Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA; 1 Lent, 22 Feb. 2015
Year B RCL: Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
God loves you. No exceptions. All are welcome.
Jesus proclaims: The kingdom of God has come near. Repent. Believe in the Good News. In other words: “You can stop trying to earn God's Love & start spending it!1
Some folk don't understand God's Love is freely given. You can't earn it. You can only embrace it & start spending it/sharing it. Live in fullness of Love!
In God's great Love we do more than just survive. As I heard in a song on the radio driving back from Valdosta yesterday after the clergy meeting with our Bishop: “We know we (are) made for so much more than ordinary lives. It's time for us to more than just survive. We (are) made to thrive,” God makes us to thrive. God makes us in God's image, which is Holy Community. We thrive in Holy Community.
In his latest eCrozier, Bishop Scott Benhase emphasizes this about today's Gospel account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness: he says to notice “Jesus is not alone as he is tempted in the wilderness. Angels support him.”2
Part of the Good News we have to share is that we are not alone in the work we have to do & in our own wilderness struggles. With the gift of healing this Body of Christ has & offers in so many ways, we can reach out to folk in a wilderness who do not realize there is a community to support them so that they can thrive & not go it alone. Brothers & Sisters in the human family who just survive a wilderness life do not yet know the God of Love who creates & sustains each of us & who dies for our sins so that we may live embraced by Love, guided by the Holy Spirit. We are blessed to know God's Love. We do not have to hold onto this Love. It holds us.
Beloved Brothers & Sisters, you know how to live being held by Love rather than being gripped by Fear. Many Beloved Children of God do not yet know this. We have healing work to do to help release them from fear.
Fear grips folk with all kinds of false gods. Many believe: God will love me when... God will love me if... That's a lie from a false god. You may recall the god Guilt, who makes you feel miserable, tries to catch you doing wrong, never helps you do good & never cares when you do what's right.
There is Cosmic Janitor ready to clean up your mess for a big price. There's Prison Guard in charge of solitary confinement to keep you from community, demanding you handle all of life's challenges alone.
False gods are like the thwarted love in another song I heard yesterday: The jilted man in a bar says he'll toast “a country song...another long work week gone...a long lost buddy I ain't seen....” But he's definitely not toasting “her” because “Baby, you ain't worth the whiskey.” False gods “ain't worth the whiskey.”3
Another false god not worth the whiskey is Pride, whose arrogance disguises as humility & says: “I am such an undeserving sinner God can't possibly love me.” If you balk about your worth, maybe it's time to repent of arrogance because it is extremely arrogant to believe that by your actions can stop Almighty God from loving you.
God's Love is not about your worth. It is about God Love. God sends rain on the just & unjust. Rain is unconditional. Our job is to catch the rain of Love, soak it up, drink it in, offer a cup of this life-affirming Love to our neighbors thirsting to death in the wilderness. God's nourishing Love heals, restores & manifests God's goodness within us.
Give Up Crazy gods: Live in the Reality of God's Love. We can toast God for God's Love that we see in so many ways. Our Genesis reading says God makes the Covenant & will remember it. God takes responsibility. May we have the grace to be thankful & live into the Love that God's Covenant declares.
How do we live into the Covenant with God who Loves us so much that God gives us new life through Jesus who dies for us & erases our sins on that cross, saying with his dying breath: “Father, forgive them.”
How can we not forgive others & ourselves when our loving Lord says this? How can we remember this? Our Bishop says: “...(T)he cross that's placed on our foreheads at our baptisms reminds us of Jesus on whose grace we can always rely.”4
On Ash Wednesday we receive a cross on our foreheads from the ashes of Palm Sunday palms to remind us that we are dust & will return to dust. Like the flood waters cleansing the earth, Baptism cleans away our sins. The dry ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us of the “dry cleaning” we receive through confession & the Rite of Reconciliation.
Although we are dust, God's Love & creative power wash away our dirt. God forgives us. Can we not forgive each other? “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, when you are ready to stop hurting for what someone else did.”5 We can forgive whether the person wants to be forgiven or even knows they are forgiven. Forgiveness is about how we relate now to events & people in the past. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
You can see sharply God's forgiveness & never-dying Love for you as Jesus dies on that cross for you so that you can live fully in Love now & forever. Know this: The cross is the full satisfaction of every objection you have to the Good News that God loves you. No exceptions. All are welcome. God loves you right now. It's time to stop trying to earn God's Love & start spending it!6
Bacon, Ed. 8 Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind. Boston: Grand Central Life & Style. Grand Central Publishing. 2011.
Benhase, Bishop Scott Anson. “Lent, the Lone Ranger, & Tonto”. eCrozier #251. Feb. 20, 2015. Accessed: 20 Feb. 2015.
The Book of Common Prayer. New York: Church Publishing, Inc. 1986.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 16 Feb. 2015.
http://www.metrolyrics.com/thrive-lyrics-casting-crowns.html. Hall, John Mark. West, Matthew. Accessed: 21 Feb. 2015.
http://www.metrolyrics.com/aint-worth-the-whiskey-lyrics-cole-swindell.html. Accessed: 21 Feb. 2015.
Taylor, Porter. From Anger to Zion: An Alphabet of Faith.
Voyles, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment. Hillsboro, OR:The Appreciative Way. 2010. Forgiveness Forum. www.appreciativeway.com. 2014.
Wright, N.T. For Alll the Saints:Remembering the Christian Departed. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. As Continuum imprint. 2003.
2 Benhase, Bishop Scott Anson. “Lent, the Lone Ranger, & Tonto”. eCrozier #251. Feb. 20, 2015. Accessed: 20 Feb. 2015.
3 http://www.metrolyrics.com/aint-worth-the-whiskey-lyrics-cole-swindell.html. Accessed: 21 Feb. 2015.
4 Ibid. Benhase, Bishop Scott Anson. “Lent, the Lone Ranger, & Tonto”. eCrozier #251. Feb. 20, 2015. Accessed: 20 Feb. 2015.