Sermon for Second Sunday in Lent

Genesis 22:1-14

1 March 2015

Romans 8:31-39

(Year B)

Mark 8:31-38


The Rev. Robert E. Witt, Jr.

Psalm 16

    Saint Mark tells us that while Jesus was with His disciples in the district of Caesarea Philippi . . . He began to prepare them for what would take place within the next several weeks when they arrived at Jerusalem, the place to which they were journeying.

[Jesus] began to teach them [Mark writes]; . . . [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And he said this plainly.

You know how Jesus is always making His point with stories that amuse and often confuse the listener so that when He gets to the end we say, “I wonder what He meant by that”?  . . . But at Caesarea Philippi Jesus doesn’t amuse us with stories or enigmatic sayings.  Jesus plainly says, Mark tells us; . . . Jesus plainly says that His destiny and ultimate ministry is to “suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”  . . . But Peter cannot deal with all that negative energy, and he takes Jesus by the arm and with his mouth close to the ear of Jesus begins to sharply criticize Him for this gloomy teaching.

But turning and seeing his disciples [Mark writes], [Jesus] rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan!  For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

    This remark by Jesus puts me in mind of a speech I encountered on the internet some time back.  The speech was delivered by Dr. Chik Kaw TAN to the Church of England General Synod in February of 2009, . . . and he said, in part,

I was brought up in Chinese folk religion . . . which incorporates Buddhism, animism, Confucianism, Daoism and ancestor worship.  . . . The idols and spirits I worship[ped] [for 17 years of my life] demand[ed] sacrifice and incense, and, if I did not do so, evil will befall me and my family.  We lived in fear of such spirits.  Don’t talk to me about the ‘happy heathen’; there isn’t any.

Dr. TAN is a Christian and draws, in his speech, a contrast between the genuine God revealed to us in Christ Jesus . . . and the made-up gods which men invent and invest with an undefeatable power that makes such gods impervious and unfriendly.  . . . Peter wanted that kind of God; . . . a God Who is impervious to suffering and death and a terror to the stinkers of this world.  And so, when he is told about what he does not want to imagine, he rebukes Jesus for saying it.  But Jesus calls the kind of religion Peter desires Him to espouse; . . . Jesus calls it a made-up religion:  . . . “you are not on the side of God, [Peter], but of men.”

    But what does Saint Paul say about the One, True God about Whom Jesus teaches us and Dr. TAN contrasts with the man-made Chinese gods of his youth?

If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies; who is to condemn?  Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

The Lord God Almighty does not desire for you to please Him with sacrifice and incense so that maybe He’ll forgive you some peccadillo you may have committed . . . or, at least, won’t grieve you for it.  The Lord God Almighty is, instead, rooting for you(!); . . . is cheering you on!  The Lord God Almighty has given you the Commandments which are an articulation of His love and is cheering you on to make the best use of His love because He has an investment in your life; . . . the Lord God Almighty has an investment in your life because He sent His only Son to become a sacrifice for sin, . . . for your sin . . . and mine . . . and for the sin of the whole world.  All that is necessary, when someone trespasses against God’s love (and regrets it); . . . all that is necessary is to appeal to God that He listen to Jesus Who pleads to Him on our behalf.  . . . Or, as Jesus put it,

If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

. . . If anyone desires to be liberated from fear and to enjoy the blessing of being a child of God and a friend of Jesus (“if any man would come after me”), . . . let him become poor in spirit by the almsgiving, prayer, and fasting we talked about on Ash Wednesday (“let him deny himself”), . . . and live with reverence, attention, and submission to the absolving death of Christ upon the Cross for our sake (“let him take up his cross”) . . . and attempt to imitate Christ’s sacred living and holy dying (“and follow me”).  Do this, and

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ [Saint Paul asks]? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword [or explosives or bullets]?  . . . No [Saint Paul says], in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

No made-up, man-made god shall ever harm us . . . and the stinkers can only kill us.  But we, who are God’s elect; . . . we, who are baptized, are all in God’s sheltering and saving embrace . . . if we remain so poor in spirit that we are not ashamed of Jesus . . . and of His Cross; . . . if we do not become ashamed of the things He taught us so that we might become and remain simple . . . and chaste . . . and faithful.    

| Go to Sermon Archive | Return to Home Page |