8 March 2009/Lent 2-B * Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16/Mark 8:31-38
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills 21043
Time for a Penitent Heart Transplant
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen
As someone once said in Bible study when we read this collect for today, “Maybe what we all need is a “penitent heart” transplant!” After at least eight Year B Bible Studies on this one passage, with clergy and lay persons in a variety of settings, when asked what it as people heard in this gospel, not one person chose the phrase, “and after three days rise again.” That would be the Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God!
What we hear instead are the words of suffering, rejection, death, deny yourself, lose your life, adulterous and sinful generation and shame. This must be what Peter heard too, and why he rebuked Jesus. “Lord, I just said you are the Christ! These things cannot happen to you! You are God’s anointed, God’s Beloved! God is well pleased with you!”
To which Jesus responds, “Rebuke me, will you? I will see you and raise you four rebukes!” Or, “Get behind me, Satan!” Which is just another way of saying, “Just whose side are you on anyway? Your Way? Satan’s Way? Rome’s Way? Jerusalem’s Way? The World’s Way? Have you considered getting behind me and joining in my Father’s Way? That would be, God’s Way!”
Jesus draws a line in the sand. We know from other stories that he did this from time to time. And in drawing that line Jesus basically says, "Do not comfort yourself by thinking that God is on your side. Be more concerned about whether or not you are on God’s side!”
All of which is followed by the invitation to do three things: deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus: which is not an invitation to be crucified – although for some who take this invitation seriously it has come to that.
The invitation is meant for us to take seriously the promises made in our baptism and sealed with a cross on our foreheads with oil.
We are to pick up this baptismal cross and follow him. We are to let this cross lead us in His Way – God’s Way. Not pick up our crosses and then go where we want. Follow him.
Baptism is a Penitent Heart Transplant. In Baptism we are given a New Heart – a heart that listens to Jesus. Note that at the outset it says, “Jesus began to teach….” So the first step in following Jesus is to Listen to Him. That is what the voice on the mountain said a few weeks ago: This is my Son, my Beloved – Listen to him.
In Baptism we are also given a New Name. Just like we hear that Abram becomes Abraham, and Sarai becomes Sarah, and God even gets a new name, “God Almighty” – no doubt a distant relative of Bruce and Evan Almighty. And in his Baptism, Jesus gets a new name – God’s Beloved. Now we are God’s Beloved! God is well pleased with us!
In our Baptism the sign of the cross is marked on our foreheads with oil, chrism, blessed by our Bishop. This cross marks us as Christ’s own forever. We belong to him. He belongs to us. We are One.
It is the same cross we trace on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday with the Ashes made from Palm Sunday’s Palms. And the same cross we trace with oil blessed by our Bishop when we come forward for Healing. The cross is not some terrible end to an otherwise faithful life with God in Christ, but rather the cross meets us and marks us at the beginning of our communion with him – and remains with us forever. And ever!
We keep tracing it over and over to remember – to remember who we are and whose we are. We are those people Jesus calls to get behind him and follow him. We are those who have Penitent Hearts – which means we repent.
Repent is an interesting word, for it means to turn around. The idea is that when we are baptized and given a new heart and a new name, we turn ourselves about and walk in God’s Way – which is what get behind Jesus really means.
What I love about our new Penitent Hearts and repentance is that in Hebrew and Aramaic the word for this is Shoove! And turning toward God means to turn away from Satan and the Devil and all the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.
So last Sunday when Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, he shook the devil off and shooved toward God. Which is what he says we are to do today: we are to turn away from the temptations of this life, this world, the world of profit, and shoove, turn to God, shake the devil off, get behind Jesus and Follow him! This is the Way – the Way of true life, real life, abundant life in his Father’s Kingdom. The Only Way!
Shake shake shake, shake the devil off
In the name of Jesus, shake the devil off
When he says, “Forget about God!”
shake the devil off
Shoove shoove shoove, turn yourself about
In the name of Jesus, turn yourself about
Love your neighbor as yourself,
turn yourself about
Pick up your cross and follow me
And turn yourself about
The moral of today’s story:
it turns out the Hokey Pokey IS what it’s all about!