Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daily Devotion for Lent 2017 - Second Sunday in Lent

Today's Reading: John 5:30-47 (NRSV)

Monty Python's argument sketch is a classic
in showing that sometimes human beings
actually relish a good debate.
This passage is a Christian apologetic within a Jewish context.  At the time of its writing, Christianity was a definite minority as a break-away sect of Judaism. Seeing it as a struggling viewpoint trying to claim some legitimacy among its peers, one can forgive the overbearing tone.  Now that Christianity is within the majority, we must read this in a different way.

One need not be embarrassed to be a Christian.  However, when we claim a majority, we must also accommodate a different way of speaking with others. An intra-Jewish dialogue is very different than an inter-faith dialogue.  The former is more akin to brothers hashing out a dispute.  One might expect it to get ugly but hopefully, at the end of the day, the love they have for one another will still be evident.

On the other hand, the latter might be more like two strangers coming to terms with one another.  They must approach one another with greater respect because they are not close enough to make certain assumptions.

When John was written, it was more like the former: an intra-Jewish dialogue.  As we read it today, however, we must approach it as an inter-faith dialogue.  While our relationship has changed, the text has not.  Christians would naturally believe that their religion is superior at the very least for them.  But we also have the good grace not to start shouting how much better we are than others.  This comes from our Christian beliefs - how Jesus lifts up the outsiders.  In John's day, the Christians were the outsiders.  We now have to ask, "how does our speech toward others change when we become the insiders?"

As we continue with Jesus toward the cross during Lent, how we express our faith toward others who believe differently is important.  It is important to see the distinctions but it is also important to see where we would see Christ in the other.

The prayer for the day was written by a Jewish Rabbi.  He would not claim any kind of christology within this prayer, but I, as a Christian, see it clearly.  I'm not going to hit him over the head with my belief but I can also say that we have more similarities than differences.

Let the rain come and wash away the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels, beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun be so strong that we will see all people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain, bring forth flowers to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts to reach upward to heaven.

   Rabbi Harold Kushner, 2003.

Picture taken from the YouTube promo for Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" sketch.

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