Thursday, October 22, 2015

Let Us Lay Aside Every Weight & Sin

Wednesday of Holy Week Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
RCL: Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 70, Hebrews 12:1-3, John 13:21-32

Look around & notice the community gathered here.

Our reading from Hebrews encourages us to “lay aside every weight & the sin that clings so closely...” How do we do this? We do this in community. The 1st statement in our reading that stands out to me says we do this “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” This means that we have a support system in our work of laying aside every weight & the sin that clings so closely. I tend to forget this.
Our reading tells us to persevere, “looking to Jesus” as we do this. We really are not alone in our work. I often forget this, too.
We have a support system. We are not alone. Am I the only person who forgets this?
Our reading tells us to “Consider (Jesus) who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that (we) may not grow weary or lose heart.” Forgetting to look to Jesus & forgetting I am not alone in this word, I tend to lose heart as I struggle through Lent.
I start Lent boldly, taking on a new discipline & giving up some habit. I overlook 4 important elements to this discipline.
  • It doesn't occur to me to have the new discipline balance what I give up.
  • It doesn't occur to me that habits are hard to break & take at least 21 days to start to become more natural.
  • It doesn't occur to me to rely on my support system – like an athlete relying on a coach.
  • It doesn't occur to me that I can pause during Lent to reflect on what has gone well & what I must adjust to make my new way of living effective.
These 4 aspects still doesn't occur to me even though I preached this to you last year! Maybe next Lent – the 3rd time with this perspective – it will sink in & start to be part of my resources.
Last year I learned a new perspective on my Lenten practice. I learned it from my dog whose behavior reflected my behavior. The dog loved me greatly & wanted to be near, contented to curl up near me . . . . until a squirrel suddenly appeared. I remember being outside with him one beautiful day in Lent. Suddenly he's barking in our fenced yard. I go inside expecting him to scratch at the door any minute. Then I hear the loud sound as he breaks through the wooden gate. I run out the front door & see him look back at me – gloating. He has no intention to obey as I command: Stop! Come!
I love Jesus & want to be near Jesus. Like my dog, I start confidently, contentedly & suddenly . . . . something distracts me. I take heart knowing that in the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us are Peter & all the other disciples who desert Jesus. Although their actions are different from what Judas does, they deny & desert Jesus.
Unlike the disciples, we know the rest of the story. Even in Lent, we are Easter people. We know Jesus dies & is risen, so it should be easier for us to persevere & lay aside every weight & the sin that clings so closely. It should be . . . . but is it?
Why do we grow weary & lose heart?
Or am I the only one who lives easily distracted & disobedient?
Am I the only dog in this pack?

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