Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lenten Evensong 2013: “Seriously?”

March 9, 2013 | All Saints Church, Pasadena | Mark 8:11-21


And the Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus

and demanded a sign from heaven

and Jesus sighed.


And who could blame him.


In preparing for this evening’s service

and talking this text over with a colleague

(who could remain nameless but was Melissa Hayes)

we decided an appropriate title was “Seriously.”


As in: “Seriously?”


Jesus -- the Radical Rabbi from Nazareth

had launched his public ministry with a sermon in his hometown

– making news by nearly getting thrown off a cliff

by the disgruntled congregation –

and had been doing nothing but giving them signs ever since.


Since that first sermon,

he’d cast out a slew of demons,

calmed a storm that threatened to swamp his boat and drown everyone on it,

raised a girl from the dead,

healed a woman who’d been sick for 12 years,

fed 5000 people with five loaves and two fishes and

– oh yeah –

walked on water.


By this time his reputation was all over the place –

if they’d had twitter back then he would totally have been “trending.” 


And yet, in spite of all that, the Pharisees – the religious leaders of his day

(for contemporary context you could compare them to …

oh let’s just use “Cardinals” this week, shall we?)

still came to him wanting “a sign.”


And so he sighed:

a sigh the gospel writer tells us was “straight from his heart”

and he got into a boat to regroup with his homeys

his disciples

his followers …

the ones who had not just heard about

but been present for

everything from the feeding 5000

to the walking on water

the ones he was counting on to “get it”

and to keep the ball rolling after he was gone

and what does he get?


In response to his metaphorical warning to them

about watching out for the "yeasty" Pharisees and Herod

he gets this literal reaction:


And they said to one another,

“It is because we forgot the bread.” 




Aware of this, Jesus reprimanded them:

“Why are you talking about having no bread? 

Do you not see or understand yet? 

Are your minds closed? 

Have you ‘eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear’? 

Do you not remember

when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand? 

How many baskets of fragments did you collect?” 


They answered, “Twelve.” 


“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,

how many baskets of scraps did you collect?” 


“Seven,” they replied. 


Then he said to them,

“And you still do not understand?”




No. They did not understand.

They really didn’t get it.


And I think sometimes

that when Jesus went off  by himself

to a quiet place to pray

what we was praying for

was a new crop of disciples who would get it.


Because time was running out.

And the Pharisees and Herod were on his trail.

And he knew the radical gospel he preached

was going to lead to the place

that anyone who challenged the status quo

in an occupied land ended up.

A place we know was called “Golgotha.”

And yet he kept on toward Jerusalem,

trusting that the God who’d called him to proclaim this new thing,

to incarnate this new vision,

to BE the change the broken world needed

in order to be the kingdom it was created to be –

he trusted that God to somehow

– against all apparent odds

and in spite of the disciples who still didn’t get it

and the religious leaders who were still demanding a sign

– somehow to bring that kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

And that was then.

And this is now.

And we are still going about the same work

-- the work biblical scholar Verna Dozier called “The Dream of God”

As Verna described that dream

God was always offering the possibility

of living in the kingdom of God

in the midst of the kingdom of this world.

And yet,

each time the frighteningly free gift of God was offered

– the gift of being to be the new thing in the world

-- of being a witness that all of life could be different for everybody –

each time it was offered –

Verna writes -- it was misunderstood.


The people of the Torah (she observes)

“made the gracious gift of the law into a system”

while the people of the Resurrection

“made the incomprehensible gift of grace into a structure.


Both the people of the Torah (she opines)

and the people of the resurrection

were escaping from God's awesome invitation

to be something new in the world.


And so we inherit a biblical story (she concludes)

that is all about the people of God losing the way

and a God who will not give up

calling them back again and again

calling them to return.


Calling us to return

in a call that continues today

on this Fourth Sunday in Lent 2013


Because, my brothers and sisters,

Lent is not about having 40 days of amnesia about Easter

– it is about having 40 days to work on reversing our amnesia

about why Easter matters.

It is about having 40 days

to look beyond the literal words of our tradition

to the Living Word of the God

who continues to call us to return

– to be a new thing

– to accept awesome invitation to be something new in the world.


To challenge the literalism

of those who do not see beyond the literal words to the Living Word

just as Jesus did 2000 years ago

with the woman at the well didn’t get it

when Jesus told her about the living water

with Nicodemus didn’t get it

when Jesus told him he must be born again

and with the disciples who thought he was talking about bread and yeast

because they forgot to pack the lunch.


The world still yearns for a sign

A sign that the kingdom can come

a sign that the promise is true

a sign that the “year of the Lord’s favor” is going to be fulfilled

a sign that the captives will be liberated

that the oppressed will go free sign

that justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream …

and that now IS the acceptable time

And so today – tonight

I take heart in these words -- this sign --

from Bishop Steven Charleston

who calls us all

to claim that dream of God

to live the promise of hope

and to transform ourselves

into the sign the world is looking for –

a sign of the power of God’s inclusive love


and present

and calling the whole human family

forward into God’s future.

Bishop Charleston writes:

Faith is not belief unexamined,

but belief born of deep thought,

shaped by reason,

guided by experience,

given substance by the listening of the curious intellect

to voices diverse and ideas divergent.

Religion is not the captive of

automated hearts set to march in silent obedience

nor the museum of final thoughts

beyond which no questions may be asked.

It is the forum of the wise and wondrous,

the company of the healed and healers,

the choir of human imagination,

the blessed community of God gathered

in the clear light of the open mind.

Seriously. Amen

1 comment:

toni said...

Hi Susan, I used to subscribe to your blog and then somehow fell off when Feed my Inbox stopped working. I'd love to subscribe again, but I can't figure out how? :) Oh, by the way, I loved this post! :) Toni