Readings for the week of March 4, 2018

One of the first things we look at when students begin confirmation study is the First Reading for today: Exodus 20:1-17. We read the passage, and then I ask them, “Which came first, God’s rescue of His enslaved people who were in Egypt, or the 10 Commandments?” As they look at the passage, it is clear that God rescued His people from slavery before He gave them the 10 Commandments. After God had established His covenant with their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants, after He had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, when He had brought them safely to Mt. Sinai, then God gave them the 10 Commandments. This order matters. Many people think they must keep the Commandments, or that they must first do something before God will rescue or redeem them. A close reading of the Bible shows that God acts first to rescue and redeem, God acts first to establish His covenant with us, e.g. in Baptism, then He calls us to live as the people He has made us to be; He calls us to live in faith and love toward God and to live in love toward other people. God acts, and His actions elicit a response of faith in us; but even our response of faith is motivated by the Holy Spirit, as the students learn in Third Article of the Apostles Creed. Keep the proper order in mind: God acts to rescue, to redeem, and faith responds. Do you remember last week’s Second Reading from Romans 5? When we were sinners and enemies, God acted to redeem us; faith responds.
Rescuing and redeeming Lord, all thanks and praise to You for rescuing Your people from slavery in Egypt, and for redeeming us in Jesus. Open us up more and more to You and to what You have done in Jesus to redeem us, and increase our faith, hope, and love. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

The Psalm for today is Psalm 19. This psalm could easily be divided in two parts, yet they are together, and must be kept together because each part helps keep the other part in perspective. The first part proclaims God’s glory in creation. Notice how creation itself reveals God to us. Look around at creation and see God’s handiwork. There are some who think they don’t need to go to worship, Bible study, etc. because they can worship God in creation. The second part of the psalm corrects that view; the second part of the psalm reveals the importance of God’s revelation in His Word. Both His creative aspects and His revealed aspects in His Word are essential. Notice how much the psalmist values God’s Word, may we do so also. Notice also how the psalm ends with repentance and a prayer that God will cleanse the psalmist from sin. Let us, like the psalmist, be so filled with God’s Word that our words and meditations are acceptable to God, our rock and redeemer.
Holy Lord, we praise You for the ways You reveal Yourself to us, in the wonder of creation, but more importantly in the grace of Your Word. Let Your Holy Spirit open us up more and more to You, rejoicing in Your revelation to us in creation and Your Word, especially the Word incarnate: Jesus. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

The Second Reading is recorded in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Oh, the hubris of people, to think we are wiser than God. The apostle Paul proclaims the centrality of Jesus’ cross; the cross of Christ is the wisdom and power of God, power and wisdom which redeem us. The world scoffs at the cross, but God redeems us through the cross. Notice how Paul ends the reading, that Jesus is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Where is our boast? In ourselves and what we have done? No, our boast is in Jesus; our boast is in what God has done for us through Jesus. If you boast, boast in the Lord, in His grace and mercy.
Lord, humble us under the realization of Your grace and mercy to redeem us, then let us point to You in our words and deeds so that others will be drawn to You. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.

The Gospel is recorded in John 2:13-22 (23-25). Here at the beginning of John’s Gospel, Jesus is already pointing forward to His death and resurrection to redeem us; He talks of the destruction and raising up of the Temple of His body. Jesus revealed God’s glory in His death and resurrection. Let us give thanks for what God has done for us in His death and resurrection. Notice also that the message of Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day is not just interesting information, this message is to create faith in us so that we can proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior, and have life in His Name. Do you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
Lord Jesus, we are humbled as we contemplate all You would go through to redeem us, even to going to the cross. Let us give You thanks and praise through our words and actions. Bring more and more people into Your kingdom through the proclamation of Your Word. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

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