But God, who is rich in mercy...made us alive together with Christ...For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast. [Ephesians 2:4a,b; 8-9]
said, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the
Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal
life...the light has come into the world...those who do what is true come to
the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in
God." [John 3:14, 19a, 21]
Moses, on God's orders, made a bronze snake to hang on a pole. All the Israelites had to do was look at the snake on the pole when bitten and they lived. God is not predictable, but God is faithful. The Psalmist tells us that God’s mercy endures forever. And, Paul tells us we are saved by God's grace.
We ALL have God's grace. We don't have to work for it ~ no one does ~ it comes to us by faith. Yet how have we harnessed it, especially after we have been bitten by the snakes of our own trespassing behavior, or that of someone else's?
Have you ever thought or said that old expression: There but for the grace of God go I? It is mostly well-intended, and at once unintentionally thought-less and even care-less. It's an instant reaction to reduce our own fear and to comfort ourselves against the dangers of life as in: “Whew! Dodged that! There's that poor guy who was run over in the same intersection I just crossed, and there but for…" Even well-meaning, the unconscious thought is: "I have more grace than that guy."
As we are deep in this Lenten season, let us work to be more conscious, more aware of even our most random reactions and instant thoughts. God is "rich in mercy" and loves and understands each of us as only our Creator could; certainly better than we understand ourselves or each other. Our lives are filled with danger, there are all sorts and conditions of "snakes" that bite us, many of which we invite into our own space by striving for ever-more earthly material.
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
the hour I first believed.
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far
and Grace will lead us home.
LET US, GOD’S PEOPLE, PRAY
Leader: ~ O God of Enduring Mercy, awaken us to the snakes we invite into the wilderness of our own making by impatient striving for mere earthly advantage. Open the eyes of our souls to the light of Christ that stems the poison of sin and lifts our desire for eternal salvation.
~ O God of Enduring Mercy, amplify our voices to all who hold power on this Planet, in this Nation, and in this Community, as we combat and clamor against ordinary and catastrophic injustice toward all who are endangered by the darkness of deliberate human trespass. We pray especially for: add your own petitions
~ O God of Enduring Mercy, deliver from their distress all who are suffering through life-threatening illness, addiction, or homelessness, and give rest to all who provide support. We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need…
~ O God of Enduring Mercy, we shout for joy in thanksgiving for all who are now made alive again and gathered forever into the immeasurable riches of Your unending love. We pray especially for… add your own petitions
~ O God of Enduring Mercy, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… add your own petitions
~ O God of Enduring Mercy, guide the souls, the minds, and the hearts of all who bring us together into our Living Christ through their service of Pastoring, Preaching, and Prayer. We pray especially for: add your own petitions
The Celebrant adds: Good and Redeeming Lord, invigorate our faith and
inspire us in our repentance to acknowledge and accept Your free gift of Grace,
that our souls may not perish in sin, but thrive in Your eternal life. We ask
through Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ; and the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit;
Who live and reign with You as One God, now, in the ages to come, and forever. Amen.