Year A – Lent 1 – Psalm 32

First Sunday in Lent
Psalm 32:
Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *  and whose sin is put away! Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, *  and in whose spirit there is no guile! While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *  because of my groaning all day long. For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *  my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *  and did not conceal my guilt.I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” *  Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin. Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble; *  when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them. You are my hiding-place;you preserve me from trouble; *  you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go; *  I will guide you with my eye. Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding; *  who must be fitted with bit and bridle,  or else they will not stay near you. “Great are the tribulations of the wicked; *  but mercy embraces those who trust in the LORD. Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD; *  shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Summary – Like Psalm 51 which is perhaps better known, Psalm 32 records David’s confession of sin. In this text David makes clear that when we confess our sins and our transgressions against God’s law, God restores us through this His forgiveness. This Psalm extols God’s forgiveness. Happy is the man to whom the Lord does not impute guilt. This precious truth of God’s forgiveness finds its way into the book of Romans written by St. Paul. Romans 4:6–8 – “Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Paul explains the basis of this free forgiveness is ultimately the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Insight – Have you ever led a horse by the bit? Living in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, it’s very common to see an Amish buggy driver controlling horse at a stoplight with the bit and bridle. Sometimes the horse is at ease, but often it looks like the horse is striving against the driver’s control. David makes this point about us. Do not be like one that has to be controlled by external circumstances – A bit and bridle. We are to be those people who confess our sins freely, receive forgiveness freely, and are controlled inwardly by a motivation to do what is truly good. This can only happen by the power of God’s Spirit working within us. We are to be those who freely face our own transgressions. We sometimes fear honestly facing our failures and sinful actions, but only in this do we find the greatest of mercies. “While I held my tongue, my bones withered away”   . . . “Then I acknowledged my sin to you . . . Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.”

Child catechism – What kind of person is happy and blessed? The kind of person that freely confesses their sins to God.

Discussion – When someone is honest with you about their failings, how do you usually respond to them?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we thank you for your infinite mercies through our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that we, being always sinful, may more freely acknowledge our own sinfulness so that we may receive your mercy by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit God forever, Amen.

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Year B – Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5-11

“5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Summary – Last week we read where Jesus, Glorified by God alone to the office of the Eternal High Priest and was the only begotten Son of the Father offered up prayers to the only One who could save Him from Death. We are called to have the same mind wherein Jesus was heard because of his respectful submission as in one believing, trusting even worshiping the Father. Even though He was a Son, he learned obedience through what He suffered. Thus, being made perfect we too are called to have the same mind set.

Insight – We should practice the same mind of Christ Jesus, “who .  .  .  .  emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” We too should empty and humble ourselves and become obedient to God and His truth even to the point of death. Our level of commitment and benevolence should be such as we are to be total servants of the most high God putting off “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:17-24, NASB)

Childs Catechism – Should we be committed to serve like Jesus in every area of our lives? Yes, we should be committed to serve like Jesus in every area of our lives.

Discussion – What does it mean to be committed even to the point of death? Did Jesus have to do that?

Prayer – Dear Lord God and heavenly Father, bless us O God, bless us O Lord, protect us and give us strength to be the servants You have called us to be. Prepare us O God for such servant-hood and forgive us when we fail in our commitments to You in our everyday lives serving others. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

Year B Fourth Sunday of Lent Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 “1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. . . . . 17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; 18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; 20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. 21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. 22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.”

Summary – The psalmist in verses 1 – 3 gives thanks for God’s steadfast love on behalf of those the “redeemed of the LORD”. He praises God alone for His deliverance and for the children of the covenant. The psalmist in verses 17 – 22 speaks to those in rebellion, those whose sickness of sin resulted in their being led into exile. However, after their crying out in their time of need and desperation, God once again delivered them by his Word.

Insight – The psalmist began by giving thanks in his ongoing experience of God’s steadfast love with a sense of in-depth spiritual understanding of how the Lord has worked on behalf of those the “redeemed of the LORD”; the groups of which referred to here were those gathered out of the lands who had been dispersed throughout the Babylonian empire and re-gathered. In part he was referring to those brought through the Red Sea (Psa. 114:3), which was to the south. For us looking retrospectively and also into the future regarding believers in Christ that did and will follow; we can know who will experience God’s deliverance as all the children of the Covenant will be saved. The psalmist in verses 17-22 speaks to those in rebellion; their sickness of sin resulted in their being led into exile. It also led to human or physical sickness. This does not refer to the ignorant only, but more at those willfully given to doing evil and acting in violation of God’s ways (Psa. 14:1). They were afflicted, even tormented with disease. However, crying out in their need, God once again delivers them by his Word allowing those who were sick to participate in the cultic festivities of thankful praise. We too can count on being delivered from our circumstances and sickness due to our own sinful passions. ““Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”” (Romans 10:13, NSRV)

Childs Catechism – If we confess our sins and repent will God restore us who call out to Him alone? Yes, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Discussion – What dose it mean to “call on the name of the Lord”? Can we too rejoice with the psalmist?

Prayer – O Lord O God, please forgive us and open our eyes to our sins, remind us that as we sin against others and ourselves we also sin against You. Help us to see into Your ways for our lives and behaviors thus revealing our evil hearts filled with evil human worldly passions. Forgive us and teach us in Jesus name, Amen.

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

Year B – Lent 2 – Psalm 22:23-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contributed by Rev. Tom Miller, MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contributed by Scott Cline