Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C: John 12:1-8: Embarrassing Love

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John.

Jesus goes to visit his friends in Bethany, Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus. During dinner as Martha serves and Lazarus eats with Jesus, Mary comes in with expensive perfume. She pours the perfumeon Jesus’ feet and wipes his feet with her hair.

Judas (yeah, that one) complained that the perfume was worth a full year’s pay–saying that it should have been sold and the money given to the poor. The text then notes that Judas didn’t really care about the poor, but cared because he was a thief. He took care of the money for Jesus’ followers and stole from it.

Jesus answers that she has saved this perfume to prepare him for burial. He says, “You will always have those who are poor with you. But you will not always have me.”

Sometimes expressions of love can be embarrassing and extreme. Sometimes like Judas we want to turn away and disdain generous displays of love. Obviously, Jesus cares for the poor–that’s evident throughout his ministry. But at this moment a display of love and caring is appropriate and welcome. He had come to this family before and been a blessing to them. Now he has come in the need to be blessed before he goes to Jerusalem, where he will be sentenced to die.

Love generously. Love Jesus extremely while you also love those in need.

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32: Forgiveness and What Does Prodigal Mean, Anyway?

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

This week’s reading is one I wrote about when I used to prepare curriculum based on the lectionary for our church school, so I’m mostly using that here.

Most of us probably know the story of the prodigal son. I wasn’t even exactly sure what the word “prodigal” meant, in spite of my familiarity with this parable. Honestly, I’m sure most of us don’t use the word much except in the context of this particular story, either. I actually just looked it up and it didn’t even mean what I thought it meant. I thought it was something like “describing someone who deserts someone or something else and then comes back” but I guess that was just the influence of this parable. The real definition is: “Spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.” So much for my degree in English.

So the story is that the younger son of a rich man decides he is not satisfied with life at home and he’s ready to go out on his own. Rather than seeking his own fortune, though, he goes to his father and asks for his inheritance early. His father is sad about it, but goes ahead and gives him the money. Can you imagine the nerve of this guy? Anyway, he takes the money and runs off to live on his own. He becomes quite the playboy and squanders all his inheritance away on partying and fast living. Next thing you know, he’s down and out and far from home. He ends up taking a job feeding some guy’s pigs and realizes he’s so poor and hungry that he’d be happy to be eating what the pigs are eating. Finally he realizes he’d be better off back home, even if he’s just a servant to his father, believing that’s all he can be since he wasted away the money and love his father gave him. So he returns home and as it turns out, his father is thrilled to see him, throws a big party for him, and welcomes him home. Meanwhile his older brother, who has stayed home and worked dutifully for his father, is angry that his wasteful, loser brother is getting all this affection and attention. The father tells him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” This older brother is sort of standing in for human beings in general–we don’t always understand God’s love for others; sometimes human beings try to deny that God loves everyone unconditionally. The father stands for God, whose love is above all we can imagine and who can forgive whatever bad things we do, but he is also an example of how we should strive to be. And of course the wasteful son represents us when we have done wrong things and need forgiveness.

Third Sunday in Lent, Year C: Luke 13:1-9: Do Right

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

People ask Jesus about a horrible event that had recently occurred–Pilate had Galilean worshippers killed with the added gruesome detail that their blood mixed with the blood of animals they brought for sacrifices. Jesus asks them if they think this happened because those people killed were more sinful than other Galileans. He says they weren’t and also asks about people who’d died when a tower fell on them. He says that they were not more sinful and that the listeners should think of that and change their own lives.

Here we have an age-old religious and philosophical question–are people punished for being sinful and why do bad things happen to good people. Jesus insists that those people weren’t killed because of their sin. We all know that bad consequences can come of bad actions, but also, sometimes bad things happen for no good reason. But Jesus also says not to be obsessing about those things but to instead be right with God ourselves, regardless. Do the right thing, no matter what comes. Love God, love your neighbor.

Second Sunday in Lent, Year C: Luke 13: 31-35: Defy the Foxes

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

Some Pharisees warn Jesus that he should hide because Herod wants to kill him. He responds,

“Go tell that fox, ‘Today and tomorrow I am forcing demons out of people and finishing my work of healing. Then, the next day, the work will be finished.’ After that I must go, because all prophets should die in Jerusalem.”

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets. You stone to death the people God has sent to you. How many times I wanted to help your people. I wanted to gather them together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you did not let me. Now your home will be left completely empty. I tell you, you will not see me again until that time when you will say, ‘Welcome! God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’[b

Luke 13:32-35 (Easy-to-read version)

First, I love that Jesus calls Herod a “fox”–meaning a cunning and sneaky creature who kills other animals. Second, I like the corresponding imagery of Jesus as a hen gathering chicks under her wings for protection, though he himself is in danger as a prophet. His great desire is to serve the poor and marginalized, to protect them from the foxes of the cruel domination system of his time, but that’s exactly why he was himself in danger from that domination system. And we must follow in his footsteps. Think of the great world changers of history–people like Ghandi and the Martin Luther King, Jr.–in defiance of the powers-that-be and with love for the downtrodden, they stood up for love and justice. They faced hardship and even death itself to change the world for the better. May we have the courage to do the same.

First Sunday in Lent, Year C: Luke 4:1-13: Jesus in the Wilderness

You can see all the lectionary readings for the First Sunday in Lent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus is fasting in the desert, where he is tempted by the devil for 40 days. Jesus of course resists every temptation–temptations for food, temptations for power, temptations to test God and make a dramatic spectacle.

This is an apt beginning to the 40 days of Lent, our own journey of sacrifice and resisting temptation–a time to prepare our hearts and grow in the love of God. Just as Jesus spent his time in prayer and preparation before beginning his ministry, we dwell in somber reflection and growth approaching Easter. Let us continue in that preparation.