Join our mailing list

Why This Waste? - Mark 14

A service plan for the first Sunday of Lent planned around Mark 14:4. 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

This service and sermon will begin the Lenten season by examining our attitudes and our faithfulness in expressing our devotion and adoration to Jesus. The event from which the question of this service comes is the narrative that records Jesus' visit to Simon's home in Bethany. At a dinner there a woman anoints Jesus with "very expensive perfume, made of pure nard" (Mark 14:3). The question of our text (v.4) comes from others in the room.

* * * * *


Prelude: "Throughout These Lenten Days and Nights" [see music notes]

The Call and Invitation to Worship

*Opening Hymn: "Through These Lenten Days and Nights" SNC 129

*The Welcome and Greeting

[see liturgy notes]

The Children's Moment

Anthem: "Without the Fire, There Is No Burning," Scott [see music notes]

The Call to Confession
Because we trust in God's grace and mercy, we 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 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 wounds we are healed."

Please rise for the reading of the Gospel.

*The reading of John 6:35-40
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 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: "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" PH 303, PsH 578, TH 508, UMH 479, TWC 461
or: "Christ, the Life of All the Living" PsH 371


Anthem: "God's Son Has Set Me Free," Grieg [see music notes]

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: Mark 14:1-11
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Sermon: Why This Waste?
Questions of the Last Week 1
Text: Mark 14:4

The Prayer of Application


*Song: "Lift Up Your Hearts unto the Lord" PsH 309, SFL 63, TWC 771, SWM 184

*Our Profession of Faith [see liturgy notes]
My only comfort in life and in death
is that I am not my own,
but belong-
body and soul,
in life and in death-
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him. (From Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1)

*Response: "To God Be the Glory" PsH 632, TWC 46, PH 485, PsH 473, RN 258, TH 55, TWC 72, UMH 99, RL 355

The Prayers of the People

The Institution of the Lord's Supper [see liturgy notes]

Our Participation in the Bread
Song: "I Will Sing of My Redeemer" PsH 479, TWC 492, TH 650 and/or Reading of Scripture

Our Participation in the Cup
Song: "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" PH 466, PsH 501, RL 362/363, RN 32, SFL 19, TH 164, TWC 130, UMH 57, SWM 42 and/or Reading of Scripture

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Offertory
The Offering of Music: "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" [see music notes]
The Offering of Our Gifts


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen

*Song: "What Wondrous Love" PH 85, PsH 379, RN 277, SFL 169, TH 261, TWC 212, UMH 292

Postlude: "What Wondrous Love" [see music notes]

* You are invited to stand

* * * * *

Sermon Notes

Consider beginning this sermon with an introduction to this series. Since the series title is "Questions of the Last Week," it would be important for listeners to understand the role of questions in human conversation and in Biblical revelation. We ask questions to get information; we ask rhetorical questions to make statements; we ask emotional questions to express our anxiety and apprehension; and we ask probing questions to make people think about matters they might not otherwise think about. All of the questions of this series arise out of close encounters that people had with Jesus during the week before Good Friday and Easter.

The question for this service comes from Jerusalem. It's Wednesday of Holy Week. It's Passover time, and some writers estimate that means that anywhere from 50,000 to several hundred thousand people were in town. And it's a time of conflict (see v. 1-2). Under those circumstances, Jesus retreats to Bethany for a quiet time with friends. He has dinner with them. The action of a woman becomes the catalyst for controversy as she pours a pint of very expensive perfume on Jesus. What she did, why she did it, and the propriety of doing it becomes the center of controversy. This event is described in Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:1-11. (Likely the event in Luke 7:36-50, though similar, is a different event.)

This woman means her act as a means of lavishing attention on Jesus out of love. Others there, however, rebuke her harshly and call it a waste (v. 4-5). Jesus responds that it is a "beautiful thing" (v. 6).

This controversy raises a number of questions. Are we sometimes too calculating in our devotion? The objectors had figured out how much this cost and how the poor would benefit. Are we too restrained and reserved in our devotion to Christ? She was exuberant in it, regardless of what others thought. Are there times when the only proper response to Jesus is exuberance and overflowing praise? How does this fit with our somewhat austere expression of our faith? And, how do we comfortably merge solemnity with exuberance? How and when should we give expression to our exuberance?

Perhaps the best application of this text and sermon would involve a worship time that would involve a time of hearty praise and celebration at the table of the Lord. Move to the Lord's table, not in a mournful spirit, but in a spirit of profound and loving gratitude for being "set free"!

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 and alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn can be found in the following resources:

TALLIS' CANON ["Throughout These Lenten Days and Nights"]

Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-534 [1999]
Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-757 [1994] (E-M)
Kemner, Gerald. Fantasies on Nine Familiar Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-5919 [1990] (M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations. Concordia 97-4554 [1962] (E-M)
Purvis, Richard. Seven Chorale Preludes. Fischer 0 3450 [1949] (E-M)
Young, Gordon. Chorale Preludes on Seven Hymn Tunes. Flammer HF-5002 [1960] (E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 1980
Hobby, Robert A. Three Evening Hymns, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-514 [1998]
Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9190 [1964]
Thiman, Eric. Varied Accompaniments to Thirty-Four Well-Known Hymn Tunes.
Oxford ISBN 0 19 323210 3 [1937]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Maynard, Lynette. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

The two anthems for the service can be found as follows:

Scott, K. Lee. Without the Fire, There Is No Burning. Gentry JG2168 [1995] (SATB accompanied; E-M)
Grieg, Edvard/Overby, Oscar R. God's Son Has Made Me Free. Augsburg 11-1004 [1973] (SATB with opt. accompaniment; M)

The text of "Agnus Dei" which has already been spoken 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 one of the suggested songs sung during the celebration at the Table, can be found in:

AZMON ["Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing"]

Bouman, Paul. Partita on Azmon. CPH 97-6506 [1995] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Groundings. Augsburg 11-11119 [2001] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Joyful Praise. Morningstar MSM-10-738 [2004] (D)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 6. Morningstar MSM-10-542 [2000] (E-M)
Kosche, Kenneth. Easy Hymn Preludes for Organ, vol. 2. Concordia 97-7015 [2003] (E)
Jordan, Alice. Worship Service Music for the Organist. Broadman 4570-27 [1975] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 9. Concordia 97-5556 [1980] (E-M)
Smith, Mark. Brampton Partita on Azmon. Morningstar MSM-10-718 [1996] (E-M)

Sherman, Arnold B. Acclamation on "Azmon." Agape 1363 [1989] (3-5 octaves, M)
Sherman, Arnold B. Our Great Redeemer's Praise. Red River HB0018 [1997] (3-5 octaves, level

Suggestions for postlude, based on the closing hymn of the service, can be found in these resources:

WONDROUS LOVE ["What Wondrous Love"]

Phillips, Don. All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name (ed. Lyon, Sharron) Broadman 4570-31 [1976]
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] (M)

Larson, Lloyd. What Wondrous Love. Beckenhorst HB 150 [1994] (3-5 octaves, E-M)
Wagner, Douglas E. What Wondrous Love. Agape 1312 [1988] (3-5 octaves, 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. These passages will be included in the weeks ahead:
March 4: Matthew 27:11-23
March 11: Matthew 27:24-31
March 18: Matthew 27:32-44
March 25: Matthew 27:45-50
April 1: John 19:28-30

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. As worshipers approach the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper, they take the strong and personal words of Lord's Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism on their lips. These powerful words of personal testimony are intended to express our devotion as the woman's expensive perfume did on Jesus' body and ought to be spoken strongly and with gratitude. To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom us, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. . Reprinted with permission.

4. The liturgy for the sacrament of the Lord's Supper can be designed according to your local customs and tradition. However, we encourage you to make it a time of celebrative expression of our joy and gratitude for Christ's finished work. The songs and/or readings during the serving of communion should reflect such a celebrative spirit.