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.

Year B – Easter 6 – Psalm 98

Psalm 98O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.  His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.  2 The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. 3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.  4 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. 5 Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. 7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. 8 Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy 9 at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity (NRSV).

Summary:  If your life had a soundtrack, what would some of the songs be?  In our home, our daughter is the one most likely to spontaneously break into a song.  That is the how this psalm comes across, as a bursting forth in praise, towards God and his mighty ways.  God’s justice, mercy, and truth are praised just within the first three verses; but then the psalmist evokes the images of nature and nations, which also display the Lord’s awesomeness.

Insight:   People can act in all kinds of strange ways when in front of a police officer, even when those people have done nothing wrong.  Other times, it can be a comfort to see law enforcement walking around a community or sporting event.  God’s justice has a similar effect.  We react to God’s justice in many strange ways. Of course we would like to see an appropriate level of fairness around the world; But at the same time we have silly views about the treatment of others and ourselves.  Moreover, it can be difficult to explain God’s just ways before our fellow men.  We may speak of God’s comforting love and mercy, but accordingly this Psalm reminds us that God is just and that his justice should be a comfort as well.

Child Catechism:  How does God judge the world?  God judges the world with righteousness and fairness.

Discussion:  What are some of God’s victories in your life?  What are some of the ways that God showed his steadfast love and mercy toward Israel in the Old Testament?

Just and Merciful Father,  we thank you for all of your provisions–seen and unseen,  put a joyful noise not only in our hearts but in our mouths,  proclaiming your steadfast love to all we encounter!   In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Contributed by:  M. West

Year B – Lent – 5 – Jeremiah 31:31-34

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

Summary – As we draw near to Passion Week, the lectionary texts become increasingly more focused on Christ’s death for our redemption and forgiveness.  This week’s selections do just that, and forgiveness of sins is the theme that runs through all four.  This passage from Jeremiah is the key to so much of the Bible, especially New Testament, as it falls in the context of the later and increasingly more evil kingdoms of Judah and Israel, especially during over-rule and some captivity by the Babylonians.  Jeremiah, seeing this bleak situation, prophetically looks to the future and to the coming of the Messiah who would initiate the New Covenant.  Of note, too, is the fact that this passage is fully quoted in Hebrews 8; the longest unbroken quote of the Old Testament in the New Testament.

Insight – I remember when I was 4 or 5 years old playing at a family reunion and one of my 2nd cousins told me he was eleven.  ELEVEN!  Wow, that seemed so old and grown up to me.  I had no idea what it would be like to be eleven, or if I would ever make it there, it seemed so far away.  Now of course, looking back, it is hard for me to imagine being less than eleven.  I’m sure most of you have had something like that–maybe a birthday you were looking forward to–where you knew it was coming, but had only a small picture of what it would be like.  For us, it seems so obvious and normal that Jesus has come to earth to die for us, but for those who lived before He came, it was not so.  They related to God partly through anticipation of His coming work, while we think more in terms of recollection of His past work.  Their covenant was founded on commandments carved into tablets while ours is written on our hearts; they had to learn to “Know the Lord” through sacrificing animals which gave them a picture of who Jesus would be while we know Christ because He has come and made Himself known to us, from the least to the greatest.  They anticipated the forgiveness He would bring; we now share in that actual forgiveness!

Child Catechism – How do you know God?  Because He sent Jesus to Earth for me.

 Discussion – What are some other ways the Old Covenant was different from the New Covenant we live in today?  What are some ways that they are the same or similar?

Prayer – Thank you Lord for remembering your promises.  You promised your people in the Old Testament that you would forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.  Now you have proven yourself truly faithful as you have fulfilled your promises in Christ.  In His Name we ask for faith to believe your promises as we remember your faithfulness to us.  Amen.

-JHerr

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 – Psalm 25:1-10

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. 25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.   25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.   25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!   25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Summary – This portion of Psalm 25 points out an important characteristic of God.  The outline of the Psalm is in a parallel structure (a chiasm):

Trusting in God’s Faithfulness (1-3)

Learning God’s Ways (4-5)

God’s Covenant Mercy (6-7)

Learning God’s Ways (8-9)

Trusting in God’s Faithfulness (10)

Verses 1-3 and verse 10 focus on God’s faithfulness, and verses 4-5 and 8-9 point out God’s nature in teaching His ways, the center is found in verses 6-7 where David enjoins God to remember His mercy and His Covenant Love.  David begins by lifting his soul up to God and he sees that those who would remain in covenant with the Lord must learn God’s ways.  He seeks forgiveness of sins (vs 7). God’s remembrance of His mercy and of His promise is at the center of this Psalm.

Insight – We have all been let down at some point in our life.  People have told you they will do something, and then they don’t do it.  Maybe you have let others down as well!  Have you ever told your parents, “Sure, I’ll clean my room” or told your brother or sister, “Sure, I’ll play a game with you” and then didn’t do it?  When David was King of Israel, the same thing was happening.  The people told God, “You will be our one and only God,” but then they turned around and followed false gods.  David realized that the only way the people would remain faithful to God was if God was faithful to them.  David remembered that God is the only one who fully keeps His promises, so he prayed that God would do so.  His prayers were answered when God sent His Son to the Earth for us.  Now that Jesus has accepted us into His family, we begin to become more like Him and can learn to keep our promises too.

Child Catechism – Who always keeps His promises?  God is the only one who keeps His promises.

Discussion – What does it mean to “wait for the Lord?”  What did it mean to David in this Psalm?  On what basis does David ask God to remember him (vs 7)?

Prayer – (adapted from Ps. 25:1-10)  Lord, we lift up our hearts to you.  Since we trust in you, we ask you to teach us your ways.  You have loved your people steadfastly throughout history, and now we ask that you remember your love and your promise to us now, for you alone are good.  We know that those who keep covenant with you remain in your love, so we ask for your help that we may walk in your ways.  This is only possible through Jesus, so we ask these things in His name.  Amen.

-JHerr