Offered in the best of faith, but ...
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Saturday, February 27th: Genesis 16:7-15; Psalm 22:23-31; and Mark 8:27-30. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
In today’s Marcan selection, we hear Peter profess that Jesus is the Messiah. In this original account, the one prior to all of Matthew’s emendations (which make perfect sense as the Jewish-Christian Gospel honours a Jewish-Christian advocate), there are no flourishes of praise for Peter. It would seem inappropriate to claim Peter’s profession as divinely revealed (cf. Matthew 16:17) since we will soon discover that what Peter means by “‘You are the Messiah’” is not what Jesus means by Messiah.
One of the images used to understand Lent is to speak of it as a journey. “Lenten journey” is a commonly used phrase. It refers to the efforts of the faithful to approach ever closer to Christ, and especially to Christ crucified. This entails distinguishing our expectations from God’s because a crucified Saviour is startling unexpected. It means opening ourselves and making ourselves even vulnerable to God’s way rather than our own. A vital faith should encourage us to grow in the faith, to change, to leave aside our predilections in favour of God’s truths – even if these may make us uncomfortable.
Peter professes that Jesus is the Messiah, but Peter’s image of the Messiah is inadequate to convey Jesus’ Messiahship. This is what we will dwell on together at worship tomorrow, this temptation to replace God’s way with our ways dressed-up in religious clothing.
This is why the community of the church is such a blessing. Faith practiced in isolation may become an echo chamber where we reinforce what we already believe, and maybe as in the example of Peter what we believe is sincere but off base. Faith in a community brings out the shared truth that withstands the tests of tradition and community. We are asked to look at our faith and that of others from different perspectives to see what emerges. This is all part of our shared Lenten journey.
And I invite you to join us tomorrow at 10AM. You are welcome to gather with us in the church building following proper protocols or you can send me an email (email@example.com) and I will send you the Zoom log-in. At that time, we will continue with this Gospel passage and see where it leads us together.
Whoever you are and wherever you may be on your life’s journey, you are welcome to join us as Hatfield Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.macucc.org/lectionary.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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