Lessons for the Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 12:  1-4a

Some 1900 years before Christ the book of Genesis gives us the story of a 75 year old Mesopotamian who lives in Ur, a prosperous town on the Euphrates River near the Persian Gulf.  His name was Abram and he was called to leave his town, his people , his country and go to a land that the Lord will specify.  And though the story gives us no explanation of why this command to depart from everything Abram knows, he goes.  In the context of the purpose of the Genesis story Abram is the “perfectly faithful man.”  He simply takes his wife Sarai, his nephew, Lot. and goes north to Harran in Canaan.  This story, this simple call to a single man, is where the story of Israel begins.

Romans 4:  1-5, 13-17

The story of Abraham was a great delight to Paul because it gave a fine example of right relationship with God that was not dependent upon the law.  Abraham had complete trust in God and that trust enabled the just relationship that Paul recognizes as his key argument in his sales pitch to both Jews and Gentiles.  For Abraham, faith or belief concerned the promises of God; for Paul, faith was the gift of Jesus Christ.  In both situations it is this unbridled faith that brings Abraham and his descendants and us today into the right relationship with God.

John 3:  1-17

John tells us that a number of Pharisees questioned Jesus in the temple.  One of those leaders of the religious establishment was Nicodemus, a  man skilled in the law and a thoughtful observer of the answers Jesus gave the Pharisees.  It would seem that Nicodemus saw ideas in Jesus that he was loath to raise in the temple and now John says, he came to Jesus at night to press his deeper questions.  Nicodemus is there to test his own understanding of how God related to the world and he suspects Jesus offers something new.  Jesus startles the Pharisee with this opening line, “No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.  ”From above” can also mean “again.”  And this double meaning is hard for Nicodemus to fathom.  Jesus goes on to develop the core statement by adding, one must be born of water and spirit, but the literal Pharisee cannot grasp Jesus’ meaning.  “Born again” is a catchword in religion today; Jesus is using the phrase metaphorically to get Nicodemus to see life in God, to see the Kingdom of God through accepting the spirit in his life.