26 February 2012 ~ “Covenantal Grace”

Scriptures: Gen. 9:8-17; Ps. 25:1-10; Mark 1:9-15

Let us pray: Holy God of grace ~ May Your Word be a beacon of hope for us, as we journey from darkness to light throughout this Holy season. Amen.

“To you, O God, I lift up my soul.” This is the first line of our psalm reading for today.

Written as songs of praise, as petitions and laments, or as prayers of thanksgiving ~ the Psalms are beautiful poetry and give us a glimpse into the mercurial relationship between Israel and God ~ who is said to both “hear” and “answer” His people.

They are also a very personal and intimate expression of the raw emotions of the individual or communal author ~ which makes them a perfect focus for Lent ~ a season that invites us to cry out our own laments and sing out our praises.

Our Psalm reading for today ~ as well as our Old Testament and Gospel readings ~ speak to our wilderness moments as well as our experience of God’s grace.

Now, I know that both you and I ~ having lived full lives ~ know firsthand all about wilderness moments.

Jesus knew all about this, too. Immediately after His Baptism, we hear that the Spirit led Him to the desolation of the desert and abandoned Him to the temptations of Satan.

Noah and his family and even the animals knew all about being lost in the wilderness … as they watched the flood waters rise … AND heard the relentless pounding of the rain on the roof … not sure what they would find IF and WHEN the rain finally DID end.

And, we know these wilderness moments in our own lives, too ~ don’t we? All of us here have experienced times when:
• Worries and fears for loved ones, for life today AND for our future rob us of sleep
• Responsibilities and real life don’t follow our dreams and plans
• We feel lost and abandoned … and long for serenity or ability to run away and join the circus!

And we don’t like these times one bit … because they makes us uncomfortable & edgy and frightened.

And, so, like the psalmist, we cry out our plea for protection ~
• Do not let me be put to shame
• Do not let my enemies and my troubles overwhelm me.
• Overlook my wrongs of the past and
• Remember Your promise of mercy toward me!

And in its life-giving style, our psalm goes on to remind us of a very important truth: our God is a merciful God, who is always sending His grace and mercy our way.

For Jesus, that grace and mercy came in the shape of angels who waited on Jesus, meeting His every need and bringing new life into the dry places.

For Noah and every generation since … God spoke words of covenantal grace through His promise that He will never again send a flood to destroy the earth. And the visible sign of that covenant ~ for us AND for God ~ is the rainbow … reminding us that the storm is past AND that light and warmth is returning to rejuvenate the earth and our spirits.

These are the glimpses of God-revealed in the unexpected pops of life in the wilderness that our dry, parched souls crave.

AND, just like Noah’s 40 days and nights in the Ark … like Jesus’ 40 days in the desert ~ we, too, embark on our own 40-day journey into Lent with Jesus. I believe that it is NO coincidence that this dark season happens at the bleakest time of the year … lending the right atmosphere for us to reflect on those times in our life when we have felt lost and abandoned in the wilderness, bombarded by temptations, doubts and fears.

But we don’t have to sit in that wilderness of doubts and fears. We have the perfect companion for this holy season in the lament and hope, praise and thanksgiving of the Psalms. Look again at Psalm 25: we hear the psalmist express his:
• Hope that God will enlighten us … because we WANT to follow His ways.
• We acknowledge that God is loving and merciful and our trust that God will show us the right path to take

Having placed our trust in God, we can offer our thanks that God’s way is the best way for all who listen and follow.

Moving from the despair and fear in our wilderness moments to the gratitude and joy of our mountain top moments takes a lot of faith and trust in God providing what we most need… and a lot of courage on our part to step out onto God’s chosen path and, by the grace of God, accept His gift..

Perhaps this Lenten season is the right time for us to write and live into our own cries of lament, our songs of praise and our prayers of thanksgiving. I know how mine would go:
O God of grace, how long must I endure this pain?
How long must I humble myself with requests for help and transportation?
In my heart, I know you are a God of all mercy and love.
Yet I struggle with my own sense of pride and stubbornness.
Do not hold this against me, O God.
Forgive my insistence on my own way.
Open my eyes to the blessings I have through Your mercy.
Open my heart to forgive myself and my situation.
Open my lips to say Thank You to Dave ~ my companion, my support, my patient chauffeur.
Open my being to forever bless Your Holy Name.

As we continue our 40 day journey with Jesus, and as we continue to focus on God’s covenantal grace, I pray that we may find new ways to offer our own psalm of praise to our God of mercy, forgiveness and love.


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