Journeying Through Lent: Discipleship
February 25, 2024 | Rev. Dr. John H. Young
Readings: Philippians 4:4-9 Psalm 8; Luke 11:1-4
Jesus said: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” He goes on in this passage from Mark to assert that those who seek to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives “for my sake and the sake of the gospel” will save them. Strong stuff! Who among us wants willingly to engage in self-denial and to take up a cross? Yet Jesus’s words and intent seem unmistakable—to be a follower of Jesus is costly. What did Jesus mean and what does being a follower mean for us in 2024?
Journeying Through Lent: God’s Promise
February 18, 2024 | Rev. Dr. John H. Young
Readings: Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 25, Mark 1:9-15
The book of Genesis has some remarkable stories, stories that make some very significant theological claims about God and God’s relationship with us and with the rest of creation. One of those stories is Genesis 9, a story in which God tells Noah: “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” A little later in this passage, God uses the term “an everlasting covenant” to describe the promise God is making to all flesh. How might this divine promise aid us during our journey through Lent and toward Good Friday and Easter?
Thinking About the Beatitudes
February 4, 2024 | Rev. Dr. John H. Young
Readings: I John 3:1-3; Psalm 34; Matthew 5:1-12
As a child, I remember a plaque containing the Beatitudes on the wall of my grandmother’s farm house. I do not think my grandmother’s house was unique in having this plaque on the wall; it was something one saw more commonly in an earlier era. The Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel stand as the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus that run through chapters 5-7. Collectively, the Beatitudes are a special passage of Scripture—not nearly so familiar as something like the 23rd Psalm but also a piece that more of us recognize by name or by content than most passages of Scripture.
But the Beatitudes are also a challenging, potentially troubling, passage of Scripture. One of my faculty colleagues when I was teaching at Queen’s once described the Beatitudes as “a passage only a saint could live out.” A careful reading of the passage would convince most of us, perhaps all of us, that my Old Testament colleague was correct. But is seeing the Beatitudes as a specific prescription for how we ought to lead our daily lives the only way, let alone the best way, to understand this text? Or might we see here a passage that outlines a more general orientation for our lives, an orientation that also takes account of what it means to live as a Christian in 21st century Canada?