Lectionary Reflection for the 4th Sunday in Lent
March 18, 2012
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God–not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. — Ephesians 2:8-10
What are you worth? Have you ever stopped to think about it? According to an Adbusters article from April 2011, it all depends on who you ask. The Environmental Protection Agency values a human life at $9.1 million. The Food and Drug Administration estimates the value of a life at $7.9 million. The Transportation Department estimates one’s worth at a paltry $6 million. Don’t get too excited, however. The reality is that your body’s raw materials, according to the periodic table, are really worth somewhere around a dollar. That’s right, by scientific standards your body is worth less than a plain cup of brew at Starbucks.
Fortunately, God thinks you are of infinite worth. The gospel lesson reminds us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). Yes, you are worth far more than the sum of your parts and any value the powers of this world may assign to you.
In the epistle reading from Ephesians 2, Paul tells the faith community at Ephesus that they were once “by nature children of wrath,” and only out of God’s love for us are we saved by grace through faith. That’s right; we are transformed from children of wrath to children of worth by sheer love exhibited in radical grace, and there’s not a thing we can do about it. It is a gift–pure and simple. But that’s not all! It gets better. “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life,” Paul continues.
Not only are we priceless in God’s eyes, as new creations in Christ we are equipped for a life of active participation in the restoration of all creation. We are all of great worth, and we all have something worth sharing, and all of us are gifted for something worth doing.
It is one thing to be told you are worth something; it’s another thing entirely to actively live like it. In Christ, and through his example of life and ministry, we are equipped and set free to work good in this world in the name of the One who loves and saves us. We are made to worship, to love, to serve, and to live in light of God’s amazing mercy and grace. From wrath to worth, from being curved in on ourselves in sin to opening our hands and hearts in the light of love: yes, it’s a lifestyle thing, dear child of God. You are worth way more than a cup of coffee or even a few million bucks. Now get out there and live like it in the name of Christ!
This week’s epistle and gospel lessons offer an ideal time to highlight the ministries of your congregation that serve those beyond your walls. Consider displays or a PowerPoint presentation sharing and celebrating your involvement in this way of life and being in the world. You might even pinpoint on a world map all the places your congregation is serving either directly or indirectly.
Reflect on verses 16 and 17 of this week’s gospel reading. Most youth are familiar with John 3:16, but not everyone has committed verse 17 to memory. They go together and remind us that God loves and comes to save all people. Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, said:
“When you love people, you see all the good in them, all the Christ in them. God sees Christ, his Son, in us and loves us. And so we should see Christ in others, and nothing else, and love them. There can never be enough of it. There can never be enough thinking about it.”
If God sees such great worth in us, how can we strive to see the worth in everyone we encounter? How can we get beyond judging and stereotypes? What does it mean for us to try to love as Christ loves? What might this look like in practice? If we look for the worth in others, does it help us to understand our own great worth as children of God?
Assemble pictures of children from around the world. Find a globe or ball that has that has world imprinted on it. Read John 3:16-17, and tell the children that Jesus loves each one of them and every child in the whole world–including the big grown-up ones sitting in the pews. God loves everyone. Consider singing the traditional spiritual “He’s got the Whole World in his Hands.” Click here for lyrics. Consider alternating the words “brother” and “sister” so that all are included.