Lent I, Feb. 24 2007, Harvey IL
The Season of Lent…. season of repentance… season of change
The slow and painful time when we remember the moment Jesus Christ turned his face toward
Jerusalem and began his slow march to the cross.
The season of Lent
The time we remember that Jesus Christ took upon himself the full
burden of our sin… our greed… our prejudice… our faithlessness
Our sickness and our fear
The season of Lent
The time we open our lives to God and ask him to turn our face
toward our own Jerusalem so that we can see the profound
and cruel depths of our own sin… our own prejudice… our own
faithlessness… our own sickness and fear…
and realize anew we were the one who hung Jesus on the Cross
That we were the ones who screamed for his crucifixion
We were the ones who hammered in the nails
This season of Lent… 2007… strange and painful things are happening in the world. Our Presiding Bishop, Primate of the American Church has just returned from the meeting of all the Anglican Primates… the major leaders of the world-wide Anglican Communion. There, she was told that the American Church must stop the progress we have been making toward full justice and inclusion of all baptized Christians within the life of the church.
There, she was told that the American Church must refuse to bless and recognize the faithful, loving relationships of gay and Lesbian Christians. There, she was told that the American church must refuse to allow qualified and faithful gay clergy to seek the office of bishop. There, she was told that the American Church must either deny, exclude and mistreat a faithful minority of its members or be excluded and denied full membership in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
This decision comes at a strange, ironic and contradictory time of year. It comes just at the beginning of Lent… the season of repentance for our sins. It also comes in the Middle of Black History Month… the month in which we celebrate the ways that
racial and ethnic minorities have struggled for full inclusion and equality in society.
And the irony is that this movement to force the church to exclude the one minority from the life of the church was led, in part, by Minority Bishops from countries that we used to call the Third-World. These bishops are from nations that have struggled to achieve acceptance and equality and fairness within the life of the church.
And they had partners in this action. Their partners were a
collection of extremely wealthy powerful conservative, American church leaders… a group which has claimed, over and over again, that they are a small, powerless minority fighting for their rights amid a large, insensitive, liberal powerful church. And both groups seek to gain power and control over the entire American Church.
by forcing the church to exclude one of its important minorities.
And the ironic contradiction is that the one minority that included true victims of prejudice and discrimination has immediately sought to victimize others once they come into power. And their wealthy, conservative extremists partners seek to gain power by pretending to be poor, victimized minorities. Perhaps we might say, here as Lent begins, that these important religious leaders have succumbed to the sin of Power and Pride. They seek to enhance their power and bask in their pride by trying the steal the faith, the hope and the place in the church so painfully found by their brothers and sisters who are lesbian and gay.
Our Gospel today gives us a powerful reflection of this new situation. Satan offers Jesus all the powers of the world. All he has to do is bow down and worship the Devil. All he has to do is abandon his mission… give up everything he knows to be true and right… and betray the deepest truths of his soul.
How often did Martin Luther King and the great heroes of the Civil Rights Movement face this same choice? We can imagine that people with great money and power may have said things like:
“Give up these demands for justice and equality… and we’ll give you anything you want. Stop marching for freedom… Stop demonstrating for equality… and we’ll give you all the power… and luxury and good times you could ever desire.” I bet the mayors, bank presidents, country club presidents and sheriffs of the big southern cities tempted King and the other leaders of the movement over and over again. Thank God they had the courage the courage to say… “Get thee behind me Satan… Thou shalt worship the Lord your God… and only God alone.”
These issues that beset the international church are very complicated and controversial. Many fine and faithful people hold very different and contradictory opinions. Today, many deeply religious people hold up their prejudice and bigotry as if it were the absolute will of God. But didn’t our parents and grand parents see this same thing happen in the churches across America fifty years ago?
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King and many our revered leaders had to contend with highly religious people who believed that their deeply held prejudices… their power and their pride… were the absolute will of God. Well… those kinds of people were wrong then… And we believe they are still wrong today.
As we enter into this season of lent, let us remember that Jesus calls us to build a world where all people can be accepted as equal brothers and sisters, in spite of racial, ethnic, religious or sexual differences. Let us remember that Jesus calls us to build a church
where all Christians are called to serve God as equal brothers and sisters, whether they are black or white, male of female, gay or straight… no matter what language they speak or what country they call home.
As we enter this season of Lent, let us remind our Bishop… and our Presiding Bishop… and the other Bishops of the church… that
they are called to be faithful and to do God’s work… even when the rich and powerful of this world tempt them to fall into the sin
of seeking power and pride by giving up God’s call to build a world where all of God’s people can be accepted, saved, holy, righteous and free.
As we enter this season of Lent, let us remember that power and pride can be very good things. They are important nutrients for our soul. We need power and pride to do God’s work and hold fast to who we are and what we believe. But when the lust for power and pride cause people to do cruel and evil things, then they have become poison for the soul and a cancer upon the spirit and must be repented, forgiven and removed.
As we enter into this season of Lent, let us look at ourselves and
ask what we can do to purify our hearts so that we do not victimize ourselves or others with our own wrong use of power or pride. When have we blindly wounded those we love… or those we influence by bad decisions, unkind words or foolish actions?
When have we wounded ourselves or our world through our own
blind, thoughtless and foolish ways?
As we enter this season of Lent, let us remind ourselves that Jesus
died… and Jesus rose again… so that all humanity might be redeemed, accepted, equal and free. As we enter into this season of
Lent, let us re-double our efforts to build this church, and to do God’s will. Let us be faithful to God who created us… Christ
who redeemed us… and the spirit who empowers us… Amen
The Rev. Rod Reinhart
St. Clement’s Episcopal Church
15245 S. Loomis, at 153rd St.
Harvey Illinois, 60426