Today is Thursday, the 23rd of February, 2023, in the season of Lent.
May the peace of Christ find you today.
Last night’s Ash Wednesday service was wonderful. I think the choir anthem went well, but I will have a better idea of that when the video is posted. It was a very meaningful time for me, especially when the time for the “imposition of ashes” came. We all went to the altar, as usual, for communion, but before the bread and wine, we each got (at our own discretion, of course) the cross of ashes on our forehead.
This morning, I have a doctor appointment at 10:45, which is a follow-up to recheck my blood pressure after a month of raising my medication dosage. Hopefully that will test better, this morning. And hopefully, they won’t yell at me too much as I have had a slight weight gain since last month. But, as they say, it is what it is, right?
Tonight, S has her Club Metro event. They will be playing dodgeball tonight, after having dinner from Jersey Mike’s. We have already signed her up for March’s events, but the schedule is not out, yet. C and I will have dinner together somewhere while S has her event. We look forward to that.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. (Psalms 119:130 NRSV)
Lord God, we turn to you, praying that your kingdom may come. May your Jerusalem really come on earth, with all those blessed ones who are allowed to gather around Jesus Christ through forgiveness of sins and the resurrection. Come with your light into our time so that sins may be forgiven and people may find salvation. Remember those in great distress. Come with your help to those struggling with sin or death, for help can come from you alone. Nothing can help us except your fatherly love in Jesus Christ. Praised be your name! Amen.
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
(Revelation 7:9-10 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for that vision in Revelation; it brings me such joy
- for a wonderful Ash Wednesday worship service, last night
- for the fatherly love of God in Christ Jesus and His help which comes from Him alone
- that God, our Father, is rich in mercy
- for love, without which nothing I do has any value
Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl. (Psalms 86:16 NRSV)
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. [Selah] (Psalms 32:7 NRSV)
But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. (Psalms 54:4 NRSV)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 NRSV)
Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
"O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into my heart your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen." (The Divine Hours--The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,”
(Exodus 34:6 NRSV)
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
(Matthew 5:7 NRSV)
Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:16 NRSV)
The LORD looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God. (Psalms 14:2 NRSV)
Lord, have mercy.
According to our senior pastor, in last night’s Ash Wednesday sermon, “mercy” is the only characteristic that the Bible says that God is “rich in.” I have not taken the time to verify this. However, I do know that the Bible specifically does say that God is rich in mercy.
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us . . .
(Ephesians 2:4 NRSV)
And the “rich in mercy” phrase comes right after two of my favorite words in the whole Bible, “But God.”
The word for “mercy” in that verse is “eleos,” which means can be translated as “compassion.” This is the most common word translated “mercy” in the New Testament.
However, we read a passage from Luke, last night, that I will share with you. It is a familiar passage, one that I have quoted frequently, myself.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:9-14 NRSV)
In verse 13, the word translated “merciful” is an entirely different Greek word, “hilaskomai.” The meaning is significantly different. “To conciliate, i.e. (transitively) to atone for (sin), or (intransitively) be propitious:—be merciful, make reconciliation for.”
This word is only found twice in the Bible. The other location is Hebrews 2:17.
Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.
(Hebrews 2:17 NRSV)
A major theme of Lent is repentance. We focus on reflection and meditation during this time. In many cases, something is given up, in the spirit of abstinence. But the purpose for all of these things is repentance as we reflect on the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting, before being tempted by the devil.
And during this time, we cry Kyrie Eleison. Lord, have mercy.
The “Jesus prayer” is adapted from the Luke passage, from the words of the Tax collector. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And note the posture of the tax collector. He would not even look up as he prayed, and he was “beating his breast.” He was guilty. He was remorseful. He repented.
I pray that “Jesus prayer” frequently. Sometimes, multiple times a day. Sometimes I repeat it at night, when I am struggling to fall asleep.
We are not saying that one of these kinds of “mercy” is better than the other. We are simply pointing out the differences. There is another word that is sometimes translated “mercy,” and sometimes translated “steadfast love.” That word is “chesed.” That’s a Hebrew word, found in the Old Testament. It means the same thing as “eleos” in the New Testament, rooted in compassion. (There are also different forms of “eleos” in the New Testament, but this isn’t a Greek lesson.)
Lord, have mercy. Lord, forgive my sins. Grant me repentance as I reflect on Jesus, His life, His sacrifice on the Cross. Grant me atonement, that I might live, and in my living, live for You alone. “Have mercy on me, God, according to Your steadfast love. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. . . . Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. . . . O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.”
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
All glory to You, Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant us Your peace. (Agnus Dei)
Grace and peace, friends.