|Sunday, February 25, 2018 | Lent|
Second Sunday in Lent
Old Testament Genesis 17:1–7, 15–16
Psalm Psalm 22:23–31
New Testament Romans 4:13–25
Gospel Mark 8:31–38 or Mark 9:2–9
Trust in Action…
Brakes in car
Regardless of who you are, faith as a part of our everyday lives, it is basically trusting in action. Every time I get in my car, I have faith that the breaks will work, every day literally entrust my life to their reliable operation. The thing is, I have to say that faith was a little shaky the first time I replaced my breaks myself. I remember the first test drive I did after doing this particular service, I didn’t immediately jump on a highway and put myself in a full emergency braking situation, but rather I went pretty slowly around the block, stopped a bunch of times as my trust in the breaks grew. After a bunch of testing, I had finally come to a point that I was happy with my work, happy that the breaks were ok… Even if I was a bit paranoid for the first week afterwards and life went back to normal and I pretty much stopped thinking about whether or not my breaks would work every time I went for a drive.
I would like to suggest that for most of us, this state of normal is where we spend the majority of our lives. We strive for something that is safe, something that is stable and then we spend a bunch of money on insurance making sure that even if something goes wrong, we can get back to normal as quickly as possible.
As we continue our journey through Lent, today we hear passages that talk about faith, that talk about trust and talk about being prepared to give up everything that we see as safe, secure and valuable and to place our trust in God. This can be confronting, just like it was for the disciples, but I would suggest that Lent is an opportunity to take small steps in faith, to grow trust and to remind ourselves afresh about the one in whom we are placing our faith. Faith is not something that we simply choose to believe against all reason, but something grows and builds as we come to know and understand more of God.
Walking by Faith…
If we look at the passages for today and specifically look at the example of Abraham…
Abraham isn’t exactly the model of virtue, but he is obedient, trusted God enough to move his entire household, leaving behind everything familiar, secure and known and to trust in God’s promise…
Like Abraham, the disciples responded to Jesus, giving up what they knew, what was predictable, what was safe, what was prudent and respectable, to follow Jesus… If that wasn’t enough, in our passage today we hear Jesus confront his disciples with the reality that the path he is walking is a path that leads to the cross.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
From Peter’s response of disbelief, we see that even for the disciples, those who had an opportunity to grow their faith bit by bit as they walked with Jesus for years, saw his miracles and heard him teach, that this was going to be tough.
Object is God, revealed in Christ. Active trust in the faithfulness of God… This changes the way we act…
As we journey towards Easter, we should be reminded that just like with Abraham, just like Jesus’ disciples, this call to faith, this call to place active trust in God, to participate in God’s work of renewal, something we are invited into as well.
Faith also changes the way we act, as it is only really demonstrated through what we do. Faith is not some abstract concept, but something that changes the way we behave, perhaps even in small ways at first as we learn what it means to trust God more fully.
The prospect of giving up everything, including your life, may seem to be a pretty big ask, but I would also suggest that like with the disciples, it didn’t start there. Even in initially answering the call to follow Jesus, the disciples were Jewish people, they knew of the faithfulness of God and saw that God was doing something through this Jesus person. As they journeyed with Jesus, they saw more of who is was, understood more of what God was doing and understood more fully the invitation that they had to participate. In the same way that I didn’t go straight to the fastest highway I could find to do the first test of my car’s breaks after servicing it for the first time, the disciples didn’t jump from no faith to having the courage to face death. They came to know and fully trust Jesus, and were only prepared to put their lives on the line only after he rose from the dead.
This reminds me of a saying that I have heard, that faith is like a muscle, it gets stronger the more you use it. It also reminds me of my approach to exercise when I was in high school… Basically, making sure that I did as little physical exercise as possible to make sure that when things like the school cross country game along, I was rested and hadn’t wasted my energy in the leadup… Turns out that physical exercise works in exactly the opposite way to this, but I would also like to suggest that faith does too.
There comes a point when we need to move from preparing to place our faith in God, to choosing to act in ways that demonstrate this trust… Maybe even just small ways at first. Perhaps small acts of forgiveness, small acts of generosity, acts of service. Perhaps choosing to try and see someone as God sees them, choosing to notice and work against injustice. Perhaps it is choosing to resist cynicism, resist apathy and looking for how the Kingdom of God can offer healing and hope to a broken world, to the people you live with, to the people you work with.
Every time we do this, every time we think and act based on God’s faithfulness, on how God sees us, sees those around us, we can build our trust in God, growing our faith bit by bit. Every time we demonstrate grace, give and receive forgiveness, we can affirm God’s love and faithfulness both for ourselves and for those within our community. Every time we share stories of God’s work, we remind ourselves that God continues to be present, continues to offer healing, hope and wholeness and invites us into the renewal of all creation.
As we journey towards Easter, we should be reminded that just like with Abraham, just like Jesus’ disciples, we will make mistakes along the way. We will experience doubts, we will face distractions and temptations and fear, yet we should be encouraged that the grace, love and forgiveness available through Jesus is bigger than any of our mistakes and calls us back to be forgiven, to be made clean, to be equipped and to try again.
But during Lent, during the time between now and Easter, can you hear the invitation to faith, the invitation to trust, and look for small actions that demonstrate a trust in God so that your faith may grow.