Sunday, March 1, 2015

Lent 2B Sermon - The Nails Followed

Mark 8:31-38:

“Then [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,

[The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes were members of the Sanhedrin. In other words: the city council of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus and his disciples.]

[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,

and be killed, 

and after three days rise again. 

He said all this quite openly. 

And Peter took him [off to the] side and began to rebuke him. 

But turning and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, 

‘Get behind me, Satan! 

For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

He [then] called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow… 
[If any want to become my followers, let them… follow… ]

For those who want to save their life/soul will lose it, and those who lose their life/soul for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 

For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life/soul? 

Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

The Gospel of Our Lord. Praise to you, O Christ. 
In Mark, it seems to have started with the call of Levi—

a tax collector. 

Everybody knows about the tax collectors. Despised, hated, known for abusing their power, ripping people off, not sharing their power or their goods…

“Selling out,” selling their souls to Rome for the sake of a house of gold. 

Trading faithfulness to their communities for the sake of private gain…

Tax collectors. This, at least, is how they were caricatured. 

Of course, Jesus called Levi to follow him, 
which means Levi left his post—
so it’s not such a bad thing, really. 

We could easily read Levi’s call as a traditional 
“repent!” followed by an “ok! I will!” story. 

A perfect fit for Moody radio, for sure. “Unshackled!” 

But here’s the catch: 

right after he called Levi, Jesus went to Levi’s house 

and ate with Levi’s friends—

friends who, in the classifications of the day 
were simply labelled 

“the sinners.” 

The sinners!

This is who this so-called holy man, this rabbi, this prophet associates with?!

The sinners?!

Of all people…

My God… Who does he think he is?

The sinners…. The tax collectors…


One time.

And that was it. 

Chapter 2 of this little Gospel, 
and Jesus is already labeled.

He eats with 
the sinners, 
and the tax collectors. 

Those people.
The fringe, 
the outcasts, 
Them: not us. 
Not us: Them.
“over there,” “on the edge.”

At the margin.

The place we put garbage dumps
and cemeteries
and crucifixion sites.

All that good, 
and it turns out that Jesus is just 
one of those radicals. 

And we thought he was one of our own:
Bethlehem’s Child. 


The scribes and the pharisees become offended

Already. In chapter 2. 

Although, of course, tensions rise later. 

But already. In chapter 2. 

From that point on in the Gospel, 
from that point on, Jesus is watched—accused of breaking this law and that law. 

Accused of being unclean. 

Rejected in his hometown.

And (despite the motivation of love and compassion 
shown in his miraculous gifts), 
accused of deriving miraculous power from demons and not really God…

Accused of being a demon himself…

To top it off, his mentor and friend, the man who baptized him, John the baptist, 

in chapter six, 
we hear, has been killed
for calling the king, 
to repentance, 
and offending Herod’s wife. 

You know that story, as well. 

By the time we get to chapter eight, to today’s reading, Jesus has been even more vocally criticizing the established order, 

raising even more tension among the religious snobs 
and the culturally elite, 

and he’s still feeding a lot of people—he fed 4,000 at the beginning of this chapter and 5,000 in chapter six. 

And he’s still preaching:

The kingdom starts as a seed. But then it takes over the whole field…

So, now, it was time. 

[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo 

suffering, rejection, and death, and after three days, rise again. 

He said all this quite openly. 

And it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

It’s great when God’s reign means
feeding the hungry, 
casting out demons, 

and so on.

That’s the kind of stuff the city council gives you a ribbon for, or a photo with mayor. 

It was not so great when God’s reign meant the 
lifting up of “the sinners” and the outcasts, and the marginalized people with whom Jesus associated. 

This was neither the repentance nor the good news these pharisees learned in Sunday school—
this change of heart
and change of everything 

was a lot more difficult. 

It was a burden, a sacrifice, a stumbling block…

It was a bit of a cross to bear… 


[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo  suffering, rejection, and death, and after three days, rise again.

Jesus’ cross, of course, was already taken up. 


Jesus’ cross was taken up when he decided not only to cure and to heal people, 

but also to proclaim a new reign—

a reign, a kingdom, 

an order that incorporated 
and lifted up 
and freed those who were excluded by society

a reign that “called into being those who have no being” as said so well by St. Paul, 

A reign that called the religious elites—
and not simply the ones the elites labeled as “sinners”—
to repentance. 

To re-orientation.

A reign that pulls those in power out of the work of alienating and excluding, into a community where all are fed and nourished, 

not hidden, 

or locked away, 

or ignored, 

Jesus’ cross began with love for the unloveable, forgiveness for the unforgivable, 
and loving embrace of the untouchable and “defiled.” 

Jesus’ cross came when Jesus decided to love. 

Jesus’ cross came when he took a seat at the table.

With the tax collectors 

and with the sinners.

The nails simply followed. 

And he asks his disciples to do the same. 

Hymn of the Day: House of Gold, Hank Williams 

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