Sermon March 5th 2017



There are special words for people like me; instigator - trouble maker - pot stirrer just to name a few. While I don't actually go around deliberately looking for trouble, when the opportunity arises I can't resist opening my mouth and putting in my two cents worth, and today's scripture readings are too good to resist.  The church I grew up in taught two very specific things; first the Bible is the literal word of God and is therefore not to be questioned under any circumstances. Secondly in the old testament lesson, Eve listened to the serpent and ate of the forbidden fruit, and therefore she is to be blamed for causing all humanity  to fall into sin. That passage of scripture has been used for centuries to exclude women from leadership roles within the church.  However in our new testament reading seven times the "literal words of God" clearly put the blame on "one man" and even names that man as Adam.


      A couple of years ago I quoted a famous scientist who was supposed to have said "God must be a fantastic mathematician." In our Gospel lesson we are told that we must not put God to a test in order to find out if this is true or not, but a check of the scriptures does find that God seems to have a preference for the number 40.


       We just heard of the temptation of Jesus lasting 40 days



       We remember the 40 days and nights of rain in the great flood



       We also remember the Israelite's  wandering in the desert for 40 years.


       Co-incidentally 2017 is the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Anglican church in Canada.


       and while it is not mentioned in the scriptures, in modern liturgy we have


       40          days of advent, and


       40          days of lent


       This year the time of lent began four days ago with Ash Wednesday and continues with the lead-up to Easter on April 16th. We know the whole story, but 2000 years ago it was different. Jesus was starting a long journey that would take him to Jerusalem just in time for the feast of the Passover.  We cannot be sure how long it took him to make the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, but regardless of the actual time I am sure that walking that distance while taking time out to teach, tell stories, heal the sick and warn, not only his disciples, but everyone else of what the consequences of un-repentance would be, could easily take at least 40 days.


       Today is the first Sunday of the Lenten season and we will follow Jesus as me makes the journey to Jerusalem that will end with his Crucifixion.        It was also a very frustrating time for Jesus. God had given him a dangerous assignment. Make it to Jerusalem in time for the feast of the Passover, and on the way, convince everyone that this is their last chance to repent.


       If the people were to keep on doing what they have been doing they are going to bring down the wrath of the entire Roman Empire, and God will not protect them, unless they co-operate with Him. God is ready! It is time for a change! Jesus has been proclaiming the kingdom of God. It is here now He said "Repent and and you will be saved."


       They did not understand. They wanted a messiah who would destroy the enemy with fire and brimstone. But that was not God's way. Jesus preached peace and love. Over and over Jesus tried to explain it, but no one could understand. Everyone was caught up in a frenzy of anticipation of some huge turn around. Israel would be violently delivered out of the hands of their enemies. Every day Jesus told stories, used the power God had given him to perform miracles of healing, and tried every way he could to make the people listen to what he was really saying.


       Every day he would take his disciples into the mountains and pray.

       Matthew 26.39:          

              And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’


       Put that prayer into plain English,


       "Father if it is possible could you give this job to someone else, they are not really listening to me. Never the less, I will continue if you really want me to."


       It had not been his plan to die, but he was willing to give up his life, if that was what it would take in order to get God's message across. It was not difficult for Jesus to look into the future and predict the outcome of what he was trying to do. He knew what would happen if he failed. He was going to Jerusalem for Passover and if his message did not get through to the people, the wrath of Rome would first fall on Him, and then on all of Israel.


       He had tried to warn them many times that he would be killed; but they were oblivious to his warnings. All they could understand was that Jesus had said that the kingdom of God was here now!; and that meant nothing could possibly stand in God's way. They would enter Jerusalem with Jesus at the head of a big parade: God would do the rest, Israel's enemies would be vanquished and all they would have to do was celebrate.


       What they never did understand is the same thing we have not really been able understand today. Without our collaboration God will not do anything and without God's collaboration we are helpless. or to put it into the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu


God without us will not!

and we without God cannot!