January 29, 2012

Scripture and Commentary for Week of the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Monday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 56, 60:1-5, Prov. 20:9-12, 17-22, Col. 1:1-17
Evening - Ps. 65, Ezek. 34:25, Jn. 6:41-59

Commentary, Colossians 1:1-17

This week's readings for Morning Prayer take us through the book of Colossians, one of many letters written by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome in the year A.D. 62. The church of Colossae was probably founded during Paul's ministry in Ephesus, which spanned most of the years of A.D. 55-57. Paul may have travelled to Colossae, or people from that city came in contact with him during trips to Ephesus. Epaphras spent much time in Ephesus studying with Paul before going back to Colossae to serve as the church's pastor (1:7). We know Paul knew many of the Colossians, and at least two, Philemon and Onesimus became Christians through the Apostle's ministry (Philemon 10, 19).

We often encourage people to conduct themselves in a way that brings honour to whatever organisation they may be associated with. Perhaps there is no setting where this is more urged upon people than in the family. Everything we do reflects on the rest of the family. If we conduct ourselves with honour, we build respect for our family in the community. If we conduct ourselves with dishonour, we bring sorrow to our family members, and shame to our family name. It is no less true, in fact it may be more true, that our actions as Christians and members of Christ's body and Church, bring honour or disrepute to our Lord and to His local congregation. Like it or not, people will judge your God and your church by your actions and attitudes. So the words of Paul in Col.1:10 are always relevant; "walk worthy of the Lord...being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God."

Tuesday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 61, 62, Prov. 21:21, Col. 1:18-2:5
Evening - Ps. 71, Ezek. 36:22-28, Jn. 6:60

Commentary, Col. 1:18-2:5

Many religions owe their origin to a single person, but Christians claim that the "Man" we follow is in every way nothing less than God Himself. Thus, St. Paul says in today's reading in Colossians, that He is the image of the invisible God (15), the creator of all things (16), the head of the Church (18), and the fulness of all things (19). The rest of the Bible teaches this doctrine also. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:14). Angels marveled at this. Wise men sought Him at great personal cost and risk. Kings of earth longed to see His advent. Yet, even more amazing than the bold fact that Jesus is God, is the startling, frightening statement that He allowed Himself to be tortured and murdered, and that in some mysterious way, we have peace with God through the blood of His cross (20).

Peace with God is not mere forgiveness. God has a higher purpose than simply letting us off for our sins. He forgives us to reconcile us. He forgives us to call us back into Himself, to know Him in all His glory and peace and fulness. He calls us to love and enjoy Him now and forever. He forgives us that He may give us His presence in a way that is so full and so complete it can only be described as "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (27).

Wednesday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 63, 64, Prov. 22:1-6, 17-19, Col.2:16-19
Evening - Ps. 72, Ezek. 37:1-14, Jn. 7:1-13

Commentary, Col. 2:16-19

Today's reading in Colossians leads us into two important points. First is the danger of false doctrine and false teachers masquerading as Biblical Christianity. There have always been wolves in sheep's clothing, and of such people and doctrines we are warned to beware (2:8). Paul calls their teaching "vain deceit," the "tradition of men," "of the world," and "not after Christ." He warns that they will spoil us if we follow them. "Spoil" as used in verse 2:8 means to seduce and lead astray. It is to lead a person into eternal ruin. Such is the end of those who persist in false doctrine.

Second, the Apostle encourages us to be "stablished" in the true faith (2:7). Paul refers to the doctrines he has taught to the Colossians and to all the Church. His doctrines are simply those taught by Christ, entrusted to the Apostles, and preserved in the Bible. These doctrines keep us rooted and built up in Christ (2:7). In their truth our faith will abound unto everlasting life.

Let us be plain about the applications of this passage of Scripture. If false teachers lead people to destruction, we attend their assemblies and sit under their teaching to our peril. We should make every effort to separate ourselves from them. If sound doctrine enables us to abound unto everlasting life, we must spare no effort to bring ourselves and those we love under its influence as often as possible.

Thursday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 68:1-19, Prov. 23:20, 21, 29-35, Col. 2:20-3:11
Evening - Ps. 73, Ezek. 37:2, Jn. 7: 14-24

Commentary, Col. 2:20-3:11

People tend to vacillate between the extremes of license and legalism. License is the idea that everything is moral as long it "doesn't hurt anyone." This is rapidly becoming the moral standard of many "Christians" today. It is often found in the company of an idea that says, Christ died for my sins, therefore I don't have to try to live a good life. I will go to Heaven no matter how good or bad I am, so I am free to sin as much as I want. Such people believe they have a "license" to sin. Legalism is the idea that keeping a morass of confusing rules about things that really don't matter is the essence of faith and the way to please God. License makes important moral issues trivial; legalism makes trivial things important moral issues.

Colossians 2:20-23 is about legalism, which false teachers were attempting to impose on the Church. Their legalism was not about morality, it was about the Old Testament ceremonial laws. Its main point was the idea that Gentile Christians are required to keep the ceremonial law in order to be saved. They said Gentiles have to keep Passover, circumcision, the Old Testament dietary rules, and all the Old Testament festivals, or they can't be saved. We can easily see that legalism is a direct contradiction to grace. According to legalism one is saved by keeping the rules. According to grace one is saved by Christ's atoning death and righteousness imputed to us and received by faith. Legalism tries to earn Heaven; grace gives it as the free gift of God.

In Colossians 3:1-11Paul exhorts us to receive the gift of God by faith. He tells us to stop worrying about ceremonial rules and start seeking the real things of Christ above. He does not tell us there are no more rules. He clearly shows that every part of the moral law is still in force. But he denies that anyone will be saved by their attempts to keep it. Ceremonies cannot save us, and we have failed in our attempts to keep the moral law, therefore we cannot make ourselves worthy of Heaven through the law. Instead of earning Heaven for us, the law starkly reveals how unworthy we are to go there. It is Christ, not the law, who is our life by giving us a righteousness we could never achieve through the law.

Christ forgives our sin and gives us His perfect righteousness in place of our own tattered and failed attempts at righteousness through the law. But this does not give us a license to return to sin. It is our part, now, to seek Him and to set our affections on Him.

Friday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 69:1-22, 30-37, Prov. 24:23, Col. 3:12-17
Evening - Ps. 75, 76, Ezek. 39:21, Jn. 7:25-36

Commentary, Col. 3:12-17

The heart of today's reading from Colossians is verse 17. To do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is to do things that are approved by Him. As He is absolute love, we will be merciful, kind, humble, and meek (3:12). We will forbear and forgive one another (3:13). As He is the author of peace we will let His peace rule in our hearts (3:15). As He is the Word of God we will let His word dwell in us richly. In this way Christ Himself dwells in us filling us with the luxuriant richness of His being.


Saturday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 77, Prov. 25:11-15, 17-22, Col. 3:18-4:6
Evening - Ps. 19, 67, Ezek. 43:1-19, Jn.7:37

Commentary, Col. 3:18-4:6

No matter what our position in the home, it is every person's calling to work and pray that the home will reveal the grace and glory of God in action. The picture of Christian family life found in Scripture shows each person seeking peace, harmony and godliness in the family setting. Each position is a position of service, rather than mastery, having as its primary goal the glory of God, and as its secondary goal the edification of the family members, which is to bring them into faith in Christ and full membership in His Church.

The best service we can offer to our family is a godly example. I do not pretend that any of us will be perfect, but it should be evident to all that we are trying with all our might to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," and to love your family members (your closest neighbors) as you love yourself. In this kind of Christian love personal goals are sacrificed to family needs, and personal fulfillment is found in serving and loving the family. The family relationship should be viewed not as second to our service to Christ and His Church, but as a major part of it.

The Christian view of the family militates against the self-centered materialism which permeates our culture, and which even dominates many churches. Let us pray for grace daily to live Godly lives in the home.


For a Blessing on the Families of the Land

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families; We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vain glory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh; turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we be evermore kindly affectioned with brotherly love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

January 22, 2012

Scriptures and Commentary for Week of the Third Sunday after Epiphany

Monday

Lectionary
Morning - Ps. 39, Prov. 10:12-14, 18-21, Phil. 1:27-2:11
Evening - Ps. 37:1-24, Ezek. 27:1-5, 26-36, Jn. 5:1-15

Commentary, Philippians 1:27-2:11

"Let this mind be in you" (Phil.2:5). "Mind," in this verse, refers not to intelligence, but to attitude. How remarkable the mind of Christ is. He was God, from eternity to eternity, yet He became a man. He was Lord of all, yet He became the servant of all. He was the Great Law Giver, yet He humbled Himself and lived by His own rules. He was the One in whom all faith rests, yet He lived by faith instead of by sight. He was perfect righteousness, yet He became sin for us. He was the Lord of life, yet He gave Himself up to death on the cross. He was the One to whom all things belong, yet He came to give all things to us. We can never possess the intelligence or power of Christ. We can never own the eternal being of God, be Lord of all, become the center of faith, or be perfect in righteousness through our own power. These things belong to God alone. But, we can have the attitude of Christ. We can have humility. We can serve others as we serve God. We can live by faith. We can devote our lives to God. These things are within our grasp, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Are they things to which you aspire? Are they things to which you apply yourself day by day and hour by hour? "Let this mind be in you."


Tuesday

Lectionary
Morning - Ps. 41, Prov. 10:22-29, Phil. 2:12-18
Evening - Ps. 46-47, Ezek. 33:1-9, Jn. 5:16-29

Commentary, Phil.2:12-18
This morning's reading reminds us why God created and saved us through Christ. If we think back to our readings in Ephesians we will remember Ephesians 1:9-10:

"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to His good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him...."

It is God's good pleasure to gather all things together and place them under the sovereign rule of Christ forever, that we should be (exist) to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:12). For this cause He created us. For this cause He came to earth and went to the cross. For this cause He will return. And for this cause He will judge the quick and the dead, bringing believers into eternal bliss and unbelievers into everlasting sorrow. "This cause" is His eternal purpose and glory; His good pleasure.

It is for this same cause that He is at work in His people. He leads us by His Spirit, teaches us by His Bible, and draws us into Himself by the Church, worship, sacraments, and all the means of grace. He does it all for His good pleasure. How stunningly wonderful it is that His good pleasure includes forgiving our sins and blessing us with unimaginable good forever.

On the basis of God's purpose, and His work in our lives, let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Working out our salvation (vs. 12) does not mean we can earn Heaven by our own works. We can only enter Heaven if God forgives our sins and gives Heaven to us as a free gift. He accomplished our forgiveness by acting as our substitute and serving the sentence for our crimes against God on the cross. He offers Heaven as His free gift to us. All we can do is accept His gift by faith.

Working out our salvation does mean working diligently and actively in the things of God and Godliness. It means to strenuously exercise ourselves in the means of grace, and exert ourselves in acquiring the attitudes and virtues of Christ (see Phil. 2:5-8). God works in you by these means, therefore, "work out," and "train" in them daily in your life of faith.

Wednesday

Lectionary
Morning - Ps 44, Prov. 11:9-14, 24-30, Phil. 2:19
Evening - 49, Ezek. 33:10-20, Jn. 5:30

Commentary, Phil. 2:19
Paul, a prisoner in Rome as he wrote to the Philippians, was more concerned about their needs than his own. He desired to send someone to them to help provide the pastoral care of the congregation, but who? There were many self appointed "preachers" in Rome (Phil. 1:15). But real ministers, called of God, ordained by the Church, gifted with a pastor's love for the flock, and possessing the knowledge and ability to preach the true Gospel were few. Those who take up the mantle of the ministry should tremble at these verses. Every care and precaution must be exercised to ensure that you preach the truth faithfully and fully. Those who attend preaching should also tremble at these verses, for they tell you that many, perhaps even most, who claim to be ministers of the Word are false, seeking their own fame and glory rather than the things of Christ (2:21). "Seek" in verse 21 means to have as their primary goal and purpose. It is the intent and purpose, the primary goal of their ministry to promote their own agenda rather than the word of Christ. They are willing to accommodate their message and practice to the whims of the people in order to appease and attract them. Many of these "ministers" may sincerely believe they preach the truth and add souls to the Kingdom of God. But the value of a minister's work is measured by fidelity to the truth (see 2 Tim. 4:1-4, and 1 Jn. 4:1-3), not by sincerity or good intentions alone.

Thursday

Lectionary
Morning - Ps. 45, Prov. 14:26, Phil. 3:1-16
Evening - Ps. 50, Ezek. 33:23, Jn. 6:1-14


Commentary, Phil. 3:1-16
Here is the righteousness that will get us into Heaven. It is not our own righteousness. It is not our natural goodness or our good deeds. These are all useless when we stand before the absolute perfection of God. It is the righteousness of Christ alone that makes us fit to abide in the House of the Lord. Paul lists all his own "good works" by which he formerly believed he earned the favour of God and a place in Heaven. But he says they were useless, unable to get him into Heaven. Compared to the righteousness of God, they were garbage. Everything else is loss compared to this great prize of the righteousness of Christ, which alone make us righteous before God (Phil. 3:1-9).

Complacency in following Christ is foolishness. Satisfaction with our progress in grace is folly. Even St. Paul acknowledges the inadequacy of his own life. Far from satisfied with himself, he presses on toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ (3:16).

Friday

Lectionary
Morning - Ps. 51, Prov. 15:16-23, 27-29, Phil. 3:17-4:3
Evening - Ps. 54, 57, Ezek 34:1-10, Jn. 6:15-29

Commentary, Phil. 3:17-4:3
The need for fellowship and association with Godly people is stated (3:17-19). We will emulate those with traits and tastes we admire. If we admire Godliness, we will seek Godly people and follow their example of faith and piety. If we admire worldliness, self-indulgence, and sin, we will find others who admire the same things. If their end is destruction, what will our end be if we imitate them? (3:19).

But our Lord Jesus Christ is able to subdue even our stubborn wills, and to change us into the likeness of His glorious body. This is our hope and goal.

.

Saturday

Lectionary
Morning - Ps. 55, Prov. 16:25, Phil. 4:4
Evening - Ps. 29, 99 Ezek. 34:11-16, Jn. 6:30-40


Commentary, Phil. 4:4
It is every member's duty to work for peace in the congregation (4:1-7). Paul exhorts Euodias and Syntyche to "be of one mind." He is asking them to stop fussing and quarrelling over issues that don't really matter. He also instructs the rest of the congregation to help. We are not allowed to be sources of strife among God's people. We are to be generous and forgive one another's faults. We are to be humble and quiet and to wage peace within the fellowship.

The Christian's thoughts are found in verses 8 and 9. How much temptation and sin we could avoid if our minds dwelt on these things continually. Even thinking about such things for short periods each day would have a remarkable effect on our attitudes and actions. Scripture, prayer, and worship are three ways to "think on these things."

All things through Christ? Many misunderstand Phil. 4:13 because they disassociate it from Phil. 4:12. 4:13 is about accomplishing God's will by being faithful in the circumstances He places us in. It is not about getting a promotion at work, but about doing your job well so God is honoured by it, whether you get the promotion or not.

January 15, 2012

Scriptures and Comments for Week of the Second Sunday after Epiphany

Monday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 17, Prov. 4:20, Eph. 4:17
Evening - Ps. 18:1-20, Ezek. 12:21, Jn. 3:14-21

Commentary, Eph.4:17

Those who are gathered into Christ as members of His Body and Church, are gathered into a new identity and way of life. They no longer live according to the patterns and values of the godless people and cultures around them (4:17). Nor do they live and act merely on the basis of their own desires and ideas, which have been corrupted by human pride, greed, and a general inclination to go our own way instead of God's. Instead, they put off their own ways, called the old man in verse 22, and put on the new man of righteousness and holiness, which is created in them by God (4:23-24). The rest of chapter 4 (vss. 25-32) shows just what they have put off and what they have put on. The verses give a word picture of discarding a wardrobe of rags (our sin) and putting on a new wardrobe, given by God, and consisting of righteousness and of the character of God Himself.

Tuesday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.23 &24, Prov. 6:12-19, Eph. 5:1-14
Evening - Ps. Ps. 25, Ezek. 13:1-9, Jn. 3:22

Commentary, Eph. 5:1-14

The heart of today's reading is found in Ephesians 5:1 & 2. Following God, as His dear children gathered into Christ, walk in love. Love is not a nebulous feeling. It is primarily an attitude of doing good for others as Christ has done for us. These verses remind us that we have strayed from God like lost sheep, offended against His holy laws, left undone much good we ought to have done, and done many things we ought not to have done. In Biblical language, we have sinned against God. But, part of God's plan of gathering together all things in Christ includes calling a people out of their sin to live in restored fellowship and harmony with Him, He accomplished this by becoming a Man taking our sins upon Himself and dying for them in our places on the cross. This is the great expression of Divine love. It is also our example of real love, and the way we ought to love one another. The rest of the reading contrasts works of hate with those of love. Fornication, uncleanness in thoughts and deeds, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk and jesting, and other evils listed here are sins and are out of character for those gathered into Christ. They are so far out of character that the person who habitually lives in them shows that he has no part in the inheritance of Christ (4:5) but is still outside of God and remains among the children of disobedience and under the wrath of God (4:6). "Be not ye therefore partakers with them" (5:7).


Wednesday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 28, Prov. 8:1-11, Eph. 5:15
Evening - Ps. 31, Ezek 14:1-11, Jn. 4:1-14

Commentary, Eph.5:15

The Christian home is a sacred place. It is almost, as Matthew Henry said, "A Church in the House," for a Christian home is a place where God is loved and worshiped daily and where Christian living begins each day. God's plan for the family begins with Biblical faith in Him as Lord and Saviour, and one of the primary tasks of parents is to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Baptism, Confirmation, daily prayers, and the fellowship of the Church are the minimum children can expect from parents, and the family is the first mission field of every Christian. Ephesians 5 & 6 refers to the relationship between family members under the assumption of real, Christian love in each heart, operating on the principle of mutual submission rather than individual assertion. In other words, it is the role of each member of the household to exalt the others by serving them in Christ. Any authority given to any member is the authority of service, not lordship. Christ is Lord, and the overall goal of the home is to honour Him.

The husband/father is called to the role of lead servant. He bears the responsibility of leading the family into the Word and ways of God. The wife/mother is his helpmeet and completer (Gen. 2:18). These two willingly submit their goals and wants to the other's, and to the overall goals of God and the needs of the family Together, they are one in mind, heart, values, goals, and faith. They are partners in the task of ordering their home and family under God. Young children are obedient learners, who by their obedience and learning exercise considerable influence over the direction of the home. Young adults still living at home are responsible partners in the home, and the spiritual climate of the family is one of their primary goals. Happy is the home where Christ is Lord and all in the family gladly work together in His service.


Thursday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 30, Prov. 8:12-20, Eph. 6
Evening - Ps. 33, Ezek. 14:12-20, Jn. 15:26

Commentary, Eph. 6

Ephesians closes appropriately with an exhortation to be strong in the Lord (6:10). This is followed by several verses describing the Christian faith in terms of the armour of a Roman soldier. It has often been noticed that armour is protective in nature, designed to keep the soldier safe in the deadly field of battle. The soldier's weapon is the sword, which, for the soldier of the cross, is the Scriptures, the Word of God (6:17).

The reason for putting on the armour is stated in verse 12. We are at war with powers of darkness that oppress and destroy souls and cause the havoc and destruction that so characterises life on earth. We are also at war with the forces of evil in our own lives. We wrestle against the inclinations and temptations that attempt to draw us back into the darkness of sin and hate. We wrestle with forces that attempt to prevent the fulfillment of God's purpose in our own lives and in all creation. "Wrestle," refers to hand-to-hand combat, a life or death struggle that Christians face daily in the service of God. We must expect to fight. We must be prepared for battle. We must stand our ground at the approach of the foe (6:14). This is our part in the eternal purpose of God to bring all things together in Christ.

Friday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 32, Prov. 8:22-35, Phil. 1:1-11
Evening - Ps.40:1-16, Ezek. 18:1-4, 19-23, Jn. 4:27-42

Commentary, Phil. 1:1-11

It is the nature of people to associate themselves together, and a word is often used to reflect the nature of their relationship to others in the group. A sorority or fraternity might speak of sisterhood or brotherhood. People who have shared important experiences, such as war, may see themselves as "a band of brothers." There is great meaning in this. Such words convey an intangible bond that unites them in a way that is so strong and enduring it is similar to the relationship and unity found in the closest and most loving families. They are bound by shared values, commitments, goals, respect, love, and experience. They are bound together by these things into something that is bigger than they and more important than all of them. Their relationship is something suggested by the title of J.R.R. Tolkien's book, The Fellowship of the Ring. "Fellowship" captures the meaning and the goal of most of our associations.

Philippians 1:5 speaks of "fellowship in the gospel." God is saying here that the Gospel of Christ is not merely an historical fact or theological doctrine. It is a bond that brings us into a deep and profound relationship to all other believers. It gives us shared meaning, shared goals, purpose, experience, values, respect, and love. It means we have a share in Christ. He is part of us. He dwells in us and we dwell in Him. It also means we are part of each other. We are in this together. What happens to one of us happens to all. We bear each other's burdens and sorrows and joys. We have the same Heavenly home. We strive to have the mind of Christ. We strive to love Him above all else, and to love one another as we love ourselves. But fellowship means also that we do not have these things in isolation. We have them in fellowship and communion with one another. We have them in the Church.

Saturday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 36, Prov. 9:1-6, 13-18, Phil. 1:12-26
Evening - Ps. 34, Ezek. 18:26, Jn. 4:43

Commentary, Phil. 1:12-26

Our readings for this morning bring us to one of the most important verses of the entire Bible. Reading it is not always comforting. It follows St. Paul's comments about suffering, and, even death in the service of Christ. In this passage he declares the principle that guides his thoughts and his actions, that "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death" (Phil. 1:20). Then follows the great verse which I have called one of the most important in all of Scripture; Philippians 1:21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Are you living for Christ? I do not ask if you call yourself a Christian or go to Church. I do not ask if you know the Bible and theology. I ask if it is your stated and deepest desire to live entirely for Christ, so much, that like Paul, you can say, "For me to live is Christ." If you cannot answer this question, "Yes!" then I ask another; why not? What holds you back? Is it attachment to your own comforts and pleasures? They will pass from your grasp one day, and what will you have then? It is fear of sacrifice? It is for good reason that following Christ is called taking up your cross; there are many sacrifices to make. It is very costly to walk the way of the cross. But, while the cross lasts for a life-time, Heaven is forever. Is it money? Is it possessions? Is it power? Is it fame? What keeps you from complete surrender to Christ? It will pass away, but He will endure forever.

I ask another question. If you cannot say, "For me to live is Christ," what are you doing about it? Are you playing the ostrich, ignoring the shortness of life and the coming day of reckoning? Are you simply convincing yourself to be content with half-hearted faith, convincing yourself you are good enough and close enough to God already, therefore you don't need to do anything more? Or are you applying yourself daily to the means of grace, and working diligently to replace sinful habits and attitudes with Godly ones? God will not be content with anything less than first place in your life. He must be first, above all position, power, and possessions, even above your own life. Do that, and for you to live is Christ. Fail to do it and for you to live is you.

January 8, 2012

Week of the First Sunday after Epiphany

Monday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 1, 3, Prov. 1:7-19, Eph.1
Evening - Ps. 4, 8, Ezek. 1:2-6, 24-28, Jn. 1:1-8

Commentary
Ephesians 1

Verse 16 stands out in Ephesians 1 because it is the only verse that does not mention God directly. Look at the other verses: "an apostle of Christ Jesus," "from God our Father," "Blessed be the God," "he hath chosen," "Christ himself," "in whom we have redemption," all of them have some direct reference to God by name or pronoun. This chapter, and the entire book of Ephesians, is about God. It is about who God is, and what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. It is about why He does what He does; why He created us, why He became a Man, why He died on the cross, and why He continues to work in us and in this world through His Holy Spirit. He does all of these things to achieve His ultimate goal; to "gather into one all things in Christ" (1:10).

Most people are accustomed to thinking everything God does is about us, about saving us, loving us, and blessing us. It may be shocking to think that these things are ultimately not about us. Our creation and salvation are all for the greater purpose of the glory of God. Perhaps this means we have to turn some of our thinking around. Perhaps we need to begin to see ourselves as existing for the glory of God (1:12) instead of God existing for our benefit.

Tuesday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 5, Prov. 2:1-9, Eph. 2:1-10
Evening - Ps. 11, 12, Ezek, 2, Jn. 1:19-34

Commentary
Ephesians 2:1-10

The first chapter of Ephesians ends with the subject of the Church, which chapter two continues. Note that the reference is to the Church, not the churches. The idea that churches exist in independence of one another without accountability, and that the Bible always mentions "churches," but never "the Church" as a whole is false. Paul never considered any of the congregations he corresponded with independent of him, or as anything but a local manifestation of the universal Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, for example, is about The Church primarily, and, secondarily, how the church in Corinth is to function within the wider Church. The Church, collectively, is the Temple of God. Local churches are part of the greater Church, all together form the spiritual Temple, or house of the Holy Spirit of God. The Corinthian church had its own ministers, yet Paul, writing from Ephesus in A.D. 57, excommunicated members of that congregation, and told the ministers and remaining members to stay away from them (1 Cor. 5:1-13).

Far from being independent congregations, the Church is God's appointed way of bringing people together in one body in Christ. God is already working in this world to achieve His ultimate goal. Eph. 1:10 is not just something for the end of time; God is at work now, accomplishing His purpose in the Church. The Church is that people which has already become one Body, one Temple, one Family, one Nation, in Christ.

Chapter two reminds us how God has brought us into the Church. There was a time when we lived apart from God, and were under His wrath (2:3). By His own grace (2:8 & 9) and for the purpose of showing the riches of His grace and kindness (2:7) He raised us out of the death of sin and placed us in Himself and in His Church where we are one in Christ (2:6-7, 1:10). Thus, even while we live in this world, we sit in heavenly places and have a foretaste of the great and final goal of God which will one day be brought to its completion. Thus, as His workmanship we are to do the things of Godliness, to which we have been called and for which we have been created (2:10).

Wednesday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 7, Prov. 3:1-7, 11-12, Eph. 2:11
Evening - Ps. 13, 14, Ezek. 3:4-14, Jn. 1:36

Commentary
Ephesians 2:11

The great purpose of God to bring all things together in Christ is continued by His bringing Gentiles into the Church. The Gospel of Christ is for all who will receive it in faith. Heaven is for all who will enter through Christ. The Church is for all who will believe. In Christ there are no strangers or foreigners (2:19) only one Nation and Household. In Him all believers are being built up into one holy Temple in the Lord (2:19-21). There was a time when most Gentiles were excluded from the House of God (2:11-12). Having chosen to exclude Him from their own lives, God allowed them to live apart from Him, and to reap the just rewards of their sin. But God's ultimate plan of gathering all things together in Christ was not blocked by human rebellion. He gathered Abraham and his descendants, to whom He gave His Word and Commandments, and through whom He would give His Messiah. In the New Testament era He began to bring in the Gentiles. In His New Israel, the Church, all believers, Jews and Gentiles are made one body in Christ. The work of gathering all things together in Christ continues, and will continue until the Last Day, when all of His people will be gathered Home to Him, all of His enemies will be cast out forever, and the heavens and earth will be made new.

Thursday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 9, Prov. 3:13-20, Eph. 3:1-13
Evening - Ps. 15, 21, Ezek. 3:16-21, Jn. 2:1-12

Commentary
Ephesians 3:1-13

The great and ultimate goal of all the work of God in this world is to gather all things together in Christ. Everything He does, from creating us, to giving His Word and means of grace, to entering into history and dying on the cross, even His daily providential care and guidance in our lives is done primarily to achieve that goal. Most Christians have wrongly been taught to believe God's ultimate goal is our salvation, and that everything He does is done to save us from Hell. In reality, our salvation is a means to accomplish the end of gathering all things together in Christ. It is primarily about Christ, not about us.

It is for the purpose of gathering all things together in Christ (3:1) that Paul has been made an Apostle and sent to the Gentile people. His calling is to bring Gentiles into the body of Christ and the promises of God as full participants with the Jews (3:6).

It is for this purpose that God has brought His people together into the Church (3:10-11). The Church is the people already brought together. The Church Family will ultimately and fully inherit the Kingdom of God, and, indeed, is already dwelling in it. Those not in the Church will still be gathered together in Christ, but in a much different way. They will be gathered together to face His wrath, while the Church is gathered to receive His grace. If we think of the Kingdom of God as a great Castle, the Church is the people who have been elevated to the status of courtiers and friends. Those outside the Church are also gathered, but they are the enemies of God and they are gathered into the dungeon. One day the entire land will be gathered under the authority and reign of the King. Many people will become His friends and will be welcomed into the full fellowship of the Castle. Others will persist in rebellion and hate. They will be thrown into the dungeon. Either way, the King will gather all things together and will reign over all.

Verse 10 again uses "church" to refer to the entire body of Christ rather than a local congregation. In the time of Paul, the Apostles were still living and considered the Church one organisation.

Friday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 10, Prov. 3:27, Eph. 3:14
Evening - Ps. 6, 26, Ezek. 7:10-15, 23-27, Jn. 2:13


Commentary
Ephesians 3:14

Verse 14 begins a great prayer to the Father of whom the whole family is named (3:14-15). That family is the Church, and it includes those in Heaven and those on earth. Paul prays that the Church will be strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man (3:16). This "might" is power which enables us to know what God wants us to know, be what God wants us to be, and do what God wants us to do. What God wants is then given in verses 17-19 culminating in the phrase, "that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Yes, the ultimate purpose of God is to gather a people for Himself, a people to exist in Christ and glorify Him forever. But those blessed to be part of that People, are given the highest gift God can give to any created being, the gift of living forever in such closeness, fellowship and love with Him it can only be described as being perpetually filled with the fulness (greatness and presence) of God. This fulness will ultimately only be realised in Heaven, but we can know some of it here and now by the indwelling Spirit of God and the means of grace.

Note again the reason Paul prays for these things for the Church. It is not just for the benefit of people. It is "For this cause" (3:14), the very same cause Paul has been writing about throughout this Epistle; the cause of gathering all things together in Christ.

Saturday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 16, Prov. 4:7-18, Eph. 4:1-16
Evening - Ps. 27, Ezek. 11:14-20, Jn. 3:1-13

Commentary
Ephesians 4:1-16

What does all of this talk about the fulness of God and His gathering a people together in Christ have to do with us in everyday life? Everything! If we are a part of that people, and if we are called into that people gathered into Christ, we are to live our lives in conformity with the will and nature of Christ. As Ephesians 4:1 states the issue, ""walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. Thus, being the people who live for and in the glory of God is every Christian's vocation. It is your life's work. The remainder of Ephesians is about how to live worthy of your vocation.

January 6, 2012

Saturday after Epiphany

Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 85, Is. 42:1-9, Mt. 3:13
Evening – Ps. 97& 99, Is 43:1-12, Acts 11:1-18


Commentary, Matthew 3:13-17
Today's commentary comes from the pen of one of God's most able pastors and Bible teachers, Bishop John Charles Ryle, first Bishop of Liverpool, England. Bishop Ryle's comments are taken from his commentary on the Gospels first published in England in 1854, and still in print today.
----------

"You have here the account of our Lord Jesus Christ's baptism. This was His first step, when He entered on His ministry. When Jewish priests took up their office at the age of 30, they were washed with water. When our great High Priest begins the great work he came into the world to accomplish, he is publicly baptized. Let us learn from these verses to regard the sacrament of baptism with reverence. An ordinance of which the Lord himself partook, is not to be lightly esteemed. An ordinance which the great Head of the Church submitted, ought to be ever honorable in the eyes of professing Christians.

There are few subjects in religion on which greater mistakes have arisen than baptism. There are few which require so much fencing and guarding. Let us arm our minds with two general cautions.

Let us beware on the one hand, that we do not attach a superstitious importance to the water of baptism. We must not expect that water to act as a charm. We must not suppose that all baptized persons as a matter of course receive the grace of God, in the moment that they are baptized. To say that all who come to baptism obtain like an equal benefit, - and that it matters not a jot whether they come with faith and prayer, or in utter carelessness, - to say such things appears to contradict the plainest lessons of scripture.

Let us beware on the other hand, that we do not dishonor the sacrament of baptism. It is dishonored when it is thrust out of sight and never publicly noticed in the congregation. A sacrament ordained by Christ himself ought not to be treated in this way. The admission of every new member into the ranks of the visible church, whether young or grown up, is an event which ought to excite a lively interest in a Christian assembly. It is an event that ought to call forth the fervent prayers of all praying people. The more deeply we are convinced that baptism and grace are not inseparably tied together, the more we ought to feel bound to join in prayer for a blessing whenever any one is baptized.

We are told of the presence of all three persons of the blessed trinity. God the Son, manifest in the flesh, is baptized. God the Spirit descends like a dove, and lights upon Him. God the Father speaks from heaven with a voice. In a word we have the manifested presence of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Surely we may regard this as a public announcement that the work of Christ was the result of the eternal counsels of all Three. It was the whole Trinity which at the beginning of creation said, 'let us make man.' It was the whole Trinity again, which at the beginning of the Gospel seemed to say, 'let us save man.'

May we ponder these words well! They are full of rich food for thought. They are full of peace, joy, comfort and consolation for all who have fled for refuge to the Lord Jesus Christ, and committed their souls to Him for salvation. Such may rejoice in the thought, that though in themselves sinful, yet in God's sight they are counted righteous. The Father regards them as members of His beloved Son. He sees in them no spot, and for His son's sake is "well pleased." (Ephes. i.6.)."

January 5, 2012

Friday, January 6, Epiphany

Friday, January 6, Epiphany

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.46, 100, Is. 60:1-9, 2 Cor. 4:1-6
Evening - Ps. 72, Is. 61, Rom. 15:8-21


Commentary
Rather than comment on the Scriptures of the day I want to comment on the meaning of Epiphany. The day celebrates the visit of the eastern wise men to worship Jesus. These were probably Persian astrologers, who watched the stars for a living and believed they could tell things about and for a person according to the configuration of stars and planets. They were educated and knew the history of their country. They knew that nearly seven hundred years ago the Jews had been brought to their country as captives. They knew about Daniel and Esther, and they probably knew Jews personally, for many had stayed in Babylon and Persia rather than return to Jerusalem in 536 B.C. They knew about the Jewish hope for the Messiah, and had probably read Isaiah 60:3. When they saw the star they interpreted it as the rising of the brightness of the Messiah, and they sought Him out.

There has been much discussion about the nature of the star. Some think it was a conjunction of planets; others believe it was a comet. I believe it was a special star just for them, to guide them to Bethlehem. No one else seems to know about it. It is not reported by others, even Herod didn't know about it, and it moved to lead them to the house where Jesus was.

When they arrived they worshiped Jesus. They did not reverence Him as a king. They worshiped Him as God. Their gifts signified divinity, showing that they recognised Him as God.

But the most amazing thing about the wise men is that God accepted their worship. God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost accepted their worship of the infant Christ as God. And this has an important significance for all people. For these men were not Jews. They were Gentiles. They were not of the chosen people. They were not children of the Covenant. They were strangers, aliens, and idolaters. They were outside of the Covenant people and outside of God. Yet God led them to Himself, and when they came to Him they found they were accepted. They found they were welcomed. They found the heart of God, and the Kingdom of God, and the love of God, and the Heaven of God were open to them, just as it was to the Jews. All they had to do was enter by faith.

People in many countries around the world read this commentary, and I want to say to you that the arms and heart and Heaven of God are open to you. God is not restricted to one country or one race or one continent. Jesus came to gather His people out of all nations, all races, all places, and to make us one people in Him. All we have to do is receive Him as our God by faith, just as the wise men did.

January 4, 2012

Thursday after the First Sunday after Christmas, the Twelfth Day of Christmas

Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 144, Is. 66:14-23
Evening – Ps. 29, 98, Is. 49:1-7, Lk. 3:15-22

Commentary
Isaiah 66:14-23, 49:1-7

This morning’s reading from Isaiah 66:18 and following is a continuation of Is. 66:1-16 and cannot be understood apart from those verses. The passage actually begins in verse 14, which tells of God’s grace toward His servants and His indignation toward His enemies. Verse 15 begins to reveal how grace and indignation will be executed. God will come with fire, chariots, and whirlwind, meaning the destruction and killing of military conquest (66:16).

Two kinds of enemies of God are portrayed. First is Jews in the sin of idolatry. Verse 17 pictures them participating in pagan rites and worshiping idols. Some Jews left their religion behind to join pagan cults. Others imported elements of paganism into their own faith. At times, even the Temple of God was filled with pagan idols. Its halls rang with their prayers and its altar ran with the blood of their sacrifices. Those who have done these things will be consumed as by a consuming fire (17).

With these things firmly in our minds we are ready to look into our reading for today. Verse 18 refers back to 17 as justification for God’s wrath. He knows the works and thoughts of idolatrous Jews. He has seen them give His glory to idols and attribute His providence to inanimate objects. He knows they have followed gods that blessed their sins, rather than live the pure and holy life He demands of them. They have even persecuted Jews who would not join their sin (66:5). They and their gods will be consumed.

The second group of God’s enemies consists of Gentiles who come to make war on Israel. They lift up their sword against God’s anointed people, and that is the same as lifting up their sword against God Himself (Ps. 2:2). The Church is the Body of Christ, and he who persecutes it persecutes Christ (Acts 9:4&5). As the Gentile empires come to make war on Israel, they find themselves also falling to the sword. We see in the history of the Jewish people a parade of conquerors taking the land, each conqueror conquered by another, which is also conquered by another. From Assyria to Babylon, from Persia to Greece, and even mighty Rome, empires have come and gone while Israel, both old and new, remains.

Not all Gentiles are destroyed, for the grace of God extends to them as well. Many survive the judgment of God and are brought into His Kingdom of Grace. The Jewish people often enjoyed a steady stream of Gentiles coming to God and becoming members of the Covenant People. Converts often took their new faith back to their own countries and people (66:19).

Seeing the application of this chapter to the Jews of the Babylonian era and beyond, we again come face to face with an important part of the book of Isaiah, namely its Christological meaning. The events of these verses cannot possibly be fulfilled by a simple return of the Jews to Jerusalem and Judea. They can only find their ultimate meaning in the Kingdom of the Messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom in the hearts and minds of people of every race and nation, and in their elevation into the New Heaven and earth, which is the glorious fulfillment of all the promises of God in Heaven forever.

January 3, 2012

Wednesday after the First Sunday after Christmas, Eleventh Day of Christmas

Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 92, Is 65, 1 Jn. 4
Tuesday – Ps. 91, Is 66:1-13, Heb. 6:1-12

Commentary
Isaiah 65:17, 66:1-13

The Jews returning to Jerusalem will be under the special protection of God. They will be delivered from war, and life will not be cut short or hampered by battle. The Lord will answer their prayers before they pray, and the land will enjoy a time of peace and rest. But the language of this passage obviously looks for more than just the restoration of Jerusalem. Isaiah is supernaturally enabled to see far into the future to the new heavens and new earth, which God will bring into existence in the Kingdom of the Messiah. Like us, the prophet sees this dimly, as through a smoked glass. He describes it in terms of earthly blessings, using things we understand to describe things we cannot really understand while we live in this world. So, as wonderful as the Messiah’s reign sounds in Isaiah’s words, its reality will be immeasurably greater in every detail. His Kingdom will not be completed until the end of time, but it has begun already. We in the Church have begun to reap the fruit of it. One day we will see it fully. We will walk in its streets and know its joy more fully than we now know the present world. We now call that Kingdom “Heaven.” One day we will call it “Home.”

Isaiah 66 takes up a different subject. There are those, in both Israel and the Church who attempt to mix the pure Gospel with the unbiblical views and practices of the people around them. In the time of Isaiah and the Jews, they mixed Biblical teaching with pagan religion. Today it is more likely to be mixed with pop psychology and humanistic ideas of self-fulfillment and personal happiness. Either way, God is dethroned and man becomes the center of his own religion. In Isaiah’s time, pagan people believed their deities lived in houses built for them by people, and ate as food the sacrifices offered to them. Many Jews applied the same ideas to God, the Temple, and the Sacrifices. God explicitly denies any dependency on people (66:1-2). He owns all things, so, people can really offer Him nothing. Furthermore, anything offered unto God under such false understandings or motives is absolutely rejected by God. An ox sacrificed to God in such a way (even with the greatest sincerity and best intentions) is as bad as any other kind of idolatry (66:3). A lamb offered in this way is no better than a dog. This passage is a clear and desperate call to true repentance and to Biblical faith and practice. Those who truly repent will be welcomed to God as a loving mother welcomes her beloved child. Even Gentiles are welcomed into the love of God. “As one whom his mother comforteth, so I will comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (66:13).

January 2, 2012

Tuesday after the First Sunday after Christmas, Tenth Day of Christmas

Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 66, Is. 64:4, 1 Jn. 3:13
Evening – Ps. 34, Is. 65:8-16, Heb. 4:14-5:14

Commentary
Isaiah 64-65:16

Isaiah 64 follows a deep and moving prayer for redemption of the people of Judea. Isaiah did not live to see Judea invaded and conquered by Babylon. But, by the Spirit of God, he saw in prophesy both the conquest and restoration of the land. Chapter 63 asked God to remember that He is the “Father” and God of the Jews, and to remember mercy even in His very just anger. The Jews in Babylon would read these words, and, by the grace of God, some of them would understand that their captivity was God’s just response to their sin, meant to correct them and to call them back to God’s gracious blessings. God does cleanse and chastise His people.

This morning’s reading begins in 64:4, where the prophet tells of God’s merciful answer to their prayers. He will do more for them than simply return them to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. He will send the Messiah, who will ultimately deliver them into a Kingdom that is far greater than they can imagine (vs. 4). The most earnest prayers for relief are worthless without real sorrow for and turning away from sin, and in verse 6 the prophet is moved to a prayer of humble confession and repentance for all of Judea. The prayer will be read by the captives in Babylon, many of who may be moved to confess their own sins, and to really and truly seek God.

The evening reading shows God’s merciful response to those who truly repent and unfeignedly believe His holy Gospel. There will be blessings for them (65:8). They will inherit the holy mountain, meaning Jerusalem and the Temple mount, and, ultimately, the Kingdom of the Messiah (65:9). Places now barren wasteland will blossom with abundance (65:10), meaning abundance in the things of God.

The blessings will not come before repentance, and repentance will not come before chastisement. Thus God says again that the sword will come to Jerusalem. Verses 11-16 tell of both wrath and grace. Some will be saved from the sword and will repent and return to God. How sad that they would not repent before the sword came to them.

January 1, 2012

Monday after the First Sunday after Christmas

Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 37:26, Is. 63 7-14, 1 Jn.:3-1-11
Evening – Ps. 2, 100, Is. 63:15-64:1, Heb. 4:1-13

Commentary
Isaiah 63:7-64:1

Today's readings reveal the heart of the prophet Isaiah in his concern for the people of Judah. Though the hearts of the people are hardened in sin, and their minds cannot see the coming judgment of God upon them, Isaiah's heart mourns for them as Christ wept over Jerusalem. He longs to see them repent. He longs for God to have mercy upon them. The chapter is similar to a soliloquy, like Hamlet's "to be, or not to be." But instead of Hamlet's despair, Isaiah shows the hope of a soul stayed upon faith in God. In a small way, these verses also reveal the heart of God. He is not untouched by the troubles and sufferings of His people; "in all their affliction He was afflicted... in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old" (Is. 63:9). And of course, in Christ He bare our sins and carried us to salvation by His cross.

The Jews' rebellion against God (63:10) led to their conquest and captivity by the Babylonians, but also gives a picture of the sin of every person, leading to our captivity to sin and hell. As God looked upon Israel in mercy and delivered them from their captivity, He looks upon us in mercy and delivers us from our prison through the cross of Christ.

Who among us has not wished with Isaiah that our God would rend the heavens and come down (64:1)? Though acutely aware of the terrible sin of himself and his people, the prophet also sees that the oppression of Israel by foreigners is also sin. He looks for the deliverance of the Jews, and sees it as the vindication of God, who both forgives and restores His people, and established His justice by overcoming His and their enemies. One day He will rend the heavens. Christ will return and the earth will see the fulfillment of all the promises of God. It will see justice, peace, and righteousness when all is restored in the New Heavens and Earth.

Sermon for January 1, 2012

A God Worth Praising
Psalm 103
First Sunday after Christmas
January 1, 2012


The sermons of 2011 were mostly drawn from the Epistle readings for Sundays. The sermons for 2010 came primarily from the Gospel readings. This year, God willing, I intend to concentrate on another rich and edifying portion of the word of God, the book of Psalms, or, as it is known by Anglicans, "The Psalter."

The Psalter was the "Hymnal" of Israel, and continued as the primary source of song in the Church for nearly two thousand years. In it can be found prayers of hope, as well as expressions of despair; joy as well as sadness, and anger as well as forgiveness. There is hardly a hope, fear, feeling, or emotion known to man that is not expressed in the Psalter, and it is this complete honesty before God that has endeared it to God's people for nearly three thousand years.

Our Lectionary contains morning and evening readings in the Psalter for every day of the year, taking us through the Psalms several times each year. Yet I find many Christians do not understand the meaning or see the relevance of the Psalms. By God's grace, I hope to help us see both in the coming year.

And while we're preaching and hearing sermons from the Psalter, I hope we will recover some of them as part our own "hymnal." I hope we will learn to sing the Psalms as expressions of our faith and hope in God. I hope we will learn to love them so much we will sing them in our cars and in our homes as well as in our Church.

We are already doing this in a small way. In Morning Prayer, for example, we turn to page 9 of the Prayer Book and sing the wonderful invitation to worship known as the Venite exultemus Domino, or "Come let us exalt the Lord." When we turn to page 459 of the Prayer Book we see we have been singing the first seven verses of Psalm 95 coupled with verses 9 and 13 of Psalm 96. When we turn to page 15 and sing the Jubilate Deo we can also turn to page 463 and see that we are singing Psalm 100. Our hymnal contains many references to and quotes from the Psalter, and many of our hymns are based on a Psalm. Hymn 277 is based on Psalm 117. Hymn 278 is based on Psalm 100, and hymn 282, which happens to be one of my favourites, "Praise my soul, the King of Heaven," is based on Psalm 103.

I say these hymns are based on the Psalms, because the words and word order of the Psalms are changed to make them fit the rhyme and meter modern people expect in music. But the Psalms we actually sing "word for word" such as Psalm 100 are not rearranged, they are sung more closely to the way the Psalms were originally sung, in what we sometimes call, "chanting." This has two advantages. First it allows us to actually sing the Psalms, rather than simply read them; the words "chant" and "Psalm" both mean sing or song. Second, it allows us to sing them without altering the words or word order of Scripture.

One of the frequent themes of the Psalms is worship, or praise, and our Psalm for today exhorts us to worship God in the very essence of our being. To praise the Lord means to give reverent respect to God, by humbly kneeling before Him. It is to recognise Him as our King and our God, to profess obedience to Him and to recognise that He is infinitely worthy of our deepest love and highest obedience. The picture painted in the Psalm is very similar to that in Revelation 4, where, moved by the glory of God, the creatures and the elders kneel before Him in reverence that borders on fear, praying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour," meaning, Christ is worthy to be glorified and honoured by them.

Psalm 103 is about why we worship God. While other Psalms encourage worship because of the attributes of God, like His infinite power, knowledge and goodness, Psalm 103 tells us about the actions of God for our sake. I should say, "action," rather than, "actions," for this Psalm is about one thing, the forgiveness of sins. All of His benefits referred to in the Psalm are references to and symbols of forgiveness. He "forgiveth all thy sin." He is "full of compassion and mercy." "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our wickedness." His mercy is as high as the heavens are above the earth, and He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. He loves us as a father loves His children and His mercy "endureth forever and ever." This is the message of the Psalm; this is why we worship God.

We cannot read this Psalm without our minds turning to a scene of a Man dying on a cross near the ancient city of Jerusalem. He has done nothing worthy of death. He has committed no crime. His entire life was about doing good to everyone. His teachings were simply that the Kingdom of God is for all who will receive it by faith. There was no sedition, no heresy, no harm in Him. Even Pilate found no fault in Him. He died for one reason, to bear our sins in Himself and to suffer the wrath of God for them in our places. He gave Himself on the cross, and in Him "we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:14). As our Epistle reading for this morning states it, He came "to redeem them that were under the law."

It is no accident that our thoughts turn to the cross when we read Psalm 103, for the sacrifice of Christ is the means by which God forgives our sins. The cross is the means by which the forgiveness celebrated in the Psalm is accomplished in reality. As we look at the Psalms in the months ahead, we will see that there is a Christological, a Christ centered aspect to them, in which they point us to Christ and His work of redemption. It is this aspect of the Psalms which is the real reason for giving them such prominence in our daily readings and worship. I hope to help us see Christ in the Psalms, and, thus, help us love the Psalms more.