"Holy partners" in the work of Christ
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Monday, March 15th: Exodus 15:22-27; Psalm 107:1-16; and Hebrews 3:1-6. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
This past weekend I attended the online Super Saturday event sponsored by the Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ. The keynote speaker was Rabbi Elan Babchuck. Rabbi Babchuck offered the homily during the morning’s worship Service. He drew upon a similar instance in Israel’s Exodus journey from Egyptian slavery to the Promise Land as the one shared in today’s Lectionary.
He highlighted the nostalgia that pervaded the thoughts of the once enslaved Hebrews. As things grew precarious at different times during the Exodus, the people would complain that Moses had taken them out into the wilderness to die, that life was better under Egyptian slavery. They had lived as slaves, yet nostalgia somehow romanticized even that past.
The rabbi’s emphasis was that Israel needed to learn to trust more resolutely in God, that God had not taken His people out into the wilderness to let them die, that God was leading them to their Promised Land. They needed to trust in where they were going, in other words, not where they had been.
The Jewish people were compelled to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until the first generation had all died. God had led them to the border of the Promised Land, but the people did not trust in God enough to enter. God ordained at that moment that no adult among them would be allowed to enter the Promised Land. The privilege of crossing the border would be given to their children.
The generation formed in slavery was too locked into the strictures of the slave mentality. Hope was suppressed forcibly and meager subsistence filled the void where possibility should have lived. It would need to be the children born in the freedom of the Exodus wilderness who could appreciate the potential of liberty, who could reach beyond the nostalgia of the past and work toward the future.
The first followers of Jesus had to be of the same ilk. They needed to be free enough, as mentioned by the author of Hebrews, to be “brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling.” They could not only approach the faith expecting everything to be provided, and when it was not to then simply complain like the first generation in the Exodus. Christians would be called upon to become “holy partners in a heavenly calling.” They would be expected to become co-workers with Jesus in building a better world. This would be their spiritual liberation, their faith’s maturity. This calling to be “holy partners in a heavenly calling” is what opens the Promised Land to us.
Lent is most definitely a time of spiritual introspection, but it is also a time to reaffirm our commitment to follow Christ in how we live, in what we do, or as Hebrews would say, as we become “brothers and sister, holy partners in a heavenly calling.” Our faith in Jesus calls upon us to trust enough in God so that we can hope enough so that we can build a better tomorrow.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.macucc.org/lectionary.
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