My current congregation’s mission statement is simple: Loving God. Serving Others. Changing Lives. This statement is written on the wall above the doors so that we can’t help but see those words as we walk out of the sanctuary each Sunday morning. It is a nice reminder that the world of the church goes beyond what we do on Sundays and that the real work occurs out in the world.
However, every Sunday when I read those words, I cannot help but ask myself: When we speak of changing lives, whose life is actually being changed when we love God and serve others?
The season of Lent reminds us of the realities of being human, and this passage in Ephesians makes us look at that directly. As humans, we mess up a lot. We tend to place our trust in misguided leaders; and, as Paul says, all of us have placed our passions before our faith. In one sense, this passage is a tough pill to swallow. It’s hard to look at my own shortcomings and complicities in my participation in a broken world.
Thankfully, Paul’s point isn’t to admonish us but to remind us that we claim faith in a God who is rich in mercy and loves us anyway. This should encourage us to keep walking in the wilderness and encountering God in the uncomfortable places of the world. Oftentimes the Christian message is as simple as loving God and serving others. The harder thing to grasp is that when we live into that, when we experience God’s grace and mercy, it is our life that is changed. As you encounter the wilderness in this Lenten season—if you are open to the experience—you will be challenged and changed because that is what God’s mercy does.
God, we are thankful that you are rich in mercy. As we encounter the wilderness, we pray that we are open to the ways that living into our faith and experiencing the fullness of your grace can change us. Amen.
Sometimes we get ourselves into trouble by our words and actions. It’s okay to admit it. It happens to all of us. The Israelites experienced this when their constant grumbling provoked God’s wrath in Numbers 21. Yet even in this story, God provides the means of salvation. The psalmist echoes the refrain that when we put ourselves in bad positions, we may cry out to the Lord for deliverance. We read in Ephesians that all of us were living in disobedience to God, but God has done all the work of reconciliation by grace given through Christ Jesus. John ties all this together, gesturing to the story in Numbers 21 to teach us that Christ is the means of restoration and salvation for all who believe in him.
Read Numbers 21:4-9. When do you complain to God? Does your complaining ever interfere with your sense of God’s presence with you?
Read Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22. What practice helps you to thank God each day for God’s steadfast love?
Read Ephesians 2:1-10. How does your sense of God’s salvation and grace move you to do good works?
Read John 3:14-21. How do you act as a creature of light in the world? What are your “deeds that have been done in God”?
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