Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sermon: March 1

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. (Prayer by Rev. Jennifer Phillips)
I wonder how Abram and Sarai felt. When God asked him and Sarai (Say-rai) to move, they did. It must have been frightening, anxious living in a new land they had not experienced. Now Abram & Sarai did not have any children & God came again
"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 Abraham and Sarah. 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 trusted 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.

That is faithfulness.

It is easy to have faith in times of comfort and convenience, but our faith is tested with the unknown; in dark times, times of challenge and controversy, times of violence and hatred.

Her parents differed on whether or not she should go. But her mom prevailed, she wanted the best education for her child and on November 14, 1960 in New Orleans, Ruby Bridges was escorted by four federal marshals to William Frantz Elementary School and desegregation of schools began.

This iconic picture that I recently saw in my Facebook feed, got me to thinking how Ruby must have felt walking to her new school. She said that her first thought was they must be celebrating Mardi Gras. It was New Orleans. She was 6 years old. But the threats made against her would continue as she made her way to school daily, protected by the marshals.

At her mother's suggestion, Ruby began to pray on the way to school, which helped her as she walked through crowds jeering & nasty to her. “I prayed for them,” she said. Even with threats against all the family, forced job loss, so much happened but they remained steadfast and they prayed for God to see them through. That is faithfulness.

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. The resolve little Ruby had (and her family).
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 of Uganda 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.”
Ruby trusted her parents, prayed for those against her, and walked to school. Abraham & Sarah believed what God said, traveled to a new land, waited upon a child to come. 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 and calls us to live into as we walk our journey into the unknown before us.

Today, may we take up our cross and follow Jesus in faith and in trust, on the path that is before us this Lent, remembering our God who mends broken things. Amen.

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