First Sunday of Lent, March 5
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Psalm 51:3-6, 12-13, 17
Was the original sin of Adam and Eve a matter of simply disobeying God’s command to not eat of a certain tree when tempted by a snake? Or was it a deeper issue: falling prey to the devil’s false promise that they could attain equality with God by partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?
Upon attaining equality with God, their creator would henceforth become unnecessary, they thought. Life in the Garden of Eden would be splendid without divine supervision!
In March 2014, three college roommates bought a used couch for $55 from a Salvation Army thrift shop in New Paltz, N.Y. After noticing odd lumps in the old couch, they opened it up to find $40,000 in cash, plus a receipt with a woman’s name.
They called the woman and learned that she kept her life savings in the couch. At 91 years old, the woman had gotten quite ill and entered a hospital, where her family expected her to die, so they started liquidating her property, giving the old couch to the Salvation Army. However, she survived and had returned home.
The poor, broke students returned the money, bringing tears of joy to the woman.
Eve and Adam’s mistake was refusing to believe that they were already created in the image of God. Seeking equality with God is preposterous, not something to be grasped at.
The students who returned the money personify the difference between living in the image of God versus acting equal to God. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us that Jesus is the source of redemptive grace and model of unconditional love.
Bearing fruitful grace and love, the students made a sacrifice, knowing it was the right thing to do.
No human has the authority to act equal to God, deciding matters of life and death. Pursuing a life without God is the devil’s folly. Surpassing intellectual knowledge, true wisdom draws us into right relationship with our creator and savior.
Lent means “springtime.” May we humbly return to the garden, purified of suffocating weeds, and blossom in God’s image as fruitful flowers of faith.
QUESTIONS: Why do we see others, but not ourselves, as images of God? Is doubt the devil’s doorway?
Second Sunday of Lent, March 12
Psalm 33:4-5,18-20, 22
2 Timothy 1:8b-10
The “mountain” where I recently experienced Jesus transfigured was actually a kitchen table.
My women’s faith sharing group meets only once a month and sometimes not even that often. But we’ve committed to stay together because we love each other and have a deep spiritual connection in which Jesus is always present.
Our last gathering began typically, sitting around Nancy’s kitchen table as women do, eating snacks and chatting about the latest happenings in our lives — catching up on each other’s families and situations.
Topics ranged from light to serious and even contentious: a son joining Cub Scouts, a child finishing an internship overseas, a joyful new marriage, a mother transitioning to assisted living, a prodigal daughter returning home — with a baby, a disabled granddaughter.
Since we hadn’t seen each other in a while, we had a lot to talk about, and we did talk — for nearly two hours. Finally, Nancy took out her Bible and said, “Well, shall we read something?”
Even for a group that was formed specifically to share and encourage each other in our Christian faith, it’s strange how hard it can be to change gears from superficial conversation to prayerful reflection and discernment.
But once we began reading aloud and listening to God’s word together, Jesus showed himself in a different, more powerful way. There was no shining light as Peter, James and John experienced in today’s Gospel. But we sensed Jesus speaking to us and realized that, just as God’s voice commanded the Disciples, we must “listen to him.”
In Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, he explains that we are called to a holy life, not by our own works, but through God’s design that will be fulfilled when we trust in his saving grace. Our group recognized this as we listened to Jesus’ words.
Now, all the goodness and concerns of our earlier conversations came back to us with deeper meaning as we reminded each other we must look to God’s grace to strengthen and enlighten us at every turn.
We finished our session in prayer. After the amen, someone commented on the brownies and the discussion lightened up. But Jesus had been transfigured there at the kitchen table and our hearts were newly alive with his grace.
QUESTIONS: When have you experienced Christ in a new and different way? How was your relationship with him changed?