Sermon Archives

Sunday, February 21, 2016
The 2nd Sunday of Lent (Year C)
The Reverend Andrew Van Culin, Rector
On Remembering

I speak to you in the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Did you see them, the heroes in today’s reading?  We read about them nearly every week it seems, arguing, trapping, plotting, condemning.  But not today.  Today they save.  Today they are the heroes of the story. 

Yes, I’m talking about the Pharisees – those same Pharisees with whom Jesus is perpetually at odds.  But not today.

And it’s important for us to make note of this part of their story, too.  Despite all the adversity and challenge that they present to Jesus, that is not the whole story of the Pharisees.  There is, of course, the story of Nicodemus coming quietly under the cover of night to inquire of Jesus, seeking to understand a message that seems so foreign to the Pharisees, yet so powerful to the Jewish heart.  There is, also, the later story of Nicodemus who with Joseph of Arimathea sees to Jesus’ burial.  And there is this story, too.  In spite of all they’re disagreements and discord, some Pharisees come today to Jesus to warn him of Herod’s intent.  No, this story doesn’t negate the fact of their near perpetual conflict; but neither do the stories of their conflict with Jesus negate the reality of today’s truth as well.  Rather, today’s story reflects the complexity of their relationship – the Pharisees, with whom Jesus was in such stark and regular conflict, also sought to protect him, to understand him, to dine with him, and even to bury him faithfully, with honor and affection.    

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

With these words we are reminded of the complexity of human relationship and our faith.  Jesus and the Pharisees held far more in common than divided them, in spite of what we might think.  Both came out of a biblical heritage that honored the rich ancestry of their faith.  Both ardently strove to live lives as faithful Jews – and to help others do the same.  Both kept the law and struggled to fulfill it.  Both looked forward to the in-breaking of the Messianic kingdom and the end to Roman tyranny. 

And yet, it’s their disagreements that we remember most, and it’s the story of their discord that we repeat year in and year out, if not week in and week out. 

These words – this simple, caring exchange – remind us of something essential, not only essential to the relationship of Jesus, but to our Lenten journey, and thereby to our faith in general.

In some critical way, Lent is about remembering. 

Lent begins with arguably the most poignant remembrance we have – as ashes are smudged above our brow, we are reminded again of a most discomforting reality, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We are reminded from the outset that we are mortal, that death lies ever on the horizon of our life.  There is no avoiding the finality of our body’s decline.

Ash Wednesday reminds us, as well, through the litany of Penitence of our brokenness.  In spite of all the good that we have done – and continue to do – the journey of Lent reminds us that our story is not perfect.  We have not loved God with our whole heart and mind and strength.  We are prideful and self-indulgent, at times exploiting others and the world about us. 

These are realities of our life, a part of our life that we seek not only to hide, but to forget.  And yet, Lent reminds us our complex truth.

So, too, for those within our lives.  There is an interest reality to human life – we naturally remember the good that is in us, hiding whenever possible from the shadow that is part of all human life, including our own.  And so Lent prompts us, uncomfortably, to see the shadow as well.

But when we look at others, especially those whom we do not know and those with whom we disagree, those with whom we have some conflict, we naturally do the opposite – that is, we remember the shadow, the wrong that was once committed, the hurt the we once suffered at their, hiding it seems whenever possible the good that is part of all human life, including theirs.

And Lent demands that we remember – not only the shadow that is in us, but the good that is in others as well.  Lent demands that we remember the complexity of our life and our relationships, the good and joyful, as well as the difficulty and hurt.

Such remembering is essential – for it is through such honest remembering, that redemption and restoration happens.  When we remember that we are broken ourselves, we are apt to have more compassion with those who are broken within our lives.  And similarly, when we remember the good in others, in spite of our discomfort and discord, we are more apt to find reunion and restoration of relationship.

And that is the ultimate purpose of Lent, to re-member, that is to draw us back into faithful and right relationship with one another and with God. May THIS be a holy land.