STRONGER THAN OUR SIN – Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B

March 10, 2024

Revised Common Lectionary
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Psalm 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6 (6ab)
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

We all mess up. We say or do hurtful things, make bad decisions, neglect important matters, and sometimes selfishly hoard our time or resources. In our human frailty, we stumble and fall, causing pain to ourselves and others. When we become aware of our shortcomings, our failings, our sins, we often feel guilt and shame. Sometimes, others are quick to judge and criticize, adding to our burden of remorse and self-condemnation.

Today’s Scripture readings offer a profound message of hope and redemption in our brokenness. We hear the good news that God, who is fully aware of our sin, chooses to remain faithful even when we are unfaithful. The covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Moses serve as reminders of God’s unwavering fidelity despite our repeated failures and disobedience.

The history of the Israelite nation paints a stark picture of human frailty. Even though God had led the Hebrews from slavery to freedom, God’s chosen people were consumed by grumbling and discontent. Later generations would forsake the covenant, turning to idolatry and suffering tragic consequences, including exile, destruction, and despair. The stories of Israel’s infidelity resonate with our own experience of hurting and being hurt, of relationships broken and hopes shattered. The scars we carry are testaments to the messiness of human existence.

Yet, the scriptures don’t stop at highlighting our failings. The biblical narrative also points to the remarkable truth that God’s faithfulness endures even when ours does not. God acts to restore and renew—bringing healing to those who have been afflicted and returning exiles to their homes.

God’s faithfulness is expressed most clearly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Today’s reading from Ephesians reminds us that once “we were dead through our trespasses” (Eph 2:5), separated from God by sin. Yet God, “who is rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), has raised us to new life in Christ not because of our merit, but because of the Holy One’s own boundless love.

In his death on the cross, Jesus, the sinless one, becomes the embodiment of forgiveness, offering himself as a bridge between humanity and God. “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17). By joining ourselves to his dying and rising through baptism, we receive the forgiveness of our sins. Even when we fail to live up to the gift of life that we have received, God’s forgiveness and restoration are always within reach. In his death, Jesus reveals divine love and faithfulness that never end.

Today’s scripture readings invite us to acknowledge our shortcomings without drowning in self-condemnation. The love and faithfulness of God are stronger than our sin. The journey of faith is not about perfection, but about transformation. It’s about acknowledging our messiness while embracing the grace that makes us whole. We can shed the burden of guilt and shame, knowing that God’s love embraces us, not in spite of our sins and failings, but because of them. As we live into the grace that God has showered on us, we can work to build a world where forgiveness and hope bloom even amid the scars of our past.

A Hymn for Today: “Give thanks to God who hears our cries”

The Revised Common Lectionary appoints Psalm 107 for this Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B). Theologian, teacher, author, and hymnwriter Ruth Duck, FHS, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, has created a paraphrase of that psalm, which expresses praise to the God who out of generous love responds with compassion and mercy to human beings in their need and distress.

Give thanks to God who hear our cries
and saves in troubled days
with wondrous works to humankind
that call for highest praise.
Let all who know God’s saving love
sing grateful songs always.

If you have ever wandered where
no human help was near,
and in your trouble cried to God,
who rescued you from fear,
then thank the God of steadfast love
who dries your every tear.

If you have ever lived inside
the prison of your gloom
and cried to God, who broke your bonds
and raise you from the tomb,
then praise the One who sets you free,
who makes dry places bloom.

If you draw near the gates of death,
too sick to eat or dress,
and cried to God, who heard your voice
and healed all your distress,
the sing with sounds of holy joy;
God’s wondrous works profess.

If you have felt your courage fail
before a violent sea
and cried to God, who stilled the storm,
and made the wild wind flee,
then in the congregation praise
the One who heard your plea.

So praise the One whose love is great,
whose kindness is well-known.
Consider well the healing hand
and help you have been shown,
and tell the world what God has done.
Praise God and God alone!

Text: Psalm 107; Ruth Duck, b. 1947. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.

Image Credit: Because of Your Love I Am Free!, drawing, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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