Posted on March 25, 2019 By Kristen

Lent 2 March 17, 2019

During this season of Lent, as we examine our lives, we may find ourselves in places we’d rather not be.  Where do we find hope? 

This time of year always reminds me of our family trip to the Gulf Coast in 2007.   It was at the beginning of Lent that we spent the week in Biloxi, MS, and I worked with Camp Coast Cares, an Episcopal – Lutheran Katrina relief agency for three days.  We saw first hand the destruction of that hurricane and how much remained to be done a year and a half after.  On Friday of that week, we drove over to New Orleans.  There, neighborhood after neighborhood stood abandoned.  Nothing appeared to be happening, no cleanup even begun.

Where do we find hope?  How do we make sense of the mess that natural disasters or our life situations give us?  What can we learn from today’s lessons about God and our journey through Lent?

Abraham, or Abram as he’s still known in our reading from Genesis, has already picked up and moved away from his hometown, family and friends in Ur of Chaldea.  He’s followed God into a new place where God promised to give him land and a family as numerous as the stars in the heavens.  Abraham obeyed, followed God.  But Abraham remains childless in our reading.  And every day he and his wife Sara get older and less likely to have children.  When God appears and makes the promise of children once again we can understand Abraham’s doubt.  Abraham makes his complaint to God and God makes a covenant with him in the style of the times.

There are a couple of things to notice in this reading.  Abraham is not afraid of making his complaint to God.  He isn’t afraid of appearing doubtful.  We don’t have to worry about doubt either.  God knew Abraham, knew the promises that had been made, knew that the promises had yet to be fulfilled.  God wasn’t surprised by Abraham’s complaint.  What I like in this passage is that when God gives Abraham reassurance of the promise of children, Abraham’s doubts are relieved, Abraham believes, and God ‘reckons’ Abraham’s belief as righteousness.  God knows we need reassurances at times.  God knows that what we see in front of us is not always what we hope for.  God doesn’t think badly of us when we doubt – God reassures. 

I am sure that there were difficult times in this parish’s past.  You found yourselves in a place you had not wanted and weren’t sure you would move on from.  You were like Abram – following God into a new land and then not seeing the promises you thought God would fulfill.  There may have been doubt, and anger, and confusion.  But you were faithful and you continued to follow.  Every parish in our diocese, indeed, every parish and church has gone through moments when it seemed all was lost.  Every parish has gone through transitions they did not want to go through.  We can make our complaints to God.  God will hear us and reassure us, just as God did with Abraham.  And in time, God’s promises were fulfilled.

In our gospel lesson, Jesus shrugs off Herod’s threat.  I’ll be here today, and tomorrow and the next day, if he wants to come get me.  But he won’t.  I’m going to keep on working until it’s time to go to Jerusalem, Jesus says.

Again, there are a couple of things to notice in this reading.  Jesus isn’t concerned about Herod coming to get him, to stop his work.  He’s not going to worry about tomorrow’s evil today.  He’s just going to keep on working today and tomorrow and the work will be finished when He gets done with it.  A lesson we ought to carry with us as well.  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  God will take care of it, whatever it is.  In the meantime, our task is to keep on doing the work we’ve been given to do.  This is how a parish moves through difficult times – you just keep doing what you know you are supposed to do – keep giving, keep praying, keep figuring things out, planning for the future. 

These important points help us find hope, no matter what our present circumstance – voicing our complaints and fears, trusting that God will take care of our concerns, and keeping on keeping on. 

When we doubt – the One we turn to is the One who can reassure.  Doubting God isn’t the problem – doubting God and not going to God with our doubts is.  When we go to God with our problems, concerns, doubts, whatever, we give our relationship with God a chance to deepen.  When we turn to God, we are given the chance to see our situation the way God sees it – and that usually includes taking a long view of things.  God sees not only our present circumstance, but God will remind us of what has been and encourage us in what will be.

It takes all three views to move into the future – an understanding of where we are now, a remembrance of the past and a vision for the future.  This was brought home to me working in the gulf.  On Tuesday of our work week, I took a drive around Pass Christian with a group that included a woman who had owned a home in the community.  Where we saw empty lots and shells of houses, she saw and described to us what had been – antebellum homes, restaurants and shopping centers, churches.  Where her heart broke for what was, and some of us were discouraged by the current devastation, those with vision, those who were builders, imagined a future that would embrace and build on what was and what remained salvageable.

Abraham believes in God’s long view and God counts that as righteousness.  God will make things happen that fulfill the promises God has made.  Abraham is required to believe and, like Jesus in the gospel, to keep on doing what he knows he’s called to do.  Jesus also trusted God’s long view.  Jesus knew he had work to do and that God would take care of the future just as God had been with him in the past.

During this season of Lent, as we examine our lives, we may find ourselves in places we’d rather not be.  Where do we find hope?  How do we make sense of the messes in our lives?  By remembering Abraham and Jesus.  By turning to God with our doubts and broken promises and taking a look at God’s long view.  God knows us, knows our past, has a vision for our future – knows what we have been and who we were created to become.  By going to God with our doubts and hurts and fears, God is able to strengthen and reassure us.  And then by just keeping on keeping on, we follow in Jesus’ faithful steps.  God will take care of the future, with whatever good or evil is to come.  Ultimately, we are safe in God’s kingdom.  In the meantime, we’re called to do the work we’ve been given to do, trusting that God will bring it all to right.  May we all be faithful.  Amen.