The Pas Lent 4
30 March 2014
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
It’s interesting that our focus as we look deeply into the creed, we get closer to the events of Easter, the events that we are building up to as we walk with Jesus through his ministry, and toward the cross.
And this focus, this looking at the life and work of Christ at the source of our words, of our strength which is found in the words “I believe” has been a great exploration for us, and for our hearts.
And so today, we look forward, we look to the resurrection, to Christ’s ascension, and to the hope that we carry in our hearts that he will return.
And so today we declare with conviction, with faith “On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
Yet, at the same time, we acknowledge that it’s not by his own will that Jesus endured the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection but by God’s. After all, last week we remembered his prayers in the garden of Gethsemane when he prayed that God’s will not his own be done.
And so, today we look at the fact that the grave cannot hold the Son of God, that even death is overturned by God’s loving actions on our behalf, and in doing so, we remember that God always has a future for each one of us.
The reading for today from 1 Samuel demonstrates God’s ongoing care for each one of us, even when we choose a human ruler over God for our lives. “The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’” (1 Sam 16:1)
Yes, Jesus faced the passion and crucifixion for our sakes.
Yes, he prayed that it not happen, yet he submitted himself to God’s will, and he stayed true to that, not for himself, but for each one of us, so that we can live and have hope, and not be burdened with our sins and errors that divide us from the love of God.
And so we can look at the words of the Creed, we can see the work of God is ongoing, even still today, as our today is found in this portion of the creed, and each time we can say “I believe.”
But we also find it when we read the passage from Ephesians which says “For once you were in darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” (Eph 5:8-9)
And in the gospel assigned for today, John tells us of a man born blind. For this one man, his blindness was so that faith can be found, but the man was already filled with faith because after his confrontation with the Pharisees, Jesus finds him again and asks “’Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’” (Jn 9:35b-38a)
And for those not filled with faith, their fear and their doubts blind them to the love of God, as we see with the Pharisees, in the gospel passage for today.
But this isn’t the only place where we find fears and doubts. And when we face the unknown what can come from us is neither healthy nor attractive; nor does it have any relation to our faith and beliefs.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; other say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (Matt 16:13-16)
A great declaration of faith, and one from the heart
But in the very next section of the gospel of Matthew carries on. “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must God to Jerusalem and suffer many things … that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” (Matt 16:21-22)
Our sense of fear of being abandoned, of the unknown gets in our way and nonsensical things come from our mouths because we don’t want to be without the love of God in and for our lives.
Peter couldn’t see how Jesus dying and being raised to new life was an indication of God’s will when it’s at the hands of men. Our fear strives to strangle the words “I believe” in our throats.
And even at such times, we are given words of comfort, of direction, and of reassurance. Jesus tells us: “’Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. … I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘”Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’” (Jn 14:1-7)
Jesus did face the passion, he was crucified, and he did die. But he also rose from the dead and ascended and he will return to judge the living and the dead.
“At dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb. There was a violent earthquake for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. … The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.” (Matt 27:57)
And each of the gospels shares the same information, that the power of the grave is broken by God in Jesus resurrection.
On the road to Emmaus, he opened the eyes of the followers of Christ. And “when he was at the table with them he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes are opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”’ (Lk 24:30-32)
And our hope, our belief, our faith is reborn with the words “I believe.”
And with Jesus resurrection from the dead, we are again in the light of God, and our fears are conquered at that same time that we look to the ascension and the promise that Jesus will come again.
But God’s grace, God’s love for each one of us doesn’t stop with the resurrection. God’s love and grace for all of humanity is eternal. Ever since “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created … them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number.” (Gen 1:27-28)
Jesus tells us: “Heaven and earth may pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matt 24:35) He gives us the hope that there is always a tomorrow, although we may come to an end, and it may feel like the world comes to an end, we are never without Jesus’ words, we are never cut off from God’s creation.
But God’s plan isn’t completed because “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:17)
Jesus ascends to heaven so that the Holy Spirit may come among us for God’s plan to be fulfilled. For us to say with conviction “I believe.”
“He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ … ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ … He lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Lk 24:44-51)
And we say “I believe.”
We learned with the disciples, we laid our hearts in the tomb when Jesus died, and we were amazed at the power of God when he rose from the dead.
At each step of our lives, we declare “I believe,” even when it comes out as a whisper, even when it seems like our hearts aren’t in the words. Just the fact that we can utter this phrase of belief, of faith, of trust in God confounds those who don’t understand.
This phrase takes us through our most difficult experiences, and still keeps us enveloped in God’s love because God has done all of this in order for us to be able to say “I believe,” and to say it with faith.
St John tells us in Revelation, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges… and on his head are many crowns.” (Rev. 19:11-12)
And so there is still hope. After all, Samuel anoints David as Saul’s successor as the king of Israel. (1 Sam 16:13) Paul tells us “everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.” (Eph 5:13-14) And the blindness of our faith is able to be alleviated with the words “I believe.”