Revised Common Lectionary Reflection, Second Sunday in Lent, Year B
February 28, 2021
Lessons: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:23-31; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38 (or Mark 9:2-9)
Theme: God’s faithful and generous people pay attention to Jesus’ teachings and live them out in their daily lives—no matter the cost or holy disruption.
Key Scripture: For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. – Mark 8:35
We humans don’t usually enjoy difficult teachings like the ones that Jesus speaks about in this week’s gospel lesson. It’s our natural tendency to want comfortable and familiar faith experiences, to desire a savior who doesn’t require much of us in the way of sacrifice and suffering. Many of us turn to our faith communities seeking comfort, affirmation, validation, and blessing. We want a faith that fits us rather than a faith that requires us to step out in, well…faith. Some Christians here in the US even hasten to take up the language of persecution over simply being challenged or asked to look at faith through a broader and less homogeneous lens. Jesus’ words to his disciples and us this week invite us to consider the true cost of discipleship in this beautiful, broken world.
I’ll be honest with you: I have not suffered for my faith. I’ve perhaps been a bit inconvenienced on occasion, but I can go peacefully to worship and expect to return safely home. Even though violence is on the rise against worshiping communities with sources identifying somewhere between 91 and 617 fatalities within the last decade or so, most of us still feel safe within the walls of our faith communities and religious centers. The chances of encountering violence are pretty slim for American Christians. Yet Jesus understood the risk of opposing empire and the forces of violence and evil. He knew that he walked a lonely road to a violent death because of his countercultural teaching and witness, and he is trying to get his followers to understand the very real cost of discipleship. You may have to lose your life to gain it, he tells the crowds. Naturally, this is not a popular teaching, and Peter is the first to confront Jesus. He does so out of his own need and misplaced ideas about how things are supposed to happen. Peter is looking for his teacher to rise in glory to rule over Israel. He’s hanging on to his interpretation of prophecy and the needs of the day. Jesus sets Peter straight, and Peter will eventually be martyred for the faith.
Would you be willing to die for your faith? Would you be willing to put your life on the line to proclaim the gospel? Are you willing to speak truth to power, and are you willing to take potentially divisive or unpopular stances to bring attention and relief to those on the margins? If you answered an honest yes to any of these questions, then you place yourself squarely in the crosshairs of potential violence. You will find yourself in the company of those who make good trouble in the name of the Christ, including Archbishop Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Archbishop Janani Luwam, Wang Zhiming, Shabaz Bhatti, Sister Leonella Sgorbatti, Sister Barbara Ann Ford, and the Emanuel Nine (The Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, The Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, The Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson). You will also put yourself in the company of The Rev. Fabián Kreischer, a beloved pastor in the Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Unida, vice president of the church, and pastor of Congregation San Pablo in Argentina. Rev. Kreischer, an openly gay man living with HIV, was an activist for the LGBTQIA community and those living with HIV. He was found brutally murdered in his home earlier this month.
Following the way of Jesus is not an easy skip down some yellow brick road. It is an invitation to deny oneself, take up the cross, and be willing to give up one’s life—most likely metaphorically but also perhaps quite literally. Jesus will lead us to uncomfortable and difficult places that may require a change of heart, mind, opinion, and perhaps theology. Are you willing to give up whatever privilege and status is necessary to follow the Christ? This is the question before us this Sunday. I wonder how we will answer.
Why not post pictures of martyrs with their stories around your worship space? If you are worshiping digitally, consider putting together a short video or PowerPoint slide show with the faces and names of various martyrs.
Consider these hymns/videos:
“The Summons” by John Bell:
“Here I am, Lord” by Dan Schutte:
“God of Movements and Martyrs” by David LaMotte, performed by The Many:
Just what is a covenant? What’s the difference between a covenant and a contract? Why does this matter, and what does it have to do with God and our relationship with the Creator of the Cosmos. Use this week’s Old Testament lesson (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16) to talk about covenants. Check this website and short video for help explaining the difference using the Abrahamic covenant.
This week’s focus verse is Mark 8:34 – [Jesus] called the crowd with his disciples, and he said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus has to set some of his followers straight about what it means to follow him. He tells them they have to let go of anything that prevents them from following him. For example, Peter assumes Jesus would sit on the throne of Israel and get rid of the Roman occupation and corrupt rulers. Jesus knows otherwise; he always works from the margins and takes difficult stances on justice, love, wealth, and power. We can’t have it both ways. We can either follow Jesus or follow our own desires and will. If we choose to NOT follow Jesus—even though it may be difficult—then we don’t experience the real life that God desires for us. We walk by faith, not by our own vision. We belong to God, and that is a very good thing indeed. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and you cannot go astray.
Finish with a simple echo prayer and blessing.
Dear God (Dear God),
Thank you (Thank you) for loving us (for loving us). Thank you for calling us to follow you (Thank you for calling us to follow you) and trust you (and trust you), even when it’s tough to let go of what we want (when it’s tough to let go of what we want). You promise us real life (You promise us real life) and we praise you (and we praise you).
Keep us from fear (Keep us from fear). Keep us hopeful (Keep us hopeful). Make us helpful (Make us helpful). Give us peace (Give us peace). Amen (Amen).
Stewardship Bulletin Insert
Following the way of Jesus may take us to uncomfortable places and ask us to stretch our faith in order to grow into the people God desires us to be. Thank you for risking, stretching, and following the Christ. Together we are stronger and can do so much more.
Stewardship at Home
“We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul.” — Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, excerpted from her speech “We are all bound up together” given before the Eleventh National Women’s Rights Convention in 1866
February is African American History Month. This week we invite you to learn about and contemplate the life of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911). Harper was an abolitionist, orator, poet and novelist, and temperance activist. She was born free in Baltimore, MD, and worked tirelessly throughout her life to champion the causes of universal freedom, education, and temperance. She was a prolific writer and powerful orator, drawing hundreds to her speeches. Read more about her here and here. This week as we contemplate the difficult path of discipleship,
As you read about Harper and her work, remember the powerful leadership of Black women in our own time and in recent history, including Stacey Abrams, Majora Carter, Shirley Chisholm, Septima Clark, Amanda and Gabrielle Gorman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Kamala Harris, Pauli Murray, Michelle Obama, Maya Wiley and so many other amazing women. Read about more Black women who have played and continue to play important roles as activists, educators, writers, and artists here.
2015 Reflection: https://www.stewardshipoflife.org/2015/02/this-is-good-news/
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