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.

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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 – Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 – What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)-in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

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

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

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

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

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

Year A – Lent 2 – Genesis 12:1-4a

Genesis 12:1-4a – Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Summary – Genesis chapter 12 is one of the most important passages in the Bible. It references the call to Abram to leave his father’s land and to go to the promised land. God had promised that he would make Abram great and would bless all the families of the earth through him. Through Abram God would restore to the world what was lost by Adam . The promise involved giving him land, a Seed, and blessing all nations through him. When this promise is fully unpacked by the new covenant era, the land is the whole world, see Romans 4:13, the seed is Christ the new Adam, and the blessing of all nations is the gospel great commission bringing salvation through Christ to the multi-ethnic Church in all the world.

Insight – The story of Abraham is the story of a man who heard God’s word and then believed. It was Abraham’s faith that made him unique. Abram, as he was called then, believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness. Abraham’s faith in God meant that he would also step out to go the land God showed him. In other words he not only believed that God’s word was true, but then put his feet into action. In the New Testament we discover the promise that God made to Abraham now is true of us. We are incorporated into the promises God made to Abraham. This is especially clear in Romans 4:16, “The promise will be guaranteed to all descendants, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.” What this means for us is just like Abraham we may have a place in the world which God provides, wherever that may be, we are the rightful heirs of the world (Rom 4:13). It also means that like Abraham we may be fruitful and have a “seed” whether that is physical children or spiritual influence or both, and we may be a blessing to future generations through our faithfulness. To the extent that we accomplish these things it will mean that we ourselves have acted like Abraham. We embraced God’s word in faith and then took action.

Child catechism – What did Abraham do when God called him? Abraham believed God’s word and acted on it.

Discussion – Do you think that God can bless you with place, purpose, and influence? Or do you think those kinds of blessings are reserved only for the people that were in the Bible?

Prayer – Heavenly Father we thank you for the example of father Abraham. Grant that we may also have the grace to hear your voice and trust in your Word and then take action to accomplish what you call us to do. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.

Year A – Lent 1 – Matthew 4:1-11

First Sunday in Lent
Matthew 4:1-11 – Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ‘ Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ‘ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ‘ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ‘ Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Summary – Matthew 4 is the narrative of the 40 days of Jesus in the wilderness, being tempted by the devil. The three temptations listed here are to bread, glory, and kingdom. Jesus was genuinely tempted since he had physical needs, he was to receive recognition and glory, and he was to receive the kingdoms of the world. Jesus always responded to these temptations with the Word of God: It is written, “One does not live by bread alone” – Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” – It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. After successfully enduring the temptations then he was cared for by angels. Like Israel in the wilderness Jesus, “did eat the bread of angels” (Psalms 78:25).

Insight – When we are tempted, the reason that it can be a temptation is because there is desire, need, or right for the object of temptation. I am not tempted at all to eat insects. Place them on a glittering tray with a beautiful garnish and magnificent presentation and it still will not be attempting to me. It is when there is need, desire, or a right that something can be offered which provides for a legitimate temptation. This is what Jesus endured. He had physical needs and therefore bread was needed and desired. In the other examples of temptation, Jesus had a right to these things as the son of God and as the world’s true Lord. However, we learn from this that only what is given in God’s way and in God’s time is legitimately received. Jesus  understood that he must endure the suffering set before him to accomplish God’s purpose before receiving the glory and kingdom promised (Dan. 7:13-14). He understood that even his physical need for food (bread) without which humanly speaking he could starve to death, we’re not to be received on the devil’s terms. Jesus was will to receive these gifts only on God’s terms and God the Father provided. The last part of the passage informs us that angels came to minister to him. The bread provided by angels was better than bread the bread of temptation.

Child’s catechism – What is Lent? Lent is a season in the Church Calendar which remembers the 40 days of Jesus in the wilderness.

Discussion – What kind of things do you want now, which if you waited for them, would be better?

Prayer – O LORD, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Year A – Lent 1 – Romans 5:12-19

First Sunday in Lent
Romans 5:12-19:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned- sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Summary – Paul expresses the core action of Christ over against the fall of Adam into sin. Earlier in the lectionary readings for this Sunday we saw the fall of Adam. Here we see the parallel in the salvation of Christ. As the one act of unrighteousness brought death, so Christ’s one act of obedience brings life to all. In the background of this text is Isaiah 53. The suffering servant’s actions will justify the many and he will be obedient to death. So in this passage Christ’s obedience is the obedience of his one act of forfeiting his life to justify the many on the cross. The result of this obedience is that instead of death reigning over the sons of Adam, now life reigns over the sons of the second Adam. We receive this life by faith in Jesus.

Insight – Many people struggle with the doctrine of original sin. This doctrine is that we are somehow guilty for Adam’s original sin of eating the forbidden fruit. In order to make sense of this, we must understand that there is covenant representation in the Bible. A husband may represent his wife or his children. A leader such as Moses may represent the people. A sacrificial victim on the altar represents the worshiper. And Adam represented all the human race in the garden. While this may seem unfair, our salvation in Christ rests upon the same principle. Unless Christ represented his people on the cross taking the wrath of God for them, there could be no salvation. So rejoice in the doctrine of original sin, but rejoice more in the doctrine of Christ’s representation and covenant headship of his people.

Child’s catechism – How are we made righteous? By the obedience of Jesus, the second Adam.

Discussion – What are some other examples of one person or thing representing another person thing?

Prayer – Almighty God, we praise you that you sent Jesus Christ as the second Adam to be obedient on our behalf, to do that which we could not do. Strengthen us as we seek to follow him , our covenant head, in all things even during this Lenten season. We ask this in his name, Amen.

Year A – Lent 1 – Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

First Sunday in Lent
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’ Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ‘ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Summary – This portion of Genesis explains the fall. Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Over and over in scripture the pattern of this fall would play out with endless choices. The process of temptation also will be repeated. The woman beholds the fruit and it is pleasing to see; she has a desire to consume it and there is the craving of power it will give to her. John would say in his epistle the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life. But this action was directly in contradiction to God’s word. It was a violation of that simple law. They could not fathom the results and consequences of that primordial sin. Eve was seduced into the sun by the serpent and was misled. She was deceived to do this, intending good. For interesting analysis of this, read Peralandra by CS Lewis. But this passage also makes clear that Adam’s choice to eat this forbidden fruit was not a matter of deception nor misunderstanding, he directly disobeyed what he knew from the word of God.

Insight – So much could be said regarding this passage and has been. I only want to draw out one thematic thread. As we enter the Lenten season we are to be reminded that Jesus faced temptation in the wilderness. And if we study these temptations and compare them with the first temptation with Eve, we do find an interesting parallel. First notice that Jesus was actually to receive the very things that he was being tempted with. He was to receive the kingdoms of the world; he was to have the bread and physical sustenance: he was to have the worship of his people. The temptation was in receiving it from the hand of Satan and especially by not receiving it as a result of the cross. It was Christ’s humility and willingness to suffer that made it possible for him to receive the name above every name in every knee bow down (Philippians ). And in the case of Adam and Eve and the knowledge of good and evil, they were also to eat of this fruit in due time. They were to grow up to maturity and go through a trial of obedience and testing, overcoming the temptation and at some point God would have given them in their maturity the fruit of this tree.
Today we should remember that God is good. All of our desires and needs he will fill in the right way and in the right time, if we seek him and patiently wait for his fulfillment.

Child’s catechism – How did our parents fall into sin in the garden? Our parents fell into sin by impatiently eating the forbidden fruit.

Discussion – What is something you are tempted to be impatient about, which you also know, if you were faithful and patient you would receive in God’s way and in His time?

Prayer – Our Father, we thank you for your generous provision for us in all things and especially through our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that we may be patient in seeing your goodness and hopeful in receiving your promised blessings. Give to us the strength to endure temptations by revealing your goodness. In our Lord Jesus Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

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

Text–Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)

Summary–We now come to one of the most glorious texts of the entire Bible.  What other religious writings describe the God of the universe emptying Himself of all majesty and taking the form of a servant, born in our likeness, but without sin?  The truth of this text is so hard to grasp that enumerable false teachers attempted to explain away what God did and replace it with an idol shaped in a package, easier for our sinful hearts to understand.  From the time of your grandfather’s grandfather, men have used this text to tell the lie that Jesus emptied himself of his “Godness” and took the form of a weak human being.  This, so called “Kenotic Theory” led many to understand this text to say that Jesus left most of his Godly attributes at home in heaven, thus losing his divine nature.  Our text says no such thing.  In the context of a Philippian church filled with vainglorious members each insisting on their own rights based on their perceived importance, Paul uses Christ’s example to explain why the Philippians needed to humble themselves.  Paul points us to the God-Man who shows us what it is to be humble, and how it is to be glorified.

Insight–Are you ever embarrassed to let people know that you follow Christ?  Is it hard to share your faith with your classmates or coworkers because you may be labelled one of those Christians and lose your “cool” status?  Those who were causing trouble in the Philippian Church were concerned about how their friends and neighbors looked at them.  They were concerned about their image, anxious to make a good impression and desirous to be recognized as people of consequence.  By contrast, the one who really was important put himself in a position where people mistreated him and saw him with no regard.  There was nothing in his appearance to distinguish him from anyone else.  There was no halo, no glow about him to make him stand out in a crowd.  He looked utterly ordinary.  This Jesus of Nazareth, who could control the weather and raise the dead, did not use his divine power to his own advantage but allowed himself to be arrested, tried, whipped, mocked, and even crucified as a common criminal on a Roman cross.  We hide this Jesus from our friends because we see him as a weakling who was humiliated and continues to be so in the eyes of the world.  This fool took on your foolishness and chose the path of humiliation for your sakes.  He was thirsty, but took no drink.  He was assaulted by the powers of hell, but did not call on the army of angels.  Even when he saw the full cost of this emptying as he looked at the cup that would lead to the cross, he didn’t faulter.  Why did he do this?  Why did he take on your humiliation?  It was all for you.  God the Father now bestows all glory and majesty onto his son that we may confess him as our Lord and savior.  There is no need to hide this majesty from others.  In this season of Easter, rejoice for what the Lord accomplished on the cross.  Rejoice in gladness!  He did it for you.  Confess this before God and your neighbor, Jesus is LORD!

Catechism: (Q) Did Jesus lose any of his divine nature when he emptied himself? (A) No, Jesus is fully God and fully Man.

Discussion: What ways did Christ humiliate himself for us?  How should we react to this?

Prayer: Lord God almighty, we praise you for sending your son from the glory of heaven to dwell with us for a time.  At the cross, our Lord Jesus took on our humiliation for us.  There is no amount of work that can ever pay back this gracious act of love.  And you don’t ask us to work it off.  You don’t ask us to pay it back.  You ask us to trust and love your son for what he did for each of us.  Lord we confess with our mouths that Jesus died for us, that you raised him from the dead and that he now sits at your right hand.  We wait for his return in the majesty and glory due to him.  We praise you now, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – The 5th Sunday in Lent – Philippians 3:4b-14

Text–If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,blameless.  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—   that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:4b-14 ESV]

Summary–This week’s text is an explanation of what Paul has been saying in the first three verses in the chapter, where he claims, “we are circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (vv.3).  The Apostle is tearing down the strongholds of Jews who attacked Gentile Christians by asserting that faith was not enough to be a member of God’s people.  These Jews, so called Judaizers, erected their own high places that Gentiles had to ascend in order to find God, chiefly among these high places being circumcision.  Only after following these Jewish practices could could they call themselves Christian.  These men trusted in their status as God’s chosen people and tried to force Christians to follow suit.  In the text before us, Paul compares his Jewish pedigree with Christian life thus showing where we are to put our trust in this life and the next.

Insight–In our day and age, Americans have a deep confidence in the flesh.  We have the strongest chariots and horses the world has ever known.  With this fleshy strength comes a sense of importance.  We trust that our power will influence those nations around us and bring about peace.  Hebrews of Paul’s day felt similarly, but not because they had the strongest military forces.  They felt important because they had the law.  They trusted in their own ability to order the world through their following the law.  But look at where Paul puts his trust.  He puts it his knowing the Lord, Jesus Christ.  We can’t build a world of peace with the sword.  Peace does not come through strength, but meekness.  It comes when Christians are prepared to lose and to sacrifice everything else in order to follow Christ.  Paul’s example points us to this truth.  He, better than most every Jew of his day, could lean on his credentials and trust in his own merit.  He was a highly intellectual man, having better in the schools than anyone else, he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel.  But to be a Christian, Paul gave all this up, considered it garbage, and became a fool to those around him.  He lost it all, but gained the only thing that mattered.  Christian, where do you place your trust in bringing about the covenant blessings that God promises?  Do you place it in Washington DC?  Do you place it in the cockpit of an F-22?  Of course you don’t.  The world cannot understand that power is not found in politics or military might.  It is in Christ’s righteousness alone where we find our hope.  As we take our eyes off our own strength, we are able to stop trusting in what the world offers.  Trust in Christ. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Catechism–(Q) Where do you place your trust? (A) The surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

Discussion–Is America exceptional?  Discuss ways that other nations have trusted in their own strength and have fallen from the world stage.

Prayer–Father God, we count everything as rubbish apart from knowing you.  Thank you for calling us to your son, that we may put our faith and trust in him alone as we continue to strive for the goal of your glory.  We pray to you, Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, by the awakening of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 5th Sunday In Lent – John 12:1-9

Gospel Lesson – John 12:1-9 NRSV

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Summary – It was six days before the Passover, and Mary and Martha and Lazarus had Jesus over for dinner. Many of the Jews were looking to kill Jesus because he had raised Lazarus from the dead, and as a result, many were believing in him. So this was most likely an intimate and low profile Sabbath dinner. Martha served, like usual, and Mary sat at Jesus feet, like usual (Luke 10:38ff). Here, Mary shows her love and devotion for Jesus by pouring a very expensive perfume onto his feet and wiping his feet with her hair. The scent of the perfume filled the house, much like Mary’s love for Jesus. Judas grumbled, saying that she should have sold the ointment and given the money to the poor. He didn’t actually care about the poor, he wanted the money for himself. Jesus tells Judas, “Leave her alone, she intended to keep it for the day of my burial.”  

Insight – “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Mary’s love for Jesus was known to all in that room that evening. It was so real you could smell it. Her heart was so overwhelmed with love that she freely and joyfully took her most precious and expensive gift and lavished it on Jesus. But contrasted with Mary’s love, is Judas’ heart, which is found cold and calculating, diabolical and thieving. His is a love of self. Not thinking about giving, only about taking. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 – “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” By entertaining Christ in our hearts and homes, having Him always as the guest of honor, we spread the beautiful fragrance of His love everywhere we go. This Lent, may we be like Mary who has once again chosen the good portion, by filling the room with the fragrance of her love for Christ. By doing so, she blesses everyone in the room, and is an aroma of life. Let us seek to do the same, and find real tangible ways we can anoint Christ in each other through acts of love and devotion.

 Catechism – What does Mary’s perfume remind us of? That we are the aroma of Christ, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.

Discussion – Discuss the amount of love that Mary had for Jesus. Discuss how our lives give off “aromas.” How can this aroma be unto life or unto death?

Prayer – Almighty and Most Magnificent Father, we praise you this day, with hearts full of the fragrance of love for the Blessed Lord Jesus. Give us grace to anoint the Lord with love and thanksgiving, that we might accompany Him in His death, and rise to life with Him in His resurrection, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere, as life unto those who are being saved. In Jesus Holy Name we pray, Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover