Second Sunday in Lent, Year B – “Discipleship”

Title:Second Sunday in Lent, Year B – “Discipleship”

The sermon considered these questions. Catherine used the Genesis reading on Abraham and Beverly Lanzetta’s book A New Silence.

1 What does it mean to take up our cross?

The readings today featured Abraham in Genesis where God makes a promise to Abram/Abraham and establishes a covenant with him and his descendants, and promises Sarai/Sarah that she will bear children. The covenant God made with Noah was universal, encompassing all humanity—indeed all land-based life—in a new kind of relationship with God, a relationship of co-creativity by which evil in the world will no longer be destroyed as in the Flood, but will be transformed to new potential for good.

As Abraham did, the sermon connected taking up our cross to “Our role is one of “faithful discipleship” as part of to deepen our love for God and our commitment to God.” It may be easier to define than to carryout.

2 How do we take up our cross ?

Mark’s reading features Jesus’ rebuke to Peter after earlier he had named Jesus as the Messiah, the one the nation has awaited for generations. However Jesus brings a cold dose of reality as he speaks of his suffering and death, provoking their incredulous reaction. His rebuke to Peter leads to his defining of his true followers as those who take up his cross. Those who want to save their life will lose it; what profit can there be in material security which costs one’s soul? Those who give their life for the sake of the gospel will save it.

From the sermon -So how do we do it? “We must deepen our love for God and our commitment to God. But crosses are only heavy and burdensome if we are focused on the crosses we are bearing instead of being focused on God.

“To be focused on loving God requires the ongoing suffering of giving up our focus on ourselves, giving up our need to possess, giving God charge over our will rather than heedlessly following the free will that God has given to us”

“Love without self-interest. Be attuned to the splendor of creation, and the web of existence. Work actively within yourself and in the world to make the holy visible.”

“Pray daily to grow in humility, to be empty of the false self. Offer over to God your regrets, sorrows, doubts, motives and unresolved desires. Become aware of the impact your actions have on others. The refusal to reflect on your motives leads to suffering for not only yourself, but for others.”

The readings are all about discipleship which is based on the covenant relationship and deepens our faith.

The Gospel from Mark is the short but poignant "Get Behind Me Satan" passage. This is first prediction of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection (8:31). (The other two are at 9:31; 10:33-34). They are set into a common pattern: (1) prediction, (2) misunderstanding by the disciples and (3) teaching on discipleship.

Peter offers Jesus the title of Messiah, “the Christ” (8:29). In Mark, the general expectation of the Messiah seems to be a political leader. Jesus rejects this understanding. Mark reiterates throughout his gospel that Jesus’ disciples cannot truly understand the meaning of Jesus as Messiah before, or apart from, the crucifixion. Peter rejects the thought of a suffering Messiah, implicitly tempting Jesus to the same false messiahship offered by Satan in the wilderness. The disciples are called to the total surrender of all assertion of self that clings to personal desires over the will of God.

Jesus proposes that the only way out is through, that we must embrace that which we fear the most. Suffering, rejection and death are part and parcel of the human experience. Jesus challenges us to seize our lives, prickly and annoying as they sometimes are, and transform them. He would not only talk about this way of transformation; He would soon show them how to do it.

David Lose has an interesting slant on the passage. (He is now senior pastor of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis in 2017.). "How do we take up the cross ?" "Rather, I think the call of these week’s passage, particularly amid the brutality and violence that seem to permeate the world, is to be willing to embrace the pain of others – rather than explain it, simply seek to comfort it, fit it into some larger plan, or even merely decry it – trusting that God is in the midst of our brokenness, working for and calling us to life…"

"We are called to take up our cross by being honest about our brokenness and thereby demonstrate our willingness to enter into the brokenness of others. We are called to take up our cross because we follow the One who not only took up his cross but also revealed that nothing in this world, not even the hate and darkness and death that seemed so omnipresent on that Friday we dare call good, can defeat the love and light and life of God."

God provides examples of faithfulness in the Old Testament reading from Genesis. This reading recounts God’s surprising gift of an everlasting covenant to Abram. God also promises to bless Abram with numerous descendants even though he and his wife Sarai are in their nineties. Such an astounding promise challenges their trust in God to provide. Their new identity in relation to God is signified by receiving new names (Abraham and Sarah), much like newly-baptized Christians as they become members of the new covenant community.

Paul in the Epistle cites the examples of Abraham to prove that justification by faith is not contrary to the Old Testament. In Judaism at that time, Abraham was held up as a model of righteousness through works. Paul argues that Abraham’s faith, his readiness to believe and act upon God’s promise, put him in right relationship to God, apart from any works. This righteousness is open to all—Jew and Gentile—who trust in God, regardless of whether they keep the law. The promised inheritance comes through faith to Abraham’s true descendants who are those who follow his example of faith. To make the fulfillment of the promise contingent upon the later Mosaic law would render the promise void. The law serves only to make transgression evident. This was probably developed from the Roman maxim, “no punishment without a law.”