This week the readings remind us of the toughest part of responding to the call of Jesus. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Jesus calls a person to follow him, he calls that person to come and die.” The paradox of the Gospel that is highlighted this week, though, is that it is in dying that we find life.
The Lectionary this week challenges what we understand by the word “faith”. Faith is about the losing of our lives for the sake of the Gospel, which includes both the purpose to which we devote our lives, and the practices by which we seek to live out that purpose.
In Abraham’s case, God renews the promise which called Abraham from his homeland. In response Abraham had tried to use very human methods to fulfil God’s promise, with undesirable results. Now God emphasises that not just the purpose, but the ways that purpose is fulfilled, must be directed by God’s agenda.
In the Psalm, God’s rulership of the earth is celebrated, along with the justice and grace that this brings to the earth. In the midst of this song of celebration, the psalmist recommits to fulfilling vows to God.
In the letter to the Romans, Paul reflects on Abraham’s faith and how it was this, and not obedience to law, that was his righteousness. Here faith is once again viewed as the giving of life to follow God’s purposes, as opposed to simply agreeing to some legalistic propositions.
Finally, the Gospel drives the theme home in a very challenging way. Peter, who had just expressed faith in Jesus, is reprimanded because his faith has not yet embraced the implications of what he believes. So, Jesus challenges him, and the other disciples, to allow their faith to become the driving cause for their lives – to lose their lives for the sake of Jesus and the message of God’s Reign that Jesus embodied. Here faith moves to a radical, transforming, all-consuming way of being.
The challenge of this, and of the Lenten journey, of course, is whether we are ready and willing to embrace this faith, or simply remain with a safer faith.
May we, through our worship, receive the courage and the conviction to take up our crosses this week. In prayer, Rev Tania.