Tuesday, March 26th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 26th: Psalm 39; Ezekiel 17:1-10; and Romans 2:12-16. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
I am always amazed by Paul. I don’t always get Paul, but I’m always amazed by him. Some historians have ranked Paul as a more important historical figure than Jesus. Jesus is Lord and Saviour, but from a historian’s point of view Jesus dies with no one at the cross. Paul, on the other hand, and again from a historian’s perspective, begins the spread of Jesus’ gospel throughout the known world, and Paul lays the foundation for the church as we know it today.
For Paul, faith is the pivot away from Judaism. He was attacked by Jewish-Christian adherents, who had the benefit of what Christian tradition there was at the time on their side. They opposed Paul because of the freedom he professed when it came to Jewish laws on diet and circumcision. Paul insisted that only Jesus was required for righteousness.
This was Paul’s definition of faith.
But Paul was as thoroughly Jewish as Jesus and also his own Jewish-Christian critics. His religious education stressed the concrete. Faith is not a common expression in the Hebrew Bible, but there are a multitude of stories of Old Testament heroes who relied on God and remained dedicated to God, and these embodied faith. In them, the Jews learned what faith looked like.
Faith was not only memorized words or public declarations. Faith was lived. Faith was a verb in this sense. Faith is how a believer lived. And this aspect of faith Paul carries over to earliest Christianity. The righteous are not only those who hear the law, the word of God. Rather, the ones who are “the doers of the law” are the ones who will be “justified,” made righteous.
Faith in Jesus is not only saying, “I accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour.” Faith is living like Jesus, imitating His priorities, advancing His outlandish compassion. I’m reading a book presently and the author was talking about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Bruce Bawer writes that even though the Samaritan would have failed to pass the theological tests of faith, “Yet the very point of this story is that in the only sense of the word that would have mattered to Jesus, the Samaritan is a Christian. He’s a model of what it means to lead a Christlike life.” This is faith defined as "the doers of the law."
Half of Lent is gone. Have we become better at being “doers of the law”? Has our time with Jesus as He approaches the Passion and crucifixion helped us to become more like Him in how we live today, how we treat others? That’s what mattered to Paul. That's what mattered to Jesus. That’s what the earliest Christians called faith.
There’s still half of Lent left. Let's work on being "the doers of the law."
Faith, love and chitchat.
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