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Lenten Reader 2013 A compilation of reflections on Scripture for the season of Lent. With contributions from members of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada

A Brief Introduction to Lent There is a scene in the movie “Doubt” in which Sister Aloysius (played by Maryl Streep) is speaking with Father Flynn (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman). Sister Aloysius offers Father Flynn a cup of coffee and when he asks for sugar she has to hunt through her drawers to find it. When she hands it to him, she apologizes and says she put it away because she gave it up for Lent. Father Flynn remarks that it must not have been much of a challenge to give sugar up for Lent because it is now winter and she still had not found a need to bring the sugar back out. For most Lent is a season bookmarked by Mardis Gras and Easter Egg hunts. For the Christian Church it is a season that begins with ashes and ends in glorious resurrection. Those intervening 40 days are marked by fasting and repentance. It is a journey from sadness over our own sin and our mortal inability to overcome it to a celebration that God has made us clean and frees us from the punishment we so deserve. Lent is known for being 40 days long. It parallels the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness and the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert. This reader will journey with the Israelites in the books of Isaiah, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. We will end with readings from Hebrews. While Lent itself is 40 days, the Sundays within the season are not counted as part of that 40. Traditions that fast from something during Lent often do not fast on Sunday. It is in this vein that we do not have a devotional written for each Sunday. Instead there is a passage of Scripture and a work of art depicting an event from Holy Week. Contributions for this project came from people all over the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada. There are also additional prayers and reflections by brothers and sisters from centuries gone by—our honourary

mission friends. Thank you to all who contributed their time and reflections to this Lenten Reader. You may find it beneficial to fast from something during Lent. The devotionals in this Lenten Reader make reference to themes that fasting will make more tangible. Fasting is not necessary to participate in this journey however. If you do decide to pick something to give up, choose something of significance—not like Sister Aloysius’ sugar. May God bless you as you journey through Lent, to the cross, and experience the joy of His glorious death and resurrection gift.

~Julia Sandstrom Editor

This Lenten Reader is a gift to the Church and therefore may be used free of charge. All artwork and prayers (with dates) are in the public domain. Please give credit where due when reproducing or quoting from the Lenten Reader.

Š 2013 Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada Winnipeg, Manitoba

First Day of Lent Ash Wednesday

February 13, 2013 Isaiah 58:1-12

“Why have we fasted?” the people ask God. Why do we bother with this tradition of restraint? Does God even see our efforts? God’s response should stop us in our tracks as we set out on this season of Lent. He confronts the questioning with questions of His own. “Is this what you call fasting?” He questions the motives of the people. Are you fasting to be seen? To show off? To do as you please and cause others pain and suffering? The people were not fasting in a way that was pleasing to God. His heart was that they would be spurned on to acts of obedience and loving their neighbour. He wants them/us to set the oppressed free, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. God does not desire fasting that produces nothing but empty bellies. God desires that our fasting transform us from people who seek to fulfill our own needs to those who seek to fulfill the needs of others. We do ourselves a disservice to enter into Lent without weighing the cost of our discipleship. To follow Christ is to spend yourself on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed. On this day when we apply ashes to our foreheads (a sign of our deep sorrow for sin and our inability to be holy) we must remember that all the fasting in the world does us no good unless it produces obedience. This passage follows a complaining people through God’s reproach into a promise that we will be people who are Repairers of Broken Walls and Restorers of Street with Dwellings. In other words, God is faithful to take our ashes and breathe new life. Julia Sandstrom Holy Community Covenant Church

Second Day of Lent

February 14, 2013 Exodus 1:1-22

The timing of today's Scripture, comes many years after the time of Jacob's caravan of 70 persons, travelling to Egypt, during that historic famine, to obtain food to live. The story is familiar, because we know the history of Joseph from Sunday school days. In Genesis we are reminded that Joseph's relatives in the end, were given the area of Goshen to settle in “because they were “shepherds” (Gen.47:3). Now a new Pharaoh is on the throne, someone who hasn't studied his history lessons. And because he doesn't know the reason that these people are prospering so, Satan (that old deceiver) is able to instil fear into his mind. He is imagining that “these people” will rise up and help an enemy, conquering the land and leave the country (vs.10). We need to realize there is an underlying story here though. The battle that Satan was really raging, is one to defeat God's plan for redemption. God stated His plan of salvation would come through the “seed of a woman” (Gen. 3:15) and “would be from the line of Abraham (listed in Matt.1:1-16). This Lenten week may we look carefully at our lives, and how Satan can work to destroy God's message. Does the busyness of life and the culture of the day, keep us from truly reflecting upon that gift God has provided? Are we living and sharing God's message of love to our generation? Do we remember why Jesus died; and at what cost? We need to remind ourselves God is in control; He has a plan for us; and He knows all the pitfalls but is able to bring His people through. May we have eyes to see God's purpose for us today.

Elnice Doell Malmo Mission Covenant Church

Third Day of Lent

February 15, 2013 Exodus 2:2-22

Generations earlier, God said to Abram, “…Know for certain that your descendents will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.” (Genesis 15:13, NIV) Our text begins in a time when male infanticide had been ordered as an attempt at population control. It was a dark and desperate time. At a time like this one might ask, “Where is God?” or “How could a God of love allow this?” or even “Why would God knowingly allow this future for His chosen people.” History suggests some answers that illustrate the providence of God. God used Egypt as a “safe” place for the Hebrew people to become a nation. Egypt began as a source of food during a famine. Later, the land that they had left would become a hotspot for military conflict and foreign armies would march through wreaking havoc as they went. When the Hebrew people do eventually leave Egypt both the northern and southern world powers were weak and there was opportunity for the Hebrews to become an established nation. God used their common experience of slavery and injustice to bond the different tribes together as a nation. They also lived together in Egypt unlike the land that they had left with its mountains and hills that lent itself to isolation and division such as is seen later in history when the Greeks settle the area and develop independent and warring city-states. God also placed the Hebrews in Egypt out of mercy for the Amorites. Genesis 15:16 tells us that they leave for Egypt because the sin of the Amorites had not yet reached its full measure. In today’s text we see God providentially preparing Moses for his future role as deliverer. God provides physical protection for Moses at the highest human level, paid parental upbringing, the formative childhood years spent among his own people and then later the best of education that Egypt could offer. In all of these events we see God’s providence. Yet at the end of today’s text we find that neither the people nor Moses ready to leave Egypt. Humanly speaking, their story is still being written. We leave Moses feeling dejected and displaced; seemingly far from his destiny (v.22). You may be in such a place wondering about the plans and providence of God but just as God does successfully raise Moses up to be a deliverer for his people from slavery in Egypt and just as God sent Jesus as the deliverer from our bondage to sin, you can be sure that “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion …” (Phil. 1:6). Ken Johnson Fort Frances Evangelical Covenant Church

Fourth Day of Lent

February 16, 2013 Exodus 3:1-20

The setting that God chooses for this divine calling is certainly out of the ordinary. Moses is away from any religious community; he is in his everyday, natural setting and unlike his Father-in-law, he is not a priest nor a prophet, just an ordinary man. The reader is obviously aware that this encounter is taking place on “the mountain of God,” Moses however, is not. As Moses stumbles upon the bush that is not being consumed by the flame, he is not afraid of this extraordinary sight, but rather is drawn to it out of curiosity and God uses his curiosity to call Moses. It is amazing that Moses did not question God’s voice when he was called but rather simply responded with “Here I Am.” The fear to look at God is present once Moses understands who it is that is addressing him. Moses certainly questions the call that God has laid on his life, but God makes it clear that He is the God of his father; He is the God of Israel. It is interesting that after Moses questions himself as the right man to approach Pharaoh, God’s first words are “I will be with you.” Moses is not called to this bold and extraordinary task by his own strength but by a God who sees, hears, and who acts. Moses is simply an obedient and submissive servant and messenger who God has chosen to use for His glory and to work for the good of His people.

Erin Anderson Blackstrap Covenant Church

First Sunday of Lent

February 17, 2013

Exodus 5:1-6:1

Fra Angelico Nailing of Christ to the Cross, 1442

Fifth Day of Lent

February 18, 2013 Exodus 6:2-13

As I journey through the season of Lent, I remember. I remember my deep need for Jesus’ grace. I remember and understand the crucifixion as the moment of God’s marvelous love which brings freedom and salvation. I prepare for and remember the promise of resurrection- giving thanks for God’s victory and mine. I also remember that I forget. God’s message to Moses and Israel in Exodus 6 is a powerful twofold reminder. It is a reminder of the Promise and the promises of God. God says, “I will be your God… you will be my people”. “This is my Covenant with you”... It’s an old promise that looks back to fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s a present promise that sees oppression, captivity and bondage, and speaks of freedom, deliverance and redemption. It’s a future promise that envisions the gift of promised land and all the potential it may hold. It speaks of the dependability, faithfulness, trustworthy-ness, and certainty of the word of the One who simply calls himself “I am”. I’m also reminded of my forgetfulness. “I don’t believe it.” “I can’t hear it.” “I can’t see it.” The discouragement and circumstance of Israel don’t allow them to receive the promise. “I can’t do that.” “I’m afraid.” “You’re joking right?” The discouragement and circumstances of Moses’ experience don’t allow him to receive God’s promise either. Does the promise of God rise above the amnesia inducing disappointment and circumstance of my life? In this journey of Lent, keep speaking your promise God. Help me to remember, listen and respond. Glenn Peterson Lighthouse Community Church

Sixth Day of Lent

February 19, 2013 Exodus 6:29-7:25

As usual when I study God’s word with a goal to share what I have read, I come away with a humble sense of how little I know and a desire to learn more. In attempting to keep the “big picture” I realized that God’s promise to Moses in Exodus was the same covenant He made with Abraham in Genesis – He promises to take us as His and be our One and only God. God delights in taking a broken people and teaches the ignorant, the weak and the lost about His love so that we can love each other. He reached out to the Israelites when they were the most hurt, broken, and had reached utter despair and saved them from Pharaoh. He did this at their weakest moment so that they would remember what He did for them and so that in the future, they would remember and turn to Him. Thus, we know that without our God, we can do nothing.

Lord, I bring the poverty of my soul to be transformed by your beauty; the wildness of my passions to be tamed by your love; the stubbornness of my will to be conformed by your commandments and the yearnings of my heart to be renewed by your grace; both now and for ever. Amen. Catherine of Genoa, 1447-1510

Audra Reinhardt Hope Community Covenant Church

Seventh Day of Lent

February 20, 2013

Exodus 10:21-11:10 The major saving event of the Old Testament - of Israel’s story - was the Exodus. Israel’s rescue from Egypt’s cruel slavery and oppression was orchestrated and executed by a God full of power, a God of relentless follow-through and love. But the lead up to salvation was not pretty. Plagues and warnings for Pharaoh to take heed of the LORD of All led to the saving moment. The plagues were horrible, none worse than the final two: darkness and death. The path to freedom had to get much worse before it could get better. Many generations later, the key moments of God’s cosmic rescue plan took place in a similar way. Things got really bad before the good could come - bad as in darkness and death. “At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” (Mark 15:33-34) Can you see this pattern in your own story? When has the night gotten a whole lot darker before the morning finally comes? Prayer for this day: God of relentless follow-through and love, hold our hearts during experiences of darkness and death so that we can know your present love and see your morning dawn in freedom and saving joy.

Kirsten Waldschmidt College Park Covenant Church

Eighth Day of Lent

February 21, 2013 Exodus 12:1-20

It’s really easy for me to read all the “do not” sections of the Bible and feel really restricted. It’s tough to hear rules like these and feel as though it’s anything more than a list of arbitrary nitpicks and stuffy regulations. I guess somewhere inside of me, there’s still a 16-year-old kid that wants to stay up past his bedtime. But as any good Christian knows… “Nothing good happens after midnight.” It’s a piece of folk wisdom that Christian parents have been feeding their teenage sons and daughters for years, in hopes that it will encourage good choices and keep them out of mischief. But if you really think about, there’s nothing special about midnight. It’s just a number. Realistically, any number of good things could happen after midnight, and mishap isn’t reserved to the time up to and including 11:59 pm. So why say it? As many parents will likely attest, it sometimes seems pointless to try and explain why the post-midnight hours are so precarious. It’s not about an arbitrary number in setting a curfew—it’s because explaining all the things that factor into bad latenight decision-making is complicated. We likely know that a checklist of rules should never replace an intimate relationship with Jesus. But there are times when our feelings, our emotions, our dispositions get the best of us, and we simply don’t feel like doing the things we know are right. Sometimes we just don’t feel like doing what Jesus would do. It’s in moments like these when hard rules are actually somewhat useful, rather than trusting ourselves to make the right decision on our own. That’s why it’s sometimes important that we subject ourselves to the things that we wouldn’t do of our own volition, the things we don’t understand—the things that we very well might resist. That’s why the practice of Lent, a period where we subject ourselves to the often uncomfortable disciplines of giving up something to focus our hearts on God, is an important one. Sometimes choosing to “do not” can actually shape us in a positive way and point us in a direction where we’re more inclined to do good for the world around us. Rob Horsley Faith Covenant Church (Winnipeg)

Ninth Day of Lent

February 22, 2013 Exodus 12:21-36

As I read this passage great thoughts and excitement passed through me as it brings to mind the central theme behind God’s redeeming purposes in our life. As I read through the verses I thought I could share with you the gruesome requirements that the simple Jewish families were to go through in order to be saved from the Angel of Death. Walking through what it must have been like to drain an animal’s blood into a basin and then take a bundle of branches and brush it on the doorframes of their home. Or I could easily go into sharing all the parallels between the animals sacrificing their lives so that the Jewish people could live and how Jesus is ultimately the Greatest Sacrifice of all time so that WE could live. But as I read through this portion of Scripture – it was something entirely different that God brought to my attention. Be it that I am a Director of Youth and Children’s ministries in my church – you may not be surprised what caught my attention. Verse 26 “Then your children will ask, ‘what does this ceremony mean?’”. I am reminded again in this moment of the highest calling that parents have. We live in a day and age where parents are more concerned about being friends with their kids than being a parent. We live in a day and age where truth has become relative – a “Mosaic Generation” they are called - for their truth comes from every area of life. When did we stray from what God meant? God reminds us multiple times to tell The Story to our children so that they will not walk away from it when they are older. When did we as parents decide that this Story is not worth retelling and not worth living out? We wonder why our young people are leaving the churches. Maybe it is because when “our children asked – what does this ceremony mean?” – we didn’t have an answer. I encourage you to take this time to rekindle your love for The Story and do as God commands – pass it on to your children. Laura Dyck Melfort Evangelical Covenant Church

Tenth Day of Lent

February 23, 2013

Exodus 12:37-49 & 13:11-16 When I first read this passage from Exodus, my question was “What does this have to do with Lent?” But in my search to get some meaning out of this great event in history, I came across a quote from one of my Seminary teachers, Dr. Karl Olsson in Find Yourself in the Bible. Dr. Olsson developed a theory and practice of relational Bible study. He proposed that “The first principle of relational Bible study is to make the story my story. This means being willing to enter the magnetic field of the character and incident as if they concerned me.” (Read his Come to the Party to see this put into practice). So, how do we “enter into” the story of the Exodus of the children of Israel? Moses told the people “In the days to come when your son asks you, ‘what does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Deuteronomy 6:4 gives us the tenet that God’s people have repeated for centuries, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Then in verse 20, the author says tell your sons (and daughters) when they ask what redemption is all about, “It was with the mighty hand of God.” “With a mighty hand…” is a theme that is repeated over and over in the account of the Exodus. Moses wanted the people to live into the “mighty hand” of God that provided for their redemption from slavery in Egypt. What is it that enslaves us today where we need the “mighty hand of God” to set us free? An addiction? There are many more addictions than alcohol & drugs. Lent is not just a time to give up chocolate, but to think of those things that enslave us. Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1) How can you live into that freedom in Christ during this season of Lent? Robert Huse Hope Community Covenant Church

Second Sunday of Lent

February 26, 2013

Exodus 13:17-14:9

Giotto The Entry into Jerusalem, c.1305

Eleventh Day of Lent

February 25, 2013

Exodus 14:10-31 “Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…” The text for today is the epic experience made famous for many in the movie “The Ten Commandments”. Charlton Heston (Moses) and the people are up against it with the Red Sea on one side and the army of Pharoah on the other. The Bible records Moses making a dramatic statement in the midst of a people in panic: Don’t fear...Stand firm…See the deliverance of the Lord. I recently had the opportunity to hear the Director of World Vision Peru. Here is a man that has been working to alleviate poverty in a country that has some regions with greater poverty than parts of Haiti. He said that there just isn’t enough financial resource to go around so they search the community for “positive deviants”. These are people that in the midst of poverty have healthier practices than their neighbours in spite of not having better conditions. The text for today is all about positive deviants. First, Yahweh, the God of Israel is a positive deviant in a region filled with many gods. While the gods of Egypt are capable of some things (Pharaohs magicians could duplicate the signs shown by Moses) but they are not capable of being a God that hears the cries of His people and acts in dramatic ways. Second, Moses was a positive deviant in terms of leaders. He was a shepherd leader that stood in the gap for his people. Even when criticized, he would act in a way that was for the good of the people Yahweh commanded him to lead. Finally, while not clear in this text, the Israelite people were called to be positive deviants. They were to be a different people in the context of that day. When other countries had many gods, they were to have one God and to love that one God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Lent is a time to embrace being a positive deviant!

Jeff Anderson Faith Covenant Church (Winnipeg)

Twelfth Day of Lent

February 26, 2013

Exodus 16:1-18, 35 Sometimes I find myself grumbling to God, just like the Israelites. “Show me your plan.” “Give me a sign.” “Help me.” These are all great prayers and they need to be voiced, but in reality God reveals His plan to me bit by bit every day and it’s not until I reflect back on my day (or my life) by journaling, that I see what He has been doing, and how His plan has unfolded. Now I know I’m not starving in the desert but sometimes I have been starved for community, answers, or even to be heard. God was there, waiting for me to open my heart and say “I am ready”. I read a great quote yesterday that I want to share… “That thundering question of “Where is God?” Is best answered when the people of God offer a hand and whisper: “Here I am.” Ann Voskamp God is all around me but I need to remember He is also in me and He wants me to offer my hand to people so that they can also know His love. My Lord and my God, take me from all that keeps me from you. My Lord and my God, grant me all that leads me to you. My Lord and my God, take me from myself and give me completely to you. Nicholas of Flue, 1417-87

Kerry Rempel Lighthouse Community Church

Thirteenth Day of Lent

February 27, 2013

Exodus 17: 1-16 We serve a God of relationship and love. A God in whom we trust, and a God who is the creator of the universe and author of all creation. At times this can feel like it is well within our rights as believers and followers to demand everything of The Lord. When we are tired we ought to be able to demand a bed and to find a bed, when we are hungry to be fed, and when we are thirsty to have water to drink. The Israelites certainly were of that mind in the first part of this text. They live in a world where people worshipped gods who produced "results". They would look for a need or desire to be met, and if it was, than that god was the go-to god for the time being. Once that god failed to live up to the expectations of the people the people moved on to the next new and exciting god. This feels a little too familiar to our society. Most of us wouldn't characterize what we're doing as switching gods necessarily. At the very least we dive into new things and put our trust in them almost daily. For me it can be a pizza place, a clothing company, a TV show, an author, or even a mentor. Unfortunately, when something about these places, people, or things fails to live up to my expectations, I begin that hunt for something new to put my trust in. Even in my foolishness of putting trust in these other things that ultimately will let me down, God is there. God is faithful and desires that we continue to seek after a relationship with Him. We read in this passage that God does have our needs in mind. God will be with us in the journey. Will it always look the way we think it should? Of course not. The Israelites certainly were in for a surprise when they saw the water that God provided them. God is faithful to provide, and this God desires a relationship with us. Eric Hedberg Emmanuel Covenant Church

Fourteenth Day of Lent

February 28, 2013

Exodus 18:13-27 A few years ago we decided to downsize from the home where we’d raised our family and we moved into a new town house. We enjoyed the updated and uncluttered space. It wasn’t long however, before there were scratches in the floor, spots on the carpet and nicks in the cupboard doors. It was inevitable that even with products called “Magic Cleaner” our new home eased into that “lived in” look. Like everything around us we also wear out. In my practice as a spiritual director I have seen many folks who are burned out, especially those involved in Christian ministry. We may try to hold ourselves together by appearing capable and efficient but our lives have become rushed and harried. We may be doing many good things for God but we no longer have time to be still and to listen. In our passage today, Jethro has come for a visit and observe while Moses takes on all the burdens of his people. Moses seems to have forgotten his experience at the burning bush where God led him to a solitary place in order to speak to him. At that point Moses felt incompetent to lead the people but now he believes God can’t manage without him. What a reversal! Jethro, having heard how God miraculously led His people out of Egypt knows that this God is greater than all others. He offers wise and compassionate direction, which Moses is willing to hear. Lent is a good time to examine our own lives and to take stock of the extra burdens we may be carrying. Have we come to believe that we are indispensable? Are we caught in the trap of attempting to fix the lives of those around us? Do we like Moses need to go back to a time when we recognized and accepted our human frailties and dependence on God? Are we able to receive wisdom and support from others? Jethro assures Moses that as the loads are shared God will give the needed strength and the community will flourish. Marcia Fretheim Green Timbers Covenant Church

Fifteenth Day of Lent

March 1, 2013

Exodus 19:1-19 & 20:18-21 Every Tuesday night at Green Timbers Covenant Church we have a children’s program. One night I was teaching my regular pre-teen group. The lesson of the week came from the book of Exodus, the part where we find the newly freed slaves between an army and the sea. I think Exodus is probably the book of the Bible with the most dramatic changes to a group of people, back to back. We find Abraham & Sarah’s descendants suffering due to slavery, a basket with a baby floating in the river; a talking burning bush calling a reluctant leader, ten traumatic plagues, the parting of a sea, and the beginning of a long hike to freedom. The Israelites were about to have an accelerated growth into nationhood, all at once! Three months later this newly freed people arrived at Mount Sinai. Their Deliverer wanted to be with the people He has chosen and not was wasting any time to teach them what was required for the newly established regular interactions. Ten rules of engagement were given accompanied by another dramatic manifestation of power. Understandably so, they were afraid and this is not the first time, remember when they were between the army and the sea, they were afraid of dying. Here they are afraid of God’s power. There are constantly put in distressing situations and fear is a persistent feeling for them. I think fear of change is prevalent in us, more specifically: fear to be changed and fear to grow spiritually. It is safer to keep a distance, just knowing some things about God, letting the leaders do the praying and the entering into ‘the smoke’ where God is. We like to be spectators because is safe, for the most part. For today try to answer these questions: Is fear a persistent feeling for you? Is there a difference between being afraid and being fearful? When are fears helpful? Are you willing to take a leap of faith into God? Remember, He will change you. Ileana Garcia-Soto Green Timbers Covenant Church

Sixteenth Day of Lent

March 2, 2013

Exodus 20:1-17 One of the most prolific moments in Old Testament Scripture is when God descended from the heavens onto the summit of Mt. Sinai to deliver the Ten Commandments. He arrived in a cloak of fire and smoke, with thunder roaring and lightning flashing across the sky. Supernatural blasts from a trumpet were deafening while the mountain itself trembled violently. The Lord Almighty had arrived in person, God was in town, and the Israelites were scarcely able to bear it. It is hardly comprehensible what it would have been like to have been there, to have experienced such an overwhelming and majestic manifestation of the Creator of the Universe. God, present to the degree that the only reaction was the uncontrolled response to fall down in fear and tremble in the restrained presence of Holiness, deeply realizing the vulnerability of one’s humanity. The people pleaded with Moses, “…do not have God speak to us or we will die.” And the purpose of this exceptional divine appointment? To deliver the Law; the means to compel and judge Israel in accordance with God’s holy expectations. A call to a standard of behaviour required in order to model the character and nature of God through their daily life. Implicit in the provision of the Law is the concept of obedience. For what is the point of issuing a decree if there is no expectation of compliance? Centuries later, Jesus stands upon the mountainside (Matthew 5) and continues the expectation of obedience by not only proclaiming the relevance of the Law to who he is but the relevance of the Law to who we are as Christ followers. In our journey through this year’s Lenten season there is gain in contemplating upon the Law, the extraordinary manner in which God appeared in delivering the Law and how Jesus has revealed it to us as new covenant believers. Therein, we will find deeper understanding in Christ’s words … “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Rich Drinovz Emmanuel Evangelical Covenant

Third Sunday of Lent

March 3, 2013

Exodus 22:20-23:9

James Tissot Jesus Before Pilate, c. 1894

Seventeenth Day of Lent

March 4, 2013

Exodus 24:1-18 Twelve rough stones surrounding an altar of pitch on a windswept foothill. Heavy blood beginning to crust on clothes, still damp against the skin. Spilled blood drying in the sand. Splashed blood drying on the stones. Fresh kill burning on the altar. Meat. Eat. Stink. Drink. Flies and vultures descend on the entrails and skin and hooves piled nearby. Sweaty men--a bunch of them--saw God, and under His feet was a pavement of sapphire stone as clear as the sky. And so these bloodied men standing in their bloody sandals, beheld God and they ate and they drank. It’s not a very clean picture. Barbaric, really. Uncouth. Lacking sophistication and the grandeur of fine things and fine forms. The beast was killed as a fellowship offering; the splattered blood bound together God and His people, both besmeared and sullied: the fat turned to smoke filling God’s nostrils; the flesh turned to food filling the people’s bellies. And O the blood, the blood. It’s impossible to clean this up--to scrub down the story into something more familiar, more...holy. Isn’t it? Nietzsche wrote that the church had killed God, and that our worship gatherings had taken on ornate and polite posturing because we were really honouring the dead in ongoing ceremony. Perhaps if we remember that we, creatures of flesh and blood and bone, are approaching a living Creator-God, we might bring ourselves to Him more honestly, in all the mess of our fleshiness and all the blood-dripping evidence of our weakness and sin, and eat the hot, fresh meat of fellowship at the table of our God. So come, all who hunger and thirst, all who are besmirched with the folly and failure of sin; come and eat at the Lord’s table; fellowship in the Lord’s presence; behold Him! God does not despise your bodiness or your appetites or your needs. This may be just the kind of theophany we need to preach and seek--God, present right here in our real lives, and not just in some sterilized ceremony we may call worship. Phil Wright Sanctuary Community Covenant Church

Eighteenth Day of Lent

March 5, 2013

Exodus 32:1-20 Fill in the blank. My has become my god. If each of us responded honestly, many days this may read one or several of the following: career, money, social status, car, spouse, church, sports, boy/girlfriend, social network, academic achievement, etc. The list of possibilities is endless and often replaces the only true Sovereign God who deserves first place in our lives. Today’s Christians are very similar to the Israelites in Exodus who became impatient with God as He was leading them to the Promise Land. Instead of waiting on the God of the universe to fulfill His covenant with them, the Israelites became selfish and rebellious. They summoned Aaron to design replacement gods to lead them as they grew impatient for Moses’ return from Mt. Sinai. How could the people of Israel truly think a man-constructed golden calf could replace God’s power and direct them? Almighty God was leading His people through His servants Moses and Aaron. Not only did the Lord lead them, He performed miraculous signs of His deliverance from 430 years of Pharaoh’s treacherous bondage and slavery. God’s people witnessed Yahweh’s supernatural power, protection, and favour every step of the way as they were spared from disastrous plagues, escaped the fierce Egyptian army via safe passage through the Red Sea, and received the provision of fresh water, manna and quail from heaven. The Lord supplied all their needs and yet as soon as the Israelites fixed their eyes on their own selfish desires they rebelled and turned from God. Does this sound familiar about us Christians today? If we don’t immediately get what we want from God we turn to other gods or idols to fulfill our selfish desires? Throughout Exodus, the Lord specifically warned His people that He would not tolerate their admiration and worship of other gods. This was clearly stated in His first two commandments in Exodus 20:1-5. Even through God’s anger at the corruption of His people He extended grace and never broke His promise to deliver them. He loves His people, us, beyond our finite understanding. Kim Whittington Minnedosa Evangelical Covenant Church

Nineteenth Day of Lent

March 6, 2013

Exodus 33:7-11, 18-23 & 37:1-9 What a wonderful dialogue, and what a beautiful image of God these passages paint for us! He is a God who is anxious to meet with us, bestow His presence on us, and be generous with His gifts. He did not turn away from, or decline Moses' request. He accommodated Moses, fulfilling his request, yet sparing him what would not have been helpful. How much does God want to do the same for us, if only we would ask? I often need to remind myself to invite God's presence into a room, situation or relationship, or intentionally slow myself down enough to look for where God already is within my day-to-day life. God is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, and we see this given flesh, blood and breath, and lived out in the life of Jesus. Jesus' very sacrifice, his death on the cross for our sin, not his own, is testament to the true nature of God. God is compassionate and merciful, He is slow to anger and He is filled with unfailing love for us, His people. Just as Moses' face glowed after experiencing the presence of God, and as those who met Jesus were changed, how much too are we forever transformed by an encounter with Jesus. Our lives should tell the story of that experience. How is your life changed by encountering Jesus? As you live beyond an initial encounter, does your life give witness to the true nature of God? (compassionate, merciful, slow to anger, filled with unfailing love)?

Corinne Stoter Hope Community Covenant Church

Twentieth Day of Lent

March, 7 2013

Exodus 34:10-28 God wants His people to be set apart, an example and blessing to all people, all generations to come. He leads them to a geographically significant crossroads of civilizations, promises them victory over the locals and calls them His holy chosen ones. These people are to be an example of a nation living in relationship with the one true God. People passing through this little piece of land traveling east, west, north, or south would come in contact with Israel and see something that they wouldn’t experience with any other nation. They would see people called, rescued, gifted, protected, and living with intention to remain true to Yahweh. God asks His people in return not to marry foreigners, that is, not to join body and spirit with the cultures of the land. He asks that they intentionally remember His mighty acts of deliverance and provision and celebrate those feast days. He asks that they tithe “off the top” as it were and that they keep Sabbath. God requires that they come away from their ordinary circumstances regularly for worship and celebration. All this takes truly mindful - “heartful” intention. God takes our relationship with Him very seriously and rather expects the same attitude from us. A friend posted a quote on Facebook by William Law that challenged a response to this passage from me. It reads, “ And if you will here stop, and ask yourselves, why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you, that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.” Think what you like about the pious primitive Christian part but I am looking this Lenten season at my “thorough intent.” It is not for poor information or poor resource that Israel repeatedly failed to do as God asked but maybe Law is correct and it was poor intent.

Judy Nelson Norquay Evangelical Covenant Church

Twenty-First Day of Lent

March 8, 2013

Exodus 35:30-36:1 & 37:1-9 God has called every one of us to be His ministers. Today’s readings remind us that no matter our profession or vocation, we can be of service to the Lord. Specifically, these verses affirm the ministry and service of those employed in skilled trades. As highly capable carpenters, Bezalel and Oholiab were able to provide a beautiful offering of their skills and abilities to the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings. As someone who lacks these abilities myself, I am particularly grateful that God has gifted many of His people with these talents – so is my wife. All of us are reliant upon skilled carpenters, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, welders, etc . . . . . to whom we owe so much gratitude for the execution of their gifting and abilities. When I directed a faith-based vocational training school for Alaska Native young people, we taught the students that they were called to lives of service and ministry in whatever career they found themselves. One of our goals was to help each of these students to understand that their identity in Christ was of far more value than any identity they might find in being a carpenter or office assistant. Moreover, we taught them that these vocations were the platforms by which Christ would use them in ministry. This is true for all of us. Our vocational calling is a part of God’s plan to use us in ministry and service. Properly understood, work is both good and an opportunity for faithful Christian witness. Paul writes in Colossians 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord . . . It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” In Christ, there is no hierarchy of who is ‘more called’ to serve Him. No one gets a free pass; we are all called to action and ministry. During this season of Lent, may we reflect on how we are using our vocational skills and abilities to further Christ’s Kingdom. Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for equipping us with so many different skills and abilities. Show me today how you desire to use my gifts, abilities, and vocational calling to accomplish your purposes. Amen. Mark Hill Minnedosa Evangelical Covenant Church

Twenty-Second Day of Lent

March 9, 2013

Exodus 40:16-38 “And Moses did everything the Lord commanded him.” Not some things, not most things, but everything. The phrase “As the Lord commanded him” is used seven more times in the following verses describing the setting up of the tabernacle. There is no question that Moses was intent on doing what the Lord commanded him, right down to the last detail as he constructed the tabernacle. In vs. 33 it says, “Moses finished the work.” This task God had given him was completed in its entirety and exactly as God asked. What then followed was God’s glory; His very presence filled the tabernacle. It is difficult to read this passage and not make the connection between the obedience of Moses and God’s presence filling the tabernacle. For forty years, this presence of God was evident to the Israelites in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, leading the Israelites during their trek in the wilderness. After the tabernacle was constructed the cloud settled over the tabernacle. If the cloud lifted the Israelites followed. If it stayed the Israelites did not move. Their journey was dictated by the presence of God. Today God’s presence is not confined to a tabernacle or temple. In I Cor. 3:16 it says we are the very temple of the Holy Spirit. As God went before the Israelites, never leaving them and always guiding them, so He goes with us today. Under the new covenant there is no longer that separation between the presence of God and His people. His very presence does not go before us but is in us as believers. That’s an amazing thought but also a sobering one. Is this evident in the way we live our lives, as believers? Are we led daily by the Lord’s presence in our lives and do we only move as He leads. Paul says that as we walk daily with Christ we are being transformed into Christ’s image (II Cor. 3:18). This is the glory that needs to be evident in each of our lives in the midst of a hurting world. Terence Barg Faith Covenant Church (Breton)

Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 10, 2013

Leviticus 8: 1-17 & 9:22-24

James Tissot Mary Magdalene's Box of Very Precious Ointment, 1886

Twenty-Third Day of Lent

March 11, 2013

Leviticus 16:2-28 “I’m not sure I have the right to ask God to forgive me.” This statement was coming from a woman who had just shared with me the problems she was facing in her new marriage but not her first marriage. As I listened to these newlyweds share their struggles, they realized they were looking for a way to deal with their past and the guilt they were experiencing. I shared how freedom from their past and their guilt is experienced through confession and asking forgiveness from the One who gave His life for them on the cross. As they poured their hearts out to God in prayer, the freedom they so needed became a reality. Forgiveness had come. Leviticus 16 shares God’s instructions to Moses on the necessary preparations for dealing with a people’s past and their guilt. Forgiveness wasn’t something trivial. The result of that attitude was seen through Aaron’s two sons who died because they had the mistaken notion that they could appear before the Lord at any time in any fashion (Lev 16:1). By contrast, Moses learned from the Lord that forgiveness required certain preparation down to the tiniest detail. Aaron would have to dress a certain way, certain sacrifices would be necessary and performed in the proper order for himself, his household, and the nation of Israel as a whole. Specifics concerning animals used for sacrifice, the type of blood and its application to certain furnishings in the Tabernacle, and the personnel who had to be washed to serve were carefully conveyed to Aaron’s ear by Moses. As the preparations were fulfilled the freedom from past sin and guilt that was so needed became a reality. Forgiveness had come. Jesus’ preparations for dealing with our past and guilt were no less significant and the sacrifice required was no less noteworthy. In this season of preparation (Lent) we are reminded again of the cost of forgiveness. Our dire need for freedom from our past and guilt is a reality. Forgiveness has come! Gary Gilkinson Melfort Evangelical Covenant Church

Twenty-Fourth Day of Lent

March 12, 2013

Leviticus 19:1-18, 31-37 And wilt Thou pardon, LORD, A sinner such as I? Although Thy book his crimes record Of such a crimson dye? So deep are they engraved, So terrible their fear, The righteous scarcely shall be saved, And where shall I appear? My soul, make all things known To Him Who all things sees: That so the LAMB may yet atone For thine iniquities O Thou Physician blest, Make clean my guilty soul! And me, by name a sin oppressed, Restore, and keep me whole! I know not how to praise Thy mercy and Thy love: But deign Thy servant to upraise, And I shall learn above!

Joseph of Studium, 9th century

Twenty-Fifth Day of Lent

March 13, 2013

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-30 For the children of Israel, the exodus from Egypt was a fickle experience. A miraculous work of God for the sake of their liberation was, oftentimes, perceived as only a painful uprooting. They were, more than once, caught complaining. In this instance, their bellyaching has brought Israel’s leader, Moses, to his wits ends. He is fed up with their protests – “If only we had meat to eat!” – and in anger and desperation, confronts the God whose mighty salvation has brought emancipation and embitterment. “What did I ever do to deserve these whining people? I can’t do this! It’s all too much! Do me a favour and kill me now, Lord!” Moses’ emotional petition is heard by God, and God responds. He promises to address both Moses’ need for help in leading, and the community’s demand for meat. Elders will be appointed and empowered by God’s Spirit to bear the burdens of the people along with Moses. Meat will be so plentiful that Israel will eat until it meat is coming out of their noses. (This doesn’t sound entirely dissimilar to a disciplinary father who catches his child smoking and makes him finish the entire pack.) Moses is doubtful, but God is resolute. He reassures Moses with a rhetorical question: “Is the Lord’s power limited?” The KJV has it rendered, “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?” In wild and unexpected ways, God makes good on His promises. The Spirit descends on the elders, including two, Eldad and Medad, who weren’t present at the tent where God’s cloud descended (see a similar story in Mark 9:38-41). Quail are blown in from the sea to provide a greater abundance of meat than grumbling Israel could stomach (Numbers 11:31ff). Has your journey become difficult? Do you feel unable to carry on? To do it alone? Amidst grumbling and complaining, amidst frustration and anger, the God who saves and provides asks, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?” Gavin Jensen Holy Community Covenant Church

Twenty-Sixth Day of Lent

March 14, 2013

Numbers 12:16-13:3, 17-33 The story of the Israelite scouts begins with divine instruction to Moses to send men into Canaan to explore the land God was giving them. Moses sent them out, instructing the men to explore the land and bring back their observations about the land and its people. He encourages them to be courageous and go boldly into this land bringing back samples of the crops. When they report back to Moses they agree that Canaan was a magnificent country, showing off the fruit they brought back. Even with bountiful evidence before them they change their focus from the splendour of the country God had given them, to the earthly obstacles they saw in their path. Quickly they forgot that this was the land that God had already given to them. This was their Promised Land. Oh, how easy it is to see that they would be victorious if only they would believe God and trust Him to help them conquer the land. Yetm as we face struggles that seem too big to overcome how quickly do we fall prey to focusing on our circumstances instead of trusting God for what He has promised us? These are the times when we would rather wander around in the wilderness than step out boldly and fearlessly knowing that God has gone before us. Just because we can relate to the Israelites story does not mean we have to respond like them. We can choose to believe God and obey His voice when He calls us to step forward. So this Lenten season as we remember what Jesus accomplished on our behalf on the cross and celebrate His victory over death, let us also prepare to accept the gifts God has given us and go boldly into our new life believing in Him and trusting Him to have gone before us giving us victory over the giants in our lives.

Norinne Sullivan Melfort Evangelical Covenant Church

Twenty-Seventh Day of Lent

March 15, 2013

Numbers 14:1-25 “Would it not be better for us to go back?” This is the question the people of God are asking? And their asking it after God has freed them from slavery, guided them through the wilderness, fought armies for them, and provided food and water for them in the desert. And this isn’t the first time, it the tenth time. Walter Brueggemann, the Old Testament scholar, says that the covenant that God made with His people is more than just an agreement for our mutual benefit. It’s a connection in which God extends himself to His people in vulnerable ways. God places himself before His people in ways where there is the possibility that He could be hurt. God doesn’t stand far off, at arms length, waiting to see if His people will follow Him or not. He rushes in. It is interesting that in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, the word for anger is never applied to God. The word that is applied to God is “grieved”, He is wounded by His people, and He grieves. This is God’s identity. “The LORD is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression ...” And when God in His frustration with His people desires to be finished with them, Moses comes before God and reminds God of who God is, of what God is like, of how God acts. Moses even adds, “You are the God who will visit the iniquity of the parents upon the children to the third and the fourth generation”. And yet God doesn’t do it. This generation will miss part of the promise; they will not be allowed to enter the land. But, they don’t miss all of the promise, God is still with them, God still guides them, God still provides for them. And God doesn’t “visit their iniquities” on their children. The very next generation receives the promise of land. And what about that next generation, do they do any better? No, they wound God as well. ... And so do we. We want to “go back”. We want to “choose a captain” to lead us to the life we think we deserve. The captain we most often choose is ourselves. We think we do alright leading our own lives. And God will let us. God will give us all the gifts and blessings He has for us and let us go to a far off land and spend all the good things we have been given, our God given inheritance. And when we come to the end of our rope, and find that we didn’t really know what we were doing ... when we come to our senses, and make our way back to God, just hoping that God might consider letting us live in some small corner of His grace ... what does God do? He rushes in. Steve Menshenfriend Blackstrap Covenant Church

Twenty-Eighth Day of Lent

March 16, 2013

Numbers 20:1-13 & 21:4-9 One of my friends has had a long life of significant health issues and family challenges. No matter what comes her way, all she seems to see is the seemingly impossible circumstances around her. Even after miraculously surviving a lifethreatening illness her focus remains primarily on the things that have gone wrong and the things she doesn’t have. This outlook is so similar to that of the Israelites. Despite the miracles they had experienced during their almost 40 years of wandering the wilderness, all they seemed to focus on was their lack of water, food (or at least food that wasn’t manna) and the inconvenience of a circuitous route toward the promised land. If I put myself in their shoes, I can imagine that I’d be pretty sick of manna after 40 years. I’d know I couldn’t survive without water and I certainly would be ready to settle at my final destination rather than continue to wander aimlessly in the desert. It’s as if, for these desert wanderers, there is no hope for the future, nothing beyond the misery they see all around them. This is also true for my friend. Life offers her no hope as far as she can envision. It’s interesting that the Israelites, argued and struggled with Moses regarding their misery but didn’t even ask for water. They just complained and whined about their desperate life. This had gone far beyond a relational dialogue of trying to understand God’s ways, or pleading with Him to intervene in a difficult journey while continuing to follow and trust God. In fact it seems that the Israelites in these passages have stopped trusting God altogether. I am often not so unlike them. How is it that God can show himself to be so true, powerful and active in my life in one moment and seemingly the next I’ve forgotten who He really is? My focus changes so easily from following to fretting. Although God provided water from a rock, the people persisted with their complaining as they continued their journey. Their complaints were not just verbalized to Moses now, but also to God. That didn’t seem to go over so well with God; serpents appeared and people died. As the people’s situation grew more desperate they realized their sin and recognized that it was only God that could take the snakes away. It’s interesting to me that God chose not to remove the snakes but rather to provide a way to conquer the effect of the serpents. A bronze snake was made and set up high for all to see. When somebody was bit and poisoned by the snake, healing was found by looking up to their source of hope. What a great reminder especially during this season of Lent as we prepare for Easter, to look up toward the cross where hope is found. The Israelites looked to the bronze snake, we look up to the cross and we are reminded that our hope for rescue is there in a risen Jesus. Look up and follow. Patience Henning Faith Covenant Church (Winnipeg)

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 17, 2013

Hebrews 1:1-14

Duccio Arrest of Christ (Fragment) 1311

Twenty-Ninth Day of Lent

March 18, 2013

Hebrews 2:5-18 “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (V.18) Jesus does not hesitate to speak to his disciples about suffering and death. Even though they do not yet understand, even though they rebuke him for his words, Jesus does not hesitate to speak repeatedly about his suffering and death. Jesus also speaks very plainly about the need for his disciples to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him. Once again, he is speaking of suffering and of death. It has been said that human beings have a tremendous capacity to endure suffering and even to face death boldly IF there is meaning or IF there is a higher purpose in sight. We know the degree to which a parent will suffer for a child and even ‘give their life’ for the child if that is what is needed. Somehow, in the great mystery of this redemption story, the fact that Jesus became one of us, fully God/fully man, qualifies him to be able to help us, save us, offer us forgiveness of sin and new life in Christ. He suffered and gave his life for the sake of the world. Somehow, in the great mystery of this redemption story, Jesus, in sharing our humanity, becomes our merciful and faithful high priest with the power to make atonement for our sins. Somehow, in the great mystery of this redemption story, Jesus is able to help those who are being tempted, because he himself suffered when he was tempted. Jesus, “for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning it’s shame and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb.12:2) In this season of Lent, as we day by day move closer to the cross, let us remember that Jesus understands our trials and temptations. Jesus understands our suffering and our fear of death. Jesus, our merciful and faithful high priest, is able to help us. David Johnson Valley Evangelical Covenant Church

Thirtieth Day of Lent

March 19, 2013

Hebrews 3:1-19 During this season of Lent, it seems rather strange that we would need to be reminded to keep our focus on Jesus—to fix our thoughts on our Saviour—and yet, that is exactly what the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to do. "Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess" (Hebrews 3:1). We all know how busy we can become in our day-to-day living. Distracting thoughts hinder us from keeping our attention on Jesus too often. Rather, we tend to concentrate on what we’re going to have for dinner... we think about what’s going to be reported on the news... we worry about how our children are coping with the challenges of life... we long for a chance to enjoy a favorite television show... we think about balancing the bank account and paying the bills... we snatch a few moments to check up on Facebook contacts... The list is endless! What tends to attract us in our day-to-day living are those things that we can see, feel and touch. Jesus, whom we can’t see, feel and touch, is therefore easily distant from our thoughts. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). It is crucial that we sit back today and concentrate on those things which we can’t see; that we "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). Take time to do this... today.

Tina Mast Rainy River Covenant Church

Thirty-First Day of Lent

March 20, 2013

Hebrews 6:9-20 The recipients of this letter were both Jews, who had turned from Judaism to Christianity, and Gentiles. Some who received this letter needed solemn warnings against drifting back into Judaism; while others gave evidence of being genuine followers of Christ. Both are encouraged to keep up the good work and not to lose heart nor become lazy in their faith but persevere to the end. Warning of judgment should not unsettle believers concerning the assurance of salvation. When God gives a warning it is accompanied by a promise of Salvation, which is based upon the finished work of Christ at Calvary sealed with an oath. Abraham is an example of one who received a promised blessing sealed with an oath. In legal affairs people swear oaths to confirm their statements. God does the same. He swears by Himself giving believers a double assurance of salvation through the addition of His Oath. This security, based upon the work of Jesus Christ, guarantees the believer will never be cast out. Once a year, in the Levitical system, the high priest entered behind the curtain (veil) into the Holy of Holies as the peoples’ representative. Jesus Christ our High priest entered God’s presence as our representative but also as our forerunner guaranteeing that we too will enter God’s presence one day. In ancient times the Mediterranean Sea had many harbors, some of which were very shallow and rocky. If the tide was out, larger ships could not enter. The deeper waters were too deep for an anchor to secure the ship. The captain of the ship would put down a small boat known as a forerunner and the anchor was lowered into it. The forerunner was then rowed across the waves into the shallow waters behind the rocks known as the veil. The winds could blow, the sea become violent, but the ship would be safe because the anchor in the harbor was behind the “veil”. We also have an anchor of hope, for the soul, which is beyond the veil in the very presence of God. Joe Orr Off Lake Covenant Church

Thirty-Second Day of Lent

March 21, 2013

Hebrews 7:1-10 This Lenten season is the perfect opportunity for reflection upon our journey with God. Very often, I have found that this is how God continuously reminds me of His faithfulness and presence in our lives. From before I came to know Christ and even until now, in times of ignorance and indifference, He has carried me through every situation, circumstance and season. That’s also one of the most beautiful things about Scripture, as it holds our entire history and the grand story of God’s consistent and persistent love for His people, even amidst all the times of ignorance or indifference. There was never a way to God without Him first reaching and revealing himself – our sin kept us apart. So He gave Moses the laws, created the temple and appointed priests to fulfill the enactments of the sacrificial system just so His presence could be with His people. But even then, the Lord knew we needed another way; a means to Him that would be permanent by which no person could ever accomplish, except for God Himself. So it was always about Jesus. God had Jesus in mind for all from the very beginning and the priestly order of Melchizedek alludes to everything that Jesus came to fulfill. Set apart and named to resemble the Son of God, Melchizedek points the way to Jesus as the true High Priest who not only fulfilled the law once and for all, but in doing so has brought freedom for all to live the ultimate commandment – to love. When we look back, it’s so clear that God’s faithfulness to us has never changed even when we couldn’t see it, He saw the bigger picture and paved the way for us to return to Him. It’s amazing that this is the God we have relationship with – the One who is love. A love so deep that before we were conceived He knew our names and so steadfast that no matter the days, years or generations, His commitment to those whom He loves is what gives us the capacity to faithfully love Him and others. Jaisy Tam Avenue Community Church

Thirty-Third Day of Lent

March 22, 2013

Hebrews 7:11-28 “Aren’t pastors supposed to help me in my relationship with God?� asked a friend of mine before she explained how one pastor had snapped at her for her on-again-off-again addictive behaviors. Another had made judgmental remarks that shamed her before others and made her feel unaccepted and devalued. The one she had liked and trusted the most moved to another church leaving her feeling abandoned. I winced as she named one disappointment after another with her former pastors. In Hebrews 7:11-28, the writer notes that although the priests in the Old Testament represented God to people and people to God, they were not able to help provide lasting access to God. The priests were sinful men who had to offer a sacrifice for their own sins before they could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. And there was no continuity in them as each one of them died and required a replacement. But Jesus, the writer stresses, is superior to all these priests. He is the High Priest like Melchizedek who has come as promised in Psalm 110 to help us in our relationship with God. He has no need to offer sacrifices for His own sins as He has none and He has no need to keep offering sacrifices for the sins of the people for His one sacrifice is perfect and complete. As a result, there is no shortcoming to His representation of God to people and people to God. Jesus the High Priest could do what the old priests could never do, namely give us a perfect, direct and lasting access to God. Friends, disappointing people or being disappointed by people is inevitable. Yet, even in our imperfections, God has sent Jesus the perfect priest to help us. May we have confidence in Jesus, our better hope, through whom we have perfect, direct and lasting access to God and in whom we can draw near to Him.

Sam Williams Avenue Community Church

Thirty-Fourth Day of Lent

March 23, 2013

Hebrews 8:1-13 So this is it. The new is better. Simple as that. And the new is Jesus Christ our High Priest who sits at God’s right hand – a true representative who holds the power of the King and is approved and ready, ministering to us, His people. The old Priesthood was faulty. So a new agreement had to be made. He is a God who cares. A God, who is present in our daily life and is the ultimate Redeemer, so we live into the new. The new exciting promises of a hope that we cannot possibly imagine. And now we have a new agreement that renews our relationship with God and gives us grace in Christ by faith alone. God is leading us now into the new. As our faith becomes more personal and as we make a commitment to honor Him and live for Him the question for us all is: How are we living out our ‘new’ agreement with God? Are we seeing Him in all His glory and shouting it out to the world? Or are we just existing, taking it all for granted and keeping it to ourselves? The most exciting sentence is, “I will be their God and they will be my people” We are HIS people! How absolutely awesome and thrilling is that?! I have no words for that. It is just the most amazing thing to know I am HIS! He is a God of love and kindness and forgiveness, He loved us enough to make it possible for Jesus to mediate for us so we can be forgiven and move into a right relationship with God. This is the day we shout it out to everyone and rejoice and dance!! He is our God, our King, and we are to respond by faith and obedience for we are His people. What are we waiting for?

Natasha Westerhoud Malmo Mission Covenant Church

Sixth Sunday of Lent March 24, 2013 Palm Sunday Hebrews 10:1-18

Titian The Last Supper, c1544

Thirty-Fifth Day of Lent

March 25, 2013

Hebrews 10:19-39 Our journey toward Easter is a journey of confidence. Breathing deeply, we walk in the new and living way Jesus opened up for us. Vistas expand and horizons broaden, for Jesus has gone before us on this road of passion. Standing at the Father’s right hand, Jesus welcomes us in and offers, on our behalf and in our names, the prayers and concerns and struggles of our journey. Jesus, our high priest, lives for us. And so, casting aside those howling voices of accusation and recollected shame, we draw near to our Father fully confident of our place at His table. We don’t tread this Lenten road in fear or insecurity, wondering how we will be received. Rather, with humble boldness, we follow the One who has gone before us, for us. Washed by God’s rain, purged and pure in Jesus, we walk with lungs full to bursting with the joy of God’s mercy. This is the hope which guides us, unswervingly, as walkers through weather fair or foul. Sure hope, true hope, grounded in the unfaltering promise of God, that the faithful One who always follows through will see us home to His side. We do not travel this Lenten journey alone; fellow pilgrims join us on the passion pathway. As we travel, we may stumble, hope dimming as strength wanes. We need each other. Voices of encouragement renew us. Stories of hope and remembrance spur us on in this journey of love and good deeds, marked out by our Saviour. And so we rise and continue, as loved children and precious, for we are not of those who would shrink back. Let us journey toward Lent with confidence today. Jesus, the one who has gone before us, left us not to journey alone. The Spirit gives us guidance and strength; we walk with brothers and sisters. Journeying with the confidence gifted from perfect love, let us despise shame and guilt and pursue the passion pathway of Jesus. Tom Greentree Erickson Evangelical Covenant Church

Thirty-Sixth Day of Lent

March 26, 2013

Hebrews 12:1-13 I was recently listening to a documentary on aging on CBC radio. There are a few areas in the world called “blue zones” where both men and women live to a very old age. Among the reasons proposed for this phenomenon was the fact that the people of these regions lived all of their lives under hard conditions. They worked hard physically in the fields, as shepherds or fishermen and continued to work into their eighties. The discipline of hard physical work building endurance seems to contribute to a long and good life. I wonder if the discipline of God which allows us to be spiritually fit is similar to the life circumstances of the very elderly people in the blue zones? Just as their hard life conditions contribute to strength and longevity, so those practices which contribute to spiritual strength do not come without struggle either. In verse seven we read, “endure hardship as discipline…” Far from intending to hold us back or keep us from enjoying life to the full, God desires to “strengthen (our) feeble arms and weak knees” so that we can experience life as strong Christ followers; “healed and not lame.”(vs12, 13) The discipline needed to train for a race is like that needed for a strong spiritual life. Lent is a good time to remember the value of discipline and take up some new spiritual training practices. We can’t experience the freedom to run our spiritual race with all our strength unless our feet have been freed and made strong by regular spiritual discipline. Spiritual practices are intended to bring the reward of a stronger and healthier life of right living, peace and joy as we share more and more in the wholeness of God. God wants to free our feet from entanglements in sin so that we will run this race of life like real winners; strong and sure of our goal.

Linea Lanoie Gateway Covenant Church

Thirty-Seventh Day of Lent

March 27, 2013

Hebrews 12:14-29 “We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken!” What joy is found in these words. This season of lent, let us not forget that Jesus’ life and death allows us to receive this Kingdom. It was through His blood that we are forgiven and saved. No longer do we need to tremble with fear at the sound and presence of the Almighty God. Instead we are welcomed to a life following Christ, who is the mediator between God and all people. Those who choose to follow Christ will be a part of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken. Through Jesus we are given this great gift and great promise, but we must choose to live it out. This is not just a choice we make once in our life, but rather it is one that we choose everyday. We are to live a holy life, loving and serving our God. Unfortunately, this does not come as naturally as we wish that it would. Hebrews says that we must “make every effort” to live in this way. Everyday we must choose to make the effort towards following Christ. We must be wary of bitter attitudes, and instead fill our life with thanksgiving and praise. We must be careful of engaging in immoral acts, and instead do all that is righteous and just. The good news is that we are not intended to travel this journey alone. Those who choose to follow Christ are to do so in community and fellowship, building each other up and holding each other accountable. As I read this passage, I was reminded of the well-known, camp song, I Will Not Be Shaken. What great joy there is in knowing that when all else crumbles and falls, we cannot be shaken. Let us declare our choice, shout with joy, and worship God. Let us love the Lord, trust in Him, and serve our God. All our days Hanne Johnson Faith Covenant Church (Winnipeg)

Thirty-Eighth Day of Lent Maundy Thursday Hebrews 4:14-5:10

March 28, 2013

Just as I am, without one plea But that thy blood was shed for me, And that thou bidd’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come. Just as I am, though tossed about With many a conflict, many a doubt, Fightings within, and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind, Yea all I need, in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come. Just as I am, thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve: Because thy promise, I believe, O Lamb of God, I come. Just as I am (thy love unknown Has broken every barrier down), Now to be thine, yea thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come. Just as I am, of that free love The breadth, length, depth and height to prove Here for a season, then above, O Lamb of God, I come.

Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871

Thirty-Ninth Day of Lent Good Friday Hebrews 9:11-28

March 29, 2013

Today is called Good Friday but it’s only good because we have the benefit of reflecting upon history. In today’s passage of Scripture, we read that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Christ Jesus uniquely presented himself as the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance. In this new covenant he died as a ransom to set us free from the sins we’ve committed. This ransom was his own lifeblood, spilled to the ground that we might know cleansing and forgiveness and life. Today is “Good” but one Friday years ago, it was very bad. It was Jesus Christ, the leader of our small group being taken from us. It was our suffering friend and our painful denial of him. It was the pounding of the nails through his body and the anguish he endured. The sky growing dark, the tearing of the temple curtain. It was watching his mother and family in their deep grief, weeping near the cross. It was the heartache and loss we all felt. No, that Friday long ago there was no sense of redemption being played out, or forgiveness being offered or eternal life promised. There was only pain and loss and great anguish in our souls. And there was blood everywhere. Everywhere. It can be a great temptation for us to only see the good that this Friday brought about for us, because we live in the understanding that death did not hold Christ and that He put death in it’s place by conquering it three days later. But we only see the Friday through Resurrection Sunday. Today let us see and know the great blackness of the cross. That Christ who loves us without limit was willing to suffer and enter into that great blackness, for us. Let us reconsider the cost, and give thanks.

Randall Friesen Malmo Mission Covenant Church

Fortieth Day of Lent Holy Saturday

March 30, 2013 Hebrews 4:1-13

Here we are. Holy Saturday. Standing in the agonizing hours between the crucifixion of Christ and His resurrection. And what does today’s Scripture offer us? The promise of rest. An invitation into the Sabbathrest of God. An invitation to surrender, in faith, to His beckoning voice and to receive the fullness of the promises of God. A letting go of ourselves into the fullness of Christ. I know the struggle of responding to this invitation. I sense the hard call to a deep obedience that it requires, and the focused attention I must give to receiving the promise. We live in a world where productivity and efficiency, accomplishment and accumulation are revered, where our identity is defined by what we do, what we have, who we know, what they say about us. God’s call is to a way of being that is revolutionary, countercultural, inviting us to relinquish control and come to know the “health of self-forgetfulness” as Wendell Berry calls it. Sabbath-rest redefines the criteria, basing it on God’s character and God’s truth. In this place of rest we come to know our true identity – as those living fully into the reconciling work of Jesus, standing firmly rooted in their place as children adopted into the family of God. This rest is offered to us today in the midst of whatever joys, sorrows, demands, responsibilities, uncertainties, and wanderings we may be facing. God is calling us. “Remember who you are. Remember what you know. Have faith in my sufficiency. Taste the gifts of my rest. In this life, and forever.”

Deb Arndt College Park Covenant Church

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Fra Angelico Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb, 1442

Lenten Reader 2013  
Lenten Reader 2013  

A devotional for the season of Lent by members of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada.