Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 20 Sermon (2nd Lent)

"With God, one does not just mark time, rather one walks on a path."
These words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer remind us that our faith is a journey with God. Such a journey was what Abram, who would later be called Abraham, went on. The Lord said to Abram,
"Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
And that’s what Abram did. His family packed up and went where God said to go. Centuries later St. Paul would look back on that journey and talk about the faith that Abram had, the faith to listen to God and go.
"Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
That faith in God, like Abraham, is what Nicodemus wanted. Nicodemus journeys to Jesus at night so he can't be easily seen by others, especially the other Pharisees. He knows about Jesus, and has taken the first steps of faith, but like the darkness around him, he can’t quite understand all that Jesus says to him about faith. It is through faith that we understand God's gift, the grace of God, the grace that gives us the spirit as a free gift. Not something we have earned. Not something we have by birthright or from our ancestors Abraham & Sarah. "The spirit blows where it will; so it is with everyone born of the Spirit," says Jesus. We have no control of the Spirit. But we need to have Faith.

Nicodemus tries to understand but falls short. He tries to reason out what Jesus says. Reason & knowledge are helpful & useful on our journey. However, we will ultimately understand only by living through our faith. Faith holds both knowledge and mystery together. Faith compels us to do things when knowledge or reason would hold us back. It is faith that has us on our journey. In his famous prayer, Thomas Merton puts his finger on the mysterious path that faith leads us on.
“My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so…I know that if I do walk on [this] you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.”
This prayer by Thomas Merton (1915-1968), is a prayer of faith. It acknowledges that the road we are on, is not always known, but the hope that what we are doing on the road pleases God. Our faith leads us to trust in God, who is leading us on our path. But there are temptations on that journey, wonderfully brought out in the essay, THE STATION by Robert J. Hastings:
TUCKED AWAY in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent... (You can read the whole essay here.) Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.
Pastor Hastings, a Baptist preacher and writer, wrote that piece in 1981 and it appeared in an Ann Landers column. He is right, “Life must be lived as we go along.” There are lots of things to worry about, but our lives are meant to be lived in faith, not looking for a station, for the final destination will come soon enough. It is the faith, which we hear about in today’s Gospel:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
Let us humbly walk our journey of faith with Jesus, knowing he has gone down the road before us. For with God, we walk down a path, so we need not regret or fear, but live this day for God has made it. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Amen.

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