Year A – Lent 4 – John 9:1-41

John 9:1–41 – As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Summary – This story in John’s gospel highlights Jesus’ work in healing a man born blind. The Gospel of John is a marvelous exposition of “Signs” that call for faith. They are arranged as follows:

The Seven + One New Creation (Signs in John)
1. New Creator: Water into wine (2:1-11)
2. Redeemer/Healer: Prevents death of nobleman’s son (4:46ff)
3. True Sabbath: The paralyzed man at the pool (5:2-9) GO SIN NO MORE
4. Bread of Life: Multiplication of loaves (6:1-14)
5. Light of the World: Born blind, healed on Sabbath (9:1-7) IT WAS NOT HIS SIN
6. Resurrection & Life: Delays/death then raises Lazarus (11:1-44)
7. Living Water: Water & blood on the cross (19:34-35)
+ 8. New Adam/Gardener: The resurrection (20:1-29) “First Day” (8th Day)

From this you can see that both the 3rd and the 5th sign have to do with the Sabbath. In the early part, the disciples question whose fault this blindness is: his or his parents? Of course, if the man were born blind . . .  how could his own sin cause state at birth? It seems that perhaps they were somewhat muddled in their thinking. Jesus corrects them. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”However it is clear that is some cases one’s sin can affect him in drastic ways (see 5:2-9). The rest of the story reveals the glory of God through this astounding sign in John.

Insight – This Gospel reading is an amazing and even amusing story. This blind man received his sight from Jesus, but the Pharisees who claimed to have sight (so as to lead others) could only “see” a Sinner. Their system of righteousness which included Sabbath-work kept them from seeing what was right in front of their face. The righteous (but) blind Pharisees reasoned that, “This man [Jesus] is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” The unrighteous (but) seeing man (healed by Jesus) reasoned, “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” For a while the Pharisees were in power, so they used that power to perform the first excommunication in the New Testament, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us? So they put him out [of the synagogue].”

Child’s catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the light of the world.

Discussion – Can you say with the blind man and John Newton (in Amazing Grace), “I once was blind, but now I see”?

Prayer – O Lord, thank you for opening our eyes to see the light of your glory. Help us to love you more and to walk in your light. Amen.

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.

Year A – Lent 4 – Psalm 23

 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.

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.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
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 a beautiful poem which expresses the care of the Lord for his people with the well-known Shepherd/sheep relationship. It is a Psalm of David and calls to mind a young man who came to know God while tending the flock. Just as David was a good shepherd, nourishing and protecting the flock, so the Lord was The Good Shepherd (1 Samuel 17:34ff).  This is one of the most memorable passages in Scripture and has been the comfort of God’s people for over 3000 years. It explains God’s care for us, to lead us, to restore us, to be with us through the darkness, to strengthen with rod and staff, to prepare a table, to anoint us, to cause goodness and mercy to follow us – forever. 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. This caused David to sing and play psalms of praise to his Lord.

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 16:1-16

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 – O Lord, You are the 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 – John 4:5-42

John 4:5–42 – So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” 27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

Summary – 1) The Well Source – The “woman at the well” passage in John 4 is well known for several key teachings: Jesus gives living water; worship in spirit and truth; fields are white for harvest; and one sows and another reaps. All of these new covenant teachings demonstrate the main theme of John: see Jesus in these signs and actions and believe. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (1:12).  2) The Well Example – John 4 gives unlikely model of faith: a serial adulterer, Samaritan woman, then her townsfolk. The Samaritans were despised mongrels (1Kgs. 17:25ff) who engaged in worship on Mt. Gerizim until the destruction of their temple in 128 BC (by Jewish Hasmonians) and again in 52 AD. Samaritans were despised by Jews. “Good Samaritan” was an oxymoron. This is another proof that John shows glory unveiled in Jesus, speaking louder than impressive powers and worldly testimony. This sinful woman was thoroughly unqualified to be a witness on Law and Order. Yet, she is more effective in sharing her faith than anyone else in this Gospel.

Insight – Are you like this woman? Or are you like the Pharisees that Jesus left? Jesus gives living water to those who trust in Him. This water quenches the thirst of the soul for an actual Savior of the world (v42); while leaving dry-mouthed those who seek a Pharisaic legalistic “messiah.” Before a person receives this water, whether Pharisee or Prostitute, they must come to actually see with their sin. They acknowledge: “I have no husband.” Jesus must say, “this you have said truly.” Therefore: We must deal with a person’s deepest need before the lesser magistrates of sin. You can’t clean yourself up and come to Jesus. Come just as you are, honestly, and letting go of all pride. Do you have this water from Jesus?

Discussion – Have you gone to the well? Would you let her represent you?

Prayer – Collect for the Third Sunday of Lent: Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Year A – Lent 3 – Romans 5:1-11

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 – 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 – Exodus 17:1-7

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 – Psalm 121

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 121 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 – John 3:1-17

John 3:1–17  – 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.