Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Today’s Reflection:
“We’ve always done it that way,” grates on my last nerve when I hear it come from someone resisting a change I am trying to make. Of course, when someone else is trying to make a change, I am just as likely to respond with, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Change, especially a change of mind can be difficult. The passages for today focus on the change of heart and change of mind necessary to come into the right relationship with God. It is broke and we need to fix it.

In Joshua we find the Israelites celebrating Passover in the promised land after forty years of wandering in the desert. They were able to provide all the ingredients for the meal from the crops in the land and with that provision, the manna from God ceased. The relationship shifted from provider/sustainer and dependents back to God and followers – the relationship we continue to seek today.

The remaining passages all consider the idea of repentance and forgiveness. The psalmist rejoices in the relief of confession. After experiencing the weight of his transgressions, speaking of them to God removed that burden from him and he was able to resume worship again. While our guilt encourages us to hide our shortcomings, the relief of confessing the flaws takes away that guilt. Confession frees the heart to do its natural work: love.

In the 2 Corinthians passage we again see a change of heart and the way it impacts the individuals’ worldview. The believer no longer focuses on things with humanistic perspective but with the perspective of Christ through the Holy Spirit. The writer talks of everything old being made new and it is when views shift to an eternal lens rather than the temporal lens of our physical beings and the limited time we have with earthly life. While the key idea is that change in perspective, the passage states and reinforces that the change comes about because of the way our relationship with God works through Christ.  The idea of reconciliation, when looking at the primary dictionary definition of the word definitely gives one pause when considering it in a faithful way. The primary definition is to make someone accept something they do not want. Christ did not come to force anyone into belief. He simply did not operate in that way. Looking deeper into the origins of the word and the remaining definition, give us the meaning we see in this passage. The remaining definitions include, “win over to friendliness,” “to compose or settle (as in a disagreement),” and “to bring into agreement or harmony; to make compatible or consistent.” Christ’s ministry and our ministry through him does just that – it brings people into agreement or harmony and compatibility with God from the point of being separated from the Lord. When we are in agreement with God, then everything does change. Our bodies may remain in the same physical form, but the way we see everything is different.

Finally in Luke we read the often cited tale of the prodigal son. The story has been probed for years by likely every theologian to scan the book of Luke. The story has many layers of relationships and there are as many interpretations of who the players represent in the tale. One line in the entire story stands out: “But when he came to himself….” That moment was the moment of repentance, the moment of confession of his shortcomings (sins). In that moment everything changed. All that came before set it up. All that comes after makes us feel warm and fuzzy. He realized his failure before God, confessed, and changed his life.

The Jews experienced the same sensation when they came into the promised land and had their own food. The psalmist felt it when he confessed his sin. The writer of 2 Corinthians knew the feeling upon accepting Christ. We too can know that relief when we reconcile ourselves to God. This Lenten season as we experience our sacrifice and practice new spiritual habits we may feel like we are carrying the slop for the hogs, but as it brings us to the moment that brings us right with God, those buckets may instead become pots of gold: everything has become new!
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts.