The Adventurous Lectionary – The Second Sunday in Lent – March 12, 2017

The Adventurous Lectionary – The Second Sunday in Lent – March 12, 2017
Genesis 12:1-42; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5; 13-17; John 3:1-17

God’s call is universal and ubiquitous. God is still moving and speaking, and faithfulness to God invites us to be on the move, too!

The story of Abraham’s call celebrates forward movement. Despite the brevity of the text and the absence of Sarah as an equal protagonist, the passage points to forward looking spirituality. With Abraham Joshua Heschel, we can feel Abraham’s and our legs praying as we consider this passage. Brief though it is, the passage invites the preacher and congregation to ask, “Where do we need to move forward beyond our current – even positive – past? What adventures await us if we explore new ways of mission and worship? Where will our spiritual walk take us?” Movements of the Spirit can be just as challenging as geographical peregrinations. In both cases, we must leave the familiar and adapt to a new landscape – or seascape – of possibilities. Divine movement builds on the past but lures us toward untraveled futures, personally and institutionally.

The Psalmist provides a word of assurance to pilgrims. God is with us, and will protect us. Of course, we know that there is no guarantee that our journeys will succeed or arrive at their appointed destination. Still, we can move forward with trust that God will guide us on the way.
The reading from Romans also highlights Abraham’s journey. God takes the initiative in our adventures. We travel forth, not to earn God’s love, but to faithfully respond to the love we have already received. Our pilgrimages involve a dynamic call and response, in which God calls, we respond, and our response leads to new manifestations of divine creativity. Faith involves trusting that God will make a way where there is no way and that possibilities can emerge where we see only dead ends for ourselves, our congregations, or our nation.

The encounter of Nicodemus and John has so many twists and turns, it’s difficult to find one clear path through the text. The perceptive preacher can focus on being born anew, becoming a new creation, as Abraham, Sarah, and Lot were called to be. He or she can also describe the free-wheeling movements of the Spirit, unbound and unconfined by human creed and ritual. All these can be encompassed by God’s overarching love for the world. The words of John 3:16 are more than a slogan to be placarded at sports events; they describe the divine intentionality and universality. God loves the world. God wants to save everyone. No room for anthropocentrism or double predestination in this passage. Salvation touches all creation, embracing our cells as well as our souls. There are no limits, outsides, or impediments to the ubiquitous and graceful providence of God.

God’s love is on the move and it invites us to construct larger and larger circles of love, moving from our individual salvation to saving the world.

About Bruce Epperly

Rev. Bruce Epperly, Ph.D., serves as Pastor at South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Centerville, MA. Prior to coming to Cape Cod in 2013, he served on the faculties and often in administrative and chaplaincy roles at Georgetown University, Claremont School of Theology, Wesley Theological Seminary, and Lancaster Theological Seminary. Bruce is currently a professor in spirituality, ministry, and theology in the doctoral program at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. He has served as pastor or interim pastor of congregations in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. He is the author or co-author of over 35 books in the areas of theology, spirituality, ministerial excellence and spiritual formation, scripture, and healing and wholeness, including Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God; Finding God in Suffering: A Journey with Job; From Here to Eternity: Preparing for the Next Adventure; and A Center in the Cyclone: Clergy Self-care in the 21st Century.