March 5, 2014
Scripture and Commentary, Ash Wednesday through Fourth Day of Lent, March 5-8
March 5, Day One; Ash Wednesday
Morning - Psalm 32, Psalm 143, Isaiah 58:1-12, Hebrews 12:1-14
Evening - Psalm 102, Psalm 130, Jonah 3 & 4, Luke 15:10-32
Commentary, Luke 15:10-32
The Gospel readings for Lent will follow the life and ministry of Christ as He makes His unrelenting progress toward
and the cross. We begin with a reminder
of the reason Christ has come to earth, and why He is going to the cross. He has come to save sinners. The story of the Prodigal Son expresses the
joy of God over every person who repents of sin and returns to God. The parable is an illustration of the truth
of Luke 15:10, "Likewise, I say unto to you, there is joy in the presence
of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."
The Scripture readings for today appropriately begin with the words of Psalm 32 "Blessed is he whose unrighteousness is forgiven, and whose sin is covered." The reading from Isaiah reminds us that the true fast is a fast from sins, "to loose the bands of wickedness." Hebrews continues this theme saying, "let us lay aside... the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." What wonderful words these are to begin the season of Lent, a season of seeking God and intentional rooting sin out of our lives. Lent is a season of repentance.
March 6, Day Two
Morning - Psalm 27, Genesis 19:1-28, 1 Cor. 1:1-17
Evening - Psalm 29, Psalm 30, Jeremiah 1:4-10-19, John 8:1-11
Commentary, John 8:1-11
The woman taken in adultery shows the great mercy of God. He rejoices over every sinner that repents. He forgives every sin. He wants only life and good things for His people. We would expect Him to cast the first stone. It was His Law that required death for the crime. He is the One who cannot look upon sin. Yet His words, like His actions, are those of grace and forgiveness. "Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more." The reading encourages us to seek this God of Grace. If this woman can be forgiven, will He not also forgive us?
Perhaps you are new to the practice of Lent. If so, you may wonder, why Lent? It is true that the Bible says nothing of Lent, but it does in many places encourage the things we do in Lent. The Christian's goal is to spend every day in the closest devotion and fellowship with God. In practice, other things often crowd out this goal. It is important, therefore, to set aside time for the specific purpose of reconnecting to God. Some traditions do this through “Revival Meetings.” Some use religious “retreats” and "conferences." We in the Anglican Orthodox Church do this in the forty days prior to Easter, the time called Lent. The Collect for Ash Wednesday sets forth our goal in a beautiful and Biblical prayer, which we pray every day during the Lenten Season:
"Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
There is logic in the flow of the Church Calendar, as there is logic in the Scripture readings for each season. Advent begins a time of serious study of the life and ministry of Christ. Advent leads to Christmas. Christmas leads to Epiphany. Epiphany leads to Lent. Lent leads to Good Friday and Easter. All of these follow major events in the ministry of Christ. Lent itself follows Christ as He sets His face toward Jerusalem and the cross.
March 7, Day Three
Morning - Psalm 95, Psalm 40:1-16, Genesis 21:9-21, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Evening - Psalm 31, Jeremiah 2:1-13, John 8:12-36
Commentary, John 8:12-36
The reading from John 8 shows the intent of Christ to go to Jerusalem. He knew He was "the way the truth and the life," who had come into the world to liberate His people from our bondage to sin (verse 34). "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." He also knew the only way He could free us was by giving Himself to bear our sins and die for them on the cross. This is the reason He came to this earth, to be lifted up on the cross (Jn. 8:28). In Lent we follow Jesus on His journey to Jerusalem to be lifted up for our sins. But we do not follow as spectators. We follow as His disciples. He has purchased our freedom with His own blood, now live in His freedom. Like the ancient Hebrews, liberated from their bondage at Passover, we intentionally leave the land of our bondage. We intentionally stop serving sin and start serving Christ. This is called, "repentance."
There are two aspects of repentance. The first is turning away from sin. Perhaps “turning away” is not a strong enough word. Renouncing may describe it more accurately. In contemporary lingo we might say, “Trash it.” Throw it into the garbage can. The word really means to turn around. It means to change the direction of life. If we think of this in terms of a journey, we can imagine being side tracked, getting off course, getting lost. When that happens, a change of direction is necessary to get us to our destination. Likewise in the Christian life, we often get off course. We follow the devices and desires of our own hearts, which often lead us away from God, and we need to change our direction, and turn back to God. Lent is a time to change direction.
March 8, Day 4
Morning - Psalm 28, Genesis 22:1-19, 1 Corinthians 2
Evening - Psalm 34, Jeremiah 3:11-18, John 8:45-59
Commentary, John 8:45-59
In John 8 Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. During this time He faces direct opposition from the priests and Pharisees, even an attempt to murder Him (Jn. 8:59). He will leave Jerusalem soon, to return again in chapter 12. The irony of this passage is that the people who claimed to know God most completely could not recognise Him when He stood before them. When He told them who He was (verse 58), they refused Him. They were going in the wrong spiritual direction, and were determined to continue in it.
We turn now to the second part of true repentance, which is also a major emphasis of Lent; turning to God. Our goal is single-minded devotion to God. If we are going in the wrong direction, it is not enough to simply change to another course. If we are in a boat heading due north, but need to go due south to reach our harbour, it is not good enough to turn to a south easterly heading. We must get on the correct course to reach our port. Likewise, it will not do to turn away from one sin only to embrace another, or to turn from a life of open wickedness to one of outward piety with no redirection of the heart and affections. To do so is to simply change our clothes while God requires us to change our hearts. If we imagine our lives as castles, and our hearts as thrones, we may legitimately ask, who rules the castle? Who sits on the throne of our lives? In sin we rule. We make the decisions. We choose the life orientation. In true repentance, we dethrone ourselves and enthrone God. He becomes our King, our Sovereign, our ruler. Lent is a special time spent intentionally enthroning God.