Reflections on the Lectionary Texts for Lent, 2009
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Santa Fe Theologians, Ghost Ranch, Santa Fe, NM, February 24, 2009
March 8–Mark 8:31-38
Given the Roman Empire's use of crucifixion to silence, intimidate, and shame, asserting a willingness to take up one's cross, as Jesus had done, was a subversive act that resisted capitulation to that imperial strategy.
To take up one's cross was a willingness to accept physical death so as not to lose the source of life in the Spirit of love, justice, and peace. To preserve one's physical existence by capitulating to the empire was to lose one's source of life in the community of the Spirit.
The mandate to accept the cross, rather than take up the sword, also disrupts the disciple's expectation that Jesus, as the messiah, will replace Caesar. The temptation of empire is the urge to take over, while assuming a divine mandate to do so. To take up one's cross is to face the reality of what was done to Jesus and to resist it by refusing to be afraid.
March 15–I Corinthians 1:18-25
To be stuck on “Good” Friday, drawing life from crucifixion, is to forget Easter and to miss its arrival. By defeating the power of death-crucifixion sought to obliterate an identity and a movement-Christ defeats the empire which could not erase him.
However, we cannot slide quickly over the crucifixion or ignore it without cheapening Easter. The world's wisdom is to lay low and stay off the radar screen of the empire. The world's foolishness is, in the face of such power, to preach the truth of God's power and Jesus' incarnation of it in the work of justice, love, and peace.
March 22–Numbers 21:4-9
Miserable and wanting to escape their difficult sojourn in the wilderness, the people spoke against God and Moses. The serpent on the pole was to put before the people as a sign of what they feared and to inoculate them against it.
Jesus, lifted up like the serpent, was, perhaps, inoculation against the terrors that crucifixion was designed to instill. Not to be fearful and terrorized was to receive the courage the life, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus.
March 29–Hebrews 5:5-10
Hebrews' faithful are those who were rescued from death. Melchizedek was the King of Salem, or King of Peace. He submitted to the one with the power to save him from death. The other kings of his time did not but protected their own power. Jesus' submission was his willingness to remain faithful to the God of peace and justice, no matter what the agonizing cost. He did not abandon God to save his own life. His submission to this God made him perfect, prayerful, and reverent and delivered him from final, everlasting death.
Jesus, like Melchizedek, establishes a vertical relationship with heaven, the power of the Spirit.