Year B – Second Sunday of Lent – Lord, Thee I love with all my heart;

“Lord, Thee I love with all my heart;
I pray Thee, ne’er from me depart;
With tender mercy cheer me.
Earth has no pleasure I would share,
Yea, Heav’n itself were void and bare
If Thou, Lord, wert not near me.
And should my heart for sorrow break,
My trust in Thee can nothing shake.
Thou art the portion I have sought;
Thy precious blood my soul has bought.
Lord Jesus Christ,
My God and Lord, my God and Lord,
Forsake me not! I trust Thy Word.
Yea, Lord, ’twas Thy rich bounty gave
My body, soul, and all I have
In this poor life of labor.
Lord, grant that I in every place
May glorify Thy lavish grace
And serve and help my neighbor.
Let no false doctrine me beguile,
Let Satan not my soul defile.
Give strength and patience unto me
To bear my cross and follow Thee.
Lord Jesus Christ,
My God and Lord, my God and Lord,
In death Thy comfort still afford.
Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abram’s bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ,
My prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end!”
This Hymn was composed by a Lutheran pastor named Martin Schalling in 1567, fifty years after the start of the protestant reformation. Martin had been born into a Protestant family in 1532, and his father was a pastor or a Lutheran church. Martin went to college at the University of Wittenberg, the University that Martin Luther himself had taught at, before he passed away. Martin went into ministry after college, and dealt with many issues. During his lifetime there was a lot of fighting between the various protestant churches, and Martin was multiple times banished from the town in which he was serving.

In this Hymn, Martin Schalling bursts out with his love for God. He states that earth and even heaven would contain nothing that is pleasing if God is not there. He tells God that nothing can shake his love for Him, because Christ has died on his behalf. The second verse Martin makes supplications, or prayer request, about this present life. He asks that he may love and serve others. He asks to be free from false thinking, and from the craftiness of Satan, and that he would be given strength to follow Jesus. The last verse he makes supplications toward God concerning the afterlife. He asks that he may be faithful until the day of his death. He looks forward to the resurrection of the dead, when all the saints will rise and with joy look upon the glorious face of Jesus Christ.

Contributed by Jared McNabb

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Year B – Lent 2 – Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.”Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.  I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you…God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Summary— Until the Fall, God was the God of the human race—all two members.  God’s being a person’s God was a given: of course He was!  But sin changed that.  Once we fell, God’s being a person’s God was no longer a given: now, God might not be one’s God.  It’s a terrible prospect.  What could be more horrifying than the thought that God is not your God?  What could be more comforting than the thought that He is?  And so God graciously approached pagan Abram, put him into covenant with Him, and promised him many things: God promised him land, offspring, and a unique role in global blessing.  But these weren’t the only things that God promised Abraham; they weren’t the greatest thing that God promised Abraham: the greatest thing that God promised Abraham was Himself.  “I will be God to you and to your offspring after you”—this was the centerpiece of God’s kindness.  In fact, God said as much back in 15:1, “I am your shield, your very great reward.”  God Himself was Abraham’s reward.  And He would be the same to Abraham’s offspring if Abraham “commanded them to keep the way of the Lord” (18:19).

Insight— In Psalm 63:1, David cried, “O God, you are my God!”  How did he know that?  Why could he say it?  Because he knew his Bible: God had promised to be God to Abraham and to his offspring, and that meant him.  It means you, too, according to St. Paul: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).  You may, indeed you should, draw from God’s covenant with Abraham the same comfort that David did: God is your God.  Because of this covenant, you are not “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:11-13).  God has chosen you, loves you, and by your baptism has promised to be yours.  And if God is your God then God is for you, and if God is for you then who can be against you (Rom. 8:31)?  If God is your God, then He Himself is your portion forever (Ps. 73:25-26).

Child Catechism— What is the greatest thing that God promises us?  To be our God!

Discussion— Could God have born you to an unbelieving family?  If He had done so, would this covenant relate to you in the same way?

Prayer— Everlasting Father, none but Yourself compelled You to make Yourself Abram’s God; none but Yourself compels You to make us his offspring.  Because of these great kindnesses, O God, You are our God.  Whatever else fails, You are our portion forever: You are our very great reward.  Grant that we might treasure You as Your greatest gift, and that we might lead our children to do the same so that You may bring to us what You have promised, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Contributed by Scott Cline

March 4, 2012 Year B – Second Sunday in Lent: Mark 8:31-38

Mark 8:31-38:  Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Summary:  “You are the Christ” exclaimed Peter only moments before (8:27ff).  Christ as the leader Israel had been waiting for.   This great King will lead them into victory.  This is the one for whom the heavens tore open, the Spirit descended upon like a dove, and the very voice of God was heard.  And now he must go and be killed; not exactly valiantly on a field of battle, but beaten and bruised as a criminal on a cross.  The disciplines were not expecting such a bleak and defeating prophecy told by Jesus (of course, one wonders just how wrong they were probably interpreting the “…and after three days rise again” part at the time too). But for us, the most shocking statement today is hearing Jesus’ sharp and swift rebuke of Peter the spokesmen:  “Get behind me, Satan!”  Peter, along with the rest of the disciplines, were no doubt expecting a different kind of kingdom victory; but by doing so, they were also indirectly cheering for the wrong kingdom.  That was Satan’s temptation in the wilderness:  to give Christ any other kingdom, as along as it was without the Cross.

Insight:  Jesus’ command to follow him should really be the most shocking of all.  Take up your cross, not a sword for the kingdom of God.  Lose your life, to gain your life.  These statements are never as unsettling as they should be.  For many of us, we have become too use to hearing them.  For many of us, we don’t even try to consider the full implications of what God’s kingdom really looks like, especially over our personal lives and priorities.  Likewise, we have all subtly cheered for the wrong kingdom.  Abandon your life and your desires properly, follow Christ, do not be ashamed of Him and stop helping the enemy!

Child Catechism:  What should followers of Christ do?  They should deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him.

Discussion:  How can this season of Lent help change your priorities?

Father, teach us to put our lives in the right perspective, to accept the life of your kingdom, to follow Christ more fully, by the power of your Spirit. Amen.

 

[contributed by malcolm west]

Year B – Lent – 2 – Romans 4:13-25

Romans 4:13-25

“For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.  If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.  For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.  For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.  Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.”  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being  fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”  Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also.  It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”

Summary – Paul’s teaching in this passage follows a progression.  Having just finished explaining that Abraham was circumcised after having believed in God so that he would be the father of the circumcised and uncircumcised, Paul continues his argument by referring to the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 15 and 17.  The promise speaks of land which Abraham’s offspring would inherit, but here Paul understands the promise to be not of a certain piece of the world, but the world itself.  This fits into his point here:  the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant would not be narrow (i.e. through one people group in one piece of land) but broad (through all of the faithful–Israelite or not–in the whole world).  This makes it based on grace.  Paul then explains Abraham’s faith:  Abraham believed God’s promise even though the state of things made it seem impossible.  This faith was strengthened while Abraham praised God!  Paul turns from his Abrahamic example to make his point: Abraham’s faith was his righteous deed.  But not just his, this applies to anyone who has faith in God and His work through the Son.

 Insight – It can be hard to believe God’s promises.  We have all been told, “Be like Abraham in your faith,” but that is easier said than done.  Can you make yourself believe God’s promises just by trying really hard?  That would be like believing a pig could fly if it just thought it could, or like thinking your bed could become a spaceship if you just pretended hard enough!  Faith in God doesn’t come through our effort.  This passage tells us that Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”  So as Abraham thought about who God is and praised Him for those things, his faith grew.  When we worship God at church and hear through His Word what He has done for us, our faith, too, will grow.

 Child Catechism – What is one thing you learn through worshipping God?  I learn that I can trust Him totally.

Discussion – What does it mean that “Father Abraham had many sons”  (vs 16)?  Who are Father Abraham’s many sons?  Why does Father Abraham have many sons (vs 14)?

 Prayer – Faithful Heavenly Father, your Word teaches us that you will remain true even when everyone else is false.  We ask for your grace to believe your promises like our father Abraham did.  Help us to hope against hope.  Help us to trust when it seems impossible.  Make us strong in our faith as we give glory to you.  Through Jesus our Lord, Amen.

-JHerr

Year B – Lent 2 – Psalm 22:23-31

“23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted;    he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. 25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever! 27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. 28 For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. 29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, 31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.”

Summary – The psalmist calls for the praise of God to be declared throughout the all the believing community because God does not despise the afflicted but rather, He has delivered them. After such a demonstration of God’s faithfulness the psalmist in great thanks and celebration will pay his vows with witnesses present and in a common or a community meal together they celebrate the deliverance with others who were also oppressed. The psalmist expanded his worship and praise as if to include all past, present and future worshiping communities together.

Insight – With a deeper level of belief, insight and confidence and as a result of having witnessed God’s deliverance the psalmist has more of an eternal and universal understanding of God’s grace, mercy and sovereignty. And in light of a very real and passing crisis, the psalmist fulfills the vows to God which he made under great pressure and in fear. He then celebrates in community with a common meal, a preview if you will of what we now do in our Communion meals. Deliverance for the believing psalmist who suffers causes him to reflect on the sovereign rule of God with which he may now look forward to the universal eternal praise of all the saints in Kingdom Come. While I will not state with certainty that he would have understood that reality with the same insights or perspective that we are blessed with at this time in history (on the other side of the cross as we can look back) it would be clear that God’s deliverance announced and witnessed by many would have impacted those present, those approaching death and even those yet unborn.

Child Catechism – Can we both trust and count on God’s deliverance and protection in our times of crisis? Yes, we can trust God and count on God and we are even called by God and empowered by God to do so.

Discussion – How can or how does one grow in faith when reflecting on the crises in our lives? Do we make vows today that we need to pay, and what are some examples?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and heavenly Father, O God we see you deliver Your people over and over in the Scriptures and yet when in the middle of trouble we worry and fear and even at times wonder if we’re going to make it through. Please O God help us as with the psalmist to have a stronger faith and to trust and fully count on you for deliverance in our difficult times. Heal us O God and bless us Father, comfort us and give us a special peace today as we reflect on all You have done for every generation. And we pray this with great thanks in Jesus name, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Lent 1 – Ash Wednesday – Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 6:2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6:3 “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 6:4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 6:5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.  . . . 6:16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6:17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 6:18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 6:20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 6:21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Ash Wednesday Meditation – “The Secret Life of Disciples”

As we enter once again into the season of Lent, we remember Christ in the wilderness.  Christ’s wilderness journey was a time of training and finally of testing. The 40 days of Jesus paralleled the 40 years of Israel in the wilderness. God “led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Dt. 8:2). Christ passed this test, though it was clearly a human struggle, which shows His full humanity. He emerged victorious over the very real temptations of Satan. The struggle of Jesus in the desert led to His overcoming temptation and ultimately the victory of the cross, His resurrection and His ascension to glory; because all of the temptations were in place of suffering and provided a “glory” without the cross. But Jesus did not forsake the way of the cross. He fully prepared to be obedient to the death of the cross.

Now if Jesus, the very Son of God, took upon Himself 40 days of fasting in order to prepare for His ministry, then are we not misled to think we should be like Him without any such discipling? If Christ Himself thought it needful to fast and pray before engaging the enemy and leading in His public ministry, then how will we make any progress in pursuing godliness without such testing? If God’s purpose throughout our lives is to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) and this is what Christ did, should not our lives conform in a some measure to Christ’s example?

Matthew 6 indicates we are to practice righteousness. But our motivation is the difference between that practice being evil or good. Two people may do the same religious act and for one it is evil and the other it is good. Religious people have all kinds of motivations. Jesus highlights the desires of the Jews of His day to be seen by others as righteous and pious. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them” (6:1). We may want to “sound the trumpet” when we give to others (v2), to pray publicly so as to be admired (v5), to be seen doing the ultra-spiritual discipline of fasting (v16). These desires all arise from that most basic human motivation: pride. We would rather lie about who we are and look righteous, than be authentic and be seen as who we really are. This lack of honesty is a great cause for unbelief in the world. Jesus calls this storing your treasure on earth (v19). It is misplacing values in our life. Where is your secret vault for treasures in life?

There is another place to store our treasure, however. Jesus does not call for us to have no desires for approval in our pursuit of righteousness. He does not say a desire for “reward” is evil. He simply redirects our desire for approval toward God. Our secret desire (or perhaps not so secret desire) for the reward of others to commend us, is placing our treasure vault for earthly corruption. This shows were our heart’s focus. Our godly secret life as disciples is to be doing what we do for God’s approval alone. We are to carryon a God-ward focus in our actions and reflections on our motivation.

What do you desire? There may be periods of time when our secret desires, rolling in our minds like TV reruns, endlessly play episodes of sin. We covet scenes of worldly wealth, putting others in their place, secret lasciviousness, retirement from into a secluded and unending vacation in a tropical paradise to disengage from all the demands on us. We are tempted by these desires. Inasmuch as we give-in then we are accepting the lie that there will be godliness without discipline; glory apart from the way of the cross.

If we find the grace to lay aside these impure ambitions and remember that we are bought with a price, then what is our deeper desire. What is our secret desire? Is it not for our character to be transformed into Christ’s likeness? Isn’t that what you know to be your most truly right ambition? When we can scrub off the dirt of our lusts and covetousness and even the dead skin of our flesh-provisioning habits, then we stand with a stringent burn since we have scrubbed away much that was precious to us. In these times we actively advance in being more like Jesus. In these ways we are like Christ who endured temptation and endured suffering for our salvation unto great glory. “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:17-18).

God, it appears, often brings us to these places whether we want to go or not. Wildernesses our part of the journey for every believer. Israel could have passed through the wilderness in about 40 days, but God found it necessary to test them for 40 years and a whole generation failed the test. Our willingness to enter into times of self-discipline apart from God-created wildernesses or “frowning providences” evidences our desire to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). Whether our self-conscious discipline prevents such dark episodes in our lives, is not something that I can say with any certainty, but I can say that the Lord wants us to embrace trials and hardships with this attitude. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). In the words of James 1:2, we are to “consider it all joy” – that is we must actively see it in terms of what God will do in us through it. We are to know “that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:3).

The faithful use of this Lenten season trains us to scrub away habits that hinder us (even if not sinful, per se). It surely helps us exercise the muscles of abstaining from worldly lusts which wage war against the soul by training ourselves to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, to limit our appetites, to listen in quietness, to forsake anxieties, to be motivated by pleasing God rather than men, and to yield ourselves more fully to live by faith.

A foundational lesson in our pursuit of godliness, beyond the fact that it requires effort in intentional times of training, is that it requires a secret life. True righteousness requires a secret life which is directed toward God and God alone. All motivations to be seen by others and get their approval undo our righteousness. Our secret life as disciples is to intentionally “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v20-21).

[contributed by Rev. Gregg Strawbridge]

Year B – Lent 1 – 1 Peter 3:18-22

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin),

Summary – The book of 1 Peter is all about suffering. Peter wants his hearers to endure suffering for doing good, not for doing evil. In this rich passage he summarizes the sufferings of Christ. “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” He explains that Christ proclaimed His work to those imprisoned spirits who were disobedient in the time of Noah. The disobedient in that day suffered (in the flood) but deserved judgment. Just as Noah and his household were saved in the ark, now baptism is the ark of salvation from judgment. So baptism like other covenant signs refers to blessing and cursing. The first baptism of the world was a judgment, but now baptism is the way we are united with Jesus in His resurrection. If we are in Christ, then we should be like righteous Noah, not disobedient like those who mocked Noah, but perished.

Insight – When is the last time you were punished? Did you do it? Were you guilty? There is a kind of suffering when you are found guilty and must be punished. But this kind of suffering is deserved. Suffering for doing what is right and good, being punished for something you did not do, that is very hard. But how much harder if you were to be punished or hurt simply because you believe in Jesus! This was the context of 1 Peter. Believers received harsh treatment and persecution because they confessed through their baptisms that Jesus was Lord. Today we can see the same thing  in the Islamic world. Talking about Jesus is one thing, but if a Muslim is baptized then it may mean (in many Islamic countries) that he or she will be killed or imprisoned. Suffering for our faith is, however, preparation for glory. After Christ suffered He went “into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” He promises that we too will reign with Him if we suffer with Him.

Child Catechism – Why did Christ suffer? Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.

Discussion – Have you ever been hurt because you were doing what was right?

Prayer – Almighty God, we come to you in Christ’s name asking that you would relieve the suffering and persecution of Christians in the world. We pray that you would bring gospel peace to countries where Christians are persecuted. Open the eyes of those that would harm baptized Christians for their faith and grant them forgiveness. Give us strength to be bold in our faith. In the name of the Lord Jesus who ascended to Your right hand. Amen.

Year B – Lent 1 – Genesis 9:8-17

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.””

Summary – In Verse 8 & 9 God, speaking to Noah and his son’s states, “I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you.” God’s promise would extend beyond this generation. God also says He will never destroy man or animals again by a flood nor shall the earth cease to exist as a result of the flood. The “sign,” the rainbow, when seen on the face of the clouds is brought about by God and God says when He sees the sign He “will remember My [His] covenant that is between you and Me [God].” God says “I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between” [Himself] “and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Insight – In God’s economy all legal agreements require a sign or a seal as a reminder of the terms of the covenant. The sign of the rainbow is comparable to the witness in later covenants. When God says in verse 13 “I have set my bow in the clouds,” this can mean to “give.” This common phenomenon of the rainbow became a pledge of peace. Its appearance when showers began to fall would be joyfully welcomed. The “bow” is the same word as the weapon that shoots arrows. Often rain and lightning are referred to in Hebrew as God’s arrows (Deut. 31:28; Psa. 18:14; Hab. 3:11). God’s bow now turned the other way (inverted as in the shape of a rainbow), perhaps shows His willingness to receive repentant sinners in the absence of His wrath and to also demonstrate His sovereign will, power and love to His elect. He does this ultimately through the the blood of the new covenant in the crucifixion & resurrection of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ which we receive through faith.

Child Catechism – What does a rainbow in the clouds remind us of? The rainbow in the clouds reminds that God will keep always His Covenant Promises.

Discussion – How does God keep His Covenant with us today for our eternal salvation? What is our part if any in order to keep God’s Covenant?

Prayer – Lord God and Heavenly Father, thank you God for Your promises that You have kept and will always keep as we trust You alone through Jesus alone through faith alone this day and every day. We praise You joyfully and ask that You give us the perseverance to press on even though the times in which we live may be difficult. We both thank You and praise You in Jesus name alone, Amen.

Contributed by Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Lent 1 – Create in Me A Clean Heart (Psalm 51)

This week, we enter Lent—the liturgical bad news without which Easter, the liturgical good news, makes no sense.  Lent anticipates Easter: it calls us to reflect upon the problem (sin resulting in death) so that we may better rejoice in the solution (salvation resulting in resurrection).

But how will we reflect upon and confess our sinfulness?  We are not without divine direction. God placed within the Psalter—His prescribed hymnbook—King David’s own confession. We will make his words our own with Harold W. Gilbert’s beautiful setting of Psalm 51:10-12. Gilbert was the headmaster at St. Peter’s Choir School until 1960 connected with St Peters Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.  The tune that Gilbert used was from Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen (1670-1739) who served as a Lutheran pastor at St. Ul­rich Church in Halle, Germany. It has a refreshing sound, like receiving forgiveness and being clean.

As a Psalm (to the choirmaster, for corporate use), these are words specially intended to inform and shape our thinking and feeling about confession.  We need such direction, and not only during Lent: Jesus, in the words He taught us to pray, assumes daily confession: “give us this day our daily bx`read, and forgive us trespasses…”

In Ps. 51, David hopes in God’s covenant love (v.1).  He seeks not only forgiveness, but change (v.2).  He acknowledges that, no matter who else is hurt, sin is sin because it’s against God Himself (v.4).  He asks to be purged with hyssop (v.7), the plant with which priests sprinkled blood on formerly-diseased houses to declare them clean (so, he’s asking God to be his Great High Priest in sprinkling blood to declare him clean).  He fears that he might be among those who share in the Holy Spirit but fall away (v.11, cr. Heb. 6:4-6).  He desires the restoration of his joy in God (v.12).  And he wants all this mercy to overflow in evangelism (v.13) and praise (v.14).

During Lent and every day, let us confess our sins—not as though the confession itself, or the zeal with which we offer it, or the duration of time for which we do not accept God’s forgiveness, merit anything with God: to feel such things is to self-righteously disobey the gospel.  Let us confess in faith that we have the forgiveness for which we ask: let us confess in faith that Jesus always lives to make intercession for us, so that even as we sin, we already have an advocate with the Father.

Contributed by Scott Cline

Year B – Lent 1 – Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Summary – John’s ministry had always been done in preparation for and pointing towards someone else.  He had said this someone would be much more powerful than himself (v7) and now that Someone has shown up.  And powerful indeed, that someone ends up being the King of the Universe!  What an important moment in history and an exciting time of fulfillment.   Notice also how our Triune God used very special and tangible ways to mark and empower this start of Christ’s ministry.  God the Father and God the Spirit speak and lead the Son’s mission.

Insight – This week is the beginning of our Lenten season; a special time of devotion and preparation before Easter.  Lent particularly points to Jesus’ time in the wilderness.  But notice the similarities between our observance of Lent and John’s ministry:   John was calling the people of God to acknowledge their own sinfulness as well as marking this soon coming and special occasion of God’s presence in Christ.  For us, that is a part of Lent as well.  We always live as a people conscious of Christ’s forgiving presence.  But during this season we can especially consider and set apart our thoughts, feelings, and actions before we celebrate forgiveness and eternal life found in Easter.  In this way, we will not only be better prepared to meet and serve our King, but we will be better prepared to face life’s temptations.

Child Catechism:  Who and what was John the Baptist preparing for?   For the soon coming presence and message of the Messiah, who is our Lord Jesus Christ.

Discussion – What are some ways you might personally recognize and mark off this season?

Prayer – Father, we devote all of our lives to you,  but in these coming weeks help us to especially reflect upon your Son’s preparation in the wilderness; we acknowledge our own sins and how they may cause us to wander; but please lead us with your Spirit and prepare us well, for your glory, as we build your kingdom, in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Contributed by Malcolm West