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 25th: Joshua 4:14-24; Psalm 32; and 2 Corinthians 5:6-15. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today is the fourth Lenten Friday. During an especially solemn and meaningful season, Lenten Fridays are even more focused on the image of Jesus crucified. If we were to count nine months into the future, it would be Christmas Day. Do you remember how we rejoice at the birth of the Holy Infant conceived by Mary? How we wonder at the thought of God entering our world in such innocence and humility, and such human ordinariness? That is the same child who we remember crucified on Good Friday.
On Christmas we celebrate and find hope in God entering our world as one of us and for us. On Good Friday, it is that same child now grown to adulthood who suffers and dies on the cross as one of us and for us. On Christmas, we do not seem to have objections to imagining the halo shining bright over the Bethlehem manger. On Good Friday, that same light is there shining on the cross as God in Christ endures human suffering and death.
A couple of evenings ago I watched parts of the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. I have saved and shared the amazing words of Sen. Cory Booker in defense of Judge Jackson. They were powerful and sincere. They brought the judge to tears. Even if I could ever be as eloquent as Sen. Booker, I could never say what he said. I could never share what he shared, feel what he felt. His words came from his shared experience with Judge Jackson of being a Black person. The tears rolling down Judge Jackson’s cheeks came from knowing what the Senator knows because both are Black.
Judge Jackson, at her confirmation hearing, shared the story of walking through Harvard Yard as a young, Black woman. Walking toward her was another Black woman. This other woman was a stranger, but she recognized the look on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s face. As they passed each other, the stranger, the other Black woman, leaned in and only said, “Persevere.” The other woman, an older, Black woman, saw in Ms. Jackson’s face the same look she must have had years earlier on coming to Harvard and wondering if she didn’t belong. That one word “persevere,” from someone who looked like her, gave Ketanji Brown Jackson the courage to continue, and soon she will be named the next Justice of the Supreme Court.
The connection between Judge Jackson and Sen. Booker and that unknown woman at Harvard was what made what they said so meaningful. They shared a common experience that goes in two directions. I can watch as this happens, but I can’t join fully in their shared experience because it has not been my experience.
In Jesus, from Bethlehem to Golgotha, God has lived as us, has shared our experience as human beings. In Jesus, we now have a connection with God that goes in two directions. In Jesus, God understands us, and we can look back at God in Jesus and understand God. This two-way street is what allows Paul to say today, “And [Jesus] died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” As we look to Jesus on the cross during Lent, we can see clearly that now God understands human suffering because God has suffered as a human, but we should also see in the cross Jesus’ example for all of us on how we are to live. Jesus gives us His last, perfect gospel-teaching on the cross that we must strive to no longer live only for ourselves. Jesus’ death saves us be showing us how to live.
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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