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 5th: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; and John 12:27-36. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today’s second reading is rather familiar although the why escapes me. It is poetic, but not all that insightful. Its message is that life changes. Well, yeah. It speaks to people as a message that life is transient, and this is why I hear this passage often at weddings and funerals, but is this revelatory? I sometimes wonder what goes through my dog’s mind as we take our walks at the change of seasons. I sense that he remembers what snow is after the first new snowfall of a season. I sense that he remembers how cool the stream is in the heat of summer’s first hot day. I sense that my dog understands that “for everything there is a season.” And my beloved Mason is not the brightest bulb on the shelf.
Maybe the resonance of this rather familiar passage is that it is comforting in times of distress and gratifying in times of blessing. Maybe it reminds us to take stock of time, to enjoy times of healing, laughter, dancing and peace so that in times of death, weeping, mourning and war we can remember what was and hope in what will return. But again, I don’t find this revelatory.
I think my problem with this biblical passage is that it wraps in the mantle of the sacred the notion that we are forever consigned to repeat history. We are now, for example, in a time of war in Europe. There has not been this scale of conflict in Europe since 1945 – 77 years ago. In generational terms, this is three generations of an uneasy but present peace. For three generations, we have lived with MAD – Mutual Assured Destruction. The unbearable, unthinkable prospect of nuclear war, and its Mutual Assured Destruction maintained the peace – not because we were a peace-loving people, but because nuclear war was too unimaginable. Now Putin talks of the threat of using nuclear weapons against any nation that would dare to interfere in his war against the Ukrainians, and commentators are again having to discuss for public consumption what this all means.
What makes all of this so tragic is that none but a few zealots want war, not to mention nuclear war. People in Russia, Russian conscripts, people in Ukraine, people assembling in city centers around the world, 141 nations in the UN General Assembly, all want peace, but war is forced upon us for reasons of pride and greed, with maybe a bit of insanity thrown into the mix. We are again held hostage by war. We again long for times of peace. And it seems like human history simply cycles around once again. But is this revelatory?
Is fait accompli the will and way of God or is it a lazy human resignation? I believe that the pendulum of revelation, culminating in the life, ministry and gospel of Jesus wants us to break free of this notion of necessarily repetitive history, and seek instead to establish our better selves. The full human nature of Jesus even to the point of His crucified death is that in Him we can be godly. The United Church of Christ inherits from the early Congregationalists a hope in Postmillennialism, that the reign of God comes to earth only after the People of God have proven worthy of it by embracing, practicing and letting prosper our Christian ethics. This is the rejection of the idea that God must intervene to prevent us from destroying everything, that a future of war is inevitable, and that as war’s technology grows ever more lethal, that the annihilation of everything can only be prevented by God putting us in the corner for a child’s time-out.
I believe that what is revelatory is that we can be better, and it still amazes me that this promise is fulfilled by a crucified Saviour. I invite you to come and join us at worship tomorrow. We will pray for peace and we will talk of Lent as the disruptive reminder that things do not have to be the way they always have been, that to break free of this cycle we need to better embrace and be embraced by Jesus. If you have any questions about how to join us for worship tomorrow, please send me an email at randyc1897@gmail. com.
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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