Call to Worship

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. ~ Groucho Marx

Opening Prayer

Amazing creative God,
You shock us constantly,
You pour grace through the cracks in our lives,
Even in the winter cold it leaks in,
And warms our hearts.
Saint Groucho Marx?
Who knew?
But the wisdom is there
Shining through the humor,
Time does fly
And when the time has flown
And it is the banana’s time
Fruit flies like the banana,
Death and birth,
All on your time,
God’s time.
Open us to the truth of God’s time.
Amen.

Responsive Reading

O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the LORD, O you God’s faithful ones, and give thanks to God’s holy name.
For God’s anger is but for a moment;
God’s favor is for a lifetime.
weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,

so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

-from Psalm 30

Scripture- Matthew 1:1-16

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
and Isaac the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar,
and Perez the father of Hezron,
and Hezron the father of Aram,
and Aram the father of Aminadab,
and Aminadab the father of Nahshon,
and Nahshon the father of Salmon,
and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab,
and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth,
and Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.

Reflection

Okay, so I stopped a little early. We didn’t get all the way to Jesus. And you must think I’m truly off my rocker opening an Ash Wednesday service by quoting Groucho Marx. And while we’re at it, if we’re going to read the genealogy of Jesus, shouldn’t we read it at Christmas? Don’t worry, this train isn’t off the tracks yet. This morning, we are invited to reflect on time, specifically God’s time. You might not have noticed as I sped through the list, but three mothers appear in this partial list of male lineage. Any of the three would justify a sermon, but for the moment, let’s stick with Rahab. You see, to most Jews in the centuries after Ezra, Rahab is a problem.

Rahab’s story begins when Moses leads the people of YHWH across the Reed Sea. God’s instructions as recorded in the Bible are clear, the Israelites are to conduct an ethnic cleansing, wiping the Canaanites from the land in one genocidal campaign. But they don’t! Several groups survived and became part of the people of Israel. The Gibeonites survive. And so does Rahab and her family in Jericho.

We all know the Jericho story. March around, blow horns, walls come down. But we must also remember that those behind the door with the red cord were spared, the red cord, not unlike the lamb’s blood of Passover, allowed death to pass by Rahab’s door. The reason? When the Israelite spies had earlier been cornered in Jericho, they hid in the house of a prostitute, and that prostitute was Rahab. Rahab confessed that YHWH was God and helped the spies escape. In return, they promised that she and her family would be saved.

Now let’s rewind. Our text is the genealogy of Jesus. These are the great and noble ancestors from the house of David who are covenanted to YHWH, this is the stump of Jesse that will produce the Messiah, this is the lineage that will outnumber the stars in the sky. A prostitute? And the story of one of the other women in the portion we read, Tamar, is no less troubling.
And then there was God, God who redeems and heals, God who turns a Canaanite prostitute into a worshipful Israelite, who chooses that very house to save the world. God takes what the world would reject, a woman the Israelites believed they were ordered to murder, and from her delivers the redeemer of all mankind.

This didn’t happen over night. There were good times: the glorious kingdom of David, the construction of the Temple under Solomon, the reforms of Josiah and Hezekiah. There were bad times: the fall of the northern kingdom, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Exile, the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes. There were long dark times, let’s be honest. Night comes, but so does the morning, joy comes in the morning! For every Good Friday there is an Easter. Our amazing and wonderful God works on God’s time, not ours. We wait for redemption, humble of heart, repenting of our sins, and God meets us with miracle! The Holy Spirit breaks out in a million places. Rahab, O Rahab, how we envy the joy of your house, the house of the Redeemer!

During this Lent let us consider God’s time, God’s redemption. Let us confess that God alone is worthy of our worship, tie red cords to our door, and wait for joy to break forth. It is there, in the cold and dark days of winter, as we sit in the grey and wait, as we ponder the coldness that sometimes enters our hearts, joy is there, alive, energy and potential waiting to burst forth, to bulb and bloom and bud and beauty! Ah, our amazing God! Find a red cord, remember Rahab, and wait for God’s time. I promise you, joy will come in the morning.

Prayers of the People

Eternal God, we are an expectant people, huddled in the cold and dark, waiting in a concrete and carbon monoxide winter, waiting through Lent, trusting in your love, today, tomorrow, in the morning, always! During the next forty days we ask the blessing to live outside of our own time, to be enfolded in your time, in the power of redemption always ready to break forth. God be patient with us as we bring our praise and petition to you, trusting that your will is the way of miracle, the way of red cords and Rahab!

Blessed are you eternal God,
Your creation is filled with blessing.
We thank you for your church universal and its ministries of love,
Fill us with your Spirit that we might love one another.
We thank you for your saints, those who have walked in the cold and dark,
who woke up to joy and miracle,
May they walk with us in all that we do.
We pray for those who are sick, who are tired, who are broken,
Help us to comfort them and to comfort one another.
We celebrate the lives of those who have departed from us even as we mourn our own losses,
May they join the saints in your presence.
We bring you our concerns, personal and global, spoken and in the quiet of our hearts,
(Please add your own petitions).

God, this is the day you have made for us, even in the midst of our pain and brokenness, the new day dawns, babies are born, love happens. We praise you and thank you always.
Amen

Blessing

May you always walk in this certain knowledge: Nothing can separate you from the love of God, nothing you do, nothing others can do. Go in peace and love one another as God loves you. Amen.