Sermon for Lent 2 Year A
By Mr John Bassill
If you follow lectionary readings you will be aware that during first half of Christian Year Christian story seems to go on at furious pace from Advent, through Christmas and Epiphany to Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity
Then by contrast the next 6 months proceed at a leisurely pace with no great festivals (other than Harvest) to inspire us.
Easter is of course the climax, the high point, the story of the resurrection, the whole reason for Jesus’ life here on earth.
You won’t need me to tell you that Easter is very early this year - almost as early as it can be and that this has been a major talking point. Only time certainly in the 55 years from 1970 to 2024 when it falls before March 26. Hopefully this will of itself cause some questions about Easter in the minds of some non-christian members of society – what Easter is and why it is so important.
For us date seems to determine so much of our Christian calendar so it is important to understand its significance ourselves so we can speak of it to others.
But for now back to Lent that time when traditionally we reflect on the basics of our faith what we really stand for and what we really believe in and why Easter is so important to us.
Having reached Lent we are of course now still in early part of Jesus’s ministry but after all His earthly ministry was pretty short lived by human standards – only three years! So there is much to reflect on already.
Interesting that Lectionary today starts with call of Abram with the requirement that he undertakes a long journey and the promises made to Him. A journey that took him from his home near the Euphrates in modern day Iraq, north through Syria down through the fertile crescent of the Jordan Valley into Egypt and back again before settling in Canaan.
Why do you think he needed to travel so much?
The answer lies in final (7th) promise.
“and all peoples will be blessed through you”
It would not have been immediately obvious at the time what God’s purposes were.
Yes mixing with lots of other peoples, probably intermarriage between Abraham’s family and the indigenous population so that belief in their God Yahweh would triumph over belief in other Gods.
But there is more.
Abraham is promised that his will be a great nation. And we know that Islam, Judaism and Christianity all claim direct descendency from him. Through his travels Abraham realizes what the promise means.
So why is he chosen in this way?
Fast forward for a moment to the gospel reading and that central tenet of Christian belief John 3 verse 16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
(The world please note –not just the chosen race as the Jews liked to think of themselves but everyone.)
And here is the link between the promise of God to Abraham and the Promise of Jesus as recorded by John.
The people of Israel are selected, not to be separate and apart, a particularly Holy People treated by God very differently from other people (which is what they came to believe), but are chosen as the instruments by which God’ purposes are revealed to the WHOLE world. A light to enlighten the world, replacing a world of darkness and fear with a world of light and love.
Something quite different.
This explains why at times they are seemingly abandoned by God and his promises as the Chosen Ones appear worthless as for example when they are captured and enslaved in Babylon.
The feeling of superiority, of being separate and apart coloured their whole thinking- religious belief, every aspect of life itself.
The stories of the NT repeatedly tell how Jews and Samaritans alike felt everything would be OK in the end so they didn’t need to worry about how they behaved – after all they were the favoured ones and so could do no wrong.
The taking of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians was seen by the people of the South, Judah, as their just deserts, their comeuppance for not following in the true path. Judah had always felt superior anyway because of the differences both in where and how they worshipped Yahweh and how they chose their rulers.
But when they too are conquered it is more than a national calamity it becomes an attack on their whole being and entire basis of religious belief in a God who would protect them come what may.
Yet we know that this belief of being a people who would be protected from the ills of the world is not what God intends when He speaks of a Chosen People and a royal priesthood.
Jesus upset the traditional view of the chosen race when he asserted firstly that He was the Son of God and so equated with Him and secondly that the Good News he brought was for everyone not just the favoured few who were really no better in the sight of God
than anyone else.
There is a tremendous truth here for us when we feel abandoned and alone. Despite claiming fellowship with Jesus Christ and walking is his ways we can at times feel that He is no longer with us.
Just as the People of Israel felt abandoned, we too can feel abandoned and it is in the dark times that we start to see that it is not because we have been given the promise of a charmed life, free from all the ills of the world but on the contrary.
We are very much part of the world and our mission is to proclaim to it our belief that Jesus is Lord and King for everyone who believesand that it is this faith in Him which influences every aspect of our lives.
Not to gain any special favours because of what we have done or even because of who we are but because we are among those who have been called by God –chosen by Him if you like - to be the instruments by which God’s purposes and promises are fulfilled.
And we are Gentiles!
You can see that this puts our relationship with Him in a quite different light.
When we realise this we can start to make sense of life and start to walk in the light ourselves.
Often those outside the church say to us
“Your God doesn’t really care for you at all or He wouldn’t let all these awful things happen to you”
That is missing the point. We have to be fully part of this world if we are to have any resonance with our fellow human beings in trying to explain our Faith.
Read Galatians 3 verses 6 – 8 where Paul states this with great clarity.
Abraham was a man of great faith in uprooting his family and all those who depended on him – a considerable number of people - to go on a very long and arduous journey, not knowing what lay at the end of it. But he believed and went.
This is the challenge for us
Believe and Go - not to the safe haven that you can see on the horizon, the harbour where you can shelter against the storms of life but if you are called don’t be afraid to travel to the unknown, following the light offered by Jesus Christ in the strong and certain knowledge that he has been there before us and is with us to the end of time.