The 3rd Monday in Lent 2019

To hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die. Psalm 102:20

God looks down from His holy height not searching for the best and brightest.

Amidst humanity in terms of God’s holiness, a best and brightest category is nonexistent.

Sure, we in our propensity to sin may think we have redeeming qualities that set us apart from the destitute, from those imprisoned.

The fact though since the Fall in Genesis 3 is that every single one of us is a prisoner of sin and death.

Many of us simply put this fact to the side in favor of surface level fixes throughout life, kicking the can of dealing with our sin and mortality as far down the path we can.

Surface level fixes hone on comparing what we deem to be good things in our behavior with the worst examples of sinners we can find.

This only serve to sink us deeper in the mire of delusion, putting us into a far more precarious position than the dirty sinner that acknowledges his sin and need for Christ.

It is alright to groan to the Lord, for we are all prisoners of sin and death until Jesus returns to redeem us and raise us in glorified bodies.

He sets us free from sin and death, for every single one of us as this verse states is doomed to die.

Without Christ, we are hopeless and death is final.

With Christ, we are full of assured hope and death is defeated, grounded in Christ’s resurrection and the promise we will be raised in Him.

Prayer.

Almighty God, help us acknowledge our need for you. Help us know your presence with us through all our adversities, imprisonments, and the facing of death everyday as we serve you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 3rd Sunday in Lent 2019

That He looked down from His holy height; from heaven the LORD looked at the earth. Psalm 102:19

This continues the previous verse about God’s Word recorded for generations to come.

Part of this record is that God personally cares for us, even loving enough to look down from His holy height in heaven.

We often feel as if God is aloof from earth when we undergo trials and tribulations.

We feel alone, aloof ourselves from others.

Yet God knows our plight. He sees our plight. He intercedes through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

In the midst of our trials, it is important to read and hear His Holy Word.

In such we know He watches.

In such we know He loves us.

In such we know He intercedes.

In such we know He defends us with the right hand of His majesty.

Prayer.

We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 3rd Saturday in Lent 2019

Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord. Psalm 102:18

Holy Scripture is meant for all generations.

Our afflictions of today are not unique.

Our ancestors in the faith went through tough times as well.

As we see in this Psalm and throughout the Bible, we can take comfort in how God brought His people through such times.

We reap the benefits of these words recorded from times past for our use and needs today.

We are here today, a people yet to be created for the purpose of praising the Lord.

Yes, praising the Lord in times of plenty.

Yes, praising the Lord in times of famine.

Our dependence upon His Word carries through our lives to our children and beyond, generation to generation.

Prayer.

Dear Lord, help us to be thankful for all you have given us, especially in your Word. Help us to remain dependent upon you for our strength through all times. May you enable us to be a witness to our children and those new in the faith of reliance on you and your Word, carrying such to the next generation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 3rd Friday in Lent 2019

He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer. Psalm 102:17

When destitute, it sometimes feels no one listens.

We cry out for help and think God does not hear.

Yet, the practice of God's love resides in the waiting upon Him.

His love beckons to us from every page of Holy Scripture.

Much of prayer is first hearing his Word.

Then, we reply in love through prayer.

His love shines through destitution to hear our prayers.

His love shines through destitution to encourage us in our prayers.

Prayer.

Almighty God, assist us in our destitute times to stay in your Holy Word. Help us to reply to your love with our words of nees to you. We ask all this, encouraged by your Word, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 3rd Thursday in Lent 2019

For the LORD builds up Zion; He appears in His glory. Psalm 102:16

This is in relation to the previous verse about the nations fearing the Name of the LORD.

God builds up His Church through the Holy Spirit.

We are a visible witness to the nations of the love of God in Jesus Christ.

This building up is not as this world understands building up.

Yes, the Church through the centuries builds churches. These are throughout the world and are part of what the nations see.

Buildings are not the Body of Christ.

God's people gathered in His Name are His Church.

In the midst of our afflictions, we can take great comfort that Christ builds us up together, not apart.

A common instinct in afflictions is to retreat or run away. We are weak when apart from Christ's Body, fellow believers. We are strong in Christ, in His Body the Church.

Prayer.

Almighty God, help us even in our troubles to remain steadfast in the Faith and in your Church. Help us to resist the temptation to flee. Help us to remain connected with our fellow believers, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 3rd Wednesday in Lent 2019

Nations will fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory. Psalm 102:15

No matter our personal afflictions and struggles, the Lord is over all.

Even when we feel afflicted by governing authorities, God is in control.

With the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to all of us as the Church to spread the Gospel, the promise contained in this verse will come to fruition.

Many great stories and accounts abound in our Christian history of kings fearing the glory of God, of nations fearing the name of the LORD.

In all of this we find peace and solace in the midst of our circumstances.

If God can save a man like the Apostle Paul from doing the bidding of an anti-Christian government to persecute and execute Christians, He can save anyone.

If He can redeem Paul from what He did in the name of a corrupt authority, He can redeem anyone.

This is the hope we have as Christians, a hope grounded in God’s Word and repeatedly seen in history.

It is hope in Christ alone that He is at work, from the lowest to the highest levels of government officials.

Prayer.

Almighty God, help us in the midst of our trials to keep our minds upon you. Aid us in clinging to your promise of bringing the nations to fear your Name, and all the kings of the earth to fear your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 2nd Tuesday in Lent 2019

For your servants hold her stones dear and have pity on her dust. Psalm 102:14

This ties to the previous verse about God’s timing to favor us and to show pity upon us in our afflictions.

The times we are downcast are the times where the stones that are important to us are scattered all around. Maybe as it was in the time of ancient Israel that endured the Temple’s destruction it is the continual presence of those dear stone strewn on the ground. Even pity on the dust speaks to the symbolism of lowliness in our most dire times.

In the Ash Wednesday service where ashes are placed our foreheads and we are reminded that we are dust, and to dust we shall return; we meditate anew in the fact that God has pity even on the lowliest, the dust.

Too often in our afflictions we lose sight of the Lord’s love for His people.

Services such as Ash Wednesday remind us that Jesus Christ died for us, people created in the image of God from the lowliest of substances, dust. He raises us up in His glory to love and serve Him.

Prayer.

Almighty God, we thank you for your loving care of us even in our lowest of times. We ask for your continued favor upon us to aid us in loving those you have commanded us to love, sinners in need of love. We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 2nd Monday in Lent 2019

You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come. Psalm 102:13

In our afflictions, the need for pity and favor is especially pronounced.

Pity and mercy upon us is most welcomed. We need the favor of the Lord in harsh times.

Often in our good times, we lose sight of our need for God’s mercy, grace, pity, and favor.

We think we can generate these things or that we can rely on other people or human institutions for such.

Repeatedly, these all fail us … whether our whole hope is upon sinful humans on the smallest level or on the largest levels.

In these failures, we meet affliction, we meet the fact that only Jesus Christ has true, everlasting pity and favor upon us.

Yes, we still go through the dark valleys of this life to learn the critical need for His Help.

It about contentment in God’s timing, His appointed time for all seasons of our lives.

Impatience with God’s timing is the breeding ground for contempt and hatred for God and His people.

Impatience with God’s timing generates ingratitude and afflictions.

In staying content through Christ and His Word, we learn to wait upon His appointed time with prayer, supplication, love, and godly anticipation.

Prayer.

O LORD, help us to learn contentment through all our circumstances. Help us in the times of affliction to be content in our standing in Jesus Christ to know His pity and favor has forever been given at the Cross. Help us know this with gratitude and patience by the comfort of your Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 2nd Sunday in Lent 2019

But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. Psalm 102:12

On this Sunday, this verse pulls us through all previously read in this Psalm … seeing the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the reality that He Ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty … enthroned forever … remembered to this very day into eternity.

Through every affliction, the reality of His reign shines through.

As our Collect Prayer for this Sunday in Lent states, we indeed have “no power of ourselves to help ourselves.”

To sinful humanity, this is a crushing reality.

To the Christian redeemed in Jesus Christ, this is a freeing reality, to be able to let go of our delusional thoughts of our greatness to bask in His loving arms forever.

Jesus Christ as the Collect Prayer for this Sunday states indeed keeps us “both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls.”

The afflictions we undergo are met, no matter how small or great, by His defense. It is a defense that cannot be thwarted or defeated.

Prayer.

Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The 2nd Saturday in Lent 2019

My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass. Psalm 102:11

This echoes verse 3 concerning the shortness of our lives.

We often get into trouble through pride of all sorts, thinking we are everlasting without God.

The humility of knowing our brevity of days enables us to trust in Christ alone.

Trust in His defeat of what shortens our days, sin.

Trust in His defeat of the power of death.

In such, in our weakness we are strong in Him alone.

To love, to walk humbly in His Ways over our ways.

Prayer.

Almighty God, help us to number our short lives through your infinite and everlasting love. Help us through your grace to walk step by step in your power and might, through Jesus Christ alone. Amen.

The 2nd Friday in Lent 2019

Because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down. Psalm 102:10

In the walk of faith in Jesus Christ, it is not individualistic.

We walk in Christ as His Church.

Sometimes, in order to grow, pruning by the Lord occurs upon us as the Church.

That pruning is painful, but is necessary to bear good fruit. That pruning is as if we are taken up and thrown down.

This is not a permanent state, but temporary.

Just as it takes pruned limbs time to heal, so too do we heal.

Our Lord Jesus Christ was taken up on the Cross and thrown down into the earth for three days, dead for our transgressions.

It did not end there as we know. Jesus was raised up from the dead on the third day.

The same is true of us as we go through this life, thrown down and raised up anew in all Christ accomplished for us. The Lord sanctifies us to grow in Him. Yes, it hurts. In the end of the season, we are stronger in Christ.

Prayer.

Dear Heavenly Father, help us through even the harshest of times to know you are at work. Help us to know the presence of your Dear Son through these seasons. Enable us to glorify you alone through all our afflictions, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

The 2nd Thursday in Lent 2019

For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink. Psalm 102:9

Sometimes when hit hard with trying times, eating and drinking is a struggle.

When we eat, it often tastes bitter … like ashes or our constant tears.

It is absolutely essential we remain spiritually sustained through all times, especially difficult times.

Jesus Christ instituted His Holy Supper to be our food and drink throughout this life.

He alone carries us through by His Body and His Blood.

In His Holy Communion, He teaches us anew all He went through for us.

As the Exhortation in the Reformed Episcopal Church Book of Common Prayer states on page 95, “He hath instituted and ordained holy mysteries, as pledges of His love, and for a continual remembrance of His death, to our great and endless comfort.”

In times of our duress, we must not abstain from the Lord’s Supper. Yes, we may not feel like eating physical food and drinking physical drink. We must stay well nourished in His Holy Word and Communion in all our seasons, stormy and clear.

Prayer.

Almighty God, assist us in all times to carry us through well nourished in your Word and Sacraments. Graciously sustain us even when we are destitute. We thank you that your food is truly beneficial, sustaining, and comforting to us. Carry us through by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Second Wednesday in Lent 2019

All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse. Psalm 102:8

One bitter element of afflictions are when enemies attack and derides us.

Sometimes it is as if enemies flock like sharks towards blood in our trying times.

As we contemplate in Lent, Jesus faced taunts by His enemies during His arrest, trial, passion, suffer and death for our sakes.

He was derided by His enemies while upon the Cross for us.

When we suffer by enemies and deridrers, know Christ is with us through every step to comfort us. In Him alone, we know such attacks are fleeting compared to eternity with Him.

In times of undergoing attacks while we are down, cry out to Jesus Christ in supplication and prayer. Ask fellow Christians to walk with us and pray for us through these times.

Prayer.

Dear heavenly Father, help us while under attack to cry out to you. Help us to rely and lean on Christ alone as we face our enemies. In Christ's Name, Amen.

The First Tuesday in Lent 2019

l lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. Psalms 102:7

In our times of fainting and afflictions, it often causes us to lose sleep.

We agonize over our circumstances that when we need sleep, we are unable.

In the dark hours of the night, we feel solitary.

We feel as a small sparrow alone. We feel insignificant, as if no one cares. We feel as if no one is with us.

These are the times of opportunity though.

These sleepness nights are either the opportunity to stew in our afflictions OR to cry out to God in prayer.

Call out to God when sleepless.

Meditate upon His Word when sleepless and alone.

In such, we find Christ is with us.

In such times, pour out your heart to Him in prayer for others.

Even in the midst of a sleepness night, put the prayers for others first.

Prayer.

Almighty God, help us even when weary and tired to seek you in the night season. Assist us mercifully to pray without ceasing for others. Calm our bodies and souls in your Word to glorify you always, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

First Monday in Lent 2019

I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places. Psalm 102:6

In afflictions, the feeling of being alone is normal. Afflictions seem like waste places, a wilderness. If you have ever driven through long stretches of flat land with no end in sight or a desert, the feeling especially if driving alone is sometimes overwhelming.

This is where afflictions can lead us, to feeling alone.

The issue is do we stay there, alone, in the wilderness?

Or, through these lonely times, do we seek God in prayer?

Do we seek the help of His Church, our fellow Christians?

As Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”

The prayers and cries we utter to God should lead us to seek help in fellow Christians to pray with us, to pray for us. As Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.”

Prayer

O LORD, help me in my time of loneliness. Bring me closer to you in these times. Draw me to rely solely upon you. Help me to seek help in your name from your people. In Christ’s Name. Amen.

First Sunday in Lent 2019

Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. Psalm 102:5

The Psalmist continues the condition of his body here, of his his heart withered and forgetting to eat.

Our prayers must convey all we feel to the Lord. When we hold back, we limit ourselves, we open the doors to seek other sources of relief. When we hold back, we suffer more. When we hold back, we do not own our broken status. Yes, God know all. It is healthy to groan to the Lord. It is healthy to cry and groan to Him.

When we confide in fellow Christians, we must do so through prayer, through asking others to pray for us and with us.

God works to relieve us through His Son Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was given us to comfort us through all we encounter. No matter the circumstance, whether self inflicted or inflicted by others, seek Him for comfort. Even with groaning through our bodies suffering, Jesus Christ is with us every step of the way.

As we meditate on this Sunday in Lent upon how Jesus went into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and 40 nights, let us know He hungered for us, to withstand all the heinous temptations of the Devil for us. He is our Light. He carries us through. We must turn to Him in faithful prayer, even groaning.

Prayer.

Almighty God, we thank you for sending your Son to bear all our burdens. We thank you that He withstood all the temptations we face in a weakened state. Help us to stay connected to Him in our prayers and in our worship with your Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

First Saturday in Lent 2019

My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Psalm 102:4

The path in Christ toward healing along with knowing our shortness of time is to know our condition. Afflictions cause us to feel as the Psalmist in this verse. Whether it was due to our own sin or the sins of others against us, such often puts us in the condition described.

The rage of this world seeks to have us despair at our condition to the point we give up faith, hope, and love in Jesus Christ. Instead, this world will have us believe that we must pick ourselves up through faith, hope, and love in the things of this world. All of these fail and we come to the same place of this verse.

In order to be raised up in Christ, we must know we are dead and in need of His redeeming resurrection. Honesty in the conditions of our hearts and bodies before God is crucial. Yes, He knows everything. It is important for us to cry out of these things to Him so we stop hiding or covering up what is really occurring inside.

This world will tell us that things are not that bad. Or, that the afflictions we are going through are not due to rebellion or of the sins of others upon us. They will try to say these afflictions of the heart and body have remedy in turning to the sins of the flesh at a deeper level. This only serves to deaden us further.

Only in Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection do we find that our hearts are revived. Only through the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by faith do we find our bodies revived in His sustenance. It begins with crying out to Him in prayer, telling Him all by faith through repentance.

Prayer

Almighty God, assist us in the true extent of our condition of heart and body. Help us to turn to you alone through all our adversities. Help us to seek you alone in our prayers and cries. Help us to know you alone raise us through the forgiveness of sins by your Son Jesus Christ. May we rely solely on Him for our sustenance and sustaining. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.

First Friday in Lent 2019

For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. Psalm 102:3

Life is short. In the midst of afflictions and faintness, sometimes life seems like eternity. The reminder in God’s mercy is that life is short when compared with eternity in Him. As the end of James 4:14 notes, :What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” The same is true of smoke. It lasts but a short time.

In the midst of this life, especially in the hard times, it seems long and as if our bones themselves are burning like a hot furnace. This is the cry and prayer of the Psalmist. It should be our cry and prayer as well.

Through trials, it is good for our souls for growth in Jesus Christ alone to admit our short years and how such feels. Trials hurt. They burn. They cause our days to pass by like smoke, like a mist.

Yet, the path to healing in Christ from the latest trial takes time as He leads us gently toward the inn, His Church. It often hurts and burns to have wounds cleaned, treated, and bandaged. Then, to take such bandages off and start the process all over again …. until He gets us to His Church and the safety of His fold again.

Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, help us in all our trials and adversities. Help us through your loving grace to own our shortness of life even in the midst of afflictions. Help us to see you alone through your Son Jesus Christ constantly leads us, cleans us, and binds us up from the wounds wrought by the world, the flesh, and the devil. In Christ’s Holy Name, Amen.

First Thursday in Lent 2019

“Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!” Psalm 102:2

This continues the plea of verse 1 for God to hear our prayers and our cries. Often in the midst of trials whether self inflicted or pressed upon us from others; we want God to see. The last thing we want is for Him to hide His face, to ignore our plight.

The way of this wicked world is to hide their faces from our troubles. The way of this world is to turn away from our plights just as the Priest and the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Our problem due to our sin is to seek help outside God while expecting to finally find relief, to finally have someone turn their faces to us in help. This never happens when in distress. Sinful people just like us do not want to deal with us in the mire of our own sins or in the mire caused by those that sinned against us. Yes, this world promises everything to tempt us to sin. When we capitulate, the coldness takes over and we are abandoned.

God does not hide His face in the day of our distress. As the Good Samaritan, a presentation of Christ and His work to lift us out of our distress to heal us and save us; God will always do the same for those that turn to Him, that cry out to Him for help, regardless of the circumstances.

He inclines His ear to us as He faces us, doing what this world will never do. Our tendency every single time when in adversity is to ask that He answer our petitions “speedily.”

There is nothing wrong with asking for prayers to be answered quickly. For us though, God works in His timing, not our timing. The answer is always speedy. The answer always is that Christ will be with us through our trials and afflictions, every step of the way to help us to a place to be treated and healed. The getting to the place of rest and healing takes time. Yet, the answer is still speedy. God is working in our world through our messy lives and the messy lives of others. Such is done through time and often at a pace we must submit to and keep praying through. Yes, it is speedily answered, with Christ along with every step toward the relief of our afflictions.

Prayer

Almighty God, help us to know that you never hide your face when we call upon you, when we repent and turn to you. Assist us to know that you hear us and answer us speedily, leading us gently to the relief we need in your good providence and timing. Incline your ear to me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ash Wednesday Sermon 2019

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. This from Psalm 51:17 speaks of where we start with God on the road He leads us upon of sanctification. Psalm 51, a Psalm we say together every Ash Wednesday in the Penitential Office, is a Psalm of repentance, absolution, and of sanctification. It is about God’s work within us to help us with His grace to go forth to love Him and others INSTEAD of hating Him and others. The sign of iniquity is hate through the pursuit of pleasing self. Sure, the world tries to sell us the lie that love of self is most important. The problem with the love of self is that it leads directly towards hatred of others through our actions. The breaking of any of the Ten Commandments dealing with our fellow human beings is an act of hate. The breaking of each one can easily be justified through the sinful flesh as an act of loving self. Whether it is honoring our parents, faithfulness to our spouse, or other people’s property; actions against such are hateful. When love becomes placing my needs above the needs of others, it becomes sin. Tonight with the beginning of this Lenten Season, let us focus upon how Psalm 51 marks us a trail of sanctification in Christ alone through cleansing, through God’s creation, and through praise and teaching.

What is Sanctification?

        First, we need to define sanctification. In the New Testament in terms of the work of Jesus Christ to save us, salvation has three parts. Jesus justified us from the guilt of our sins against God through His death. Jesus through the Holy Spirit is then spending the rest of this life sanctifying us or purifying us to live in Him. At the second coming and resurrection of the body, we will be glorified in Him in a state of no sin. Often though, we as fallen yet redeemed do not want to deal with the ongoing, daily grind of sanctification. We just want to hear about justification and glorification, not wanting to deal with the gritty element of purification. We do not like it because it forces us to examine ourselves throughout life for parts of life that need God’s work to give to Him and to ask His help to sanctify and turn to His service. If we develop a theology that skips the middle, everyday of sanctification; we have developed a deficient and dangerous theology.

        Part of the Christian life, of the need of the Church Calendar, is the reminders for the need of sanctification. Lent is the part of the Church year where we are brought face to face with this need, with this essential to growing in Jesus Christ. Lent is a 40 day timeframe every year where this pesky element of salvation is brought to the forefront. It is to teach us that serving Jesus and one another is not easy. It is often painful just as it is painful to deal with sin through repentance when we have hurt others or to forgive when someone that hurt us repents to us. It is painful to be pruned of the sins of the flesh. Being herded back to the fold when we want to run away is painful. Yet, the pain is not meant to destroy, but to excise elements of sin to build us into servants of Christ more submissive and reliant upon His grace than we were before the pruning.

Cleansing

        After coming back to God through repentance, an important area of sanctification found in Psalm 51 is the idea of cleansing. Cleansing begins with the pardon only God gives through Jesus Christ. Our Psalm opens with a plea for forgiveness, “Have mercy on me, O God.” God cannot wash us without confession of our sins, that we need Him. The act of contrition is an act of submission to God, to His work of forgiveness and the subsequent washing that occurs throughout the life of faith. It is what we see in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. We live our baptisms every day, knowing we are forgiven and that He constantly cleanses us.

        Verses 2 and 7 of our Psalm speak of this most important part of sanctification. Verse 2 states, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” In declaring us saved through justification, washing and sanctification speak of applying and remembering the Lord’s work upon ourselves all our days. As Psalm 51 is David’s confession for his sin of adultery and murder, we see these words of asking for washing and cleansing as necessary. Since we still deal with the presence of sin in this life, we have to deal with being cleaned.

        Often, just as toddlers not wanting to be pulled from their muddy playgrounds to the bathtub, we as fallen yet redeemed sinners go kicking and screaming to that next cleansing. Yet, such is needed to remember what Jesus has accomplished and that He clothes us in His righteousness. This process of sanctification is lifelong … confessing … receiving forgiveness … cleansed often painfully in cleaning the wounds and scabs caused by our sins. Lent is one such time where we are confronted with the necessity of submitting to God washing us anew.

Create

After repentance, forgiveness, and the cleansing anew, we submit to; we understand that pardon begets renewal. This renewal of our lives, of our spark in Christ, is described in verse 10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” All of humanity is born with a need for God’s grace as Psalm 51:5 teaches. We have a deep need for His work within for clean, new hearts.

As verse 6 conveys, God works within our hearts. We do not attract Him. “and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” This work of sanctification creates within us a changed heart. It is His slow work to steer us from the depths of destruction to the depths of His love. This creation within us leads us to verse 12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Often when we go astray, our joy is missing. God restores this when we submit to REPENTANCE AND His PARDON. It is sort of what happens when someone goes through times of just going through the motions of something to suddenly have it snatched away. When the activity is restored after an absence, we again approach it with newness and joy. The work of cleansing is hard. The result of His creation of a new heart is worthwhile.

Creating in us a new heart teaches us that He raises us up from the deadness of our sins throughout this life. The action of God forgiving requires resurrection for it to be eternal in scope. This is the finished work of Christ at the Cross and His resurrection at daily work through our sanctification, through covenant renewal. This sanctification and picture of creating in us clean hearts and renewal of a right spirit within is brought to the forefront every time we partake of the Holy Communion. We feed on Christ in our hearts by faith, hearts made clean … spirits renewed aright.

Praise and Teach

        The last area of sanctification is where the work of God to cleanse us and create anew a right spirit leads to the action of us praising Him and teaching others about Him. In order to worship and teach, we must first be open to His Word. This is the new heart. This is what verse 8 conveys, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.” Often in the works of the flesh, we are broken to the point all that is left is to be created anew, healed and restored to live for Christ. We cannot fix ourselves. Christ alone does this through sanctification.

        In this healing, we find that God’s work of sanctification is not about me. Often during Lent we are drawn to what am I going to do, about me, about things I am going to give up; me, me, me, me. This is not a proper approach.  Rather, Lent and sanctification is about His work within us to serve others. As verse 13 states, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” When we see sanctification as about self-help and being a better you for the sole benefit of the individual, we have ceased speaking about true sanctification. True sanctification involves giving up self for the good of others, of submitting to God’s work to cultivate, prune, and foster us to bear fruits for the needs of others. When we teach others of His ways, sinners will return and join us in this loving endeavor. Only in serving Christ and serving others do we find joy.

        As verses 14-15 state, opening with His deliverance from our sins and the cleanings and renewing such entails, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” Our praising God is God sanctifying us. When we praise Him in worship, we serve Him and submit to Him. We set our time aside as His to worship. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices, for Him to use to His glory.

        On this evening where we join Christians around the world in embarking upon Lent, let us submit to the areas of our lives that need sanctifying. Let us give Him the areas through repentance where cleansing is needed. Maybe we have fought tooth and nail for a long time not to be washed in certain areas by God. Use this Lent to give up, repent, receive pardon, and go through His washing. Let us commit ourselves again to submit to His work of creating within us a new spirit to serve Him anew out of love, not compulsion. Let us throughout this Lent never forget our first love in Christ to commit all the disciplines we will undertake with praise, thanksgiving, and a willingness  to serve others through teaching of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Amen.