2nd Sunday in Lent  

February 28, 2021


Don’t look at me! I’d like you to meet Jesus! 

I will tell of your name to my brothers; 

 in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:  You who fear the Lord, praise him! 

All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, 

 and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of   Israel! 

For he has not despised or abhorred 

 the affliction of the afflicted, 

 and he has not hidden his face from him,  but has heard, when he cried to him. 

From you comes my praise in the great  congregation; 

 my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; 

 those who seek him shall praise the Lord!  May your hearts live forever! 

All the ends of the earth shall remember  and turn to the Lord, 

 and all the families of the nations 

 shall worship before you. 

For kingship belongs to the Lord, 

 and he rules over the nations. 

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;  before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,  even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; 

 it shall be told of the Lord to the coming   generation; 

 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness   to a people yet unborn, 

 that he has done it. (Psalm 22:22-31 ESV) 

If God last walked on Earth as Jesus, why has he  left it so long to make another appearance? Some  people think that’s simply too long without turning  up – even if only a little bit – do a few miracles – get the crowd cheering again, that sort of thing. As  you might imagine, I’m not a fan of that thought – largely because I don’t regard God as absent, while  I grant you that I don’t see him. 

I listen to numerous podcasts on my travels – numerous ones on religion – and there does seem  to be a moving away from ‘certainty’ to the  journey – the destination is less important than the  search for meaning sort of thing. The idea of  revelation is lessened as we search for  

understanding and apparently religious truth and  faith is what we finally say it is – we’re not to be  told what to believe but we discover it. Now  religious thought has boundaries – and can be very  prescriptive about thought, word, and deed – but  this search for meaning through discussion where  

the Bible is regarded as just an aid not even a guide  and certainly not the source and norm for all  spiritual truth, just leaves us, in my view, with  conjecture and theory – the outline of God but no  substance. Faith these days, it seems to me, is more  doubt than anything else because apparently ‘you  can’t know for sure’!  

Forgive me this tiny rant but I can’t know for sure  what will happen tomorrow! I can’t know for sure  that the 106th car I pass on my way to Coventry  won’t serve into me. I can’t know for sure that  Charlotte will come home. I can’t know for sure so  much of life but I get on with living and knowing  and doing because I put trust in all sorts of things – the sun rising tomorrow, the driver of the other car  wanting to stay alive too, and Charlotte not doing a  runner because she loves me. I live by faith in so  much of my life day to day and I haven’t even  started talking about God! So I don’t see why the  religious have to pussyfoot around living and life  choices, around sin, and around God. State your  belief, know why you believe – yes, that’s very  important!, and then live. What the other person  does is up to him or her but at least he or she  knows where you stand! 

Between our first and second reading today in Lent  we hear part of a psalm – and the psalmist knew  where he stood – in the midst of the congregation – and he had something to say – I want to praise the  Lord. Praise is specifically when we tell others  about God and how and why we think he is good  or wonderful or loving. Sure this is faith – it is the  psalmist’s faith – I am thankful to God because he  has not hidden his face from me, he has heard my  affliction, he heard my cries – and the implication  is that this not the first time I cried out – my  ongoing cries – and now I’m telling you [the  congregation] he has helped me. 

Most of you know that I’m not a great fan of  personal testimonies – the ones that seem to almost  have a formula – I was a sinner [give lots of details  – why do they always seem to be drugs and bad  lifestyle?] – then God entered my life [something  spectacular happens] and look at me now – and  now you too can know that God is real [because of  my experience]. Unless, I’m convinced that my  personal experiences of faith, of struggle, of  answered prayer, the things I regard as miracles  could really help you, I’m going to be pretty  circumspect because when you’re struggling with  faith or spiritual issues, you want to be pointed in  the right direction – and human beings (Christian  or not) have an incredible knack of pointing at 

themselves – look at me! – when they should be  pointing at God. 

The psalmist doesn’t give us the details that  changed his lament into thanksgiving. He just  continues to praise God and to point out to the  assembled congregation that God is indeed real as  evidenced by the fact that he fulfils the vow he said  he would if God helped him. And I wonder how  many prayers have been said whereby people have  made a bargain with God, made a vow – it was  their choice to do so, God doesn’t command them  first that they have to do something for him first – but then having made a vow or promise gone and  ignored it after God has indeed acted and the person is no longer complaining? In this case the  psalmist is fulfilling his vow – and then telling  people not so much the details of why but simply  that God is worthy of praise to the ends of the  earth, that he should be worshiped, that we can’t  stop death from king to beggar – no one can keep  themselves alive – yet God has acted righteously – that’s what we know – we haven’t deserved it – and this message needs to be told to the next  generation – … it shall be told of the Lord to the  coming generation; they shall come and proclaim  his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it. 

If this message would be said and heard as often as  God has acted then the idea that God needs to  show up and make an appearance because he has  been absent the past 2,000 years wouldn’t arise. However perhaps there has been too much God  talk which really points the finger at people – look  at me – and like people crowding around a TV  news reporter – in front or behind – wanting to be  the centre of attention – so perhaps God has been  pushed to the background in a lot of God-talk.  When we subtly talk about ourselves, when we are  humble or successful for Jesus but really want to  be noticed, then when we sin, when we’re accused  of hypocrisy, God is further pushed out of sight as  people concentrate and rage against religion or  religious people and get another excuse to keep  God far away. 

However if we own up to our situation – but still  not with a look-at-me-then-and-now attitude – we  will show people two essential truths – two things  that don’t change within the Christian religion – two things that will help the onlooker cope with  hypocrisy – and that is, ‘I’m a sinner’ no ifs ands  or buts, no excuses, I sin and struggle with it – and  ‘God is gracious and loving’ even when I’m going  through my cry for help, my complaint, my shame  – God is still good and he is always helping, even  

when I feel he isn’t, when I feel that he’s  abandoned me. I know this message isn’t easy – just as it is hard to point God out accurately when  talking about ourselves – I am a sinner and God  acts righteously towards me even though I don’t  deserve it. Yet it is in the act of praise and  thanksgiving that gets the world to take a second  look – why is this person who used to complain,  who was a pain to be around, who was ashamed of  his behaviour – now praising and thanking God? 

The Christian has faith in God. Not just any God.  Not a god of our own creation or imaginations. Not  a god made in our image. No – in the one who  began this psalm – Psalm 22 of which we’ve only  heard the last part – the thanksgiving part – but it  begins, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken  me?!’

Only as we follow the man who said those words  on the cross can we know God – and have  someone to complain to – yes, life can be tough  and horrible whether we do it to ourselves or  others make it that way for us – and have someone  we can thank. Sin and misery and death don’t have  the last word after all. There’s an empty grave to  testify to that – as well as millions of disciples who  say, ‘Don’t look at me! I’d like you to meet Jesus. I know for sure you need to meet him and he loves  you!’

Bible References

  • Psalm 22:22 - 31