A SERMON from Rev Antony for the 2nd Sunday of Lent 28th February 2021
The Second Sunday of Lent.
Reading Mark 8: 31-38
The journey through lent can be a difficult Journey, even in normal times lent can be a strain, but in the face of the pandemic the pressures of life can overwhelm and the anxieties of what lies ahead may even remind us of some of the pressures that Jesus was facing.
Today only the second Sunday of lent and we have probably already failed as we strive to walk with Jesus to the cross, but we note Jesus was set on his course of events and would not be detracted from the path he was to walk. So what does this Journey mean for Jesus, and what does it mean for each of us?
let’s go back to Advent the other season in the churches calendar when we think of preparation.
Advent is a season of joy and hope, the season when we prepare for the birth of our saviour. We all appear to manage that preparation quite well, but Lent is different, it just seems so hard.
In lent we prepare for the death of Jesus. We note both seasons (Advent and Lent) are seasons of preparation, yet in this season of lent we find ourselves at the opposite end of the journey, the joy of Advent and birth, is now replaced by lent and the preparation for death.
We should note that in both these seasons, (Advent and Lent,) God through Jesus enables a gift to all people. So, what is the gift.
We see this gift reflected in today’s passage in Mark, when Jesus tells Peter and his disciples the uncomfortable reality that his ministry will end in death.
Jesus must die, he is going to suffer and be
crucified. This death will be one of pain, anguish and despair, and Jesus is willing to talk about it with those who follow him.
Just imagine you are with Jesus and his disciple’s. You have been following Jesus around, learning and listening from him. You’ve dropped your entire life plans, you’ve lived on the road with Jesus, abandoned you’re your fishing business, hung up your tax collector’s license. You’ve witnessed Jesus feed five thousand people with a small boy’s lunch.
You’ve seen him bring a dead girl back to life. Your convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and now, now, after all of this, Jesus is talking about his death, and leaving you-- behind.
I guess you would feel a little uncomfortable with what he was saying to you.
We note that Peter is also uncomfortable.
Peter and the disciples were expecting a conquering, warrior Messiah, and instead their Messiah is acknowledging his death.
This long-expected present from God, that we welcomed at Christmas is going to be taken from us.
And we have not recognised that this is what the scriptures foretold, surely there is more to the story. Surely the great Saviour Jesus is not supposed to simply die; there must be more to the story.
Jesus criticizes his disciple’s for this kind of thinking. He even refers to Peter as Satan. That was a real insult to Peter.
What Jesus is doing here is denying all power by worldly definitions. His power comes from his humility, from him being willing to submit to human suffering for us and on our behalf. God loves us so much that Jesus is willing to die for us, to suffer instead of us.
This is the gift that Jesus gives to us, This is the gift that we prepare to receive in the season of Lent, leading us to Easter, the gift of his vulnerable self, the gift of a perfect man willing to humble himself so that he will be punished for no crime other than our own.
Peter sees todays story as a moment of humanity, but in fact, the words from Jesus are a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity.
Perfect, and without blemish, Jesus is willing to sacrifice himself, because of God’s love for us. Jesus becomes the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (The Sacrificial Lamb.)
So we see that as in Advent we prepare for the gift of Jesus, so too in Lent we prepare once again for the gift Jesus brings.
The gift Jesus provides is something that is essential. The divine example of humble submission even to death on the cross is the reason for our faith.
We find reconciliation with our God, and forgiveness for our sins through Jesus, yet there are other consequences for this gift.
This is not a gift that can be received passively. God’s gift does not end with his sacrifice. Jesus’ story does not end on the cross, on the pinnacle of suffering, and even at his subsequent resurrection. This is not the end.
Jesus invites us to follow him, even after his death. Jesus invites us to take the journey with him, by taking up the cross, so that we are standing beneath it, looking up at it and seeing the depths of God’s love and the power. Jesus demonstrated God’s love as he conquers death on our behalf.
Death on the cross is not the end of the story, but the beginning of a new life in Christ.
In dying for us on the cross, Jesus is asking us to care about what he cares about. Jesus is calling us to accept his gift to us, and root our new identities in this gift of God’s love.
As we let God reinvent us as his children. Reinvent us as followers of Jesus. Reinvent us as people who can take up the cross and dare to love as God loves.
Our cross is not a platform of glory, but a symbol of love and sacrifice.
It is through this cross that we understand the full power of God. When we participate in this relationship with God through the cross, we accept God’s gift to us.
So lent, like Advent is a time to prepare for the gift of Jesus, who sacrificed his life on the cross for us. Do we today recognise this gift that Jesus offers us, or do we reject it and walk away?
It’s my prayer that we can walk with Jesus take up the cross and follow him.