Carstairs-Bancroft United Church
October 2, 2020
DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
By Rev. Maria Szabo Berces
Beloved Carstairs Bancroft United Church Members,
Allow me to be a ‘spoiler’ regarding the upcoming Sunday’s worship service in this daily encouragement: one of the Scripture readings will be from Exodus 20, in which the Israelites receive the Ten Commandment. At the same time, we will celebrate World Communion Sunday. With the invitation, I will ask those of you who attend the live ZOOM worship time to prepare the elements of Holy Communion in your homes, so that we can remember together of the unearned grace by which we became forgiven and beloved.
The Bible passage in the Our Daily Bread devotion below reflects on this mercy and love. How encouraging it is to hear: “You are a forgiving God . . . abounding in love.” (Nehemiah 9:17)!
The Israelites learned it in the hard way what it means to stray off from keeping the commandments they received through Moses, and worshipping other gods. They were clearly warned: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-18) The Babylonian exile showed them how bitterly true these warnings were.
Despite of this life experience, the other side of the Almighty’s promise was proved to be accurate as well: “… when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.” (Deuteronomy 30:2-3)
The words of Psalm 86 resound what you can also read in Deuteronomy 34:6 – “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)
It is a great comfort, especially as we experience our own mistakes and fallibility! At the same time, I admit that it is not easy to pass this good news onto others outside of our church building and the circle of those who consider themselves Christians, Jesus’ followers. May God’s Spirit strengthen all of us first to experience that the Lord’s “abounding love and faithfulness” is personally for us; and then being able to gently convey this message to those who need to hear it.
Grace and Peace to You All,
Never Too Sinful
You are a forgiving God . . . abounding in love.
“If I touched a Bible, it would catch fire in my hands,” said my community college English professor. My heart sank. The novel we’d been reading that morning referenced a Bible verse, and when I pulled out my Bible to look it up, she noticed and commented. My professor seemed to think she was too sinful to be forgiven. Yet I wasn’t bold enough to tell her about God’s love—and that the Bible tells us we can always seek God’s forgiveness.
There’s an example of repentance and forgiveness in Nehemiah. The Israelites had been exiled because of their sin, but now they were allowed to return to Jerusalem. When they’d “settled in,” Ezra the scribe read the law to them (Nehemiah 7:73-8:3). They confessed their sins, remembering that despite their sin God “did not desert” or “abandon them” (9:17, 19). He “heard them” when they cried out; and in compassion and mercy, He was patient with them (vv. 27-31).
In a similar way, God is patient with us. He won’t abandon us if we choose to confess our sin and turn to Him. I wish I could go back and tell my professor that, no matter her past, Jesus loves her and wants her to be part of His family. He feels the same way about you and me. We can approach Him seeking forgiveness—and He will give it! – By Julie Schwab
REFLECT & PRAY
Dear Father, thank You for forgiving my sins and for Your assurance that no one is too sinful to be forgiven. Amen.
Do you know someone who feels they’re too sinful for Jesus to forgive them? How does the truth that Jesus has come not for “the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17) speak to this way of thinking?
The book of Nehemiah tells the story of the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem. The Israelites had just returned to Judah after being held captive in Babylon to find that the city wall was destroyed, and they were defenseless against their enemies (1:1-4). In chapter 9, the wall had been rebuilt and the Israelites gathered and listened while their history was read. They admitted to God: “You have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly (v. 33). Despite their disobedience, God forgave them and established a new covenant with them (9:38-10:39). – By Julie Schwab
Used with permission