The Adventurous Lectionary – The Third Sunday in Lent – February 28, 2016
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Today’s readings join grace, threat, and hope. We can succumb to temptation, we can be unfruitful, and turn from God, but if we repent, God will provide us with the strength and fortitude to begin again. Grace is not contingent on our efforts; grace is prevenient but the energy and landscape of grace relates to our openness. God always acts concretely in our lives.
It can’t be true! God is buying into the socialist agenda! Better not read this passage at a conservative political rally. In fact, this could be a blueprint for the social democrat campaign of Bernie Sanders. Everyone gets what they need, especially the “have nots.” God’s ways are not our ways, the prophet Isaiah proclaims. You may deserve punishment, but you will receive grace. The lawbreaker and infidel get a second chance and can be restored to full membership in God’s realm.
There’s a little for Trump supporters here as well: in God’s new realm you will be winning. Forsaken Israel will become a beacon for the nations. In God’s new realm you can even eat rich food, and not suffer the health consequences! (I wish that was true about potluck dinners!) Life is going to be good again. Israel will be reconciled with the world. The day of Shalom is near.
Happy days are here again! Israel will be great again!
Call upon God, the prophet counsels. God is near and God will respond. God’s thoughts and ways are higher and grander than ours, and different than we expected. This is not a counsel to silence or to live with mystery, but a recognition that God’s morality is amazing in its embrace of the outcast and the outsider. God’s morality turns upside down our moral conventions, and welcomes those we condemned as morally suspect.
The Psalmist is yearning for God. God is the heartbeat of his life, and the Psalmist wants to be near the Creator and Parent. Cling to God. Hold on to the one whose love makes life meaningful. While this isn’t romantic poetry, like the Song of Songs, it is the poetry of love, of rejoicing in God’s beauty, and wanting to be with the beloved always. We must deal with the low moments when God seems absent, as Renita Weems describes in “Listening for God.” But beyond the low point is the moment when we are reunited with our beloved and life is good once more.
Today’s Psalm invites us to go beyond lukewarm faith to a passion for our Parent. It invites us to seek God with the same intensity that we pursue personal relationships or professional success.
The words of I Corinthians 10 are initially threatening. Those who turn from God, party too hard, slip up theologically, or act out sexually are subject to divine destruction. When God isn’t pleased, you will be punished. Certainly words like these have been invoked to ostracize and threaten persons in the GLBT community, condemn divorced persons who remarry, and judge realistic film and literature as immoral.
The passage is redeemed with 10:13, which asserts that although all are tempted, God will give you the strength to withstand temptation or the ability to bounce back after you have succumbed. There is redemption even for the imperfect. There is hope for the sinner.
Jesus words in Luke 13 also have a threatening character. There are no guarantees in life. No one is safe solely on account of her or his faith tradition. You are no better than those who suffer from unexpected disaster. Nothing can protect you from happenstance. The reality of chance challenges us to repentance, to get our souls right with God. Although I don’t believe in a linear acts-consequences approach to reward and punishment, what we do makes a difference. We can hurt ourselves badly, creating what Amos calls a “famine on hearing the word of God” based on our actions. If tragedy happens, we want to have the spiritual strength to withstand it.
Still there are second chances for sinners. The gardener gives the unproductive tree a reprieve. He will nurture and care for it, and perhaps it will bear fruit, and be spared of destruction. Grace is greater than sin and can bring forth fruitfulness out of barren past histories.
In Lent, we need to be watchful. We need to get our values in the right place, aligning ourselves with God in times of temptation and trusting God’s grace in moments of barrenness and brokenness. God will nourish us and prune away