Why The Wilderness: A Forty Day Devotional Guide: God Sends Angels After We Go Through!

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How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. All things are possible for one who believes. Repentance is our response to the fact that Jesus atoned for our sins and bore our shame on the cross.

To say that someone needs to repent implies they have done something really bad, and should feel really bad about it. While that may be true in some respect, the call to repentance is fundamentally good news. God ordained their ruin and captivity at the hand of Pagan nations. It was horrific at every level: The point of discipline is correction and restoration. It is an invitation to fellowship. God calls us to himself, convicts us of our sins, comforts us with his love, and changes us by his grace. Our repentance begins and ends with God!

When we make it about what we will do to make things right with God, we veer off the road of faith into one of two ditches. On one side of the road, we express resolve: But repentance is not a do-over. Nor is it a system of works- righteousness. Rather, it is a means of experiencing the abundant grace of God toward us in Christ.

Grace exposes our desire to be good enough and digs to the root of our sins. Who we really are—that is the realm in which grace intends to go to work, to renovate our lives and help us work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Mere resolution defrauds repentance of its lasting true fruit. On the other side of the road, we express remorse: So we feel bad, but only because we got caught.

We are troubled, but only until the negative attention goes away. A common symptom of worldly grief is self-loathing: The one who has godly grief understands that her sin is against God as well as others, and that it reflects a deeper wickedness in her heart. She knows that admitting and regretting are not the same as repenting. True repentance always terminates on Jesus. It does not wallow in self-loathing or delight in self-flagellation. Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors.

In this season of repentance, restore to us the joy of our salvation and strengthen us to face our mortality, that we may reach with confidence for your mercy, in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Holy and merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. Accept our repentance, O God, and let your anger depart from us. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise. And they came to Capernaum. And he sat down and called the twelve. We find this symbolism and practice throughout the Bible. They would fast and mourn and pray together for God to heal and bless their nation.

That kind of repentance is appropriate when we find ourselves feeling the consequences of cultural or national sin.

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For instance, I am both troubled and tempted by the rampant materialism and objectification in our country. I am a participant, but it is much bigger than any one person. We need to repent corporately for these kinds of things. As necessary as corporate repentance was and is, it can become more about ritual than relationship. The prophets spoke out against this kind of empty worship. One commentator summarizes the point like this: What was demanded was a turning from sin and at the same time a turning to God.

For the prophets, such a turning or conversion was not just simply a change within a person; it was openly manifested in justice, kindness, and humility. John the Baptist was cut from the same fabric as the prophets. He called his own generation to make a radical turn in the direction of their lives by pointing them to the soon-coming Messiah.

Life as usual is crooked. Right side up is upside down. Make room for the straight path of Jesus.

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Here is the beginning of repentance: This is simple, but essential. God is the Creator of heaven and earth, the primary mover, the ultimate point of reference, and our highest good—King of kings and Lord of lords. Because the world and everything in it belongs to God, any form of repentance must be addressed to him.

That seems obvious, but it is possible to believe in God and functionally exclude him from our lives, to act as if we are ultimate. How do I feel about this?

What do I like or not like about this? In these moments, though we believe in God, we are not functionally aware of his presence with us and his providence in our circumstances. Notice two key differences: So the first step in repentance is to address God. Acknowledge his sovereign control over all things, recognize his presence in our circumstances, and invite him into the stuff of our lives. Questions about what we think and feel and need are not bad questions, but they are secondary matters.

Our primary focus is on God, his kingdom, and his righteousness Matthew 6: Above all else, repentance is an address to God in which we plead for his mercy and rest in Christ. In Christ, our ashes are turned to beauty, for he has clothed us with the garments of salvation and covered us with the robes of righteousness Isaiah God of love, as in Jesus Christ you gave yourself to us, so may we give ourselves to you, living according to your holy will. Keep our feet firmly in the way where Christ leads us; make our mouths speak the truth that Christ teaches us; fill our bodies with the life that is Christ within us.

In his holy name we pray. Let us worship God, who has done great things. We rejoice in our God, who made a way through the desert of this world. Let us worship God, who has caused streams of mercy to flow in the wasteland. We are the people God has formed through Christ; we worship him, and we rejoice! Let us worship God in spirit and in truth. We praise God for the grace that has saved us. Almighty and merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against You and one another in both our actions and our inactions.

We recognize that in Jesus Christ our light has come, yet often we choose to walk in shadows and ignore the light. Gracious God, forgive our sins and remove from us the veil of darkness that shrouds our lives. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. This is the good news that John proclaims: The latter is an unveiling and extension of the first. God has revealed himself, not only in Christ but also in his Word. There is no falsehood in what he has revealed. It is right and trustworthy, truth in its purest form.

Addressing God is not a formality. It is a desperate cry: Try me and know my thoughts! But that sounds mechanistic. What about the mysterious working of God? What is the dynamic of spiritual repentance that differentiates it from natural penitence? That God is the one who beckons and arouses the repentance is what makes it makes it more than empty ritual. Natural repentance is aroused by fear or pride. Regarding fear, I turn from my ways because I dread consequence or loss of approval from others. We cannot fix or manage the problem of sin.

You can only be rescued from it and sanctified in the midst of it.

God, illuminate my path! Search my heart and test my anxious thoughts. Shed light on my dark ways. I want a clear picture of what my life is about, and where it is headed. How will I turn from my ways if I cannot see them? When we feel the pains of hunger, the habitual desire to watch TV, the consuming desire to buy something, our thoughts turn here: We are preparing the way in our heart for God to speak, making straight a path in our soul for the Spirit to work. How does God search and test and illuminate?

God has many instruments, I suppose, but we must begin with the sharpest one. His word searches us, convicts us, enlightens us, and leads us. This is why a greater devotion to the Bible is a good idea during the Lenten season. Remember, we give up and take up. When we give up something, we make a clearing in.

Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. In what areas of your life are you merely trying to fix or manage the problem of sin? Creator of the heavens and earth, Speak light into our immeasurable darkness. Expose the chaos of our steps and bring order to our lives. Light of the World, full of grace and truth, open up the kingdom of heaven to us. Tell us what you hear and see and give us ears and eyes.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Israel his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.

Father of mercies, we confess that we have sinned against you. By your Holy Spirit, come and work repentance into our hearts. Help us to see you as you are: Help us to see Jesus, the friend of sinners, and to follow him more faithfully. As we have received him, so strengthen us to walk in him, depend on him, commune with him, and be conformed to him. Give us an experience of your grace that makes us bold, that we might joyfully live for the good of others. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

But that is the reality we must embrace. The primary means by which we walk in the light with God is the simple act of confession. Confession does not secure forgiveness, but rather facilitates the power of forgiveness and its cleansing effects in the life of the believer. The acting agent is the blood of Jesus, his sacrificial death on the cross 1: Jesus is willing and able to cleanse us and restore our relationships if we will just get the real us in the light. To walk in darkness means to neglect or even deny the truth about God, or about ourselves.

A toddler may close his eyes and believe that he cannot be seen, but only because he does not see. So it is with the one who walks in darkness. He thinks his way of seeing things is in fact reality, but nothing could be further from the truth. He will not be able to have fellowship with God or with others until he sees according to truth.

Instead, we deal with reality in other ways. We distract ourselves with the artificial lights of work, entertainment, and hobbies.

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These are our addictions. When we feel stressed or bored or frustrated or empty inside, they take us to another world where we can forget all our troubles, at least for a little while. Addictions are dangerous because we are not only ignoring reality, but also making it far worse. Pretense, excuses, busyness, addiction, and despair are not our friends. They turn us in upon ourselves, which leads to death. We can only repent of what we are able to see. This is why community is such an essential context for true repentance.

Our friends and family can see our blind spots, and we need them to tell us. We need a community where it is okay to talk about our struggle against temptation and sin, how sin is wrecking our lives, and how our brokenness causes us to look for worth and joy and peace outside of God.

Can we talk about these things without condemning each other, or condoning sin? Can we weep with those who weep, and pray for those who are struggling? What is your practice of confession and repentance like? Where do you need to grow? God of call, God of transformation, God of the Lenten journey, help us to discern your still, small voice. Open us to change and growth, that we may walk with Christ. Let us worship God, for whom our souls thirst and our bodies long.

Listen, listen to me, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. We have come to hear the Word God has sent. Then we will go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will sing; the trees of the field will clap their hands. Everlasting God, fountain of all life and the true home of every heart: Yet we confess that our hearts have been enslaved by selfish passion and base desire. We have sought after many things and have neglected the one thing needful. We have not loved you with our whole hearts; help us to turn to you and find forgiveness. Lead us home, that we may again find in you our life and joy and peace.

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. Repentance begins with seeking God, embracing the way things really are by confessing them, and then turning from our wicked ways. For confession and turning to occur, we must take responsibility for our sin. The biblical concept of sin is not less than that, but it is more, much. Let me share a helpful definition of sin from a 19th century philosopher named Soren Kierkegaard: Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from God. We were made for God, to center our entire life on him and find our sense of worth and purpose in him.

Anything other than that is sin. It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship with God. This is a meaningful way to think about sin because we all identify with trying to build our identity on something. In our culture it tends to be things like achievements, or relationships, or being thought of as a good Christian.

Everyone is building his or her identity on something. This is what St. This is how Israel got to where they were. They made other things ultimate and whored themselves out to false gods who could not save. Israel was always running to other gods and then coming back to the Lord. This is the nature of our sin. We give ourselves out to false gods and then come running back to God when our life is in ruins. The gospel sets us free from this kind of fickle faith. God approves of us in Christ, without condition. We are accepted and adopted into his family. We cannot accomplish anything more than what he has already done on our behalf.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Therefore, we are free to accept responsibility for our sin without fear of condemnation. We not only admit that we have sinned, but also that we have sinned because we were tempted by our own desires, and willfully gave ourselves to them. This kind of ownership is necessary for true repentance, and stands in contrast to many of the ways we typically try to deal with our sin.

We try to justify our sin. When you become aware of sin, do you feel the need to nuance everything, explain how complicated things are, or make excuses? We try to downplay our sin, hoping or assuming that God overlooks our sin. We think we are the exception. We pretend things are better than they really are, cleaning the outside of the cup while we are filthy on the inside.

God sees right through me, and is not impressed or tricked by my lip service. Our problems are bigger than our circumstances: And repentance is deeper than what we do: Remember, repentance is good news. It is hope that God will restore us. Conviction of sin is a difficult pill to swallow, but it is good medicine to the soul. God of mercy, you are full of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in mercy, and always ready to forgive. Grant us grace to renounce all evil and to cling to Christ, that in every way we may prove to be your loving children, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. God of compassion, in Jesus Christ you did not disdain the company of sinners but welcomed them with love.

Look upon us in mercy, we pray. Our sins are more than we can bear; our pasts enslave us; our misdeeds are beyond correcting. Forgive the wrongs we cannot undo; free us from a past we cannot change; heal what we can no longer fix. Grace our lives with your love and turn the tears of our past into the joys of new life with you. No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

For all things are possible with God. Understanding the various aspects of repentance and putting them together through reflection helps us keep them together in our theology and practice. It leads to joy and restoration. Not frustration from trying harder, and not despair from beating yourself up. Those are forms of penance. Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes, not tries harder or feels worse Romans He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus Romans 8: Therefore, repentance is motivated by love for God and a desire for fellowship with him. Repentance is addressed to God. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! His transgressions were adultery and murder, two sins clearly against other people. Yet, he says to God: This does not abrogate his responsibility to others, but simply underscores the primacy of God in all things. Repentance is walking in the light.

There was a time when David walked in darkness, unwilling to see things for what they were. In Psalm 32, he writes: For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Only when he came clean with God did he experience the grace of God: Repentance is taking responsibility for our sin. In Psalm 51, David locates the problem: He does not blame or justify or look for a way out. The problem is not just that he sinned, but that he is sinful. It would not be enough to clean the outside of the cup, which is why he seeks a deeper cleansing: Repentance is turning to God in faith.

We are prone to wander, to pursue life on our terms, to locate our sense of worth and joy and peace outside of God. So the call to repentance is a standing invitation to give up our idolatrous pursuits, and turn to the one true God who restores us to the life for which we were made. We cannot save ourselves. Repentance is initial and ongoing. You may get in the light, and feel very liberated. This does not underscore the failure of repentance, but merely teaches us that repentance is both initial and ongoing. Real change always requires a clean break, reaffirmed through subsequent decisions.

If you are in a mess, and it has happened over weeks or months or years, it is not going to get cleaned up right away. God of compassion, through your Son, Jesus Christ, you reconciled your people to yourself. Following his example of prayer and fasting, may we obey you with willing hearts and serve one another in holy love through Jesus Christ. We believe the Word was in the form of God and did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. He emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and was born in our own likeness. We believe he humbled himself and became obedient unto death.

We believe God has highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. We believe that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth; and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Rise, O church, and lift your voices, Christ has conquered death and hell. Sing as all the earth rejoices; resurrection anthems swell. Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the risen King! See the tomb where death had laid Him, empty now, its mouth declares: He has conquered, He has conquered, Christ the Lord, the risen King! Doubt may lift its head to murmur, scoffers mock and sinners jeer; But the truth proclaims a wonder thoughtful hearts receive with cheer.

He is risen, He is risen, now receive the risen King! We acclaim Your life, O Jesus, now we sing Your victory; Sin or hell may seek to seize us, but Your conquest keeps us free. Stand in triumph, stand in triumph, worship Christ, the risen King! Let us worship God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ. We are new creations; the old has gone, the new has come! Through us and through our worship may we announce the good news to all. We are reconciled, redeemed, renewed! We confess that even though we have been united with Christ, our thoughts and words are divisive.

We have been comforted with His love, but have withheld our love from others. We have fellowship with the Spirit of God, yet we still seek our own way. Forsaking unity, we have acted out of selfish ambition. Exalting ourselves, we have sought to be praised. Neglecting our neighbor, we have looked to our own interests above all else. But You, oh Lord, have not withheld your love from us. You became nothing so that we might gain everything. Have mercy upon us, according to your great compassion through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise. It is to say that he became human, laying down his glorious form to take up a body of flesh. The Son of God gave up his seat at the right hand of the Father for a place at the table with sinners and tax collectors.

But it is in his obedience that we see his humility. It was about the infinitely perfect and eternally unbroken love between the Father and his beloved Son, and the prospect of the Father turning away. The mere taste of it was overwhelming sorrow. The thought of drinking the cup in full was so dreadful that Jesus asked if there was any way to avoid it. All the light and love of heaven flooded his soul. It was sorrow unto death.

When you see that the mere taste of the cup was enough to throw the Son into this kind of pain, then you are ready in this season to consider what the full experience on the cross must have been like for him. Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer.

Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Almighty God, who knows all and sees all: We confess our constant striving for righteousness, acceptance, and approval from sources that leave us empty.

We ask your forgiveness, and we renew our hope in Christ alone, who offered Himself to appease your wrath and forgive our sins. We find all comfort in His wounds, and we have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God, than this one and only sacrifice which renders believers perfect forever. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? But it shall not be so among you.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. He is the righteous judge, but gave himself up to the verdict of wicked men. This is the humility of our Lord: He had nothing to gain; yet he gave up all he had. Everyone esteems the virtue of humility, but to step into the reality of our lives is to remember how contrary it is to our thinking. In so many ways we are accustomed to building ourselves up — proving our worth, impressing people, vying to be noticed and honored.

Ironically, we even hope to be recognized for our humility. If you think giving up TV or coffee for Lent is hard, give up trying to get attention for a day. You will realize how pervasive our desire is to be lifted up. In the Old Testament, exchanging clothing for sackcloth was the outward symbol of making oneself low. Roy Hession offers these penetrating words: Our own self must give up its rights. Our self is hard. It does not want to obey God. It likes to show that it is right.

It wants to go its own way. It wants to claim all its rights. It always seeks glory for itself. It must confess that it is wrong. It must give up its own way. It must obey the Lord Jesus. It must give up all its glory. Only in this way can the Lord Jesus have all and be all in our lives. We must die to self. Repentance must begin with humility, because even our repentance can be motivated by pride. We may turn from our ways only to protect our image. During Lent, we are trying to make room in our lives for God to shed some light.

God will shed light into the dark corners, but that kind of light can only be received with humility. Hession puts it this way: From whom do you want approval or attention? What are you pursuing or doing in order to lift yourself up?

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But in my Christian walk I am still in rags; my best prayers are stained with sin; my penitential tears are so much impurity;. I need to repent of my repentance. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy. In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.

My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works. Almighty God, in Jesus Christ you love us, but we have not loved you. You have opened your heart to us, and in our pride we have spurned your care.

You have given us all things, and we have squandered your gifts.

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We have grieved you and caused hurt to others, and we are not worthy to be called your children. Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we are ashamed and sorry for all we have done to displease you. Cleanse us from our sin and receive us again into your household, that we might nevermore stray from your love but always remain within the sound of your voice. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. Get up; he is calling you. Most of us are smart enough to avoid appearing prideful in these obvious ways.

We can avoid looking prideful without actually killing our pride. We must get a fuller picture of what pride is and how it looks, and the Bible helps us with this. On the one hand, the Bible tells us that pride often manifests itself as arrogance: But on the other hand, the Bible affirms that pride can manifest itself as subtle self-centeredness, looking out for your own personal interests Philippians 2: If we want to cultivate humility, we must put pride to death. By looking to Jesus as both our model and our mediator. Jesus is our model, because though he had every reason to be prideful he was perfect , he chose instead the path of humility.

Scripture commands us to follow his example: One cannot be like Jesus without humility, but if we merely try harder to be like him, we will miss the gospel. The heart of the good news is that we can be more like Jesus only if, and because, we are united with him. We are united with Christ by grace through faith in his life, death, and resurrection. Because we have rebelled against God, we deserve to be crushed by his divine wrath.

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Even in our willful rebellion, we ourselves cannot bear the full wrath of God, hence our need for a mediator, someone to stand in our place and plead our case before God. This is the Good News of Easter! Do you want to be set free from self-concern to love and serve others in humility? Do you want to be set free from numbering your accomplishments, talent, or network? Look to Christ, who was humble in life and broken in death to set you free from self-concern. Humble my heart before thee, and replenish it with thy choicest gifts.

As water rests not on barren hill summits, but flows down to fertilize lowest vales, So make me the lowest of the lowly, that my spiritual riches may exceedingly abound. When I leave duties undone, may condemning thought strip me of pride, deepen in me devotion to thy service, and quicken me to more watchful care. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever. Righteous God, in Christ you became sin for us. You took what we are so that we might become what you are. But we confess that often we ignore our sin. We confess that we too often do not confess.

We keep silent about the sin that clings to us. But our sins are too great a burden for us. In Christ take away our iniquity. You are our stronghold, our hiding place. May we confess our sins, that we might then rejoice and be glad in you and in the righteousness that flows over us as a mighty stream of grace. Untie it and bring it. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.

And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest! However, humility is not thinking less of ourselves than we ought to think, but simply. What we have to offer is from God, and should be offered in faith as an act of worship, not for our gain but for the good of others Romans All of us want to be part of a community where pride and ego are put to death and selflessness and service are brought to life.

This is just the kind of community that the Bible calls us to: Notice that the key to this kind of community is humility. In other words, our lack of concern for others and service to others is primarily because we lack humility. All forms of self-concern manifest themselves in a lack of love for others. We become consumers instead of servants. Such self-absorption can turn an entire community in on itself, concerned only about those within it and indifferent to the staggering needs of the world around it.

Our consumerism is rooted in a lack of faith. We are worried about what others think because we are not convinced that God delights in us Psalm We are anxious because we do not believe God will meet our needs Matthew 6: We vie for attention because we do not think God rewards what is done in secret Matthew 6: We compare ourselves to others because we forget that Jesus is our righteousness 1 Corinthians 1: A consumer is self-seeking because he is preoccupied with building his own kingdom in order to meet his own needs.

The simple practice of self-denial in Lent teaches us that those who trust God to meet their needs are free to consider the needs of others. They discover this gospel paradox: But when I begin to meet the needs of others — when I begin to live for them instead of for myself — I find that God graciously takes care of my needs in the process.

The grace of God turns us into servants. Instead of demanding that we be served, we joyfully lay down our rights and seek to serve God and others. We need to acknowledge our resistance to grace, which manifests itself in our desire to establish our righteousness and meet our needs apart from God. Jesus came to serve—to heal, to feed, to make more wine, to wash feet, and to die. When we humbly receive the fullness and sufficiency of his love, then we will find ourselves increasingly joyful and selfless as we delight in serving others.

O thou God of all grace, make me more thankful, more humble; Inspire me with a deep sense of my unworthiness arising from the depravity of my nature, my omitted duties, my unimproved advantages, thy commands violated by me. With all my calls to gratitude and joy may I remember that I have reason for sorrow and humiliation; O give me repentance unto life; Cement my oneness with my blessed Lord, that faith may adhere to him more immovably, that love may entwine itself round him more tightly, that his Spirit may pervade every fibre of my being.

Then send me out to make him known to my fellow-men. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. Word of God Incarnate, you came to this world to accomplish salvation.

By your grace you call us to repent, to be crucified with you, that we might be raised as new creations. But we confess that we often do not live as renewed people. Forgive us when we do not show evidence of renewal. Forgive us when we let the fruit of the Spirit be choked by the weeds of evil. You have made us your children, members of your kingdom. Help us to show evidence of that every day as we work to bring your justice, peace, gentleness, goodness, love, joy, and hope to all we meet.

And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.

And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. But you have made it a den of robbers. And when evening came they went out of the city. In other words, the humble person knows who he is, and whose he is. People always questioned his identity, but he was not thrown off by their doubt or criticism Mark 8: When the crowds were flocking to Jesus, he withdrew to prayer.

He did not need the approval of the masses because he was rooted in the words that came down from heaven: Jesus lived and died for us. In contrast to pride and fear, the humility we see in Jesus is marked by dependence and confidence. If we aspire to walk in this path, we will have to think with sober judgment. We will have to be clear-eyed about who we are and whose we are. Where do we get this kind of clarity? The gospel tells us who we are: We are made in the image of God, created in his likeness for his glory. This truth speaks to both our dignity and our dependence.

The gospel tells us whose we are: We belong to God, body and soul. He is our Maker, to whom we belong by virtue of design. He is our Father, whom we belong to by means of adoption. He is our Master, and we are his bondservants. He is our king, and we are his subjects. We believe this gospel, but we need help in our unbelief.

We need others to remind us of the gospel, to speak the truth in love for our edification. We must be grounded in community if we are to be rooted in the gospel. In other words, the very people from whom we are trying to hide our true selves, God has ordained to help us see. We desperately need them to tell us what they see, good and bad. To be humble means we are willing to be seen as we are, by God and man.

Our pride resists this kind of exposure, but it takes humility to become humble. We will not hide ourselves from those. We will not cover our faults. We will speak the truth about ourselves with them. We will be ready to give up our spiritual privacy. We will not keep bad feelings in our hearts about another person. If we aspire to love one another, then we aspire to be humble enough to accept and speak to whatever the light reveals.

In humility we are becoming less concerned with our prestige. Our wills are breaking and we are not demanding our rights anymore. On the journey to the cross, fear is losing its grip as we cling to our identity in Christ. Pride is being starved because we are letting go of our need to be right and our desires to be recognized. We are being liberated from the solitary confinement of self-concern. O Lord Jesus Christ, you are enthroned in the majesty of heaven, yet you gave up that heavenly perfection to become a servant.

We adore you for laying aside your glory and clothing yourself in complete humility as one of us. Teach us to do as you have done. Deliver us from pride, jealousy, and ambition, and make us ready to serve one another in lowliness for your sake, O Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Most of us have a complicated relationship with money, with resources. This relationship is shaped by our history of having too little, or just enough, or more than enough. There are several radically different philosophies about money floating around in our culture. Commercial culture promises that money can give us pleasure, even happiness, while demonstrating to others how valuable we are.

Alternatively, many of us here in New England have been taught to be very cautious with our money. This Puritan-inspired attitude promises that our money management will prove our morality, preserve our pride, and keep us secure. Most of us are already confused about money when Jesus comes to crash this party with an entirely different point of view.

Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters — God and money. Jesus tells a rich young man: Nothing that Jesus says could be considered common sense. Instead, he tells us something that belies most of our experience. Jesus, and our wider scriptural tradition, tell us: How can that be true? Money is great, and helpful, and often necessary. Surely it is about money, about resources, for her.

I struggle with why so many scripture stories lift up the generosity of those in true poverty. Want is real, and it can be brutal. I do wonder, though, if our ancestors realized what modern research teaches us: Those who have the most limited resources are the most likely to be our leaders in generosity. Why are those with the most limited resources the most generous? Money can do a lot; but in the end, it fails to bring lasting pleasure, true happiness, moral superiority, individual independence, or security.

When money is not available, when there is not enough, the truly valuable things are perhaps more obvious: Money is a means, but not an end. If we make it our end, we are doomed to profound disappointment. Each year, during our congregational giving appeal, I let you know what I plan to give, and why. I am glad that I am able to continue to give ten percent of my income to this church, dedicating it to God and to the ministry that we are doing here together.

I am also working on a better plan for my giving outside of the church: I should admit that my commitment to the church is not always easy for me. Sometimes I get a little twinge when a pleasure is out of reach of my family. Sometimes I get a little twinge when I think that we should be doing more to ensure our future security. Mostly, I am glad to say, my giving commitment gives me a profound sense of peace and gratitude. I want to keep letting go of false ideas of what money could get me, if I kept it to myself.

I want to keep experiencing the power of throwing in my lot with others, of letting the wealth that has come into my hands work for the good of many. I believe in what God is doing here among us, and it moves me to be able to support it. Those quotes, those dreams we heard at the beginning of the service — they are worth the world to me. Ultimately, scriptures teach us, nothing actually belongs to us individually. Ownership is an illusion. The amazing thing is, that the more we learn to share what we have with one another, the more it grows. Instead of fear and scarcity, as we give and connect we discover abundance: As our hands open towards one another, loaves and fishes multiply, and meal and oil appear out of thin air, through the mysterious and marvelous grace of God.

Dear God, money makes us anxious and afraid and enthralled and protective. It pushes our buttons, and we get all wrapped up in it, instead of being focused on you. Whatever numbers are in our bank accounts, help us to breathe deeply, day by day, shedding fear and shame and pride. Teach us that our true value and security come from you. Teach us how to share what we are able and called to share with glad and generous hearts, that we might relieve the wants of others, free ourselves of every burden, and participate in your miraculous multiplication. I wonder if you a ll could help me this morning think of ways that our church welcomes people.

When people arrive at our church doors on a Sunday morning, what are some of the things we do to help them feel welcome? As folks come into the sanctuary and participate in worship, are there things we do to make people comfortable, or to make sure they can participate? Do we do anything outside our building to help people feel welcome? This church does a lot to welcome people, and we keep trying to make our welcoming muscles stronger.

Naomi and her family are refugees, people who are forced to leave their homeland to survive, like so many people in our world today. They are able to travel to a new place, and they find the food they need. Naomi knows that she does not have what she needs to keep her daughters-in-law safe and healthy. So, she tells them to go back to the homes they had grown up in.

She tells them to let her go, alone, back to the place where she grew up: Naomi is trying to be practical, and she is trying to be generous. But here is the really amazing part of this story. Ruth decides that being together with this person that she loves is more important than anything else. She decides that whatever is going to happen next, it will be better if she and Naomi face it together. So Ruth tells Naomi: Your people shall be my people, and your God my God… Not even death will part me from you. This season at church we are thinking about how we can be more like Ruth. Ruth gives the gift of help and companionship along the way.

She goes with Naomi, even though it means traveling to a place she has never been before. Ruth brings the gifts that God gives her out into an unfamiliar world. How can we be like Ruth? How else can we be like Ruth? Folks reflected on this and recorded their ideas on hearts to share. Dear God, open our hearts to follow in the ways of our ancestor Ruth, Going, and staying, and living, and dying, together with all your children. In the book of Revelation, John of Patmos recounts what God has unveiled before him in visions and in voices.

In this new reality, John writes, God is at home among the people. There is no mourning or crying or pain anymore. Even death has ceased to exist. Is this what is in store for us? I have to say, I hope so. It is one of the more beautiful passages in scripture about what might come next. People often turn to the church, and to scripture, when they are wondering about the great mysteries of death and dying, heaven and eternity.

In confirmation class, this is always one of the most popular topics. Children like to ask questions about it, too. We all want to know what will happen to us in the great beyond. We are curious, also, about what will happen, and what has happened, to those we love. These questions are particularly prominent in this time of year. I often think of this as the dying time.

Leaves are falling and plants are sinking back towards the earth. People often find their way back to the earth, too, following the tidal movement of the season. The idea is attractive because it is so concrete. Do good and end up somewhere good. Do bad and end up somewhere bad. Trust that God will mete out justice in the end to anyone who treats you badly. But what does this theology say about God?

Looking at the upper left hand part of this picture, you can see the people who are being elevated into heaven. This is the good news part of the picture. Everyone should look happy. I find nothing here that could be the will of a loving God. Our scriptures and our church traditions were inspired by God, but formed and recorded by humans.

Thankfully, we have many other scripture passages that suggest an entirely different reality after death. In the Gospel of John Ch 14 , Jesus is saying goodbye to his disciples. I will go and prepare a place for you; I will come again and will take you to myself,so that where I am, there you may be also. In the book of Romans 8: It is fitting, then, that after our human lives are over, we would all return more deeply, more fully, to make our home in God, who is our beginning and our end.

This leaves, still, the question of saints, and souls. Where are those we have loved and honored? How can we visualize the great cloud of witnesses who are hovering around us? Probably you have seen pictures like this: Most of our images of saints in the west are like this: The saints knew how to stand in a line, apparently. These images are beautiful, but limited.

These images help remind us that there have been holy people all around the world, and in every social location. Another favorite is the work of Robert Lentz. He who writes icons and creates images that depict those who have not normally been recognized as saints: Martin Luther King Jr. While I love to be inspired to by the images and stories of courageous people who have changed the world, I have to admit that the most powerful saints and souls in my life are the ones that I have known, and cared for. Each of us have our own group of those we remember tenderly; here are a few images of those who many of us remember from our shared life here.

Many of us experience fear or anxiety in thinking about death. All of us experience grief at the death of those we love. As we stand on this side of the mystery, God offers us at least two gifts. First, the promise that she is not only our beginning, but also our end, that she will provide a loving home for us. Thanks be to God. Not after all he had suffered, all he had lost…children, servants, livestock, his home and his health. He simply wanted God to tell him why.

Why am I in this situation? What have I done, or not done? He must have been terribly disappointed confused, even terrified. Nonetheless, if we put aside poor old Job for just a moment, and look simply at the language: In just those 11 verses which Keith read, we discover God as an architect and a builder; as a mother and a midwife; a nurse, even a hydrologist.

And after these, there are four chapters full of the same: When Hannah asked if I wanted to preach this fall and gave me a few choices for dates I looked at the lectionary and discovered that the passage from Job was indicated for this morning. So there was no question that today would be the day.

Job, Chapters is close to number one on my playlist of Bible passages. I urge you to read it, the language is stunning. Job is a homeless refugee in a crowded, filthy detention facility, whose village has been reduced to rubble in Syria.. Job is a Rohingyan mother running from the soldiers of her own country, forced to leave all her belongings behind. Job is the two year old. Mexican child separated from her parents and held in behind a chain link fence, terrified and alone.

Job is a person with AIDS, covered with sores. Job is the woman who was sexually assaulted as a teenager by an entitled prep school boy, who had the courage to speak out and was then summarily dismissed by the agents of patriarchy, power and politics. Job is all of these and everyone who has ever suffered loss, abuse, discrimination, homelessness, crippling illness or war.

That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. So the story of Job begins, as a folk tale. One day when all the heavenly beings present themselves before God, Satan shows up after walking to and fro upon the earth. Satan wagers that Job will turn away from God if the good life, his family, wealth and health all are taken away. Which is precisely what happens: He then begins to question: Why is light given to one who is in misery and life to the bitter in soul? Why are thousands sick and dying in crowded refugee camps and detention centers?

Why are villages burned, women raped and men murdered because of their ethnicity? Why are babies and children separated from their mothers and fathers? Fear, racism, religion, wealth and power…and much more… these are all human , not God caused. And Job believes that God can and will explain it. Then, finally God speaks:.

Who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man. Surely you know…Or who shut in the sea with doors? To which both God and Job already know all the answers. In the long run, though, if anyone won, it was Job. Because he persisted, never gave up, never lost faith. Job never cursed God. He never gave up believing that God would hear him.

And God did, although not as he had expected. He never did get an answer to his question: How is it that so many women survive horrific sexual abuse to become strong national advocates for change? What is it that makes a Mexican family try over and over again to get across the border until finally they do find asylum? That persist against all the odds.

That survive and thrive after the worst the world has to offer. You know at least one person like that, right? Who is resilient and refuses to let life beat her down. At the same time, I suspect we all know folks who have been crushed by life through no fault of their own. How do they keep going? If you were here a few weeks ago, as we were working our way through the gospel of Mark, you may recall that the disciples spend time arguing with each other about who is the greatest. Jesus tries to explain: Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. As the Gospel continues from there, the disciples try to keep children from coming to Jesus.

And Jesus tries to explain — again. But it is not so among you; whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life for many. Greatness comes not through placement, or abuse of power, but through service, and sacrifice, and generosity.

This month I am using images to help us reflect on scripture. Last Sunday, we used images to explore who God is and how God works, according to the second story of Creation. Today we turn our attention to Jesus. Have you seen this Jesus? Friends, was the historical Jesus a pale skinned, blue-eyed man? Jesus probably looked something more like this: It is comforting to imagine Jesus looking like us, like our family members, like our friends: What kinds of people do we imagine in the Holy Family, and how does that impact which families we imagine as holy?

How do we portray a powerful Jesus? What does that say about which humans have power, and the kind of power that Jesus has? Images of Jesus are powerful: But why was it so very troubling, to see a female figure on a cross, when we have imagined Jesus in so many ways that do not match his historical identity? What should Jesus look like if Jesus is for all of us? Just as we use many names for God, using many images for Jesus may be more accurate, and more helpful to our faith, than using only one.

Using many images for Jesus is even more important because most of us still have something like that first image embedded in our subconscious. We, like the first disciples, will probably never truly get it: But we will at least discover more about this Jesus who does not rule as a tyrant over us; this Christ invites all people into communion in his church, and around his table.

May it be so. In the book of Genesis there are two creation stories. In the first story, God cries out into the chaos and Creation responds: A beautifully constructed order emerges over six days. On the seventh day, God rests. It is a beautiful story. There is another story, too. This story begins with dust. There is nothing on the earth but dust, dirt, earth. So God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. God planted every tree that was beautiful, and bore good fruit. And now the human had a home, and the human had a purpose: Strangely enough, God decided that the best way to find a helper and partner for the human was to make animals out of the earth: How long did all this making take?

It could have taken weeks, or years. However long it took, the human enjoyed the process, watching God form these magnificent creatures. The human delighted in giving the animals names. Naming has been a human gift from the beginning. But the human did not find among these animals any that could truly be a partner. So God tried again. And with the rib, God made another human: Bone of bone, flesh of flesh, an equal helper: This making must have been messy, too: Blood and bone, instead of dirt and clay.

Surely God must have a special tender care then for each physical part of this creation. God must care very much what happens to the special holy gift of each of our bodies. We are a precious gift, each one of us — handmade by the best. God must be intuitive and experimental, too: To work so hard, and try so many times, before finally making a helper who is a true partner. This God, who loves our bodies, seems to be figuring it all out right alongside us: The God in the Second creation story does not have it all figured out.

God, when I am helpless or hopeless, teach me that I am precious. Find me true partners so I will not be alone. Jesus is talking with his disciples, and John has an announcement to make: He expects to get a gold star from his teacher. Someone was claiming the Jesus brand for their exorcisms, without proper authenticity! Unfortunately for John, Jesus is not pleased. Are they putting stumbling blocks before others? Is some essential part of them causing them to stumble a hand, a foot, an eye?

Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. Suddenly Jesus is talking about everything they themselves may have done wrong, and the extreme methods that must be taken to address their mistakes.