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  • Writer's pictureChurch of the Incarnation

Lent 2: For the Next Generation

Jesus really doesn’t mince words with Peter this morning: get behind me Satan, you are setting your mind on the things of this world and not the things of God. In other words, you’re setting your mind on things you can see and control and that suit you, rather than letting go of these things and following me in faith. 

Of course poor Peter has just said what you and I would likely say to Jesus if our expected Messiah, our saviour sent by God told us that he was going to suffer and die and then in three days rise again: “what are you talking about Jesus, that’s crazy talk. Stop saying this. It’s impossible for God’s Son to die. But more, if you say this, who on Earth will follow us? You’ll defeat our mission.

But this is precisely the mentality and the words that Jesus rebukes with his, “get behind me Satan.” Why? Because Peter’s response makes it clear that he has forgotten how God shows up in history and what this means about who Jesus is, and how he will fulfill God’s mission, but also, what it will mean for Peter to truly follow Jesus.

How do we know this? Well look at our reading from Genesis this morning and Paul’s commentary on Abraham’s faith in our reading from Romans. Who is Abraham and what does his faith look like? Abraham is the Israelite, a very old man Israelite, through whom God promises to deliver a king - that king ultimately - if you look at Jesus’s genealogy - is Jesus himself; Jesus as king will gather not just the Israelites, but through his own lineage of adoption, he opens up adoption for us gentiles. But that lineage includes what? It includes a son, Isaac, whom God asks Abraham to sacrifice. This request for sacrifice isn’t really given a reason, at least one that we, or Abraham can see. Yet it is asked by God. And what is provided in place of Abraham’s sacrifice of his child? Jesus Christ. “I will provide the sacrifice,” God says to Abraham only after Abraham demonstrates his faithfulness to God. In Isaac’s place goes the lamb. Lamb of God, take away the sins of the world. 

But it is not Abraham’s sacrifice nor his faith by which humanity is saved. We see in Abraham and his descendents doubt, fear, anxiety, failure, atrocity, and a thin strain of faithfulness through history. That faithfulness however, only reaches the point of changing the world when the man, Jesus, who because he is also God, can take on every single person’s doubt, fear, failure and sin. Only the one whose very being is the eternal source of everyone else’s life, can each person who comes to exist, have their faithfulness met by real hope: the hope that God is with us, for us, and in us remaking us as we were intended by God in the first place. 

That’s not something Abraham or Isaac or you and I can see. It’s also not something we can control. Instead, we’re asked to step into Jesus’s mission just like Abraham did: by faith. Faith is the conviction to stay the course; being willing to make sacrifices of our comforts, our ways, so that like Abraham and Sarah, we can give our resources for nurturing a new generation of Christians. What ways can we do that as individuals? As a congregation. That is what we are being asked to discern as we, like Abraham, come to the end of our years. AMEN.   

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