February 25, 2018

Our biblical heroes faced many challenges and many were slow to realize or learn the challenges they would face, or even the challenges that Christ faced.

 

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 – One could hardly fault Abram and Sarai for crying out, “How long, O Lord?” The promise of God seemed elusive, without end. But God continually refreshes the promise, here by renaming them Abraham and Sarah, so that when they become parents not only of a son but of “nations,” they will be rightly named. The preacher might examine how we also hear God’s promises “refreshed,” encouraging us to keep the faith. Perhaps it is God’s promise of justice and righteousness that we find elusive, or “the poor shall eat and be satisfied” (see Psalm 22:26)

 Psalm 22:23-31 – It may be particularly apt to hear during Lent, “For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hid his face for me, but heard when I cried to him.” Christ followers recognize that he, too, was afflicted and heard by God. For the preacher, one might explore the challenge of praising God while suffering. It is the beginning of this psalm that we hear from Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?” The mix of lament and praise may help interpret the modern context.

Romans 4:13-25 – For St. Paul, Abraham is clearly a hero of the faith! He recognizes what it was that Abraham faced: “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.” In Lent, the echo from Advent is not far away, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). For the preacher, there is a wide field of “impossibilities” facing us, all of which call for faith.

Mark 8:31-38 – Oh, St. Peter! How slowly you accept the path that lies ahead for Jesus! In all honesty, we are no different. Don’t we spend our time to look for the path of least resistance, the softer, gentler way? Lent is the time when we are most confronted by the reality of “taking up the cross,” for the reality of Jesus’ own decision unfolds with striking clarity. The preacher might examine the ways we wrestle with the paths ahead and how we, too, can faithfully choose the way of the cross.