Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, March 1, 2015:

First Reading: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Psalm: Psalm 22:22-30 (Psalm 22:23-31 NRSV)

Second Reading: Romans 4:13-25

Gospel: Mark 8:31-38

In this week's Gospel, we have an interesting portrait of what it means to be the Messiah: to be rejected, to be hung on a cross, and to die in a humiliating way.
Jesus makes it clear that just because we believe, we won't lead charmed lives. We will still suffer any number of losses, and perhaps we will suffer even more losses, precisely because we do believe.  Some of those losses may challenge our faith.  We may discover a depth of faith or we may realize that we have shallow reserves.

Over the last 50 or so years of the 20th century, many people came to see Christianity as just one more way to self-enlightenment or self-improvement. Many people combined Christian practices with Eastern practices, and most of them showed that they had precious little knowledge of either.

Or worse, people seemed to see Christianity as a path to riches. We see this in countless stories of pastors who took money from parishioners and, instead of building housing for homeless people, built mansions for themselves. We see this in the megachurch which is held up as an optimum model, the yardstick by which we smaller churches are measured and come up lacking. The bestseller lists are full of books which promise a Christian way to self-fulfillment or riches, while books of sturdy theology will never be known by most readers.

Yes, there are many ways to deny Christ.  My childhood belief system imagined that the worst thing I could do would be to renounce God in a public way.  I loved stories of people who resisted evil, often in the form of Nazis, people who would die for their faith.  As a child, I didn't realize how many ways a mature faith can be challenged and found lacking.

Think about the number of ways that we deny God in our regular daily lives. For example, many of us don't give our money away because we don't really trust that God will provide for us, as God has promised to do. We don't believe in Christ's vision of a redeemed world, because our senses (and our news media) tells us otherwise.

What does our behavior say to the larger world?  We may be willing to proclaim God with our mouths--do we proclaim our faith with our behavior?

Like 3 year old children, non-believers (and shaky believers) are watching everything we say and do. They will say, "If _________________________ claims to believe in God, and yet behaves this way, then I'm certainly not going to believe in God." And so God stands betrayed and abandoned.

The season of Lent is a good time to do some self-inventory. How have we betrayed our core beliefs? How have our behaviors and thoughts betrayed our Creator? How can we change to avoid any future betrayal?

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