Among the greatest manifestations of God’s grace is the holy Word found in scripture. I hope that many of you are reading along with our Presiding Bishop, our Bishop, and other Episcopalians in The Good Book Club. You will find more information about this program and available resources in this week’s bulletin and also on our website. I have been following the reading schedule each morning, making my way through the beginning of Luke’s gospel, using a translation new to me, the Common English Bible. The grace I have found there is a fresh sense of the immediacy of the Good News Jesus proclaimed, and I am aware each day of reading in the company of the vast community of faith. Reading in this way is real life; it leads somewhere.
The scripture we will read together on Sunday draws us into the great story of God’s everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants, including us. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes about Abraham’s faith in God’s promise, which “rests on grace.” His faith was “reckoned to him as righteousness” and that reckoning extends to all of us “who believe in him who raised Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead.”
In this Sunday’s gospel lesson, Jesus predicts his Passion and then explains the high stakes of discipleship. Self-protection and self-promotion have no value in the life spent following Jesus. Only in losing the life the world values can we find the true life given to us as children of God. This is not an easy way to live, but it is the way of freedom. Jesus says to his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Then he speaks of not being “ashamed” of him and of his words. Every day contains moments of challenge for followers of Jesus, times when it is easier to think and speak and act in the ways of the world rather than in the way of Christ. Spending time with God’s word can strengthen us and transform us through its grace to be truer to the mind of Christ.