He came into the world so that those that are blind may see and those that see may become blind.
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
More and more we live in a time of deceptive certainty, of hubris, of bluster. Ours is an age wherein everyone has a sick need to be seen as strong, as certain, as right. The problem, however, is that when we live this way, we put ourselves in the place of God. No wonder we cannot hear him.
This sermon was preached at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina as part of their annual Lenten Speakers Series.
“You want to talk about ‘declaring a fast?’ You want to talk about what it means to ‘give something up?’ Then at some point we have stop talking about ourselves, and we have to start talking about Jesus. . . . Despite all our pretense about fasting and giving things up—always with twisted, understated hopes of improving ourselves or currying favor with God—the truth is completely the other way around. God has fasted for us! God in his Son Jesus Christ gave it all up for us! By virtue of the Cross, in a mystery that we will never fully understand, Jesus who was in the form of God—who had all the power and glory of God right at his fingertips—gave it up! fasted from it! emptied himself of it completely!“
The hard truth is that you will struggle with temptation for the rest of your days, and you will fail. Miserably. But there is one whose potency outweighs your incapacity, whose righteousness outweighs your sinfulness, whose proximity to God outweighs your temptation from God. He is Jesus: friend of sinners and vanquisher of Sin.
Lent is not about accomplishing things just for the sake of accomplishment. Lent is not about proving anything to anyone . . . not even to yourself, not even to God. Lent is not even about improving yourself or becoming holy, because the hard truth is you can’t. You, my friends, cannot make yourselves holy; only God can do that.
What, then, is Lent about? Lent is about the story of God’s love.
A stance of love and forgiveness toward even those who might destroy us, is not one of excusing their hate, but refusing to give it a home in our own hearts.
Jesus has already gone first. Jesus has run, and jumped, and clawed, and slung, and muscled, and sweated, and bled his way over the full height of the Law . . . and now he leans over it with his arms outstretched, calling to us, ready to pull us up and over.
If we Christians are going to talk about refugees—if we’re going to look through our faith as the lens for understanding any of this—then first we must stop and look up. Take your eyes to the Cross and remember that before that singular historical event two thousand years ago, we were refugees, too.
For when we find ourselves in a wasteland, either of our own making, or beyond our power to affect, we are always left with the question: What do we do now?