LENT 2, B – February 25, 2018

SCRIPTURES – Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38

“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 life? For what can a man give in return for his life? 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.” (Mark 8)

 

“Hey, trust me.” What do you think when someone says that to you? Frankly, when someone asks me to trust him, I usually don’t. I’m thinking, “You wouldn’t ask me to trust you if you really were trustworthy!”

It’s not easy to trust today, especially when we see those we depend upon the most failing to live up to our trust.

Ø  The investigation of the atrocity that occurred 11 days ago in Parkland, FL has revealed a massive shirking of duty by law enforcement. The FBI seems to have ignored very specific tips. The School Resource Officer put his own safety before those he had sworn to protect and did nothing. As one who works with the police, I have found this especially shameful and distressing.

“Hey, trust me.” It’s not easy to do so anymore; not with cameras everywhere and the news and social media exposing every weakness and sin and failure. Truly we live in what Jesus calls an “adulterous and sinful generation.”

And yet, our God and Savior says to us, “Trust me.” Trust me, Abram, when I tell you that, even though you and your wife are very old, you’re going to have a baby! Trust me when I, the Christ, tell you that I am going to be rejected and killed, and yet everything will turn out ok. I will rise again on the third day! (His disciples always seemed to miss this.) Trust me when you must endure sufferings. They will bring about good!

We must trust God. We must trust what He says, must hold onto it as true and follow it. We must trust Him with our lives. To not trust Him is to have in mind the things of man, and not God. “Get behind me, Satan!” To not trust God is to be in league with the devil. The end of this is hell.

“Trust me.” It is hard to trust; even to trust God. After all, according to Jesus, trusting Him means denying yourself; saying, “I am a sinner and do not know what is good and right. Only God does, and so I will put what He says above what I think and what seems right to me.” God says that the most atrocious of things – the cross, a hated instrument of torture and shame – is His instrument to serve you and bring you His good. If you want good from God, His blessing, you must embrace the cross He lays on you.

What does this mean? In Jesus’ day that cross was a reality of wood and nails. Peter, who rebuked Jesus for speaking of it, ended up nailed to and dying upon a cross. In our day bearing the cross might mean:

Ø  Being rejected by a friend, or even a family member, for following Jesus and believing that what the Bible says is actually true.

Ø  Being made fun of, or being dumped by a girlfriend or boyfriend, for rejecting sex outside of marriage because God says it is sin.

Ø  It might even mean rejecting a proposed medical procedure because you’re following God. I remember, years ago, sitting with a pregnant couple in the office of a genetic counselor at Norwalk hospital. A test had revealed a possible problem with their baby, and what this might mean was presented to them. After the counselor went through this I encouraged them to remember that their child was God’s child and He would help them. The counselor and I spoke of the many ways that doctors and medicines and therapists could help their child. They were encouraged and left with hope and much more peace of mind. Then, as I was leaving, the genetic counselor told me she appreciated my support and asked if I would consider being available to talk with other parents. I said I would gladly do so, but also told her that I could never encourage or support abortion as an option, as it was the taking of a life that God had created. Well, that ended that. I was never called. I probably became a religious whacko.

 

It’s ok to be a whacko, as long as you’re Christ’s whacko. Yes, it is not easy to trust Him and follow Him in this life. It is not easy to bear the cross that comes with Jesus. But, look at what you get with His cross. You get heaven! You get eternal life! You will see “the Son of Man when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” and be greeted by Him as His friend. The glories of this world are passing away, and at best can only be enjoyed for the few years of your life. The glories of Christ’s kingdom are eternal, and those who bear the cross in this life and even lose their lives for Him gain eternal life and will share in His eternal glory in heaven. Trust Him and lift up your eyes to this!

And, as you follow Jesus and bear whatever cross that comes because of your trust in Him, you also have the promise of His blessing in this life. “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” says the apostle Paul. We have such great peace in Christ! It may be painful to bear crosses of rejection or scorn or conflict and loss because you trust Him. But, you don’t have to bear the cross of judgment for your sins. Jesus bore that cross. He bore God’s anger for your sins, and has taken it away from you. Trusting in His sacrifice you “now stand in grace,” Paul says. God is pleased with you. And so, even when you fail to trust God completely and follow Him perfectly – like Peter, who thought it a terrible idea that Jesus be rejected and killed and rebuked Him for saying it! – He will not treat you as His enemy or opponent. You stand in the grace of God’s complete forgiveness in Christ! This means that He will treat you as His dearly loved child. He will always love you and forgive you! And when you are suffering, remember what St. Paul says: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” In your sufferings you have the peace of His promise that He will make your sufferings produce in you endurance and character and hope. Trust Him!

You can trust Him, for your God and Savior is not only God, and so always good and true and reliable. He is also the God who became flesh and blood, like you, and bore in His own flesh your sins and sorrows on the cross. He put them to death and then rose from the dead on the third day, bringing forth life forevermore for you. This is your God: a God you can trust. He will never fail you!

In the name of Jesus, our Lord and eternal Savior. Amen.