1st Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:1-4a & Psalm 121 (VU p.844)
These two readings go well together. Abram is called out by God to go on a long journey. And at this point, Abram is no longer a young man! He is 75 years old, and has been asked by God to step out in faith, to leave everything he knows: family, home, friends to do a little job for God. Nothing major: go to a far country and there establish a great nation – a nation thru which all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
And then the psalm: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?” I’ll bet there were more than a few times that Abram, on this journey – this mission – which was really clear only to God – more than a few times that Abram prayed this prayer.
So let’s look at that. Abram, in obedience to God’s call, had to leave everything familiar, everything he took for granted, and venture out into uncharted territory. Think about having to do that... What would be your reaction? How would you feel? In our modern world, what would we have to let go of in order to journey into the wilderness of our future on a mission from God?
With modern communications technology, moving away from family and friends might not seem to be such a problem. Letting go of the security of a steady job might be an issue tho, in these times of unemployment and underemployment. What if it’s your beliefs that are challenged? What happens to us if we are asked to let go of things we thought were givens, and now – not so much? We grow up with certain social norms and expectations. We are taught by our parents, and in our schools what is right or wrong, and what is acceptable behaviour.
In this year of 2017, we are being asked to give up a few cherished beliefs – things we thought we knew, things we thought weren’t up for discussion. We are being asked to respect the right of children to decide their own gender – even in the face of biological evidence. Some of us are still having trouble with respecting the right of women to make decisions around their reproductive health.
Here in Canada, I think I hear God calling us to be courageous about these issues, because in many parts of the world today women and children still have few rights and little respect. As we journey into the uncharted territory of Lent this year, we are challenged to hold fast to the direction we feel called to move in, as a new administration in the USA seems to be trying to turn the clock back. It will take courage, and we will probably need to remind our leaders that this is who we are, and this is our high calling.
There will probably be challenges to gay rights, and the rights of minorities also. It is so easy to backslide, and so difficult sometimes to speak your truth to power!
The Way of Love, which Jesus definitely calls us to, may move us out of our comfort zone... Here on Texada we have got quite comfortable with a strong majority of retired people who have structured our social life in ways that happily meet our needs. I’m noticing a shift in whose buying into our island. I’m seeing a few young families – young entrepreneurs – young people looking for the real estate and the possibilities that seem so elusive to them in larger centres. So far just a trickle, but I think the flood is coming, and are we ready to give up our hold on all things organizational so that a new generation can take root? Can we move past our own feelings of displacement and embrace the new life these younger ones bring to our island?
It’s not always easy to give up what you have. But nothing new can be born unless we are willing to let that new thing grow, and to actually encourage and support that growth.
God did not let Abram sit still. God is still with us, protecting and guiding and calling us. We are not done. There is still work to do. Stay the course my friends. Stay the course.
Hymn #713 VU “I See a New Heaven”
2nd Scripture Reading: John 3:1-17
On that dark night, Nicodemus set out on his own Lenten –type journey. He must have had a taste of Jesus and his teachings at some other time and place, and was attracted by what he heard.
But Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and his colleagues did not like Jesus, were threatened by his unusual, unorthodox teachings. So Nicodemus was not feeling very comfortable about seeking him out. He didn’t want anyone to know he had struck out into uncharted territory to see where it might lead him. Undercover of darkness he navigated the city streets to find this Jesus, so strong was the aura about him, the promise of something really important, the call that could not be ignored. Nicodemus risked a lot to find Jesus. He risked the ridicule of his peers, he risked possibly the security of his position. Maybe he even risked all hope of promotion! We don’t know. What he himself did not realize was that he risked his sense of self – of who he was in the world, for Jesus was a master Wisdom teacher.
Sensing that he was already rattled, and in fear of being discovered, Jesus threw him right off his feet immediately with a statement that would have made no sense to him at all.
“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.....no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and spirit.”
The Jews had the Law and the Prophets. They had an arm’s length God who judged them. It is likely that very few of them understood the spiritual life that Jesus was referring to. This is almost amusing to us, as we observe Nicodemus’ predicament. He clearly can’t wrap his head around what Jesus is telling him. Jesus is pushing him to make a leap of consciousness that will rock his world.
But we shouldn’t laugh too hard. We are in a time of great change also, and we will be invited to look at the world thru new lenses as we go. The God of Love is on the move! Zero tolerance now for bigotry and sexism, for racial injustice and gender inequity, for exploitation of communities and ecosystems. The gloves are off and we must grow into this new paradigm where we are called to live out the truth of what we have been given.
And that truth is summed up nicely in John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
We are learning as we go, and the journey is not over yet!
Hymn #644 VU “I was there to hear your borning cry”