Second Sunday of Lent

Image AS8-14-2383 “Earthrise” by William Sanders taken during the Apollo 8 moon landing — a high quality color photograph of planet earth from space, 1968. Image credit: NASA

March 5, 2023 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Genesis 12:1-4a • Psalm 121 • Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 • John 3:1-17 or Matthew 17:1-9

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Image description: Rising above the gray dusty surface of the moon and set against the rich darkness of space is planet Earth — an orb whose sun-illuminated top is washed in vibrant blue hues and swirling white clouds.

One day, the Eternal One called out to Abram.
Eternal One: Abram, get up and go! Leave your country. Leave your relatives and your father’s home, and travel to the land I will show you. Don’t worry—I will guide you there. I have plans to make a great people from your descendants. And I am going to put a special blessing on you and cause your reputation to grow so that you will become a blessing and example to others. I will also bless those who bless you and further you in your journey, and I’ll trip up those who try to trip you along the way. Through your descendants, all of the families of the earth will find their blessing in you.
— Genesis 12:1-3

I look up at the vast size of the mountains — from where will my help come in times of trouble? The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains will send the help I need. The Eternal keeps you safe, so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you. Neither bright light of sun nor dim light of moon will harm you. The Eternal will keep you safe from all of life’s evils, from your first breath to the last breath you breathe, from this day and forever. — Psalm 121:1-2,5-8

The promise given to Abraham and his children, that one day they would inherit the world, did not come because he followed the rules of the law. It came as a result of his right standing before God, a standing he obtained through faith. — Romans 4:13

Jesus: If you do not believe when I talk to you about ordinary, earthly realities, then heavenly realities will certainly elude you. — John 3:12

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. — John 3:16-17

It is not surprising that when the crew of the Apollo 8 mission to the moon signed off from their TV broadcast on Christmas Eve 1968, they chose to read the opening passage of Genesis. What was a highly scientific mission had a spiritual impact these men made a point to acknowledge.

The 1960’s marked a significant time in the history of the world — humans traveling into space. For the first time Earth was seen from an outside perspective at a distance and as a whole. Between 1968 and 1972, 24 Americans would view Earth from the moon’s surface. These individuals spoke and wrote about the impact this experience had on them — how it changed their perspective on the world and the realities of life. Many also expressed a hope that images such as Earthrise would help the rest of the world experience something similar.

As I reflected on the passages, I sensed the invitation to “zoom out” to look at things from a greater distance, the distance and perspective from which God sees us and the world. How do the passages become fresh and new in their meaning when read while exploring this photograph?

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?
    What blessing or prayer is rising in you?

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