You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Psalms’ tag.

Below are the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent for Year B in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

As we have seen in the readings for the previous Sundays in Lent, the Old Testament theme is about God’s promises to Israel, principally their liberation from Egypt. The New Testament readings focus on the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ.

God told Jeremiah that He will make a new covenant with His people, despite their iniquity (emphases mine):

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31:31 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

31:32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.

31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

31:34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

There is a choice of Psalms. Whilst I like both, Psalm 51 is well known by devout Christians not only for its request of spiritual cleansing but also its evocative prose:

Psalm 51:1-12

51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

51:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

51:4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

51:5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

51:6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

51:9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

51:11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

The alternative Psalm is better for family services:

Psalm 119:9-16

119:9 How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

119:10 With my whole heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments.

119:11 I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.

119:12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes.

119:13 With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth.

119:14 I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches.

119:15 I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways.

119:16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

The author of Hebrews explained that God appointed Jesus to be a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek and our source of eternal salvation:

Hebrews 5:5-10

5:5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;

5:6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

5:8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;

5:9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,

5:10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

The reading from John’s Gospel is on the same theme of Jesus’s obedient suffering to come in order to save us:

John 12:20-33

12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.

12:21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

12:22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

12:23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

12:25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

12:26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

12:27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

12:28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

12:29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

12:30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.

12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

12:33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

These readings are apposite as the sixth Sunday in Lent is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Passiontide — Holy Week.


The Fourth Sunday in Lent is Laetare Sunday, which is Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom.

Mothering Sunday relates not only to mothers but to the Church:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

My posts explain that Laetare Sunday is when clergy used to wear rose coloured vestments instead of purple. (Some still do.) It is traditionally the happy Sunday in Lent, as laetare means ‘rejoice’. The name comes from the opening words of the traditional Latin Introit, which in English translate to ‘Rejoice, Jerusalem’. Salvation is coming.

This week’s readings from the Vanderbilt Divinity Library express the themes of liberation, forgiveness and salvation.

The following are readings for Year B in the three-year Lectionary for public worship. Emphases mine below.

The Old Testament reading has to do with the complaints of the Israelites in the desert, God’s punishment of such complaints in light of their liberation from Egypt, followed by His loving forgiveness:

Numbers 21:4-9

21:4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way.

21:5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”

21:6 Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.

21:7 The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

21:8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.”

21:9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

The Psalm follows this theme of God’s loving forgiveness — His healing and deliverance from death and destruction:

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

107:1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble

107:3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

107:17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction;

107:18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.

107:19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress;

107:20 he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.

107:21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.

107:22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

Paul’s Epistle discusses the deliverance from sin thanks to God’s grace and salvation through His Son Jesus Christ:

Ephesians 2:1-10

2:1 You were dead through the trespasses and sins

2:2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.

2:3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.

2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us

2:5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved

2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

2:7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God

2:9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

2:10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

John’s Gospel mentions the serpent of the Israelites and, just as that healed them, faith in Jesus Christ brings us to salvation:

John 3:14-21

3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

3:18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

3:19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.

3:20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.

3:21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

In closing, I wish all my British readers who are mothers a very happy Mothering Sunday.

What follows are the readings for the Second Sunday in Lent for Year B in the three-year Lectionary.

These come from the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, a handy online reference for Sunday readings.

Themes are God’s covenant with Abraham, God’s infinite love, faith through grace and salvation via a belief in Christ Jesus. Emphases mine below.

The Old Testament reading recounts God’s renaming of Abram and Sarai, promising that Abraham would be the father of many nations. At that time, the couple were elderly and Sarah was barren:

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.

17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.”

17:3 Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

17:4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations.

17:5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.

17:6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

17:7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

17:15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.

17:16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

The Psalm exhorts the twelve tribes of Israel — Jacob’s offspring — to glorify the Lord, who is faithful to His people:

Psalm 22:23-31

22:23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

22:24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.

22:25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.

22:26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever!

22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

22:28 For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.

22:29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.

22:30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,

22:31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

In the Epistle, Paul explains that God’s covenant with Abraham was based not on legalism but on faith, similarly our salvation through a belief in Jesus Christ:

Romans 4:13-25

4:13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

4:14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.

4:15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

4:16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,

4:17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) –in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

4:18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.”

4:19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.

4:20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,

4:21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

4:22 Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

4:23 Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone,

4:24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,

4:25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Clergy have the choice of two readings from Mark’s Gospel, the second of which is the Transfiguration. It is useful to contemplate the two together, for reasons which follow.

The last verse in this first Gospel reading is particularly important to remember:

Mark 8:31-38

8:31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

8:32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

8:33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

8:34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

8:35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

8:36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

8:37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?

8:38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

The story of the Transfiguration features each year during Lent. Jesus took His leading apostles to witness what was a ‘terrifying’ experience for them. A New Covenant was being made with the world:

Mark 9:2-9

9:2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,

9:3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.

9:4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

9:5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

9:6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

9:7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

9:8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9:9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Ligonier Ministries has a concise and excellent explanation of the two readings, ‘The Mount of Transformation’. Excerpts follow:

Peter and the other disciples found it difficult to believe that Jesus would have to suffer and die, and they were no doubt troubled by our Lord’s teaching that true discipleship involves suffering (Mark 8:31–38). They needed encouragement that all was proceeding exactly as God had planned and that suffering for Christ’s sake would be worthwhile. In the transfiguration, they received such encouragement and assurance.

The account of Jesus’ transfiguration is so familiar that we must be careful not to miss the significance of the details. It occurred on a high mountain (9:2), which recalls Moses’ meeting with God high up on Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:20). The disciples, on the Mount of Transfiguration, were participating in an event that marked a key transition in the history of the Lord’s people. At Sinai, the mediator of the old covenant—Moses—was established; on the Mount of Transfiguration, the mediator of the new covenant—Jesus Christ was revealed and confirmed

Peter, James, and John saw the purity and deity of our Savior on that occasion, which would strengthen their faith over the course of the rest of their lives (2 Peter 1:16–18).

Reading the coming Sunday’s Scripture in advance of the church service often reinforces the messages we are meant to understand.

Below are the readings for the First Sunday in Lent (Year B), from Vanderbilt University’s three-year Lectionary site. Emphases mine.

The Old Testament reading tells the story of God’s covenant with Noah and his descendants. God promised not to destroy Earth with a flood. The sign of His covenant is the rainbow. This is one of my favourite Bible passages:

Genesis 9:8-17

9:8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,

9:9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,

9:10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.

9:11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

9:12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:

9:13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

9:14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,

9:15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

9:16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

9:17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

The Psalm reminds us of God’s infinite mercy and steadfast love:

Psalm 25:1-10

25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.

25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.

25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

In the Epistle, Peter, in describing the New Covenant, points to both the themes in the Psalm and the reading from Genesis:

1 Peter 3:18-22

3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,

3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison

3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

The Gospel recounts the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and Jesus’s subsequent exhortation to ‘believe in the good news’:

Mark 1:9-15

1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

1:11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

1:12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,

1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

This is a powerful set of readings, well worth reflecting upon before church on Sunday.

December 31, 2018 is the First Sunday after Christmas. Readings for Year B of the three-year Lectionary are used.

The Gospel reading used in Year B is the one traditionally read on February 2 — Candlemas.

That said, this reading about Simeon and Anna witnessing the presentation of Jesus in the Temple describes what took place 40 days after Jesus’s birth, not eight days. Luke 2:22-40 recounts Mary and Jesus appearing with Joseph after Mary had undergone the customary ritual purification. They also presented a sacrifice.

Note the timeframe in Luke 2:

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Jesus Presented at the Temple

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

There is so much to study and consider in this passage that I broke it down into two parts several years ago.

Luke 2:22-32 discusses Simeon’s prophecy and the obedience of the Holy Family to Jewish law.

Luke 2:33-40 recounts Anna’s piety and explains the meaning of her father’s name Phanuel/Penuel/Peniel.

The other readings for Christmas 1, Year B, follow.

Where used, this is the first reading:

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

61:11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.

62:2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

62:3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

The Psalm is as follows:

Psalm 148

148:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

148:2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

148:3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!

148:4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.

148:6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,

148:8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

148:10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

148:12 Young men and women alike, old and young together!

148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

148:14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

This is the Epistle:

Galatians 4:4-7

4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

4:5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.

4:6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

4:7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

The aforementioned Gospel follows the Epistle.

The reading from Galatians is timely. The other day I wrote about an anti-Christmas guest editorial published in Australia and in the Washington Post in 2014. In short, WaPo tweeted the link to it again in 2017. The author, who lectures in Religious Studies at the University of Sidney, posits that there is no evidence Jesus lived among us. He says that Paul and other New Testament writers spoke of a ‘celestial Jesus’. The man’s former professor wrote a rebuttal for Australia’s ABC saying that Paul emphasised Jesus’s human qualities. He even cites Galatians 4:4.

Paul was not describing a celestial Jesus but One who came to earth as our Redeemer and Saviour.

advent wreath stjohnscamberwellorgauDecember 17, 2017, was Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent.

Gaudete Sunday

Traditionally, the celebrant in Catholic Mass as well as Anglican and Lutheran Communion services wears a pink — rose — vestment, because this is a time of joy and hope in expectation of our Saviour’s birth.

Even in the absence of a rose vestment, the pink candle on the Advent wreath is lit on this particular day.

For these reasons, Gaudete Sunday is also known as Rose Sunday.

Gaudete means ‘rejoice’ in Latin. The name is taken from the original Introit:

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione et obsecratione cum gratiarum actione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.

This is the English translation (emphases mine):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.

Many centuries ago, Lent began much earlier, after the feast of St Martin on November 11:

The season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas, commencing on the day after the feast of St. Martin (11 November), whence it was often called St. Martin’s Lent“—a name by which it was known as early as the fifth century. In the ninth century, the duration of Advent was reduced to four weeks, and Advent preserved most of the characteristics of a penitential season which made it a kind of counterpart to Lent.

The Lenten counterpart is Laetare Sunday.

One can imagine that after several weeks of fasting, a break must have been welcome, which is what is done on these two Sundays during the two seasons of penitence.

The readings communicate spiritual joy and expectation.

Gaudete Sunday readings — Year B

The Gaudete Sunday readings for Year B are available at the Vanderbilt University Lectionary library.

Not all of them are used in a single service but all have the theme of hope and joy.

We see the theme of expectation in the reading from Isaiah:

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

61:1 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;

61:2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

61:3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

61:4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.

61:8 For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

61:9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.

61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

61:11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Some Christians use that as a defence of social justice, but the greater message is that God made a covenant to send His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to Earth to humbly save mankind. Jesus released us from captivity to sin and freed us to be with Him for eternity.

The Psalm’s theme is joy after being released from captivity. I particularly love the expressive second half of the first verse:

Psalm 126

126:1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

126:3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

126:4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

126:5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

126:6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

The Magnificat gives glory and thanks to God. These are the words of Mary at the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to tell her she would be the mother of Jesus:

Luke 1:46b-55

1:46b “My soul magnifies the Lord,

1:47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

1:48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

1:49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

1:50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

1:51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

1:52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

1:53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

1:55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

St Paul’s message is one of rejoicing and praying unceasingly. As we turn from sin — an Advent theme — may God sanctify us entirely as we await the coming of our Saviour:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

5:16 Rejoice always,

5:17 pray without ceasing,

5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

5:20 Do not despise the words of prophets,

5:21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good;

5:22 abstain from every form of evil.

5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

5:24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

John’s Gospel tells us of John the Baptist, who prophesied, baptised and prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah. Note John’s theme of light, especially timely as we enter into the darkest days of the year, although he was referring to Jesus Christ as the light against worldly darkness:

John 1:6-8, 19-28

1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

1:7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.

1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

1:19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

1:20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”

1:21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.”

1:22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

1:23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,'” as the prophet Isaiah said.

1:24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.

1:25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”

1:26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know,

1:27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”

1:28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The traditional Octave of Christmas also began on December 17. Readings to follow tomorrow for December 17 and 18.

j0289346Dr R Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California and Heidelblog recently called his readers to explore the Reformed tradition of exclusive psalmody — psalms sung a cappella rather than hymns accompanied by musical instruments.

Clark points out that psalmody cuts across cultural and national lines. He cites a 1996 article from the Associated Press which puts this ancient biblical tradition into a modern perspective. The AP reporter visited the Selma Reformed Presbyterian Church in Alabama.

Although fewer Reformed congregations are sticking with traditional exclusive psalmody, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, congregations of which are found mainly in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Kansas, still believes psalms are the best songs for worship.

The Reformed Presbyterians came to the US from Scotland in the 17th century and are known as Covenanters. They follow the Westminster Confession of Faith and attempt to make their worship as biblical as possible.

They point out that, unlike hymns, the Psalms are divinely inspired because they are part of the Bible. They add that the New Testament records Jesus as having worshipped in synagogues, therefore, He would have sung them, too.

The Covenanters believe that worship must be God-centred, giving Him glory. They say that hymns focus more on man’s condition and detract from focussing on the Almighty.

At one time, the AP article says, nearly every Protestant congregation sang hymns, an ancient Christian tradition revived during the Reformation.  Then, in the 18th century, Isaac Watts began penning hymns. No doubt the melodies were more pleasing to the ear than the ancient ones used with psalms, because, over the following century, hymns and instrumental accompaniment became more widespread in church. By the early 20th century, most denominations moved towards hymns almost exclusively.

John Delivuk, a librarian at Geneva College near Pittsburgh and an authority on Reformed Presbyterian history, points out that clergy and liturgists are asking the wrong question when they wonder how to attract new members. The issue is not what people want to hear but rather,  ‘How can a congregation best please God in worship?’

He, like his fellow Reformed Presbyterians (and other smaller Reformed denominations), believe that psalms sung a cappella allow a more focussed and spiritual worship of God.

The Selma Reformed Presbyterian Church’s Facebook page features several sung psalms, such as Psalm 100b:

O Shout for joy unto the LORD
Earth’s people far and near;
With gladness come and serve the LORD,
And bring Him songs of cheer.

Perhaps church music leaders might slip a few psalms — sung without music to ancient (not modern) melodies — in their worship. They might be surprised at the positive reaction from the congregation. They would also avoid the question of what to sing — always a contentious issue when planning the Sunday service.

Exaudi Sunday takes place between the Ascension (always a Thursday) and Pentecost, ten days later.

I have read that it is the saddest Sunday of the Church year. The faithful recall the forlorn disciples, among them the Apostles, who saw Christ’s ascent into heaven and then awaited the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

There are several New Testament readings of import for this time. I shall run the risk of repeating myself with the following

Luke 3:16-17 with John the Baptist’s succinct prophecy:

16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

John 16:5-11 from the Last Supper where Jesus said (emphases mine):

5But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Acts 1:4-9 with His final words before returning to God the Father:

4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension

 6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them,  “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Exaudi is Latin, from the verb exaudire (modern day equivalents are the French exaucer and the Italian esaudire). It has several meanings, among them: hear, understand and discern, as well as heed, obey and, where the Lord is concerned, grant. The French version of the Catholic Mass uses exaucer a lot, as do hymns: ‘grant us, Lord’.

Exaudi Sunday is so called because of the traditional Introit, taken from Psalm 17:1. The two first words in Latin are ‘Exaudi Domine’ — ‘Hear, Lord’.

In English (ESV) Psalm 17:1 is as follows:

1Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry!
   Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
2From your presence let my vindication come!
   Let your eyes behold the right!

Another match is Daniel 9:17, which was the basis for the Exaudi Domine which Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1526-1594) wrote:

17Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate.

It is a beautiful chant. The minor key brings to life the sense of loss Jesus’s loyal band of disciples must have felt between Ascension and Pentecost:

This is a collect often used on Exaudi Sunday:

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

And, for us today, we who long for Christ’s return, we have the Holy Spirit working through the Law and the Gospel for our salvation.

As Dr Gregory Jackson, host of Ichabod, explains:

The manifold grace of God is another way of saying the Gospel. The word Gospel is used often, but most of the time the term is abused.

Although the Holy Spirit works through the Law, its role is limited. The Law stirs up knowledge of sin without solving the problem of sin. The Law makes us feel the guilt of sin but the Law cannot forgive our sins. All the “transforming” preachers of today use the Law to make people feel they do are not producing the fruit of the Gospel, but those law condemnations do not produce the desired fruit. The law programs to do that only make matters worse, filling people with notions of being holier than the rest. This is important to realize from Luther. The Gospel alone forgives, saves, and bears the fruit of the Spirit

The Law makes us fearful, but the Gospel gives us peace through forgiveness of sin. That forgiveness is complete and free. That is why the law-salesmen become so angry and vindictive, when their kingdom of merits is threatened in any way. They want people enslaved by their man-made laws, not set free by the Gospel. They want people to ignore the Word for their words (which are never-ending) …

God’s will is carried out only through His Word, and this Word is always united with the divine energy of His Holy Spirit. Isaiah 55:8-11

The Holy Spirit works through the Law to condemn our sins against the Ten Commandments, our spiritual sins (First Table) against God, which lead to the more visible sins against our neighbor (Second Table).

God uses the preaching and teaching of the Gospel to plant and sustain faith in the crushed hearts of contrite sinners. The Gospel message is summarized:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” KJV John 3:16.

The proclamation of the Gospel is carried out through the invisible Word of preaching and teaching, the visible Word of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. God grants grace only through His instruments, the Means of Grace.

Those who believe in the Gospel of Christ receive what He has promised, complete and free forgiveness of sin. God declares that person forgiven – justification by faith. Romans 5:1-2.

The fruits of the Spirit follow from faith in Christ, and God is glorified by all things done in faith. Those who wish to harvest more for the Kingdom should broadcast the Word with complete abandon, trusting in God’s Promises.

To enjoy the benefits of the Gospel, we abide in the Means of Grace, the Word and Sacraments. They are the treasures of the Church which give us 100% of the blessings God wishes to impart to us.

These are the gifts and benefits on which we may reflect between the Ascension and Pentecost — and beyond.

The Church and Her faithful have endured persecution as Jesus foretold at the Last Supper in John 15:26 – John 16:4:

26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

1“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

As the Holy Spirit was sent to the original 70 disciples, so He continues to be with us today. Martin Luther (H/T: Dr Jackson) had this to say on Exaudi Sunday about the aforementioned verses from John’s Gospel in light of the Church:

We have the comfort of this victory of Christ—that He maintains His Church against the wrath and power of the devil; but in the meantime we must endure such stabs and cruel wounds from the devil as are necessarily painful to our flesh and blood. The hardest part is that we must see and suffer all these things from those who call themselves the people of God and the Christian Church. We must learn to accept these things calmly, for neither Christ nor the saints have fared better.”
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 263. Exaudi John 15:26-16:4.

“Nevertheless, He has said that the Holy Spirit should testify of him and that they also should bear witness; and He assures them that their testimony shall not be effaced by this rage and persecution of the world.”
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 258. Exaudi John 15:26-16:4.

Therefore, let us continue to witness in our own lives as Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Exaudi Sunday is the last Sunday in Eastertide, which ends on the day before Pentecost. Pentecost Sunday in 2013 is May 19.

Holy Week culminates with Easter, the greatest feast of the Church year.

We began the week with Palm Sunday. For most Christians the next important day during this time is Maundy Thursday. However, the Gospels also include accounts for intervening events for the first half of the week, some of which are covered in my past posts:

Monday of Holy Week: Jesus and the money changers — Jesus displayed righteous anger in the Temple courtyard (Matthew 21:12-13)

Tuesday of Holy Week: the High Priests plot against Jesus — The proximity of events between Jesus’s raising Lazarus from the dead and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday put the Jewish hierarchy on high alert. The Jewish people were amazed by what Jesus had done and many more began to follow Him spiritually, whilst others believed Him to be a political Messiah. The High Priests therefore concluded that Jesus threatened their own standing in Jewish society on a number of levels. They decided that it was time for Jesus to be quietly arrested, as this was also Passover week (Mark 14:1-2) and Jerusalem was full of pilgrims. The Sanhedrin wanted Jesus to be quickly put to death.

Wednesday of Holy Week: Spy Wednesday and More on Spy Wednesday — The Jewish leaders had spies circulating around the Temple whose job it was to find out more about Jesus’s whereabouts after He finished preaching and to find someone who could betray Him. As we know, Judas offered his services for 30 pieces of silver. These days, Wednesday of Holy Week is the day when Catholic bishops, with parish priests in attendance, celebrate a special Chrism Mass during which the oil to be used in Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination and the Sacrament of the Sick and Dying is blessed for the coming year.

Looking ahead to Maundy Thursday: Some churches will be holding a special service with a particular ritual at the end. If you have never attended a Tenebrae service, please read this first.


Two materialistic men — Judas and Barabbas — featured in the story of Christ’s death. Barabbas was born into a religious family of social standing but was seduced by crime and activism. His reputation was enough for the mob on Good Friday to clamour for his release.  If he were alive today, we would know him as a community organiser and a proponent of liberation theology.

Judas was in love with money. It was he who during Jesus’s three-year ministry was in charge of the money bag for Him and the Apostles. It was he who objected when Mary, Martha and Lazarus’s sister, anointed Jesus’s feet with expensive spikenard (John 12:1-8). Emphases mine:

1Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Let this be a warning to us about people using the poor as a special personal crusade when they are really out to enrich themselves. Often, these people, who may be working for activist agencies or in the public sector, do very well financially whilst doing nothing for the poor.

So, when Judas — an opportunist — saw the chance to make a few months’ salary on the side with 30 pieces of silver from a guaranteed source, he took it. He loved money more than he loved Jesus.

The imprecatory Psalm 109 indirectly prophesied Judas’s betrayal in the New Testament, as King David in the Old Testament prayed for the total vanquishing of his greatest enemy — perhaps Doeg the Edomite or perhaps Ahithophel, who joined in Absalom’s (David’s son’s) revolt against him. Others believe it was Saul.  In any event, Psalm 109 is known as the Iscariot Psalm. This is because Peter cited it in Acts 1:16-20 when he spoke retrospectively of Judas:

16“Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18(Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20“For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

    “‘May his camp become desolate,
   and let there be no one to dwell in it’;


    “‘Let another take his office.’

The first citation about the camp is from Psalm 69 (verse 25) and the second from Psalm 109:8.

Jesus, being all divine and all human, knew that one of His own would betray Him (John 6:70-71) and called Judas a ‘devil’:

70Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

 71He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

In John 13, after Jesus washes the Apostles’ feet before the Last Supper, Jesus cites Psalm 41:9, which also concerns David lamenting the actions of his enemies. That Psalm is about Ahithophel. Absalom had turned against his father David. Ahithophel joined Absalom in this rebellion. Psalm 41:9 reads:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
   who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

Note Jesus’s words in John 13:16-20 after the foot washing:

16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Returning to Psalm 109, the character of Judas has horrified and disgusted Bible scholars since the Crucifixion. In ‘The Treasury of David: Psalm 109’, the great confessional Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon reviewed theologians’ quotes from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Spurgeon first explains why Peter said what he did in Acts:

So used were the Jews to look upon these verses as the doom of traitors, of cruel and deceitful mind, that Peter saw at once in the speedy death of Judas a fulfilment of this sentence, and a reason for the appointment of a successor who should take his place of oversight. A bad man does not make an office bad: another may use with benefit that which he perverted to ill uses.

Then Spurgeon draws from his ‘Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings’:

In this psalm David is supposed to refer to Doeg the Edomite, or to Ahithophel. It is the most imprecatory of the psalms, and may well be termed the Iscariot Psalm. What David here refers to his mortal enemy, finds its accomplishment in the betrayer of the Son of David … — Paton J. Gloag, in “A Commentary on the Acts,” 1870.

We may consider Judas, at the same time, as the virtual head of the Jewish nation in their daring attempt to dethrone the Son of God. The doom pronounced, and the reasons for it, apply to the Jews as a nation, as well as to the leader of the band who took Jesus.—Andrew A. Bonar.

Nor does David imprecate these punishments so much on his own enemies and Judas the betrayer of Christ; but that similar punishments await all who fight against the kingdom of Christ.—Mollerus [Heinrich Müller].

This Scripture (Ps 109:6-20.) also greatly helped it to fasten the more upon me, where Christ prays against Judas, that God would disappoint him in all his selfish thoughts, which moved him to sell his master: pray read it soberly. — John Bunyan

St. Jerome says that Judas’s prayer was turned into sin, by reason of his want of hope when he prayed: and thus it was that in despair he hanged himself.—Robert Bellarmine.

When we consider of whom this Psalm is used there will be no difficulty about it. No language could be more awful than that of Ps 109:6-19. It embraces almost every misery we can think of. But could any man be in a more wretched condition than Judas was? Could any words be too severe to express the depth of his misery—of him, who, for three whole years, had been the constant attendant of the Saviour of mankind; who had witnessed his miracles, and had shared his miraculous powers; who had enjoyed all the warnings, all the reproofs of his love, and then had betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver? Can we conceive a condition more miserable than that of Judas? And this Psalm is a prophecy of the punishment that should overtake him for his sin. S. Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles, quotes part of this psalm, and applies it to Judas: he applies it as a prophecy of the punishment he should suffer on the betrayal of the Son of God. It is probable that in this psalm, when it uses the word children, it does not mean those who are his offspring by natural descent, but those who resemble him, and who partake with him in his wickedness. This is a common meaning of the word sons, or children, in Holy Scripture. As where our blessed Lord tells the Jews, Ye are of your father the devil, he could not mean that the Jews were the natural descendants of the devil, but that they were his children because they did his works. Again, when they are called Abraham’s children, it means those who do the works of Abraham. So in this psalm, where it is foretold that fearful punishment should happen to Judas for the betrayal of his Lord, and should be extended to his children, it means his associates, his companions, and imitators in wickedness.F.H. Dunwell, in “A Tract on the Commination Service,” 1853.

The Revd P G Mathew, pastor of Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California, discussed Judas in ‘The Failure of Materialism’, taking as his text Matthew 24:1-10. (Mr Mathew earned his theological degrees at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia).)

Jesus Delivered to Pilate

 1 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over toPilate the governor.

Judas Hangs Himself

 3Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

First, what is a materialist in a theological context? Mathew tells us:

A materialist is one who believes that the universe is all there is. Such a person believes, therefore, that there is no God, no heaven, no hell, no angels, no devil, no demons and no moral absolutes. A materialist is only concerned with a life of maximum pleasure and the means to achieve it. What is the materialist’s motto? “Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow, like beasts, we will die.” A materialist may even affirm some faith in God in theory but in practice a materialist lives as if there is no God.

Many who affirm Christian creeds live as materialists. We see a number of such materialists in the Bible.

I’ll have more on modern-day materialists later this month, by the way. They abound in our churches.

For now, back to Judas:

Judas was a materialist, and, sadly, he was not changed in any way by his close association with Jesus. After three years he remained a materialist. During the time he walked with Christ as an apostle, Judas never stopped looking for power, position, and, above all, lots of money. He exhibited the nature of an antichrist, a son of perdition. Jesus even referred to this in his high priestly prayer (John 17:12, KJV), and in John 6:70-71 Jesus called him a devil. Why? Judas was an unbeliever.

Now I am sure Judas was excited when Jesus chose him to be treasurer of the group. Why? He knew he could then steal from the monies deposited with him. We read about this in John 12. He became extremely annoyed when Mary anointed Jesus with expensive perfume to show her love for him. Judas wanted Mary to give him the cash so he could pilfer it and enrich himself. Judas himself did not love Jesus ...

Matthew 16:21 tells us, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

At Jesus’ announcement the hopes of Judas were dashed. Who needs a suffering Messiah, a Messiah who was only destined be killed? So Judas betrayed Jesus to his enemies for thirty shekels of silver. Judas would do anything to make a buck.

Judas had second thoughts once he fully realised what the the Jewish leaders — the Sanhedrin — were going to do. The Sanhedrin wanted to move quickly in charging Jesus with blasphemy then achieving a death sentence by appealing to Pilate, as only the Romans could issue this type of sentence.  So, Judas became filled with remorse and a tortured mind. However:

if you read the Greek text you find that Judas’ actions were not true repentance. He was merely emotionally disturbed. The Greek word used for Judas’ behavior is metamelomai , which means remorse, not metanoeo , which means repentance. Remorse is pain of mind, not change of mind. Remorse is due to fear of punishment or loss of a blessing, as it was in the case of Esau (Heb. 12:17). Judas “repented,” but it was just remorse and not true repentance …

The remorse of Judas is what we call attrition, not contrition. Attrition involves self-reproach, depression, the smiting of conscience, a feeling of guilt, loneliness, a fear of punishment, self-pity, and so on. But contrition involves three components. The first is our mind. We must know that sin is wrong and we must change. The second is our emotions. We must have godly sorrow and a profound hatred for sin. The third is our will. We must decide to turn from sin and turn to God in faith. True repentance, in other words, is a whole-souled activity. The person who repents will truly forsake his wicked ways and turn to the Lord with his mind, soul, and will

The repentance of Judas was not like the repentance of Peter, who also had failed and denied the Lord. Peter had godly sorrow and wept bitterly. Jesus had prayed for Peter, and then sought him out to restore him. But although both Peter and Judas failed, only Peter truly repented and was restored. And we must note here also that Judas confessed only to the high priest. He never confessed to Jesus and asked for his forgiveness. Had he done so, I assure you, Jesus would have forgiven all his sin. Jesus never drives out any person who comes to him in faith.

Judas ended up a lonely man, alone with his moral and spiritual emptiness. It drove him mad and the only way he could alleviate the void was through suicide. He went from bad to desperate to worse, ending up with the death of his soul, the second death.

Mathew concludes:

Judas, the materialist who wanted to gain all, lost all. He was a loser. He lost his money, his ministry, and his life. He lost the fellowship of Jesus and his apostles. He did not inherit eternal life. He went to his own place of torment. And finally, he lost his new-found fellowship with the Sanhedrin also. When he confessed, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood,” he was declaring that Jesus was absolutely innocent. In effect, Judas was preaching to the Sanhedrin by that statement, and they could have even then repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. But they did not. They had no use for Jesus and no use for JudasRemember how he left the upper room to betray Jesus? In John 13:30 we read that it was night. For three years Judas walked with Jesus, who was the light of the world, but Judas had been walking in darkness, not in light. So now he went out into the darkness to betray Jesus. It was a lonely journey. Later that night in the garden of Gethsemane he betrayed the light of the world by a kiss. He had aligned himself with Christ’s enemies, but now those enemies told him, “If you sinned, it is your responsibility. You take care of it.”

Let Judas’s last moments serve as a warning to those who crave money, influence and acclaim at the expense of goodness, truth and eternal life. Mathew describes what happened:

he went and hanged himself. The rope broke, and his large corpulent body fell headlong, burst open and his intestines spilled out, as we are told in Acts 1:18. From the height of constant fellowship with Jesus, Judas fell into the nadir of wretchedness. As his final act of unbelief he violated the sixth commandment and committed suicide. Thus, Judas demonstrated his utter rejection of the gospel he had heard Jesus Christ preach and that he himself had preached.

Incidentally, Mathew tells us that the name ‘Judas’ is from ‘Judah’ and means ‘praise’. How ironic and how sad that someone with such a beautiful name could end up in total disgrace.

There’s nothing wrong with working hard, getting promoted and accumulating money. However, when we start to love money and ambition more than we love the Lord, we have a problem. We become materialistic. And if we attend a church where the Cross and Resurrection — the ultimate signs of Christ’s selfless love for miserable sinners — are not preached, we are likely to become shaky in our spiritual direction and obedience.

Sometimes we become trapped in our own mistrust of Christ which then turns into too much introspection — without yielding repentance.

There are a lot of broken souls and broken hearts in the world. Some are hostile, some are sad, some are cynical and some are worldly. Today’s Church may do little to nothing in relieving the pain. It’s up to each of us to take that step, to approach Christ humbly and with contrition to ask His forgiveness and then to turn our hearts towards Him in repentance.

We won’t always have this chance. One day, it will be too late. Let’s make sure it won’t be so for us.

Voddie Baucham is a well-known Baptist pastor and public speaker in the United States.  Many of my readers will already be familiar with his sermons and some have been blessed with the opportunity of seeing him preach in person.

At the end of last week, my posts concerned overcoming difficult circumstances in life — physical and spiritual.  Mr Baucham has done both.

He grew up in a single-parent home.  His mother became pregnant at the age of 17 in South Central Los Angeles, an area internationally infamous for its gangs and crime.  Although his parents got married, the union did not last.  Mr Baucham’s father pursued a career in professional US football.  He died in 2006 at the age of 55, as a result of cocaine addiction.  Mr Baucham preached at his funeral.

Mr Baucham was not raised in a Christian home.  His mother was a Buddhist.  It was only when he went to university that he heard the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Yet, before he graduated, he was a licensed minister and had delivered his first sermon.  He met his wife Bridget at university. They have four children.

Although Mr Baucham speaks at Christian conferences throughout the year, he serves full-time as Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas.

Mr Baucham is living proof that one can overcome not only environmental adversity but spiritual deficiency.  He was able to leave circumstances which could have easily led him to a very different life.  He transformed his life by acknowledging the sovereignty of God and the power of His grace.

Let it never be said, ‘It can’t be done.’  We can be overcomers.

In the five-segment sermon below Mr Baucham discusses our man-centred worldview and our brokenness.  Each segment is around 10 minutes long.  I hope that you find them as compelling as I did.

Before you begin viewing, you might wish to read Psalm 51, the text on which the sermon is delivered.  I have selected the English Standard Version (ESV) as it has a thorough concordance in the footnotes.

In part 1 of ‘Brokenness’, Mr Baucham critiques the man-centredness of the emergent church and the popular Christian novel, The Shack (yes, I realise that it contradicts what I wrote in 2009):

In part 2, he examines David’s plea for God’s forgiveness in Psalm 51.  Mr Baucham says that only when we realise we are broken — truly broken — can we submit to God’s will and His sovereignty.  David begs God to cleanse him of his sin — not just a lick and a promise (as my mother used to say) but a thorough, ritual cleansing.  David recognises his brokenness and submits himself to God’s will, mercy and grace:

In part 3, he discusses the more positive aspects of remorse and memory with regard to sin.  If we had no memory of our sins, we would commit them time and time again.  David also remembered his sin — bedding Bathsheba.  A year later it was as alive a memory then as when he committed it.  Mr Baucham also tells us what it was like returning to South Central Los Angeles for his father’s funeral:

In part 4, he impresses upon us that Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and reads from Revelation (Rev. 19:11-21).  This is not the girly Christ we know from today’s church services, praise bands and the other man-centred constructs with which we are only too familiar.  He further discusses The Shack in this regard:

In part 5, he concludes by saying that only when we acknowledge our brokenness can we put ourselves at God’s mercy and begin to recognise His sovereignty and saving grace.  Only then will we realise what sinners we are.  Only then will we see our man-centred modern Christianity and heinous worship services for what they are.  Mr Baucham reminds us that God is displeased when we worship Him falsely, pleasing ourselves as we do it.  Think modern hymns, entertaining liturgy and all the rest.  When we realise just Who God is, we will wish to worship Him in a solemn, reverent manner befitting His majesty:

More on this topic — and from Mr Baucham — tomorrow.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,108 other followers


Calendar of posts

March 2018
« Feb    
25262728293031 - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,266,482 hits