Summary: Each of us is touched by the saving mercy of God; we should tell the story.
Third Sunday of Lent 2016
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. He pardons all your iniquities and heals all your diseases.” We must not forget what the Lord has done for us, and what the Lord has promised to do for us, if we remain steadfast in doing His will. What He has done for us is wipe out all our sins, in Baptism in the beginning of our journey, many times in Holy Communion, which obliterates our venial sins, and in that renewal we call the Sacrament of Reconciliation. All our sins–wiped out of existence if only we repent and accept His gracious gift of forgiveness. Because even if our persistent sinus conditions and arthritis and heart murmurs persist, even if we battle depression and anxiety, that is even if our physical and emotional hurts haven’t vanished, our spiritual health is assured by the presence and power of our merciful God.
Let me suggest a Lenten exercise to you that has certainly helped me and my family in our spiritual journey. You might even journal this exercise. Take a quiet hour with your spouse or parent or children, and remember. Recall the times in your life when you were in some sort of physical crisis, or emotional turning point. Perhaps you had lost your job or had been transferred to another city. Maybe you were deployed to an active war zone. You may have turned to God or not, but now you can look back at that part of your life and see how God brought you through it. He may have done so in a twisty-turny sort of way, but He brought you to a better place. God has a way of healing us even when we lose someone we love.
Some of you know that I spent about twenty years in the life insurance and financial planning business, in between my teaching careers. I was, I thought, on my way to becoming a general manager in a major insurance company. All the testing said I was the best candidate. Opportunity after opportunity came up, even here in San Antonio, and I never even got an interview. My wife and I prayed for Louisville, for Austin, and for the local gig. Nothing. God answered our prayers with a firm “no.”
Not too many months after the last disappointment, our insurance company was swallowed up in a merger, and all those general agents were out of luck. Eventually I learned how God had engineered this miracle. A highly placed manager in the agency department, I heard from a reliable source, had sworn that I would never have a general agency in the company. Ironic, isn’t it, that the Lord even turned hatred around to our benefit? I could spend most of this hour telling you similar stories from our family’s history. So spend some time this week writing your own story of the operation of God’s loving mercy in your life.
Moses escaped death in Egypt and, in exile among a people who didn’t even speak his language, he thought his service of his Hebrew people was at an end. But God had better plans for Moses and those people, and we are the beneficiaries of that benevolence. The people Moses led rebelled in the wilderness, but even that revolution did not thwart the plan of God to make a people of faith, hope and love. A tower in one of the corners of Jerusalem fell and killed eighteen people who were no less sinful than the rest of the citizens of that city, and Jesus used that as a reminder of the need to repent before the mercy of God can become active in our lives.
This is the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Merciful and kind–those are the two adjectives consistently applied in OT and New to our God. He does not want to give us what we deserve. He wants to give us the unearned salvation that Christ has deserved for us. He wants us to remain in His loving arms, sheltered from the real evil–sin. If we stray, he will wait at the door of our home for us to return, and even give us the grace to want to come back. But our loving Father will not drag us kicking and scratching into the kingdom of God. If we prefer pleasure to union with the Ultimate Good, He will not stand in our way. If we desire honor and power more than service to God and neighbor, He will not force us. He made us with free will and will not rip that away from us. All these things He does out of His infinite charity and compassion.
So if you or a member of your family have not yet made a good confession of sin this Lent, remember that we have opportunities twice every Saturday here. God’s mercy and power are greater than any problem I have or you have. Turn to this Good God in repentance and humility and let the Year of Mercy overflow from your family to everyone you meet.