Sunday, February 5, 2012

Preparing for Lent



May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit – Amen.

Today is the 3rd Sunday before Lent … & the countdown means that we are in the time of preparation for the preparation … by which I mean that just as Lent is the time when we prepare ourselves for Easter, now is the time when we prepare ourselves for Lent. Which makes sense when one thinks about it … if we are to take Lent seriously, then we must realise that we can not simply leave it to until we wake up on the morning of Ash Wednesday to decide how it is that they are going to make the spiritual journey that is Lent … all journeys require forethought and planning …

and just as we would never set off on an important journey to some physical place without the necessary planning, so too we must not approach our spiritual journeys without also doing the work that is needed in advance that will allow us to get the most out of that spiritual journey … because if there is a lack of preparation there are many things that may go wrong: you may never leave at all … the journey may be more difficult or uncomfortable than it needs to be … or you may end up in completely the wrong place, either because you took the wrong path to where you were going … or because of poor preparation discover that you have journeyed to the wrong place … somewhere that you should never have chosen to go to …

Of course, Lent is a journey within a journey, a journey within the overall of our greater Christian journey through life … & it would be easy to fall into the temptation of thinking that no special preparation is needed for this part of our journey … but that would be as sensible as an athlete thinking that because he ran the Dublin marathon last year, he needs no training before he runs it again this year!

And of course, life throws many distractions in our way … it would be arrogant to think that it doesn't … think of Jesus, & all the distractions that he faced … the distractions of peoples' ideas of what the Messiah should be, and the pressures of their expectations as to how he should conduct his ministry ...

In our Gospel reading today we see how Jesus at the very beginning of his ministry … almost what we might call the prologue – the time between when he is getting ready & when he begins his ministry in earnest … and we see how he prepares himself before continuing on to the next part of his journey … and it must have been no easy thing to discern the road he had to take … think of all the places in the Gospels where it is stressed how this Messiah goes against so much of what was expected of him … it was expected that he would be some kind of warrior king who would restore the fortunes of Israel by defeating its oppressors …

but this Messiah was born in a stable and laid in a manger, because his parents weren't important enough for the inn-keeper to make room for them in his already crowded establishment … this messiah came from a family that was so poor that when he was presented in the temple, they couldn't afford the the normal offering of a lamb and had to offer instead the 'substitute' offering that was allowed to the poorest of the poor, a pair of small birds … this was a messiah without wealth or power … or even a fine education sitting at the feet of the scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem … instead he was a peasant carpenter from a not highly regarded town in Galilee … as Nathanael says 'can anything good come out of Nazareth?'

But this is the one, against all expectation, that the Holy Spirit comes upon when he is being baptised by John at the Jordan … and this is the one whom John declares is the one for whom he declared that he had come to prepare the way for … this is the one whom the devil tempts in the desert and whom angels minister to once the 40 days are over …

So then Jesus comes to what I termed the 'prologue' of his ministry … he starts this not with a call to arms as might have been expected from the messiah, but with a call to Repent … and it doesn't get off to a great start … he begins at home, at Nazareth, and they reject him, because they can't accept the idea of the Messiah being the carpenter's son…

so then he goes to Capernaum, by the Sea of Galilee … and things start to look up … Capernaum was a decent sized city for the time, about 1500 people … and here people start to listen to him … he preaches in their synagogue and not only do people listen to him, they wonder at his teaching & are astounded at the authority with which he speaks … he begins to gather followers … Peter & Andrew, James and John leave their work as fishermen to become his disciples … and in today's Gospel reading, we hear just how well things are going … he goes to Peter's house and heals his mother-in-law … the word starts to go around the town: this new teacher, he doesn't just teach with authority, he can heal people as well … and so they bring him their sick, and he heals all that they bring to him …

And after a long hard day, Jesus sleeps … but he wakes early … and I wonder what thoughts went through his mind as he lay there, wrapped in his cloak in a corner of Peter's mud-brick house … did he think how easy it would be to stay in Capernaum? They loved him there; they appreciated him... they listened to his teaching … they had faith in his power and authority and brought him their sick to heal … it was a place he could have easily settled …

It is still very early. Everyone else is still asleep. But instead of rolling over and going back to sleep himself, Jesus get up. He throws his cloak around him and goes out into the dawn's half light and he walks away from the town. He needs to find a quiet place … somewhere away from all the little sounds that people make as they sleep in Peter's house … away from the sounds of a town as it wakes up in Capernaum … he finds a deserted place outside the town and he begins to pray …

How long does he pray? We don't know. Long enough for Peter and the other disciples to wake up and wonder where he was. Long enough for the people of Capernaum to get out of bed, get dressed, and start to gather again outside Peter's house, looking for more teaching and especially looking for more healing … long enough for Peter and the others to search for Jesus … first in the house, then in the town, and then outside the town until they found him … and when they found him they said 'Everyone is looking for you!'

They clearly expected him to go back … and to live up to the expectations of those who stood waiting outside Peter's door … But Jesus, after his long hours of prayer, knows that it is not back to Capernaum he must go … his journey has not ended … it is only beginning … despite what is expected of him, both by the people and his disciples, he knows that he must journey on … he must take the message to other towns and villages … why? Because that is what he came to do … that is his mission … not to be teacher and healer in one small town by the sea letting people come to him … but to be the messiah who journeys on and takes the message to all of Israel …

and just as he came to understand who he was by spending time in prayer and fasting in the desert … so he comes to understand how he is to carry out that mission during that time in prayer in the deserted place outside Capernaum … and if our Saviour needed the strength and guidance that comes from prayer to guide him … how much more do we … both to keep ourselves focused on our mission as the church of God to proclaim the good news of Christ … and our mission at this time to prepare ourselves for our Lenten journey … and so I pray that I, and you, and all our brothers and sisters may have the grace to spend time in prayer, both asking God for his guidance on this journey … and listening to and acting on what it is that he tells us to do … amen

Sermon notes: 5 February 2012 (3rd Sunday before Lent)

3 comments:

  1. Dear Servant of Christ Our Lord,Fr.Levi,

    If it is God's will and if it is Pleases to you, Please Pray for me and for The Salvation of The Perishing Millions through Our Ministries.

    I Pray for you.

    Keep Writing and Preaching Good Sermons For His Glory and for The Salvation of The Perishing Souls.

    If it is God's will, Please Come to India to Visit Our Ministries.

    In Christ Our Sovereign Lord

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  2. This was great! you are right, we have to prepare for lent like any other journey. Lord willing, I am looking forward to being a full participant this year, communing with God and really taking the time to listen and pay attention to His direction for my live.

    Many Blessings to you. and I will be sure to add the believers in India to my prayer list.

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  3. Very kind of you Ardor - interesting name! I took a little look at your blog - you haven't updated it since November, so I hope all is going well with you efforts at being vegetarian; I've been one for over 20 years now & I would recomend it to anyone. Every blessing, L+

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