Third Sunday in Lent: “Encounters with God”, March 24, 2019
The story of Moses and the burning bush in the Hebrew Scriptures is the most detailed account of a divine call in Scripture, and one known by people all around the world, portrayed so powerfully in movies like “The 10 Commandments” but also in the Disney film, “Prince of Egypt.”
In the dramatic story of the burning bush – it needs no special affects but gets plenty of them in both films – we see the four-fold pattern of commission, objection, reassurance and sign, as Moses is called to be God’s agent in the liberation of Israel.
Both passages from the New Testament today offer stern wake up calls as well, important to the communities to which they were addressed. In his first letter to the people of Corinth, Paul issues a warning: just because the community in Corinth has experienced God’s grace, just because its members have been chosen to become the body of Christ, does not make them immune to God’s displeasure. No one is, so to speak, “above the law.”
Today’s Gospel recounts the story of a number of people from Galilee being brutally slaughtered by Pontius Pilate’s soldiers while they were presenting their sacrifices. In this horrific act, the blood of the victims was mingled with that of the sacrificial animals. Jesus responds by asking if they thought these Galileans were “worse sinners than all other Galileans” because they suffered in this way.
In both cases, the disasters occurred suddenly and without warning, and the victims had no chance to repent. What is the message here? Life is precarious; repentance cannot be delayed, or as one writer puts it, “Mercy has an expiration date. Don’t put off repentance?.”
As Moses, Paul and Jesus knew, encountering God takes time, wonder, openness, prayer, contemplation, but first and foremost, simply our ready selves. As human beings, made in the image of God, we are programmed to be generous with our time and with one another, ready to see the goodness in one other, quick to forgive, as God is slow to anger and of great kindness. How do you encounter God?