Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
I tend to be somewhat skeptical and question circumstances. While I generally assume positive intent in the actions of others, I always want to know the other side of the story to get the clearest picture available. In the passages today, questionable conduct of one or more parties is called into question and the whole story helps us understand exactly what was going on.
Under the New Covenant we no longer present physical sacrifices on an altar so the concept of the physical gift of an animal carcass (or multiple carcasses) seems foreign and strange. Yet, the majority of the history of our faith (if we consider Judaism as the early history of Christianity), making such offerings constituted a foundation of the faith. Part of the covenant between Abram and God included a significant animal sacrifice which came at the conclusion to a back-and-forth dialogue between Abram and God in which Abram challenged the faithfulness of God and sought reassurance that God would truly uphold his promise. The preparation of the animals, with a space between the halves, gave space for the participants to walk between the piles of halves. By walking between the halves, the participants signaled their understanding that the same would happen to them if they did not uphold their portion of the agreement. In the darkness, the fire pot and torch was God walking between the parts confirming his faithfulness in the covenant.
In the early history of the church, many false teachers spread a misunderstood (or self-serving) message of faith. As a result, many who called themselves Christian did not truly follow Christ’s teachings. Paul referred to these people as “enemies of the Cross of Christ” in his address to the church in Philippi. He pled with them to follow Christ the same way he does. While not specifically giving examples of their practice, the implication in the passage is that those who follow false teaching focus on earthly, temporal, goals. Those who, like Paul, follow the cross theology, focus on Heavenly, eternal goals. Even though, in name, both groups claimed Christ, the actions revealed the true followers.
Jesus’s interaction with the Pharisees demands a complex interpretation. Seemingly the Pharisees approach Jesus with his safety and concern at heart, warning him that Herod wants him dead. Luke’s view of the religious leadership in the time calls one to question their true intent. While seemingly concerned about the well-being of Jesus, the message could have been an attempt to get him out of town, to silence his message in the big city and make things easier for Herod (and for them). We cannot now know what motive prompted their visit to Christ, we do know that such a warning meant nothing to him as heeding it would interrupt the mission of Christ. His response foretells his death and resurrection (third day). His lament over Jerusalem, while historically inaccurate (Jerusalem was not known for killing prophets), symbolized the rejection God’s people often had for the prophets who called them on behavior that did not farther God’s kingdom. His pending death would complete the ministry on earth. His burial and resurrection then makes him the one they would be forced to call “the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
During the Lenten season, as we give-up and take-up practices in faith, we too may be challenged on the action. We need to know the whole story and act accordingly. Why am I giving up? Why am I taking up? All of our actions should work to further God’s kingdom. During this time of Lent we need to be prepared to explain our purpose and know the whole story.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org