25 February 2018
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Lent opens many doorways.
Through open doors streams light;
Attempts at faithful living
During this season of
Living the Passion
Is as much about opening the doors God presents
As it is about
NOT closing doors that have already been opened.
Most, if not all, of us have opened the door of conversion.
We have felt the movement of God in our life.
We’ve been touched by Jesus.
We’ve been claimed and named.
And we’ve made sacred vows to follow him.
The door of conversion is only one door, however.
It is the first of many doorways that God provides
Over the course of our earthly life.
Each doorway is a gift of grace
That reveals what God wants us to see,
Inviting us to think and pray more deeply;
To reveal what we are to do and where we are to go.
Of course we are tempted to close doors behind us;
To forget about our conversion,
To allow our call and pilgrim’s progress to weaken,
To passively allow our witness to fade from memory,
To turn away from what God asks us to do.
Do not close those doors from your experience of Divine connection.
Do not extinguish the light that has filled your soul.
Do not deny the gifts of grace that have flooded into your life.
Be the faithful;
Be the follower of Jesus Christ.
Held in the context of Jesus’ first forewarning of his suffering, passion, death and resurrection,
(And his disciple’s disbelief),
Comes this teachable moment:
When Jesus draws his chastised disciples and the crowd close and says
“If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves,
and take up their cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
The moment of proclamation;
Stating beyond all shadow of a doubt
That Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior,
Begins the journey of obligation.
This commanding obligation of Jesus is simply outlined:
Take up your Cross
And Follow me.
The light of obligation
Streaming through Lent’s door
Begins with self-denial.
We are to lose our life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel.
We place Jesus first;
We denial ourselves so that
We promote Jesus and his Good News
To the top of our priorities;
Before my own gratification,
Before my own self promotion,
Before my own selfish behavior,
Before family, job, or fun.
Jesus comes first.
His message comes becomes the pinnacle of my experience.
The price we pay to be his disciple
We surrender ourselves …
… Sacrifice ourselves …
Give up ourselves for Lent
Who gave himself up for us on the cross.
If there is no self-sacrifice
We close the door
And deny the sacrifice that was made on our behalf.
What have you done to deny yourself?
What have you turned away from
To elevate Jesus to the single highest authority and priority in your life?
Giving up chocolate or meat for Lent are the easy cards to play.
But, let’s get serious:
What has control of your thoughts?
Are you ready to let it go?
This is the heart of self-denial.
The light of obligation
Illuminates our Lord’s command
To take up your cross.
At the center of Christian belief
Is the observation that
Your and my sins were atoned,
By the willing sacrifice
Jesus made with his crucifixion.
Just as in ancient times
Animals were sacrificed in place of individual sins,
So, too, is the concept that Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins.
Take up your cross
Is the invitation
To take up your sins
Lift them up to God
And allow the blood of Christ and his cross to wash them clean.
Let Jesus take them away.
The burden of the cross is sin and forgiveness.
What sins have you intentionally committed?
What sins have you unintentionally committed?
What sins have been committed against you?
Each of us are invited take a good hard look at ourselves.
It isn’t acceptable to allow sin to become
Perpetual unfinished business;
Never ending cycle of brokenness.
End the sin.
Forgive the sinner;
Even as we must beg for forgiveness
Just as you’ve been forgiven.
Forgive without expectation of being forgiven.
When that sinner is you,
Stop the sin.
Repent of the sin.
Vow not to sin again.
Repair the damage that your sin has caused.
And humbly ask to be forgiven.
You may, or you may not be forgiven, by the one who you offended.
But you will always be forgiven by Jesus Christ.
Approach Jesus with a completely humble and contrite heart.
Forgiveness isn’t natural;
Forgiveness is supernatural.
Forgiveness is simply Divine.
Through the doorway
With the Jesus invitation:
Our Lenten obligation of his call
Is behavior change.
Following Jesus means we have to do something.
We have to do things differently.
Jesus’ command is simply stated:
Learn his ways,
Follow his example,
Do what he asks us to do.
Jesus may be our celestial stalker,
Our determined Divine bloodhound,
But unless each of us get off the stick
And learn his ways
By reading, listening, and reflecting on his Word
Sunday’s worship will become Monday’s faded memory.
Efforts to follow Jesus without first learning his ways
Will end in religious frustration and resentment.
Get in the Word!
Lent invites us to live in the Word!
Jesus wants us to become his living Word proclaimed to the world!
Learning what Jesus did
Is followed by the question
“How do I apply the example of Jesus to my life today?”
“How do I see the world as if looking through the eyes of Jesus?”
“How do I respond to the needs of a broken world the same way as Jesus?”
Like looking at a hurricane’s residual flotsam and jetsam
We begin the cleanup with that outstretched, helping hand;
With that first turn of the shovel or hammer of a nail.
We follow Jesus
When we take the first step to reach out to the same people Jesus did:
The last, the least, the lost, the left behind.
Touch people with a smile.
Pay forward the love of Jesus Christ.
Invite people to become friends and join in the journey.
Draw friends to wholeness, wellness, completeness with God.
Three simple steps.
Three simple doorways
Lead us this day
To consider the blessings of Lent’s obligation;
The Light of God’s gracious journey
That takes us to the Cross, through the grave, and to the empty tomb.
Follow me, Jesus asks.
There is no “EASY” button.
The work of discipleship takes sustained, honest, authentic effort.
Being a disciple of Jesus
Requires self-sacrifice and self-denial.
Responding to the call of Jesus
Responding to the call means
We have to do something.
Become someone new,
And leave the old you
Walk with me
Beloved East Rochester sisters and brothers:
Take up your cross.