Lent 4, Yr A
This much loved psalm personalises the faith of Israel. The Lord (Yahweh) is not only the shepherd of Israel, he is my shepherd. He is also my generous host. If the Lord is your shepherd, tell someone else about his goodness.
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Here ends a long block of teaching (most of chapters 4-10) on Christ’s priesthood and atoning sacrifice. Several times we read the phrase “once for all”, applied to Christ’s sacrifice of himself to pay for all sin. Verse 18 is the final word: your forgiveness is complete and lasting through Christ; therefore no sacrifice will ever be needed again. We’ll return to Hebrews after Easter, considering the new life to be lived because of the Cross.
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A parable we know far too well to notice that it’s less about a wayward son than a father who loves insanely and lavishly. No shame or failure is too much, and no cost too great for this Father to bring his beloved home. You can come home to the Father today. Whether you’ve given him a thought or not, he hasn’t stopped waiting for you. He’s ready to welcome you, whatever you or others think you deserve. All you need to do is come.
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The old (Mosaic) covenant provided a place and means for God’s chosen but imperfect people to draw near to him. The place God chose was first the tabernacle (tent), eventually made permanent in the Jerusalem Temple. By that provision, God fulfilled his promise to dwell among his people, caring, providing, protecting. Through sacrifice offered in the tabernacle / temple, they could taste his forgiveness but not fully enjoy it because their consciences could not be cleansed. And the people did not have free access to their God. A new order was needed. Full forgiveness, the cleansing of conscience, could only ever happen by the shedding of blood. Not until the Cross would blood be shed that would redeem forever. Christ, God’s final priest and mediator of God’s final covenant, entered by his own blood the Most Holy Place of God’s presence in God’s final temple. Only thus can your sin be forgiven.
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Jesus God’s final priest (Hebrews 7) mediates God’s better and final covenant. No further covenant will ever be needed between God and humanity, because by this covenant sealed in the blood of Christ, God’s holy law is no longer a weighty standard in front of you, but a living life within you .. and because through this covenant, God’s forgiveness of every one of your sins is not merely provisional, it is not on credit .. it is paid .. your debt to your God is paid in full.
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It is natural to humans to seek perfection or completion. To do so is in fact to seek the God who made us for himself. Humans typically turn to one religious system or another in this quest. But in truth no religious system can deliver the perfection we crave. That certainly includes the Levitical priesthood and the religious system it provided. God has provided in Jesus the only way to be fully what humanity was intended to be.
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When you’ve come to Jesus your search for a mediator is over. Jesus has been interceding to the Father on your behalf since time began. He is still pleading your cause, for his intercession and mediation have no end. Accept his perfect mediation and God’s mercy for you will never run dry.
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On 3rd February 1788, eight days after the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, the Reverend Richard Johnson, fleet chaplain, conducted the first service of Christian worship in the infant Colony of New South Wales. His text was Psalm 116:12-13. In honour of that significant anniversary, and also on the occasion of our Covenant Sunday for 2017, this psalm is most fitting for us. (It also serves as the final of our ‘Summer Psalms’ in this January holiday period). How will we give back to the Lord in 2017? By expressing our overwhelming gratitude for his goodness shown us, and by dedicating ourselves to his mission.
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Psalm 27 is a fine one to return to regularly to recalibrate your spiritual life. The writer (very likely King David himself) uses two central metaphors to express his spiritual thirst: he seeks to dwell in God’s house, and he seeks God’s face. Being in the temple of God at Jerusalem is what the psalmist longs for; for under the Old Covenant that was the place to go, to be as much in the presence of the living God as it was possible for a sinner to be. But the core plea of this psalm would only be fully realised when God took on human flesh, creating the true temple – the living presence of God on earth.
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Ordinary Sunday 2, Year A
What would you say to a church that’s so steeped in division, disorder and sin that it’s barely recognisable as Christ’s body? The Apostle Paul might have said: “Tell them who they are in Christ. Tell them they’re the church of God.” However discouraged or disillusioned you may feel about any church or the church in general, don’t give up on the church. For God hasn’t.
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