Sermon Lent 2 – March 20, 2011

March 21, 2011 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

Now the word of the LORD came to Abram,
saying, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house
and go to the land which I will show you.”
Now the word of the Lord came to Nicodemus,
saying, “You must be born from above.”
Abram responded with immediate obedience,
Nicodemus responded, at least initially, with misunderstanding.
But both are called.
Both are called to leave something behind
and start on a journey,
a journey to a destination which cannot be found on earth.
Whenever they seem to reach a point of safety and security,
they will simply be called again to go, to follow.

Who calls them?
God calls them, through his Word.
We do not know how the Word comes to Abram,
but we do know how the Word came to Nicodemus,
the incarnate Word himself stands before him
and speaks to him.

Throughout the world,
many thousands of people are preparing this Lent for Baptism at Easter.
They are being called to leave an old life,
a life in which self, family and country were chief loyalties,
and to be given a new life,
one in which they are responsible and loyal chiefly
to the Lord Jesus and his Church.
A call, to be born not into a tribe or a nation,
but into a new humanity,
one that unites every tribe and nation in God the Father
and Jesus Christ his Son.
Self, family and country retain importance in the new life –
but they take their places in the new life.
They are now the places in which the Lord of all
calls the baptized to serve him.
This call, like the call to Abram and Nicodemus,
is the call to follow on a journey
not to a comfortable settledness,
but to a new place of mission.

Who calls them?
God calls them, through his Word.
The same Word that spoke to Abram,
that stood before Nicodemus and spoke to him,
now calls people to new life
through the mouths of men and women
and through the words of Holy Scripture.
It is the same Word that called our parents
to bring their children to Baptism.
It is the same Word that calls us to remember and recall
the baptismal promises that our parents made
and we affirmed,
for we can become too comfortable and settled with the old life
and either with innocent or willful misunderstanding
respond to Jesus’ call with a question of our own.

God calls us
to be born of water and the Spirit,
and we say with Nicodemus, “How can I be born a second time?
What must I do to be born?
What must I do to become a child of God,
to live more deeply the life of a child of God?
How can I leave behind all that I was, that I am?
How can these things be?

What must I do to be born?
What a silly question!
Those who in the nineteen-sixties angrily said to their parents,
“I didn’t ask to be born!”
had it right.
No one asks to be born
and no one does anything to be born.
Through the mystery of God’s creative power
handed over into the bodies of a man and a woman
we are willed into existence,
called out of nothingness into an life
where we are connected with all others and all other things
and yet separated, unique in our uniqueness,
given our own distinct point-of-view.
We didn’t ask to be born.

Nor can we do anything to be born from above.
“The wind blows where it wills,” our Lord tells Nicodemus,
and those of us with some Hebrew or who have taken some Bible courses in the past
will know that the Hebrew for “wind” can also mean “breath” or “spirit.”
If we are sons and daughters of God,
if we are know a life that is eternal,
and eternal life not simply meaning an endless flipping of pages on a calendar
but a life that is truly worth being everlasting,
a life in which one trusts that one is at peace with God and in unity with others,
then it is God himself who must bring that to birth,
God himself who must call us into that life of the Spirit
as surely as he called us into the life of the flesh.
God calls people into that eternal life
by the proclamation of the cross of Jesus Christ.
The Son of Man is lifted up from the earth
so that all might the glory streaming from his wounds,
so that his Spirit of love might wound our hearts
and shake us from our settled lives
to follow him wherever he calls us.

The call will look different to each person.
For some it looks like the call of Abram,
to go forth from our home and our kindred and our family’s house
and go to the land which will be shown us.
For some it looks like the call of the Gerasene demoniac,
to remain in our hometowns
and proclaim all the good things that God has done for us.
For some, the call to preach or teach,
For some, the call to sing or heal,
For some, the call to marry and parent,
For some, the call to care
for those who have no one to care for them.
But there is one call, one Spirit, one baptism,
and that call is to faith.
To faith in what God-in-Christ has done for us,
to faith in what God-in-Christ will do for us;
and to live out that faith with our lives of worship and praise and service.

In that faith Abram and Sarai and Lot
set out from their homeland
to go to the land which God would show them.
Nicodemus hesitates on the threshold of faith,
wondering how something old and settled
can become something new.
Those preparing for baptism long for the call of God
to touch them in the waters of Baptism.
And we, the baptized, renew our faith in these forty days of Lent,
remembering with joy the call to the new life,
and looking with faith upon the cross
upon which our Lord died our death
so that we could share his eternal life.

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Sermon Lent 1 – March 13, 2011 Sermon – Galatians 1:1-12 – First of a Lenten series

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