During this season of Lent the pandemic gives us quite a taste of the Exodus journey of our mothers and fathers in the faith. Even though there are signs of hope (the vaccine being one of them), we are like those walking around in the wilderness without having much hope or orientation.
Abraham did pass the test from God in this story, but not in the way it has been interpreted for so long. Rather, Abraham passed the test by hearing and obeying the voice of the true God at the end, telling him to stop.
We must remember that even when the pandemic is over, this nation will still be under threat by people and forces who have declared war on everything and everyone it defines as “other”. We must remain committed to being hospitable to the stranger, and caring for the most vulnerable.
In following Jesus, they would break the chains of doing things the way they were always done, and they would have a chance to form a new community. But they were to leave behind all the comfort and security.
In our own world, the Bethesda story reminds us of the fact that social and economic systems meant to assist the needy often keep them in poverty. Our story suggests that the 40 million Americans who live in poverty will need to doubt and challenge the system, and to look for help outside of it. Further, our sermons will need to speak life into death as a reminder that there is life beyond the system.
We are called to proclaim God’s word in such a way that we offer a nourishing alternative to the scarcity that all too often is dished up by our capitalistic, technologically-obsessed, and media-saturated society. As the People of God we are called to proclaim a new world order, one characterized by abundance and joy, by justice and lovingkindness, without any restrictions, without any boundaries.
In a hateful political climate, it’s easy to feel defeat. However, Daniel 7 teaches us that God is present in the midst of oppression and intervenes as a liberator God. We must join in this liberation to defy feelings of defeat.
When we stop clinging to what we know and what we are, we can go out into the world without fear, insecurity, resentment, and judgment, as true Children of God. The image of a playing child helps us see alternatives to our childish attitudes.
It is the crucified Christ who sends us out to his sisters and brothers who are being crucified by the powers-that-be every day. Are we willing to do what Jesus requires and die in the process? Or will we deny Jesus in order to save ourselves?
Jesus’ trick answer to the Pharisees concerning the paying of taxes to Caesar speaks to the Christian’s appropriate posture to American Civil Religion, which has been provoked into a fuller revelation of itself by Colin Kaepernick’s protest.
All of humanity comes from the Source and all our journeys will lead us back to the Source. The story of Jacob’s Ladder reminds that God is not far away but right here in the ordinariness of our everyday struggles, the answer to our desire for oneness.
Real faith knows and embraces doubt and questioning. Rather than locking ourselves in, as the disciples first did, we should learn from the curiosity of Thomas. The opposite of faith is not doubt but fear, and it is time to shed our fears.
There is such a thing as a ‘near-life experience,’ a transforming encounter with the light of life. The Transfiguration describes a remarkable encounter of such a kind, an encounter that may find pale reflections in our own lives, much needed at the current time.
Jesus’ story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a challenging account of the one neglected at the gate, who ends up being exalted, while the one at ease within is cast out. This story has a particular contemporary resonance in the context of the recent events surrounding the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.