February 27, 2019
’Tis Mercy All, Immense and Free
February 27, 2019
I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
Many have become my enemies without cause; . . .
though I seek only to do what is good.
Lord, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior. (Ps 38:18-22)
A week from today is Ash Wednesday, and today’s readings prepare us by asking us to think about sin and forgiveness. Our own sin troubles us. Even when we seek “only to do what is good,” we too often stumble. Moreover, the sins of others cause us pain. From sin, enemies spring up. Sin distances us from others and from God. But the good news of the Scriptures is that, though forgiveness may seem unthinkable to us, with God, all things are possible. God comes when we call, and God’s salvation is the balm “to make the wounded whole, to cure the sin-sick soul.” Even in the legalistic language of Leviticus, there is a path to forgiveness: an offering suited to the sinner’s financial ability. We no longer follow Leviticus’s exacting terms; we have been freed from making “sin offerings” by Jesus’ once-and-for-all offering of himself. Jesus’ forgiveness is full and free, and in response, we repent, that is, we turn around and walk toward God. The Bible teaches about corporate sin as well as individual sin: Are we a church divided? Through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, can we live as one, as God calls us to do?
The acceptance of God’s forgiveness involves others, both in our responsibility not to cause anyone else to stumble and in our need to learn to forgive as God forgives us (Lk 17:1-4). “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” How many times must we forgive? How many times does God forgive us?
He left His Father’s throne above—
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. (Charles Wesley, 1738)
QUESTIONS FROM THE FIELD
- The Wesleys saw sin as a prison from which we need
release. They were familiar with prison from their father’s experience (debtors’ prison) and from their own prison ministry. Look at the verses above from the hymn “And Can It Be?” What do they suggest about God’s forgiveness?
- During Lent, we are asked to repent from sin and remember God’s grace to us. What does a time of repentance mean to you as an individual and to the community, the church?
FAMILY FIELD TALK
- Think about words that describe unacceptable behavior and thoughts, words such as “inappropriate,” “hurtful,” “disrespectful,” “harmful.” Why do these behaviors make us feel separated from God?
- Talk about baptism and God’s forgiveness.
- What do you do when someone asks you to forgive them?
Loving God, we come with joy, for we are your children, forgiven, loved, and free. Give us