Lenten blog | March 3, 2020
A Tale for Super Tuesday
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 3rd: Genesis 4:1-16; Psalm 32; and Hebrews 4:14 - 5:10. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Let’s start with Genesis. That makes sense since Genesis is where it all starts. The tale of Cain and Able is a folk story. The people of Israel were a nomadic clan. They traveled with their herds. As the herds needed to move so did the people.
This lifestyle was threatened by settled people, and vice versa. Archaeology shows that the people of Israel entered the Promised Land and lived in previously unoccupied areas in the hills rather than along the plains by the coast. Their cultural artifacts were simple, not the rich and adorned creations of settled communities. There was a cultural conflict between shepherds and farmers, and it often turned violent.
This conflict made its way into the folklore of Cain, the farmer, and Abel, the shepherd. Abel, representing the early people of Israel, offered worthy gifts to God. Cain was grudging in his sacrifices. God favoured Abel, the early people of Israel, and rejected Cain’s offering. Cain grows envious, attacks and kills Abel. The settled communities were stronger than the Israelite herdsmen, but Israel trusted they were chosen by God.
We see here a story of the ages. One people feels threatened by another. Change and difference lead to cultural competition and conflict. Violence ensues. This is an ageless tale. It is one still playing out in our world today. Sociologists point to the reactionary attitudes that arise when one part of society sees change as threatening their way of life and security. Difference leads to conflict.
Again, this is timeless, but so is the biblical message that even though this is our reality, it is more true that we are our brothers keeper, we are our sisters keeper. The moral of the story is that tensions and conflict are a constant threat, but we must rise above vengeance and violence and protect the other. In a story of perpetual animosity, the greater religious message is that difference and competition are not excused by God as the rationale for violence.
The Saviour who goes to the cross epitomizes this lesson. It is a central Lenten theme. But it is also one important for this particular day. Today we have the privilege and responsibility of voting in the Presidential primary. We are a part of Super Tuesday. Many of us have strong political leanings, and the political divide is wide and contentious among us. I have never seen such national divisiveness. In this setting of strong and often contradictory opinions, let us remember the moral of the Cain and Abel story. No matter the difference, no matter the change, no matter the challenge, none of these are justifications for violence spoken or acted. We are each other’s keepers.
As a friend often reminds us: “Anger destroys the container that it's in."
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