This sermon was not preached because services were cancelled due to inclement weather. Please read the sermon below and meditate on its message.
Entering our second week of Lent, God has once more reminded us that our journey is not an easy one, at least weather wise. Our scripture lesson from Mark this morning reminds us that our spiritual journey is not an easy one either. This is a tough task to hear about this week, a reminder that the God embodied in Jesus may not be the type of embodied God we want to have in our life. Why?
Because it involves work, it involves sacrifice, and just might involve some suffering. Pretty much things we don’t want anything to do with as 21st Century “comfortable” Christians! We tend to want our relationship with Jesus to be one of convenience and comfort, not bad things, no suffering, no disappointment, but my friends, that is just not the way God seems to work sometimes.
In this text, Peter wants that comfortable relationship with his friend Jesus. He doesn’t want that relationship to be “rocky” or “turbulent” at best. However, Jesus has to paint the real picture! He has to paint the picture of His suffering and death, then eventually the resurrection.
Peter’s life and the life of the disciples at that time were a lot like our lives today, “sketchy”!! Peter’s attitude was even in question- he “rebuked” or demanded Jesus to be silent at this time because he didn’t want to hear what Jesus had to tell him. Jesus in turn comes right back at Peter with a ‘Satan’ or ‘evil being’ comment and tells him to be quiet.
We often find ourselves in this dialogue as well, especially during Lent when we are called on to look at things in our life with great introspection. We find ourselves in combat with those things we know we should do, things we know we shouldn’t do and all of those things that fall “in between”. We find ourselves in an old fashioned quandary!!
I’m reminded of the old time “Little Rascals” episode when Alfalfa and Buckwheat were going to skip school and go to the local fishing hole. Both were scared out of their wits and afraid they were going to get caught. In their dialogue, Buckwheat is standing at the edge of the trail that leads to the pond and he looks to the sky and and looks behind him and says, “Satan, get behind me! And don’t push!!”
Often times we don’t have that option when we are confronted with the reality of following Jesus. Satan, the evil one, the producer of our predicaments is always pushing, always gnawing at us to move in the wrong direction.
The paradox of this text, this morning, is that Jesus requires that we see the necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death for us!! It is through this paradox of learning to live through Jesus’ suffering, rejection, and death that we learn that is where Christ’s power emerges and is present in our lives.
Accordingly, the attributes (the final product) should be failure, it should be the defeat of Jesus—but no, it is the paradox of the Cross. Therefore, as true Lenten people, true Lenten devoted Christians we have to align ourselves with the idea and practice of the suffering, rejection, death and ultimately the resurrection as a means of success and not failure!!
For the writer of Mark’s gospel, the element that is central is faith! For the disciples of Jesus to have faith, for us as 21st Century Christians to have faith is absolutely essential in order to confront the issues and existence of evil options that present themselves to us in our lives.
We are often miffed by the abstract in our lives and distracted by that which is true. It is a constant battle and struggle to live in the Truth. Jesus reminds us that if we, as followers, as disciples, really do take up the cross and all that goes before the cross, pain, suffering, rejection, and death, we must have faith in Jesus that He can give us more than “the whole world”! (8:36).
In doing this, our emphasis moves from the perspective of worldly gain and power to that of a spiritual gain and a life in harmony with Jesus. It is where we understand that the power is grounded in God and not in the world.
The rough part of embarking on the Lenten journey is that we come to understand that the Christian life is a life of rejection and sacrifice. We understand that this must become the journey of every Christian as we move toward the Cross during the Lenten season.
But it is also important to know and understand that Jesus does offer this to His disciples and to us with compassion and instruction. It is a movement wrapped in grace. It is a journey that invites us to move toward the cross, to move toward and through the dark pre-dawn days before Easter to an empty tomb and a barren Cross. It is a journey filled with introspection and examination in order that we may see that empty tomb with new eyes and a new heart.
Let us be reminded of this journey, the pain and the sacrifice as we move toward the Cross and are fed and nourished at the Table of Our Lord.
AMEN AND AMEN.