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2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10

As we move out of a brief season of ordinary time in our Christian liturgical calendar and into the season of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, we are called toward a different, more somber kind of reflection in our preparation for Easter’s celebration. Jesus did come to live and walk among us, and this is worth all the celebrating we do on Christmas. And now we must take time to reflect on what it means for Jesus to share in our humanity and for us to share in his life as well.

This passage in Corinthians offers several points of discussion for how you might frame the season of Lent and its purpose for your congregation. For many in the Church of the Nazarene, the practice of observing the Christian calendar is a new one, but it is indeed an ancient practice of the Christian church universal that gives shape to our life together. So what kinds of things does the lectionary offer to us for consideration through this season of Lent?

Paul begins by reminding us that we are ambassadors for Christ, for which the prerequisite is reconciliation. God cannot ‘make his appeal through us’ if we are not reconciled to God and to one another. In her essay on this passage in Feasting on the Word: Year B Volume 2, Barbara Brown Taylor notes the importance of considering the “widest possible dimensions of reconciliation,” stating that it involves action and reflection for our relationship with God, with each other, and with the world. In Lent, many adopt new practices or omit certain habits for the sake of creating time to reflect on the life and death of Jesus, and these choices often are a sign to the world around us of what we believe; we are ambassadors at all times, and especially when we take these things on in the name of our faith. But in order to rightly reveal Christ to our neighbors, we must be reconciled with God and with them. This is how we might become the righteousness of God. Perhaps some good practices to encourage in this season would be those that lead your congregants toward right relationships, for the way we relate to one another bears a particular kind of witness to the world around us of the faith we profess.

Theodoret of Cyr said, “Christ was called what we are in order to call us to be what he is.”[1] If we avoid the hard task of reconciliation, if we put off our call to be ambassadors for Christ, Paul implies we receive God’s grace in vain. We make little of Christ taking on humanity to bring us into his shared life with God. There are perhaps few other times more fitting than Lent for us to embrace the work of righting our relationships with God and one another.

Paul continues with examples of how we might commend ourselves and receive God’s grace with humility. “Through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger,” we respond with the fruits of the Spirit and testify to the truth of God’s salvation through our response. Though the sacrifices one makes during Lent are often not nearly as intense as the trials mentioned here, they are meant to shape us, to draw us deeper into the life of Christ, so we may also be drawn into his death and resurrection.

This pericope ends with a powerful set of comparisons. Paul says when we take on this hard work of reconciliation, when we pursue the more difficult path of endurance and affliction for the sake of the Gospel, we will be seen and treated as imposters, as unknown, dying, and punished, as sorrowful, and as poor. And yet, God says we are the opposite. Through God’s infinite grace we are true, we are known, we are alive, we are not yet killed, we are rejoicing, and we are rich. Though the world says we have nothing, we possess everything. We possess everything! Though the world tempts us to believe power is needed to accomplish anything, the way of the cross is through servanthood, through weakness, through reconciliation, through listenin