Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 14
The people went to Moses and said, “We’ve sinned, for we spoke against the Lord and you. Pray to the Lord so that he will send the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and place it on a pole. Whoever is bitten can look at it and live.” Moses made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole. If a snake bit someone, that person could look at the bronze snake and live. (Numbers 21:7-9)
God’s guidance can open our eyes to our failings, our selfishness, and our tendency to not see what is right in front of us. In today’s scripture we read about how the Israelite people realized that they had sinned, and they asked Moses to intercede with God on their behalf. While a story about supernatural snake statues and repentance may not make a lot of sense for us today, you can see that Moses’s prayer and God’s grace created a way for the people to become whole and safe again.
The people were not able to save themselves—they had to turn to God after they acknowledged that God’s guidance was set up to keep them safe and spiritually centered. In this Lenten season, how is God responding to you with grace? How have your eyes been opened by God’s guidance to see where you have been trying to save yourself? What is different in your life when you let God’s grace in?
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for trying to save myself.
Monday, March 15
“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, because his faithful love lasts forever!” That’s what those who are redeemed by the Lord say, the ones God redeemed from the power of their enemies, the ones God gathered from various countries, from east and west, north and south. (Psalm 107:1-3)
People who call themselves “de-churched” often ask about the “so what” of faith. “Praising and giving thanks is great, but then what? So what?”
Grace is a gift freely given to us and offered without cost to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, or even theology. Our response to grace is praise and thanksgiving, which take a multitude of forms. Words, celebration, and worship matter. So do actions. Faith without works is dead, and so we are called to respond to God’s grace by our actions and our work in the world.
It breaks my heart when I hear stories from people who still follow the faith of their childhood, although they have been pushed out of their church because of theological differences, implicit or explicit prejudice, and shunning.
God gathered us all from “various countries, from east and west, north and south” to worship. May God offer us grace for those we have excluded from community.
Prayer: God, may my treatment to all be a reflection of the grace you give to all.
Tuesday, March 16
At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. (Ephesians 2:1-2)
Destructive spiritual powers take so many forms. Sometimes they are blatantly obvious, like greed, abuse, and causing harm to others. But sometimes destructive spiritual powers lurk beneath the surface, such as inequality, racism, sexism, and lack of access to good health care. When we uphold the values of this world or turn away from brokenness, we are living “like people of this world” rather than a life impacted by grace.
I know of a church that is open to all and is also especially welcoming for those in recovery from addiction, primarily to drugs and alcohol. The narratives around addiction and God’s grace are breathtaking. Fighting addiction is one of the hardest things a person can do, and understanding that addiction can take the form of a destructive spiritual power is helpful for so many.
With God’s grace, we are all saved from sin to life. While we cannot simply pray away our problems, we can and should respond to destructive powers with the awareness that without God’s help we tend to choose selfish desires over the greater good. In this Lenten season, consider what destructive powers are at work in your life and your community, and see where grace can make a difference.
Prayer: Protect me, Defender, from destruction.
Wednesday, March 17
However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Some models for Christian community are based in personal growth and self-help. While God calls us into continual renewal and abundant life, the Christian walk is about so much more than self-help. A self-help and personal growth model of Christianity makes our Christian journey of faith into something that we are fully in control of. It puts the burden of success, growth, and spiritual formation on the skills, willpower, and abilities that we possess and try to cultivate on our own. It also gives us the permission to simply step away when our “personal journey” gets a little too difficult or too self-revealing.
In contrast, God is rich in mercy and brings us life, inspiring within us abundance, wholeness, and a Christlike spirit. We have to do our part and respond to the unmerited grace we are given, but we must remember that grace came from God’s love for us and not by the work of our own hands. The grace of God is what allows us to examine ourselves and not be broken.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be honest about myself, and save me with your grace.
Thursday, March 18
You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
We are saved because of our faith. That said, our faith and our grounding for what we believe in is rooted in God’s nature, God’s care for us, and God’s love for the world shown in Christ Jesus. Our faith in God certainly matters! But if we had to possess a certain amount of faith or live our faith in a specific way or with specific actions in order to be saved, we would all be lost.
We humans struggle to recognize that we do not always deserve what we have earned—though we are quick to acknowledge the hardships that we did not bring onto ourselves. God’s salvation is outside and beyond what the world promises us. We are “created in Christ Jesus to do good things.” Our response to grace is to do good in the world and help others see that grace is also right there for them, too. May we have the grateful astonishment that salvation is for us, and grace is God’s gift to us, simply because God loves us fully.
Prayer: Humble me, O God, for I cannot be saved without you.
Friday, March 19
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
We see a lot of juxtaposition in this familiar scripture—the difference between life and death, judgment and salvation, light and dark. Oftentimes this scripture comes to mind easily when we ponder the fundamentals of our Christian faith. And yet, even within this scripture is the foundation that we have salvation because of who God is and God’s eternal love and care for all of humanity.
As humans, we like to have structure, guidelines, and rules. We also like to know that we are loved and taken care of, and that we have a future to look forward to. Knowing that God is the giver of salvation and a future is a joy; naming that we cannot bring grace to ourselves by ourselves is sometimes a bit harder to deal with.
We see in the scripture that God’s grace is saving the entire world, which brings up challenging questions about who has access to grace and salvation. If God’s grace comes from God, and God saves the entire world, what is our role in gatekeeping and determining who is saved and who is not? In this Lenten season, spend some time thinking about what it means for the whole world to be saved, and consider how your Christian journey is a part of moving from judgment to offering grace.
Prayer: God, forgive me for being a gatekeeper.
Saturday, March 20
“This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light. Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.” (John 3:19-21)
In my current role, I work with churches, laity, and ministry leaders to better connect with one another and with their communities, especially when they do not look, sound, or act the same. The very nature of my ministry usually gets a nod of approval from people. It is worthy work that I love, and I am thankful to be doing it in this season. It is also challenging and emotionally taxing, and sometimes I just want to ease back and engage in surface-level work.
People are drawn to darkness. Sometimes this takes the form of tangible challenges: a desire for power, the struggle of addiction, the despair of isolation, the brokenness of inequality. But sometimes darkness is subtle, and it sneaks into our day-to-day lives. From apathy to disengagement to the willful blind eye when faced with injustice, darkness leads us to evil.
Grace is the antidote to evil, because it is all-encompassing and reveals our hidden parts, and it reminds us that we cannot earn our salvation. When we lean into grace and live according to God’s direction, we move from darkness to light.
Prayer: Sustaining God, may your grace move us from darkness to light