AMA Lent II Lunch
A reading from the Gospel of Matthew 20:17-28 (NRSV)
The Son of Man came to serve, not to be served – Mt 20:28
While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. (Mt 27:38)
Good afternoon. It is an honor to be here today and to stand before you. I thank Pastor Charlotte and the good people of First Presbyterian Church for their hospitality.
Lent is a penitential season when we recognize that we are sinners in need of the grace and mercy of God and our neighbors. Lent is a time when we remember our own mortality, that we may be someone today, but who will remember us in the twenty-second century and if they do, why? Lent is a time for repentance and reconciliation with God and our neighbor. Lent is a time to consider how our faith has changed our lives and our interactions with the community around us. Lent is a time when we are called upon to give alms, to pray and to fast and a time to reflect on why we are giving alms, why and for what we are praying and why we are fasting.
Lent is our forty days in the wilderness to reflect on our lives, to reflect on our relationships with our family, friends and neighbors, to reflect on our relationship with God, to reflect on what it means to be a beloved child of God, to reflect on what it means to love God with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Lent is a time to reflect on what it means to be a sinner in need of the grace and mercy of God and our neighbors, of our need for repentance and reconciliation. Lent is a time to reflect on the fact that we are a forgiven people, to reflect on the fact that in our baptism we died to sin and our old way of life and that we were raised to new life through Jesus Christ. Lent is a time to reflect on the fact that just as we are forgiven so we are called to forgive. Lent is a time to recognize and acknowledge our own personal sin and the sins of our community, to confess our sins, to receive forgiveness from God and our neighbor and a time to live in the joy of a clean heart and conscience. Lent is a time to reflect on how our awareness of our own forgiveness has changed our lives in how we respond to our self, to our neighbor and to our God.
Lent is a time to consider to what and to whom we pledge allegiance, in what and in whom do we trust. Our currency says “In God we Trust”, but is it God or our money that we trust? Are we like Adam and Eve living in paradise surrounded by one of the world’s largest bodies of fresh water, fertile land and plenty of rain and sunshine and yet choose to do the very things that will destroy that paradise? Are we like Abraham and Sarah obedient to God’s call to come out of the safety of our homes and the familiar and venture into the unknown even when it becomes clear that God’s promises will not be fulfilled until sometime beyond our own lifetime?
In the reading I offered from John, Jesus takes his disciples aside and tells them what is going to happen when they get to Jerusalem, that he will be arrested, beaten and tortured and die a horrible death on a cross. One has to wonder whether they are even listening to what Jesus is saying. They are clearly dreaming of being part of a glorious army marching into Jerusalem, similar to Pontius Pilate and his troops, with banners flapping in the breeze, the clang of swords and shields, the jangle of horses’ harnesses, the smell of brave, young men marching to free their people from the rule of the Romans. They dream of overthrowing the Pontius Pilates and Herods of their day and forming a new government with Jesus as their king and James and John as his chief advisors. How disappointed they must have been when they entered Jerusalem with Jesus astride a young donkey, albeit to the shouts of Hallelujah and waving palm branches. James and John must have been horrified when they realized that the men appointed to stand at Jesus’ right hand and left hand were two robbers condemned as Jesus was, to a cruel death on a cross. What a close call! What if they had been granted to sit at Jesus’ right hand and at Jesus’ left hand!
Are we like Jesus’ disciples, seeking power and glory, fame and fortune? Jesus does not promise us wealth and good health. In fact Jesus promises pain and suffering, scorn and mockery. No wonder some of his followers decided to leave and seek a different savior. Do we hear Jesus’ words that if we want to be great then we must be a servant to those around us, that we must be a slave doing God’s work and that we must be willing to die fighting for justice and freedom for our neighbors?
We know the end of the story. We know what happens after the crucifixion, but I bid you not to rush to Easter. Take this time to pray, to give to the poor and the needy, to visit the sick and the lonely and to fast. In the remaining three weeks before holy week, reflect on what it means to be a beloved child of God; reflect on what it means to be an obedient disciple of Christ following in the way of the cross, even to death; reflect on what it means to be a sinner and yet forgiven, not because we deserve it, but because of the love and mercy and grace of our God; to reflect on where we have not forgiven and on where reconciliation is needed; to reflect on the God who loves his creation so much that he was willing to send his only son to live among us; to reflect on God’s son who trusted God so much that he humbly obeyed God even to death on a cross. Pray, fast, give alms, forgive, love and reflect. Amen.