Second Sunday in Lent

Jerusalem, Jerusalem

God had made a great promise to Abram. But circumstances raised questions in Abram’s mind concerning the promise. From today’s Old Testament reading:

The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.   (Genesis 15:1-6)

As we know, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. Abraham became the Father of many nations, including ours. His faith was the key. He believed God so much that he trusted him, despite the circumstance. He believed God so much that he was able to wait patiently on the fulfillment of God’s promise. (See Faith of Abraham.)

The psalmist raised a question of what might happen if one does not believe God:

What if I had not believed
that I should see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!

O tarry and await the Lord‘s pleasure;
be strong, and he shall comfort your heart;
wait patiently for the Lord.  (Psalm 27:17-18)

The psalmist does not answer his question. He does suggest an alternative to unbelief.

Can we imagine a people who saw the greatest number signs and wonders ever performed by God, turning away from God to rely on false gods of their own making, after God had delivered them from bondage in Egypt? How could they have descended into idolatry so quickly?

How do we do the same? Things were just not going the way the children of Israel wanted them to go. Yes, they made a golden calf to worship. It was an exciting diversion to take their minds off their perceived expectations and profound disappoint.

What happens to us when things do not go our way? Do we seek our own diversions, such as entertainment, sports events, music concerts? Well, we might say that these are not really the same as idolatry. They are just exciting events. More than the spending time in the presence of a glorious and all loving God? One is worldly and the other is eternal.

When hardships come our way do we immediately blame God? God’s timing is not always our timing. Do we still believe in him enough to patiently wait on him? When there seems to be a pause in what God is doing in our lives, we need to remember what he has already done. Believing and remembering are intertwined. Failing to remember is misjudging the character of God.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, just prior to his crucifixion, he wept over the city:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”   (Luke 13:34-35)

Jerusalem was unwilling to believe God. The leaders were unwilling to trust God. They were unwilling to wait patiently on God. They were unable to remember what God had done for them. In short, they did not know the character of God, They did not know who he was.

Do we know God as a loving God? Do we know his as a faithful God? The psalmist wrote:

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
    who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
    my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.  (Psalm 91:1-6)

Today, as we face uncertainties and difficult challenges, we need a God who loves us and cares for us. The world does not do that and never will. It may offer some interest diversions. It way help cover up some of our pain. It may make us forget. But the issues are still there. Let us not forget who God is and what he has done for us. Let us wait patiently upon him. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom then shall I fear?
the Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom then shall I be afraid?

When evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh,
it was they, my foes and my adversaries, who
stumbled and fell.

Though an army should encamp against me,
yet my heart shall not be afraid;

And though war should rise up against me,
yet will I put my trust in him.

One thing have I asked of the Lord;
one thing I seek;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life;

To behold the fair beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe
in his shelter;
he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling
and set me high upon a rock.   (Psalm 27:1-7)

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Filed under Jesus, lectionary, Lent, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

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