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Lent I

+ Let us pray…
O GOD, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Good morning!

When you were a kid, did you ever have something you felt pushed to tell others?

Did you feel that need to blurt this out, so as to be the center of attention, to be the one that, even for a moment, had the advantage, had the spotlight?

At some point, I think we've ALL been there. It can be fun to have that kind of situation when you're young.

Now, consider if you had some information to reveal, and it was vital, but you didn't want to be the one that was the center of attention. And, the compulsion to tell others came from God Himself.

This is the reality that the prophets lived with.

What is a prophet? We read about them in the bible, but what and who were they?

The term prophet comes from the Greek word prophḗtēs, (equivalent to pro- pro-2 + -phētēs speaker) and in the case of the biblical prophets, they were chosen by God to speak to the people of Israel.

The prophets of the bible are considered 'major' and 'minor' –

Major –> The term "major" refers to their length, not their importance.

Isaiah

Jeremiah

Lamentations

 

Ezekiel

Daniel

Minor –> The term "minor" refers to the books' lengths, not their importance.

Hosea

Joel

Amos

Obadiah

Jonah

Micah

 

Nahum

Habakkuk

Zephaniah

Haggai

Zechariah

Malachi

We also have other prophets, such as Elisha and Elijah and Nathan, who did not have any writings of their own – they weren't called to do that. Finally, the ultimate prophet appeared at the start of the New Testament - John the Baptist. He announced the Person and Intent of the Lord Jesus himself, but never wrote anything down.

The prophets came from many walks of life – "Amos was a shepherd, Isaiah was a palace advisor and foreign secretary…Ezekiel, a priest" Jeremiah, sometimes known as the 'weeping prophet' was a rather young man, who argued that he was too young for people to listen to him.

And that was the issue, really. The prophets were called by God, and when they walked out and performed their ministry, they needed to be heard.

They were sometimes street preachers, calling out the warnings to the people as they passed. Others were advisors to kings. The venues were not always that hospitable – an example is Jeremiah's time in the stocks for the warnings he proclaimed in the Temple.

And what were they warning about? Their primary subject was the Babylonian exile, what had caused it, and how to take the lesson of it. There were three phases scholars divide the prophets into – pre exile prophets, those that spoke out during the exile, and post exile prophets.

They were sent to explain the reasons for the exile, and the hard times that would come as part of that. They were also sent to offer hope, to show the people that, although the wrong way had been taken, God was ready to take them back.

In the first reading, we read the entire 58th chapter of the book of Isaiah. In this chapter, Isaiah tells the people of Zion about their sins against God, although they appeared to be doing well. He warns the hypocrites, those that tried to hide behind their actions, that God sees them as they are. He then instructs them in the correct way.

Again, as with many passages of scripture, we find a description of people and their ways that you could see today. This is how God uses the canon of the Bible to teach us even still.

This was the way of the prophets – they were to teach. They were also meant to call the people back from their sin and back to God.

If we consider the actions of God in the Old Testament as a whole, that is what He sought to do with all of His actions, both in of himself and by the actions of His prophets.

I've mentioned in earlier sermons that the entirety of the Bible is God's love letter to man – In all He tried to do, and in sending Jesus to settle our debt of sin, He reaches down to save us from ourselves. All because HE, the Creator of the Universe, cares for you, for me, all of us.

If you consider this, and the actions of the prophets, why wouldn't anyone listen? I mean, the words they used were sometimes challenging, but that was to get the common man's attention. And, again, we find their words challenge us across the centuries and educate us still.

The root of the message never changed – I am here, turn from your sin and come to Me.

That message hasn't changed. God calls us to examine ourselves and turn to Him. This last Wednesday, we started the season of Lent with the imposition of ashes. The ashes are used in two ways – they represent our humanity, but they also "symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts."

Let us take this Lenten season to celebrate the gifts that God gives us by the minute. Let us also turn to Him, admit that we have fallen short, and for His forgiveness, which is freely offered, by the way.

Another idea – is to start reading the daily lessons as instructed in the Book of Common Prayer during Lent – they can give us some insight into what His heart is. Oh, and one more thing – this will not be easy – the world will work to distract and derail you – know you are not alone, and just start over if you miss a reading. Then, we can come to Easter having emerged from our own tomb of sin, refreshed and renewed.

Let us pray,

O GOD, who declarest thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen .

Charlie Niemi

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