Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Grace to Keep Going

February 18, 2018 –– First Sunday in Lent
Genesis 9:8–15 /  Psalm 25 / 1 Peter 3:18–22 / Mark 1:12–15
The Grace to Keep Going

The response psalm usually has a limited selection of verses. Many of the psalms are too long to sing every verse given our cultural expectations of time. The psalm verses today emphasize God’s love with the explicit words compassion and kindness and goodness. There is also the wonderful affirmation: he shows sinners the way.

It is good to remember that we are sinners. St Paul gave this foundational word of Christian truth to the Romans: all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). He is not saying we have lost the image of God which we were given in creation (Gen 1:27), but we are broken because of disobedience, and the resulting power of sin has affected our whole world. One important way to understand salvation is being healed and restored to the full glory of God (which we see and are given in Jesus––Heb 1:3, Col 2:9).

A popular misunderstanding of Christian faith––we can even dare to call it a heresy––is that salvation is only forgiveness of sins. All of us surely need forgiveness, but the salvation that leads us to eternal life is so much more. We come to God and ask for the gracious forgiveness of sins because of the death of Christ, but we need to understand it is so that we can be healed of the tragic brokenness that affects all of us.

It is glorious to come away from a time of confession knowing we have been forgiven. But if we’re honest, we too often think almost immediately about the weaknesses and patterns which seem so easily to pull us down. The devil wants us to get discouraged about that and just quit trying.

WRONG! The only way lose the spiritual fight is to quit trying. There is a verse in Psalm 25 that was not part of today’s response. It comes in v3 and the Grail translation in The Liturgy of the Hours is especially insightful and wonderful:

Those who hope in you shall not be disappointed,
but only those who wantonly break faith.

Let’s unpack this. We so easily feel our failures. We can think God gets tired of our weakness and stumbling. But the psalmist gives us a testimony of God’s mercies, and it’s a witness that has withstood the test of time. Throughout the ages God’s people have learned to say:

….your compassion, O Lord, and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord.

The devil wants us to think that God is just looking for an excuse to judge and reject us. Turning again to St Paul’s words to the Romans: God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (5:8,9).

God’s anger is directed at sin. God loves us so much that he hates the things that hurt us. And because of that hurt, God became a human being just like us in the person of his Son to take that hurt upon himself…. to let that hurt kill him on the cross. That was what God did so that the resurrection life that comes after the cross can do its work in us. Yes, we have forgiveness. We also have healing.

But healing usually comes more slowly than we wish….. healing can try our patience. It can seem a broken bone or recuperation from surgery takes forever for full healing. We get impatient with ourselves. We get impatient with others who are not healing as quickly as we would like.

Here’s a word for Lent: Do not be afraid to face your sins. Do not get discouraged if change does not seem to be happening soon enough––in yourself and in others.

The one thing the enemy of our souls wants us to do is get discouraged and quit. Remember, though, that giving up and quitting is the only way to block the process of grace in your life.

Those who hope in you shall not be disappointed,
but only those who wantonly break faith.

“Breaking faith” is not who we are. God wants to give us the grace to keep going. Here is a great encouragement from the writer to the Hebrews: We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved (10:39).

We believe and trust one thing: the grace of God that is given to us in Jesus Christ. 

Have a good Lent!

Site Meter