Sermon for February 28, 2021                    Second of Lent                  “You are Named”

It could have been a script from an episode of Saturday Night live, a 99-year-old being told he and his 90-year-old wife would have a child. It is not hard to imagine how this could get silly in a hurry. Even Abram in verse 17 ‘fell on his face and laughed”. And from inside the tent Sarai listening to all this, also laughed at the thought of bearing a child, not to mention what would need to happen to conceive this child. But God was not going to let a wee bit of laughing get in the way of a grand plan.

This covenant withAbram and Sarai is important to God as it shifts the covenant with Adam and Eve from one of property to one of family and people. One that is renewed with Noah and affirmed in Jesus and lives on in you and me.

This covenant with Abram and Sarai is confirmed by ‘naming’, as God announces the new names to be; Abraham and Sarah and then gives the promise of a child. God has never been bound by what we seem to regard as impossible.

I suspect that the capacity of the disciples to listen past “the Son of God must endure great suffering” was limited. So when Jesus got to the part “and be killed” they just could not hear anymore. The incredulity and even impossibility of what he was saying was just not possible. The anger and defensiveness welled up so fast that the part where Jesus said “and after three days’ rise again” just did not register.

Now I can fully understand the position of the disciples. If someone dear to me said someone or some group of people was going to cause them great harm even to death, I would be quick to respond with protective bravado. The point of the story is about preparation. Not with might and power and bigger guns, but with heart, soul and belief.  But then we humans have never been great with bad news.

I am prepared to cut the disciples some slack at this point, as Jesus is still early in his ministry and they as yet do not have the benefit of all the teaching, healing, casting out demons and restoring life. Jesus is also setting the stage for one of the most challenging teaching and that is; being a follower of Jesus is hard work, not for the faint of heart and will require life-long challenge. In all of this we find the cloak and mantel of Jesus’ love imbedded in us like we never imagined.

Jesus is teaching the disciples and all who follow that living into the Way of Jesus is going to be difficult, it will require us to shift from being ‘shaped by the world to be transformed by the Spirit’. There will be many times when we will need to think before we speak or act because the way we speak or act in this new way of being (translate Christian) is radically different than what we are used to. Following Jesus will require us to deny ourselves and ‘world’ held views and move toward a transformative self and world. We are at the end of a month dedicated to Black History, it has not been nor will it continue to be easy for White folk to come to terms with our shared history and moving forward it is going to be hard work to live as neighbours, equals and partners. We need to recall that God made humanity in God’s own image and called all humans ‘very good’. Perhaps the best image is that of a caterpillar and its transformation to butterfly. It is lots of necessary work, a complete change upon emerging and no going back.

For Abraham and Sarah there was no going back, Sarah did get pregnant and bear a son Isaac, Abraham did lead the people and is regarded as the one who birthed Judaism, Islam and Christianity. After being named beloved Jesus began a ministry that changed the world. We are named, chosen and redeemed for the hard and glorious work of being transformed and agents of transformation in our world. It is not a one-off kind of thing but a work that will take our lifetime.

Being a follower of Jesus means that we need to let go of our ego, the desire to do it our way or get our way. Denying self is a way of cleansing our inner self that allows space of Jesus, Spirit and God. Yes our ego may say it is a disastrous denial but the Spirit says it is a massive move toward wholeness and wholehearted living.

Jesus calls you to follow…the season of Lent is a time of preparation and decision and the next steps are entirely yours.