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3/22/2009 - The Rev. Caron A. Gwynn - The Fourth Sunday of Lent

posted May 21, 2010, 6:24 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:25 PM by Terry Brady ]
The Lenten season invites us to walk with Jesus toward Jerusalem and the cross on Good Friday. For some who take this journey, one piece of luggage they pack is the guilt bag. The practice of Lent is not designed to walk toward Jerusalem with Christ consumed with thoughts about our limitations, failures, short comings and otherwise wanting to beat ourselves up. On the contrary, in our lessons for today we have the opportunity to unload some of our guilt, pain, and mourning. We can leave these items at the side of the road as we journey towards the cross and approach Holy Week free to focus on the reality of God’s love for us and on our faith in God.

Our Lenten colors for the past three weeks have been purple signifying passion. But with our new perspective, our Lenten colors are rose signaling the time of rejoicing. Many of you may already be aware of this fact. Thus, today, Lent four is known as Laetare Jerusalem, a Latin term meaning rejoice O Jerusalem, rejoice Sunday! We can rejoice today because we are more than half way through our penitential season and the individual disciplines of the Lenten season. We are journeying closer and closer towards that awaiting explosion of joy that will engulf us on Easter Day. You may remember that our children hid our Alleluia until Easter. Can you feel the excitement building as we get ready to proclaim our praise with mounting exuberance again? I am beginning to feel it…can you! Can you feel it?!!

Our Old Testament lesson helps us to remember that we are called to keep in mind the pact we have entered into with God. We can rejoice as partners of the same covenant God made with Abraham. That covenant is that God’s presence is always with us. We heard that the Israelites were whining and complaining about their condition. They did not have any food and the things they did have were far from satisfactory in their eyes. They were disgruntled about everything. After all it was tough going wandering in the wilderness. Their unhappiness swept over them after their victory in defeating the Canaanites. However, they later recanted their sorrow to Moses. They sought and received forgiveness from God who continued to help and heal them. God never abandoned them. God does not abandon us because God responds with listening, caring, giving, and unconditional love.

When we are going through a transition and experiencing new things, challenges will come and these challenges can often put us on the edge. The Israelites were on the edge. They were impatient and wanted to rush through the wilderness experience and be done with the hard part of transitioning. God was calling them to endure and grow in order to start the fresh and new way of living that was part of God’s covenant. The Israelites were missing the fact that God’s grace and love was all around them throughout their ordeal in the wilderness.

It took them a long time but they later realized that God’s grace had provided a snake image made by Moses for anyone bitten by a snake in order to be healed. It may take us a while to recognize God’s grace. The season of Lent serves to remind us of the gifts of God’s grace and God’s unconditional love.

This love will ease our challenges and help us to cope with the difficulties of the transitions we undergo throughout life. Each day may present us with challenges and while we may become impatient with the daily grind of business, school, healing from injuries, caring for others, economic and housing issues - all of these issues will propel us in all sorts of directions and we can become drained and tired and we in the role of the Israelites may forget that God's grace is all around us.

Our need to do things always correctly and perfectly drains the soul. We are called to remember that God is the source of our survival in this world. The good news is – and I think the apostle Paul says it best in Ephesians - that we can rejoice in knowing that as repentant sinners, God is our power line – and we are directly linked to the richness of God’s grace and love for us. We are called to remember that God is not far but near. God reaches out to help us rebuild our lives through all the circumstances we may encounter. We are called to remember that God acts on our behalf and empowers us with love and grace every day. For it is by grace through faith - which is not our own doing - but a gift from God that we are saved for all of eternity by God’s immeasurable, unconditional love for us.

Let us pray:

In all our undertakings,
Grant us prosperity and good success.
In all our friendships,
Grant us to find our friends faithful and true.
In all our bodily things,
Make us fit and healthy,
Able and for the professional and school work of the day.
In all things of the mind,
Make us clam and serene,
Free from anxiety and worry.
In all material things,
Save us from poverty and from want.
In spiritual things,
Save us from doubt and from distrust.
Grant us that all trials may only bring us closer to you and to one another; and grant that nothing may shake our certainly that you work all things together for good through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN. [from Prayers for the Christian Year by William Barclay]