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 Tuesday, March 10th: Psalm 128; Isaiah 65:17-25; and Romans 4:6-13. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
I imagine that many of us cannot escape thinking about the spread of the Corona Virus throughout the world. I realize it’s counter-intuitive, but let’s try and look at the web of connections this virus highlights without concentrating on the human, societal and economic distress it is causing.
The spread of the virus paints a vivid picture of how interconnected we all are. Ground Zero for this pandemic is Wuhan, China. Wuhan is an economic hub in China, but I had never heard of it prior to news of the Corona Virus. I definitely did not know anyone in Wuhan. I am literally half a world away from Wuhan. And yet this pandemic demonstrates how hard it is to keep me separated from the citizens of this faraway Chinese city. One person connects me to others, exponentially, they connect me to still others, and the web grows.
We may imagine how separated we all are, how different we all are, but this tiny, little, unseen virus is saying something quite different. The virus sees us as basically the same. It infects Chinese with equal alacrity as it does Americans. It could not care less if we are liberal or if we attended the Conservative Political Action Committee convention. The Vatican and Saudi Arabia had to curtail religious gatherings because the virus can’t tell the difference between a Christian and a Muslim. We are all so similar as humans. Then why do we exert so much energy on emphasizing our differences? There’s nothing wrong with differences until they’re used to separate and discriminate and hate.
Jesus comes with the countervailing message of our shared humanity. He is born as one of us, as a human. Jesus is God’s direct experience of human life, not Jewish life, not male life, just human life. He dies on the cross for all people because no one earned the cross. Everyone deserted Jesus at the cross, says the earliest Gospel of Mark. He dies experiencing the same confusion, pain and fear of all humanity. He lived and died and knows what it is to be us.
All of this inspired Paul to proclaim Jesus as the universal Saviour. In today’s passage from Romans, Paul is writing to a community he does not know personally. This is a strange situation for the apostle. The church in Rome appears to have been influenced deeply by the Jewish-Christian persuasion of the earliest church, and Paul preaches to them where they are in the hopes of sharing with them the theology of the universal Saviour.
Paul preaches of Abraham, and that Abraham is the forebear of the circumcised (the Jewish people) and the uncircumcised (all others). Abraham is our forebear of righteousness, a righteousness that binds all people together through faith, through faith in Jesus who lived and died for all people.
May Lent give us the chance to think of Jesus’ lived and spoken revelation of our interconnectedness. We are all cherished by Jesus, even to the point of the cross. May we meditate upon this truth and try to live it as best we can.
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