First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

First Thoughts for Lent 2 : God is our Keeper/ The Joy of Grace

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Friday, March 14, 2014

Hi  everyone,

 

Here are my first thoughts on the readings for this coming Sunday. Below that are my first thoughts for the readings for the week before which I had almost but not quite completed on time. Maybe on a stormy day you might be looking for more reading.

 

First Thoughts for Lent 2 : God is our Keeper/ The Joy of Grace

 

Readings: Genesis 12: 1-4a, Psalm 121, Romans 4: 1-5, 13-17,John 3: 1-17

Thanks to Feasting on the Word  Year A Volume2

 

I wrote these reflections while waiting for Esther to come out of surgery. When we said goodbye we both realized that we were putting her health and life into the hands of the surgeons and nurses. It is quite a feeling of losing control and putting yourself into the hands of another person. Now of course the doctors and nurses are very well trained and equipped, so we are not worrying but never the less  it is an exercise in total trust.

 

To me this theme of total trust is  repeated several times in our Psalm for Sunday and throughout all of our readings.  The Lord will keep you from all evil, he will keep your life.

 

Our O.T. reading is the very brief account of Abrams calling by God. We see  God coming to Abram ( soon to be known as Abraham). Abraham in no way earns or even asks for this position of responsibility . In fact we know nothing about Abraham so we have no idea of his merits . God simply chooses him and Sarai. In response to receiving this call Abraham obeys, radically rearranging his life trusting in God’s call and promise. He leaves his family and home and  goes on quite an amazing journey. He responds to God’s grace in his life. We will see that his response is not always as good as it should be but even here we see God’s grace at work as Abraham sets out to become a nation that will be a blessing to all nations. Apparently Abrahams home town Haran means highway or crossroads. A sermon on this text could invite people to consider if we are at a cross roads and if God is  calling us to move out in faith. Of course we could ask the same question of St. John’s and St. Philip’s. Are we at a cross roads and if so where and what is God calling us to?

 

Our Psalm is a most familiar and  favourite of mine because it is prayed in our funeral liturgies. It is wonderful to know that even in death God is our keeper and of course for those who mourn it is a comfort that God is with them on this journey . Although sometimes I wonder if the mourners find the words cruel. If God will not let our foot be moved and keep us from all evil why did he allow the person to die? The image of journey and  traveling is in both readings from the O.T. The Psalm was prayed by pilgrims to Jerusalem as they began their travels. It would have been dangerous and full of risks so  they ask where will our help come from? The answer of course is God the maker of heaven and earth. Their help and our help is not from our own strength or ingenuity but in God. The Psalm then goes on to list how God will be there for them through the dangers. The word used over and over again is keeper, so a good sermon would ask what does it mean to be a keeper? What do you think? How does God keep you?

 

Our reading from Romans is Paul arguing for the primacy of grace over works, referencing Abraham. What is so amazing about Grace?, is not a scholarly book or I am sure the best book about grace, but I am so very grateful for Philip Yancy’s  great book on the subject of grace . When I read it , it  transformed my faith and preaching and I may be tempted to use the stories and teachings from this book in my sermon on Sunday.  I would love to have a study group read this book together.  Grace is what makes Christianity unique among all of the world religions and is our foundational theological stance. I pray that we continue to grow in grace.

 

Our Gospel reading is perhaps the most famous of all Scripture passages. We hear of how God loved the world so much  that he sent his only son so that we should not perish but have eternal life. A definition of grace. Of course these words come from a discussion that Jesus had with Nicodemus where Nicodemus wants to know what he must do to earn eternal life. And Jesus says you don’t have to do anything. You have to be born from above , that is let God birth in you eternal life. When you think about it , physical birth is not something we ask for or contribute to. It is a gift of life given to us. Our mothers gift us with the work and pain and love. We simply receive it as gift. You can see how much Nicodemus wants to earn or achieve eternal life because he is willing to ask how can I be reborn. He is even desperate enough in an almost comedic fashion to ask can I  go back into my mother’s womb. He just does not get it and I think many Christians do not understand grace from above either.

 

I may tell the whole story in my sermon but I remember when a young man came by the church camp I was working at to visit one of our staff, named Joyce. I thought he must have been a boyfriend as he brought her a dozen red roses. But turns out he was her brother and it was the anniversary of the day when Joyce had given up one of her kidneys so he could live. Pure grace, pure gift, and the flowers , pure thank you. To me this is the Christian life in a nutshell.

 

As I was waiting for Esther’s surgery to be done , I ate in the hospital cafeteria. There was a woman playing a harp. It was beautiful and I was quite pleasantly  surprised to hear something so beautiful playing in the cafeteria. It was a grace note.  I wonder how  we can  as individuals and as members of church families play grace notes in response to God’s gift of grace to us? This is a central question and opportunity that t is our delight to be always asking and answering.

 

After I wrote all of this , I read some of N.T. Wright’s thoughts on the readings and he compared Jesus with Abraham in the sense that Jesus left His home to journey to our world just as Abraham left his home in obedience to God’s call. Kind of an interesting thought.