Year A – Lent 4 – Ephesians 5:8–14

Ephesians 5:8–14: For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Summary – Paul contrasts the life of pagans prior to Christ with their new life “in Him.” They were darkness, but now they are light. He urges them to live this way. He explains that the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. He urges these believers not to participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, rather show them for what they really are. Things become visible in the light.

Insight – The Epistle reading picks up the theme of light which is also in the Gospel this week. We are all “born blind” like the man in John 9. We can all say, one thing I know, whereas I was blind, but now I see (also in Amazing Grace). St. Paul exhorts us as those who have been given sight, to walk as children of Light. He grounds this on the truth that, “Now you are Light in the Lord.” We are Light, even if before we were darkness. Now let us live like it. Open the windows, remove the shades, step into the Sun. Let the light shine and put away darkness and dark deeds. Notice the promise at the end in v 14, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”

Children’s Catechism – How are we to live? We are to live as children of the light.

Discussion – What would it mean for you to walk more in the light?

Prayer – [Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Year A – Lent 4 – Psalm 23

Psalms 23:0–6: Psalm of David. 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.  4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.  5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Summary – Psalm 23 is the beautiful poem which expresses the Shepherd/sheep relationship between the Lord and David. This is one of the most memorable parts of Scripture. It explains God’s care for us to lead us, to restore us, to be with us through the dark valley, to comfort/strengthen with rod and staff, to prepare a table, to anoint me, to cause goodness and mercy to follow me. When God looked on David’s heart, by His grace, David was the kind of believer that placed His trust in Yahweh as Shepherd of His people.

Insight – Psalm 23 is the best known Psalm in the world. It is a tremendous comfort. The first five words, like five smooth stones can bring down the giants of self-condemnation and lack of assurance.

The LORD is my shepherd. That is The one and only Almighty God is the One who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is not a vague deity. He is the Covenant Lord (Yahweh) of Israel, a covenant keeping God who has committed Himself to the salvation of His people.

The LORD is my shepherd. Now He IS and ever will be at any time I call upon Him, the only Covenant Lord who is my shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is certainly the Covenant Lord and Savior of His people and unlimited in His power to save, but I confess now that He is MY personal Shepherd who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. Not only is He the Almighty God and Savior, but He saves me not as a Tyrant, but as a loving Shepherd. So I can claim boldly, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

Children’s Catechism – Who is the Lord? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – Have you learned Psalm 23 by heart? If not can you at least learn the first five words? Which one of these words is most important for you?

Prayer – 
Through Christ you make us a new creation, O God, 
for with Him we pass from sin to the new life of grace.
 Accept our prayers in the warm embrace of your compassion,
and welcome all people to the festive banquet of your table,
 where we may rejoice in your love and celebrate the inheritance you have given to us. 
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Lent 4 – 1 Samuel 16:1–13

1 Samuel 16:1–16:  The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is now before the LORD.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Summary – This passages tells of the “anointing” of David by Samuel. David is the least of Jesse’s sons and not the one who would have been chosen as the quarterback of the football team. But we are told the criterion of God: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” As a result of God’s selection and the anointing, the Spirit of the Lord was on David.

Insight – Hannah (Samuel’s Mother) prophesied in song that Samuel “will give power to His king; He will lift up the horn of His anointed.” This is the very first use of the term “Messiah” (in Hebrew). Samuel would anoint with Spiritual Oil, the King. Messiah or Christ (Greek) simply means “anointed king.” When Samuel did it, we learn that those who would reign are not mighty in the flesh like Saul, but rather they are mighty in heart. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth of David spoke and plucked psalms, hymns and war songs of praise to the true God. That is the basis for his many victories, the first of which is the story in the next chapter (1Sam. 17). David said to Goliath: “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of Yahweh of Hosts . . . and this whole assembly [faithless Israel in the flesh] will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the LORD saves, for the battle is the LORD’s.”

Child’s Catechism – What does Messiah mean? God’s anointed King.

Discussion – What did God see in David’s heart? What does God see in your heart?

Prayer – Discerner of hearts, you look beneath our outward appearance and see your image in each of us. Banish in us the blindness that prevents us from recognizing truth, so we may see the world through your eyes and with the compassion of Jesus Christ who redeems us. Amen.

Year A – Lent 3 – Psalm 95

Psalms 95:1–11 – O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice! 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.” 11 Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”

Summary – The event in Exodus 17 becomes part of the living memory of God’s people in Psalm 95. This Psalm begins with a call to worship in God’s presence, to thank Him and praise Him with song. He is the Maker of the world so we should worship Him on bended knee. But even more, He is our Shepherd and we are the sheep of His hand. This means that our Shepherd feeds and cares for us by His hand. The Psalm ends acknowledging Israel’s failure as they grumbled and showed hard hearts at Meribah and Massah in the wilderness. The consequence is that many did not enter into their rest from the wilderness.

Insight – Psalm 95 turns the experience of the Israelites (Ex. 17) into a song. In hard episodes in life we want to completely wash them from our memories. This is especially so in terms of sinful and shameful things we have done. Israel did not get to sweep their sin “under the rug.” Many American textbooks revise our national history to make us look noble and valiant, but it was not so with Israel. Israel’s failures were written into their history and their hymns. True worship arises from truth. Proper worship arises not only from knowing God’s power and love, but from reflecting on our failures. Let us shout to the “Rock of our salvation,” while also know that we must not harden our hearts.  In this anthem, they recognize the power of God their “Maker” over all the earth and that they were His sheep which He cared for, the very thing they forgot in their grumbling.

Child’s Catechism – Why should we make a joyful noise? Because God is our maker and our Shepherd.

Question to Consider – If you were to write a song that recounted your disobedience, what would it say and where did it happen?

Prayer – [BCP Collect for Purity] Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Lent 3 – Romans 5:1-11

Third Sunday in Lent
Romans 5:1-11: Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Summary – In the last part of the previous chapter, it says Jesus was “delivered up because of our transgressions and was raised to-cause our justification” (4:25). The next verse (5:1) declares the powerful result of being declared one of God’s righteous people. We have peace objectively in the Hebraic sense – Shalom (wholeness, well-being, completeness) which should produce conscience-clearing rest/acceptance with God. Faithful Jews could (temporarily) enter into God’s peace-presence by the liturgy of the Temple, ascended and acceptable as the aroma of transfigured animal sacrifices. This kept the faithful longing in hope for a time of fulfillment. Chapter 5 says that the time has come! Now we have been justified – past tense – through Christ and currently we have (present tense) peace with God and enjoy a state of reconciliation which yields fruit inside-out. Hope is produced from the power of this peace. Without peace, then a desire for a better future is just anxiety. Only from a standing of peace with God is real hope even possible. And this hope has a present benefit. “Through the Holy Spirit who was given to us, our love for God wells up within our hearts” (5:5). The nature of true hope, powered by the Spirit, transforms desert hearts into streams in the desert. Our motivation is that God saves us when we are “unsaveable” of ourselves. Sovereign grace in salvation calls forth the cry, “Lord, Why was I a guest? Why was I made to hear Thy voice and enter while there’s room when thousands make a wretched choice and rather starve than come.” (Watts). Because of the Justification, Peace, Hope, Love and Reconciliation in Christ – We boast in God. Our “stock” and pride is not in ourselves, our ethnic status, our culture, but Christ alone.

Insight – Romans 5:1 is worth knowing by heart – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace or “rest” in terms of Psalm 95, is the result of being right with God through Jesus’s completed work grasped by faith alone. Yet this faith is not “alone in the person justified” (Westminster Confession 11.2). This peace results in changed lives. In this case, those who believe, “stand and rejoice,” “persevere,”  have “character,” “hope,” and love. In Lenten pursuit, do you “stand” in Him? Do you live in joy? Are you persevering or giving way? Is your character being shaped by your peace with God? Does hope characterize your life? Do you walk in love toward others or hatred? If you have peace with God through Christ, cease any wars with yourself or anyone else.

Child’s Catechism – What do we have as a result of being justified by faith? We have peace with God.

Question to Consider – What is one result of peace with God do you need to exercise in your life?

Prayer – Father in heaven, thank you for gift of grace in Christ, that through His life, death and resurrection, we have acceptance and peace with You forever. Strengthen us in believing this and we are thanking You for changing our lives into those who stand faithfully, rejoice frequently, persevere in difficulties, have character to weather storms and especially, live with an outlook of hope and a an ever-present love for others. In Jesus’s mighty name we pray. Amen.

Year A – Lent 3 – Exodus 17:1-7

Third Sunday in Lent
Exodus 17:1-7 – From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

Summary – This passage provides one example of God’s miraculous provision of water. The focus here is that God provided even in the midst of their faithlessness. In the Numbers 20 at the end of their 40 years is another event which is similar but the focus  is that Moses in anger struck the rock (who was Christ) twice. “And he said to them, ‘Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?’ 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them'” (Num. 20:10-12). In this place, as Psalm 95 notes, Moses called it Massah (“testing”) and Meribah (“quarreling”).

Insight – During Israel’s time in the wilderness (a forty-year Lent) we often see them being sustained by God’s miraculous power and yet grumbling. They were being led by a spectacular vision of cloud and fire, as well as getting bread literally from the sky (manna). God was their provider. Yet they are worried about water, as though God could give them deliverance from Pharaoh, bread like rain, but was utterly unable to quench their thirst. Now rock and water are very different. They are opposites. Men today can make mud into pure water. Men today with filters can turn the sewage into a sparkling beverage. But only God can bring forth water by striking a rock. Such is God’s power. Learning from their disobedience, rather than provoke God (“tempt”) with our rock-hearted unbelief, let us be refreshed with His thirst-quenching water.

Child Catechism -Why was God displeased with the people? Because they grumbled and tested the Lord.

Discussion  – Are there any “hard” things in your life that God just can’t do?

Prayer – Father in heaven, we are thanking You that You have given us both the Bread of Life and Living Water in the person and work of Jesus our Lord. We know that all the hard things of our lives are not hard for You. You can make hard rocks into liquid streams in the desert. Please do so in our hearts today, In the Name of Jesus our Rock, Amen.

Year A – Lent 2 – John 3:1-17

John 3:1–17 1   Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Summary –  Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews discusses Christ’s Messianic ministry (v. 2) and the “kingdom of God” (vv. 3, 5) with Jesus. Many hearers are stuck in wooden and dumb literalisms (e.g., “destroy this temple,” ch. 2). Here Nicodemus misunderstands this “new birth” as a literal natural birth. Jesus is describing a spiritual renewal. The word in“again” (v3) in the popular phrase “born again” in Greek is anothen. It often means “from above” rather than “again.” Hence the NRSV has it as born from “above,” just as John 19:11 – “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (anothen, 19:11). We have new life from Spirit of heaven “above.” a) The cross as the basis of our kingdom acceptance (v15); b) God’s love is the motivation for kingdom salvation (v16); c) God’s kingdom purpose is that the world might be saved (v17).  

Insight – Jesus came to bring a new age. Being “born again” relates to the Messianic kingdom of God. Elsewhere it is called the “regeneration,” or the new world (palingenesia, lit. “rebirth,” Matt. 19:28). Here the same idea is in “born again/from above.” Nicodemus should have known this (v. 10). This was not “new revelation” (e.g., Ezek. 36:26, Jer. 31:33). In Isaiah 59:19–60:4ff, the essential terms and concepts of this dialogue are found: “For He will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives. And a Redeemer will come to Zion. . . . My Spirit which is upon you. . . . Nations will come to your light.” Jesus calls for faith in Himself because He is the unique (only-begotten) Son of God (vv. 16-18). God’s action in sending Christ was “that the world might be saved through Him.” God’s purpose and intention is expressed as world salvation (1Jn 2). Like many kingdom promises, this can only be fulfilled progressively. Like the mustard seed, the leaven, the growth of the waters covering the sea and entrance of nations into the new Jerusalem, this is best understood as the cumulative outcome of all salvation history.

Child’s Catechism – Can your recite John 3:16? For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Discussion – Do you believe that God is good and that good will be ultimately seen in the world?

Prayer – God of wilderness and water, your Son was baptized and tempted as we are. Guide us through this season, that we may not avoid struggle, but open ourselves to blessing, through the cleansing depths of repentance and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen.

Year A – Lent 2 – Psalm 121

Second Sunday in Lent
Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills; *  from where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, *  the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved *  and he who watches over you will not fall asleep. Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *  shall neither slumber nor sleep; The LORD himself watches over you; *  the LORD is your shade at your right hand, So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *  nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; *  it is he who shall keep you safe. The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *  from this time forth for evermore.

Sing this Psalm! See Psalm 121 Here

Summary – Psalm 21 is one of those psalms giving great comfort to God’s people. One phrase has been frequently used as a call to worship:  “From where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” For those in covenant with God, like father Abraham, God has promised to bring about His covenant promises and will bring protection. Since God is the maker of the world, the elements of the world will not harm us. We can sleep with ease, because the sun will not hurt us, the moon will not hurt us and we are defended from enemies on all sides. This psalm functions as a benediction upon God’s covenant people.

Insight – All benedictions are general. If we receive the blessing that, God bless you and keep you, it may seem that sickness or trial would be inconsistent with this. But is it? To the unbelieving, every difficulty is a sworn witness against God’s goodness and His willingness to bless His people. But to one who is saturated in God’s word and promises, we know that all things work together for good because He is conforming us to the image of Christ. Abraham went through trials, but they all resulted in His receiving promised blessings from His Covenant Lord. So this psalm calls us to look to the Lord for goodness. We are to look to Him and from His hand we are to receive goodness. We are to trust that the Lord will preserve us from all evil. In believing this, we can weather trials and hardships because the Lord who is sovereign overall does not intend these as evil, but for our eternal good.

Child catechism – From where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

discussion – What are some ways we could use blessings and then benedictions in our lives?

Prayer – O Lord God we trust you because you are the maker of heaven and earth. Grant that we who call upon you may be ever hopeful in your goodness and trustful and your mercy. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.

Year A – Lent 2 – Spiritual Disciplines (02) – Prayer

Spiritual Disciplines (02) – Prayer
Sermon notes for March 16, 2014 – for All Saints Church (A Reformed & Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, PA)

Memory Verses
John 15:7 – “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Philippians 4:6–7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Introduction – This series during Lent will address basic (positive) Christian spiritual disciplines: Scripture Memory (3/9/14), Prayer, Fellowship (3/30), and Evangelism (4/6/14). Today’s word will address the discipline of prayer, first noting the context of our Memory Verses (John 15:7; Phil. 4:6-7).

Three Truths about Prayer – Disciples of Jesus must grow in the Word (e.g., Scripture Memory and Study), but also in prayer. Knowing the Word precedes effective prayer and effective prayer calls us more and more into the Word.  Much could be said about growth in prayer, but for our time, three truths are essential:
1) Prayer is communication with the Triune God (Rom. 8:26; 1Th. 5:17; Eph. 6:18).
2) Prayer is the central act of worship (John 4:22-24; Prov. 15:8; Ps 17:0, 90:0, 72:20).
3) Prayer according to God’s revealed will is effective (James 5:17-18; Deut. 11:11, 17; John 15:7).

Five Steps for Morning Prayer (PCPLP) – Many times our prayer is merely making requests of God. However, supplication is not the problem most people have. Our problem is putting on the full armor of God in preparation to make our requests effective.  Below are five steps to preparation, recommended as a morning prayer routine: PCPLP.

1) P – Collect for Purity – Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
2) C – Confession of Sin – Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
3) P – Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer) – See later in the bulletin.
4) L – Lorica – St. Patrick’s Breastplate – I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever. By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river; His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb; His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom; I bind unto myself today.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

5) P – Praise – Sing a Psalm, Hymn, or Praise Song.

Year A – Lent 2 – Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Second Sunday in Lent
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17: What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 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.

Summary – Paul explains that Abraham’s righteousness did not rest upon his works. Morover, the promises God made to him did not rest upon works. He received a promise to be heir of the world, the land promise, now extended to all the world (v13), through faith. If you read the entire context of this passage, the argument Paul makes is one of history. Abraham received the promises of his covenant prior to his circumcision. So Paul reasons that this could not have been based upon the law or identity markers of Israelites or keeping of things such as circumcision and the Mosaic code. Rather, Abraham believed God and that was accounted to him as righteousness and that is the basis for the promises.

Insight – To be polite we always congratulate people who have been awarded for hard work. Sometimes our words may (out of kindness) express that their achievements have been completely earned by their efforts. However, a thoughtful person receiving such an award, will note how often they were dependent upon others or how grateful they are for others, and to some extent how much they were unable to do it without the help of someone else. Paul cuts through all of this in the discussion of justification by simply saying the father of our faith Abraham had nothing to boast about. It is certainly one of the most precious promises in Scripture that God declares righteous, justifies, the ungodly by faith in Jesus. We are called to trust Jesus and then to obey. This is what Abraham did. In the argument of Romans Paul is making the point that it is not distinctive Jewish practices like circumcision that make one righteous, it is not being “hearers of the law” (Rom. 2:13), but faith in the God who raises the dead. Abraham did not have anything to boast about and neither do we.

Child’s catechism – How did Abraham gain acceptance before God? Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Discussion – How would you contrast the Christian way of righteousness against other religious or secular ways of righteousness?

Prayer – Our merciful Father, we thank you that you justify the ungodly by faith in Jesus Christ and that you take such ungodly people as Abraham and turn them into fathers of the faith. Grant that we may also rest in faith in Jesus, and as a result of your Spirit’s work, be faithful to you. In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.