Preaching and Listening are the jobs always connected to the call and grace of Baptism.
Especially so in the season of LENT.
The Invitation to Lent, spoken in the Ash Wednesday liturgy, opens with these words: “Today with the whole church we enter the time of remembering Jesus’ Passover from death to life, and our life in Christ is renewed.”
In the liturgy of Holy Baptism, before the candidate for baptism is dunked into the water, a sort of preparation takes place:
a) the candidate is asked to renounce evil and all the ways of death that defy God;
b) the candidate is asked to confess the faith of the whole church; and
c) the candidate, through taking on the Christian disciplines of prayer, fasting, and works of service, the catechumen (the candidate) is formed in the way of Jesus.
Preaching by the Pastor and listening by the Assembly in the season Lent takes a cue from that ordering of the Christian faith and life embodied in Baptism.
The Gospel texts for the season provide a chance to remind Preacher and Assembly that the call to repentance and baptismal renewal isn’t a retreat from the world but rather an engagement with the often messy reality of the world.
Sunday, 6 March St. Luke 4.1-13 Lent I
We too live in a wilderness where evil is ever before us. Yet we too have the Spirit of God and are called to worship only the Lord God. The gospel speaks the good news that Jesus is with us in all our times of testing.
Sunday, 13 March St. Luke 13.31-35 Lent II
We art like helpless chicks: a fox is lurking: and Christ is our mother hen. Lent is a time to cast out demons and to await the third day when Christ finishes his work of salvation. We give to Jesus Christ the divine “name of the Lord.”
Sunday, 20 March St. Luke 13.1-9 Lent III
Soon Jesus himself, like some Galileans, will die at the hand of Pilate. Although the passage includes the commonplace religious idea that God punishes sinners, Luke’s rendition of the fig tree stresses divine mercy instead. We are granted yet another year to be nurtured and fertilized.
Sunday, 27 March St. Luke 15 Lent IV
Jesus tells a parable about a son who ponders his father’s love only after he has spurned it. The older brother believes it is his obedience that has earned his place in the father’s home. We are the two sons: each of us is the foolish runaway who wastes what God has provided, and each of us is the smug good guy who condemns the outsider. The description of the celebrative feast symbolizes the communal nature of forgiveness and life in faith.
The gospel texts throughout the season are full of judgment, calls to repentance, and the abundant grace that welcomes us home to God.
Renounce? Believe? Pray! Fast! Do works of service! A Blessed Lent.