March 1 – 2nd Sunday of Lent – Ch. 28 – Matthew 5:17-48 // Genesis 4:2b-8; Psalm 103:1-14; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Matthew 5:17-26, 38-48.
What would the world be like if we really believed in – and lived according to – a new creation flowing entirely from mercy, forgiveness and preemptive reconciliation? Isn’t this one of the Lenten challenges before us – to get ready for just this sort of Eastering?
On Sunday we began our Lenten journey with Brian McLaren through the Sermon on the Mount with a look at the beatitudes, or blessings, Jesus outlined for his disciples. The blessings are not a real surprise – comfort, peace, justice, mercy, knowing God. It’s the circumstances Jesus says we’re likely to be the most receptive to these blessings that are a bit of a shocker – in mourning, when we face injustice, are in conflict, when needing to extend mercy, are poor in spirit. This means being willing, like Jesus, to turn toward the suffering life brings our way rather than trying to avoid it. Still, our Lenten journey is really about preparing ourselves to fully realize the new identity we’re given in Christ — beloved child of God. So whatever we give up for Lent or add on in terms of spiritual practices, let us do that in a relaxed way, allowing ourselves to be loved into new life in our Eastering.
Feb. 22 – 1st Sunday of Lent – Ch. 27 – Matthew 5:1-16 // Deuteronomy 30:11-16a; Psalm 25:1-10; Ephesians 1:3-9; Matthew 5:1-16
During Lent we are called to repent, to turn around our thinking and our habits of life as we prepare to receive, once again, a new life and identity in Christ at Easter. How are you called to make your faith more real and immediate this Lent?
Jesus took his disciples on a 25 mile trek to the Roman stronghold of Caesarea Philippi to ask them who they and others thought he was. What if Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the messiah and son of the living God was as much a political statement as it was a theological one? Peter’s response is a direct challenge to the power and authority of Roman emperors who called themselves sons of gods. Of course a week later at the transfiguration, God makes it clear that Jesus will not be a warrior king like his ancestor David. When the disciples have the mountain-top vision of Jesus with Moses and Elijah and then hear God’s voice say, “This is my beloved son….listen to him,” they’re challenged yet again to let go of their cultural belief that God works through violence. Both Moses and Elijah committed mass killings in God’s name and were relieved of their power and authority because of it. Are we willing to bear with Jesus his non-violent power and authority in the face of the world’s violence, come what may?
Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 37:1-11; Isaiah 53:1-12; Matthew 16:13-17:9
On Sunday we’ll hear Jesus ask who the disciples think he is and then at the transfiguration we’ll hear God suggest what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God (as Peter had replied). Isn’t a primary difference between Moses and Elijah on one hand, and Jesus on the other, that both the earlier prophets killed in God’s name? How committed are we to imitating Christ by nonviolently bearing the crosses of the world rather than achieving even good ends by any means?
On Sunday we looked in on poor Jonah, completely undone by God’s decision to grant mercy to the people of Nineveh. Aren’t we all a lot like Jonah in playing God and believing the idols we create in our image will honor our judgments about who’s heaven-worthy or hell bound! We also heard Jesus tell the parable about where the rich man and poor Lazarus end up after death. It’s true this provocative story warns us that wealth is a deadly trap when it’s not shared, but we need to be wary of the temptation to think Jesus is saying folks are just damning the wrong people to hell. If we read the parable in the context of Jesus’ life and death, it becomes very clear the god in charge here is not the Abba God Jesus knows at all. The danger we face isn’t what the one true God of mercy and forgiveness might do to us in the end but what we do to one another and to ourselves in the meantime as we play God. Jesus came to free us from that hell here and in the hereafter if we’ll only believe God’s forgiveness is unconditional and live accordingly. Shall we?
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