Worship for Sunday, February 21, 2021

Genesis 9:8-17

God said to Noah and to his sons with him,  “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 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. 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.” 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: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 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. 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.” 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 Word of the Lord.

Psalm 25:1-10

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
My God, I put my trust in you; let me not be put to shame,
  nor let my enemies triumph over me.
Let none who look to you be put to shame;
rather let those be put to shame who are treacherous.
Show me your ways, O Lord,
  and teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.
            Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love,
  for they are from everlasting.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;
remember me according to your steadfast love and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
You are gracious and upright, O Lord;
  therefore you teach sinners in your way. 
You lead the lowly in justice
and teach the lowly your way.
All your paths, O Lord, are steadfast love and faithfulness
to those who keep your covenant and your testimonies
.  Amen.

1 Peter 3:18-22

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, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 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. 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, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; remember me according to your steadfast love and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.” – Psalm 25:7

I am guessing I am not the only person – in our midst – who has prayed that particular verse of Psalm 25 with great earnestness from time to time!  I can’t be the only one among us – who has a slightly checkered past.  Who among us hasn’t sinned and fallen short of the glory of God a time or 10,000?

Honestly – I have to admit to having a slightly checkered present too!  Sometimes my very human humanness just smacks me right upside the head so hard it takes my breath away!

More than once – I have wondered just how long a person can get away with claiming to be a youth?  How old is too old to be a youth?  Does young at heart count?  Is 46 years old too old to be considered a youth?  Boy – I really hope 46 isn’t too old – because I so totally need God to “remember not the sins” and transgressions of some of my more recent days too!  You know like yesterday and today for example . . .

Perhaps 46 or even 106 isn’t too old!  After all – the oldest man in the Bible was Methuselah and he lived to be 969 years old.  So compared to Methuselah I really am just a mere youth.  Compared to Methuselah I am barely getting started in this life!

Or when you think about eternal life – well – at 46 – I am a mere newborn!

No matter how hard we try to get it right – we end up making a great big mess of our lives from time to time.  We hurt ourselves and we hurt our loved ones.  We are all so very human. We all sin each and every single day of our lives.  We all fall short of the glory of God. 

Often when we make a mess of things we find ourselves in need of making an apology.  And – oh – my – apologizing is hard.  Apologizing is so very – very hard!

Apologizing doesn’t come naturally to us.  Most of us loathe apologizing.   Some folks never seem to be able to do it. 

Having to admit to yourself and to someone else that you have done something wrong is so hard.  It has a way of putting us in our place like few other things in this life can.  Apologizing is so humbling.

It is hard to admit we have done something wrong.  It is hard to admit we have made a mess of things – yet again . . .   It is hard to stop justifying our actions, and making excuses for our sins.

Apologizing is so much harder than figuring out yet another way of justifying our bad behavior to ourselves and others.

And we Christians know no matter how hard apologizing is – it is good for us.  ALL of us need to apologize.  So – every week when we gather together for worship – we confess our sins.  We repent just like our Gospel reading calls us to do.

We tell God about what we have done wrong and we tell God we are sorry.  Sorry we have hurt others.  Sorry we have broken His commandments.  Sorry we have fallen short of God’s hopes and expectations of us.

And we ask God to forgive us all of our shortcomings – our mistakes – our sins and our missteps.  For the ways we mess up each and every day of our lives.

Confession is an essential part of our worship each week.  But during Lent – we spend extra time confessing our sins and apologizing and humbly asking for God’s forgiveness. 

We do this because Lent is a time when we focus on getting right with our heavenly Father.  We focus on our need to repent.

Repentance is about being honest with ourselves and with God. 

When we repent we are facing up to the truth – that we are all messed up sinners who fall short of the glory of God.  We fail to obey God. 

When we repent – we admit that we have sinned and made a mess of things. 

Repentance also means acknowledging that we clutter our lives with all sorts of obstacles that keep God from being the center of our lives.  We let work or school or sports or money or our hobbies come between us and God.

Repentance means taking an honest look at your life and admitting that you need God’s help – that you need God’s grace and mercy.

Repentance is also about feeling really and truly sorry for your sins. 

Repentance is good for us.  It helps us see the error of our ways and hopefully to choose new directions for our lives in the future.  Repentance helps us focus our lives on God and on what God wants for our lives.  And the best news of all is that when we confess.  When we repent and when we ask for forgiveness – God forgives us.  God promises us that he will always forgive us because he loves us.  And truly that is very good news indeed.  Amen.

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