Date: March 3, 2022
Lectionary Link: https://www.lectionarypage.net/WeekdaysOfLent/ThursAfterAshWed.html
Contributor: Karla Cole
Today’s Old Testament reading is from Deuteronomy. It’s a difficult read, as is the entire book, really. In this particular passage, Moses sets out what might be the whole enchilada for the Prosperity Gospel types. Just do what God says, follow the ten commandments, and you’ll be richly rewarded. Don’t do it and you won’t live long enough to regret it. That Old Testament law was tough stuff. This black or white kind of choice is also in our psalm for the day, where we read that everything that the good people do “shall prosper,” while “the way of the wicked is doomed.” It all depends on which path you choose.
Even in the Gospel, we get a binary choice between taking up our cross and following Christ, or going it all alone. The Old Testament makes it sound like God’s way is the best. Rah, rah, sis, boom, bah. All that cheerleading gives us the sense that if you just follow God’s will, you’ll be rich and healthy and live a good, long life. But Jesus makes sure to tell the disciples that if they go with him, it won’t be easy. He says he will suffer and be humiliated and rejected by all the important people, and then they will kill him. And furthermore, they might kill the disciples, too, just for good measure. He also sneaks in the bit about being raised on the third day, but I think the disciples were so busy being scared that they sort of missed that part.
What the Old Testament readings fail to mention, is that bad things happen to good people. People who pray and go to church and try to love their neighbors get cancer. Or get swindled out of their retirement savings. Or lose a beloved child. There’s an endless supply of sadness and misery in the world. Keeping up with the ten commandments doesn’t guarantee a peaceful, stress-free life.
To walk Jesus’ way requires a daily choice to deny self and to choose to be his hands in the world. And there may not be an obvious reward for all that selflessness. Bad things may happen just because. And we have no satisfactory way of explaining them. The Prosperity Gospel folks would tell you that you just didn’t believe firmly enough or pray hard enough. God wants you to live in a mansion and drive a Porsche. But most of us live in ordinary houses and drive ordinary cars and worry about ordinary things.
And we also take pleasure in ordinary things. That brilliantly sunny day after the snowstorm. The smell of bread baking. The sight of robins waddling around with their pregnant tummies. The first crocus to pop up in the snow. Singing along with the radio. Sharing the happy news of a friend. Sitting down to dinner with the family all around. These are just some of the rich rewards that come our way for choosing the hard path. Choosing to be Jesus’ hands.