3.26.2009

5th Sunday in Lent, Year B

Jeremiah 31: 31 - 34
Psalm 51: 1 -12
Hebrews 5: 5 - 10
John 12: 20 - 33

Have you ever found yourself in a new environment where no one knew you and you had to establish your own creditability? Have you ever felt the pressure of proving that you belong somewhere or that you have the authority to perform a certain action or fulfill a particular duty?

Have you ever known someone who didn't believe in God? Or actually more to the point this week...have you ever known someone (maybe it was you) that demanded evidence / proof about God or Jesus?

As human beings, it seems we have a bit of this "evidence based belief" need built in to us. Of course, there are a lot...at least some things we don't need to be convinced of (the necessary qualities of water or food, etc), but there are also lots of things many of us must "see to believe."

And it seems that all through history there is a need to "prove" that God exists or that God is somehow involved (or not involved) with some activity in the world, or even that Jesus was actually his son.

This week's lectionary readings give us some different examples of ways We (the inclusive we...the We of human history) often work hard to Prove God's existence / activity and establish credentials for Jesus.

This week's passage from Jeremiah was actually originally written to sort of lament what had passed away through the Rebellion and Disobedience in Judah and to look with hope to how Israel would be restored to good graces with God. Jeremiah is a text that acknowledges God's judging action and remains hopeful about God's desire to restore covenant with God's people. Throughout the years Christians have also used this text to establish a pedigree for Jesus. Reading with the benefit of years and hindsight We point to the new covenant Jeremiah talks about and identify that New Covenant as Jesus.

In the 51st Psalm, the psalmist is really asking for God to act with mercy to turn the sinner's life around. It is a confessional prayer, asking for cleansing and for a return to righteousness. Christians have taken such language and used it to Point toward the work of God through Jesus over thousands of years.

The collection of writings that is the book of Hebrews was primarily written to...well...Hebrews...people who were Jewish and had become followers of Jesus. We see all throughout this book and in this particular passage that the writer is establishing creditability with his Jewish readers. It was important to the descendants of Israel that there was a connection with the order of the Priest Melchizedek. It gives Jesus a bit of explanatory support to show that he was not a Maverick that came out of no where, but instead is the culmination of a line of Hebrew priests.- Hide quoted text -

In the passage from John, the Gospel writer narrates an account of Jesus establishing his own creditability. We see this in several places throughout the gospels...he works hard to draw the connection between himself and the Father. It's hard for us to know how these conversations were first received by witnesses, and then to know how they were later discussed, but we can imagine there was some buzz around them as they occurred. Here is a man claiming to be the Son of God! And then, in order for them to be recorded, we have to imagine they were also a source of great speculation and discussion after Christ's death. For the early followers, for the early church, for the church today, there was/is comfort and assurance in "proof texts."

History has illustrated that as humans, we thrive on proof. Over the years we have gravitated more and more toward ultimate truths. One scientific breakthrough after another has whetted our appetite for certainty. But can we really know? Should we?

What are the truths that you accept on faith alone?
What are the truths for which you must have proof?
Do you need proof from the people you love? Why? or Why not?

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?"
Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?"
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?"
Jesus answered, "you say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"

John 18: 33 - 38

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