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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Lent 2 Year B RCL March 1, 2015

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:22-30
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

In our opening reading, we meet Abram and Sarai. Abram is ninety-nine years old. They have already come a long way. Back when Abram was a mere seventy-five, God called him to leave everything and move to the land of Canaan. In faith, Abram answered that call.

Now God is again telling Abram that he and Sarai are going to be the parents to a multitude of nations, including kings. God even gives Abram and Sarai new names. Abram means “exalted ancestor” and Abraham means “ancestor of a multitude.” Sarah means “Princess,” which is appropriate, since she will be the ancestor of future royalty.

Following the passage we have read, both Abraham and Sarah burst into gales of laughter over this covenant with God. They are very old. The whole thing is preposterous. And yet….

In our epistle, Paul tells us that Abraham and Sarah hoped against hope that this promise would come true. Here they were, way beyond the age of starting a family, and yet it happened. In the time of Abraham and Sarah, children meant more than having a family. They were the sign of the possibility of having a future; they were the source of hope. Without children there would be no future and no hope.

So, when God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would indeed have a multitude of children, they laughed, and at the same time they believed that God’s promise that they would have descendants as numerous as the stars would come true. And it did.

In today’s gospel, Jesus begins to make it clear that the whole journey is going to lead to suffering. Peter is the one who has said that Jesus is the Messiah. Some people believed that the messiah would lead a revolution and expel the Romans. Many scholars think that Judas Iscariot was a Zealot, a member of a group that saw the messiah as a military hero. Perhaps Peter had this view of our Lord.

But now Jesus is letting his followers know that he is the suffering servant, and Peter can’t bear to hear this. Things have been going well. More and more people are flocking to hear Jesus. Surely this new movement will be successful. That is what Jesus means when he talks about Peter thinking in human terms.

On a personal level, Peter loves Jesus like a brother. Jesus has changed Peter’s life. The idea of losing Jesus is devastating for Peter.

And Jesus has such personal power. Surely Jesus is wrong about all this doom and gloom. Surely he can convince the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders. Surely he can bring them around.

So Peter takes Jesus aside, and says, “God forbid, Lord, that something like this could happen!”

Jesus is shocked. Peter is the one who has seen that Jesus is the Savior. Now Peter is falling apart. Peter is losing his focus and starting to think in human terms instead of divine terms. But worst of all, he is making things more difficult for Jesus. Jesus does not want to die. Later, in the garden, he will sweat blood over this. He will ask God to take this cup from him. In a sense, Peter is weakening Jesus’ resolve. So Jesus says the thing that will be like a slap in the face to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” That must have hurt Peter. What a moment that was in their relationship. Peter could have left. Jesus could have wavered. Neither thing happened. Peter stayed in the group. He was the rock. He was the leader. But he still denied Jesus. He wasn’t perfect.

And that is a great help to us, because we are not perfect either. But we are still following Jesus, and we are walking the Way of the Cross.

Jesus tells Peter that he is setting his mind on human things, and, of course, we do that, too. The idea of our Lord suffering this most horrible form of humiliation and death is beyond comprehension. We know that it happened, and we wish there had been another way.

So we are Abraham and Sarah and we have been on a long journey, and the future is looking pretty bleak. Actually, it is looking non- existent. God comes to us and makes a promise that changes everything. It gives us a future, hope. It gives us everything that makes life worthwhile. On the human level, this is ridiculous, and, if we are Abraham and Sarah, we burst out laughing. But then we stop and think and pray and we realize that God has never broken a promise. God has led us this far. God has always been faithful to us. And that gives us reason to be faithful to God. So we get down to business and put one foot in front of the other and try to be as faithful and loyal to God as we can and go about our daily lives seeking God’s will and doing God’s will. And just believing that it is going to happen.

As we walk the way of the cross with our Lord, we are not going to be able to manipulate this awful situation or control it or make it come out the way we think it should. That is human thinking.

We are walking with a God who loves us so much that he is willing to hang on an instrument of torture and death that is reserved for the worst criminals and die. God does not lash out. God does not kill us.

God forgives. God takes all that death and hatred and works with it and transforms it into new life.

As we walk with him, we can begin to be aware that this is what he is doing. At this point in the journey, our hope may be wavering, and yet our Lord reminds us that there is always reason to hope against hope. There is always new life. It isn’t easy. There are labor pangs. There is struggle. Underneath it all and in all of it is love, the love of God.

There is always reason to hope against hope. There is always reason for faith. Blessed Lord, give us grace to follow you and to be faithful to you.  Amen.

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