2.12.2008

Second Sunday in Lent

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

Because I said so….

What child hasn’t heard those dreaded words? And really, among parents, grandparents, babysitters, etc. reading this, who hasn’t uttered those words…at least once?

Because I said so.

It is a familiar answer to questions that begin with “Why?” Sometimes it’s an impatient answer, an answer given as the “last ditch” effort on the tails of any number of reasonable, logical explanations. Or sometimes it is the answer that comes first in an effort to end any further questions.

It’s no disgrace to admit that for adults, even those who have read the bible over and over again, this is a book full of things that “just happen” - things that don’t seem to have a logical explanation…or at least not an easy-to-grasp, rational explanation. Things whose best answer might be “because I said so.”

In the readings for this week, people are faced with challenges to the expected, to what was really “knowable.”

Sarai, Abram’s wife, is barren. In the Genesis passage for this week, God calls Abram to journey to a new land. In exchange, God promises to bless Abram, to make of him a great nation. WOW. In this ancient tradition, to be childless was “the end of the line.” God, while asking Abram to make a journey of faith, is also telling him that he will continue his family line. Now the text doesn’t give us any of Abram’s internal dialogue, we only know that he went.

The Psalmist writes with great enthusiasm about God who is present for us when we need help. He praises God who keeps us in our comings and in our goings, ensuring that we are safe from any harm that might come our way. There doesn’t seem to be much question about God’s support or protection in this Psalm of praise.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he reflects on the ancient story of Abram and Sarai (Abraham and Sarah after God enters covenant with them and Israel). He is working through the concept / question of salvation by faith or salvation by works with the church in Rome. Guiding them through some basic questions, he reminds them that God promised Abram a nation, and in spite of some wrong turns and some weak faith, God provided to Abram what was promised.

In John’s testament, a Pharisee named Nicodemus comes to ask a few of his own questions of Jesus. Questions are a good way to find out more information or to clarify understandings (which is one reason why the answer “Because I said so” is so frustrating!). Nicodemus seems to be having some trouble wrapping his arms around the idea that God has a bigger plan for Jesus. He is used to being a guy who has the answers. Nicodemus is a part of a religious system that does not leave a lot of room for doubt. He is struggling with believing what he cannot see and touch. He’s having a hard time accepting that he cannot “know.”

Most of us encounter things that we cannot “know” regularly on our faith journey. Most of us keep going even when rational explanations cannot be found. It’s at times like these, when we are faithful and attuned that the answer, “because I said so” seems good enough. We learn we have to trust that God calls us in to places we must go…..and, if we spend enough time moving in the direction of God, we will find all of the answers we need.

  • Last week, Adam and Eve were told by the serpent that if they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, their eyes would be opened, and they would be like God. Did that really happen?
  • Are answers to our questions always satisfying?
  • If it did, would there be any difficulty understanding God?
  • What questions do you have/have you had when you feel/felt God calling you to a journey?


Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills-- from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps
Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

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