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Second Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

Second Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

 

1. Genesis 12, 1-4

  • It is the calling of Abram, a kind of beginning.
  • God does most of the talking.  It’s a kind of invitation, a promise in verse form.
  • It is all made up of blessings.
  • A wealthy man breaking with his family, setting out for a new land.
  • Which God is speaking?  Our God! 
  • Who initiates this?  It is God’s idea, not Abram’s.
  • And what does Abram do?  He listens and follows.
  • How would God speak this?  As in a dream, a soft sell, a warm invitation?
  • What does it mean for us?  Abram became Abraham, our father in faith.  “All the communities.”  That is it!  Everything revolves around this fulfillment of God’s promise.
  • If God is speaking, Abram is also listening.  The key point: What does Abram hear?  That is the mood I will convey, and I will rehearse until I get it right.
  • Another lesson: to hear and obey is noble in the sight of God, so it is enough.  That is the lesson of Lent and our lesson today.  Jesus did that, too (see Hebrews). 
  • I move backward in time as I read.  But the story is made alive in our day because it reaches to “all the communities.”  We care today, and admire Abraham.
  • Remember: he is old and childless.  This gives an added tension to God’s promise.  Where is this fantastic blessed nation?  How will it happen?
  • I pronounce his shortened former name correctly but do not draw attention to this.
  • It is really not one blessing here, but four, and they increase in scope from a single man to all nations.  It could be a progression, either five visions in a night or five different visions in which Abram receives the invitation.  Why don’t I pause between them to show this progression among the blessings?

 

2. Second Letter to Timothy 1, 8-10

  • These are words of encouragement in the name of Paul, to a disciple. 
  • That encouragement in hardship is what makes this a reading for Lent.
  • After that comes a statement of our faith: God’s grace bestowed on us in Jesus.
  • With my eye contact I’ll take the words of encouragement to the people one on one, and then sweep my gaze across the assembly as I take the confession of faith to the level of church. 
  • I need to find a way to bring us into the mystery of salvation – here, today!
  • There are at least a dozen pieces of truth with equal weight.  If I just let one piece flow after another, weaving into each other, I can give a sense of how we are wrapped into Christ.  In my rehearsal I try to manage this flow of phrases.
  • God is doing it!  That is the way!  Strength that comes from God.  He saved us and called us.  And as I read those past tenses I make them sound as if they were present tense.
  • What genre?  We have a letter like the letters to the churches, except that it is addressed to church leaders.  I do not think it ever was a private letter like Philemon.  Both letters to Timothy were meant to be overheard from the very first, shared with the early believers and with ourselves.
  • Finer points: the call to an active testimony to our Lord, very fitting for Lent.

 

Gospel.  Matthew 17, 1-9

  • The Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus, that we always read on the Second Sunday of Lent.  And what will we remember this time?
  • And he was transfigured before their eyes.  It sounds very close to an Easter vision, and that makes it an upbeat reading for sure.  This is God’s beloved Son, and Jesus tells them Do not be afraid.
  • There is a process at work here, Jesus became radiant, a number of visions and changes in weather.  That kind of thing happens on mountains.
  • Moses and Elijah appear, and they belong here.  And for a while we keep a place for them: I will make three tents.  But God overshadows the disciples and they saw no one else but Jesus.  That would be my key organizing point of the entire reading: that Jesus recapitulates the Law and the Prophets.  He alone is the Son.
  • Why did the evangelist keep the admonition Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead?  Doesn’t that mean that we are free to proclaim the vision to the whole world?
  • As I polish my delivery I will pay attention to important organizing details: A high mountain in my best story-telling way, pausing to let us picture the mountain.  A father about to introduce his son warmly and admiringly while saying, This is my beloved Son.  And the finality of the concluding scene: They saw no one else but Jesus.

Word to Eucharist: People feel exhilirated in the thin air of a mountain peak, and even after they have returned to ground level.  Shouldn't we feel that way if we have truly gone with Jesus to his revelation as Son?

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