Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Second Sunday in Lent, Year B
February 28, 2021
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Once again we take up the theme of covenant in our Hebrew Scripture reading. Here God enters directly into a covenant with Abram and another indirectly with Abram’s wife, Sarai. God’s part of this covenant includes a promise that Abram will become exceedingly numerous and an ancestor to a multitude of nations. Abram’s name will be changed to Abraham. Kings and nations will come to Abraham and this covenant will be everlasting. Abraham’s part of the covenant, as directed by God, will be to recognize God as the Almighty, to walk before God and to be blameless. The covenant with Abraham’s wife, made indirectly through Abraham, will be for Sarai to become Sarah, to become the mother of a son (even though she is past child-bearing age), to be blessed and to give rise to nations and kings.
Have you ever given thought to the idea that God desires to be in covenant with you? He stands ready to promise you Salvation, grace, the presence of Himself in relationship with you, a relationship with his Son Jesus and the promise of the Holy Spirit. What He asks in return is that you walk before Him, recognize Him as the Almighty and seek to be blameless. Perhaps a Lenten discipline would be to keep this Covenant daily before our awareness.
These verses from Psalm 22 are a strong reminder of our irrevocable connection to God. The Psalm also reminds us of what has been called “God’s preferential option for the poor.” The poor, and those on the outside, are always in God’s vision and He always hears and listens to their cries for help. In these verses, the Psalmist recognizes his connection to God and the fact that his ancestors after him will be connected to God: “My soul shall love him – we will be known as the Lord’s forever (“we” meaning the Psalmist and his descendants). There is no time when this connection will not exist. Even those who die and return to the dust, bow down before the Lord and are in His sight.
During times of loneliness and isolation, this Psalm can remind us of our constant connection to our Creator. These verses would be good to copy and keep nearby as a reminder that we are never alone. Perhaps during Lent, you could meditate on these words on a daily basis while you have your morning coffee or tea.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul speaks of the “righteousness of faith” and essentially equates it with grace. Abraham believes in God and it is reckoned to him as righteousness. His belief is enabled through grace that God pours upon him. This is the God who gives life to the dead and “calls into existence the things that do not exist.” When we are tempted to question God, it is good to be reminded that the God we are questioning has the power to make something out of nothing! Do we have that kind of power? Just as Abraham was reckoned as righteous and faithful, so can we also be reckoned! Jesus was handed over to death for our sins. He was also raised for our justification.
Accepting that we are in relationship with God through faith, and not through any efforts of our own, is difficult work. Abraham had only to walk before God and be blameless in order to receive the gift of this relationship. So it is with us. What efforts can we make today to ensure that we walk before God? How easy is it for us to remember that we are ever walking in His sight?
At first glance, this is not a happy reading. Jesus is talking about suffering, and the disciples do not want to hear anything about it. We can understand that. The loneliness and isolation that Jesus predicts will be thrust upon Him by the actions of the religious establishment do not appeal to us either. So we understand when Peter tries to redirect Him, and we flinch when He rebukes Peter. It is as if He is also rebuking us, or at least our thoughts. Jesus looks at his disciples while rebuking Peter. He wants to make sure they get the point. And the point is that if one wants to follow Jesus, one must 1) deny one’s self, 2) take up one’s cross and 3) really follow Him. In following Jesus, we notice that Jesus does not walk toward saving His life but toward losing it for the sake of others. There is nothing that we could hope to gain through saving our life that is equal to what we gain by losing our life for the sake of others. Such sacrifice brings to us a sure and certain meeting of God along with His Holy Angels.
Does your choice to be a Christian sometimes lead you to be rejected, to be lonely and to be isolated? Even as you make the decision to follow Christ, how do you deny yourself and take up your cross? Sometimes denying yourself, taking up the cross and following Jesus can be as simple as choosing to help someone that no one else will help, or choosing not to laugh at an offensive joke at someone else’s expense. What does it take for you to lose yourself for the sake of others? In so doing, how do you encounter God and His Holy Angels?
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.