Third Sunday of Lent
Mary Louise Chesley-Cora
March 19, 2019
Today’s familiar story in Exodus 3 presents a backdrop for Moses’ encounter with “I AM” (YHWH), the same God who called the ancestors into a unique relationship. Each of the early Matriarchs and Patriarchs encountered this God of covenant and compassion: the God of Sarah and Abraham, the God of Rebecca and Isaac, the God of Rachel, Leah and Jacob. (Notice that the repetition does not denote three Gods but rather a growth in the understanding of the relationship with each of these early families.) The Israelites continued to be called and led by unsuspecting and surprising individuals whose hearts were open to a holy encounter with the divine. Their descendants got caught up in the busyness of life, other “gods,” and often lost sense of their true call to holiness as the chosen people. They forgot their experiences of awe, of holy ground, of a patient God. Moses is reminded of this in his remarkable call from the burning bush that is not burning! “Take off your shoes, this is holy ground.”
In Corinthians, we read of Paul, another leader to remind the people of their early connections to “the ancestors.” He recalls the great prophet Moses and the water the Israelites drank from Miriam’s well. He reminds his readers of the time their ancestors were struck down in the desert and forgot their covenant with God. He calls on them to forsake the fatal temptations that these ancestors encountered. He pleads with them to once again drink of the wisdom of Torah, this time in the person of Christ, the rock and source of life.
Luke carries the theme of temptation and connection with the past as Jesus broadens the understanding of the listeners beyond simply recognizing individual temptations, to a recognition of a national betrayal of God’s covenant. All are in need of the patient and compassionate Gardener in order to find new life and hope. Jesus reminds them that faith is an ongoing struggle in the midst of failure. As the gardener in the parable, Jesus calls for more time and care for those who may stray from the path. The ground of one’s life may need more work to become fertile and open to the fruit hidden within the person. Patient God identifies with those loved ones and walks with them even to the moment of death. As Christians, we are called to also walk with one another, especially those who are in need of extra time, resources, opportunities to be able to grow into their true selves. We must encourage them to bear fruit rather than to lose hope, to be “cut down” so to speak. We are called today to be that “face of the Living God.”
For reflection and Discussion: Are there times when you find yourself “awed” in today’s culture? How? If not, do you find that sense elsewhere? Do you have “holy ground” where you “take off your shoes” and let God fill you with awe? When do you slow down, look closely and appreciate the patience needed for additional growth in your relationship with God and others?
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