Monday, March 3, 2014

Quinquagesima Sermons

“And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luk 18:31-43)

“And after flogging him, they will kill him, an on the third day he will rise. But they understood none of these things.”
So Lent begins. This Wednesday we observe Ash Wednesday, and the forty days begin. Jesus marches towards Jerusalem where he will be flogged, crucified and buried, on the third day he will rise again. We as the church journey towards a celebration of that event that defines us, an event that we celebrate to a lesser extent every Sunday, the resurrection of Christ. In hindsight we see. But the disciples understood none of these things. And yet they followed. Three times Jesus tells the disciples what must happen, but they do not understand. Still they follow, trusting in Jesus, and if their friend Jesus suffers, they will suffer with him. There is apprehension, there is fear and trembling, anxiety and confusion, but they follow.
They follow, and so do we. We follow and often with the same apprehension, the same fear and trembling, anxiety and confusion. And yet we follow, trusting that Jesus will do what is best, and see us through.
It’s not always easy to do so, to be faithful to Jesus Christ, to go where he wants us to go, to do what he wants us to do. Sometimes it seems we can’t even figure out where it is he wants us to go, what it is he wants us to do, and we are left to make the decisions as best we can, hard decisions. One thing is for certain, he wants us to follow, and we can’t follow if we aren’t listening to him. It is why he gave us his church, his word proclaimed, his sacraments administered. It is here that we learn as a family, the baptized children of God, to follow, to rely on his forgiveness, to trust in he who is faithful to forgive. It is here that we learn to live as his children, and receive the strength and courage to do what is right.
At other times, we know what must be done, but we are perhaps not sure if we are willing to make the sacrifices that it will require. We stand like a king debating to encounter a foe and we determine beforehand if we can win. Or building a tower and we determine beforehand if we have enough to finish it. Once our hand is to the plow we dare not look back lest we should be considered unworthy for the kingdom.
We know the cost, it is everything we have. We don’t belong to ourselves but to God. He gives and takes away. What is it that we own? He who tries to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will save it. These conundrums and riddles Jesus speaks. But when it all comes down to it, we belong to God, and what we have is his. We can try to hold on to it, but if God wants to take it from us, he will. And if he wants to give it to us he will do this also. We are his, and he will not forsake us.
No, it is hard to follow at times. We know that what the world has managed to do to our savior is what we can expect them to do to us also. And then we realize that we are no less guilty than the rest of the world. It isn’t as if we are innocent in the crucifixion of our Lord. No, we were there ourselves, nails sticking out from our devilish grin as we feverishly pounded one nail after another with the hammers of sin. No, we were no less guilty. And so he died at our hands yelling father forgive them for they know not what they do.
And no, we don’t. The cost of following Jesus is something we will perhaps never ascertain beforehand. There is reason that the meaning was hidden from the disciples. The same is true of us. There is reason it is hidden from us. We might not ever follow if we knew the full cost. The world looks upon us as if we are insane. The full cost? Did you not hear him speak of a cross? Do you not see him crucified? Yes, that is what you have signed up for. Yes, yes it is. But then the reward? Well on the third day he rose. So build the tower and invest all you have, meet the enemy and go to war. Follow Jesus, this one who gives sight to the blind. He is the son of David, the messiah. He marches to victory, we follow our king. He knows the cost. Victory is his, so the victory is ours.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

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