Rocks from the same quarry
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 March 2nd: Psalm 121; Isaiah 51:1-3; and 2 Timothy 1:3-7. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Faith must be nurtured. In the Isaiah passage, the prophet encourages his readers by having them recall the faith of those who came before them. He writes, “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.” The message is a call to imitate the faith that has been passed down to them. The prophet’s imagery is rocks from the same quarry. Today we may something like we share the same spiritual DNA.
This theme is repeated in the 2 Timothy passage. “Paul” is writing to Timothy, a young disciple of the apostle. In the Epistle, “Paul” both teaches and encourages his protégée. One way in which he does so is to remind Timothy of the faith that has been passed down to him from previous generations. Basically, “Paul” is repeating the Isaian message of rocks from the same quarry. He writes to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.”
These are messages that repeat the lesson that faith must be nurtured, and not only by the individual of faith. Faith must be nurtured by a community of faith. One generation supports the faith-lives of the next. One person of faith bolsters the faith of another person. We are called upon and expected to nurture one another.
Psalm 121 is what is referred to as a “Pilgrim Song.” This is an ancient Jewish hymn that would have been chanted by Jewish pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem for religious festivals at the Temple. It is set-up as a dialogue, possibly even one as intimate as a parent and a child as they walk up to the heights of the Holy City.
I remember driving across country to visit my grandparents in California. One of the ways my father would distract me on this 3,000-mile car ride was to play license plate poker. It helped the time go by on some of those long and boring stretches of highway. I remember when my daughters were younger we had videos that would play in the back seat of the van to do the same thing. Psalm 121 is a more constructive variation of the same. Pilgrims would often walk for days to reach Jerusalem and as they got closer the parent may begin this religious dialogue with the child in order to prepare the child for what was ahead. The Psalm was used to nurture the faith from one generation to the next. It is a compelling image to imagine these throngs of pilgrim families walking the same path, sharing the same Psalms, encouraging each other in their collective faith.
This is what church is supposed to do. We come together to nurture the faith of each other. We are rocks from the same quarry. When we do so, the entire church is nurtured and becomes stronger. When we fail to do so, the people of the church are weakened, the church is weakened. We are in this together. We are called upon to nurture each other. During this season of Lent, may we recommit ourselves to nurturing our faith, and to nurturing each other’s faith, as well.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Southern New England Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
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