28th February 2021

Lent 2

Romans 4.13-end
Mark 8.31-end
Rev Canon Cheryl Collins

May I speak in the name of God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Searching for an example of trust, I realized that I need look no further than the end of the bed. There she was, as ever, curled up asleep. I knew that if I woke her up and invited her to roll onto her back she would, trusting that what I was planning was to rub her tummy. I once saw a t-shirt that said ‘I aspire to be the person my dog thinks I am’ and you know, I could really do a lot worse. Trust is at the heart of faith, hope and love, the three things that Paul tells us last forever. When we trust someone, we put faith our in who they are and draw our evidence from their words, actions and behaviour thus far. Therefore, faith, hope
and love in the Bible do not rely on us and what we do, but on God: on who God is and what God has done. Trust requires us to put our faith and hope in something we cannot grasp or control, instead we learn to trust through relationship.

Peter trusted Jesus but in today’s reading he also sought to control him. Today’s gospel comes just after Peter has answered the question that Jesus puts to all hisdisciples ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter declared that Jesus was the Messiah, but he also expected Jesus to follow the roadmap for the Messiah of God and lead God’s people in battle against the Roman occupiers to free the land and the people to live once again as God’sspecial people. When Jesus responded to Peter’s declaration by beginning to teach the disciples about his suffering and death Peter did not want to hear it. It was almost as if he missed the last part about rising again after three days because he was so horrified by the suffering, rejection and death.

There is a temptation for all of us to want to follow the easy way, the way that will cost us nothing. Jesus rebukes Peter, and his teaching about taking up ourcross is difficult to hear. Trusting Jesus will cost us it seems. Throughout his life and teachings Jesus, makes clear that the hope he embodies,the invitation he holds out to us is not passive. We can’t just idly trust that things will get better. Instead, our trust in Jesus calls us both to reflection and to action.We are invited to sort and sift ourselves during Lent, to discern what barriers weare putting up to following Jesus in faith and hope. We are called to participate with God in working for the wholeness that God desires for us and for the whole world.

Trusting in God in a world of fear may be the most radical thing we do in our whole lives, to do it consistently is one of the hardest things. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the forces that live in fierce opposition to God’s wholeness but we are called to live in hope. To hope against hope, as Paul writes of Abraham in our first reading. We are called to hope where there seems no cause for hope, to hope in the face of forces that work against hope. We are called to let God expand our hopes in ways we cannot possibly yet imagine. Think of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. They hoped that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel, but they had a very narrow definition of what that would look like. Walking and talking with them, Jesus reminded them of the pattern of hope that weaves through the Bible, that the God who in the beginning created a whole world from things that do not exist, can bring life to the dead just as he broughtfruitfulness to Abraham and Sarah, long after they assumed they had lost their
chance for parenthood.

We are invited to the same radical trust that Abraham showed. We are invited to place our hope in God. And of course, we can only test God’s trustworthiness by trusting him.We belong to a God who tells us, as Jesus tells his hearers, that what is torn down will be raised up, and what is destroyed will live again. Because we belong to this God, hope lives even when we feel we have lost it, and cannot summon it up in ourselves. It is part of what Christ has come to give us and all we need do is reach out our hands in faith and trust.

We are invited to live our lives, every single breath, as gifts from God. To live our lives with empty hands held open, trusting that God will fill them and to be open to the purposes for which God has given us those gifts. Jesus lives out that pattern for us to follow. He is always open to God’s gifts, always looking and listening for what the Father is doing so that he can join in. It started him on a career of giving himself away, which came to a logical conclusion on the cross when he gave away his life as a gift for us. It doesn’t make any sense in the world’s eyes. The power of giving yourself away was not the power that the disciples were hoping Jesus would exercise. So, it was not surprising that Peter did not want to hear any talk of suffering and death from Jesus. He did not want Jesus to give anything away, least of all himself. And of course, we can only test God’s trustworthiness by trusting him.He wanted Jesus to take- take control of the situation, -take back power from the invaders and their puppet collaborators- take up his rightful role as king messiah.

But Jesus was a giver not a taker, and he invites us to be the same. God invites us to share in his giving. Hope does not depend on us, but it cannot do without us. God keeps on providing for us in extravagant stubbornness. But hope needs us to give it legs in the world, to bear it into places of hopelessness, to enter into the rhythms of giving ourselves away and discovering new life as we follow Christ and work with
him for the healing of the world. Living this life of trust, openness and giving does not have to be dramatic. Our gifts can be gifts of time, of attention, of openness to connecting with others. Each gift breaks the perceived barrier between the sacred and the mundane and lets the life of God flood in to our whole lives and the lives of those we give ourselvesto.

We live in a world where trust has been damaged by falsehood and hope often seems like an illusion. We may feel overwhelmed by the challenges around us. But we belong to the God who brings life out of nothing and light out of darkness, who made us heirs of a few frightened Galilean peasants who built a worldwide church. We stand on the shoulders of countless faithful pilgrims who placed their hope and trust, not in themselves but in God. Therefore we can have hope and trust in our turn.