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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, March 5, 2020  

Today’s Hymn

All things you send are full of grace;
you crown our lives with favor.
All our good works are done in vain
without our Lord and Savior.
We praise you for the gift of faith;
you save us from the grip of death;
our lives are in your keeping.

“Out of the Depths” (v. 2) by Martin Luther
Hymn 424, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

Some days following Jesus can feel like eating bittersweet fruit (the confusingly named “Red Delicious” apples come to mind). We can experience multiple sensations at the same time, with parallel truths intersecting and overlapping. We may know joy and suffering in tandem and be asked to uphold a spectrum of emotions all at once. We were created with capability for good and evil, for selflessness and selfishness, and might feel ongoing tension between those capabilities. The mystery of Jesus’ grace is that our God welcomes and loves us just as we are, with all our shortcomings, and yet we are also called to live according to high standards of love and care for others. Frankly, it’s a complex way of living.

Martin Luther’s primary inspiration for the hymn above came from Psalm 130, but I’m also reminded of Paul’s thoughts in 1 Corinthians 13:1–3—that no amount of good deeds matter if devoid of love (and if God is love, then good deeds should not be separated from our good God). This is where the paradox of a grace-fueled faith comes in. We recognize death looming and accept God’s loving favor and blessings regardless. Luther’s lyrics embrace complexity and savor the bittersweet fruit of balancing sin and sainthood.

I’d argue that the season of Lent is the most complex and bittersweet of the entire church calendar. It blends lament and longing, harrowing and hope, agony and anticipation simultaneously. But Jesus is present in all of it. The duality of his divinity and humanity means he knows what all the ups and downs feel like, and he will meet us in every stage to remind us we are not alone. It’s OK to feel conflicting emotions. It’s OK to be human. There is grace enough for it all. 

Gracious God, thank you for putting on skin and walking our world to meet our human experience. Remind us that we are never alone and that your love is greater than all our shortcomings. Amen.

Written by Michael Mirza, Director of Worship

Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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