Reflection for the week

Reflection for 25th February 2024

The Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 17.1-7, 15, 16, Romans 4.13-25, Mark 8.31-38

The readings this week show God’s trustworthy promises changing people’s destinies. In Genesis, the names of Abraham and Sarah changed and their lives re-ordered by God’s divine promise and grace. God makes the impossible, possible, as their great age does not prevent the Divines determination to make them parents of a people who will bless all nations.

In Romans, Paul further explains that this blessing inherited from Abraham is also ours by grace through faith and not just on keeping the law. It is through living by faith, that we are saved. Salvation is not earned by keeping the law alone or by trying to impress God with pious actions. Paul explains how salvation is a gift from God: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations”. Such hope is based not on flights of fancy but in the future promised by the God who “gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.”

So how do we handle this? If God is in control of our lives, does this mean everything that happens is somehow God’s will? Where does our God given free will fit into this? And what about the bad things that happen to us, like illness and other disasters? This ‘either / or’ way of thinking isn’t helpful. Instead, our thinking should be ‘both / and’.

We accept that God knows everything and wills things to happen. However, at the same time, we know that human frailty fractures the good God intended. What is vital to understanding free will is the way we respond to God’s care.

For instance, do we accept God’s guidance over our lives in faith or do we respond like Peter? Peter held his own plans as being more important than Gods’. In Mark, Peter’s negative response to Jesus is understandable because he is forced to change his ideas in the wake of Jesus’ new plans. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, who confessed Jesus is the Christ, who listened intently to the teachings, still refuses to accept that Jesus must suffer and die a humiliating death on the cross.

Why? Why did Peter react so heatedly? Peter, despite everything he had heard and seen, still held close to his heart the idea of Jesus having the kind of power and authority aspired to in this world. The same power the Kings of his age had and, with it, the power of military force. Peter followed Jesus because he revelled in the thought of standing alongside a powerful and authoritative Messiah as a General. In his delusion, He saw his destiny, status and prosperity tied to Jesus. No wonder he was hostile to hearing about Jesus’ rejection and death which, in his mind, was weakness and failure!

Jesus’ response to Peter points to something of Satan being in his resistance. Meaning that Peter is more focused on human concerns of self-protection and self-advancement, rather than those of the Divine. Jesus follows up with a lesson that, as disciples of Christ, we too need to daily learn.

By saying, “Take up your cross and follow Me”, Jesus was giving us a word picture of the concept of “death to self”. He teaches how we need to learn to daily deny ourselves from living lives as we think we ought. To let go of our old lives with all our ideas, preconceptions, and views of what a good life should be. In other words, to live an authentic, sacrificial life, guided by Jesus focused upon what he wants us to be in His service and in the service of others.

In our exercise of free will, God gives us this same choice as Peter, to either choose His guidance and purpose for our lives or follow our worldly driven ideas. By choosing to follow Christ, we claim his offer of an abundant life and the destinies God promises. Along with Abraham and Sarah, we are called to hope again, for what had been given up as impossible; to trust that God will bring something new out of our barrenness; that God will bring life out of death. With Peter we are invited to rethink our ambitions, priorities and schedules in the light of Jesus’ offer. He calls us to accept, through the power of the Holy spirit, the shaping, moulding and aligning of our lives to that of His.

Our great and glorious God who, lovingly, invites us to take up our crosses and actively embrace His redemptive purpose by calling us to work alongside Him; to challenge the ways of the world that protect the powerful and deny the needs of the abandoned, to live lives that risk our reputations and comforts, in Jesus’ name, in the sure and certain hope that He lived, died and rose again for us.

This week, in the love of God, what ideas / opinions/ views will you put down and instead receive what God gives you to take up?

Blessings and prayers,