Monday, March 01, 2010

Sermon for February 21st 2010



(The Holy in the Ordinary – Ann Weems)

Holy is the time … Holy is this place, and Holy are the words we are to share as we begin our Lenten Journey … a journey that is familiar – we know the events and happenings, we've been this way before – some of us a few times, others many times … it is a journey that in its own familiarity insists that we need to pause and consider more fully the impact these events and happenings have on our faith … it is often said – Familiarity breeds contempt – but often familiarity closes our eyes to the profound and powerful impact things may have.

We know the destination. We've been to the events in Jerusalem before. We know about the controversy, the arrest, the trial, the torture, the suffering and the darkness of death … we've stood in the pre-dawn before the empty tomb … AND that is part of the problem – we know the ending, so the events have lost their impact on us. The 40 days of preparation stretch before us as more of an invconvenience, then anything else. Rather then embracing the spirit of “giving something up” for Lent, we tend to give up things that are superficial and unimportant … rather than commiting to a life of discipleship, we tend to marginalize even the action of a lenten fast by giving up something we can do with out like chocolate, extra sugar, salt, or one of my favourites was the proclamation by a former church member that he was giving up paprika for lent … “do you use paprika?” I asked - “no … it makes Lent much easier that way ...” he replied with a smile …

To be fair, he did observe Lenten fasts by giving up something significant …

For the vast majority of Christian lent tends to be something we clean out from under our beds and furniture, or our belly buttons, rather than something we observe in the 40 days before Easter …

Yet, Lent is central to our experience and understanding of being Church – even in the 21st Century.

In the early Church these forty days were most importantly a time of preparation for those who wished to join the Church. For Lent those seeking Baptism would observe the Fast, and spend their time actively preparing to become members of the Church. Today we as a few questions, we might hold a class or two, but we would never think of asking those wanting to join the Church to observe a forty day fast, or spend that time taking classes, engaging in prayer and meditation AND studying the Bible …

Yet, that sense of awe and wonder about being a member of this place lingers … Lent remains, even as marginalized as it is today, it remains a reminder of who we SHOULD be …
“A wandering aramean is my ancestor”, the ancient Jew would proclaim as he brought forward his offering of thanksgiving, in response to the year that has been, and in appreciation of the year that might be. With that proclamation came an understanding of who this Abraham guy was, and what he meant not only the faith of the people, but to the understanding that each member of that people had …

Abraham – once named Abram, the father of the Jews … began his life in what is today Iraq, and was called by this God Yahweh, to leave everything he knew behind and FOLLOW God – follow God into the unknown – trusting in a promise … along the way, Abraham faced many challenges and set backs, offered up his own son – a son he had waited a life time for – as a sacrifice … he watched his nephew's family flee the judgement of God … and he faced the sword and peril in very real ways … yet through it all Abraham maintained his faith …

To stand and say “a wandering Aramean is my ancestor” was a reminder of the journey that lead to this moment – to this place … to recall the history and heritage and to understand our place in it, and in the present moment … claiming a wandering Aramean as our ancestor was – and in some ways remains a way of positing and understanding ourselves in the cosmos …

To know who we are and where we fit in, allows us to let go and see where the spirit will lead us … There is a wonderful quotation that I have tried to follow over the last two years as my life has been taking what at times seems like an endless series of turns and spins … the quotation is from French novelist and nobel laureate, Andre Gide who said “one does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time ...”

The security of knowing who you are and where you come from allows you to let go and to lose sight of the shore … Abraham let go and consented to lose sight of the shore and it turned out well …

We are children of Abraham … but more over, we are followers of Jesus who in his forty day journey into the wilderness wrestled with his demons and found himself in a real and tangible way.

The first temptation was hunger … Jesus was famished and the temptation was to turn bread into stone and satiate his hunger … but in that moment of deep hunger came the teaching - “one does not live by bread alone ...”

The next temptation is to abandon one's faith … that of power and wealth and prestige … fall down and worship me and ALL of this will be yours is the offer … it is tempting when life is good and everything is wonderful – when we have the bells and whistles of a good life – the toys and the stuff – to forget about God - but Jesus reminds us of what is important … our faith …

Then comes the last temptation – to test God … when we are being tossed by life's storms and trials, the temptation is to curse God (that was the very advice offered to Job sitting in the ash heap) … yet Jesus will not bite. He hold to his faith – he keeps his attention focused on God … he will not step off the pinnacle of the temple – God will not be tested …

In his three temptations Jesus offers us the template – the example for the journey into the unknown …

We let go of the shore – we drift and soon lose sight of the shore and what we know and are comfortable with … the temptation is to give into our fear and live the poster offered by despair.com that says “until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore, you will never know the terror of being lost forever at sea ...”

Too often we give in to our fear – we let our fear stop us from continuing the journey, we let our fear hold us back … we let our fear interfere.

Writer David Deida observes our fear of fear in this way:
“Fear of fear may lead you to hang back, living a lesser life that you are capable. Fear of fear may lead you to push ahead, living a false life, off-center, tense and missing the moment. But the capacity to feel this moment, including your fear, without trying to escape it, creates a state of alive and humble spontaneity. You are ready for the unknown as it unfolds, since you are not pulled back or pushed forward from the horizon of the moment. You are hanging right over the edge ... By leaning just beyond your fear, you challenge your limits compassionately, without trying to escape the feeling of fear itself. You step beyond the solid ground of security with an open heart. You stand in the space of unknowingness, raw and awake. Here, the gravity of deep being will attend you to the only place where fear is obsolete: the eternal free fall of home. Where you always are.”.


Lent is about letting go and trusting in our faith and in our God … Lent is about preparing for the approaching darkness, and not leaping from the suffering and sorrow of Good Friday right to the glory of Easter Sunday – it is about having the courage and the boldness AND the faith to journey step by step into the darkness and know that every step is made firmly in the hands of God. Our faith is about having the ability to journey into the unknown KNOWING that we are a Child of God – a wandering aramean is our ancestor … we've faced the storms and turns in life and we've survived and become stronger for it … we've leaned into our fears and we've grown from the experience … we've LIVED as a child of God.

That's no small statement.

Being able to face life in ALL it's fullness – the good AND the bad – is seldom easy. It's down right challenging – yet, that's what we are called to do …

People will speak of those who have endured hardship in tones and words that suggest they found almost super-human strength to face and overcome the challenges they have encountered. Yet, if they have found the reserves and abilities that exist within ALL of us – they have found their security and strength within … they have lived life knowing who they are...

A wandering Aramean is our ancestor is a proclamation of FAITH that posits us in a secure place where our fears become gifts of the Spirit guiding us forward keeping us secure and guiding us forward to a place of safety.

Mark Twain once observed, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

I've found it fascinating that we will encourage our children to live life like that – with boldness and courage and taking chances. The childrens' programme The Magic School Bus even had the teacher Ms Frizzle saying over and over - “ Take chances! Make Mistakes! Get Messy!”

We tell our children to take chances … make mistakes … get messy … but we want our faith – life as a Church to be secure, and safe and predicitable. We let our fears – even our little insignificant fears take over and we sit …

Lent is the time when we recount the stories of our faith and our tradition. Lent is when for the next forty days we seek AND FIND the Holy in our lives …

Lent is when we let go and trust in God to guide us through … by faith we can journey into whatever lies ahead … we can let go of the shore – lose sight of the horizon and we WILL find new lands ...

(The Disciples – Ann Weems)

May it be so – thanks be to God … let us pray …

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