SERMON 3/29/20 LENT 5A. St. Monica’s Naples FL
Romans 12:1-21; John 8:46-59
Truth be told
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is in the Temple teaching and the Scribes and Pharisees are there confronting him about who he was and what he was teaching. Recorded earlier and in this same chapter of John’s gospel is the confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders, about the woman caught in adultery. We all know Jesus’ famous rebuttal to their judgment of the woman, “those among you without sin, cast the first stone.” Jesus offered the woman hope, mercy, and grace of a New Day in the midst of her personal crisis.
In today’s reading Jesus testified about his mission call given him by the Father, his purpose of redemption assigned to him by the Father, and the unique relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but then, in is sign of mercy to the woman, Jesus clearly demonstrated what a New Day after crisis looks like; God’s grace poured out in desperate times.
Jesus enfleshed the Father’s mercy and grace for woman the religious leaders wanted to stone, and then Jesus proclaimed that reality when he said, “before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus told the religious leaders that he and the Father were one, but that truth upended the religious leader’s whole concept of who they were and who God was. So, they rejected the truth, Jesus’ claim of divinity, they retaliated with violent indignation and offered him the same punishment they originally planned for the woman caught in adultery.
It is amazing that their discovery of “who they were and whose they were” turned their world upside down and caused the religious leaders to react with fear and anxiety and divisive power. When we face unprecedented times (like those we face now), when who we are as a people seems to be something of the past and we discover “who we are and whose we are” we also react with fear. Nonetheless, we can choose to have hope, and we can trust in a New Day.
Who we are
The Scribes and Pharisees chose estrangement from Jesus and chose in their fear to remain separated from God’s grace. They wanted to stone Jesus and to silence his radical teaching, because it came in conflict with their sense of self, and their sense of self-sufficiency. In other words, they succumbed to sin, the actions of missing the mark and fell short, completely forgetting that they were creature and God was creator. The nature fo our relationship with the divine is one that requires us in times of chaos, crisis and fear, to turn to God in trust and utter dependence.
Many of our lives these past few weeks have been utterly turned upside down. We are spending each day isolated from friends in our homes, afraid to go out, and we long for the hugs and handshakes from our sisters and brothers, the laughter of joy shared, and the peace of knowing we are not alone. The virus we face reminds us of who we are and that we are mere fragile jars of clay susceptible to the ravages of the environment in which, we are a part. The virus also reminds us though whose we are. We are children of God utterly dependent on the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of a loving Father who desires good for all of God’s creation.
Promises of a new Day
It all seems so surreal does it not; this new reality in which we all live? I mean it is like watching episodes of the Walking Dead, World War Z, or any other apocalyptic Hollywood fantasy, but this is the real world as we know it today. In times like these, we are afraid, but it is a time to draw closer to God, realizing who we are and whose we are and thus, upending any estrangement from God that we may have experienced before. We can trust God now more than ever, which if we do, it will lead to peace, and cause our fear, anxiety, and dread to pass away. When all around us seems to change who we are as a people; a nation vulnerable, afraid, and powerless, we can turn to the ultimate power of God’s assurances that a new day is coming.
In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate the promises of a new day which we call Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord. I am still amazed today the number of people who have never attended a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service, but always celebrate Easter. We all know the story of God’s new day and yet, we forget that the new day of Easter requires us to go through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. You cannot get to Easter without going through the story of the crucifixion. You cannot get to the empty tomb without going through death and burial. We cannot experience the new day God has in store for us as a people, a nation, and a church, until we get through this time of uncertainty, fear, illness, and despair.
Jesus remained faithful through it all and trusted in the same Father he claimed in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus knew who he was and whose he was and that truth helped him face the possibility of the stoning we heard about today. That same faithfulness to his relationship to the Father helped him endure the beatings, the betrayal, and the cross that we will hear about on Good Friday. That faithfulness will help us endure as well, because there is a new day coming for us and we need to consider, how will this experience change us, and how will we live in the days to come.
Living into the New Day
Paul’s letter to the Romans today defines how the Christian community lived into their New Day, post resurrection. Paul reminded the church who she was and the unique gifts given within the community. He said some of them had the gifts of “prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. This is who we are as a people and it reminds us of our place in, and how each one of us will have a part in this community in the New Day to come. How will this experience change you, when we all are together in person again?
Paul told the church how it should live together in the New Day. He said, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; honor one another.” He added that we should, be zealous and passionate to serve the Lord, that we should be hopeful, patient, and prayerful. He said we should help one another and others. He said we should “bless those who persecute you, rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep and live in harmony with one another. Paul provides us with a model for the New Day to come.
When we can all come together face-to-face as a community once again it will be a glorious new day however, you do not have to wait. Come to think of it though, we do not have to wait until everyone is tested, a cure is found, a vaccine discovered, the curve of the disease slanted downward when the numbers again show we are on our way to a better day. We can make the choice to live the way Paul exhorts us to live right now, that place where grace, mercy, forgiveness, and trust come in even in the midst of this crisis. When we know who we are and whose we are, the reality of our common life in Christ supersedes our need for being in the same room at the same time. Our Life in Christ gives us hope, peace, and the grace to face anything before us. Sisters and brothers, even when fear, isolation, anxiety, and uncertainty surround us, we can trust that Our Father in Heaven will never abandon us, that we have a fount of Living Water from which to draw, and soon very soon, there will be a New Day; a day when will all be together again and all will be made new.