Romans 4:3 the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.” (The Message Bible)
This is the Message Bible rendition of “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” “Believe” becomes “trusted” and “righteousness” becomes “set him right.” Faith (belief) and righteousness are tough concepts. I think faith has to do with being convinced something is true even when you might still be dealing with some doubt. It also means being willing to say it out loud to others and having it determine your actions. Righteousness is being in the right with God, doing the right thing, being the right kind of person. Paul in this passage is saying that God did this for Abraham and, a few verses later, says God does this for us. How do you experience faith? What is your idea of righteousness? How do you get right with God?
Romans 5:12 You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. (The Message Bible)
It’s high school musical time in my part of the world and one of the shows often done by high schools these days is Into the Woods. One of the songs declares “You move just one finger, say the slightest word, something’s bound to linger- be heard. You are not alone, believe me, no one is alone.” We are not alone, even when we feel most lonely. We are all connected by a common humanity and what we do has consequences for all of that humanity. Another song says “Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell.” The tale referred to in the above verse is that of the fall from Genesis three. It teaches that our interconnection as humans is not just a warm, fuzzy feeling but a condition of rejection to letting God be God, or more simply, sin. In Lent we are asked to take sin seriously. How will you take sin seriously this Lent?
2 Peter 1:16, 17 We weren’t, you know, just wishing on a star when we laid the facts out before you regarding the powerful return of our Master, Jesus Christ. We were there for the preview! We saw it with our own eyes (The Message Bible)
Many churches remember the Transfiguration of Jesus on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, which, of course, was this past Sunday (You can read the account in Matthew 17:1-9). The above passage connects that event with the promise that Jesus will return in a unique way to bring a new reality to this earthly creation. If heaven is the realm of the spiritual and not somewhere up in the sky, the transfiguration kind of pulls back the curtain for a moment indicating that the spiritual is present in Jesus in the here and now even though we don’t always see it. The connection with Jesus’ return also indicates that history is moving towards a culmination, a destination, and is not an endless cycle of the similar. This week ask yourself, “Where is heaven”? “What does ‘spiritual’ mean?” “Where are we headed?” Lent begins with Ash Wednesday this week. These are good questions to ponder during those forty days.
1 Corinthians 3:7, 8- I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. (The Message Bible)
In our congregation this past Sunday we had our annual Service of Light and Hope. It is a time in the midst of the dreariness of winter dragging on to hear readings, sing songs, and listen to scriptures about the way God continues to bring light and hope into the world and our personal lives. Hopefully at least a little of that happens each Sunday and not just once a year. Hopefully at least a little of that happens each day! Planting is usually a one time activity, watering occasional, but growing goes on in various ways and forms constantly. Your body continues to grow even as you sleep. Our spirits are never apart from the “God who makes things grow.” Even in the doldrums of winter the light and hope of God is at work in our lives. Where is your light and hope this week? How is God causing you to grow?
1 Corinthians 2:6 We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so.
You don’t have to be around very long to see how things go in and out of fashion. Just take a look at the hair styles from the 90’s or the clothes from Woodstock and you can see how much has changed. Of course, some things are classic and seem to endure through time- the little black dress is one, I’m told. There are features in religion that go in and out also. Someone writes a book or someone makes a movie and for a while they command the focus of faith and talk at the water cooler. Sometimes people go through a phase of religious concern where they experience zeal about Jesus or the Bible or church for a season until the next big thing takes their time and attention. Paul tells these Corinthians who have a boatload of issues (just skim through the rest of the letter) that he has things to share with them that can stand the test of time and last beyond our attention deficits. If you are looking for something better than the latest fad, Paul says Jesus has it. How would you go about getting it?
1 Corinthians 1:30, 31 That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.” (The Message Bible)
We will occasionally remember that our physical blessing, like health or homes or family, are undeserved gifts from God, but for some reason it seems harder to remember that our spiritual blessings are also in this category. To whatever extent we have faith and love and hope in our lives, these are not simply the result of our own intellects or character. There is a great deal we don’t understand about God and the way humans experience life. We are quick to take personal credit for the good and to blame God or whoever for the bad. But, as the passage says, if we have “right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start” we have much for which to be grateful. What spiritual blessings can you thank God for this week?
1 Corinthians 1:9 God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. (The Message Bible)
There are things we should never forget. Monday is the Martin Luther King day of service. We take this day to remember all that he did to raise up people to freedom and confront injustice. Injustice is part of the human condition. We should never forget that. Even in the midst of injustice, God is faithful. Even in the midst of personal and societal pain, God will never give up on you. Never forget that. What else this week should you never forget?