Grenz Ricoeur Shelf

Grenz Ricoeur Shelf

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Prayer and Scriptures for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (2014)

A Prayer for the Week:
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary:
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm: Psalm 23
Gospel: Ephesians 5:8-14
Epistle: John 9:1-41
Lectionary and Lenten Reflections:

What is Laetare Sunday?

Catalyst: Of Calendars and Clocks

The Brazos Blog: Francesca Murphy on 1 Samuel...
The human heart evades literal analysis. It is a wayward thing that humans can know only partially, by contemplation, and that only God can see in full. The heart symbolizes what is personal to the human agent, because it is the concealed force directing all human action.
 Theology Forum: Poems for Lent: Ephrem the Syian

Experimental Theology: Richard Beck on Repent The Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand: A Lenten Reflection
The message of the Baptist is important to ponder, especially during Lent. Prior to Jesus's entrance John is "preparing the way for the Lord" by "preaching a baptism of repentance." To be sure, faith is a prerequisite for all this. Obviously, you'd have to believe John's message before undergoing his baptism of repentance. But this is banal. Such a faith doesn't, in itself, constitute a full and proper response to the gospel. Rather, the response we see is a repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This is how the heart is properly prepared for responding to the kingdom coming. 
This makes sense if we consider the gospel to be, as Scot McKnight has argued, the declaration that Jesus is King. Kings don't demand belief or faith. You don't believe in kings. No, you obey kings. You give a king allegiance. So when the kingdom comes the proper response is behavioral, a reconfiguration of loyalties. A new apocalyptic reality has been revealed and we are called upon to readjust our lives to this new reality. This is why the ministry of John the Baptist was necessary. 
Why has the role of repentance been deemphasized in many sectors of Christianity? One answer, I think, has to do with what Scot McKnight has pointed out: We've reduced the gospel to salvation. Thus, the crux of Christian life becomes cognitive assent (i.e., faith) rather than readjusting our lives in the face of the gospel--that Jesus is Lord and the rule/kingdom of God has broken upon us. As I described above, it's so much easier tobelieve that Jesus is King than to obey him as King. The point being, for great swaths of Christianity the message and ministry of John the Baptist has no place. We don't tell people that, to accept the gospel, they need to prepare themselves. All you need to do is believe in Jesus and say the Sinner's Prayer. Compare that with John's baptism of repentance and his message [in Luke 3:10-14]. 
When people ask "What must I do to be saved?" Christians don't, as a rule, say things like "If you have two shirts give one to the poor." We don't see that action--giving away excess possessions--as an example of responding to the gospel. But it is. It's readjusting your life to the new rule of God.

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