St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts, The Second Sunday In Lent

Second Sunday in Lent

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

The readings appointed for today are the beacons of our faith. Shining most brightly for us, illuminating the crux of our existence is one phrase: “For God so loved the world.”

We seem to be living in a loop of emotional recovery. A pandemic, politics, ever vacillating values, war and crime dominating the news cycle, so many stressors are relentlessly vying for our attention while an undercurrent of discontent is distracting us. Sometimes it feels like everyone we know is unsettled.

We’re yearning for reassurance that everything is okay.

That reassurance is right here, the all-encompassing Gospel message so simply stated. For God so loved the world…

Here it is for us, today and every day; the best-known and most powerful verse in The Bible, John 3:16.

How much does God love the world? He gave us his only begotten Son to become one of us, live among us, to teach us, to suffer and die to save us from our sins, to create a new and everlasting covenant for all of us. Our reassurance and redemption are here. We reaffirm and celebrate this with the Eucharist. We are imbued with grace, we are forgiven, we are in the world God so loves. Our inevitable destination is another, better world where we are welcome because of God’s greatest gift, a sacrifice, a love offering.

Sometimes it feels like “John 3:16” is ubiquitous. Those people with loudspeakers demanding our attention at public events, seemingly determined to overwhelm you with “the good news” cite it, quote it, have it written in Sharpie on cardboard signs. It almost becomes cartoonish or annoying background noise. Athletes have it emblazoned on eye black. It’s graffiti on the sides of boxcars. Do these myriad messages whirring by in our culture diminish it? No. The risk, though, is that it becomes yet another distraction despite its enduring truth.

What often becomes lost in the simple yet powerful message that John 3:16 delivers is that Jesus himself proclaimed it. He was responding to a Pharisee who came to visit him under the cover of night. Nicodemus likely had trouble finding his way in the darkness. He and his contemporaries had seen or heard about signs and wonders associated with Jesus. They were curious, no doubt skeptical and possibly intrigued. What was Jesus up to? Was He a disruptor? What was the end game?

Give Nicodemus credit for going straight to the source, fumbling through the darkness to look for the light. Jesus lit the lamp and explained how we can see the Kingdom of God. He presented this beacon of hope, reassurance, and redemption: God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but in order to save it through Him. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be distracted. See the message. Embrace the message. Believe the message. Follow the beacon.

-Darrell Rebouche

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