Tag Archives: Lent

Observing Lent

Lent
March 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 32

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
   and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
   and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful
   offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
   shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
   you preserve me from trouble;
   you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. –Psalm 32

Today marks the first day of Lent in 2017. Lent is one of the oldest holy days in the Christian faith. Early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200) wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days, not the 40 observed today*. It was formalized and extended to 40 days over the next few hundred years. My guess is some sort of preparation for observing the death and resurrection started the year after it occurred.  In the Jewish tradition 40 days was used to describe a substantial amount of time. While the term Lent may not be used, a large majority of Christians take time to prepare for the observation of the death and resurrection of Christ. Self-examination, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement, and self-denial are often part of the process of Lent.

Our scripture today deals with acknowledging sins and seeking forgiveness for them.  It is important that we routinely examine ourselves and not only seek God’s forgiveness but also seek God’s help in correcting whatever has caused us to become separated from God. That said, I found it interesting that the writer of Psalm 32 jumps from such self-examination to praying in times of distress. Isn’t that just like life today. One minute we have some time to reflect and pray, the next we are struggling to keep from drowning whether actually or figuratively. This week I have seen several news reports of people dealing with disasters. People who have climbed to the roofs of their vehicles after been swept away in flooding waters were rescued by fire fighters. Horses were quickly moved from their barns that were in the path of a fast-moving fire. In neither instance did the people involve wake up that morning knowing what they would soon be facing.

I believe God is present with us always. Our spending time with God routinely makes us better prepared to connect with God in times of distress.

Prayer: Lord as we enter this 40 days of closer communion with you, enable our quest for knowing your more nearly. Make us whole. Amen.

*http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/beginning-of-lent.html

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Grace, Love, Compassion

Create in me a clean heartLent
March 18, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:1-12

Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
   blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
   and cleanse me from my sin. — Psalm 51:1-2

In many Bibles our scripture today is preceded by and introductory remark like this. To the Leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.* This introduction has been there for a long time but scholars really do not know if it were with the original or not. It certainly adds to the flavor of the Psalm when it is considered in the light of the infamous story of David, King of Israel, taking the wife of one of his soldiers and then ordering the soldier to be placed clearly in harm’s way so that he would be killed. Of course David got caught. I wonder if he would have ever repented had his sins not been called out by Nathan. It is no wonder David felt dirty.

While based on David’s sin, the Psalm is really about the nature of God’s love. In these two verses, God is described as one with steadfast love, for which we might use the words unconditional love today, and abundant mercy, which we might call compassion. Later in the Psalm we read of God’s gracious love. But most importantly the Psalm talks about recovery, a return to wholeness from brokenness, we call that restorative justice.

I think I am sometimes a very strange person, but for some reason when I worked as a waitress in high school and college, one of the things I enjoyed most was clearing the table of all the dirty dishes and dropped crumbs and then resetting it with clean flatware and table linens, making it ready for the next customer. When we mess up in life, life still goes on. We must learn from our mistakes and continue the work God called us to do. We can only do that when we shed ourselves of the sin that corrodes our souls changing us and causing us to turn away from God.

Prayer: Lord, convict me of my sins of omission and commission and forgive me of them turning me around so that I might once more know your grace, your unconditional love, and your compassion. Amen.

The New Interpreter’s Bible: A commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume IV Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1996, page 883
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Letting Go of Sins

GreedLent
March 7, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. — John 2:13-15 

It has been fascinating to me to observe over the past several years, how people, particularly politicians, have attributed to Jesus ideas and teachings that he is never quoted as addressing at all. Yet the same people rarely mention the sins about which he seems the most concerned: greed and misuse of power. Perhaps they recognized quickly the unpopularity of dealing with the sins we all commit.

John tells the story of the clearing of the temple very early in his book. The synoptic gospels mention it much later. The subject of power and its interconnection to money was apparently as unpopular in the first century as it is now. John may have been drawing attention to the cleansing of the temple early as he traces the path to Jesus’ eventual death from the beginning of his book. The event seems to have been a turning point in Jesus’ life.

During this Lenten season we would do well to ponder the place of power and greed in our lives. They are insidious, creeping into our everyday way of being without our even suspecting it. Greed is taking the walk across the line of healthy gain to wanting more and more until our lives are eaten up with collecting and hoarding. Misuse of power leads to oppression. Combined they are lethal.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us of our sins that are so much a part of our lives we rarely notice that they are separating us from you and from our call to serve you. Convict us of what is keeping us from having full communion with you and give us the courage to let those sins go. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.