Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Lectionary Notes for First Sunday in Lent, Year A

Readings for First Sunday in Lent, 3/9/14:
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7, Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7:
  • I love the story-telling quality of this text. Growing up, going to Camp Aldersgate, the then-director Rick Stackpole used to tell this story about the creation of the world, about how the turtle had to swim to the bottom of the water to pick up sand to make the land. I loved those stories, and loved camp, and was shaped by experiences there. So then, I read this story, with phrases like, "now the serpent was more crafty than any other," and I can just hear the intonation of a story-teller sharing this with people thousands of years ago. And no doubt, as we have it to read today, this story shaped the people, and their faith, as they sought to understand God at work in their world.
  • For other great creations stories, check out two of my favorite C.S. Lewis books: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew and from the space trilogy: Perelandra.
  • Read closely and carefully: compare what the snake says God says, with what Eve says God says, with what God actually says. It's like a game of telephone, where the truth gets slightly altered in each telling.
  • Nakedness. Today, perhaps it seems no one has shame in nakedness, if we look at media images... but emotional nakedness - perhaps we fear that now more than ever. What does it mean to be naked before God? What are you ashamed of God seeing?
Psalm 32:
  • Watch for the change of voice in verse 8-9. It threw me off for a couple minutes. First the psalmist is talking to God, then God to the psalmist. "I will counsel you with my eye upon you," says God. What an image! Being a Lord of the Rings fan, the big eye of Sauron comes to mind first, but that's not exactly how I like to imagine the eye of God! Think perhaps instead of those pretty "God's Eye" craft projects you might have completed in elementary school.
  • There's a Hide and Seek theme going on here. The psalmist talks about hiding and not hiding our sinfulness from God. But the psalmist also talks about God being our hiding place.God is the one seeking us. We can hide from God or hide in God. Which will it be? God will cover our sin.
  • Note the theme of clean slates - God is wiping out our sins.
Romans 5:12-19:
  • Make sure to read the beginning of chapter 5 to pick up Paul's whole conversation here.
  • Paul is taking about Jesus being the one through whom grace comes, just as through Adam our sin comes. I have questions about original sin and substitutionary atonement for myself, but what I like is this verse: "the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ." (emphasis added) It always makes the most sense to me to hear about the limitless nature of God's gift of grace. That  "much more surely" phrase is repeated in this passage. With God, with Christ, it is always much more surely that we are given!
  • "one man" is another phrase Paul repeats here. He says if one man's actions leads to death, so also one man's righteousness leads to life. Obviously he's speaking of Adam and Christ, but I think we can also apply this to ourselves: one person's actions can have significant impact, for bad or for good. We can control what kind of actions we want to share with the world: what results do you want your influential behavior to have?
Matthew 4:1-11:
  • Good to compare this passage with Luke and Mark's version of the temptation - Matthew has some different order to the trials, and he also fleshes out some of the scriptures that are quoted. You can decide if the differences are significant! 
  • Jesus is tempted by the devil. It's easy to get caught up in an argument about who the devil is, if the devil exists, if the devil is a being, etc. But I think if we get stuck in that argument, we miss the actual point of the story. Point is, Jesus went through a time of testing and tempting and trial before he began his ministry. Point is, Jesus could have chosen many paths of action that would have left him better off, but instead he chose God's path. Point is, Jesus, a human, faced the same tough decisions we face, and remained faithful - so, so can we.
  • Jesus is tempted in three ways: in the first, he resisted using his powers to meet his own needs. In the second, he resists putting God to the test, demanding of God to meet his needs. In the third, he resists using his power to be a dynamic leader of the type that seeks fame and glory.
  • It's interesting - the devil tempts Christ by using the scripture from Psalms. He takes the words of the Holy Book and twists them into a wrong meaning. It's not just bad theology when we do the same things with "proof-texting" and other abuses of God's Holy Word - it's actually evil when we use the word in this way!

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