Year C – Third Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:1-9

Gospel LessonLuke 13:1-9 NRSV

“At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Summary – This passage has two parts, the first describes two historical events in which certain persons died, and the second is a parable that applies the meaning of those events to the current listeners. The first event tells of certain persons from Galilee who had been killed by Pontius Pilate, who then mingled their blood with the blood of the sacrifice in the Temple. The second event tells of the Tower of Siloam falling and killing eighteen people in Jerusalem. The second part of the passage is a parable about a fig tree that bears no fruit. The man who owned it has been looking for fruit for three years and has found none. He is about to cut it down. The fig tree in the parable is Israel, and the man looking for three years for fruit is Jesus. He has found none. Therefore, unless Israel repents, then judgment will come upon them, just as judgment came upon the people in the first two events.

Insight – Some people think that they can live as they please right now, and then, right before they die, they can repent and believe, and be forgiven. The reality though is that we never know when we are going to die. While we might think we have 80 years to live, the truth could be that we die in a car accident tomorrow. Or a tower might fall on us, or we might die in our sleep. We never know. The lesson we are to learn from bad things happening to others, like a tower falling on them, is that these things could just as easily happen to us. That means we are to repent of our sins now, for we never know what could happen to us, and when. Those people who died are not worse sinners than we are, are they? Did they deserve to die anymore than you or I do right now? Jesus didn’t think so. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” This Lenten season, we should be continually repenting and remember those ashes that were placed upon our foreheads, remembering that our life is but dust, and to the dust we shall return. Therefore repent, brothers and sisters, and flee to Jesus. Then bear fruit in keeping with your repentance (Luke 3:9-14).

 Catechism – Are those who suffer untimely death worse sinners than others? No. But unless we repent, we will all perish just as they did.

Discussion – What is repentance? How do we know we truly repent? What happens if we do not repent?

Prayer – Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those O God who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent, according Your promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And Grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; To the glory of Your Holy Name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael J. Shover

Year C – 3rd Sunday of Lent – 1 Cor 10:1-13

Text–1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Summary:  In this section of the first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul shows us how he uses the Old Testament to explain the meaning of the New Testament.  This text is a foundational decoder ring which lets us see how interconnected the the two halves of our Bible really are.  The issue at hand for Paul was answering the question if it was ok for Christians in the Corinthian church to eat food offered to idols.  The more general issue was to find out just how free the Christian is in choosing his own path.  Paul answers this by linking Old Testament Israel with their own particular circumstances.  Jews had baptism and Feasts, but that didn’t keep them from falling under judgment by God.  Paul shows how today’s Christian cannot rely on their own baptism or the spiritual feast of the Lord’s Supper to guarantee their salvation.  He ends with encouragement that God is faithful and will not tempt us in ways that we cannot escape from.  We do not have to end up like the Jews did.  There is an escape for those who keep their eyes on Christ.

Insight:  Have you ever seen someone act as though they could never get punished for how they behave?  Maybe it was the son of the school principal who never saw fault in his son.  Maybe it was a favored sister in the family that could do no wrong.  Whatever the circumstance, we all know people like that, who believe that they can always get away with it because of who they are.  There were some Christians in the Corinthian church who acted like this.  They believed that they held the strong position and could do no wrong in God’s eyes.  Were they ever wrong!  They had their sacraments, the baptism of the Red Sea and their national feasts, which correspond to our sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  These sacraments did not provide insurance against God’s retribution.  Just as most Israelites were rejected by God because of their disobedience (idolatry, immorality, testing the Lord, and murmuring), Paul warns that this will also happen to all Christians who persist in sin.  Do you see your baptism as fire insurance from the judgment to come?  The Jews who were baptized into Moses could not look to that baptism for salvation.  Moses was their representative, they put their trust in him and identified with him.  This is what Paul means by saying they were baptized into Moses.  But water, bread and wine are not magical elements that repel God’s wrath, no matter their sin.  Pay attention to Paul’s warning in vv1-12.  But through all the warnings comes this blessed truth, God is faithful.  He is faithful in sending His son to die for us.  We put our trust in Christ, not in the elements.  Baptism on its own doesn’t save anyone.  But faithful baptism does unite us to Christ and as we abide in Him we live and move and have our being.  We are free in Christ, not to sin as we please because we are baptized.  Heaven forbid.  We are free in Christ as we identify ourselves with Him and follow his ways for our good and His glory.

Discussion Questions–Besides baptism and the Lord’s Supper, what are some other patterns, events or people that find their fulfillment and reality in Jesus Christ?

Catechism–(Q) Why will we not be tempted beyond our ability? (A) Because God is faithful.

Prayer–Heavenly Father, ruler of all creation, we praise you for how you reveal your truth in your perfect timing.  We are amazed at how you show us your truth through time, through patterns, through your Son.  Help us to understand how you have woven the Old and New Testaments into a single glorious tapestry whereby we can more clearly understand your plan for us in this world and the next.  We ask this in your Son’s mighty name through the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

[Contributed by Michael Fenimore]

Year C – Second Sunday in Lent – Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
    Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Summary – In this powerful and poetic psalm, David calls on the Lord for salvation from His foes, faithfully recognizing that Yahweh is the only help worth relying on.  The life and times of King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18-20 read in conjunction with Psalm 27 (especially in light of vs 6 which connects Yahweh’s mercy on Hezekiah to the Davidic line) forms an interesting parallel.  Hezekiah, in the face of the massive horde of Sennacherib, stood firm believing that the Lord is his stronghold and he needed to fear no one.  “Though an army encamped” (vs 3) against Hezekiah, he did not fear, and the Angel of the Lord struck down the army overnight!  Thus, Hezekiah’s head was “lifted up above [his] enemies” (vs 6, cf. 2 Chron 32:23).  Then when Hezekiah was mortally ill (2 Kgs 20:1-6) his prayer to Yahweh (“I have walked before you in faithfulness”) was like David’s in verse 8, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”  In the final verse, David turns his driving poetry to the reader.  Rather than focusing on his personal experience, he admonishes the reader to wait for the Lord, be strong, and take courage.

Insight – There are two things that frighten me badly:  cornfields at night, and criticism from other people.  Especially the second one (there aren’t actually aliens in cornfields!).  Sometimes it can seem like “an army is encamped against me” if people disagree.  What frightens you?  One thing we all have in common is fear, and King David was no different.  But rather than shrinking back in fear when his enemies were all around him, he called on God to save him.  His prayer was a mixture of trust in God’s promises and supplication to God’s goodness and faithfulness.  Ultimately, our greatest accuser can be our own hearts, telling us we are sinners who are un-save-able.  But with David, let us say that because God is greater than our hearts (1 John 3:19-22), and has sent Jesus to take on our sin, we will be confident, knowing that we will look on the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Child Catechism – Who is your light and salvation?  The Lord.

Discussion – List the problems David is dealing with in Psalm 27 (examples: evildoers and war).  List the ways God overcomes those problems.

Prayer – O Lord, our stronghold, hide us we pray in your son Jesus Christ that we may hold our head up high knowing our acceptance surely.  We know that you have powerfully saved your people and we believe that you will continue to do so.  Teach us your ways and set us on a straight path so that the natural desires that war within us would be defeated.  We believe that we will see your goodness throughout our lives and will wait for you, knowing that it is your mighty arm that fights for us.  Through Christ, Amen.

Year C – Second Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:31-35

Luke 13:31-35 (NRSV)

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

Summary – Jesus is teaching in the towns and villages of Galilee as he is going toward Jerusalem. The Pharisees tell Jesus to leave the area because Herod wants to kill him. Jesus says that he still has devils to cast out and healings to perform for the next three days, but he will be travelling toward Jerusalem during that time because it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem. Jesus then laments over Jerusalem’s rejection of him and her coming destruction. His desire to love and protect the city is like that of a hen with her chicks, yet Jerusalem would have none of it. Before Jesus is rejected and the city is destroyed, Jesus will be received by them with praise, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Insight – Have you ever identified yourself with a character in a story? Perhaps in the Chronicles of Narnia, for example, you might identify with Lucy, or even Peter, or maybe Prince Caspian. How often though do you see yourself as Aslan? Probably very little.  As we read Luke 13:31-35, and we hear Jesus being confronted on all sides by his enemies, it is easy to identify with Jesus because he is the hero. He is our Lord, and we want to be like him. But this Lenten season, in order to help prepare your soul for Easter Sunday, try to identify yourself with Jesus’ persecutors and enemies, not with Jesus. As you hear these verses see yourself as that “Fox” Herod who wants to kill Jesus. See yourself as a shady hypocritical Pharisee who wants Jesus to depart from their regions and cease doing miracles. Or perhaps you are one of those who plot and scheme about how to destroy Jesus. Perhaps you are even one of the sick whom Jesus cures, or maybe even you are one of those of whom Jesus casts out devils. Are you Jerusalem, the city that rejects and kills the prophets and who will eventually even kill Jesus? Imagine Jesus telling you that you will reject him and kill him. See the tears running down Jesus’ face as he laments over you in great love. Feel the agonizing hypocrisy of betrayal as you greet him on Palm Sunday with shouts of praise, for in one weeks time you will precede his departure with shouts again, but this time saying,  “Crucify him, crucify him!”

This Lent, in order to have a deeper and more powerful resurrection with Christ, see yourself as the reason he was crucified to begin with. Come face to face with the reality of your fallen nature. Look intently on your hatred for God, and the evil in your heart. For then, when Christ is crucified, you will see those very sins nailed upon that cross. It is necessary that in order for us to see the cross as something done for us, we need to see the cross as something done by us. Only then will we be fit to join Christ in his resurrection on Easter morning.

Catechism – In which city did Jesus die? In Jerusalem, for it cannot be that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem.

Discussion – Which character are you in this story? Why is Herod called a “Fox”? Were the Pharisees helping Jesus, or telling him to scram? Discuss how Jesus is like a hen, and Jerusalem like baby chicks.

Prayer – Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, bless us this Lenten season with hearts full of repentance. May we see our guilt in the crucifixion of our Lord, that we might faithfully receive its benefits for us.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

Year C – Second Sunday in Lent – Philippians 3:17-4:1

Text–Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. [Philippians 3:17-4:1 ESV]

Summary–In Acts 16:12, Philippi is described as a Roman colony.  It was a Rome in miniature, a reproduction on a small scale of the imperial city.  Its citizens naturally took great pride in being Roman.  Moreover, they enjoyed all the rights and privileges of being a citizen in the greatest empire of its day.  They were freed from having to pay tribute to Rome (a kind of income tax).  They were allowed to govern themselves without having to report to a provincial governor.  In return, Philippi provided a safeguard to Roman lands and spread Rome’s dominance throughout Macedonia.  The Roman citizen had much to boast about.  Paul was one of these favored citizens of Rome.  But where did this position get him?  It got him into a prison cell.  While writing to the Philippian Church, Paul sat in a Roman prison awaiting the verdict from the Roman emperor on whether he would be sentenced to death or be allowed to live.  But Paul was not concerned with this judgment.  He warned the Philippian church not to rely on their citizenship in Rome, but to imitate Paul and look to their citizenship in heaven in standing firm in the Lord.

Insight–As you walk in this life, there are many paths before you.  You must choose which way you will go.  Standing still is not an option for you.  You must choose one.  But how will you know which path is the correct one?  Which path will lead you to the heavenly father and his celestial kingdom and which will lead you to destruction?  They all look pretty similar but how do you know which way to go?  In our text, Paul gives us the directions on how to pick the right path.  Paul commands us to join with others who are following his example (vv 3:17).  Look to how he puts it in the preceding verse.  He states, “let us hold true” (vv 3:16)  which in the Greek is another way of saying, “let us walk in a row”.  This row is a row of houses, a squad of soldiers, a wall of trees, and so on.  This word implies an orderly and harmonious arrangement.

But what ways can we stand together in a row?  One way is to remember the season of lent.  Our church fathers arranged the Christian calendar in such a way as to remember the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  For many thousands of years, christians walked by the light of this calendar as a way to follow Him and to imitate His life.  As we follow the same calendar, and remember the same days of feasting and fasting, we are formed more and more into a row of houses, soldiers, trees.  Time builds community.    Following the season of lent provides an avenue for fellow Christians to cooperate in common Christian community.  It helps us take our eyes off ourselves and helps us remember Christ’s sacrifice for us.  We are then able to avoid walking with those who only think of themselves and where their next meal will come from.  This is what Paul warns us about in walking with those whose god is their belly.  Don’t lose sight of where they are headed.  Many look only at what brings them pleasure in the moment.  But when they do that, they are steered off the path and are led to destruction.  Paul commands the church to stand firm in the straight path of the Lord and avoid at all costs the crooked path of the evildoer and enemy of the cross of Christ (vv 4:1).  Remember during this season of lent what Christ did for us and where he is taking us.  He is coming again, stand firm in the faith and look to Him for your salvation.

Catechism–(Q) How do I imitate Paul? (A) By standing firm in the Lord

Prayer–Almighty God, ruler of nations, help us to keep on your path to your glorious city.  Father, give us clear understanding of our privileges as your citizens in the heavenly realm.  Lord, grant us wisdom in who we walk with, that we would walk in a manner worthy of the calling that you have granted us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Second Sunday in Lent – Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Text – 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4 But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5 He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness 7 Then he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

Summary – This account describes the LORD making his covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 12, the LORD had promised Abraham children and the land of Canaan. But here, years later, Abraham is still without an heir, except an adopted servant. Abraham had just won a great battle against King Chedolaomer, and here the Lord comes to him and tells him not to be afraid for the LORD is his shield, his protector. The LORD had given Abraham victory over King Chedolaomer, and He is faithful to fulfill all of what he has promised to Abraham. Abraham will have many offspring, like the stars of the heaven. Abraham and the LORD then made an official covenant (the Hebrew literally says they “cut” a covenant), by cutting the animals in half and laying them next to each other. Abraham then fell into a deep sleep, and a smoking pot, and torch passed through between the animal carcasses. And thus, the LORD made a covenant with Adam, promising him descendants and the land of Canaan.

Insight – One of the most important verses of the Bible is found in this chapter. Verse six, “And he believed the LORD, and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abraham was about 100 years old, well beyond the age of being able to have children, and his body was “as good as dead,” as Paul tells us in Romans 4. However, despite what his body and the outside world was telling him, Abraham believed that the LORD is able to do far greater things than we can ask or even think. God is able to make life our of death. We know he did this with Abraham, as Abraham had a son, Isaac. We know that Jesus made life come out from death in his ministry on earth. We also know that this is true in our own lives. We are dead in our sins, yet God forgives us and gives us life. If we have faith in God, he allows us to stand forgiven and holds none of our sins against us. We should look to this powerful God, believe in his word, have faith in his son, and this too will be reckoned to us as righteousness.

Catechism – What did God credit to Abraham as righteousness? Abraham’s belief in God.

Discussion – What has God done in your past to show his faithfulness to you? How can this help increase your faith upon his promises today?

Prayer –

Almighty God, You are our protector and our shield. We know that we can rely on you. Help us to have faith in your word and in your promises. We thank you for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins. Help us to look to him in faith, and thus be counted righteous in your sight. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

– Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year C – First Sunday in Lent – Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Summary – The psalmist here builds on the Israelite faith in Yahweh, the God who fights for His people.  In so many ways, this God has delivered His people monergistically, they only needed to believe.  When the Israelites trusted in themselves, their warriors, or chariots and horses, they were defeated; but when they trusted in the name of the Lord, they were protected.  Here, we read of the man who “dwells in the shelter of the Most High.”  This person has protection.  How does one dwell in such a place?  Verse 2 tells us:  it is by faith and “trust” in the Lord our God that shelter and protection is gained.  The Psalm is clear:  once you have made the Lord your refuge, no evil shall befall you and angels will guard you.  Reward for this trust is deliverance, protection, answered prayers, presence, rescue, long life, and salvation.

Insight – Do you ever feel like you have to do something in order for God to protect you or give you what you need?  Maybe you think, “Man, if only I had more of something, I could accomplish this goal.”  God has told us, however, that He is pleased to “fight for us,” to do the hard work of meeting our needs.  We need only to trust Him.  Now at the same time, this does not mean that we sit on our couches, waiting for food to just show up.  God uses ordinary means to meet these needs, and this in ways we cannot sometimes see, but other times in ways we take part in.  For instance, God provides food for us, and it is through employment and work that God ordinarily feeds us.  But our hard work in school or jobs to provide food or prepare us for careers is a gift of God, and lest we rely on our own efforts, we must remember to trust God fundamentally for all good things.

Child catechism – The Lord is your refuge and your fortress, what should you then do?  Trust in Him.

Discussion – Does “no evil shall be allowed to befall you” mean that nothing bad will ever happen to Christians?

Prayer – Lord, our refuge and fortress, we place our trust wholeheartedly in your almighty power, will, and plans.  Guard us from all temptation, evil, and hardheartedness, making us fit warriors for your kingdom.  Make us like you, be with us in trouble, and ultimately show us your salvation.  For Christ’s sake, Amen.

Year C – Lent 1 – Romans 10:8-13

 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13 ESV)

Summary–In this section of the letter to the Roman Church, Paul explains how the Jews of his day wanted to follow God through obeying rules but failed to find Him, while the Gentiles, who did not seek God through their own ability, but looked to Christ, found Him.  Why couldn’t the Jews find God?  Well it wasn’t because the law that they tried to follow was somehow lacking.  The law is perfect.  It wasn’t because they didn’t work hard enough.  No amount of work could make them right with a Holy God.  They sought the righteousness of the law but failed to see what the law pointed to, namely Jesus Christ.  The Jews “stumbled over the stumbling-stone,”.  (Rom 9:30–33).   Paul compared the righteousness of the law with the righteousness by faith in Jesus as the end or purpose of the law. In today’s text, we hear Paul proclaiming salvation to all who believe in Jesus Christ.  We also hear Paul’s warning against putting faith in your own strength in earning salvation.  As Paul put it: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9). 

Insight–The season of lent reminds us of Christ’s suffering at the hands of the Jews.   They persecuted Christ for His message of hope to the Gentiles.  Jews could not understand what Christ was offering.  Gentiles didn’t deserve God’s salvation; they were dirty and didn’t walk according to the law.  They believed that works of the law would save them from the judgment that was to come.  As Christians, we know that our works cannot save us.  There is no manner of scrubbing we can do to rid that sinful dirt under our fingernails.  But we must be careful that we don’t miss Paul’s teaching on how we are saved.  We are saved in Christ by grace through faith alone but not with a faith that is alone.  Paul tells us that what we believe in our hearts must be confessed with our lips.  We must confess Christ with our actions to those around us and not just in the quietness of our own hearts.  If you act one way throughout the week and then change your spots on Sunday morning, you are falling into the same type of error that the Jews fell into.  Our faith becomes a work that saves us.  See how Paul ties two Old Testament verses together in our passage to make his point.  With Isaiah Paul says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame,” and with Joel he says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” True saving faith comes from believing in Jesus Christ and calling on His name.  This offer is for everyone, to the Jew and the Greek.  You have been offered salvation through Jesus Christ.  Don’t worry about the embarassment that could come from letting others know what you believe.  Don’t worry about not being clean enough to come before the Lord.  Just put your faith in Him and you will be saved.   

Catechism–(Q) Who will be saved?  (A) Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Prayer–Father God we thank you for your free offer of salvation to all who put their faith and trust in your Son.  We praise you for the riches you give us beyond what we could ever earn or deserve.  Your love abounds, Lord.  We ask that you give us the courage to proclaim with our lips and our actions to those around us what we believe in our hearts.  You deserve all glory, honor and praise.  In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Mike Fenimore

Year C – Lent 1- Deut. 26:1-11

Text – 26:1 When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. 3 You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.”4 When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, 5 you shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. 6 When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us,7 we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; 9 and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.” You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God.11 Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.

Summary – The book of Deuteronomy records for us Moses’ last speech or sermon that he gives to the people of Israel. In it, he tells the people of Israel what the LORD commands them to do when they enter into the Promised Land. In this passage, he commands them that after they have settled the land, and have farmed the land and produced a harvest, they are to dedicate the harvest to the LORD. They are to take the first produce of their harvest, take it to the priest and give it to the priest. They are then to make a statement of all of the great acts that the LORD has done for his people, Israel. The wandering Aramean is referring to Abraham, and God Abraham into a great nation, has brought his people out of slavery, and has given them the land of Canaan. Now they would bring the first fruits of that harvest, remember how God has acted faithfully in the past, and would trust God for a bountiful harvest.

Insight – We often times have a hard time trusting in God’s faithfulness because we do not remind ourselves of all that he has done in both salvation history and our personal history. But our God is a God who not only brought our forefathers out of Egypt and into the Promised land, as he promised, but more importantly our God became man and died, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven. He gives us, who believe in his Son, the right to be called children of God. As God’s children we have a trustworthy and faithful heavenly father, who will never neglect what we need. So turn to him in faith, remembering what he has done for you in the past, and know that his faithfulness will never waiver in the future.
Catechism – What was Israel commanded to do with the first fruits of the harvest? Bring it to the priest, describing all the great works God has done for Israel.

Prayer – Almighty God, You are the LORD, who called Abraham, who sent your prophet Moses to bring Israel out of captivity. And you have sent your only Son to be the greater Moses, to bring your people about of captivity to our sins. Increase our faith O God, help us to always be mindful of your great works, and help us to rest in you for our futures. We ask this through your faithful Son, Jesus Christ
Amen.

Contributed by Jared McNabb

Year C – First Sunday in Lent – Luke 4:4-14

Luke 4:4-14 (NRSV)

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’

11 and

‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 

Summary – Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, went into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil. These temptations attacked his trust in God for bread, for authority, and his trust in God’s Word. Jesus responded to all these temptations with absolute and unquestionable trust in God and His Word. The devil then departed from him for a season, and Jesus came back out of the wilderness still filled with the Holy Spirit.

Insight – It has been said there is a difference in being “alive” and “truly living.” This means that there is a way to be physically alive and yet completely miss out on the joy and excitement of what life is all about. Jesus refers to this “true living” when he answers the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” There is a way of living that is more important than simply remaining physically alive. Adam was told that in the day he ate from the Tree of Knowledge that he would surely die (Gen 2:17). Yet that day he did not die physically, but he did certainly die spiritually. His covenant relationship with God was destroyed, and that was the death of which God spoke (Rom. 5:12-14). Now Jesus, as the Second Adam, succeeds where Adam failed. Jesus reveals that our covenant life in God is true life (John 14:6) and is way more important than just being physically alive. In fact, the only way we are to truly live is with this covenant with God intact and unbroken. The bond that keeps this living relationship alive is the Holy Spirit, who gives us an unquestionable love and trust of God and His Word. This is where the devil tried to make Jesus sin, at the very core of his love and trust for his Father. Jesus’ death and resurrection re-connected our broken bond and He brings us back into that true life of God (Ezek. 20:37). The faithfulness of Jesus is now ours by faith, and like Jesus, when we are tempted to sin against God, we must remember that we too are filled with the Spirit and have the power to be unmovable in our commitment to God and His Word. This is what it means to “truly live.”

Catechism – How are we to truly live? Answer; Not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Discussion – How can a person be physically alive and yet dead at the same time? How does a person become “truly alive”? How is a person supposed to remain “truly alive”? What is more important than being physically alive? Discuss what a “bond” is.

Prayer – Heavenly Father, please grant to us in the day of our temptation the gift of Your Holy Spirit. Strengthen in us the bond of love and trust in You and Your Word that we may not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from Your mouth. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Michael Shover