Year A – Christmas Day – 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. This Psalm also points us to God’s victory in bringing about His redemptive plan through Christ. Just as so many prophetic books speak of God coming to a renewed Zion and bringing about justice and mercy, so we find the fulfillment of these in the birth of Christ and His redemptive work and the ongoing work of His body, the Church. This Psalm forms the basis of Isaac Watts well known Him, “Joy to the World” in which Christ comes to “make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” That is justice and mercy.

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 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 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.