Welcome to this morning's service.
Worship today is led by Rebecca Fugill (also on Zoom at 10 a.m.)
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Thank you to all those who have been part of putting together this weeks service.
Below you can find this weeks Message. Click here to find the whole worship sheet.
Message - Rebecca Fugill
It’s the second Sunday in Lent and usually I would take this opportunity to ask folk that age-old question: “What are you giving up for Lent?” Well, I don’t know about you but this year that question feels a bit hollow, redundant… even foolish. For many of us, 2020 has been a year of testing in itself and 2021, although more hopeful, still brings with it an element of uncertainty.
So, what does become of these 40 days? Perhaps taking a look at this Sunday’s scripture readings may help? From the Old Testament, we read about God’s Covenant, his promise to Abraham that his wife Sarah will bear him a son. In our New Testament reading, Jesus is revealed to be the Messiah. Both passages are good solid subjects for some very noble, grandiose sermons. But I’ll tell you now, mine may not be like that. You see, in all of the amazing and miraculous that is usually so befitting of bible readings, I want to suggest that there is an element of foolishness too. In fact, a monumental foolishness on such an enormous scale, that such ridiculousness could only be attributed to the Creator of heaven and earth: God Almighty Himself. Now bear with me, I can explain…
Beginning with Genesis 17, God, in all his wisdom calls before him an elderly man. He tells him to be blameless, to walk before him with a heart full of devotion to God. This very same God then floors this frail gent (quite literally), by declaring that he will make a covenant with him and make him ‘…exceedingly numerous.’ (17:3). Well, this man already has a son, by his young servant girl, surely that is enough to secure an heir and a future? Not for God. God has ordained that this man’s elderly, barren wife will be the mother of the multitude! Is that sensible?
Ok, let’s try Mark 8:31-38. Here we find Jesus, standing in the royally appointed Caesarea Philippi. One of his disciples, Peter, after witnessing Jesus’ many miracles, declares that Jesus is the Messiah. The Promised One. The Anointed. The Saviour and King of the Jews. This statement in itself is quite outrageous but not unusual. At the time, Jerusalem was under Roman occupation and her people were desperate for a saviour to release them from this oppression. What is more ridiculous is the conversation that follows. After Peter’s declaration, Jesus (who should be using this opportunity to rally the troops for a great military coup) starts talking about some lame plan which involves his suffering and eventual death. On a cross. A despicable death reserved purely for the non-entities of society. The rebels, thieves, slaves and outsiders. If this is a plan to show the world that God is king then it’s awful.
Can you see what I mean? Both of God’s plans for blessing, expansion and saving are foolish!
In the eyes of humanity, that is.
Now, before I carry on, here’s a footnote. You may have noticed that the Genesis reading jumps from verse 8 to verse 15, missing out a big chunk of text. This is the part that discusses circumcision (a bit of a squeamish subject, I know). It states that this procedure must be practiced to keep Abraham’s side of the covenant, but reading it, it kind of doesn’t fit. Most scholars think that a priestly scribe, when writing up this account was rather shocked that a pillar of the Jewish faith was uncircumcised in the midst of covenanting with God. Circumcision was the done thing in the Jewish culture and others, so the scribe probably popped that in to avert scandal. Anyway, back to sermon.
But as we see in both passages, God’s crazy plans somehow work out. Abram becomes, not merely the ‘exalted father’ as his name suggests, but Abraham, ‘father of a multitude’. He does conceive a son through his aged wife, and from this son springs an entire nation. And Jesus, God incarnate, the humble leader of ‘a ramshackle army of the profoundly unimportant,’ dies a disgraceful death only to rise again victorious, having defeated death and redeeming all of creation.
Yes, to many, God’s methods are somewhat unorthodox. But it’s because God sees beyond humanities’ veneer of power and righteousness and then asks of us the unthinkable. Not to be a resounding success at life, with financial security, friends, a healthy body and a busy diary. He calls us in our frailty, our confusion, our vulnerability. He called Abram in his old age and averageness. He called Sarai in her bitterness and longing, changed her name and removed her shame. He called Peter with his short temper and hastiness, but also his honest devotion. God became man and suffered and died because that was the only way. He calls for faith and asks of us nothing that we cannot do. The covenant he made with Abraham (remember that footnote?), well that was all God’s doing. He required nothing of the elderly man apart from a willingness to trust; not in the limitations of human ability but in the wonderful ridiculousness of divine will.
So here’s a challenge: this Lenten time, don’t give up chocolate, we’ve been through enough. Instead, learn to live with the foolishness- your foolishness, our foolishness and God’s foolishness. Trust and accept that God knows you, loves you and calls you, just as he finds you. Be ready to listen, ready to receive and ready to love.
To the rest of the world, this walk towards the cross may seem foolish, but to God, it’s the wisest path we could ever choose.