The 2nd Sunday in Lent at St March Church in Norman, OK
March 16, 2003
Genesis 22: 1-18 + Roman 8: 31-34 + Mark 9:2-10
We tell stories of faith today, stories that lead us deeper into Lent and toward its finish at Eater. We hear the warning of Mark to tell the vision to no one until after the resurrection, because mystical visions of glory are not enough; because faith that survives suffering and trial is real faith, “Resurrection Faith”; and faith that springs from visions of glory is hardly faith at all.
We think we understand that, but there is still in us all the temptation to take the short-cut. That’s what Peter wanted to do in this Gospel passage. “Let’s build a booth (tent).” In other words, let’s stop here and capture this moment. Forget about that trip to Jerusalem and that “handing over/suffering stuff”. Those disciples are into this power and glory business. They want nothing to do with what Jesus has been hinting at in terms of suffering and death. But it shall not be so says Mark.
Abraham has had an easy time of it. Oh, there were times of discouragement after a long childless marriage, when others would surely have teased and ridiculed is manhood and Sara would have suffered the indignity of “barrenness” as the Bible calls it, but by and large, things have gone well for them, no great test of faith until that day of sacrifice. The greatness of Abraham’s faith lies in his ability to suffer, his willingness to suffer, and his constancy with God when he doesn’t understand why. Until he passed through that horrible day on the mountain, his “faith” wasn’t Faith at all.
Abraham and disciples of Jesus after the Resurrection have this in common: they have faced suffering, lived through it, and been raised up with hope intact and faith assured. For them there was no short-cut. It is easier to hail Jesus as a wonder-worker, filled with power and gifts by his Father. It is easier to follow him as the one who can solve all our problems by an easier method than the cross, but he will not do it. He will not come down from that cross. We are misled if we expect it. It is easier to say “I believe in God,” after looking at the glories of creation, the stars, an autumn morning, a new born baby, the face of a lover than to say: “I believe in God,” after looking at one’s sick or dying child, a horrible accident, or live with one’s own pain filled life. It is harder when we stay on earth and look around taking in suffering humanity, but we have to learn that this too is the place to see Jesus: this too is his body, broken and dead.
For faithful disciples of Christ Jesus, there is no stopping in glory and no faith in it either. Not until we have stood in the face of suffering and death and claimed our victory over it shall we truly be believers. Many experience terrible suffering and because they have stopped short with the vision of glory lose their way, their hope, and their life. It cannot be so for us. We tell this story today as a challenge to ourselves and a warning not to look for the short-cut nor be willing to stop here. For those willing to identify with Jesus, the future has not come; and in order to enter into future glory, one must go through the destiny of discipleship.
Declaring that Jesus has risen is only believable from those who have been on the mountain, and I don’t mean Tabor, I mean Calvary. If the Resurrection means anything at all, it means that those who follow Jesus in faith can go hopefully into suffering and death not just with words, but with the deeds of their lives.