Friday, February 27, 2015

Glory (Lent 2 March 1 2015)

Homily.  Yr B Lent 2.  March 1 2015, St. Albans Church
Readings:  Gen 17.1-7, 15-16; Ps 22.22-30; Rom 4.13-25; Mk 8.31-38


“For those who want to save their life will lose it; and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

That’s a hard statement.  But there’s no avoiding it.  It is central to our faith, it is too central to our faith to avoid or ignore.  It is at the core of who we are, or who we’re called to be, as followers of Jesus, as disciples.  It’s there, right at the turning point of the gospel, right after Peter declares Jesus as Messiah, right at the moment when Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem.  There is no avoiding it.

“For those who want to save their life will lose it; and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

This is a hard teaching.  It’s hard in two ways.  First, it’s hard to understand.  It is, at least on the surface, a paradox, something that we have to wrestle with in order to get a grip on it.  Second, the more we begin to understand, the more we glimpse its meaning, the more we do get a grip on it, the more we realize that this is so hard to do.  Because it goes beyond our normal human ways.  It calls us into the divine, into something greater than ourselves.

Last Sunday evening, I watched the Oscars on TV.  I was more interested this year than I am most years, because I had managed to watch a good number of the nominated movies.  And so, I watched the awards show, as I imagine many of you did, hoping for a moment of inspiration.  I was for the most part disappointed.  The show was, overall, pretty boring.  But there was one moment that inspired me, one moment that lifted me up during the Oscars.

But this was not that moment:

From start to 1:07]

That’s enough of that.  Now, my apologies to those of you who might like the Lego Movie, or Tegan and Sara, but that was not awesome.  That was taking a silly little song, and then adding more and more fluff to it in a futile attempt to make it awesome.  Add more dancers.  Add more colour, more lights, a rainbow.  Spin on your head.  Spin again, throw in an awesome possum and some lego statues.

There was nothing inspiring there.  Sure maybe it was fun, and that’s ok once in a while, but it was superficial, all style with no substance, no meaning, no purpose.  That’s not the life I want.  There’s got to be more to life than that.  Forget “Awesome”.  I want a life that means something.  I want to be lifted up.  I want to be inspired by a purpose so great that I’m willing to put my life at its service.  I want a glimpse of Glory.

From start – 1.47.  Pause with image of the bridge on the screen.]

That’s what Jesus was talking about.  Glory.  The march across the bridge in Selma in 1965.  “If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  Self-giving for the sake of others.  Sacrificial love.  Denying ourselves for a good greater than ourselves.  For glory.  God’s glory.

Martin Luther King Jr. and many other courageous black Americans marched across that bridge in Selma in order to obtain the civil rights for black Americans that many of us take for granted.  The first time they tried to get across the bridge they were brutally attacked by state troopers.  One black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson was murdered as he tried to protect his mother from a beating.  But the marchers persevered, at great risk to themselves.  People of all colours and races flooded into Selma to support the marchers, and a few days later, 25,000 people marched from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery and they forced the US government to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

It was a time of great fear and suffering.  It was also a moment, a foretaste, of glory.

“For those who want to save their life will lose it; and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

You want to know what Jesus is talking about?  Well, it doesn’t look like the clip we saw from “Everything is Awesome”.  It doesn’t look like playing it safe, it doesn’t look like getting more and more stuff.  It doesn’t look like being entertained, prosperous, happy or successful.  I mean, “what will it profit you to gain the whole world and forfeit your life.”  No, the life God is calling us to looks a lot more like this bridge, a lot more like the sacrificial love demonstrated by the people who walked across this bridge at great personal cost and risk.  That’s how you save your life.  That’s how to really live, to live the abundant life that God is calling us to.

Every time we set aside a want of our own in order to satisfy the genuine need of someone else, we experience a moment of glory.

We know that to be true.  We do it naturally as parents when our baby cries in the middle of the night.  We find glory in those moments when we give up our claims to power and strength and even a good night’s sleep in order to serve others.  Sometimes it comes naturally; much of the time it is hard, and requires a God-given strength.

For each of us, our Selma will look different.  Sacrificial love and service to others, take many shapes and forms, some of which will indeed require great courage.

But make no mistake about it.  This is the core of our faith.  This is what we are all about.

“For those who want to save their life will lose it; and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

We are called to Glory.

[Play remainder of Glory video:  1.47 to 3.52]


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