Conversion and New Life: Preaching In Lent

12 months A immerses the congregation into the fascinating readings from the Gospel of John: Nicodemus, the girl on the effectively, the person born blind, and Lazarus.

Three of those readings (the girl on the effectively, the person born blind, and the rising of Lazarus) have figured in lectionary readings for Lent from the 5th century onward, if not even earlier. The Johannine texts are referenced within the ceremony of scrutinies for the preparation of catechumens for baptism within the night time of the Easter Vigil. They’re texts of conversion, renewal, and rebirth. These texts remind us of the baptismal foundations of the season of Lent. They level us to one thing completely completely different, completely new within the life of religion. The Revised Frequent Lectionary provides a fourth Johannine textual content—Nicodemus’ go to to Jesus at night time—a textual content that locations rebirth at middle stage.

The basic Lenten texts don’t explicitly give attention to repentance or penance although a deep conversion of life, each particular person and communal is on the coronary heart of each story. These Johannine texts are coupled with tales of name (Abraham setting out into the unknown, the youngest and least anticipated David known as to be king, the dry bones recalled to life) and a narrative that roots a lifetime of religion within the supply of all life (Moses putting the rock bringing forth water).

The Epistle readings—we’d say, readings from “congregational” life—come primarily from Romans and direct the listener and religion group to the life-giving attribute of religion. Religion shouldn’t be merely “half” of our life as if it have been a personality trait. Fairly, religion defines life. Life itself is drawn from religion. Bonhoeffer wrote in Life Collectively: “What’s necessary shouldn’t be that God is a spectator and participant in our life right this moment, however that we’re attentive listeners and members in God’s motion within the sacred story, the story of Christ on earth.” God is the one who defines life for us and does so in completely new methods, in surprising methods, in life-giving, resurrection methods. Life is given abundantly. We’re invited to take part in an extra that we might by no means have imagined or produced for ourselves.

Preaching by Lent in 12 months A might give attention to that “one thing” that’s completely completely different, completely new, and ample. The encounter with Jesus will refocus every little thing we do as people and as a religion group. This newness is already set forth within the readings for Ash Wednesday. “Don’t be like…” (Matthew 6). Jesus, within the Sermon on the Mount, is pointing to one thing completely different, a brand new way of life that’s outlined by religion. The treasure to which we cling shouldn’t be a treasure of our personal making however a treasure—religion—that’s obtained as name, as residing water, as discernment.

The Johannine readings direct the listener to that “one thing completely different” God is doing. Every of the principle tales give attention to a stunning relationship with Jesus and subsequent turn-around and witness. (For an insightful improvement of those themes see Karoline M. Lewis’ Fortress Biblical preaching commentary John.) By means of relationship with Jesus one thing completely new occurs within the lifetime of the Samaritan girl, the person born blind, and Lazarus. Nicodemus is invited into new start. The turning-around, the conversion of Lent shouldn’t be a give attention to practices of self-denial and penance (and even self-inflicted punishment) however on life-giving dialogue that reveals to every participant who they’re and what they’re known as to be. A relationship turns every round, actually re-birthing them, and in a single case, resurrecting them on this life.

Every in flip is known as to witness. The turning-around, the one thing completely different, shouldn’t be for them alone. The person conversion turns into a public name inviting a group into new life. The lady calls her city. The person born blind testifies in entrance of the Pharisees and worships Christ. Lazarus and his sisters host and serve a meal for Jesus and presumable his disciples (since Judas is current).

These narratives and discourses put together us for the wondrous intersection of God and humanity that constitutes Holy Week. In older lectionaries, all 4 ardour narratives have been learn throughout Holy Week starting with the Gospel of Matthew on the Sunday earlier than Easter. Palm Sunday navigates with problem these two nice texts each of which deserve consideration although if the bulk in a congregation hear just one ardour sermon, it might be clever to give attention to Matthew’s ardour narrative.

The texts for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday invite us into each the fervour and passage of Jesus Christ in stunning methods. The readings for Maundy Thursday deconstruct the standard understanding of sacrifice and the connection between God the Father and God the Son. Christ offers us himself as remembrance in a meal and in foot-washing, not by a sacrifice demanded by an offended Father. The readings in John current a Christ who keen enters this ardour and passage, who raises up the cup of salvation, the cup of thanksgiving (Psalm 116), and who is aware of that God doesn’t demand sacrifice (Psalm 40). Curiously, John 13, appointed for Maundy Thursday, doesn’t recount the Final Supper as if to remind group that nowadays should not about imitating one thing that occurred previously however to stay into the Gospel actuality current right this moment.

The fervour studying for Good Friday (John 18:1–19:42) additional underlines this attitude. Augustine had already famous that the Lord was not constrained to undergo however did so voluntarily. The cross shouldn’t be a sacrifice however God’s final and full identification with human actuality and struggling. The liturgy expresses this reality with the prayer across the cross. The meditation on the cross sends the group out into the world in solidarity with all these struggling in our society, all these with whom and in whom Christ suffers. The cross of Christ is simply outdoors the partitions of our sanctuaries.

Dirk G. Lange’s six-part Working Preacher sequence, “Themes in 12 months A,” highlights liturgical and sacramental realities that stream by the texts and inform worship and sermon preparation. Dr. Lange commends these prayers: Intercessory Prayer within the Midst of the Unfold of COVID and Intercessory Prayer in Distinctive Occasions, each printed by The Lutheran World Federation. 

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