Our Lenten journey continues to unfold. Once again, we read from the Book of Genesis. The story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac is upsetting and it is a hard story to hear. The end of the story where God asks Abraham not to lay his hand on his son and then blesses him is comforting.
In the story we have two images of God. On the one hand we have a God who demands Abraham sacrifice his son and on the other, the image of a God who provides for Abraham and blesses his family. The God who asks Abraham not to lay a hand on his son is so different from the gods of the ancient world. The stories of the gods of the ancient world suggest they do not care or provide for their people; they take from their people and demand sacrifices. The God of Abraham both cares for and provides for his people.
In the Gospel of Mark, we have the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter, James and John are on the mountain with Jesus. Jesus is transformed and the three disciples hear the voice of God, the Father, telling them that Jesus is his Son. This man they have been travelling with and listening to is the Son of God. The idea that the Son of God is walking among them would have been a shocking idea for them; different from anything they knew or believed. The implications of this were simply too much for them to understand. Jesus says, don’t worry, when I die and rise from the dead you will have the whole picture and you will understand. Jesus says, when you experience the resurrection, the Transfiguration will make sense. For now, don’t talk about what you saw. The time for talking will come later.
Paul, reminds the Christians of Rome, that Christ has lived and died for them. Christ’s love for them has brought them to this moment, and Christ’s love for them will shape their future. There is nothing in this world or in the heavens that can separate them from Christ’s love and care for them.
There is much in our lives that is confusing and unsettling. Things happen in government, at work, in the Church, in our family and in our relationships that we find confusing. Sometimes how we understand and speak about God does not help.
Today, the scriptures remind us of how we can deal with the confusion in our lives. They present us with images of God, reminding us of who our God is and what our God does. Our God is about life. Our God does not take from us. God draws us into relationship, God gives life to us, and God looks out for us. Made in the image of God we are invited to care and to give life.
The God of Abraham reminds us that God wants to provide for us. The God of Jesus invites us to listen to his Son, to enter into relationship with him. Jesus walks with us as teacher and friend. The story of Jesus does not end with his death! He is raised to new life. His resurrection changes everything. It will change us too, for we shall also rise to new life.
The early Christian community in Rome struggled to understand their pain and suffering. They believed that their suffering was a sign that Christ had abandoned them. Paul says Christ has not and could not abandon them. Paul says there is nothing in life that can separate you from Christ. Paul invites them to rely on their relationship with Jesus to cope with all that is taking place in their lives.
As we hear these scriptures we are prompted to ask several questions. What kind of God do I believe in?
Do I believe in a God who takes from me or do I believe in a God who provides for me?
Do I believe in a God who abandons me, leaving me alone to face life or do I believe in a God who teaches me, walks with me and raises me up?
What kind of God do I believe in and what kind of God do I talk about?
Today, we are invited to think about who our God is and what he does.
Our God cares about us and provides for us. We matter to God. God does not abandon us. Our failures are not held against us. We are forgiven. We are never alone. We are raised to new life.
As we go about our activities this week:
- let us live our lives knowing that God is as near to us as our breath
- let us look at life through the resurrection of Jesus
- let us believe in the desire of God to renew the whole of creation
- let us believe that God walks with us, seeking ways to provide for us.
As we wait for longer days, for the warming of temperatures, for the birth of new life and the migration of flocks and herds alike, let us also wait for the new life that God offers us. As we encounter one another let us be like our God. Let us nurture life – comforting one another with acts of kindness and blessing.
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Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI