Collect and Readings for The Second Sunday of Lent – Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16, Psalm 22.23-end, Romans 4.13-end, Mark 8.31-end

The Prayer for today

Almighty God, who showest to them that be in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may eschew those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The desert experience of Lent continues this week with Jesus determined that his disciples should be fully aware of the implications of his true identity. Mark tells us that, immediately following their recognition of him as God’s Messiah, he starts spelling out to them what this means, and how it differs from their dreams.

The God of truth insists on our knowing the truth, even if it might turn us against him or temporarily hurt us or upset our plans; never will he pander to our misguided longings – he has too much respect for us. Gently but firmly and openly, Jesus outlines the real Messiah’s role – a role in which suffering, rejection and death are inevitable.

Such apparent failure, though clearly explored in the scriptures, had been conveniently overwritten by the popular dream of a resistance fighter who would lead the victorious struggle against Roman oppression and occupation.

From Jesus’ response to Peter’s protests, it is clear that the horror of such a future can still tempt him to side-step what he is called to go through. The temptations Jesus has been facing in the desert are here flaring up again through the misguided well-wishing of his friend. Impressed by the personal experience of power of such temptations, Jesus gathers not only his disciples but all of his followers in the area together, to prepare them as thoroughly and honestly as he can for such temptations in their own lives to side-step the will of God.

It is quite true – we shall be tempted, time and again, to take the easier route and thus avoid the conflicts which are bound to accompany committed discipleship. But if we go along with such temptations, where do we end up? Without any ‘life’ (in the fullest sense of the word) left to live. And, as Jesus suggests, isn’t it better to have the wicked ashamed of us, rather than Jesus and the holy angels of God?

But how on earth do we manage to be strong enough to resist the pull of the world of comfort, personal safety and self-gratification? We are given the example of Abraham, whose faith kept him walking and thinking God’s way, even when it did not look exactly promising. He trusted God so firmly that he stuck with it through thick and thin, and that is what delighted God.

Anyone is a child of Abraham who is a child of faith; and in no circumstance whatsoever will God ever let them down.

Some things to think about:

1. In what sense are we descendants of Abraham?

2. Why is it that living God’s way of love inevitably leads us into conflict?

God bless

Rev’d Fiona Robinson