Lent II, 2024

Imagine being one of those folks enrolled in the catechumenate long ago. Your Lenten instruction started with the temptation of Christ, His victory over the evil one. You are joyful and triumphant. Your hero has won the day. The enemy is defeated. This second weak jerks you right back down to earth. The victory is won through the cross, through suffering, through dying. It is not a victory like Roman armies win in distant lands, overwhelming the foe through brute force. It is a victory won through what looks like losing, through being the victim of violence and loving the enemy.

Luther grasped this in a day when the Church had forgotten it. We talk a great deal about the nailing of the Theses to the door of the church in 1517. That was important, but it only gained him an audience. What really made the Reformation of those years ago is what he did next. When asked to give an accounting in Heidelberg, Luther focused on the theologian of the cross. He said that the whole operating principle of the Christian movement needed to change. Medieval Christianity had become focused on glory.

A quick survey of what matters to Christians in the US today will reveal a people very focused on glory. We need a real reformation in that sense. This Sunday calls us back to that cross and to that real Christianity which picks up the cross and follows Jesus to the mechanism of His kingdom, suffering, death, and loss.

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