The 2nd Sunday in Lent AD 2021
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Kurt E. Reinhardt
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 When Abram was ninety- nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.
Romans 5:1-11 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation
Mark 8:27-38 And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
And he 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. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Doesn’t sound like much fun does it? Following Jesus? Yea, that’s okay if it means the good life - health, wealth and happiness. Especially in our day and age when everything is about fun - and not just for kids. “But it’s no fun!” comes out of the mouths of plenty of grownups or is at least on their minds when it comes to their jobs, their marriages, their families and even the Church. Which just may be part of the problem that our Chief Medical Officers have been having over this last year trying to get people not to go to social gatherings, wear masks and stay six feet apart - because no, none of that has been much fun for anyone.
Fun. Yes, life for many, if not most, even perhaps at times for you and me, is all about fun. I want a job where I can have fun. Being a productive member of society has nothing to do with it. Serving my neighbour? What’s that about? I want to enjoy it and if I can’t enjoy it I’ve got to at least get paid enough so that I can enjoy other things. For better or worse? What’s that about? If I’m not getting what I need - I’m done, I’m out of here. Marriage is about giving not getting? Why would I tie myself up in that? I won’t make any promises. Children? What? They’re not here to fulfill my life? I’m here to serve them? Even when it’s not convenient? When it’s no fun?
People often ask why some Churches, especially the community ones, are so full. The simple answer is that they make it fun and people are into fun. They make the faith about health, wealth and happiness. They make the service about having a fun time and being entertained. Church isn’t about coming to receive what God wants to give but to get what I want. I’m okay with praising Him but it better be in a way that I like - a way that makes me feel good. I’m okay with listening to God as long as He says what I want to hear. The Christian life is about good times. Worship God and life will go well for you. Pray and He will give you what you want. You’ll turn stones into bread. You’ll be a star. The world will be yours. Sounds a little familiar doesn’t it?
“But that’s not going to be any fun!” Peter was good to go with Jesus being the Christ as long as that meant what He thought it meant, that Christ had come to straighten things out - to turn stones into bread, be a star and claim the world. He was ready to follow this Jesus when glory lay ahead, but when Christ starts talking about suffering many things, about being rejected by the Chief priests and elders, about being crucified, then Peter’s got to speak up. He’s got to take Him aside and rebuke Him. Imagine that. Peter must have been pretty riled up to take the One that he’d just confessed was the Christ aside to “rebuke” Him. “Rebuke” doesn’t mean tried to reason with Him or appeal to Him. It doesn’t even mean that he argued with Him. It means that He told Him off.
I’d like to think that I wouldn’t go that far, that I wouldn’t dare to rebuke the Son of God but I do know that I’m not always that keen on the way that’s He’s leading. I’ve certainly doubted, questioned it, been less than patient with it, even at times letting out a frustrated “Come on Lord”. With everything that we’ve been through this last year -“Really Lord?”, perhaps not that surprisingly, has been in the back of my mind, even if there has been a peace about it all in Christ. But the flesh doesn’t like this cross business. The flesh isn’t into denying itself. The flesh likes stones being turned into bread and being a star and owning the world.
“But it’s no fun.” No it’s not. It’s a cross after all and Jesus knew what it meant even more than anyone else. Peter would have gotten what death on a cross would have been like - hanging in agony, suffering until the breath of life was slowly chocked out of you, but He would have had no idea what it would have meant for Jesus. Fun? No, it wasn’t going to be fun to have the weight of all the world’s sins put on His shoulders, to take the blame for it all, to be judged and damned for it all. It’s upsetting enough to be blamed for one thing that you didn’t do, imagine being blamed for every sin that ever has or ever will be committed? Fun? No. Hell in all of its horror that’s what lay ahead - and no, it was not going to be fun.
Here was another time that Jesus could have turned aside. And we need to understand that He really could have turned aside. He didn’t have to go forward. We also need to know that His human nature was faced with the real temptation to do just that. He had to make a real choice and it wasn’t an easy one for Him. The Lord really faced what we face - not in Divine power but in His humbled human nature - because He had made Himself like us in every way. He did not face these temptations as God but as man - because God cannot be tempted. And so to undo what we had done and pay for what we do He really had to face it as one of us, which He did.
And thankfully as we see today He overcame it for us. “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” With His eyes on His disciples … with His eyes on us, He won’t be turned aside. “Get out of my way Satan. Get back to following me Peter. I’m going forward to the cross because that is the Father’s will, which means that it is my will as God and as man. And as I go forward I call on you to come after me. Take up your cross and follow me. It is the Father’s way, which means it’s the only way to Him. I came to walk it, so that you could follow it. I came to walk it, so that I could be with you on it. I came to walk it, so that you could be forgiven for the times that you wander from it.”
No, beloved, the stones aren’t turned into bread on this way, you won’t be a star and the world won’t be yours but the eternal things will be. It may not be fun but it does lead to eternal joy. This way turns you away from yourselves, as it turns you away from all the passing things of the world. This way turns you back to the Lord and the Lord alone. Not for what you can get out of Him but for His sake alone, that you might know the fullness of life and love that flows from Him … the life and love that He created you for in the beginning … the life and love that we sold for a piece of fruit in Eden and have continued to short change ourselves out of ever since.
It is a real temptation to go the other way - one that’s always set before us with all the fun that appears to go with it and that is why the Lord comes to us in His flesh and blood this day to set the way of the cross and all that it leads to before us. He comes to draw us back to it, even as He forgives our wandering ways. “Look to me.” the Lord Jesus says, “See what I’ve done for you. Look at the nail wounds in my hands and feet and know that I won’t lead you astray. Come receive all that I have to give to you and it will set you free to let go of everything else to follow me.” Amen.