Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some thoughts in Lent: Given by Grace



(Based on material produced by the Lutheran World Federation)

This first session aims to consider how we see ourselves in relation to others, in relation to God and in relation to the rest of the universe.

Reading 1: Psalm 8.3ff

When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet…

Reading 2: Luther, from the Small Catechism

I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me, and still preserves, my body and soul…all the necessities and nourishments for this body and life.

God protects me from all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all.


Reading 3: The first Creation Story (Gen 1.1 – 2.4a)

In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth…

This reads like a poem or hymn and some commentators see it as a liturgical passage for use in the formal worship of the ancient Hebrews. God creates order out of chaos and brings everything into existence where everything is judged to be “very good”.

Reading 4: The second Creation Story (Gen 2.4b – 2.25)

When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens…

This version concentrates mainly on humankind as the first of God’s creation. The animal world is hardly mentioned and the creation of sun, moon and stars not at all.

Ideas for discussion:

• What do we learn about God’s relationship with his creation (Gen 1.22. 1.24 and 1.28)?
• What do we learn about God’s relationship with us (Gen 2.7)?
• What does Gen 2.9 tell us in addition about our relationship with creation?
• What do we learn of humanity’s status (Gen 1.26)?
• What do we learn about humanity’s responsibilities (Gen 1.28b)?
• According to Gen 2.5 and 2.15 why was humankind created?
• What is the significance of Adam being given responsibility for naming the animals (Gen 2.19)?
• What can we understand about Eve’s status from Gen 2.20b and 2.22?
• How would you describe the attitude of the writer of Ps 8?
• Does that resonate with us today?
• What additional light does Luther’s writing add to our understanding of our relationship with God?

The two creation stories paint an idyllic picture of peace and tranquillity. It presents life on earth as it is intended to be. However, due to our own sinfulness the created order is being damaged and God’s gifts treated as things to be exploited; the gap between rich and poor increases and intimate relationships are breaking down.

Reading 5: The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15 – 11.32)

Jesus continued: There was a man who had two sons. The younger so said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property equally between them...

This is a parable about restoration and God’s gift of grace.

Ideas for discussion:

• How might you characterise the attitude of the younger son?
• What impact on the rest of the community might the division of the estate have had?
• Does anything surprise us about the response of the father on the younger son’s return?

As this is a parable, the key characters represent someone else.

• Who is the father and who the younger son?
• What do we learn about God from this story?
• What do we learn about forgiveness?
• How can we apply this to the wider ideas of stewardship in the modern world?

Wider issues:

• Have we lost our sense of the sacredness of creation?
• What about modern farming and fishing practices?
• What about food waste?
• As God has made us stewards of creation how does this influence the way we care for our own health, the food we eat and the agricultural policies of our community?
• What influence should this have on our attitude to the impact of the wealthy nations on third world farming practices?
• Why does the church not campaign more passionately for a just sharing of resources?

Our Gracious God daily showers us with gifts too numerous to count. The most marvellous amongst these gifts are often those which we have come to take for granted: Seeing vibrant colours;
Touching texture;
Smelling scents;
Hearing uplifting music;
Moving hands and feet;
Tasting flavours;
Experiencing emotion;
Hugging our loved ones.
These are the things that make life truly extraordinary.

Prayer:

Thank you, Gracious God, for satisfying your children’s deepest hungers. When we suffer want, enable us to cling to your promises. Make us ever mindful of our neighbours near and far, whose needs go unfilled.Amen