Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lenten Reflection 1

ROMANS 4:13-25 & MARK 8:31-38

Christians who look to qualify the flood by saying it might have been a flooding of the Mediterranean Sea, rather than the whole world always fascinate me. The same with those people who look to the story of Jonah and want to be sure we understand that it’s an allegorical parable and that there is no fish that can swallow a person. And, again the same with the people who continuously look for explanations for how Jesus and Peter were able to walk on water. Mysteriously frozen lake? Ice floes? Particularly thick algae cover?

The Bible is full of things that we take on faith and it seems sometimes we need to find a way to explain some of the miracles because otherwise our minds might explode. Yet two of the greatest miracles of the Bible are presented in the readings for this week and in general we take them on faith.

We usually accept that Abraham and Sarah had a child together when they were well past the age at which people normally conceive. Though they both did laugh at God’s promise, (Paul cleans that up a little), they did believe God’s promise. And we know that they did because they acted on that promise and conceived Isaac. At their age, it would have been easy to throw in the towel, but God promised and they upheld their end of that covenant, meaning they continued to complete the actions that would allow that promise to be fulfilled through them. That faith, their belief, is reckoned to them as righteousness. It’s not their actions that do this, but their faith, their belief in God’s promise that is counted as righteousness. That faith, that gift from God, enabled them to do the work of participating in the will of God done on earth. And we believe in that story.

Similarly, we believe in the death of Jesus the Christ and in his resurrection. Peter cannot bear the idea ahead of time that the Messiah might die, but then the idea of resurrection is just crazy talk. But Jesus says, this is how it will be and everyone who genuinely wants to follow me will be on this same path with me. And we believe, or in at least in being here we’re saying we try, in Jesus, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

These are things that defy our reason more than a flood or a big fish. That people nearly a century old would conceive and bear a child. That a man, a real flesh and blood man, would be killed, buried and raised from the dead. But this is what Lent bring us to. Beyond the songs sung in minor key, the purple colors and the more frequent services, what we’re called to give up is that which we want to cling to the most. We’re called to embrace God’s reason and to know the truth of God’s faithful action. That miracles do happen. For us and through us, for the sake of the world.

Like Abraham and Sarah, we may not fully understand or know how God’s will is done or will be done, but we’re called to keep acting in the way that shows we believe it will be done. To keep doing in faith what God has called us to do. That faith that may seem hard to explain and that comes from beyond ourselves is counted to us as righteousness.

Impossibilities are God’s specialty. If you aren’t sure about that, consider all that you have been forgiven. Consider that you have been forgiven. There’s only one way that’s possible. And if you believe that, then what is there not to believe?



Anonymous said...

Do you believe we can be forgiven by God if we haven't or can't forgive? Is that what is meant by "...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us..."?

Pastor Julia said...

I do believe that we can be forgiven by God even if we have not, cannot or will not forgive. If God withholds forgiveness until we have forgiven, (1) we'll never be forgiven and (2) that gives us the power, rather than the power resting with God.

We love because we have first been loved. And we are able to forgive in any capacity because we have first been forgiven. That's the message of the cross. We cannot ever fully appreciate all that we have been forgiven. More particularly, we cannot comprehend at all that we have been forgiven until we attempt to forgive those around us.

With regard to situations in which it seems impossible to forgive, consider Psalm 137. It takes a long time to release that kind of hurt and anger. And it's only through the healing message of redemption and forgiveness of the cross that any of us will have the strength to do so.