Scripture Introductions

Second Sunday of Lent March 8. 2009 Scripture Introductions by Stewart Clarke
March 8, 09. Second Sunday in Lent. There is a series of covenants in the book of Genesis, beginning with a covenant with "Adam," or "Humanity," which "Adam" broke. There is a covenant with Noah, on behalf of humans and all living creatures, which Noah, in a sense, proceeds to break. In today's reading, there is a covenant with Abram and Sarai[2], and, implicitly, with all their descendants, which, spiritually, includes us! This covenant, which unites God with Abram[3], Sarai and their descendants, is sealed with symbolic name changes: "Abram," or "Exalted Father," becomes "Abraham," said to be " Father of many nations;" "Sarai" "Princess," becomes "Sarah" (suggestions have been made of special meanings of "Sarah," but I can only find it as another form of "Princess!") (We may consider name changes when people were Baptized into the early Church and left their pagan past and pagan names behind. We may consider the way that nuns have changed their names. We may consider our custom of naming in Baptism, and note that, in the covenant with Abraham and Sarah, it is God who names! We may contemplate the use of names in marriage, and that covenant) (We are invited to skip a reference to Canaan and its gift to Abraham and his descendants, which has powerful modern political parallels and overtones. Is modern conflict so distantly rooted? Is God to blame for present-day agonies?) Let's listen as God takes the initiative in: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16[4] Following the reading, we may offer traditional thanks, or hold our praise until after the Gospel, or say something like: May God bless to us this message of God's grace and covenants. Amen
The Psalm, which begins with the expression, "My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?" presents a declaration of faith. Let us.. Psalm 22:23-31 (VU p.746)
Paul is deeply impressed by Abraham, who may have reminded him of himself. If Abraham did not earn the covenant, Paul certainly did not. All his efforts to be righteous led him to defy Jesus Christ, who became his Lord! So Paul writes with passion and insight. (Incidentally, Abraham was no "saint!" "Dysfunctional" barely describes his family situation, with him passing his wife off as his sister, casting out one son and preparing to sacrifice the other!) Let us listen as Paul explains his faith to the church in Rome: Romans 4:13-25 Following the reading, we may say something like, Thank God for this reminder of how vital and important faith is for us. Amen
Our first reading this morning told of Abraham and Sarah and a son to be born. The Gospel reading, a statement of early Christian faith, tells of a son to die - and to rise! ("Son of Man" was what God called Ezekiel. It can mean "anyone," or it can mean Chosen One. The double masculine expression can be a challenge to make it inclusive without losing some of the tone, but in keeping with Jesus' inclusive spirit, we may say, "Human One.") Jesus has been challenging his disciples to probe the meaning of what he has done, as in feeding the multitudes. He shakes his head a their lack of insight. He gets more pointed, asking what people are saying about him. Peter proclaims him "Christ, Messiah." Then Jesus speaks of his death and rising. Peter was horrified, and Jesus, in turn, is horrified at Peter's reaction. It is as if he is faced with the Temptations again, and he reacts from the depth of his being. We may hear in Jesus' words something of the style and cost of discipleship. We, also, may be reminded of Jesus' Temptation and his firm rejection of an easier way. (And, when we go home, we may want to read Chapters 8 & 9, and see how the passages flow from one to another; for chapter and verse divisions are conveniences and not part of Scripture.) Let us rise to honour and be open to the Good News for us in: (Or: Let us listen closely for the Good News for us in: Mark 8:31-38 Following the readings, we may use traditional response, like "May we hear what the Spirit is saying to us," and "Thanks be to God." Or we may adapt and say something like, "Thank God for this reading; may it remind us of the profound call and challenge of Jesus' Way." Amen. It is appropriate to follow the readings with words of thanks and praise.
  1. With thanks to DH, CAM and EMC
  2. With thanks to CAM and EMS.
  3. This is a significant shift, including the woman, but, before we cheer too loudly, we might check, and note that there is a political aspect, that this covenant is with the Jewish line of Abraham's descendants, leaving out the Arabic descendants of Hagar.
  4. I don't know that there is much significance in Abram's age, except that there had to be a tradition of longevity in the tales of great men, and the heir is emphatically a gift from God..
  5. The skipped verses, btw, focus on circumcision, which is considered utterly essential within the covenant with Abraham and Sarai.
(Comments to Stew at