It is the season of lent and this is the third Sunday in Lent and I apologize that I did not start a Lenten series this year. For those who are interested I will be starting one next year. Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others. Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection. Now you can find all of this that I have just told you word for word at the United Methodist Church website umc.org/what we believe. It’s a great resource and I encourage you all to use it if you have questions about the church. Many of you might be going, I already know this pastor so why the recap. Well not everyone does know what Lent really is. Most think it’s just a symbolic time to observe the temptations that we all endure and that only Christ overcame completely. Lent is when we count the cost of grace. Yes, I know what grace means. It is the free and unmerited forgiveness of our sins by God. Does anyone here know what “TANSTAAFL! Means?
There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch”. Our redemption comes at a price and it’s not one that we paid. Redemption means to redeem, to release, liberate, free, emancipate, deliver, rescue, save. So, grace is not free, it is freely offered but it is not free. That is the problem with “Christianity” today. Because we preach that grace is free, people believe it must not be worth anything. After all, if it is free then it is worth what we pay for it right. It would be worth nothing. We know better. The shed blood of our Lord and Savior is in fact the most precious gift in this or any other world. The blood of Christ and the grace that He purchased for us on the cross is priceless. Why? Let’s look to Isaiah for the answer. Jesus is the new covenant, but the new covenant is built on the foundations of the old. This is something that most postmodern Christians have completely forgotten. Many churches do not even use the old testament anymore. Except for buffet preachers, who pick out a verse here and a verse there and use them out of context in order to make a point that God never made. You see Jesus was before everything and will be after everything as John tells us in the very first chapter of his gospel. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. That includes the original covenant with God the Father. This book comes from the prophet Isaiah during their captivity by the Babylonian empire. I picked this message because I feel that the church is much like those ancient Judeans. You see at that time the people had spent about 90 years in exile and Isaiah was explaining Gods plan for them as a nation, but they would not listen, they would have nothing to do with it. They have lost faith in their God and He is telling them that they must trust in Him. Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! God is calling us to His table regardless of our ability to pay. We are welcome in the house of the Lord. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. The Lord is offering us not just water and bread, not just the basics. Instead God offers us a Holy banquet that we might feast with Him. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Why do we chase after the things of the flesh and deny the spirit? We are constantly feeding our pride and ambition, but we have no time to spend with God. Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. The Lord is offering us freedom from the flesh. He is offering us the richness of the spirit if we only listen carefully to His plan for us and our lives. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Listen to the word of God for the people of God.
And this is the covenant the Lord made with David. “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. We are talking about Solomon now. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” And God set up the foundation for the new covenant right there. Nine hundred years before the birth of simple carpenter to a virgin bride. Jesus was prophesied by Isaiah three hundred years later. It was almost exactly one thousand years after God established the first covenant that Jesus established the new covenant. And here we are three thousand years after the first covenant and we still do not seem to be any better at getting our stuff together than David did. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. God has promised us a place in His kingdom. Not only that He has honored us as His children. As we glorify the Lord, we are in turn glorified. We are servants of the one true God and we are recognized as servants of God because we constantly seek Him. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. If we truly seek the Lord if we truly turn to him then we will have no choice but to turn away from sin. The wicked and the unrighteous will no longer have a hold on us. And the best thing about God and his covenant with us is that regardless of what we’ve done before no matter what has come between us in the Lord if we forsake that path if we turn our thoughts from unrighteousness the Lord will have mercy on us and he will pardon us if we ask.
Listen to Psalm 51: Remove my sin, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. This is the season of Lent and it is our repentance that the Lord desires. Not giving up chocolate Bon Bon’s because they make you fat. The original covenant is still there. It has been fulfilled in Jesus. It was never replaced or done away with. God is unchanging and His word, His very nature is unchangeable. Therefore, the original covenant is still in force today. It is embodied in the Messiah. Jesus is both the fulfillment of the old covenant and the promise of the new covenant. In the coming days we will be reminded of the price that was paid for all of this and when we wonder how God could sacrifice His only child for us. How Jesus could give His life for us as we were yet sinners. We only have to remember that we are not God and He tells us, for, my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Amen!