In my lectionary columns and posts for the first two weeks in Lent, I am suggesting the Lenten theme of covenant. God’s plan of salvation is founded on a faithful relationship extended over time and space.
Over the past 20-plus years in my own faith journey, the Bible’s anthropology has taken primacy for me over its theology, providing a crucial reason for the importance of covenant to salvation. René Girard’s work proposes that what has “saved” us as a species—thus far—are the false gods of our own unconscious creation.
Lent began as a time of preparation for the covenant of baptism. The Year B Lenten readings very much ring out this theme of covenant, starting this Sunday with the covenant with Noah and its interpretation in 1 Peter as the covenant of baptism. The coming weeks feature the covenants with Abraham and with Moses and finally the covenant written upon our hearts in Jeremiah 31. Developing the theme of covenant might be an edifying way to let these Lenten scripture readings prepare congregations for Holy Week—especially the high drama of the Easter Vigil, centered on the waters of baptism.
The theme of James Alison’s video Bible study is the main theme he sees in scripture: that the creation of scapegoats must end.
"Religious commitments are no longer taken for granted as part of North American people's lives," says Scott Kershner of Holden Village, a Lutheran retreat center in Washington State. "So space opens up to ask very basic and interesting questions."
Imagine someone who, because he is not driven by fear of death, is able to undergo an absolutely typical lynching at human hands and to do so deliberately—showing that death, rather than being definitive and powerful, is no more than a frightening mirage. Christ calls the bluff of the lynching, enabling humans to be less driven by fear and a desire for revenge.