The 3rd Lenten Service is coming up. We´re following the propers of the local lectionary. The Introit starts us off with the 3rd penitential Psalm:
O Lord, do not continue to rebuke me in your anger.Psalm 38
Do not continue to punish me in your raging fury.
For your arrows pierce me, and your hand presses me down.
My whole body is sick because of your judgment;
I am deprived of health because of my sin.
For my sins overwhelm me; like a heavy load, they are too much for me to bear.
My wounds are infected and starting to smell, because of my foolish sins.
I am dazed and completely humiliated; all day long I walk around mourning.
For I am overcome with shame, and my whole body is sick.
I am numb with pain and severely battered; I groan loudly because of the anxiety I feel.
O Lord, you understand my heart’s desire; my groaning is not hidden from you.
My heart beats quickly; my strength leaves me.
I can hardly see.
Because of my condition, even my friends and acquaintances keep their distance;
my neighbors stand far away.
Those who seek my life try to entrap me;
those who want to harm me speak destructive words.
All day long they say deceitful things.
But I am like a deaf man—I hear nothing;
I am like a mute who cannot speak.
I am like a man who cannot hear
and is incapable of arguing his defense.
Yet I wait for you, O Lord!
You will respond, O Lord, my God!
I have prayed for deliverance, because otherwise they will gloat over me;
when my foot slips they will arrogantly taunt me.
For I am about to stumble, and I am in constant pain.
Yes, I confess my wrongdoing, and I am concerned about my sins.
But those who are my enemies for no reason are numerous;
those who hate me without cause outnumber me.
They repay me evil for the good I have done;
though I have tried to do good to them, they hurl accusations at me.
Do not abandon me, O Lord.
My God, do not remain far away from me.
Hurry and help me, O Lord, my deliverer.
The Old Testament lesson on those lofty plans to build the tower of babel very much sketches the sinful inclination to make a lasting name for oneself, but ending up much worse than before: Genesis 11:1-9.
The Gospel lesson from St. Luke takes us back to the upper room, where our good Lord dined with his disciples on the night, when he was betrayed. Even there those closest friends of his disputed among themselves, who of them, was the greatest. Simon Peter obviously favored his chances to be the first (primus inter pares), but is put into place as our good Lord points special prayers for him and tasks him with future service and duties to strengthen his brothers:
A dispute also started among them over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. So Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ Not so with you; instead the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is seated at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.“You are the ones who have remained with me in my trials. Thus I grant to you a kingdom, just as my Father granted to me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!” Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.”
Then Jesus said to them, “When I sent you out with no money bag, or traveler’s bag, or sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you?” They replied,“Nothing.” He said to them, “But now, the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag too. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me is being fulfilled.” So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” Then he told them, “It is enough.”Gospel of St. Luke 22,24-38
In contrast with this sinful striving to be first and foremost, our good Lord serves his people to the very end – faithfully and lovingly. Not only does he wash his disciples feet, but he also suffers all for us and our salvation. On the cross – counted amongst the outcasts – he still looks out for his mother the holy virgin St. Mary and his disciple St. John, whom he loved. He truly did not hold on to his divine privileges, but emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! The short verses from St. John´s gospel serve as sermon text for this lenten service:
So when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!” He then said to his disciple, “Look, here is your mother!” From that very time the disciple took her into his own home.Gospel of St. John 19:26f
Together with the Christian Church we laud and magnify His glorious name – evermore praising Him and saying with these lovely words:
1 O perfect life of love! All, all, is finished now,
All that He left His throne above To do for us below.
2 No work is left undone Of all the Father willed;
His toil, His sorrows, one by one, The Scriptures have fulfilled.
3 No pain that we can share But He has felt its smart;
All forms of human grief and care Have pierced that tender heart.
4 And on His thorn-crowned head And on His sinless soul
Our sins in all their guilt were laid That he might make us whole.
5 In perfect love He dies; For me He dies, for me.
O all atoning Sacrifice, I cling by faith to Thee.
6 In ev’ry time of need, Before the judgment throne,
Thy work, O Lamb of God, I’ll plead, Thy merits, not mine own.
7 Yet work, O Lord, in me As Thou for me hast wrought;Henry W. Baker (1821-1877)
And let my love the answer be To grace Thy love has brought.