I’m trying something new this week with my sermon, since the readings were pretty depressing in many ways. I will be using memes I found on Faceback the past few days to help with my talk.
First, something that has nothing to do with anything today, but what I thought was an interesting idea, posted by Corby:
We are in the early part of two seasons – Spring, and Lent. Both of these can be times of cleaning out things—maybe your house, or maybe some things not so great in your life, by spending time doing something really useful instead. A positive effort in one of these areas might not be so positive in another.
Picture: Grandfather reading a National Geographic magazine to his grandson in an attic where there are a lot of dusty NG magazines. Caption: No person who can read is ever successful at cleaning out an attic—Ann Landers
I got a lot of thinking time for this week’s sermon due to reading the Lectionary for this week a few week’s back, at a Bible study with Bonnie, Gretchen, and a few others down at Longview. And when I got to this week, I still had all the dread about these readings that I had when I read them earlier. Yes, there is a some theme here about trusting God and God’s faithfulness in these readings, but is that supposed to be a theme for Lent?
In our Exodus reading Moses is in the land of Midian (somewhere in the southern Sinai desert where he would eventually lead the Jews out of Egypt). He himself had fled from Egypt after seeing one of the Pharaoh’s guards beating on one of his fellow slaves and killed him, and had been found out by Pharaoh and ran for his life. He had made a new life among the Midianites and married Miriam, a daughter of the Midianite priest. He took his flock into the wilderness (hey, kind of a practice run for his leading the Jews out of Egypt), and went off the normal path of others toward Horeb, known as the mountain of God. There he was spoken to first by an angel of God, and then God directly, out of a bush burning with fire that was not consumed. God told him he was to return to Egypt to lead the Jews to their own land in Israel. Moses claimed he was not the one for the job, but God said he would lead him in doing it—and he did! Moses trusted God, and God was faithful to Moses and the Jews. (Of course, that is just totally simplifying the story, kind of like the mini-back page book version in one paragraph.)
Let’s just say that this next meme does NOT describe what Moses ended up doing! Caption: I am learning to love the sound of my feet walking away from things that are not meant for me.
I’m not going to say much about the 1 Corinthians reading around the theme of trusting God, other than the arguments presented here by Paul would not do much to help me with my faith. It issues several threats as to what can happen to those who are not faithful, and even making that awful claim that, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
To me, a much better way to think about my faith, especially now in Lent, is covered in one view I read recently, “I have tried to move myself away from a sense of guilt during Lent and more into a sense of longing - longing to know more and be more of what God wants me to know and be. This is my opportunity to look more deeply at myself and the ways in which I want to better reflect Jesus. I am turning back to the better self I want to be.”
And this next meme may help to think about what that better self is. Caption: “Finding Yourself” is not really how it works. You aren’t a $10 bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other peoples’ opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. “Finding Yourself” is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you—Emily McDowell
Our Gospel reading today seems to come out of nowhere. Jesus is just around doing his ministry, and someone tells him about some Galileans who were giving sacrifices in the temple when some of Pilates guards came and killed them, and their blood mingles with their sacrifices. They asked Jesus if these Galileans were worse sinners than others because they suffered in this way. Basically, Jesus said, “really, that is what you conclude from this event?” How about it says your time might also be near and maybe you should repent and be ready for when your own time is up. Same with those killed when a tower being constructed fell on some people who were ritually cleansing in a sacred pool under it; things happen and this is not punishment to them.
Finally, Jesus tells about the fig tree, planted in a vineyard and carefully tended, not just some wild tree in the desert, for 3 years and it bore no fruit. The master said it should be cut down, but the gardener convinced him to allow one more chance, with some more care, to see if it might bear the fruit expected of it. This has many possible ways to be looked at. The one I like is that God is faithful, and always wants to give us more chances to become his faithful followers—be like Jesus and do as he did.
With that in mind, my final meme covers not just my Spring but also Lent planning list. Caption: My Spring (and Lent) to do list…
--Count your blessings
--Let go of what I can’t control
--Listen to my heart