Here is a link to the readings for Sunday, March 22, Lent IV
And here are questions for us to prayerfully consider as we prepare for worship this Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. We hope you will find them a useful resource as you prepare to receive them in one of our three livestreamed services on our YouTube channel this Sunday.
1 Samuel 16:1-13
This story talks about how Samuel the prophet hears from the Lord on how to choose a new king to replace Saul. In this story, we hear the line that many of us may remember, “…the Lord looks on the heart.” It is a defining belief of the Christian faith that the Lord looks at our hearts. Mortals get caught up in externals—appearance, talent, achievements, status, wealth, and others. None of these are bad, of course—but they are not enough. As individuals and as a society, how we live from our hearts—our core emotions that motivate us in all that we say and do and how we do it—this is what matters. How is our heart today? How is our current reality and what we are facing—a global pandemic and social isolation– affecting our hearts? Are we afraid (which is understandable)? Are we able to feel peace from God and love for others? In our prayers this week, take time for a “heart check,” asking for the Spirit to help us discern what is going on inside of us and how we may find God’s peace.
This is perhaps the best-known psalm, often prayed at funerals and when someone is approaching death. Pray this psalm during the week and for as long as we are in social isolation. Pray it for yourself and those close to you. Pray it for people who are very sick and for those who have died and for those who love and care for them, especially this verse: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Light is a way we often think of producing a healthy, cheerful physical space. We say things like, “Let’s open the blinds and get some light in here” when we visit someone who is sick or down. How can we bring light in our current health environment? Two ideas to consider—prayer and love. We can use our time in social isolation to pray for those we know who are vulnerable. Pray for our government and church leaders. Pray for scientists, medical professionals, first responders, journalists, and all who are serving the common good (including ourselves). And love—help an older neighbor by shopping for them; phone a friend to listen and to encourage them; be kind to everyone you meet (at a safe, six-foot distance!). Pray and love—bring light!
This is a deep and disturbing Gospel. It brings up questions that we all need to ask all the time. And they are particularly applicable in our current COVID-19 pandemic. Why do bad things happen? How is God present in these bad things—being born blind, facing a global health crisis? There are not simple answers. But Jesus says they happen so that God’s work may be done. Not directly in the bad thing, but in how God’s people respond in prayer, love, service and healing. How will you respond to the bad things that happen in our world and in our personal lives? Let us look to Jesus to show us the way.