Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered..... Sermon for Year B Lent 2

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Last week, Lent 1, was The Rainbow Connection.
This week, if I had to pick a song for Lent 2--
don’t worry--I promise I’m not going to sing this week--
my song choice would be
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Get behind me, Satan.
There’s the bewitching. Satan.

Well, first of all, Peter is bothered by Jesus saying
that the Messiah is going to suffer and be rejected
and be killed and die.
And then, Jesus is bothered by Peter,
because Peter wants Jesus to tell a different story.
to be a different Messiah than Jesus knows he is.

Poor Peter!
Jesus just called him Satan.
And Peter can’t believe Jesus would say such a thing to him.

Get behind me, Satan!

We don’t often talk about Satan in the Episcopal Church,
and yes, we certainly can hear that word
with a touch of Saturday Night Live humor--
remember Dana Carvey’s portrayal of the Church Lady?

We can laugh at the stereotypical images of Satan or the Devil--
but we must admit,
temptation is very, very real.
Very real for all of us.

Peter could not bear hearing Jesus talk about his own suffering and death.
No. That’s just wrong, Jesus.
You are the Messiah!

The Messiah.
Everyone knew the Messiah was going to come--one day--
and settle the score.
The Messiah was going to charge in and right all the wrongs.
The Messiah was going to bring justice.
Everyone would rejoice
once they knew that the Messiah had arrived.

Imagine how happy Peter was
when he realized that Jesus was the Messiah.
Thanks be to God! Finally!
The Messiah is here!

But now, Jesus begins talking about suffering and persecution and dying.

Peter could not listen.

The gospel says that Peter took Jesus aside and REBUKED Jesus.
Sounds like a bold move!
Pretty strong language:

But Jesus replies quickly and strongly and rebukes right back:
Get behind me, Satan.
Those are his words to his dear friend Peter.

Because you see,
how easy, how tempting --even for Jesus--
to be the Messiah
that everyone has dreamed him to be.
How easy, how tempting
to just be and act and say
what others expect of us.

But Jesus knows that image of him is a lie.

Sometimes people are not who we think they are
and it is their fault.
` They have tricked us, deceived us.

But sometimes people are not who we think they are
and it is NOT their fault.
In our own minds, in our own hearts,
we have tried to make that person be
he person WE want them to be.
We have deceived ourselves.
We stand right beside Peter.

Jesus knows the truth.
Jesus knows who he really is
and what he has come to do--
and he knows it will not be popular.

Because people may say they want to be saved,
people may say they want justice,
people may say they want change

But we really only want these things
if it doesn’t intrude on our own plans and desires,
our own comforts and conveniences.

Some of you may know about Dorothy Day.
She was a social activist and devout Christian.
She was very clear about her love for God and for other people,
especially those on the margins.
Yet she was also very realistic
about what she called “the dirty rotten system”
and how we are all, in truth,
part of this unjust system
because we enjoy the benefits of the system.

Most of us do not think of ourselves as oppressors
or as people who would take advantage of others.
And yet...

Where were our shirts and our underwear made?
How about our shoes?
Our cell phone?
Who picks the tea leaves and the coffee beans we enjoy?
How much fuel do we consume driving alone in our cars or trucks,
when we could take a bus, carpool or even walk?

All these things are made affordable for us,
often because of the suffering of someone else
who is far less privileged.
Someone who could never afford the very items they make or mine or assemble.

Those who sacrifice because of our desires,
are usually faceless and nameless to us--
which of course makes it bearable,
makes it feel like we are not responsible or accountable.

But the truth is--
we buy, we use, we lust after these products.
We want our comforts even at the expense of others.

Temptation is everywhere.

In this country we are barraged with the temptation
to care more about stuff than human beings.

Power and possessions, consumption and competition
can throw us in the deep end of a "never-ending game"
(to borrow a phrase that Richard Rohr used in a recent email meditation)--
a loop that is self-maintaining, self-perpetuating
and self-congratulating.

That's the dirty, rotten little system
that DOrothy Day referred to.

I wish I could say this was not true in the church.
I wish I could say this is not true in my own life.
But sadly, Satan is still alive and well--
and I am part of a system that allows it to happen.

Jesus came to put a face on those who are faceless and nameless.
Jesus came to put a face on injustice.
Jesus came to tell the truth.
Jesus came to encourage us to be truth tellers--
even about the hard stuff in our own lives

We fool ourselves if we think following Jesus is in any way
intended to be an easy journey.

A worthwhile journey? Absolutely.
Easy? I think not.

Lent is a time to take at least a few steps
toward letting go of that which bewitches us--
the false Messiahs in our lives.

Living into Lent means confessing ourselves as Peter --
confessing that we too have longed for our church,
our Jesus, our families,
our own lives
to look and be a certain idealized,sanitized way--
when often nothing in our lives
or in the world is that way at all.

The truth should never be a discouragement.
Lent is a time for hope,
the hope that we can make a difference.

In the words of Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara:

Be careful of the way you live.
It is the only gospel that most people will ever read.

I want to say that one more time--

Be careful of the way you live.
It is the only gospel that most people will ever read.

Jesus wasn’t popular or rich or powerful.
Jesus knew that what he was saying and doing
was not going to be embraced--
neither by the Roman government nor by he religious authorities.
Not in the first century, not in the twenty-first century.

I live in constant amazement
at the selfish spin that is so often put
on what it means to be a Christian.
Following Jesus is about giving
not about receiving.
Following Jesus is about rejecting the very systems
that make us comfortable, even acclaimed.

We, too, are called to sacrifice.

Jesus refused to claim
being the Messiah the world had envisioned.
Jesus knew the world already had what it needed to end injustice.

Jesus looks to US--
to right the wrongs,
to feed the hungry, to heal the sick,
to comfort the suffering,
to bring justice to God’s world.

Yes, we do all these things with God’s help
but Jesus is quite clear
that we are the ones to do these things.

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered?
Jesus says,
Get over it.
Get behind me, Satan.

Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow.

For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake,
and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
For what will it profit us to gain the whole world
and forfeit our life?

1 comment:

Tom E said...

Thank you Jeanne for reminding us who Jesus stood for.