February – Moving through Lent
Transfiguration, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Here’s a conversation starter for your Congregation, or at Sunday lunch: What is of first importance? Is it Jesus’ death for our sins and resurrection, as Paul says here? Or loving God, self and neighbour (enemy), which means doing for others as we would have them do for us?
Peter and the others had just had their Best. Day. Ever! More fish than they had ever seen in a catch. Yet they do an Isaiah, and leave it all behind to follow Jesus. Crazy kids! Have you ever done anything this crazy in response to a divine call? Are your kids or grandkids being equally irresponsible with their lives? If not, maybe give them a push. The Jesus movement wasn’t started by hard-working students and responsible employees, but by unreliable semi-literates with no commitment to their work or families. Don’t tell my kids I said that, though!
Lent 1, Romans 10:8b-13
The point of Paul’s argument is that you don’t have to follow works of the Law to be saved, nor do you have to be Jewish. It is an offer for everyone, for Christ is the end of the Law (v. 4). So let us not turn it into a claim that an intellectual belief in the resurrection is required for salvation. If that were true, babies, toddlers, people with Alzheimer’s and some of the mentally disabled, are doomed.
Our beliefs can’t become the work that saves us, relying as they do on our age, mental state and the like. And even if we believe, that wouldn’t be enough. James is an antidote to such overconfidence.
Having just heard directly from none other than God, and hearing something pretty awesome (“You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased”), Jesus is driven into the outback to work out what that means. He’s the Son of God. What now? How to get people to believe and follow? Will he bribe people to join him with the promise of bread, or astonish the crowds with feats of invulnerability, or simply compel obedience?
As we know, he rejected all of those temptations. What of those of us who are leaders now? Are we out there trying to bribe, dazzle, or compel? What of those of us who follow? To what extent are we following someone simply because they are giving us what we want, or dazzling us, or even compelling us?
PS: I reckon it’s worth reading ahead to verse 19, where Jesus declares what he is going to do.
Lent 2, Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
The lectionary reading ends with the heart-warming verse where God promises a vast tract of land to the childless Abraham, and wisely omits the lists of Aboriginal tribes who will have to be murdered or enslaved to make that possible. How do we read these promises post-Terra nullius? The “Old Covenant” clearly delivers salvation at the expense of others. Does the “New Covenant” do the same, or is it different in its nature?
Now that the Uniting Church acknowledges in its preamble that God was here with the first Australians, and that they have unique insights into God’s ways, what do we make of readings which make Aboriginals in other parts of the world expendable pagans?
We recapitulate the baptism, but this time God addresses the disciples, not just Jesus. “This is my Son, my chosen one, listen to him.” Interesting that word, “chosen”. It’s also used of Jesus choosing his disciples, and smacks of adoptionism. Matthew and Mark avoid it. As we enter Easter, let’s listen to Jesus, not just to other people’s reflections about him.
This passage starts with Jesus dismissing the theology that bad things happen to bad people, while reminding his audience that we all need to repent. Unfortunately, the lectionary then stops before we get the example of what Jesus is talking about: Have we ever got upset because something ungodly seemed to be rocking the boat, only to discover later that it was actually God at work?
Are we sure we know what we’re doing when we ask God to be present at our worship?
These reflections were prepared by Rev Jason John