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What Is Truth? - John 18

A service plan for the fifth Sunday of Lent planned around John 18:38. This service is part of "Questions of the Last Week," a series of Lent service plans.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

Questions of the Last Week

This Lent series is titled "Questions of the Last Week." Each of the questions comes from the narratives of the week before Christ's resurrection. It is our hope and prayer that these series will provide you with variety, thoughtful content, and an excellent opportunity to enrich the spiritual journey of worshipers of all ages.

Theme of the Service

The question considered in this service was expressed during the trial of Jesus before Pilate. It is precipitated by Jesus' statement in John 18:37, "Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." This question expresses the search of all generations, not only to find truth, but to discover whether there is such truth that can be discovered.

* * * * *


Prelude: "Lift High the Cross" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call and Invitation to Worship

*Opening Hymn: "We Come, O Christ, to You" PsH 238, TH 181, TWC 86

*The Welcome and Greeting

[see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

Anthem: "Out of the Depths I Cry to You," Grotenhuis [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Confession

Because we trust in God's grace and mercy, we are able to make our honest confessions to him without fear of rejection. We know he will be merciful. So let us call on him for his mercy and grace that we may be renewed.

The Prayer of Confession:
O Christ,
out of your fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
You are our eternal hope;
you are patient and full of mercy;
you are generous to all who call upon you.
Save us, Lord.
O Christ, fountain of life and holiness,
you have taken away our sins.
On the cross you were wounded for our transgressions
and were bruised for our iniquities.
Save us, Lord.
O Christ, obedient unto death,
source of all comfort,
our life and our resurrection,
our peace and reconciliation:
Save us, Lord.
O Christ, Savior of all who trust you,
hope of all who die for you,
and joy of all the saints:
Save us, Lord.
Jesus, Lamb of God,
have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins,
have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world,
grant us peace. Amen. (The Worship Sourcebook, J.2.2.7)
Sung: "Agnus Dei" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Assurance of Pardon:

When the Holy Gospels give us the account of the suffering and death of our Savior Jesus Christ, they are reassuring us that he has laid down his life for his sheep. As you hear this account, receive in faith that he was ".pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wound we are healed."

Please rise for the reading of the Gospel.

*The reading of Matthew 27:45-50
This is the Gospel of Christ.
Thanks be to God.

On the basis of the Gospel of Christ, we may be assured that our sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ.

*Passing the Peace
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 Grateful Affirmation [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]
What do you believe about your forgiveness?
We believe
that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins
because of Jesus Christ,
and that in it our righteousness before God is contained,
as David and Paul teach us
when they declare that man blessed
to whom God grants righteousness
apart from works.
Is such forgiveness given to you freely?
We are justified "freely" or "by grace"
through the redemption in Jesus Christ.
And therefore we cling to this foundation,
which is firm forever,
giving all glory to God,
humbling ourselves,
and recognizing ourselves as we are;
not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits
and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified,
which is ours when we believe in him.
Does this forgiveness give you peace toward God?
This is enough to cover all our sins
and to make us confident,
freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God's approach,
without doing what our first father, Adam, did,
who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves. (from The Belgic Confession of Faith, art.23)

*Song of Testimony: "When Peace like a River" PsH 489, TH 691, TWC 519 UMH 377


The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: John 18:28-40
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon: What Is Truth?
Questions of the Last Week 5
Text: John 18:38

The Prayer of Application

Anthem: "The Call," Stroope [see <href="#music" >music notes]


*Our Affirmation of Faith: Apostles' or Nicene Creed [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Song: "In You Is Gladness" PsH 566, UMH 169

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory

The Offering of Music: "In You Is Gladness" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
The Offering of Our Gifts


*The Words of Sending: John 16:12-15

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen

*Song: "Lift High the Cross" PH 371, PsH 373, RL 415, RN 297, SFL 171, TH 263, TWC 229, UMH 159, SWM 243
or: "Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing" PH 538, PsH 320, TH 384, TWC 834, UMH 671

Postlude: "Lift High the Cross" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
or: "Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing"

* You are invited to stand

* * * * *

Sermon Notes

This question comes from Pilate, a very troubled man. He was caught in a situation he did not want and didn't know what to do about it. Several times he clearly proclaims the innocence of Jesus (Luke 23:4, 14, 22). He made no less than six or seven attempts to set Jesus free. In the middle of it all, he receives advice from his wife to have nothing to do with Jesus and then tries to trade Barabbas for Jesus.

The question of what is truth comes after attempting to ferret out accurate information. He tried to talk to the Jewish leaders about it (see John 18:29-31), and he tried to sort it all out with Jesus personally (see John 18:33-37). Finally, after Jesus confronts him with bold claims in John 18:37, Pilate blurts out the question (v.38).

How are we to understand this question? Is it rhetorical, not expecting an answer because truth seems unattainable? Does it come out of cynicism proclaiming there is no sense in even trying to find truth in the midst of all these lies and this doubletalk? Is it an honest searching that comes from Pilate's soul? Or is it a frantic expression of his own exasperation because he cannot discern what is true in these circumstances? We don't really know, but it could well be a combination of all of these. Pilate represents one of the biggest tragedies of humanity because he had truth standing right before him and failed to recognize him/it!

Regardless, it is, however, an incredibly relevant question for every age, especially ours. Postmodernism catapults this question to an even higher level of urgency. Many claim truth does not exist; others claim that truth is relative. In addition, the Bible tells us that Satan will always aim to obscure the truth (see John 8:42-47).

Yet consider what the Bible says about truth. Jesus Christ is the Living Word of truth (see John 14:6) so truth begins with a person. We are able to speak about the written truth from God in Scripture (John 17:17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), and the Holy Spirit leads God's people into the truth (see John 16:12-15).

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)
SWM Sing With Me (children's songbook; 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)

Suggestions for prelude on "Lift High the Cross," which both opens and closes this service can be found in the following resources:

CRUCIFER ["Lift High the Cross]

Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-534 [1999]
Busarow, Donald. Processional on "Lift High the Cross." Concordia 97-5442 (M)
Callahan, Charles. Partita on Crucifier. Concordia 97-6456 [1994] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 9. Concordia 97-5556 [1980] (E-M)

Carter, John. The Wondrous Cross. Hope 1747 [1994] (E-M)

McChesney, Kevin. Lift High The Cross. Lorenz HB 230 [1988] (3-4 octaves, M)
Moklebust, Cathy and David. Lift High the Cross. Choristers Guild CGB 193 [1997] (3-5
octaves/organ, E-M)

The anthem suggestions for the service can be found as follows:
Grotenhuis, Dale. Out of the Depths I Cry to You. Morningstar MSM-50-3015 [1992] (SATB,
opt. congregation and organ; E-M)
Stroope, Randall. The Call. Morningstar MSM-50-6515 [2006] (SATB and organ; M)

The text of "Agnus Dei" which has been spoken already in the prayer of confession can also be repeated as a sung prayer. Musical settings of this text can be found directly in PsH 257 and SNC 253. A more contemporary indirect setting can be found in SWM 124.

Suggestions for offertory based on the sermon response hymn can be found in:

IN DIR IST FREUDE ["In You (Thee) Is Gladness"]

Bach, J. S. The Liturgical Year (ed. Riemenschneider) Ditson [1933] (M)
Beck, Theodore. (1976x-Beck) Augsburg Organ Library - Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001]
Beck, Theodore. Five Hymn Preludes. Concordia 97-5391 [1976] (M)
Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 2. Fred Bock B-G0647 [1982]
Burkhardt, Michael. Improvisation on In Thee Is Gladness. Morningstar MSM-10-426 [2005] (D)
Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 1. Morningstar MSM-10-846 [1992]
Haan, Raymond H. Introduction and Variations on In Thee Is Gladness. Concordia 97-5995
[1988] (with two trumpets; M)
Leavitt, John. With High Delight. Concordia 97-6845 [2000] (E-M)
Sedio, Mark. Eight Hymn Introductions. Morningstar MSM-10-836 [1991] (E-M)

Organ, Anne Krentz. Piano Reflections for the Church Year. Augsburg Fortress 11-11209
[2001] (E-M)

Alternative harmonizations for the closing hymn as well as postlude suggestions can be found in the following resources:

CRUCIFER ["Lift High the Cross"]

Alternative Harmonizations for Organ:
Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Cherwien, David & Wasson, Laura E. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

Choral Resource:
Christiansen, Paul J. Lift High the Cross. Celebrations Unlimited CU 154 [1984] (SATB with
keyboard; E-M)

Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-534 [1999]
Busarow, Donald. Processional on "Lift High the Cross". Concordia 97-5442 (M)
Callahan, Charles. Partita on Crucifier. Concordia 97-6456 [1994] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 9. Concordia 97-5556 [1980] (E-M)

Carter, John. The Wondrous Cross. Hope 1747 [1994] (E-M)

McChesney, Kevin. Lift High the Cross. Lorenz HB 230 [1988] (3-4 octaves, M)
Moklebust, Cathy and David. Lift High the Cross. Choristers Guild CGB 193 [1997] (3-5
octaves/organ, E-M)

SICILIAN MARINERS ["Lord, Dismiss Us with Your Blessing"]
Burkhardt, Michael. Hymns of Joy. Morninstar MSM-10-013 [2000] (E-M)
Jordan, Alice. Worship Service Music for the Organist. Broadman 4570-27 [1975] (E-M)
Sinzheimer, Max. Twelve Hymn Preludes and Improvisations. Concordia 97-4769 [1967] (E-M)
Young, Gordon. Eight Voluntaries. Presser 413-41034-30 [1961] (E-M)

Liturgy Notes

1. The Service of Confession/Renewal is designed to be a standard form for each week of Lent. This will reinforce its impact and meaning. Each Service will include both a spoken and a sung prayer of confession. And each week a different gospel reading will be included. Next week John 19:28-30 will be included.

2. Worshipers have the opportunity after the Assurance of Pardon to give a grateful affirmation of their faith by using the words of the historic Belgic Confession of Faith. Article 23 is adapted so that it is in a format for responsive congregational use. To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom us, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. . Reprinted with permission.

3. The Affirmation of Faith may use the words of the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed to publicly profess our unity with the worldwide body of Christ.

4. The Words of Sending are again a clear statement that our profession of Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation. It intends to reinforce the message of the sermon.


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