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The Second Sunday in Lent
8 March 2009

A Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Andrew C. Blume

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from thy ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of thy Word, Jesus Christ thy Son; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.Amen.

Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 16
Romans 8:31-39
Mark 8:31-38

Over the past three weeks the Gospel lessons from Mark have pointed us in a single direction. With singular purpose each one has told us something very special about who Jesus is. I have told you before and will remind you again before this liturgical year us over, that Jesus’ identity is perhaps the most important theme in Mark’s Gospel. Mark wants his listeners to be sure, in no uncertain terms that we understand that Jesus is Messiah and that he is not just any Messiah.

Mark wants us to be certain to know that Jesus is not the Messiah with worldly powers that most people expected. Instead, as we learn from the accounts of Jesus’ Baptism and Transfiguration, he is the one who is marked by God as the anointed, chosen one. As he tells us no fewer than three times in the Gospel, he is the one who will suffer at the hands of evil men. As he tells us and the disciples and as we saw, just for an instant, at the Transfiguration, he is the one who will be raised from the dead.

And even more powerfully, we learn that Jesus is the one who shares our Baptism. He is the one who shares our suffering. He is the one who shows us the Kingdom of God. He is the one who gives all the peoples of the world the promise of a share in that Kingdom, in that Resurrection.

We have been shown over the past three weeks just who Jesus is. We have been shown that this one with authority over the powers of the cosmos, who loves us so much that he is willing to go to death and back to give all a share in the Love of the God of Israel. And once given—given as a share of our being born into his creation and given as a share of our being Baptised into his Death and Resurrection—this love is ours, ours indelibly. Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus knew that by being born, being baptised, living his life authentically as himself that he would not have an easy time of it. God told him as much by calling him his chosen, his beloved—an epithet reserved in Hebrew Scriptures for the prophets who would challenge the powers of the world. Jesus also knew that, as his brothers and sisters in baptism, we would, by living authentically as incarnations of God’s love, also be his brothers and sisters in suffering. Jesus teaches us, and Paul tells us, however, that this is our calling, this is our life, and that through it all nothing, nothing at all, would “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing will cut us off from the love of the one who made us, and who makes us all worthwhile.

In this way, Jesus gives us the power of life. He breathes life into us and gives us the power to truly live. Although our hearts may beat, our lungs breathe in and out air, our brains function, we do not have life, real life, without the power that God in Christ gives us to be sons and daughters of God and to share in God’s ability to love others and help God spread his love far and wide. This is power. More than that, it is authority, real authority to act as love bearers, hope bearers, light bearers into this difficult and challenging world.

This is our vocation as Christians. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells us:

“For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life?”

Each of us, then, is called to discern what this vocation might look like lived out in our own lives. Each of us is called to discern how our own unique talents and gifts (for each of us has such gifts) may best serve the one who loves us and give us the power and authority to live.

Today we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of our unique incarnation of how a group of individuals living in community discerned how together they might best respond to God’s call to do something “in return for [our] life,” to serve and love our neighbours and teach others that there is nothing that “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Today we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the parish Soup Kitchen, a ministry that seeks to fulfill the Great Commandment, that seeks to do its part to feed God’s sheep, that strives to respect the dignity, the worth, the lovability of every human being. I pray both that we may one day see there is no more need for a feeding program here and that as long as there is such a need, that there will be those who realise how much they share with Our Lord and who discern a call to respond to the need they see.

In this season of Lent, individually and corporately, we are called to keep at this work of ministry and at this work of discernment. We are called to serve, we are called to love, we are called to be incarnations of the one who shares our Baptism, shares our suffering, shows us the Kingdom of God, and gives all the peoples of the world the promise of a share in that Kingdom, in that Resurrection.


Andrew C. Blume+
New York City
Perpetua and her Companions, 7 March 2009

 

©2009 Andrew Charles Blume