Tomorrow is the 2nd Sunday in Lent and is called “Reminiscere” (Remember!). This is a reference to the Introit from Psalm 25. It invites us to call upon the triune God, pleading him to remember his tender mercies and loving kindnesses, which endure forever. The above altar by Lucas Cranach jr (1548) depicts three such pointers to God´s mercies and gracious favors.
Remember your compassionate and faithful deeds, O Lord,Psalm 25,6.1f.4.8.10f
My God, I trust in you.
Please do not let me be humiliated;
do not let my enemies triumphantly rejoice over me.
Make me understand your ways, O Lord.
Teach me your paths.
The Lord is both kind and fair; that is why he teaches sinners the right way to live.
The Lord always proves faithful and reliable to those who follow the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your reputation, O Lord, forgive my sin, because it is great.
This divine compassion and loving kindness is exemplified in the Gospel of St. John with our Lord´s story of the elevation of the bronze serpent (see the right panel of the reformation altar above), whereby he points us to his own elevation on the cross:
Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.The holy Gospel according to St. John 3:14-21
The truly amazing part of this story is that God´s showed us his gracious favor and loving kindness – when we were still sinners! That´s the message of the epistle lesson:
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.St. Paul´s letter to the Romans 5:1-11
It´s on this backdrop, that the true monstrosity of sinful abomination and rejection of God´s loving graces becomes clear. He, who does all and everything for us and our salvation, comes to realize time and again that his loving pursuit is in vain and attains horrible opposition. God´s prophet Isaiah puts this into dramatic words in his song of God´s vineyard – and that´s the assigned sermon text for this Sunday: Isaiah 5:1-7.
1 When in the hour of deepest need
We know not where to look for aid;
When days and nights of anxious thought
No help or counsel yet have brought.
2 Then is our comfort this alone
That we may meet before Your throne;
To You, O faithful God, we cry
For rescue from our misery.
3 For You have promised, Lord, to heed
Your children’s cries in time of need
Through Him whose name alone is great,
Our Savior and our advocate.
4 And so we come, O God, today
And all our woes before You lay;
For sorely tried, cast down, we stand,
Perplexed by fears on ev’ry hand.
5 O from our sins, Lord, turn Your face;
Absolve us through Your boundless grace.
Be with us in our anguish still;
Free us at last from ev’ry ill.
6 So we with all our hearts each day
To You our glad thanksgiving pay,
Then walk obedient to Your Word,
And now and ever praise You, Lord.