Sermon for 3-1-09
Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1: 9-15
The time is fulfilled…
The Kingdom of God has come near,
Believe in the Good News…
Jesus preaches this short yet profound message to the people of Galilee after his baptism. Jesus preaches this message as he begins his journey to Jerusalem. He preaches a simple message, one that can capture the hearts and imaginations of all who hear, fellow travelers, those in authority, and those who become disciples. Some scholars have stated that in these four brief phrases is the message that Jesus was to preach, teach, and live in his ministry. These are sacred words, not to be dismissed as too short, or unworthy of contemplation. As we begin this journey of lent, before we hurry off to Easter, it is important to sit a moment and reflect on these four foundational proclamations of Jesus’ good news to those who heard the words for the first time.
To put it another way, before we take the sacred journey with Jesus, the Prince of Peace, it is good to pause for a moment and reflect on where we are going and how we are going to get there. What message can we take with us as we follow God?
First, let us consider the source of the proclamations, Jesus the prince of peace. Jesus has spent 40 days in the wilderness contemplating the call of God to be message incarnate of the good news. In this time Jesus, has had time to think about what God had proclaimed at his birth, “you are my son the beloved, and with you I am well pleased”. Notice that God does not put any requirements on Jesus to be the messiah the world had been waiting for in order to earn or deserve the love. No God is freely pouring on Jesus an unconditional and boundless love. Jesus has the choice to accept the burden and the responsibility of being the messenger that the world had been waiting for. Jesus chooses to preach, to teach, to heal all the while depending on God to guide and direct him. Jesus believes God when God said to Noah: “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Covenant is the sacred promise God makes with us to be our God. God does not want us to be punished ever again like those who suffered with the flood over all the earth. Instead as the Psalmist proclaims: “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep the Lord’s covenant and the Lord’s degrees.”
This past week as I was reading over some of the e-mail discussions, I came across one testimony from a member of the
Our Cal-Pac Academy Jo Ann who helped me to make a distinction about the relationship I have with God, she said, “ I believe God, which is for me not the same as believing in God.”
Jesus believed his Father, not in his Father, Jesus believed what was said at his baptism is true. So this Jesus we talk about, study, walk with is who we believe, who we trust, who we affirm is alive and walking with us now, as the resurrected Lord and Savior of the World. When we come to the table for Holy Communion we affirm once again that we believe Jesus and unite with him in faith to serve the world. Not only do we believe Jesus when he preaches the good news, but we also believe the Good News, the promise of God, and we take Jesus’ hand and walk together with him down the path that leads to righteousness.
So it with this faith and trust we read the four preaching points of Jesus who stakes his life on the truth of his message.
The time is fulfilled
Jesus knew this was the time to start his ministry, he had been preparing for a moment like this all his life, and now there was no doubt, it was time to come out of the desert and begin the public ministry he believed in. This was the time to bring the good news to God’s people, to heal the sick, to bring hope to the poor, to open the hearts of the people in power and bring news of what God is creating.
The same is true for us; the time is now for us to respond what we believe God is calling us to do in this place and time. It is time to take the journey. It is not time to make excuses, to find distractions, to ignore the call of God to bring peace to the world.
The Kingdom of God is near…
My family and I watched a movie called, August Rush this past week. August Rush was born with the gift to hear music all around him. He believes that he will find his parents if they only hear his music, because they are truly bonded by their music. In the opening scene August is in a cornfield listening to winter wind blow through the dry corn stalks in the field outside his orphanage. He hears the music in all things, as he listens to the wind, children playing on the playground, in the sounds of NYC. He keeps listening because as he answers the question from his new social worker, “Where does the music come from?” August answers: “From those who made me.” As we walk down the road with Jesus, we are guided by the one who made us, the one who is near as a whisper, who knows us inside and out, our fears our dreams, our sins and our graces. The kingdom of heaven is not so far away if we only take the time to listen for the voice of God.
Harry Emerson Fosdick was one of the greatest American preachers of this century. He described his preaching as counseling on a large scale. Few people knew that as a young seminary student he reached the breaking point after working one summer in a New York Bowery mission. He went home and was overcome by deep depression. One day he stood in the bathroom with a straight razor to his throat. He thought about taking his own life. And then -- and then he heard his father in the other room calling his name, "Harry! Harry!" It called him back. He never forgot it. It was like the voice of God calling him.
As we walk the path of Lent, it is crucial that we repent of those habits, attitudes, misconceptions, prejudices, anxieties and fears that keep us from hearing the voice of God speaking to us, and keeps us from bringing peace to the world. In the 12-step recovery process followed by those recovering from addiction, one of the steps is to apologize to those you have hurt due to your addiction. This can be a painful and difficult step, and it is done after you gain support from a sponsor and from a rehab program.
Lent has also traditionally been a time when we seek out those we might of hurt in the past year. It is time for us to make amends to intentionally make the effort to heal any open wounds in our relationships. It is indeed the time to repent of our own self-righteousness, our own self-pity, and our own stubbornness and allow God to work in us a new spirit of forgiveness. We need to trust God, trust that all roads of repentance lead to the Lord of steadfast love and faithfulness. A way that we practice a new way of living is giving up something. One of my friends passed this reflection on to our sermon study group.
IVE UP grumbling! Instead, "In everything give thanks." Constructive criticism is OK, but "moaning, groaning, and complaining" are not Christian disciplines.
GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study, and personal devotion. A few minutes in prayer WILL keep you focused.
GIVE UP looking at other people's worst attributes. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.
GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting or to offer a smile. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?
GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. "Love covers a multitude of sins."
GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! They're too heavy for you to carry anyway. Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about: like tomorrow! Live today and let God's grace be sufficient.
GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, visit someone who's lonely or sick. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the "tube?" Give someone a precious gift: your time!
GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We're called to be stewards of God's riches, not consumers.
GIVE UP judging others by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ.
We believe the Good news that God loves us unconditionally, promises us forgiveness and guidance for the road ahead, and calls us to proclaim to the world what we believe, who we believe. This lent I invite you to walk with me, and one another as we lift up our souls to God for transformation and renewal. I invite you to preach with your lives the good news of Jesus Christ, to bring peace to a war torn world. Amen