Monthly Archives: February 2016

3rd Sunday in Lent, February 28, 2016

Third Sunday in Lent (Year C) 

Scripture Readings*: Exodus 3:1-15, I Corinthians 10:1-13, Luke 13:1-9, Psalm 63:1-8 (NRSV)

 

Exodus 3:1-15

friberg_mosesEven desolate areas can be holy when God is present. Moses encounters God in the desert, in the form of a burning bush. The miracle was not that the bush was aflame, but that the fire did not burn out; a visual reminder of the eternal God… who was, is, and forever will be. It’s a visible sign that despite Moses’ inadequacy, God calls him to lead Israel out of bondage.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Paul illustrates the truth that the God of the Lord Jesus judged Israel for its idolatrous conduct, and that God would do the same to the Corinthians who insist on exercising their right to eat in idol temples, unless they flee from idolatry.

He stresses that 1) idolatry is forbidden, 2) sexual immorality is prohibited, 3) testing (or tempting God) to act brings dire judgment, and grumbling is not acceptable to God.

Luke 13:1-9

Jewish belief held that the greatness of calamity somehow indicated the wickedness of sinners. In other words: The greater the calamity, the greater the sin.

Jesus challenges this assumption by drawing from two contemporary examples. His message was clear… the Jewish nation as a whole was sinful in God’s sight, and its members would all suffer the fate of sinners if they did not repent.

Lent: The Great Journey

Moses didn’t know God’s name, yet was chosen to lead God’s people out of captivity. God’s people, who knew of their heritage in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, died in the wilderness. What earned a pagan favor with God? What caused God’s chosen people to die in the wilderness without seeing the Promised Land? The answer is found in their response to the journey.

Moses responded to God with humility and obedience. He freely acknowledged his lack of ability – yet was willing to walk toward God’s calling. God’s chosen people grumbled. Doubted. Rather than look expectantly toward the promise ahead, they continued to look back at the life they had left behind.

What is our response to the journey of Lent? Do we look in the rearview mirror, yearning for what we’ve left behind? Or is the promise ahead so compelling, we’re willing to throw ourselves on the mercy of God, trusting Him to help our inadequacies?

Prayer for Third Week in Lent – Almighty God, strengthen and defend me in body and soul, fixing my eyes on the promise of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

2nd Sunday in Lent, February 21, 2016

Second Sunday in Lent (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-35, Psalm 27 (NRSV)

Genesis 15:1-12,17-18

Despite the promises of God, Abram had yet to own any land, or father an heir. Abram expresses his frustration with God. Rather than provoking an angry response, it leads to a reaffirmation and deepening of God’s original promises.

Abram accepted God’s reassurance and he “believed the Lord.” This was active faith as he “kept on believing” the promise, continuing to rely on the Lord. God credited Abram’s faith in God’s promise as righteousness.

Philippians 3:17-4:1

Citizenship has its privileges and its obligations. The Philippians could be proud of their citizenship in a Roman colony. However, as Roman citizens, they also encountered numerous hardships.

Paul reminds them – and us – that there is a greater value than earthly citizenship. Our future inheritance that we will receive, and for which we “eagerly await,” will be realized in the reappearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Until then, Paul admonishes us to remain “firm in the Lord.”

Luke 13:31-35

In spite of the danger of Herod’s wrath, Jesus was fully aware that the divinely appointed path for him led to Jerusalem. It would be at God’s appointed time that he would suffer. Until that time, Jesus would continue his work, and then finish his course as a prophet in Jerusalem; the city that had so persistently rejected the messengers of God.

Waitinglightning-child-window

If you’ve ever taken a child on a road trip, you’ve heard the question, “Are we there yet?” Lent can feel like that road trip. At some point in the Lenten experience, we grow tired of the journey. We’re tired of cleaning our spiritual closets and being confronted with our weaknesses. Just give us Easter, resurrection power, and a few chocolate bunnies for fun!

God knows us – He understands how easy it is to lose heart and sight of the promise He sets forth in His Son. Like Abram, we can fully reveal our hearts to God, expecting him to come to us in mercy. We can trust him to confirm what He has already promised and expand our capacity to have faith and believe even when the road is long.

Prayer for Second Week in Lent – God of grace, renew in me the hope of your salvation and a steadfast heart to embrace the truth of your unchanging Word; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

1st Sunday in Lent, February 14, 2016

First Sunday in Lent (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13, Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 (NRSV)

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

The process in which Israel was to bring its firstfruits is significant. The ceremony is a confession of faith that recognizes the faithfulness of God. Beginning with Jacob, the “wandering Aramean,” the people go back and travel with him – and those who followed – re-living the mighty acts of God that brought them out of Egypt and into the land God had promised them. Recalling and repeating the story of God’s intervention in the past offers strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

Romans 10:8b-13

Israel had heard the story. Paul stresses that Israel’s failure to attain salvation is because they failed to believe the story. He removes any possible excuse by asserting that the gospel (the good news; the Word of the Lord) had been brought near to Israel. Paul outlines the conditions required to believe this good news: confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. The end result… salvation!

christ-in-the-desert-18721-e1276316336416Luke 4:1-13

At the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended upon him. Immediately, after Jesus returned from the Jordan, the Spirit led him into the wilderness. For forty days he was tempted by the devil. In each attempt of the devil, Jesus quoted the Word of God, resisting and defeating the intent of the enemy. The power of the Word that is near us is able to save – and deliver!

Choosing Between Good and Best

Sooner or later, this season of Lent – and certainly our journey through life – forces us to confront temptation. In it, we are able to see clearly our weaknesses and experience fully the grace of God, which is mighty to save.

It’s interesting to note the nature of temptation. Often, it comes in the choice between what is good and what is best. Satan tempted Christ in appealing to the reasonable need for physical nourishment. He tempted Jesus by simply asking him to function fully within His God-given authority. “Create bread to nourish you, call the angels to protect you.” There’s certainly nothing wrong in wanting to eat or be protected! But the temptation came in putting those legitimate needs ahead of the will of God.

We often face the same kinds of temptations. We want more time with our family… another educational degree… a better paying job. All of these are good and worthwhile pursuits. But if they become more important than a heart reconciled to God and surrendered to his will, they present a temptation between what is good and what is God’s best. Lent offers an opportunity to examine the desires of our hearts, allowing God’s Word to bring order and His salvation to the priorities of our lives.

Prayer for First Week in Lent – God of mercy, come quickly in my time of temptation, delivering me from weakness and revealing your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

5th Sunday After Epiphany, February 7, 2016

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 6:1-8, [9-13], 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Luke 5:1-11, Psalm 138 (NRSV)

Isaiah 6:1-8 (9-13)

Though the nation had prospered materially, it was in terrible condition spiritually. God shifts Isaiah’s eyes from himself and his people to the throne of heaven, where he sees the splendor of the Lord (6:1-4). A true vision of God and His holiness always makes us realize our own sinfulness. As a result, Isaiah looks inward. What he saw moved him to a confession of sins.

Isaiah is no longer discouraged, because God is on the throne. He is no longer burdened by sin because he has been cleansed. He is now ready to proclaim God’s message to the people.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The Greeks did not believe in the resurrection of Christ. Their philosophers taught that the body was the prison of the soul, and the sooner the soul was set free in death, the better off a person would be.

Paul begins his argument for the resurrection of the human body by appealing to the historic witness of the resurrection of Jesus, stressing that without the resurrection there could be no salvation (a dead Savior can save nobody!). If the dead rise not, then Christ is dead, and that Gospel was a lie! The Christian faith is good only if a person lives; there is no hope after death.

fish-on-galileeLuke 5:1-11

Fishermen know how to work together, they do not give up easily, they have courage, and they labor diligently. These are ideal qualities for disciples of Jesus Christ. The fact that the men were planning to go out again after washing their nets is proof that they were not dismayed by a night of failure.

Peter was humbled, not by his night of failure but by his astounding success; this is a mark of real character. If success humbles you, then failure will build you up. If success puffs you up, then failure will destroy you. By faith, the men left all and followed Christ. They had been catching living fish and, when they caught them, the fish died. Now they would catch dead fish—sinners—and the fish would live![1]

Following Hope

When God is revealed, we cannot help but be humbled. All we can see is our sin… failure… inability. But looking into the face of Jesus, we see salvation. In him sin is blotted out and we are made complete. This Hope causes us to leave everything and follow the source of our freedom.

Prayer for Fifth Sunday after Epiphany – “Gracious God, through your Son Jesus Christ you have freed me from sin. Free me also to live out with grace the abundant life I have in him. Blessed be God forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

[1]Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1997, c1992), 158.

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C