Sermon for Sunday, 26 Feb 2012

The Rev. Douglas A. Asbury

Genesis 9.8-17: God makes a covenant with the earth, signified by the rainbow, not to destroy the earth by flood again.

Psalm 25.1-10: Israel seeks God’s deliverance from enemies. Unlike the people destroyed in the flood, Israel claims it has sought to follow God’s way and wishes to learn it still better.

1 Peter 3.18-22: Peter links the death and resurrection of Jesus with the story of Noah’s flood and the sacrament of baptism.

Mark 1.9-15: Immediately after his baptism, Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the desert for a period of testing surrounded by wild animals, Satan, and ministering angels — all to prepare him to spend his life declaring the good news of the kingdom of God.

Searching for Different Things

After a fruitless search, a teenager told his mother that his iPod Nano was lost.
So his mother went upstairs, and in a few minutes she returned with the iPod in hand.
“Mom!” exclaimed the teen, “How did you manage to find it?”
“Son, we weren’t looking for the same thing. You were looking for a little machine with a lot of music on it. I was looking for $129.”

This little story illustrates not only the difference between two people with different interests, but it also talks about two people who place their faith differently.

The son put his faith in his parents, that they would have the means to buy him another iPod Nano, so that he could just download his favorite music onto that – at an additional expense, of course – and he wouldn’t have to be without his favorite music or the status symbol that such a thing is among kids his age. The mother put her faith in the fact that the iPod was a physical object that was in a specific location and that it was locatable.

The son’s faith was moving the situation towards the change that required an additional expenditure from the parents and nothing from him other than the effort involved with choosing what music to download and doing it. The mother’s faith moved the situation towards her acting in such a way as to find that which was findable and restoring it to her son at no cost to her other than her time and effort, even saving him the time and effort it would have taken him to shop for one and to choose and download the music to fill it again.

When Noah heard from God that a catastrophe was coming and that he was required to do something about it that would involve a great deal of work, but that would have great significance for him and his family, he believed God and committed himself to doing the necessary work that would bring the desired result. Because the outcome was as God had foretold, Noah also had no difficulty relying on God’s promise signified by the rainbow that destruction by a world-inundating flood would never again occur. So, he committed himself to planting a vineyard and making his home again in the restored world.

After hearing the affirming words, “This is my son, the beloved, in whom I am well-pleased,” immediately following his baptism by John, Jesus had confidence that God was with him as he followed the leading of God’s Spirit to spend 40 days in the wilderness, during which time he was cared for by wild animals and angels in addition to being tested by Satan, the same one who had tested Job many years before, to see if he would remain faithful to God regardless of what happened to him in his earthly situation. Both Job and Jesus passed the test and remained faithful to God, receiving a divine reward that went beyond anything of which the human mind could conceive.

Such faith is what we ourselves are called to have. In this time of Lent we are called to reassess where our faith lies. Does it lie in the economic and political and social realities surrounding us? Does it lie in our own command of our resources and our ability to defend them against those who might wish or seek to take them away or to harm us? Or does it lie in the goodness of God and God’s purpose in the fulfillment of which we are called to take part?

Where we place our faith provides the foundation for how we live our lives. In the Gospel story today we hear of Jesus raising Simon Peter’s mother up from her sickbed and healing her, so that she was able to provide hospitality for him and the disciples who were with him. He went on to proclaim the message in the synagogues in the area that people should change their ways – “repent” is the way the Greek word “metanoia” is translated in our scriptures, meaning to “turn around, change direction” in one’s life. At the same time, he was casting demons out of people who were possessed by them, and he did other kinds of healings as well – in a sense, turning people’s lives around from serving a force that worked against God’s purpose for them to the wholeness that was God’s plan for their lives and that would enable them to fulfill God’s unique and unduplicatable purpose for their specific lives.

Most of the people who received these healings failed to catch on to the fact that the healing was meant as the first step in a complete metanoia – turning around – of their lives; and they simply went back to living as they had been living before having fallen ill or having become possessed by the demonic spirit. But some who were healed became Jesus’ disciples, and followed him, learning more from him, and truly experiencing a change of life that ran deeper within them than the outward change that had occurred; it caused them to orient themselves to faithfulness to him and his purposes, so that, when he left them in the flesh, they continued in his Spirit to do, as he had said, not only the works he had done, but even greater works besides.

As we receive Holy Communion today and in the coming Sundays of Lent, let us consider where we place our faith. In Communion the Lord Jesus Christ gives himself to us, so that we might be empowered through our receiving his life within to do what he would have us do. Therefore, where we see that our faith is placed in other than Jesus and the God who raised him from death, let us ask God to work a metanoia in our hearts and minds, so that, placing our faith fully in Christ and in the power he gives us, we might become more faithful disciples, with a clearer idea of what work he has for us to do, and a stronger will to do it.