Kind of a Blog…
Reflections from Father Bradley, first published in our weekly newsletter.
Week of April 5, 2020
Week of March 15, 2020
Week of March 8, 2020
A lectionary is a table or order for reading a book or book in serial format. The Revised Common Lectionary, itself an adaptation of the Prayer Book Lectionary, is a three-year cycle with the Sunday readings for each year organized around one of the three synoptic Gospels; Matthew (Year A, our present year), Mark or Luke. John’s Gospel is scattered over all three years with a concentration of passages during Lent.
This Sunday we hear a teaching story from John: the nocturnal encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus. Nicodemus was a prominent Jewish leader, a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin, the council of 70 men who served Jerusalem as a judicial body for religious matters. Nicodemus was also intellectually and spiritually curious about Jesus and sympathetic to his teachings, as were other Jewish authorities. Jesus had fostered intense controversy. Openly supporting him was not politically correct. Public and visible encounters with “the teacher who has come from God” were out of the question. To avoid personal scandal Nicodemus visits Jesus at night, coming from spiritual darkness into the presence of light. Jesus enjoys his friend’s company and plays with the nuance of language and with Nicodemus’s eagerness to learn. Jesus tells him that to see the kingdom of God is to be born “from above” and “again” — the Greek word Jesus uses means both. Nicodemus’s question is ours, too: Birth is a once-in-a lifetime event and once was enough. What kind of birth can happen again? Nicodemus gets a Johannine answer that leaves him more puzzled than before, and he slinks out before dawn, not sure exactly what to believe, but intrigued enough to keep on pondering. Later in John’s story he will rise in the council to defend Jesus against the mob, who wanted to seize him and summarily execute him. He appears at the very end of the Gospel, when the mob had succeeded in doing what Nicodemus opposed.
As the sun sets late on a Friday afternoon he will assist with Jesus’s burial. It was at night that they first met, and as the light of day fades they meet again in the darkness of the tomb, his questions about spiritual rebirth and eternal life still awaiting an answer. As it turns out, he won’t have to wait for long.
Week of February 27, 2020: Thoughts on March 1 Gospel Passage
On the First Sunday in Lent we always read one of the three Gospel accounts of Jesus’s Temptation in the Wilderness, and this year we hear Matthew’s version. We also hear a better-known temptation tryst from the Book of Genesis involving Eve, Adam, a serpent, and a tree with some tasty and appealing fruit. You don’t have to be a seminary-educated biblical scholar to connect the dots between these stories. Things were going hunky-dory in God’s perfect garden until temptation got the better of those two First People. An appetizer-sized sample of good and evil, which was off-limits by God’s clear directive, was just a taste of the main course – becoming like God. The penalty was expulsion into the cold, cruel world of labor, sickness and death. Temptation didn’t exactly go away after that triumph and eventually it found Jesus, who was at low ebb physically and emotionally after his long, desert fast. Temptation in the shape of the devil makes a full court press to drive a wedge between Jesus and God. Satan propositions Jesus three times, each offer being a negation of loving God with “heart, and soul, and might.” The Art of the Deal unfolds like this: “Jesus, if you are so divine, then change these stones into angel cake and eat; if God is your rescuer, throw yourself down from the steeple, skip the bungee cord, and you’ll be fine; and if you want to be The Man, sign on with me and I’ll really take you places.” Only problem is that those places are ones from which one returns without a soul, and Jesus knows that. So he rallies and rebuffs the principalities and powers, and begins the process of undoing what Adam and Eve did in the first place. Paradise was lost, and now it can be regained. It will take struggle, and suffering, and death and resurrection. At least we know that God has sent the right man to be on our side.