[I do not usual comment on Thursdays, beloved reader. It is not one of the days I have set aside to write. But Ash Wednesday seemed like too important a day to not focus on the theme of Ash Wednesday in the season of Lent. And there were some good passages from the weekly lectionary selections that I wanted to make sure I included. So here I am, for an extra day.]
“So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (II Corinthians 5:20b – 6:2)
I would like to be able to stop here that is, let this stand as the complete passage cited. This would be a good place to make my comments and move on to the next scripture passage. Especially since this is an extra day this week. The writer of II Corinthians makes a good and valid plea to his readers. And moreover, a good and valid plea for this lectionary year’s theme.
But the lectionary cites more than just these few verses. And the writer of II Corinthians goes on to say more about how he and his fellow ministers have tried to be diligent and steadfast to their mission and the work of bringing the good news to all people.
“We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (Verses 3 – 10)
The writer of II Corinthians says they live as good examples of God’s missionaries. And I do not fault them (or more specifically the writer of II Corinthians) for putting this out there. And there is a not so subtle message that the writer of II Corinthians (yes, often thought to be Paul) thinks his readers should conform they way they live to the way he lives.
If you have been one of my readers for a good length of time, you might know that I do on occasion weary of Paul, and at times chafe under his well-meaning writings and rhetoric. I like better what he says in the second scripture passage I am using today. The passage from II Corinthians (that I wish could have included less) is the Epistles Passage for Ash Wednesday. I am also using the Epistles Passage for the First Sunday of Lent, and will move on to that before I digress more into my opinion of Paul in this moment.
“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:8b-13)
Here Paul and I are in agreement. And here too is good advice and teaching for the lectionary theme this year, and the season of Lent. Is the word near you, beloved reader? That is, is your belief in God and Jesus in your thoughts, speech and actions? That is another good thought to hold during this season of Lent.
I am glad to have taken some extra time to set this in front of you. As we move further into the season of Lent, may you think deeply about these things. Selah!