Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 14, 1999
|1 Samuel 16:1-13||The shepherd anointed||280: All Glory, Laud, and
325: Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus
|Psalm 23||The sheep attended||138: The King of Love My
381: Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
|John 9:1-41||The blind man healed||339: Come, Sinners, to the
378: Amazing Grace
|Ephesians 5:8-14||The fruit of The Light||203: Hail to the Lord's
663: Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name
The story of the human condition continues past the Patriarchs, through the sons of Israel, into refuge in Egypt from famine, down into slavery in Egypt from refuge, and on to the stories of the Exodus. How incredible it must have been to be alive then! Egypt was a tremendous power. Moses was raised in the palaces of the Pharaohs. A member of God's chosen people by birth and a member of royalty by upbringing, it was practically unavoidable that Moses should rise to power and recognition. But there was to be a detour along the way. He came to a situation in which he was unable to balance his passion for the Hebrew people with his power to "execute" the law. He killed a man -- an individual of sacred worth in the eyes of God, and an Egyptian who was entitled to better treatment in the eyes of the Pharaoh. Moses fled. Instead of rising to the head of government, Moses learned to lead sheep. He learned to seek what was best for humble creatures who needed his guidance.
Caring for flocks of sheep is no easy task. It will keep even the most industrious person busy, but there is still time to ponder God's creation and the role of people in it. How much time did Moses spend wondering about his role in God's plan? What did he think about his relationship to the Hebrew nation as he worked in the fields with the animals? Did he keep a watchful eye over his shoulder to see if Pharaoh's guards were coming? How must it have felt to flee from justice in the only home he had ever known; to be a social outcast from the Hebrews and a criminal outcast from the Egyptians?
Fortunately, the story of Moses did not end there. He encountered God in the burning bush and answered the call to return to Egypt and lead his people to freedom. God left the past in the past. And Moses left the past in the past, too.
This week's featured hymn is among the best loved and most sung hymns in the world. Written by John Newton (1725-1807), Amazing Grace expresses the redeemed sinner's appreciation for salvation. Newton had been a slave trader before his conversion to Christianity. Afterward, he answered the calling to serve the Lord in ordained ministry, and he became an outspoken opponent of slavery. His tombstone bears this inscription:
John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.
You probably know the words to this popular hymn, but take a moment to slow down and read them. The writer of the final verse is unknown.
|1. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
was blind, but now I see.
|2. 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed.
|3. Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
|4. The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.
|5. Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
a life of joy and peace.
|6. When we've been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we've no less days to sing God's praise
than when we first begun.
No less than Moses and Newton, we all need forgiveness and redemption today. No less than those men, we can be forgiven and redeemed. They were completely forgiven by God. We have already seen Moses at the transfiguration in the Lectionary scriptures during this season of Lent. We often sing the words of Newton's hymn. What a testament to the completeness of God's grace, that all can be forgiven and be raised to positions of honor in God's service!
During this Lenten season and always, may we, like Moses and Newton, run from our sinful ways, hear the call of God, and learn to go forward in His power as a forgiven people.
God bless you--
Lection at HymnSite.com
|Passages suggested are from The Revised Common Lectionary: Consultation on Common Texts (Abingdon Press, 1992) copyright © by the Consultation on Common Texts (CCT), P.O. Box 340003, Room 381, Nashville TN 37203-0003. Reprinted with permission of CCT.|