The question for the second week in Lent will be: “What are your fears or worries for the future?” Our collect this week reminds us that God’s “glory […] is always to have mercy” and to be “gracious to all who have gone astray” and bring them again with faith to the “unchangeable truth” of God’s Word in Jesus Christ. But does confidence in God’s mercy and continual graciousness inform our view of the future? When you awaken in the night and worry, what do you worry about? When you pull back the curtain to examine what you really fear, what realities you try to avoid, what do you find? How does your faith strengthen you to confront those fears?
Our scripture lessons this week present powerful examples of how faith in God’s promises opens the way for grace and transformation. God’s covenant-making with his people continues in our reading from Genesis, as God forms his covenant with Abram, now to be known as Abraham. Abraham will “walk before” God and be “blameless,” and God will make him the ancestor of multitudes, nations. To an old man who was childless, whose old wife was barren, God made this promise. Abraham accepted.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that Abraham received this promise “through the righteousness of faith” rather than through the law. Faith is the basis “in order that the promise may rest on grace,” and not on our merits. Abraham “hoped against hope” as he considered his aging body and Sarah’s barrenness. His faith grew strong as he continued to give glory to God, confident that God was able to do and would do what he had promised.
Our gospel lesson is a direct evocation of fear of the future. At this point in Mark’s gospel, Jesus began quite openly to discuss with this disciples what would happen to him: he would suffer, be rejected, be killed, and then after three days rise again. This vision of the future terrified Peter, who took Jesus aside and “rebuked” him. Jesus responded sharply: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things.” Then Jesus explained to them what it truly means to be Jesus’ follower—taking up our cross, not worrying about the future, but trusting in God’s promises and “losing ourselves” for the sake of the gospel.
How can we go about “losing ourselves,” our fears and worries for the future, during Lent? How can we strengthen our trust in God’s ability to sustain us, provide for us, empower us to claim a future of great promise?