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Fourth Sunday in Lent, Cycle C

The emphasis within most of the texts appointed for next Sunday (Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32) is on turning to God, acknowledging sin, and receiving forgiveness from God. These are basic motifs within our Christian Lenten season. As we utilize these texts, our proclamation and our parenesis should be focused on these motifs.

Psalm 32

This psalm begins with a beatitude, “Blessed is the person whose sin is forgiven.” The wicked are contrasted with the righteous and shown to be foolish for not turning to the Lord. They are like a mule, without understanding. The psalmist demonstrates how reasonable it is to acknowledge sin to the Lord and to receive forgiveness and peace. The individual Hymn of Thanksgiving is most persuasive; those who hear can hardly fail to respond.

Joshua 5:9-12

In this text the Israelites have established a “beachhead” in the land that the Lord has promised to them. They had just circumcised all of the males among them. The manna with which the Lord had sustained them throughout their years of wandering in the wilderness ceased, and they began to eat the produce of the land. They ate the Passover, recalled how the Lord had delivered them from bondage in Egypt, and were prepared for the conquest of Jericho and of the lands beyond Jericho.

Perhaps we should say that thanks to God in Christ we too have a “beachhead” in the promised land. Let us recall the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ, remember our baptism, and be prepared to live courageously as People of God here and now and forever as sinners who are forgiven. This is basically the meaning of Lent.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Paul announces here that through Jesus as the Christ God has reconciled us and the world to God’s self, not counting the sins that have been committed, and has made Paul and those who were with Paul ministers of reconciliation. This is the proclamation in 5:17-20a. The parenesis closely follows in 5:20b in the fascinating form of the Greek 2 Aorist Passive Imperative, “Be reconciled to God!” For a discussion of the significance of this Passive Imperative construction, see the comments on 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:2 in the ASH WEDNESDAY section above.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

In the Luke 15:1-3 introduction to the three Lukan parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, the Lukan writer casts the Pharisees and the scribes as objecting to the idea of Jesus having table fellowship with his own followers. Not only the introduction in 15:1-3, but also the three parables in this chapter are exclusively Lukan. We should notice that in every parable of Jesus that is peculiar to Luke the first-mentioned people or things represent religiously observant Jews, while those that are mentioned last represent repentant and grateful followers of Jesus.

Within the context of the other texts selected for next Sunday, our use of this well-known Lukan parable should focus on the graciousness with which the father in the parable invites both sons to come to him and be glad, receiving forgiveness for the guilt of their sins. For more elaboration on this, see Helmut Thielicke, The Waiting Father (New York: Harper & Row, 1959).

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen