Homily preached by Br. Luke at Blaxland on Sunday 1st March 2015:
Second Sunday of Lent
There is so much to focus on in today’s readings. But I’d like to begin in Genesis. There is Abraham and Sarah in their old age, not having any children and there is God saying to them I will make you fruitful, you will… “I will make you multitudes of people from your descendants”
It’s not a surprise really that later in the scriptures we read that Sarah laughs. God says he will make many Nations from their descendants. Menopause had well and truly come and gone for Sarah. But there is God making this promise that from you will come a multitude of nations. Oh my goodness, the power of God.
I am really partial to that story in Genesis, however I am going to be naughty and go straight to Romans.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a very good one, it is full of Theology. Paul is writing very early Christian Theology. In all he says it is a Theology of Life, and he is teaching people how to live a Christian life. Remember he was a very very, We have to remember that Paul was a very Orthodox Jew, he was a Pharisee, highly experienced in the Jewish Law. He knew all about the scriptures, which is why we when read the scriptures they say he ‘opened the Scriptures and showed them. He could do that; he had an innate knowledge of the scriptures. So he draws the parallels and talks about Abraham and Sarah.
I want to talk about that passage from Mark because it is one of those passages where we may get a little bit alarmed if I can use that term. Now here is Peter, the premier disciple, the first disciple, the rock on which Jesus said he would build the church. I have always had a very soft spot for Peter because Peter is always putting his foot in it, he is always doing probably what I would do. So I have a very soft spot for Peter.
But here he is where Jesus is saying the Son of Man is going to be crucified, Peter says ‘No! no; you’re the Messiah, that is not going to happen to you!’ What does Jesus do? He says get behind me Satan. He chastises Peter. He says to the Premier disciple, Get out of here! What you are saying is human. You are thinking as a person. You are not thinking about the Mission that I have been sent to do. The Mission is from God.
I have always loved the line from the film, The Blues Brothers. “I’m on a Mission from God”. And that’s what Jesus is on, a Mission from God. So Peter is distracting from that purpose, but he says no no no no; wait, you’re the Messiah – that can’t happen to you.
And then Jesus goes on and makes that very complicated and confusing statement “Those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35) What, does that mean? And that equally complicated gospel passage “if any want to become my followers let them deny themselves take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
The cross is an instrument of torture, that’s how the Romans killed criminals, it wasn’t just Jesus. Pilate was horrendous in terms of what he did. There were thousands of people of people he crucified. He was a particularly nasty bloke. Romans were a bloodthirsty people. There was no forgiveness there.
So here is Jesus’s saying if you want to follow me, deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me. To do what- after all the cross is a nasty way to die. And those who lose their life will save it”. This is very complicated. What is he saying to them? What he is saying them to is if you want to be a follower of mine you are going to have to focus now on the things of the world, but on the things that are divine. He is making a distinction between our physical lives and our spiritual lives. Those who lose their lives will save it you will be saved in the Resurrection, in the life Everlasting. Right!
Remember, Jesus talks about life eternal, so he is taking that passage and saying if you lose your life in this life, you will gain your life in the future. Does this make sense? It’s the same words but he’s using a different context.
Take up your Cross. What is a cross? I’ve said before, it is an instrument of torture – but it is also a burden or an affliction of some description and that’s the cross that we carry. That’s a burden that we carry.
Now we are in Lent, and traditionally Lent is about giving up things. It’s about penance. Preparing ourselves for Easter. And what is the major event of Easter? It’s is not the crucifixion. The major message of Easter is not his death, it’s his Resurrection. That the message of Easter. It is the defeat of death. You lose your life, Jesus dies on the cross, but he rose again and you will save your life. See how the message flows through the Scriptures.
And when we stop and say, well, what is our cross? It can be as simple as having to do something you don’t want to do. Going to work every day, especially in a job you don’t like doing. Or for some individuals it’s a disability or an addiction, or their mental health. It’s a cross they carry.
Our cross is something we carry every day. Jesus tells us what will it profit us if we gain the whole world, but lose our life. That being a Christian is a cross we will carry. He tells us that being Christian will be difficult. We know that by following him when our physical lives end, we will be with God in eternity. That’s what he means when he says to them you will save your life.
And finally “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38). So that’s the sting in tail isn’t it? If you are ashamed of me, if you don’t really want anyone to know that you profess to be Christian, then you’re being ashamed of me. You know what’s going to happen. When I come back, then I’m going to be ashamed of you. Because you’re not being true to the message. You’re not being true to what you are called to do.
And you hear me say this all the time: what’s the message of the Gospel? The message of the gospel is love. John right in the beginning of his gospel. What did he write? “God so loved the world.” “God is love.” Jesus says when asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” Love the Lord your God will all your heart; with all soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. As a second is like it, love your neighbour and yourself, on this hang all the law and the prophets. The first is very hard. Make no mistake about it. And loving your neighbour as yourself? That is the biggest cross that Christians have. If we stop and think about loving our neighbour, because there are times when we say to ourselves: “I really don’t like that person!” Or we say to ourselves about the other person, “why don’t you just go away?” The Christian message says no, we have to love the lot.
Recorded and transcribed – at Maroubra by br. Andrew