Adventurous Lectionary – God on the Move – Second Sunday of Lent – March 5, 2023

Adventurous Lectionary – God on the Move – Second Sunday of Lent – March 5, 2023 February 26, 2023

The Adventurous Lectionary – The Second Sunday in Lent – March 5, 2023

Genesis 12:1-4a (4b-9); Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5; 13-17; John 3:1-17

In every season of the Christian year and every season of life, and beyond Christianity, 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! God is alive and wants us to come fully alive, revealing God’s glory in daily life.

THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. The story of Abraham’s call celebrates forward movement. Despite the brevity of the text (12:1-4a) 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?” Changes in attitudes and changes in latitudes are connected, as singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffet avers. 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. In the post-Covid world, churches must move or stagnate. They must explore new ways of ministry and outreach. Given your congregation’s current situation, numerical, financial, contextual, demographic, theological, where does your congregation need to change?

PROTECTION ON THE JOURNEY. 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. Still, in times of challenge, we ask from where will our help come? Where will our congregation find the resources to move forward? Where is God in the pilgrimage.

FAITH AS TRUST AND RESPONSE. 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 we perceive no way and that possibilities can emerge where we see only dead ends for ourselves, our congregations, or our nation. Abraham’s and Sarah’s faith was not blind, nor should ours. Abraham and Sarah trusted God, but, I suspect, they also inventoried their “stock” (their cattle and sheep, in this case!)

BORN ANEW IN A GOD-LOVED WORLD. 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 aged spiritual leader needs to be born anew. He needs to be energized by the Spirit to transform his past, and embrace God’s future. The Spirit is not at our disposal. It blows where it wills, and blows beyond our doctrines, ecclesiastical structures, and concepts of revival. The Spirit takes us beyond the known roads and even beyond Christianity. We must be willing to change course and explore new possibilities to be faithful to the Spirit’s work. (For more on the Holy Spirit, see Bruce Epperly, RESTLESS SPIRIT: THE HOLY SPIRIT FROM A PROCESS PERSPECTIVE, Energion, 2022 – Restless Spirit: The Holy Spirit from a Process Perspective (Topical Line Drives): Epperly, Bruce G: 9781631998249: Amazon.com: Books)

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 loves bodies, our bodies, regardless of sexuality, gender, race and ethnicity, diversity of flora and fauna, and diversity of humankind. 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.
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Bruce Epperly is a pastor, professor, spiritual guide, and author of over seventy books, including THE ELEPHANT IS RUNNING: PROCESS AND OPEN AND RELATIONAL THEOLOGY AND RELIGIOUS PLURALISM; PROPHETIC HEALING: HOWARD THURMAN’S VISION OF CONTEMPLATIVE ACTIVISM; MYSTIC’S IN ACTION: TWELVE SAINTS FOR TODAY; WALKING WITH SAINT FRANCIS: FROM PRIVILEGE TO ACTIVISM; MESSY INCARNATION: MEDITATIONS ON PROCESS CHRISTOLOGY, FROM COSMOS TO CRADLE: MEDITATIONS ON THE INCARNATION, and THE PROPHET AMOS SPEAKS TO AMERICA. His most recent book is TAKING A WALK WITH WHITEHEAD: MEDITATIONS WITH PROCESS-RELATIONAL THEOLOGY. He can be reached at drbruceepperly@gmail.com

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