. Great Day! Houston B41 [1991] (E-M).


  • Lloyd, Sallie. Lord, I Want to Be a Christian. Beckenhorst HB134 [1993] (3 octaves, E).

SOJOURNER PH 363, SNC 130, SFL 214, TH 611, TWC 642, UMH 521, WOV 660


  • Cherwien, David. Groundings. Augsburg 11-11119 [2001] (E-M).
  • Henry, Raymond (1996). Augsburg Organ Library - Lent. Augsburg 11-11036 [2000] (E-M).
  • Hobby, Robert A. Three Lenten Hymn Settings for Organ, Set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-322 [1977] (M).


  • Edison, June. Great Day! Houston B41 [1991] (M).


  • Sherman, Arnold B. The Journey. Agape 1897 [1997] (3-5 octaves, level 3+).

3. We anticipate the introit "Calvary" would be sung by a choir or ensemble. We recommend using only the first two verses at this service.

4. Because the section of the service "We Are Renewed in God's Grace" repeats throughout Lent, we are including songs from other traditions here.

5. Music suggestions for the Offertory can be found in the following sources:

WONDROUS LOVE PH 85, PsH 379, RN 277, SNC 142, SFL 169, TH 261, TWC 212, UMH 292


  • Barber, Samuel. Wondrous Love. Schirmer 44477 [1959] (M-D).
  • Callahan, Charles. Six Meditations on American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-6140 [1992] (E-M).
  • Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 9. AMSI SP-106 [1992] (E-M).
  • Johnson, David N. Hymns Settings for Organ. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7498-7 [2002] (E).
  • Johnson, David N. Wondrous Love. Augsburg 11-0821 [1965] (E).
  • Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M).
  • Young, Gordon. Preludes on the Familiar. Fischer 0 4886 [1972] (E-M).


  • Carter, John. Folk Hymns for Piano. Hope 240 [1987] (E-M).
  • Carter, John. The Wondrous Cross. Hope 1747 [1994] (E-M).
  • Wilhelmi, Teresa. Hymns . . . Light Jazz Style. Word 301 0136 315 [1997] (E-M).


  • Larson, Lloyd. What Wondrous Love. Beckenhorst HB150 [1994] (3-5 octaves, E-M).
  • Wagner, Douglas E. What Wondrous Love. Agape 1312 [1998] (3-5 octaves, E-M).

6. Because the spirituals were passed on through aural/oral tradition, we have taken the liberty to craft verses on "Were You There and "Soon and Very Soon" that tie in with the theme and sermon.

7. You may wish to sing during the participation in the Bread and the Cup. We offer the following suggestions:

  • "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me" (st. 1-3) Lead Me, Guide Me 263, PH 363, SFL 214, SNC 130, TH 611, TWC 642, UMH 521, WOV 660, UMH 521
  • "Lead Me, Guide Me" (st. 1-3) Lead Me, Guide Me 168, PsH 544, RN 176, SFL 22 0
  • "Lord, Touch Me" (st. 1-2) Lead Me, Guide Me 158
  • "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" (st. 1-3) Lead Me, Guide Me 156

8. You may wish to consider using different settings of "Were You There" for the postlude throughout Lent. You will find many suggestions here. We are also giving suggestions for "Soon and Very Soon" as an alternate for this particular service.

WERE YOU THERE PH 102, PsH 377, SFL 167, TH 260, TWC 218, UMH 288


  • Callahan, Charles. A Lenten Suite. Morningstar MSM-10-312 [1991] (E-M).
  • Cherwien, David. Seasonal Interpretations Lent-Easter. Summa SP-112 [1998] (E-M).
  • Diemer, Emma Lou. Augsburg Organ Library - Lent. Augsburg 11-11036 [2000] (E-M).
  • Diemer, Emma Lou. Celebration. Augsburg 11-9097 [1975] (E-M).
  • Page, Anna Laura. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Boardman 4570-46 [1981] (E).
  • Purvis, Richard. Eleven Pieces for the Church Organ. MCA Music 03257-068 [1957] (M).
  • Stearns, Peter Pindar. Eight Hymn Preludes for Lent. Flammer HF-5133 [1985] (E-M).
  • Wood, Dale. Wood Works. SMP KK357 [1986] (E-M).
  • Young, Gordon. Hymn Preludes for the Church Service. Flammer 4188 [1964] (E).


  • Boertje, Barbara. Piano Improvisations for the Church Year. Unity 70/1194U [1998] (M).
  • Carter, John. The Wondrous Cross. Hope 1747 [1994] (E-M).
  • Wilhelmi, Teresa. Hymns . . . Light Jazz Style. Word 301 0136 315 [1997] (E-M).


  • McChesney, Kevin. Were You There. Lorenz HB-363 [1991] (3-5 octaves, E-M).

SOON AND VERY SOON RN 276, SNC 106, SFL 194, TWC677, WOV 744


  • Carter, John. Contemporary Hymns & Songs for Piano/4 Hands. Hope 8087 [2000] (E-M).
  • Schrader, Jack. Amazing Grace. Hope 8138 [2001] (E-M).
  • Wilson, John F. A Sacrifice of Praise. Hope 347 [1994] (E-M).

Liturgy Notes:

  1. In your preparation for planning this service and in leading it, review the material given about the season of Lent so that your own spirit is fully prepared and in tune with the spirit of the season. This readiness will influence your words and the manner in which you lead worship so that the tone of this service from the beginning will reflect the spirit of Lent.
  2. The service of "Renewal in God's Grace" will be the same for each of the weeks of Lent. See the explanation provided in the Introduction to Lent provided this week. We strongly suggest that you include standing for the Gospel reading to reinforce the authority and hope that come from the gospel.
  3. The children's moment is an ideal time to introduce the season of Lent to the kids. Point out the colors in the worship space and other symbols that remind us of Lent. Explain its length, why we observe it, and that Good Friday and Easter are soon coming!
  4. Churches which begin the season of Lent with the Lord's Supper are doing a good thing. Obviously the spirit in which the sacrament is observed in Lent will be quite different than at other times during the year. Prayers, explanations, Scripture passages, and songs will all reflect the unique spirit of the Lenten Lord's Supper. During the distribution of the bread and juice, both songs and Scripture readings will aid the worshipers' reflection and meditation. Select passages that are consistent with the message and will direct worshipers' thoughts to the suffering of Christ for our salvation.