A sermon preached by the Rev. Kit Lonergan on March 4, 2012
Christ Church Andover
Lent 2, Year B
March 4, 2012
This Week's Readings
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts together be always acceptable in your sight, O God, our strength and our redeemer. AMEN.
There is a common joke told about Episcopalians. How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? Eight: one to change it and seven to comment about how the old one was better.
Though not an absolute rule, there is an unspoken trend among our particular denomination: we don’t love change. We live deeply and fully into our liturgical tradition, we commit ourselves lovingly and fully to carrying out God’s mission, we usually think widely and generously—but it is difficult for us to do something new, especially when we aren’t dissatisfied with the way things are going. And this isn’t a commentary on Christ Church—it just seems to be the way we trend as a whole Church.
And this morning, in this brief homily, I wonder how Abraham, then Abram, and Peter felt when their entire worlds were rocked by God’s new plan for them. Abram, told as a younger man to leave his family, home and country and settle in a new place, one where God has told him to go, is now ninety-nine. He and Sarai have come to the end of their lives— and now, now God tells them that he is about to do something new, that they will be, as of now, the parents of generations, that the people of God shall come through their line. That they will, after ninety-nine years of barrenness, have a child and start anew.
Peter finds himself in a similar situation. Peter has just realized that Jesus is the Messiah, the holy One of God. It is one of the highest moments in the gospel of Mark—the acme, if you will. Peter, leader of a gaggle of fairly clueless disciples in Mark’s rendition of the gospel, finally understands who Jesus is—that this is the one they have been waiting for, that God’s son is there among them. And then Jesus tells him that no, Peter’s expectation of the grandeur of the Messiah, the royal descent from the clouds, the power and glory in Jesus’ messiahship—those hopes and expectations were all wrong. That a new vision was needed. One which included a cross. Peter hadn’t see suffering as part of the promise of the Messiah. All of a sudden for him, faith in Jesus presented itself differently from how he had imagined it before.
The story of our faith is a story of people finding out again and again that something new was about to happen to them just when they thought that they were set. It is the story of change, the story of learning new ways of seeing, especially when those new ways of seeing are the things which scare us the most, because they require us, ourselves, to change. Not just a light bulb, but change our ways of seeing God and how God is manifested right here, right now, among us.
Abraham and Sarah start anew just when they thought they should be settling down. Peter discovers that following the messiah is not a story about glory, but one of giving up power and control. Both lessons this morning, perhaps in the spirit of Lent, are about giving up our illusions about ourselves, the nature of our God, and perhaps most of all, giving up our illusion of certainty in exchange for the flexible stance of faith. Jesus tells us that we must give up what is most precious to us in order to receive what is most precious to God. God asks for nothing more from us than our faith; our willingness to trust not only in what makes sense to us, but what makes sense to God. We must care more about having light, than the fear of the dark while changing the light bulb itself.