Home Altar: Week of March 20, 2022

Third Sunday in Lent

Three Little Words

Sunday, March 20
Psalm 102:11-12, 18-22

Put the news on, and it won’t be long until you are weighed down by current world events. When that burden is coupled with our own personal struggles, we may become overwhelmed and struggle to find the strength to carry on. Sometimes we lose hope. What this perfect storm brings to the front and center is the reality of our frailty and the temporal nature of our humanness. While that may cause despair, it also gives us an opportunity to look beyond ourselves. The psalmists describes his life like a passing shadow and withering grass but then shifts his focus to the contrast found in God. “But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations” (v. 12, NRSV). These gracious three words—but you, Lord—carry us from despair to a new-found hope. Our life’s weight, then, reminds us not only of our temporality and weakness, but also of God’s eternality and greatness. We should never minimize our present pain or circumstance, but like the psalmist during these moments, we can declare these three words: “But you, Lord.”

Eternal God, I am weak and my heart is heavy, but you, Lord, are the focus of my gaze, my hope. Amen.

Monday, March 21

Psalm 102:25-28

Creation to Covenant

I had the privilege of visiting my ancestral homeland of the Philippines for the third time a couple years back. Traveling through the countryside, you cannot help but notice her beauty. From the rolling hills and mountains covered in tropical forests to the beautiful coastal landscapes where blue waves meet white sand, God’s creativity is plain to see. I know, in a limited but real way, what God meant when he deemed his creation to be very good. This psalm reminds us, though, that all this creative work in the world will eventually perish. My beautiful ancestral home and all the lands the earth contains will one day cease to exist. But despite this future reality, the psalmist also speaks of what will remain: God and his covenant promise to his people. God and his love for us will never end, even when the universe does. Brother and sister, live in the confidence that you are loved by an eternal God, sustained by an eternal covenant.

O loving Creator, thank you for the privilege of seeing the beauty of your creative power and for sustaining me with your love and mercy. Amen.

Tuesday, March 22

Isaiah 55:1-5

Kumain Ka Na Ba?

“Kumain ka na ba?” As early as I could remember, I learned that this question is asked within the first few minutes of entering any Filipino home. Although the question literally translates to “Have you eaten yet?” it really serves as an abbreviation for, “Welcome. My home is your home. Relax and sit. And before we get into anything else, having your belly filled is my priority.” And regardless of whether or not you have eaten, the table will be set and a meal will be prepared for you. Even more, when it is time to depart, you will be given additional food to take home.

When the Jews were free to return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, God likened his covenant to food and wine that never runs out. The table he sets before us is filled with love and mercy that never end. This meal is eternal. Friends, the door is open and the Host is asking, “Kumain ka na ba?” Come on in and be filled.

Father God, I come to you hungry and thirsty, and you fill me up with eternal pardon and favor. Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, March 23

Isaiah 55:6-9

I Found You!

As a father of three young children, I have had no choice but to participate in hundreds of rounds of hide and seek. When you first play this game with your young ones, you make it obvious where you are hiding. Sometimes you leave a limb out in plain sight or even call out their name. In other words, parents make the game easy and not cumbersome.

Likewise, when God calls us to seek him, he makes it easy. God has already made his presence known—he is not far, nor hiding, but is near ready to receive us. The invitation to seek and find God is open to all. When we do find him, we realize it was God actually doing the seeking after all. What a blessed divine twist that is. As the hymn goes, “I was lost but now I’m found.”

Lord, I came seeking for you and to my surprise you were seeking for me; 
I am overwhelmed by your unconditional love and mercy. Amen.

Thursday, March 24

Luke 13:1-9

Death is Pending

It may seem misplaced to repent of our own sins when tragedy visits someone else. Why should I look inwardly when the tragedy occurred over there? This natural question presupposes a correct understanding of the correlation of sin and suffering—an understanding only God has. In Jesus’s day some assumed some sort of divine retribution was being exacted toward the victims of Pilate’s massacre and the Siloam tower collapse. Here Jesus addresses the crowd, not by answering the mystery of theodicy but by orienting them to remember that death can come unexpectedly. According to Jesus, the response to pending death is repentance.

The past few years have presented us with a few Pilate and Siloam moments, and we will never completely understand the reasons behind them. In these moments, though, we cling to Jesus even more. Each day we are given life presents us an opportunity to repent and trust in him.

Dear God, remind me that I repent, not in shame but as an opportunity to receive your merciful grace. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Friday, March 25

Psalm 63:1-8

All of Me

John Legend’s song “All of Me” is a love letter to his then-fiancée, describing how “much of him” she would be getting—all. In other words, his wife-to-be would not be competing with anyone or anything else for his love and affection; she gets all of it. I’m sure all of us who are married made similar commitments on our wedding day. Imagine if Legend’s song was entitled “Some of Me” or if our vows communicated just as much. It wouldn’t be love or commitment at all.

In this psalm, the psalmist brings before us a description of how our relationship with God ought to look. The entire being of the psalmist, not just some of him, is submitted to God. From his thoughts to his actions, the psalmist finds satisfaction in going all in with his heart, mind, and body. In a world that competes for our affections may we give our all to the One who freely gave us his all.

Loving God, I am humbled by your giving your all on the cross for me—give me the strength to give my all to you, O Lord. Amen.

Saturday, March 26

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

His Strength, Not Ours

As Christians, we feel good about ourselves when we get into a consistent spiritual rhythm—our prayer and devotional life is active and our commitment to church community is strong—and, yes, this is a cause for celebration! But regardless of these spiritual rhythms, we are still susceptible to succumbing to temptation and sin. As it turns out, we’re human after all.

Lest we believe like the Corinthians that we are above falling into sin, let us take in Paul’s reminder of Israel’s experience. Here’s a paraphrase: Israel was with God and saw his mighty work, was led by a strong leader called by God. Yet despite all that, they still fell into the sin. If they can fall, we can too. This is a humble reminder that no matter how strong or mature we think we are, we need to seek the face of God daily. His strength, not ours, will sustain us through temptation. Thank you, Lord.

Protector God, give me strength to endure temptation and hardship in this world and to depend on you everyday. Amen.

About the Author

  • EJ Ravago

    Waukegan, Illinois – I am the pastor of New Abbey Covenant Church, a five-year-old church plant in Waukegan, Illinois. God has blessed me with my beautiful wife of 11 years, Juliel. Together we have three beautiful children—Taylor, Natalie, and Camden. When I’m not daydreaming about one day living on a self-sufficient farm on a tropical island, you might find me reading theology books, enjoying conversation over drinks, fishing on a Lake Michigan pier, or on the mats doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’m just a regular guy who leads with humor and lightheartedness and enjoys walking alongside people as they journey with Jesus.

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