A sermon for Lent 2
Genesis 17:17, 15-16, Psalm 22:22-30, Romans 4:13-25, Mark 8:31-38
Decades ago, God promised Abram an heir. God was taking time, a long time, to keep it, so Sari gave Hagar to Abram to as a wife to him. It worked, Ishmael was born. Things did not go well, it takes a divine intervention to impose a peace. Now, more than a decade later Abram is 100 years old, Sarai is 90 and here’s God making the same promise. Abram falls on his face perhaps in obedience, except he is laughing thinking to himself: “What again!” How Absurd. (Howard, 2015)
It’s all a bit similar, to last week’s covenant story when God through Noah promises all life “Never again.” This too is an absurd story. It all begins when God asks Noah to build an Ark, big enough to hold two of everything and his family. Water is nowhere in sight. How absurd it is to build a boat, even as a hedge against a flood, so far from water.
On their way from Bethsaida to Caesarea-Philippi, Jesus asks who they think he is, Peter answers “The Messiah.” He’s right! Then, as we hear this morning, Jesus begin teaching about his suffering, rejection, death and resurrection. This is not Peter’s image of the messiah. What he and all Israel really want is freedom from the Roman occupiers. No one can free their people by dying! Suffering, rejection and death, is exactly the opposite of the messianic hope. How absurd! So, never one to stop and think, Peter pulls Jesus aside, and sets him straight.
Several millennia later we know there is nothing absurd about any of these bible stories. These stories are central to our faith, through them the divine covenants
- with Noah that never again will a flood cut off a life,
- with Abraham and Sarah who are to give rise to nations and Kings, and are our spiritual forebearers
- and through Jesus salvation is offered to all.
There is nothing at all absurd in these stories. Except, the absurdity with in the texts themselves.
The gleaning I share this morning is absurd. Literally ‘absurd.’ “How absurd” just may be the most common first response to a divine encounter. I’m coming to see receiving a divine word as absurd is perhaps a warning to pay particular attention. If you receive a calling to go do something absurd, like building a floating zoo miles from any water, intentional deliberate prayerful discernment as to how to go about getting it done is a faithful path. When you receive a divine promise you will be a part of, or are central to, or will attain the impossibly absurd, prayerful, discernment preparation, is a faithful path. Upon receiving a particularly insightful understanding of God in the world, prayerfully discerning what you know that is about to really change is a faithful path.
At our vestry meeting, immediately following worship, we will choose which of this year’s goals to take on first. All of you are absurdly busy. Nonetheless discerning which ministry you are called to be a part of, whether it’s on this list or not, is part of today’s agenda, its art of living into our baptism, perhaps part of a Lenten discipline.
You have heard that at convention a few weeks back Bishop Benfield challenged us to go beyond open doors. For the next couple Sunday school classes we will do the exercises Bishop Benfield led us through during convention. First, we draw our parish boundaries. We’ll begin with a very short history lesson about parishes and boundaries. Then we’ll project a map of the surrounding area, and literally draw the boundaries. Secondly, we will take a closer look at what’s around us, just a few blocks in each direction. Both are an exercise in hearing God’s call to go beyond our front doors, into our parish boundaries, friendly or not, with all our regrets and grievances, into mutually responsible, interdependent relationships with all our neighbors and Christ. My take from today’s scripture lessons is that the most important thing we need to do is to listen for the absurd.
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