New Revised Standard Version
Scripture Summaries for March 2023 – Year A
Scripture Summary For Ash Wednesday – Year C (March 2) - Reflections by Rev. Shelley
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17: A trumpet or bugle sound is usually a call to action – war or calamity. Here Joel is calling the people to repent as the day of the Lord is coming. It won’t be a day of rejoicing as the hearers thought, but one of judgement. But maybe God will relent of this judgement. God loves to forgive and be gracious. So blow the trumpet again – this time to call the people to fast and pray. Return to the Lord so that he can once again show mercy and forgiveness.
Psalm 51:1-7: We begin Lent together with a Psalm that we all need God’s mercy in our lives. King David has committed a grievous sin not just against people, but also against his God. Even though David had secretly covered his iniquity, God had seen and had taken it personally. God did not want a sacrifice brought to the altar by David for repentance. God wanted the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart.
2 Corinthians 5:20b- 6:10: Here Paul sums up the great ironies of the gospel. To judge by outward appearances, Paul's commitment to Christ has brought him nothing but trouble and sorrow. And yet, his inward life is so renewed that he sees his present circumstances as a reason to rejoice. The upside down kingdom that Jesus proclaimed where the first will be last, and the last first is being lived out in Paul. He has nothing, yet possesses everything. Christ has taken our burden of sin and given us his righteousness.
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21: The day that we mark ourselves with ashes is also the day that we read in Scripture not to draw attention to our acts of piety. Jesus had his fill of the religious piety that had nothing to do with God, and everything to do with pride and arrogance. He wanted to ensure that his listeners then and now know that God sees every one of our actions, no matter how hidden. There is no need to draw attention to ourselves. God will reward even the smallest act of generosity and kindness.
Scripture Summary for the 1st Sunday of Lent - Year C (March 6) - Reflections by Rev. Shelley
Deuteronomy 26: 1-11: This is an unusual reading for the 1st Sunday of Lent. It gives instructions to the Israelites on the brink of entry into the promised land. When they arrive and are settled they must have a festival with the first fruits of their harvest, dedicating them to God. They had been captives and slaves in Egypt. God has now caused them to prosper. But this is to be a celebration not just for themselves, but also for any refugee or foreign born person in Israel.
Psalm 91:1,2, 9-16: This is a psalm of trust in the Lord. God has become for the psalmist a refuge and a fortress. God will deliver the psalmist out of any kind of peril because God's follower loves God and knows God's name. God will rescue them and honour them. But even this psalm can be taken out of context. This will be one of the scriptures that the devil will quote to Jesus as part of his wilderness temptations. “Do a party trick and throw yourself off the Temple roof” - God will then send his angels to rescue you. Jesus responds that to test God like that is not what is meant by these verses.
Romans 10:8B-13: St. Paul reminds us that help from God is near to us – it is “on your lips and in your heart”. By believing with our hearts and confessing with our lips we are both justified and saved in the sight of God. This is good news for everyone; no one is exempt. God makes no distinctions along national or racial lines, or between generations. God is generous to all who call on him.
Luke 4:1-13: Each year we begin the first Sunday of Lent with the story of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness. In Luke's version we are told that it was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus to this setting at the beginning of his ministry. It was only by the power of this same Spirit that temptations are overcome. The devil tempts Jesus at his most vulnerable; weak with hunger and thirst. He tempts Jesus through the energy centres that drive all of us – the need for purpose and control, the need for physical nourishment, and the need for security and care. Jesus is able to counter the devil's temptations by the proper use of Scripture. The devil then departs from Jesus “until an opportune time”.
Scripture Summary for the 2nd Sunday of Lent - Year C (March 13th) - Reflections by Rev. Shelley
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18: You're old; your wife is old. You have been married for years and still no children. No wonder Abram was afraid. Had he ventured out to a new land on a whim? Had God really spoken to him? Here God gives Abram assurances that it will not be Abram's servant that will inherit the promises of God, but Abram's own son. God illustrates his promises but showing Abram the night sky. “Count the stars if you can – that's how many descendants you will have” says God. Then God ties himself to this promise by enacting an ancient covenant ritual.
Psalm 27: This Psalm is truly one of the most beautiful poems in the Psalter. The first half of the psalm is filled with confidence and assurance. Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid. The answer is “no one”, be they armies or mere foes. Yet by verse seven, the Psalmist is crying to God for help. By the end of the poem, we are back to (this time) quiet confidence. The last verse of the psalm reminds us to take heart and learn what the psalmist knows. “wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord”.
Philippians 3:17-4:1 St. Paul reminds us that enemies and adversaries remain. Whether it's self doubts or real physical opponents to the gospel, none of us will get through life without problems and heartaches. Paul tells us that there is a way to live that will transform our suffering. We hold dual citizenship – earthly and heavenly. We can be unafraid because our heavenly God will turn our mortal into his glory filled body. Therefore we are able to stand firm in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
Luke 13: 31-35: This little passage is only contained in Luke's gospel. It gives us a sympathetic picture of a Pharisee warning Jesus of Herod's intentions. Jesus is on his Father's agenda, however, and remains undisturbed by Herod's plot. Jesus has set his face to Jerusalem to fulfill his calling. This picture of him brooding and longing to protect Jerusalem from her coming fate shows us Christ's tenderness towards all, regardless of our reaction to his concern.
Scripture Summary For 3nd Sunday in Lent – Year C (March 20) - Reflections by Rev. Shelley
Isaiah 55:1-9: In one of the great invitational passages of Isaiah, the prophet invites his fellow citizens (and all subsequent readers) to drink of God's refreshing waters. If you are thirsty, God promises sustenance – without money and without price. God makes this everlasting contract for everyone who will come to receive it. This is not usually the way we want to conduct business. But God's thoughts are not our thoughts. God continually longs to show mercy and offer pardon. Don't waste time and money on things that don't satisfy. Come to God while God is near, and you will be received with love.
Psalm 63-1-8: Our Psalm today is a fitting response to Isaiah's invitation. The psalmist's soul is thirsting for God. He arrives in the sanctuary, ready to lift up hands in praise, and to call on God's name. The writer's soul is then satisfied, as with a rich feast. God has been his help in hard times and the psalmist will bless God as long as he lives.
I Corinthians 10:1-13: Here St. Paul reminds us of the consequences of not seeking God's mercy and pardon. Baptism, even eating and drinking spiritual food are not enough if we are not open to God's forgiveness and grace. Live a life dependent on God's strengthening power. If we are tempted to sin, let God help us to endure. This is what he has promised to do.
Luke 13:1-9: Jesus, already on his way to Jerusalem, is stopped and told about the danger and tragic ending of those who opposed imperial Rome in Galilee. Again (as in our text last week) Jesus is quick to point out that this proves nothing. Look for your identity by fighting violence with violence and you too will meet this kind of end. Only the strong peaceable way of the upside down kingdom will bring about true peace to both individuals and to the nation. This is what Jesus' teaching, life's example, and saving death on the cross are bringing about.
Scripture Summary For the 4th Sunday in Lent – Year C (March 27) - Reflections by Rev. Shelley
Joshua 5:9-12: The Israelites' 40 years of wandering in the desert are now over. They have arrived “home”. They celebrated by keeping the Passover. As soon as they reached their destination, the manna from heaven stopped. They would now be able to produce crops, grown in their new land “flowing with milk and honey”.
Psalm 32: This penitential psalm reminds us of our need for God's forgiveness for sin. The Psalmist acknowledged that forgiven sin leads to happiness. God then becomes a hiding place, preserving the Psalmist from trouble. God then is able to instruct in wise living and discernment. The unrepentant continue in misery “but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord”. The forgiven ones can shout for joy.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21: St. Paul gives us a glorious picture of who we are when we come to Jesus in faith and in repentance. We are a new creation. “The old has passed away, everything has become new!” This means that we can begin a life of reconciliation – first with God and then with the rest of our human society. It's a daily encounter – exchanging our sin for Christ's rightness. Then we can go out into the world as God's ambassadors, sharing this good news of reconciliation and friendship.
Luke 15: 1-3, 11b-32: St. Luke is the only gospel writer to include this familiar parable of the Prodigal son. The story is told in the midst of complaints by the religious folk that Jesus was spending too much time hanging around with the so called “riffraff” of society. Here Jesus shows Father God's open and generous heart towards all those who have wandered far from home. Like the Israelites in our O.T. Reading, who have made it to their homeland; the prodigal makes it home to the heart and home of God.