LENT 2 - Click here for the Sunday Readings.
The Gospel this week talks about denying self and picking up your cross. I found an interesting article by Biblical scholar, Joanna Dewey, about the cultural context for this reading. Unlike our Western individualistic culture, Jesus lived in a world where your identity was tied to your family. Self would not be read in the same way we read it. Denying self would be denying your family and kinship group - walking away from your place in society, your livelihood, your security for something unknown. Picking up cross is not about bearing the burdens of life but choosing to risk crucifixion by refusing to go along with the principalities and powers. Jesus is calling people into new relationships - as in his statements about who are his brothers and sisters. He says that they are those who join him in calling God their father instead of following the patriarchal - father-headed families of the day. Or when he talks about hating your father and mother and sisters and brothers. Jesus is asking his followers to step into the reign of God - heaven in their midst and live into a new reality. This new reality will be one of becoming sisters and brothers across blood-lines, across class lines, across national and racial lines. Sisters and brothers who will resist a world that does not understand this Way even to death on the cross. The quote from Archbishop Tutu that I used in Lent 1 reflects this Way - join us - you have already lost -- God has broken through all the barriers we have erected. God has come into this world in Jesus to show us this Way. Paul in his Letter to the Romans glimpses it in his statement in Chapter 8:31-39:
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
"For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This passage is one that I use as a mantra when I am terrified to speak out when I think things are not right. I don't know if it would help me if I had to face something big - but it calms my pounding heart in the day to day tests.