Friday, March 16, 2012

Sermon: 2nd Sunday in Lent

O God of our ancestors, replenish us in our barren times, lead us out of our habits of captivity and into your country of promise; In trouble, in emptiness of life, in sorrow, let us never be separated from you, that we may build in the wilderness an altar and offer our whole hearts to your renewing fire and delivering mercy, through Jesus Christ who gave himself for us. Amen.

I was tempted to just hold up a picture of Norah…but as I thought about it, a baby is so trusting, because it has to be, it can’t do what it needs, it always needs help. Trust is part of our growing up. To trust one another is part of life…
One summer a family moved into a house in a small town in New England. The house was reached by driving up a long, rocky road. The new owner asked about having the larger rocks in the road removed. Leave the stones in place, his neighbors said. Without them, the dirt road will turn to mud when the rains come in early spring. Here, the New Englanders said, "we need a hard road, not a smooth one." [From Learning to Fall by Philip Simmons.]
And the family trusted their neighbors who were right. Abram trusted God.

When God asked him and Sarai to move, they did, and it was the right move. Now Abram and Sarai did not have any children and God again came among them…
"I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous."
Abram is overwhelmed by God’s presence and promise, and falls down before God. Because of their faithfulness, God renames them, blesses them and and makes the promise of a son to the renamed Abraham and Sarah.

It is their real faith, which helps create the connection to God who gives them a son, Isaac, when Sarah and Abraham could not conceive before. It was through the line of Isaac that the descendents of Abraham would make many nations as God had told him.

Both God and Abraham were faithful... As one author has put it, "God took the risk that Abraham would respond. Abraham took the risk that God would provide." (Eugene Roop)

Abraham used his trust and his faith in God, for he experienced God as just and giving, and was able to live into the unexpected, to be prepared and to follow through with what God had commanded him.

Peter, our patron Saint, on the other hand struggled with his faith and his trust in what Jesus said.

Peter who had left his fishing nets behind to follow Jesus, who proclaimed that Jesus was the messiah, is unable to handle the unexpected news from Jesus that he is going to die and three days later rise from the grave.

No, that's not the messiah, he will conquer.. .Peter rebukes Jesus in private.. .but Jesus will have none of that. Peter is missing that faith and trust that Abraham had.

So Jesus turns to the disciples and utters that monumental instruction to help them understand their faith: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

To follow Jesus, in his ways, is to carry our cross, to believe and to trust that God will see us through whatever we have to get through. I think of one of my favorite stories that Bishop Festo Kivengere used to tell:
One day a little girl sat watching her mother working in the kitchen. She asked her mummy, 'What does God do all day long?' For a while the mother was stumped, but then she said, 'Darling, I'll tell you what God does all day long. God spends his whole day mending broken things.'"
To carry our cross is to follow Jesus believing that God is at work mending broken things in our world and in us too. And through faith, we are called to help God in this endeavor in our world.

That is the faith we are called into, to believe and trust and hope that all is being made new and whole again.
As St. Paul said, “For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham.”
The family trusted their neighbors. Abraham believed what God told him, Paul rested in the grace of faith and Peter struggled and doubted but would come to fully believe what Jesus had said. Each gives us a glimpse of the faith that God so graciously gives to us.
As Mother Teresa put it, “God will never, never, never let us down if we have faith and put our trust in Him. He will always look after us. So we must cleave to Jesus. Our whole life must simply be woven into Jesus.”
Today, may we take up our cross and follow Jesus in faith and in trust, on the path that is before us this Lent. Amen.

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