|Second Sunday in Easter, Year B||April 15, 2012||Second Sunday of Easter, Year B||John 20:19-31|
|Easter, April 8, 2012||April 8, 2012||Sermon, Easter Sunday, Year B||Mark 16:1-8|
|Good Friday, April 6, 2012||April 6, 2012||Good Friday||John 18:1-19:42|
|Maundy Thursday, April 5, 2012||April 5, 2012||Maundy Thursday||John 13:1-35|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 25, 2012||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B||John 12:20-33|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 18, 2012||Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 11, 2012||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22|
|➤Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 4, 2012||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||Mark 8:31-38|
|Sermon, First Sunday in Lent, Year B||February 26, 2012||First Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis 9:8-17, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15|
|Ash Wednesday Service, Feb 22, 2012||February 22, 2012||Ash Wednesday||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B||February 19, 2012||Last Sunday after Epiphany||2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 12, 2012||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 5, 2012||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 29, 2012||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 22, 2012||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:14-20|
Second Sunday in Lent, Year B
Sermon Date:March 4, 2012
Scripture: Mark 8:31-38
Liturgy Calendar: Second Sunday in Lent, Year B
The direction that Jesus gives to his disciples today in the gospel we just heard is good news for us when we have to face pain in our lives, whether the pain is physical, or brought on by particular circumstances.
Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Deny yourselves. Take up your cross. Follow me.
First of all, what does Jesus mean by the phrase “deny yourselves?”
Have you ever been caught in a rip tide at the beach? You’re out in the water, playing in the waves, and suddenly, you feel a strong tide rip you off your feet and start sucking you out to sea.
Those of you who know about the dangers of rip tides know that the best thing to do if you get caught in one and get sucked out to sea is not to fight against the tide, but to swim with it, and once the tide has pulled you out, you can swim parallel to the shore and then work your way back to safety.
To give in to a rip tide is counter intuitive. We have to deny everything within us that tells us as human beings to fight back, to struggle, to try to save ourselves.
We respond to the pain in our lives in the same way. Our first instincts are to fight back, to struggle, to try to save ourselves, and to flee from the pain and suffering, or to try to change painful circumstances over which we have no control.
Unfortunately, much of the pain that we face during our lives is unavoidable. Denying it and fighting against it gets us nowhere in the long run.
What I mean is that we have to accept the fact that the pain, whatever it is, is real, and when we can do that, and stop fighting the reality of it, then we can go to the next part of this good news that Jesus has for us.
Jesus says, “Take up your cross.”
Taking up the reality of a situation gives us some control over it.
Many of you may recall the story of Bethany Hamilton, a teen age competition surfer in Hawaii who lost her arm in a shark attack several years ago. She had to struggle with how to overcome this awful pain in her life—first of all, the incredible physical pain, and then the pain of accepting the reality that she had lost not only her arm, but her ability to surf, something she loved to do more than anything in the world.
Bethany’s incredible story, told in the movie Soul Surfer, chronicles what happens when she accepts the fact that her arm is gone. Once she accepts this fact, she gains some control of her situation, and she can move forward with her life instead of drowning in a sea of sorrow and self-pity.
In a poignant scene in the movie, Bethany goes to see her youth group director soon after the accident. And she says,
“It’s hard to see things clearly when you’re too close…how can losing my arm be God’s will for me?”
The youth group director’s response is that she doesn’t know why things like this happen, but she does believe that something good will come out of it.
After spending a great deal of time learning how to surf again with only one arm, with the help and support of her family and the encouragement of her friends, Bethany returns to competition, only to be terribly frustrated. During her first meet she gets caught in the impact zone of the waves, and is submerged time after time. Her surfboard breaks in the rough water. At the end of the meet, she is surrounded by photographers and reporters, but she rushes away and tells her parents that she is through, and that she will not compete again.
Shortly after this bad experience, still feeling sorry for herself, Bethany goes with her youth group on a World Mission trip to Thailand, to an area that has been devastated by a tsunami. When a weeping woman shares the story of the horrible moment when the wave came and destroyed everything, Bethany finds herself in tears, full of compassion for this woman, and for all of the people around her. A little later in the trip she meets a young orphan on the beach who has not smiled or spoken since the tsunami. In fact, none of the children will go into the water, because they are all still so scared.
Bethany borrows a surf board from one of the boys and goes in herself, and in a little while, she’s convinced the young orphan to join her in the water. It’s as if the two of them have been immersed in living and healing waters—he smiles and laughs, and Bethany discovers that the compassion she feels for this child’s pain is giving her the courage to continue to face up to her own misery.
When she returns home, she finds that in her absence she has received fan mail from all over the world from children who were inspired by her courage in the meet that went so badly for her, and in their letters they tell her what a difference her example has made for them.
At this point in the movie, Bethany takes up her cross by deciding to return to competition surfing, because she sees that her example has given courage to so many others who are feeling hopeless about their own circumstances. And so she begins the hard work of training for competition again.
The third phrase in the instruction of Jesus to his disciples is the phrase “follow me.”
Bethany is now following Jesus in a very real way. She is denying her urge to run from pain, defeat, and discouragement, to take the easy way out, to use her missing arm as an excuse not to do what she loves. Her decision to try again is based on her compassion for others in similar situations . Bethany wants to continue to inspire and to encourage others, to make a difference in their lives.
Near the end of the movie, Bethany competes in the Hawaiian Island Regional surfing competition, and in a very exciting and competitive meet, she excels. Unfortunately, her spectacular ride on the last wave she catches does not count because time has run out, so she doesn’t win the meet, but her amazing performance is still a total victory.
After the meet, she is again surrounded by reporters, and one of them asks her whether or not she would go back into the water the day of the shark attack if she could have known what would have happened.
This young woman’s answer is as follows.
“I wouldn’t change what happened to me—because I have been able to embrace more people than I ever would have with two arms.”
Bethany’s story has continued to be one that inspires all who hear it. She has realized her dream of becoming a professional surfer, and her journey through pain and loss has given her a deep compassion that has made a difference to the thousands who have found encouragement for themselves from her story.
Bethany’s story is an example of how we can be stewards of the pain in our own lives, as the Rev. Canon Lance Ousley from the Diocese of Olympia in the state of Washington puts it—being stewards of our pain, rather than wasting it through hopelessness or bitterness.
Ousley says “that it is through our own pain that we are able to feel and have compassion for a world that has pain. Jesus’ bearing of the Cross was not only for our sins, but for his solidarity with our human pain.” Jesus has compassion for our pain, because he has experienced that pain himself.
Ousley encourages us to reflect on the pain in our own lives and to use that pain to find solidarity with a suffering world through compassion and our response to others who are suffering, as part of God’s redemptive process in our own lives, to bear our pain in faith and in the hope of God’s promises.”
“This action on our parts of walking the Way of the Cross through faith gives hope to others.”
During this season of Lent, take on the challenge of reflecting on the pain that you have experienced or are experiencing in your own life, and consider the ways in which you can use your pain to find solidarity with a suffering world through your compassionate responses.
Share this good news of the gospel.
Take up your crosses and follow Jesus, with the hope and faith that God’s redemptive love will bring something good out of the worst and most painful situations in our lives.
Soul Surfer: The Incredible True Story of Bethany Hamilton
Tri Star, 2011
Stewards’ Stirrings, Lent 2B in the Diocese of Olympia
The Rev. Canon Lance Ousley
Canon for Stewardship and Development
The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia
1551 10th Ave E.
Seattle, WA 98102