Readings and Comments for Second Sunday in Lent, March 8th

A couple of reminders – our Lenten Wednesday Evening program (5:45), next Wednesday, “Christianity’s Complicated Origins.” Compline with hymns ends our time before the meal. The St. Francis Study group will not meet this Sunday – but will the following, March 15.

The Collect for Sunday reminds us of God’s everlasting and ever-present mercy, awaiting all, for the asking. That mercy is God’s gift in Jesus’ words and life of divine truth. Truth is — You are loved. You are forgiven. Think of ways trusting this truth has made a difference in your life.

The Lection texts for Second Sunday in Lent gather around themes of human faith and divine faithfulness. Genesis tells of Abram who leaves family and inheritance to go where a voice tells him to go. Imagine how much faith that takes. The Lord makes great promises. Does He keep them? Abram is a model for us. If you make time to pray, listening in silence for the Spirit, you will be blessed. Faith in God to meet you in your inner temple allows God to be present. By faith, and God’s working in us, are we saved.

In Romans Paul reflects on the depth and strength of Abraham’s faith. Abraham believed God, trusts God. Thus he is righteous with God. We do not earn our way to God. Faith is the doorway God is able to be with us. The promise to Abraham is fulfilled by grace. Same with us. And the God who spoke to Abram is revealed in Jesus – that same Voice that calls forth both the living and the dead.

In John 3, Nicodemus models that part of you that remains reluctant to leave Ur. Give him credit, he was at least searching. John uses common words that have layers of meaning. Nicodemus comes at night, out of darkness – into the light of Jesus’ presence. Nicodemus hears, yet cannot yet hear, spiritually. He will need moments of stillness for the Spirit, forever blowing as it will, to do as was done in creation – give order to his inner chaos. That is the Spirit’s work in us as well. And Jesus’ words to him — even that verse we learned as a child – “God so loved the world,” cannot yet connect God’s love and desire to give new birth (open ears and heart) for Nicodemus. He leaves Jesus in the night. But something must have begun to be born from above within him. A speck of faith is all God needs. Later John says he warned his Sanhedrin colleagues that a person should be allowed to speak before being judged. The last time we see Nicodemus is with Joseph of Arimathea, assisting with Jesus’ burial. Birth from above is evidenced sometimes not in the moment, but that moment gestates and grows within. As Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life must be lived forward, but it can be only understood backward.” Do you have moments when, looking in your rearview mirror, you realize you were reborn, into God’s kingdom, and now realize what that means? Maybe even several times — also called “awakenings.” Eventually God faithfully wakens us — as we invite the Spirit within.

May God’s love, peace and grace rest with and fill you with all blessings, Fr. Steve
Second Sunday in Lent
March 8, 2020 – Year A
The Collect

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament:  Genesis 12:1-4a
The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

Response
Psalm 121
Levavi oculos
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills; *
from where is my help to come?
2 My help comes from the Lord, *
the maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved *
and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.
4 Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *
shall neither slumber nor sleep;
5 The Lord himself watches over you; *
the Lord is your shade at your right hand,
6 So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; *
it is he who shall keep you safe.
8 The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *
from this time forth for evermore.
The Epistle: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
For the 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. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For 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, as 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.

The Gospel: John 3:1-17 

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“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.”

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