Good afternoon, folks. Thank you for taking the time to read these posts as I prepare to preach each Sunday. For those who respond and/or ask questions, know that I read every comment, respond as I am able, and build your responses into my sermons.
This week, we get the third promise from the Lord to Abram/Abraham (though we skip over the sign of this covenant), Paul's reflection on Abraham and righteousness, and a big misunderstanding between Peter and Jesus. Each of these passages is worth its own sermon, but I doubt that anyone will hang around long enough for me to preach three separate sermons this Sunday. We will see where the Holy Spirit leads this week.
Below, I will share each of the Revised Common Lectionary readings (from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible) for the Second Sunday in Lent. After each reading, I will share my thoughts in italics. I invite you to share your reactions, comments, and questions in the comment section below.
NOTE: I will not have a post like this next week; I will return to my weekly schedule in the lead up to Sunday, March 11th.
Genesis 17:1 - 7, 15 - 16
1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”
15God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
The Lord gives Abram (“exalted father”) a new name, Abraham (“father of multitudes”), as well as Sarai a new name, Sarah (both names mean “princess,” but Sarai suggests “my princess” while Sarah suggests “princess/mother of multitudes”). These new names communicate the Lord’s promise to others, that from these two people shall many multitudes be born and create a new nation. The missing portion of the passage discusses circumcision, the sign of the covenant that the Lord is creating with Abraham.
Psalm 22:23 - 31
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.
Psalm 22 is the psalm we read on Good Friday, but we stop just before this passage. At this point, the Lord has saved the psalmist, and so the psalmist is proclaiming anyone listening what the Lord has done. The psalmist calls all the nations and anyone who will go down to the dust to join him in worshipping the Lord. The story is so great that it will be repeated for many years so that the peoples’ children and grandchildren will know what the Lord did for the psalmist.
Romans 4:13 - 25
13The promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19He 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. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.
Paul (and James (2:21 – 24)) glosses over Abraham’s relationship with Hagar and Ishmael and proclaims that Abraham was always faithful to the Lord. But we know that Abraham had moments of doubt because he took the promise into his own hands, accepting Sarah’s offer and fathering a child with Hagar, Sarah’s servant (which sounds terrible to modern ears, but this was a common practice in those days). If Abraham can have such a moment of doubt and distrust and yet still be upheld as faithful and righteous, shouldn’t we also forgive ourselves for our moments of doubt and distrust?
Mark 8:31 - 38
31[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Peter has just confessed that Jesus is the Messiah (8:27 – 30), but here he shows that he has a different understanding of the Messiah’s mission in the world than Jesus. Peter tries to “correct” Jesus by asking him to take on a different mission. In this way, Peter becomes “Satan,” which has demonic overtones but may also be better understood as “the Satan” or “the Tempter/Tester” as we see in the early chapters of Job. Either way, Jesus rejects the offer, proclaiming that his mission, by design, will cost him his life for the sake of “divine things.” If we are to follow Christ, we are called to be willing to lose all things, including our lives, for the sake of divine things.
Another question: the translations I checked all interpret the Greek word “psuche” in 8:35 as “life.” So why do many translations switch to “soul” when translating the same word in 8:36? (It is one way to translate "psuche," but why the inconsistency between the two verses?) It is likely a case of body/soul dualism creeping into Christianity. The proclamation of the Church is that our entire selves, including our bodies, will be raised from the dead at the end of the age. But there are many who proclaim that the resurrection at the end of the age will only raise our souls (or spirits, if you prefer) because the physical world, including our bodies, will not be needed after the resurrection.