Second Sunday in Lent

2 Lent—March 1, 2015

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38

Homily preached by the Rev. Canon Linda S. Taylor


Today we have one of those follow-on gospels that doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you know what happened fifteen minutes ago. In the reading just before the reading we’ve just heard, Jesus is curious about what’s going on. He wants to know what people are thinking—what people are talking about. So, he asks his disciples: Who do people say that I am? And they’ve got the answers. They say: They think you’re John the Baptist, they say that you’re Elijah, they say that you’re one of the prophets. And he says: Who do you say I am? And Peter—my good friend Peter—is right there. He’s got the answer. He’s always got the answer. That’s his job. He has the answer. He says: You’re the Messiah. For once, he’s right! And Jesus acknowledges that and says: Don’t tell anyone.


So, fast-forward fifteen minutes, and Jesus is teaching them for the first time—telling them for the first time in the Gospel of Mark—that things are not going to be as good as they have been. The dark days are coming. He says that the time is coming when he will be suffering, when all the authority will be rejecting him, when he will be killed and then rise again. And I can imagine Peter just absolutely blown away at Jesus’ ignorance. He takes him to the side, and I again imagine it’s so he wouldn’t be embarrassed—that Jesus wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of his disciples when he hears the truth. He takes him to the side and rebukes him—tells him no, that’s not what being the Messiah is all about. And Jesus says to him—essentially—you are so far off the mark that it’s just as though Satan himself were tempting me to be the person you want me to be instead of the person God sent me to be.


We tend to make God in our own image. You may have noticed that. We tend to make Jesus in our own image. We tend to make him into the person that we want him to be, and that begs the question: Who do we say he is? Not with our words but with our lives. Who do we say he is? Who do we show to the world?


Yesterday, fourteen of gathered at St. Jude’s for a quiet morning. We talked a lot about transformation. The title of the day was Transforming from Coal to Crystal through Cross and Crucible, and we talked a lot about transformation. We prayed about being transformed. We sang about being transformed. We reflected in silence and with art work in all kinds of ways. People reflected on what it would be like to be transformed—what that means to us. And we came back and shared that. And to me there was a real sense in the place of yearning to be transformed—to be the people that God creates us to be. After I got home, I got to thinking about this whole thing—this whole process of transformation. So, I googled coal to crystal and found out that it’s not really turning into diamonds like I always thought—like they told us in grade school. Coal can get to crystal with a lot of pressure and a lot of heat, but not really to diamonds. And I thought: Huh! Then I thought I’d find something with butterflies, because we all know about metamorphosis. I had heard—when I was in grade school—that what happens in the chrysalis or the cocoon is that the caterpillar turns into liquid—just soup. Well, it turns out that’s not true. They’ve done CT scans for chrysalises as they’re in the process of metamorphosis—day one, day one and a half—all these cuts, and they can see that it’s not really soup. It’s like broth with bits, because some of the stuff stays the same. But it get repurposed—it gets moved around and switched over so that the essence of the caterpillar is still there but it’s really rearranged. And it serves a different purpose. And I thought about that, and I got to thinking about what it might be like to be that caterpillar who’s doing what it’s supposed to do—what it feels it has to do—and going into this chrysalis—and what happens in there? What awareness might it have of this process?


And then I thought a lot about the fact that we can’t do metamorphosis by ourselves. We can’t do transformation ourselves. The coal can’t turn itself into crystal. It needs outside pressure. And the butterfly can’t turn itself from the caterpillar to the butterfly. It requires something fro outside that moves inward and makes that significant change, using everything that’s there and repurposing—emptying it so that it fills a different need, it acts in a different way and it’s turned into what it was ultimately meant to be.


And Jesus said: If you try to save your life, you’ll lose your life. In order to live the life we’re called to live, we have to put down the life we cling to, and that’s not easy. None of us really wants to be transformed. We might want to have been transformed. It’s like writing a book. A lot of us want to have written a book. Not many of us actually want to sit down and do that work. We want to have been transformed, and we think right now is good. We’d like to stay right where we are, because we know—even with our flaws—what right now is like. We’re comfortable with right now. But Jesus calls us to put down that comfort—to offer ourselves for this process that is ongoing—that never seems to stop. No matter how old we get, we’re still in a process of transformation. Still in a process of becoming, and it comes from the outside. We can push against it. We can resist it, but it’s a lot easier—all the way around—if we just open ourselves to this process that God is bringing us, so that we can begin to live more closely—every day—the life that Jesus calls us to live.


So, my invitation to you today is to open your hearts to Jesus as he was, not as we wish he might be. To open our hearts to the love he came to show us and to bring us and to teach us. To open our hearts to the peace that begins inside us. To open ourselves to transformation. And to open our hearts as always in gratitude for all the ways God blesses us and holds us and guides us and molds us. The song we sang yesterday was Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me.


Spirit of the living God, fall a-fresh on me.

Spirit of the living God, fall a-fresh on me.

Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me.

Spirit of the living God, fall a-fresh on me.


May God’s Spirit fall on all of us during this holy time.


Thanks be to God.