Engaging the Word: Readings for 2/28/16 (The Third Sunday in Lent)

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By Barbara Klugh

Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9. . Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings God calls Moses from a burning bush, Paul warns the Corinthians and us to resist temptation, and Jesus tells us to repent or perish.

God appears to Moses in Burning Bush by Eugene Pluchart, 1848. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

God appears to Moses in Burning Bush by Eugene Pluchart, 1848. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Exodus 3:1-15: Earlier the Book of Exodus, we learned that the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, who cried out to God for deliverance. Also, we learned that Moses killed an Egyptian when the he saw the Egyptian beating one of his kinfolk, and then fled to the desert of Midian. There in Midian, Moses married and settled into a new life, but God has other plans for him. God had heard the cries of his people and chose Moses to be God’s agent of Israel’s deliverance.

In this week’s reading, Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law. He led them to Mount Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God. “There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.” That got Moses’ attention, and God called to him, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” God revealed himself, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

The LORD told Moses that he had heard the cries of the Israelites and he will deliver them from bondage using Moses as his instrument. Moses was reluctant and protested, but God said, “I will be with you,” and God promised that one day Moses would bring the people to the mountain to worship.

Moses asked God what to tell the Israelites about the name of the One who has sent him. God said to Moses, “I AM Who I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” And this is the name of God forever.

Psalm 63:1-8: This week’s psalm is attributed to David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. We might call it a psalm of the thirsting heart. “O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.” The psalmist vows to bless God as long as he lives, and meditate on God in the nighttime, as God has been his abiding presence and helper—“your right hand holds me fast.”

St. Paul by Nicolas Tournier, 1625. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Paul by Nicolas Tournier, 1625. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13: In this week’s reading, Paul warns the Church at Corinth to learn from Israel’s past. Apparently the Corinthians were overly confident of their ability to resist temptation and thought they were immune from idolatry. Paul reminds them that during the exodus, Israelite community were led by a faithful God, crossed the Red Sea, and ate manna in the wilderness. Paul suggests that the spiritual drink from the rock was Christ. Yet most of the first-generation people were struck down because of their disobedience and rebelliousness, like worshiping the golden calf. They never made it to the Promised Land.

The reading concludes with Paul’s statement that I have underlined, highlighted and starred. “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” God is faithful, and we must also do our part, such not placing ourselves in situations that can lead to trouble.

Luke 13:1-9: In this week’s reading we have two teachings by Jesus. In the first, some of Jesus’ listeners told him about a recent event in which some Galileans were executed by Pontius Pilate and another in which eighteen people who were killed by a falling tower. The listeners seemed to think that these deaths were a judgment from God. Rather than be drawn into a debate, Jesus asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” Jesus gave the same line of reasoning concerning the people who were killed by the falling tower. Jesus used the two incidents to make the point that all must repent now—before it’s too late.

Gardener and fig tree window, Ireland. Public domain, via Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Gardener and fig tree window, Ireland. Public domain, via Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Then Jesus told a parable about a fig tree that repeatedly failed to bear fruit. The owner told the gardener to cut it down, that it was wasting soil. The gardener asked the owner to give it one more year. He said he would dig around it and add manure, and “If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” To me, Jesus is saying that our merciful God is a God of second (and many more) chances, but God’s patience is not completely open-ended. (Besides we can get hit by a truck today.) If we turn to God, we will produce the good fruit of love and new life in Christ. The puzzle is why I so often need yet another chance.

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