Tuesday, February 16, 2016
2 Peter 2:4-21
Joshua, standing before the angel, was dressed in dirty clothes. The angel spoke to his attendants, “Get him out of those filthy clothes,” and then said to Joshua, “Look, I’ve stripped you of your sin and dressed you up in clean clothes.”
[Zechariah 3:3-4 The Message]
Perhaps one of my least favorite hymns is one sung during the Christmas season. “In the Bleak Midwinter.”
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago
I dislike its mournful melody, the text, everything about it. I am reminded of this Christmas tune as I look outside in mid-February and see the piles of snow. Today I hear snow plows rumbling and snow blowers blaring at five o’clock in the morning. Yes, Lent came early this year and it is little consolation to recall what a relatively mild winter we’ve had so far. I am anxious for Spring to come.
Perhaps the emphasis on penitence and self-discipline during the season of Lent adds to the somber mood. But just as the knowledge that Spring is coming puts us in a hopeful mood, so likewise the knowledge that Easter is coming should put us in that mood as well.
Today’s reading from Zechariah is intended to bring us a message of hope. While they were in exile, the children of Israel recalled how good they had it when they were the chosen people of God. They knew they had sinned and were deserving of God’s judgment. Joshua, the priest, stands as a symbol of Israel’s guilt. But note what God does. Joshua receives an extreme makeover – clean clothes, a new turban for his head (v.5), and all his sin is stripped away!
But wait! There’s more! God not only strips Joshua of sin, but the entire land as well. The final verses of our reading paint an idyllic picture of peace and well-being: “‘At that time, everyone will get along with one another, with friendly visits across the fence, friendly visits on one another’s porches.’” [v. 10]
We, too, are promised the same joy as a result of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like the weather, this bleak midwinter of our sinfulness will not last forever.
Lent holds the possibility for real change. Consider the ways we’ve fallen short. How can we, through our Lenten practices, deepen our faith and renew our hope?
Back in December, I was introduced to a neat little book titled Daily Prayer for All Seasons. It is, as the name implies, a prayer book published by the Episcopal Church and organized around the liturgy of the hours, or daily office, and the seasons of the church calendar. The following paragraph from the introduction to the season of Lent is worth sharing because it helps one shape what this season should develop within us:
During Lent we as individual Christians and as a church – the Body of Christ – consider our spiritual health. How are we living the gospel in our lives, our homes, our churches, our schools, our places of work? What areas of growth or signs of renewal should we celebrate with gratitude and joy? In what ways have we fallen short, grown stagnant or coldhearted, or failed to love God by embracing new life when we encounter it? These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves during the weeks of Lent.
Let us go forward in hope.
Perhaps a word of clarification is necessary here for those who may be wondering what is up with this flurry of daily blogposts during Lent. I’m still trying to figure out where I can post this explanation so that it will be a permanent fixture on the page.
Simply put, this is my Lenten discipline. For several years in my former parish, we did a collaborative community devotional where individuals contributed a reflection for each day of Lent (plus the six Sundays in Lent). We compiled these reflections into a booklet for the congregation to use as a devotional during the Lenten period. This is not unique. Many churches engage in this practice.
Last year, during my first Lent as bishop, I missed not having a devotional and reading other folks’ reflections on these passages from Scripture. So I thought about taking on the task on my own. And here it is. But I am not writing in advance, so there may be some gaps when I am not able to get to my computer and post in timely fashion. I will skip those days rather than try to race madly to catch up. (I’ve missed one already – day 2 – in case no one noticed)
The readings are taken from the Daily Lectionary as found in the “Additional Resources” section of Evangelical Lutheran Worship. We are in Year C.