Oops - sorry these are being posted after-the-fact!
Readings for 4th Sunday in Lent, 3/10/013:
Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
- "Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt." Wow - just like that - tabula rasa - a clean slate. What is on your slate that you want to have wiped clean? On the one hand, I'm a firm believer that it's not healthy to live life with regrets over the past. Our choices, even bad ones, effect our lives in ways we can't possibly know - to change one think would be to change everything, sort of like the Back to the Future movies. But on the other hand, what can be wiped clean, what can be changed over time is our feelings about the past, the emotions, those parts that linger with us. Note that God does not say here that God wipes their experience of Egypt from them. No, God wipes their disgrace, their emotional damage from the experience.
- Joshua finds the people finally coming into the promised land that God had shared in a promise to Moses. This is, indeed, an awesome homecoming. Not just returning to a home place, but returning to the very concept of having a home for these people. I love how their eating of the "produce of the land" and the "crops of the land" tie them to their home. The land is their home now, they have eaten of its fruit. If only we all viewed our tie to our land, our planet, our earth, in such a way, perhaps we would not treat it with such disregard!
- 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 again of clean slates - God is wiping out our sins.
- More clean slate language. "New creation." "Everything has become new." Our trespasses are not counted against us.
- Our response? We, in turn, are ambassadors, sharing the message of reconciliation.
- I like the opening of this passage. We are not to view anyone from a human point of view. When first we meet Jesus, we view him from a human point of view, perhaps, but Paul says "we know him no longer in that way." What does he mean? Well, perhaps Paul wants us to view people from God's point of view instead. If we look at people with the eyes of God, how would we see them, ourselves, Christ differently?
- One final story about clean slates, this one perhaps most familiar. As with all very familiar Bible stories, right down to the resurrection, we are in danger of missing the whole point because of how well we think we know them. Be careful!
- Jesus tells this story because the Pharisees and scribes point out that he welcomes sinners and eats with them. As much as we like to think otherwise, church people are SO OFTEN in the habit of using their faith as an excuse to separate themselves from perceived sinners, not as a reason to welcome them! When was the last time you intentionally sought to spend a great deal of time with people whose behaviors you thought were really offensive??
- Notice that there is no sin, really, in the younger son demanding his inheritance and leaving to seek his own life. We think of that as wrong, but that is not the tone of the text here. Where he goes wrong is in "dissolute living" once he is gone. Even still, his journey home is full of struggle, feeling valueless, repentance, groveling. Certainly, I feel he has 'paid' by the time he gets home.
- Why is the older brother so hostile? One quadrennium, I had heard that there were petitions to the UMC's General Conference to shorten the probationary period before ordination from what it had been. But, the rules weren't to apply to people like me who were already mid-process. My reaction - outrage that those who come after me will have an easier time of it! For some reason, we want everyone to have it as hard as we have had it. Thank God that God does not operate on the same system!
- Which character are you? What if this was mother and daughters instead? Or a mix of genders? Use your imagination!