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Lent 2

by Rev. Rhonda Pigott-Thorndale


Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Mark 8:31-38

 

It’s the Second Sunday of Lent. Each Sunday presents us with a special insight into the stages of the expedition that is spiritual life. Our revised common lectionary gives the renderings of Jesus’ travels, trials, and tribulations and today we heard another covenant from past generations, both an experience of spiritual life.

 

This week we hear Jesus’ foreshadowing of his suffering. Just imagine… you’ve been traveling with your teacher and mentor for three years. You’ve been present and have watched as the crowds come to him for hope and healing. The momentum is building. You imagine all the possibilities for the coming years, being a follower of Jesus. Then instead of what you think is a forward move, Jesus starts to talk about suffering, his suffering and death. Peter is very upset and protests. Wouldn’t you be upset?

 

A short story… two friends went to visit an elderly woman in the hospital. One watched as her nurse, encouraged Alice to sit up and eat her meal. After she said: “I’ll get another nurse to help me, and we will take you to the bathroom.” These two friends saw this incident differently.

 

One marvelled at the kindness this angel of mercy had shown the patient. The nurse knew all her patients by name. She understood their needs and anticipated them better than most of the patients themselves.

 

The other visitor felt sad and commented that no one would have called her Alice before she entered the hospital. She was always called Mrs. Williams as she was the most respected high school teacher that town ever had.

 

We all see people differently, but we all suffer in many different ways. Just as there are different ways of knowing the people we meet. The connection here is a bit of a leap, but Jesus saw people differently than his disciples and other followers. I believe the Holy One sees people as unique, special individuals with a divine possibility in each one of us

 

Jesus had been known by many names and Peter had been well aware of that, so I wonder if that was also part of Peter’s heartfelt reaction to Jesus talking about his death and suffering.  But Jesus response was that Peter was seeing this though human eyes not with Spiritual eyes.

 

Suffering is the price we pay for happiness. Growth can be a painful experience. I remember my mom telling me as a child that if you never experienced sadness, you could never fully experience happiness. What a strange concept, especially for a child, you wanted to be happy all the time.

 

The liturgical year sets out to do that for us spiritually. It takes us through pivotal moments for growth, to help us understand that Jesus’ life is a template for our own. As followers of Jesus, we need to try to follow all the steps in his journey. How he handles the different stages, from his expectations, to whom he helps, who he rebukes or criticizes and why, and what his ideals were.

 

I think Jesus’ life is not about the past, but an invitation to each of us, to experience our lives fully. Lent is about the holiness that suffering can bring. It is about bringing good to places where evil has been, bringing love to where hate has been, about transforming the base into the beautiful.

 

The story of Abram and Sarai intrigues me. As we heard in our reading, the writer makes a point of telling us that Abram was 75 years old when God first came to him in Haran, 86 when Ishmeal was born. Now he is 99, listening to God repeat the promise of a son for the third time. Twenty-four years had passed since Abram first heard this promise. Sarai at this point was gray haired and barren but promised a son in the next year. We can understand Sarai’s emotional rant in the short dialogue that was read.

 

Ironically, they had not been sitting still through this long period. They trusted God without knowing how things with turn out. This trust led them to leave Haran without a map to go to the promised land.

 

The journey of Lent is slow and thoughtful and soul searching. When we think of this six-week period of Lent, time drags on especially knowing the final outcome of this story. Particularly if we compare it to the blur of the hustle and bustle of the Advent period.

 

The pace of Lent is perfect for this couple, now in their nineties. For them it is a reflective period, a talk of contemplating the mistakes and hurts they have caused during their life. Sometimes we need that same reflective period that Lent gives us to reflect and heal our past. This is what we hear at the beginning of our Genesis reading today.

 

It is in this reading that Abram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah. Significantly this is also the time that God give the couple a new covenant. The author says that Abraham’s covenant with God is the lens through which Israel interrupts all aspects of life and discerns how to live faithfully with God, the land, and one another. This gives the people of Israel a special gift, the gift of hope, their identify and a place in creation.

 

Included in this story Abraham is also promised by God, to be God to all Abraham’s future generations.

 

The second week of Lent is not only a slow week but a hard week of soul searching. The drama of Holy Week is still a long way away. During this time, we are called to reflect on our personal lives. This requires courage, to look deeply into our lives and the past and visit those faults and tough times we have experienced.

 

But the gift of this week is the reminder that at the center of our being, rests blessing and promise. We are followers of the one who established the never-ending covenant with Abraham and brought that covenant to fruition.

 

God is our God, and we are God’s people.

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