Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Isaiah 43:16-21
Psalm 126
Philippians 3:4-14
John 12:1-8
Today’s Reflection:
Every once in a while I discover something about a close friend or coworker that I never knew before. Out of the blue comes a hobby they had practiced for years or an illness from which they have recovered in the time that I knew them. I am suddenly forced to look at that person in a different light than I had before. While I considered them a close confidant, I did not know some prominent part of their life. If I were giving a sermon this week, I would title it, “The God We Thought We Knew.” The scriptures today deal with people coming to a new understanding about God as they learn new qualities of God they had not known before.

In Isaiah and Psalm 126 God’s power over man and nature is presented in the context of Israel’s history and the world’s future. Well known events of God’s intervention for his people are told and the Israelites count on that connection (protection) to continue, yet God’s plan is far larger than just the Israelites. Isaiah foretells a future when even the animals worship the Lord. Israel knew a very personal God who intervened on their behalf throughout history. In both passages the writer is confronted with a God with other plans: it will not just be the Jews worshipping God (Isaiah) and the relationship with God is so fractured that the Lord has removed his protection from them. The God they were so certain of was suddenly much bigger.

Paul shares some harsh revelations he was forced to accept when he realized who Jesus was. He went from being the perfect Jew to someone who had spent his life to that point on activities that were meaningless. Everything he had done so passionately he had done passionately wrong. He went from the righteousness of what he saw as a black-and-white law to a righteousness founded on faith that was an ongoing command. The righteousness through faith is a daily striving for a lifetime. We do not complete that journey until we come into our reward in Heaven.

Those closest to Jesus, his apostles, never accepted that he was a sacrificial messiah instead of a conquering ruler. The dinner leading into Christ’s final week demonstrated this as clearly as all the misguided questions and misunderstood teachings documented throughout the Gospels. Judas again serves as the scapegoat, but he represented the entire group who missed the message that the Messiah was a sacrificial savior. Whether they could not or would not see the purpose of the ministry while Christ remained alive does not matter at this point: the fact remains they did not understand who the man they had been following really was.

In this Lenten season as we refine our spiritual practice, the scriptures challenge us to consider the question: Is the God we serve the God we know or is God being revealed in a much bigger way? How we answer the question shapes the success of our spiritual journey.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org