Year A – Lent 5 – Psalm 130

Psalms 130 – A Song of Ascents. 1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! 3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. 8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Summary – Psalm 130 is a song of Ascents which were sung by those journeying to worship in Jerusalem to celebrate annual festivals. The Psalmist cries out to the Lord, recognizing that no one can stand on their own righteousness in God’s presence. But He is rich in forgiveness. So the Psalmist waits for the Lord. Israel is to hope in the Lord because God will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

Insight – The Psalms teach us the full range of prayer, praise and even complaints that we may properly express to God, not only individually, but corporately. In Psalm 130 we have a call for God’s presence along with a recognition of our unworthiness (“If You should mark iniquities . . .”). We are sinners and saints at the same time. We have no inherent righteousness whereby we can demand a Holy God’s presence and power in our lives. He forgives and now we see the full basis for that forgiveness through Christ’s death and resurrection. Despite our natural unworthiness, it is right and good that we still call upon Him to be present. We should be those whose “souls wait for the Lord.” We need a thirst for God that is just as eager as those in the dark night of battle who await for new light and safety in the morning. The promise is that “with the Lord there is mercy” and “abundant redemption.” Do you believe this? Israel shall be redeemed and this will come through resurrection (see Ez. 37) which breaks into the cosmos through Christ. Easter is on its way!

Child’s Catechism – What does God do for His sinful people? He forgives their sins.

Discussion – Do you sense God’s abundant presence in your life now or are you awaiting more of His presence like the Psalmist?

Prayer – O Lord, we ask boldly for Your presence in our lives. Forgive our many sins, fill us with Your Spirit, and redeem us as we trust You and hope in Your redemption, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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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 – Epiphany 7 – Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18

Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18 – The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. 9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God. 11 You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12 And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD. 13 You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. 14 You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. 15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Summary – Leviticus 19 begins with the call for Israel to be like Yahweh. Yahweh is holy and that holiness is manifest in kindness. God is kind and so you shall not take all the produce of your land for yourselves, but rather leave some to be gleaned by the poor and the non-Israelite in the Land. Even so, don’t steal or cheat or lie. God tells the truth and does not rob, but freely gives. God does not defraud us or hold back what is good. God cares for those with disabilities. He does not make fun of the deaf or blind. He does not slander us or hate His people. Love your neighbor as yourself because we are to be like God in His gracious and just character.

Insight – In light of the Exodus from Egypt, we can see that God treats His people graciously. Earlier in the book there is a rationale attached to the command to be like the Lord: “For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy” (11:45). Because God delivered His people we are to be holy. If we unpack this, it means because God has saved and provided for us, we should desire to obey Him. This is very consistent with the New Testament’s teaching that since we have been give salvation by grace, we should strive to walk in good works (e.g., Eph. 2:8-10). Even more, we should want to be like God’s gracious and just character since He is our Deliverer. Compare and contrast your SlaveMaster Egyptians with God: Your Masters in Egypt would not let you worship the true God (commandments 1-3); they made you work without rest (4th commandment); they stole authority (5th commandment); they killed and hated you (6th); they broke the sanctity of marriage and family (even killing your children) (7th); they stole your labor (8th); they did not speak the truth (9th); they coveted what was not their own (10th). So don’t be like your Masters in Egypt, be like the true and gracious God who saved you.

Discussion – What are ways that we act more like the slaving Egyptian masters than God?

Catechism – Why should we be kind? Because God our Savior is kind to us.

Prayer – O Lord our God, we praise you for your mercy and kindness to us in providing for our Deliverance from sin and death in Jesus Christ. Grant that we who see more and more your great mercies grow to be more and more like you, pleasing you by showing kindness and mercy to others. In Christ’s name we pray.

Year A – Epiphany 4 – 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

1 Corinthians 1:18–31 – For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Summary – This passage falls as a “parenthesis,” or a “side-note” in the midst of Paul dealing with a particular problem in the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians were boasting about which apostle they followed, in other words parading their “wisdom” around, showing off to other Christians how much they thought they knew.  Paul chastises them, reminding them that they’re all “on the same team.”  Then in this passage he uses his own preaching as an example to show them that the world’s wisdom is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, Paul’s gospel proclaims the crucified Christ who is the power and wisdom of God.  He goes on to show that God uses the weak things to shame the wise, so don’t boast in yourself: Christ is your life and your wisdom.

Insight –  Things can be upside-down in the kingdom of God sometimes.  Imagine if an extremely TALL person as well as a very, very SHORT person were standing beside each other, looking at a table, and I told them, “There is a $100 bill in front of you.”  Now imagine if the money was taped to the bottom of the table: the short person would say, “I see it!” while the tall person would say, “Where is it?”  Normally, people who are tall and strong are considered to be more powerful people, but in this situation, for all his strength, the tall person couldn’t see the money while the short person, looking up at the bottom of the table, could!  This is how the kingdom of God is.  Jesus told stories called “parables” so that the Pharisees whom everyone thought were really smart couldn’t understand, while simple fishermen could.  Paul teaches us the same thing in this passage of 1 Corinthians.  The people who we often think are the most smart, intelligent people think that the truth of God is false.  Just like the tall man who couldn’t see the money because he wasn’t looking in the right way, the people who say they will believe God if they can make the gospel “make sense” will miss it.  God calls people to himself by the preaching of Christ crucified so that we won’t think our own “smart-ness” is why we believe.  Jesus “became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” Thank God today that He has revealed His truth to you: because it is a gift!

Child Catechism – What is the Good News you believe?  That Christ was crucified for me.

Discussion – Paul says that the Gospel is foolishness to “those who are perishing.”  Does this mean we shouldn’t try to gain wisdom?  Why/why not?  Paul says, “the world did not know God through wisdom.”  What do we know Him through?

Prayer – Dear God, you tell us that your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.  Since in your great wisdom you have saved us through our crucified Christ to show us that we are not saved by our wisdom, we thank you for calling us to your truth.  We acknowledge our helplessness to find the truth without your grace and we pray that you give us the strength to cling to Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  We pray this in His name.  Amen.

Contributed by Jon Herr

Year A – Epiphany 7 – Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

Leviticus 19:1–2, 9–18 – The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. 9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God. 11 You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. 12 And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD. 13 You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. 14 You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. 15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD. 17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Summary – Leviticus 19 begins with the call for Israel to be like Yahweh. Yahweh is holy and that holiness is manifest in kindness. God is kind and so you shall not take all the produce of your land for yourselves, but rather leave some to be gleaned by the poor and the non-Israelite in the Land. Even so, don’t steal or cheat or lie. God tells the truth and does not rob, but freely gives. God does not defraud us or hold back what is good. God cares for those with disabilities. He does not make fun of the deaf or blind. He does not slander us or hate His people. Love your neighbor as yourself because we are to be like God in His gracious and just character.

Insight – In light of the Exodus from Egypt, we can see that God treats His people graciously. Earlier in the book there is a rationale attached to the command to be like the Lord: “For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy” (11:45). Because God delivered His people we are to be holy. If we unpack this, it means because God has saved and provided for us, we should desire to obey Him. This is very consistent with the New Testament’s teaching that since we have been give salvation by grace, we should strive to walk in good works (e.g., Eph. 2:8-10). Even more, we should want to be like God’s gracious and just character since He is our Deliverer. Compare and contrast your SlaveMaster Egyptians with God: Your Masters in Egypt would not let you worship the true God (commandments 1-3); they made you work without rest (4th commandment); they stole authority (5th commandment); they killed and hated you (6th); they broke the sanctity of marriage and family (even killing your children) (7th); they stole your labor (8th); they did not speak the truth (9th); they coveted what was not their own (10th). So don’t be like your Masters in Egypt, be like the true and gracious God who saved you.

Discussion – What are ways that we act more like the slaving Egyptian masters than God?

Catechism – Why should we be kind? Because God our Savior is kind to us.

Prayer – O Lord our God, we praise you for your mercy and kindness to us in providing for our Deliverance from sin and death in Jesus Christ. Grant that we who see more and more your great mercies grow to be more and more like you, pleasing you by showing kindness and mercy to others. In Christ’s name we pray.

Year C – Seventeenth Sunday in Pentecost – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

1 Timothy 1:12-17 NRSV

12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Summary – In this passage Paul praises God for being gracious and merciful to him, the chief of sinners. Paul’s past sin of persecuting the church and blaspheming God did not make him unworthy of salvation, he testifies. For the whole reason Jesus Christ came into this world was to save sinners, even the foremost! And Paul says that it was for that very reason that he in fact did receive mercy – because he was the worst of all sinners, and Jesus Christ wanted to use him to show other sinners that their sins do not disqualify them from receiving eternal life.

 Insight – How many people have you heard say something like, “Oh, I can’t come to God yet, I need to get my life right first, and then I’ll come.” Or, “God would never want me in heaven, I am too much of a sinner.” Or, “My sins are way too great, I’m already going to hell, I know it.”  Well, the one thing that is true about such statement is that the person is a sinner. This is true. And yes, it is true that sin separates us from God. But to think that God does not desire a persons salvation because of their sin is completely backwards. God desires to save people who are sinners! “This is a trustworthy statement, deserving of full acceptance,  that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” God is not in the business of helping those who have it all together. God desires more than anything to save sinners. Your sin is not a hindrance from you obtaining eternal life, in fact, being a sinner is a prerequisite! And God demonstrates His patience in saving sinners by showing us in Paul’s life, that if God saved the worst of sinners, He desires to save you as well.

Catechism – Q. For who did Christ Jesus came into the world to save? A. Sinners.

Discussion – Does your sin ever make you think that God no longer wants you? If you were a sinner before God saved you and chose to show His love for you, how much more so does God love you and want you to be saved now that you are reconciled to Him by His grace and mercy?

Prayer – To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, honor and glory be your name forever and ever. For in your infinite and everlasting patience, you came to this world to save sinful humans. Our sins is not a stumbling block for you saving us. Thank you God that you you save sinners totally and completely, even the worst. In Jesus’ name. Amen.