Lent 2, Year B March 1, 2015 “Get Behind Me Satan”

Title:Lent 2, Year B March 1, 2015 “Get Behind Me Satan”

 Sunday, March 1, 2015   (full size gallery)

Today was a non-church day. Freezing rain began falling around 7am and by 9am the decision was made to cancel services for the day. Even if people could have made the trip, ice would have had to be cleared from the steps and the Parish House since today was coffee hour.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” 

This is a turning point in the Gospel. The geography will change from Galileo to the trek to Jerusalem and the resurrection. But here the focus is not on Jesus but on the disciples. As Lawrence in "Disclosing New Worlds" writes this week "Who do you believe Jesus is? Which Jesus will you follow – the Jesus who travels the Way of the Cross, or the glorious, triumphant Jesus whom the disciples desperately want him to be? Or will it be a Jesus of your own making?"

Jesus goes on to spell out what the Way of the Cross means for any would-be followers. It requires three things: denying self, taking up the cross, and following.

From the sermon.  The crowds have been following him in Galilee and he has been performing healings and ridding people of demons. At this point  Jesus calls out to them – he confronts them, he challenges them.  "Now Jesus has a way of seeing that is more than just casual observation. Jesus can see into the souls of people." "The wonder and joy of today’s passage is that we find out that Jesus not only calls the disciples, but he calls all of us." "And even now, Jesus sees all of us all the time. He sees our longings, our hungers, our need for healing, the miseries that all of us have that we keep hidden from the world." Following is when the going gets hard . "Not just to want to follow while the sun is out and the way is easy, but to still want to follow even when all you can see is Jesus way out ahead in front of you carrying his own cross and nothing but darkness beyond that, and you’re stumbling along dragging your cross along and you can’t keep up."

The second requirement is taking up the cross. We have to be selective. "So there has to be a lot of prayerful discernment about what it is God is calling us to deny in ourselves that is keeping us from God, (like the need for admiration and approval, the need to be needed, etc, etc,)." "A whole lot of prayer is simply around the issues that come with picking up crosses and bearing them. And this is where spiritual direction and friendship can come in handy. To have someone to share these prayerful dilemmas in our lives with us can be really helpful, because we all know that there are more crosses in the world, right in our path, than we can pick up and carry alone."

The third part is action – follow me.  This requires discernment.  "Lord Jesus Christ, who carried your cross for our sake, we know that you see into the hearts of each one of us, and that you long for each one of us to follow you. So we ask that you give us the vision to see what it is that blinds us to your light and presence in our lives, and to let go of those things. Give us the wisdom to know what crosses are ours to bear, and the courage to pick them up and carry them, knowing that your yoke is easy and your burden is light."

As Lawrence writes  Note that this is a new call. In 1:16ff Jesus calls the first disciples, saying simply, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”. In other words, there are people who want to hear Jesus’ message, and he invites them to follow and be part of spreading Good News that is eagerly received. Now the direction changes. This is a new journey – a journey of confrontation. It bears a deadly cost. And as Jesus enters this new phase of his ministry, he does not say, “Follow me”, but warns the disciples about what is entailed and gives them the opportunity to back out. Lent is about facing the seriousness of discipleship, and wrestling seriously with the question about whether or not we are “up for it”

Anjel Dickinson writes at Grace Episcopal Church in Brunswick "When we let go of obsessions, attachments and addictions, it is a way we take up our cross to follow Christ. It demands we die to our way of living so that we can find a fuller life in God. When we do, it will feel like death – make no mistake. Giving up obsessions and addictions always feels like dying because it is. But we are a people not just of losing life, but of transformed resurrected life too. When we hand over our life to God by denying our obsessions and addictions, we open a way for the Spirit to resurrect us and transform us into a totally new creation – both individually and collectively. Christ invites you today, in this community, to lose your life for his sake, take up your cross and follow him into a resurrected life. He awaits your reply … the response is up to you."

Commentary by Canon Lance Ousley, Diocese of Olympia

Suffering and hope, perseverance and faith are all interwoven in our readings this Sunday. Holistic Stewardship asks the question of how we can use all experiences in our lives to share the hope of the Gospel in the world. And it opens up the idea that stewardship is taking all the we are and all that we have for the benefit of God’s kingdom.

Our reading from Genesis this week reminds us that before Abraham became the Father of Many Nations, he was Abram, a dying aged man with no heir. This brought Abram suffering in his life, yet he persevered in faith with hope in the promise God made to him. Paul tells us in Romans that even though Abram was in pain, he did not let that deter him in his faith. The psalmist gives hope to the poor and those in need with the promise of God’s redemption of them in their plight and the vision of their song of God’s saving deeds proclaimed to those who are even yet unborn.

In the Gospel we hear Jesus prophesy about his death and the suffering he must undergo before the redemption of the cross is manifested on the third day. Jesus, also, charges his disciples that if any of them want to be his followers they must first deny themselves, take up their cross, then follow him.

All of this raises the question in me about how we are stewards of the pain in our own lives, the crosses that we bear. 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 also for his solidarity with our human pain. Peter wanted to deny this pain, but Jesus called him out, or at least his action, as Satanic; and commanded him to get behind him – in other words, out of his way – the Way.

We, too, are called to persevere through our pain living and exemplifying our hope in the redemptive power of Christ’s love in our lives. Reflecting on our own pain, and using it as a way to find solidarity with a suffering world through compassion and response is part of our participation in God’s redemption process of that pain in our own lives. Jesus isn’t asking us to deny the pain in our lives, he is asking us to bear it in faith and hope of God’s promises. This action of walking the Way of the Cross through faith gives hope to others. This is being a steward of that pain and not letting it be wasted in hopelessness. Jesus is asking us to deny self-centeredness that would deny our own vulnerability in our pain keeping us from showing compassion and love.

How will you be a steward of the crosses in your life that you bear, so you can be a steward of the Cross of Christ?

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