Saturday, March 17, 2018

5 Lent Yr B March 18 2018



5 Lent Yr B March 18 2018 Audio

From the prophet Jeremiah we hear today, I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. What I hear in this passage is that God doesn’t give up. No matter how many times God's people turn away, God doesn't give up, love wins. 

First, let's recall the pattern of the sacred story. This story is told over and over in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible. God creates, God blesses the creation, and God promises always to be our God, creation turns away from God, and God calls us back. God reconciles creation, and restores the relationship. 

The part of the story we read this morning from the prophet Jeremiah shows us one of the many times people turned their backs on God and God reaches out again, as God had done many times, and continues to do today. God reached out to Moses and the people wandering in the wilderness, the people were whining and griping, and God gave the “ten best ways” to Moses, and what did the people do? They worshipped the golden calf. Then, under Abraham, God promised many descendants, and what did the people do? They continued to worship the Canaanite gods.

The story in Jeremiah is prophecy, and Jeremiah is a prophet. We sometimes get a bit confused about what prophets are and what prophecy means. Prophets were men and women who were and are in relationship with God, and their jobs are to tell the people to return to God, to repent and turn around. Prophet does not mean one who predicts the future, and prophecy does not mean stories about the future. Prophets constantly remind people to return to God, because people are always finding someone or something to worship other than God. The stories of the prophets are not stories that tell the future. They are stories that show the dire consequences for behavior that takes God's people away from God.

In this story in Jeremiah, once again we hear God entering back into relationship with the people who keep turning away. Just think of it, all of these stories tell us that no matter what we do, no matter what we worship, God will call us back, God will not let us go, Love wins.

This time, it’s not commandments on stone, it’s not a promise of many descendants, but this time the law is written on their hearts, the law is written on our hearts. And what is the law that is written on our hearts?  In the other gospels, in Matthew, Mark and Luke, when the question about which law is the most important law is posed, Jesus responds from sacred scripture, scripture all good Jews know by heart, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.
How is this law written on our hearts? There is a story that I have heard, that is attributed to Madeleine L’engle, my favorite author.

A mom and a dad had a new baby, and one night after they put the baby to bed, their older child came to them and asked if he could go see his little brother. The mom and the dad being just a little fearful of the older child’s intentions, said that would be fine and one of them would go with him. The older child insisted that he go see his baby brother by himself, and his parents gave in. So the older child entered the bedroom of his baby brother and walked over to his crib. His parents, being very curious and somewhat fearful, eavesdropped at the door. In a soft whisper this is what they heard their older child say to his baby brother. “Please, could you tell me what God is like, you just came from there, and I’ve been away so long I’m beginning to forget.”

God’s law is written on our hearts, we tend to forget it. I think it is part of our humanity to love God with every fiber of our being, and to love our neighbor as well. It is in living that we begin to forget. Our children, who can be prophets too, remind us what love of God really is. When we pay attention, we observe that profound desire to love and worship God.  The sadness is that we learn a very different lesson. Our culture teaches a lie that love is appropriately placed in things and stuff, and that fulfilling our own needs and wants is more important than any God or any neighbor.

But the Good News is that once again God calls us back, and in an absolutely new way. The radical shift in the gospel of John is that God gives up all power to come into our world as one of us, to be incarnate, so that we may return to God, so that we may be healed. The Glory of God is Jesus, and in Jesus, in living and loving and dying on the cross, the relationship between humanity and God is restored. But the story doesn’t end at the cross. The story goes through the cross to resurrection, because it is in death and resurrection that we become a people, a community, a body of Christ. And yet today, this 5th Sunday of Lent, we stand oh so close to that cross. 

We stand in the promise of the resurrection. We remember that after the pain and sadness of the cross comes the joy and new life in the resurrection, and we know that we are not there yet. We know that our journey today is in the hope that when that grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it will bear much fruit. That’s what the story in our scriptures tell us, that’s what we celebrate each time we come together here at this table.

We know that love of God and love of neighbor are not easy, in fact, love of God and love of neighbor can be very hard and painful indeed. There is much pain and sadness in our world, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our lives. Pain and sadness are a part of living fully, pain and sadness are realities that we never choose for ourselves, but come part and parcel with the joy of living. We need to intentionally look for Jesus in our midst, we need to focus on God’s divine spark in others, so that we can find God in our midst, so that the transformation that God promises will be realized.

On Wednesday evening we considered the 4th promise of our baptismal covenant. Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? And we realized that part of seeking and serving Christ in all persons is about listening. Not approaching a person as if we have the solution to fix them. But listening to the deepest yearnings of their heart, and holding space for them. This changes us.

Sir, we wish to see Jesus. Through the life, death, and resurrection we can see Jesus, and the law is written on our hearts. In the eyes of those we serve, Jesus is right here among us. Amen.

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