New Names for the Faithful - 25 February 2018 - Second Sunday in Lent

Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, and followers of Jesus become cross-bearers. “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” God makes outrageous promises, and the faithful who hear the call and trust in it are exalted with new identity.

It is told of Martin Luther that he said each morning as he splashed water on his face, “I am baptized.” It was this sure knowledge of being marked as God’s own forever that fueled his courage as he faced both pope and emperor and refused to stop calling for reform. . .

As we walk the road to Jerusalem with Jesus in this season, as we face the powers of this world to declare, despite the consequences, that love is more powerful than hate, that peace needs to “made” as intentionally as war, that the hungry deserve bread, we live the baptismal truth that nothing. . . can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus [Rom 8:38-39]. . .  –– Scott Haldeman


Mark 8:31-38

In Mark 8:31–38, what appalls Peter about Jesus’ prediction is not just that Jesus must suffer but that, inevitably, those who follow him will face suffering and rejection, too. In contemporary parlance we sometimes trivialize the “cross we have to bear.” What are the more important crosses we might face, the circumstances in which today’s Christians might have to make real sacrifice for the sake of the real Gospel? –– David Bartlett

In Mark 8:27–30, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Predictably, he gets widely variant answers, but Peter identifies Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus does not respond directly to this claim, but “ordered them not to tell anyone about him.” Among the many different claims about the Messiah in Jesus’ time, none of them would have called for the Messiah to suffer and be rejected the way Jesus describes in this passage. It should be no surprise then that Peter would question Jesus’ statements and likely he would have been shocked at the sternness of Jesus’ rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” –– Jonathan D. Lawrence


Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

One of last week’s readings described God’s covenant with Noah and all living things. This text focuses on God’s covenant with Abraham and through him with all of his descendants, promising land, descendants, and a blessing. . .  

Of course, the very idea of descendants is shocking in this story, since Abraham and Sarah were too old to even imagine having a child. Yet. . . God’s promise of a son is fulfilled, as proof that with God all things are possible.

In the course of their encounter with God, Abram and Sarai become renamed as Abraham and Sarah. Sarah’s name does not change significantly in its meaning “Princess,” but Abraham, formerly “Exalted Father” becomes “Father of a Multitude.” –– Jonathan D. Lawrence


Romans 4:13-25

Paul suggests that the promises to Abraham were fulfilled not through the law but through “the righteousness of faith.” He refers specifically to Genesis 17:5 and God’s promise that Abraham would be the “father of many nations.” He speaks of Abraham’s unwavering faith that God would fulfill those promises, which could refer indirectly to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac at God’s command. This deep faith is presented as a model for Christians who put similar trust in Jesus and his death and resurrection. –– Jonathan Lawrence

David Bartlett, an ordained American Baptist minister, is Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, and Lantz Professor Emeritus of Christian Communication at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut.

W. Scott Haldeman is associate professor of worship at Chicago Theological Seminary, Illinois.

Jonathan D. Lawrence, an American Baptist Church ordained minister, teaches Religious Studies and Theology at Canisius College, Buffalo, New York.

Homily Service 39, no. 4 (2006): 22-32.

David Turnbloom