Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sermon, Lent 2B, Gen. 17:1-7, 15-16; Mark 8:31-38

What do we hear in these two stories from Genesis and Mark? Among other things, we hear of God's all-encompassing desire to care for us. We hear about his desire to protect and guide us, and his desire to walk with us.

What is the first thing God says to Abram in today's passage? "Walk before me and be blameless."

The image I have is of a cattle drive. As I make my way through them on occasion, I notice that the ranch hands are at the back (and, if necessary, on the perimeter) of the cattle. Now I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that this is so they can keep the cattle moving and see when one goes astray.

If Abraham (and us, by implication) walks before God, then God can see where we are headed. He can direct and guide us, see when we've gone astray and reach out to bring us back onto the right path.

If we are to walk before God, then where does that put us in relation to Jesus? "Get behind me Satan . . . take up your cross and follow me." I said this at our Lenten breakfast this past Wednesday, but Jesus wasn't accusing Peter of being Satan incarnate. He is reminding Peter, and us, that the proper place of a disciple is behind the teacher. As followers of Christ, we must remember that it is our job to follow him in all aspect of our life: in prayer, in social justice and in dying to the world.

We walk before God and follow him.

God told Abraham, "Walk before me . . . " We are on a journey. We don't necessarily know what path we will take, but God is back there guiding us and directing us and keeping an eye out for strays.

The other thing this does, if we are walking before God like cattle walk before the ranch hands, is that it puts God in the position of a Holy Pooper Scooper. Just like the people who follow the horses in a parade, God is behind us every step of the way willing to clean up our mess.

Does this mean we are free to do whatever we want? Of course not; but like a parent who helps guide and direct a child's life, God isn't going to abandon us because we make a mistake or two along the way.

And if God is behind us, directing us and cleaning up after us, where is Jesus? Jesus is ahead of us, giving us a path to follow. Through the life of Jesus, we have an example of how to live our own life. This example includes feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, welcoming the outcast and forgiving the sinner. It also includes understanding that the way of Jesus is the way of the cross and the way to death and life.

Following Jesus means learning to put God first in all things. Besides doing all those things I named, we should allow our relationship with Jesus to inform our politics, our social agenda, our relationships with other people and our spiritual lives. We do these things because Jesus did them first.

And finally, we come full circle to the beginning. These two stories, taken together, reflect God's all-encompassing love. They show a God willing to follow us to guide us and direct us and clean up after us; and they show a God who is out ahead of us, giving us an example on how to live our life.

"Walk before me." Let me guide you. Let me watch your back. Let me see when you have strayed and encourage and welcome you back into the family.

"Take up your cross and follow me." I will lead you. I will be your example. I will not send you where I'm not willing to go myself. Follow me unto death . . . and life.

In these stories, then, may we be reminded of God's surrounding presence in our lives. May we see God as the driving force who leads us through death. This Lent, may we walk before God, following him who gave his life for us.

1 comments:

ultraspy | 6:59 AM, March 12, 2009  

Amen!

First time comments will be moderated.