|➤Pentecost 2, Year B||June 6, 2021||Proper 5, Year B||Genesis 3:8-15, Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35|
|Trinity Sunday, Year B||May 30, 2021||Trinity Sunday, Year B||John 3:1-17|
|Day of Pentecost, Year B||May 23, 2021||Day of Pentecost, Year B||Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:22-27, John 16:4b-15|
|Easter 7, Year B||May 16, 2021||Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B||John 17:6-19|
|Easter 6, Year B||May 9, 2021||Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B||Acts 10:44-48, Psalm 98, John 15:9-17|
|Easter 5, Year B||May 2, 2021||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B||John 15:1-8; 1 John 4:7-21|
|Easter 4, Year B||April 25, 2021||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B||Acts 4:5-12, I John 10:11-18|
|Easter 3, Year B||April 18, 2021||Third Sunday of Easter||Luke 24:36b-48; 1 John 3:1-7|
|Easter 2, Year B||April 11, 2021||Second Sunday of Easter, Year B||John 20:19-31|
|Easter 2021||April 4, 2021||Easter||1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8|
|Maundy Thursday, Year B||April 1, 2021||Maundy Thursday||John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Palm Sunday, Year B, March 28, 2021||March 28, 2021||Palm Sunday, Year B||Mark 14:1-15:47|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 21, 2021||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B||Jeremiah 31:31-34, John 12:20-33|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 14, 2021||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 7, 2021||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||John 2:13-22|
Pentecost 2, Year B
Sermon Date:June 6, 2021
Scripture: Genesis 3:8-15, Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 5, Year B
I’d like to start today with a quick review of the church calendar. The church year starts in Advent, when we prepare for the coming of Jesus, a two fold preparation as we prepare for a celebration of his birth as well as for his coming in glory at the end of time. Then there’s the short season of Christmas, followed by Epiphany, the season in which we consider the ways that Jesus is revealed and reveals himself as the Son of God, then on to Lent which ends with Holy Week, where we go with Jesus through the last week of his life, and then to the glorious Easter season, which ends on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit shows up, and then, last Sunday we celebrated the fact that God is Three in One and One in Three.
Today we start into the longest season on the church calendar, the season after Pentecost, the green and growing season for us. We will be traveling through this season for the next several months, until the last Sunday in November, when the church year starts over again.
So this Sunday, think of the lectionary as Google Maps.
Many of us use this app, but even if you don’t you’ll get the idea.
Click on directions. And when the screen pops up, the directions ask you to choose your starting point, and you can enter an address, or click a location on the provided map.
And then you choose your destination point, and enter that address, and then press enter, and Google Maps goes to work and in just a second, you have your directions.
Today’s starting point is made pretty clear right up front. Just type in The Garden of Eden, which is where the lectionary begins today.
Oh dear, we all know the story of how Adam, Eve, and the snake made a mess of paradise. Until the serpent had made the suggestion, and Adam and Eve had bitten into that irresistible piece of fruit, everything in the garden had been simpatico.
But now, how sad, rather than unity and joy, everyone blames everyone and everyone feels divided from everyone else.
Listen to this finger pointing. Adam says that Eve gave him the fruit, so he ate it. Eve says that the serpent tricked her.
I’m surprised that no one blamed God for putting the tree in the Garden to begin with!
So now, rather than peace, there’s enmity and discord. And we know the rest of this story. Adam and Eve get sent out of the Garden for good to make their way out in the world.
The psalmist knew this starting point as well when he or she writes, “If you, O Lord, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?” The psalmist is in the depths of despair over his or her state of imperfection and separation from God.
So we’ve got our starting point—ourselves, and the things we need to work on in this life, the ways we’re separated from God and from one another, the ways we go against God and one another so thoughtlessly.
Just claiming this starting point is pretty radical in our culture. For this is an “I’m OK, You’re OK” sort of culture, one in which we tend to avoid ever looking at what we might need to work on to be better, because after all, we are already the best! This tendency plays out in our own lives as well as in our society.
The resistance to revisiting our nation’s history and learning about how racism has hurt us all, for instance, is an example of what I’m talking about. If we actively resist knowing about the history of racism in our country, admitting that as a country we’ve made mistakes, then we can’t make the corrections we need to make to get to the destination that we claim to be already true every time we say the Pledge of Allegiance, “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
So to make this journey through Pentecost, we start out knowing that we have some work to do. And we already know that we are going to have help from the Holy Spirit, and we know that we are going to be learning from Jesus throughout this season.
Today’s gospel spells out some of the difficulties we will encounter on this journey. Those of us who use Google Maps groan when we see that little icon pop up on the map along the route we have chosen, the little person bent over with a shovel, indicating road work, guaranteed to slow up the progress along the way. Or even worse, the red crash icon, meaning that traffic could come to a complete stop.
In today’s gospel, Jesus has started out on his own journey—“Repent, for the Kingdom of God has drawn near!” And he is casting out demons and healing, and doing the things you’d hope that we’re all trying to do, to bring healing and God’s kingdom closer on this earth, but already he is meeting with opposition from the scribes who have come down from Jerusalem. They do not want this upstart messing with the way things are, because the way things are mean that the scribes and the temple authorities have power and control, and they are not about to give any credibility to this person who is actually doing what they only give lip service to—really casting out demons, really healing, really bringing the Kingdom of God near. Even the family of Jesus does not want the status quo shaken. Jesus, you are our family. We need to restrain you, because you have left us for this crazy mission you’re on.
So this early into the story, Jesus is already embattled, being attacked both by the scribes, and even though they wouldn’t see it as an attack, by his own family, who would like for him to come home, get some rest and lead a more normal and much safer life.
So already we can see that our journey through this season of Pentecost is going to have its moments. The construction and crash warnings are going to pop up, and if we want to make this journey, we are going to have to go through those work zones and crash areas to get to our destination.
So what exactly is our destination?
The Apostle Paul makes the answer abundantly clear.
Our destination is Heaven.
So on our Google Maps app, we will type in Heaven as our ultimate destination on this journey, where we finally know that we are dwelling in the immensity of God, which I talked about yesterday at Nancy’s funeral, where we are One with God and with one another at last. Even now, we see glimmers of heaven being realized in our midst, like road signs pointing us in the right direction on our journeys, those bits of heaven that encourage us along the way.
When Heaven is our destination, we don’t get bogged down on this journey through life.
The Apostle Paul says that focusing on heaven keeps us from losing heart on our journeys. I love that statement. “So we do not lose heart.” When we contemplate our destination, heaven, which we haven’t yet seen, we can put our journeys through this life into perspective. When we focus on heaven, we can take the long view. Comparing the temporary adversities of this life with the eternal joys of heaven helps us to manage our adversities with God’s grace, the grace that Paul says will extend out to more and more people as they witness God’s grace at work in us.
Paul says that our outer nature is wasting away. And yet, our inner nature is being renewed day by day as we focus on heaven, the eternal unseen things that are to come, full of God’s glory.
Jesus took this long view. His knowledge that the kingdom of God was near gave him the courage to go through his own journey, which included the cross.
Jesus was all about the work of transformation. The point of our journey through this season after Pentecost, is our ongoing transformation into the glories of being part of the body of Christ, and our ongoing transformation of heart, mind and spirit as we enter more fully into the glory of living into the fact that we are already dwelling in the immensity of God.
Jonathan Edwards, who lived and preached in the 1700’s, sums up heaven with this succinct statement.
“The essence of heaven is the vision of God and the eternal increase of joy in God.”
So now is the time to set out on this journey. God will go with us, and as we abide in the love of Jesus by keeping his commandments, the joy of Jesus will be in us, and our joy will be complete.
So here’s a blessing as we set out.
“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, thing, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So be swift to love, make haste to be kind, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”