This article is a continuation of a series (beginning with part one) which looks to explore how God is at work among God’s people from the lens of the prescribed old testament readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. Making promises, providing in times of need, and raising up leaders from unexpected places all feature in these readings. How might these readings – and our accompanying songs – carry forward into how we view God’s relationship with us today? In this article we’ll explore some themes for the second Sunday in Lent.
On March 8th we’ll hear about God blessing Abram and promising to make of him a great nation, despite asking him to leave his homeland. God’s promises go even further, though. God will bless those who bless Abram and curse those who curse him. God even promises to bless all the families of the earth through Abram. Blessings are heaped upon blessings here as God makes big promises hinge upon a relationship with this one family, but why this family? Of course, we know this story spans from Abram (Abraham) all the way to Jesus life, death on a cross, and resurrection to new life.
After last week’s fall from grace and the weight of the broken Law, this week’s Old Testament reading feels like it’s all Gospel. The implications of God sending Abram out are pretty clear. Abram may be going out to uncharted territory; however, regardless of where we are sent, God promises to go with us and bless us. The songs we will sing during traditional worship this week, pick up these themes and give us a way to sing the good news we have read.
Music and Worship
The gathering hymn, Lift High the Cross, is the ultimate hymn about God leading the way through any situation in life. “Come Christians follow where our captain trod, our king victorious, Christ the Son of God” is our clarion call. Not only does this serve our first reading, but the cross imagery doubles in our Gospel reading for the day. In it, Jesus reminds us that the Son of Man must be lifted up in the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness.
Our hymn of the day comes from the baptism section. Remembering that the sections in a hymnal are arbitrary and that we have the freedom to choose hymns that pull out the themes of the day’s readings, this particular hymn makes a good choice, especially when considering the Gospel reading for the day where Nicodemus is told he must be born again. As the blessings promised to Abram indicate God’s desire for continued relationship with God’s people, so are we grafted into those relationships through the blessing of baptism. We are baptized into Christ’s death “that as Christ is raised victorious, we might live a brand new life.” God’s blessings are so much more than one-off happy coincidences; God’s blessings are the life-altering, life-long relationships with the Triune God and all of God’s people.
We are sent from services this Sunday with these words ringing in our heads. “Fear not, I am with you, oh, be not dismayed, for I am your God and will still give you aid; I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.” Yes! God goes with us everywhere. Do you recall God’s promise to bless all the families on earth? That promise is fulfilled in Jesus, our Savior and continues to be kept as we act, as Martin Luther puts it, “as little Christs” to one another in our daily lives.
It seems one of the lessons here is that God can use just about anyone to bless the world. Sometimes those blessings are visible right away and sometimes those blessings are generations in the making. Regardless, we remind each other that God has promised to be in relationship with us every step of the way, that God will sustain us in the wilderness, and that God will use us too as we remember the life and ministry of Jesus as the ultimate example of selfless love.
Until next Thursday, I pray God’s blessings go ever with you.