Year B: March 15, 2015
First Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Nobody likes a complainer, and this is exactly what Moses gets in this short scripture from Numbers. The Israelites have been wandering and are starting to wish for the slavery they have since left, as they see that as a better life than the wandering they’re currently experiencing. God’s sending serpents to harm the Israelites, and subsequently a serpent to offer redemption and healing is hardly a message of comfort for the reader, but it’s appropriate for Lent as it reminds us that sometimes the path to redemption is paved with suffering. The Lenten journey travels through the Good Friday cross before Easter Sunday; we must experience the cross before the resurrection. God is showing the Israelites that they must experience wandering and even pain before they can reach the Promised Land, wholeness and healing. In Monsters Eat Whiny Children (a book I’ve honestly been dying to use in a lectionary link!), Kaplan introduces us to a brother and sister pair that is unhappy with life at home and complains. Despite warnings of monsters who eat whiny children, the siblings continue to complain and argue, thus ending up being taken by a monster. They then experience monsters who argue and complain about the children and what recipe to make of them, only to realize that they were okay with life as it is and escape to return home. The book uses the word “hate” a lot, so if you are using this in any manner other than a general summary, I’d suggest changing the language. This is a story of unhappy children who decide the grass is greener on the other side, much like the Israelites, only to discover that the life they are currently living is better for them than they realized. The children experience “suffering” which eventually leads to their salvation. Additionally, I think this book would be a great link to the whole of Israel’s personality in that they gripe a lot; it’s their history. While this book ties well with this particular scripture, it will also tie well with a number of stories of Israel’s complaints to God.
Second Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson
(Written for ages 5-9)
Comment: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” This passage from Ephesians is a redemptive story and it is located in the larger picture of the letter, which places sin and grace together in history. God’s original intentions for humanity are not what we lived then, and even today. The author places the reader in the midst of straddling the fall of human sinfulness and the gracious gift of salvation through Christ that God gives. This pericope places us in the middle of death and life. Similarly, the narrator of All Different Now is living a semi-life in slavery, not the life that would have been intended for her in freedom. The narrator says “…that we are all now and forever free and things would be all different now.” The day of the announcement of freedom in Texas was a day for celebration for slaves; life changed and the realization that the old had passed and the new arrived became real. The narrator awakes at the start of the story as a slave, but when she awakes in the same manner at the end of the story, she’s free and joyfully lives into the realization that this is the life God intended for her. The Ephesians passage is redemptive and shares the tensions of life in bondage to sin while living into the grace of salvation in Christ. Verse 10 brings home the notion that we are what God has made us through Christ, for a good purpose, and this manner of life had been created before we were brought to life, so it will be as God has intended.
Gospel Reading: John 3:14-21
Someday by Alison McGhee
(Written for ages 4 and up)
Comment: McGhee’s book is about a dream that a mother has for her child. The story begins by the mother speaking to the child about what they have experienced together in the past, and moves into what she hopes and dreams for the daughter/child’s life in the future. It’s a story of a mother’s immense love for the child and dreams for a beautiful life. The short story ends with the mom saying, “And when that day comes, love, you will remember me.” God has a dream for all of God’s children that we see in John 3. This piece of scripture, while seemingly hypocritical in nature, confirms for us God’s unconditional love for the entire world. This love requires a life lived into the light of God’s truth through faith, actions, words and convictions that we put into active practice in our daily lives. When we experience this unconditional love that gave us life through death, that brings the Trinity into reality for us, that proves itself over and over again, we are to recognize that it’s a love that can only come from God and “remember me,” as the mom in the story says. God only intends us to feel love and light, but we are human and we do live in sin. However the son of man was lifted up, like the serpent, to bring us out of the wilderness and darkness of sin into the light and life of grace through Jesus Christ. Just as the mother in the story cares for the baby and wishes the child a long life of love and happiness, only asking that the child remember her, so to does God protect us from ourselves and ask that we live into the light and truth of Christ so that the Spirit might sustain us for a long and everlasting life.
Thanks to Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Katie Barrett Todd for writing the Lectionary Links for us these past four weeks. You’ll hear from Katie again in 2015!