The Cathedral Church of the Nativity
Sunday February 18, 2018
Sermon: The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa
I Lent Mark 1:9-15
The author of Mark’s gospel cuts to the chase. “The Kingdom of God has come has come near.” The biblical commentaries remind us that 14 times, Mark references this Kingdom; telling us of its coming, describing its nature, attributing to whom it belongs, and impediments to its entry. What we are to “get” the “reign” or “Kingship” of God is not understood as place but as Power. Power! It is God’s willful power to put right all that is wrong in the world. This “invasion” if you will into the world, into our time, into our space, into our moment is found active in Jesus himself!
The author of Mark cuts to the chase. Jesus is baptized, God is on the move. The heavens open, God names for those to hear, this is my son my beloved. The one who brings Power to make all things right.
42 times Mark uses the word immediately, helping us to know that God’s power is on the move. Immediately the Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness, which translates as “threw out”. Unlike the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, where we see a more intimate dialogue between Satan and Jesus, where Jesus the Kingdom bearer is tempted by the standards of the world, Power, Money, Selfishness; we see in Mark that Satan is at work always in battle against the heavenly Kingdom that seeks to make the wrong right.
You and I know that as I speak these words about God’s power that seeks to make right in the world what is wrong, that again we gather brokenhearted. It is almost as if there are no more words left, no more tears in us; that despair might could win the day. It is almost as if a whole new definition of anger must be created. I speak of course again as we stand in the shadow of another act of senseless violence. We seem impotent or paralyzed to do anything about it.
With Jesus in the wilderness it seems as if the tempter would have us run to places of “either “or” positions regarding the complexity of the sin that has aligned for these repeated (and they are repeated, we are even arguing about that), acts of violence. Gun control, mental health, social deconstruction, If only God were back in schools. Indeed, here we are in the wilderness, Satan seeks to tear us apart.
I am so mindful this day as we prepare for our Spaghetti Supper tonight. A night so valued in this congregation’s life. A gift given to us by our young people in support of the Camp where so many young lives have been touched, empowered and transformed. I am mindful of one of the young victims of this week’s shooting, Cameron Schentrup who was a leader Episcopal Church youth group. Who the night before the shooting was making pancakes at the parish pancake supper, serving, praying, and laughing just as our kids do here now. I am so mindful of my conversation with my daughter the night after the shooting, after a day in school where she named the nervous tension among fellow students and faculty in her school, a real-time cloud of sadness and fear like a pall over their day. We can do better friends.
But we can do better. We will do better. WE can claim what has been given us that is a power working in us that can do infinitely more than we can ever dream or imagine. We can Love First! We can turn our hearts and minds. We can repent of our incessant selfishness and sinful propensity to run hard to politicized ideologies where Satan would have us assault one another even as the innocents are dying.
WE can do better, we will do better. We can believe, trust, that God’s Power can drive us together to find a common ground and a common working to make right what is wrong in this world. Our children living in fear in our schools is not right. All of us I believe agree.
We can do better, we will do better. Let us take the lead. Followers of Jesus. Let’s find a better way. Let’s talk to one another, let’s pray together, and let us please take action together. We can follow our Bishop’s lead by working together in our communities and with our lawmakers for common sense laws regarding assault weapons. (Visit episcopalchurch.org) We can support our educators by talking with them, gaining their perspective, asking them what they need. We can mentor in local schools where we may bring hope and some presence to a young person who needs a little love a little help. We can engage with mental health professionals and begin again a conversation about mental health services to those who need it. We can quite frankly just get to know our neighbors. Build community where perhaps community needs be built. We can do better, we will do better. We can resist the bait on social media to be forced even in our own minds and hearts to positions that tear apart and do not build up.
The author of Mark cuts to the chase. Jesus emerges from this time in the wilderness with the tempter, arrives on scene, and makes the announcement. Like the announcement at an epic wrestling event, “Let’s get ready to rumble”, Jesus proclaims, The Kingdom of God has come near, Repent, and believe in the Good news”. Repentance, Metanoia, is to turn ourselves, our mind and our hearts toward God, to “believe” in the good news that God’s reign invades to make right in the world what Satan would have otherwise, is to Trust. “Pistis” the Greek, is to trust in the gut God’s power. To allow God’s Spirit to carry you through the turbulence of what may come your way, to “believe” trust, that God’s power can forgive the darkest and most painful of what is in us to forgive, that God can and will fetch us when we stray so very far away, that God’s power can overcome diabolical powers we seem helpless to control, that God’s very nature and deepest desire is to restore us, and to hold so tightly, embracing us as if we have returned from a distant journey or having survived a harrowing experience only to be met with Love.