Epistle Hebrews 10:4-10
4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
GOSPEL: Luke 1:26-38
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Our purpose today is Repentance: The belief and action of sincere regret or remorse. Although we have explored this theme recently, it is such a complex subject area we could spend an entire year on it and never touch the ending conclusion.
It is true we must deal with the remorse and regret; however, the action themes are practically endless. For example, trying not to let our memory of a certain incident cloud our faith requirements to forgive.
We have touched on forgiveness a number of times in the past and I am sure we will tackle it again in the future. Today, we are going to explore the healing nature of forgiveness.
How many of us have made a mistake and wished we didn’t have to suffer the consequences of that mistake? I know I have. In fact, in my weakest times, that is all I can remember. The list of mistakes each of us have made is enormous. It has the ability to consume us. Sometimes it does!
The mind is a funny thing. It stores huge amounts of information. Some of it we can recall, and other parts are deeply seeded in the depths of our memory. For those suffering from dementia, the first diagnostic tool is recognizing the separation of long- and short-term memory. Often dementia patients begin to recall long term events as though they were current events.
When it comes to repentance, we often lose both our short- and long-term memory. That is why Lent is so important, it requires us to focus on both our short- and long-term memories and seek a forgiving tone for each.
Certainly, long-term issues must be dealt with constructively, even it is impossible to correct them. Short -term issues are only slightly easier to deal with. The battle is not necessarily about forgiveness, it is about how to store that memory safely in a place where healing can take place.
In the Hebrew Bible, Abraham, Samuel and David called the question by saying, “Here am I”. Repentance is about the ability to focus on the “HERE” and “OURSELVES”. The only true repentance is that which comes from within us. Repentance is not an external behavior. It is exclusively and internal behavior. It includes no one but us.
I an only responsible for my behavior and actions. It I demonstrate malice; it is I who must take responsibility for it. If I am emotionally hurt by someone else, I am the only one who can heal me. It would be helpful if the person who hurt me stepped up, but I cannot rely on that.
As I mentioned earlier, it is not comfortable to endure the consequences of our mistakes. Curiously, often that discomfort helps us. Sometimes it helps us to choose our words more carefully and sometimes it helps of to recognize poor behavior in others that will motivate us to behave better in the future.
When we recall the Mary Story, we see this played out clearly. Mary hears this crazy information about a virgin birth, I can only imagine the consequences running through her head. Yet somewhere in this crazy story she turns to her faith and says, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”
When we take on the position of God’s servant, there are very few consequences that cannot be overcome. In fact, if we survey our long-term memory, we will discover we have traverse hundreds of consequences virtually unscathed.
As our glum and doom culture tries to expand, it is up to us to be the force field against it. In all things there is a way. Jesus said it himself. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” It is through our belief in God and Jesus that we find strength in the consequences of our old behavior. “The time has come,” said Jesus. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the Good News!”
Go in PEACE
Epistle Romans 8:6-11
6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[a] because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[b] his Spirit who lives in you.
This Ends the Reading of Our Epistle Lesson Today
GOSPEL: John 11: 38-43
Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
The Plot to Kill Jesus
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
This Ends the Reading of Our Gospel Lesson Today
Our purpose today is once again Reflection –linking the life of the mind and heart together, intellectual curiosity with humility. It is curious that our Epistle lesson speaks to the contrast between the mind and the Spirit. Reflecting on the link between the mind and the heart is exactly the same. It requires our heart to receive the Spirit. We only use 3% of our brains so, why do we think the brain is superior to the heart?
Thinking through Paul’s letter to the Romans we see him challenging them to relinquish their minds in order to allow the Spirit in. This act of release is the core of our faith. We must trust completely in God through Christ in order to allow our faith to flourish and grow. The practice of faith is the development of that trust.
It is well known that if you practice diligently you will acquire the muscle memory required to perform the task at hand. Faith is a muscle memory task. It has to be practiced daily so that when it is needed, we don’t have to think about it, our muscles just know to do it. Faith is an act. That means it must be performed in order for it to exist.
Our trust in God will wean if we fail to engage it every day. Sitting home watching terrorism vailed as journalism, weakens our faith. Politicians fighting when they should be working together demonstrates this axiom. They have been fighting so long they have lost the ability to work together. They have lost trust in one another and are always suspicious of the other’s tactics.
We are called to do only two things: Love God, our neighbor and ourselves, go into the world and make disciples. In many cases we have lost the muscle memory to do these things. The difference between muscle memory and long and short-term memory is that the latter is only in the mind. The former is entrenched in our physical being.
Our practice of faith is applied when we are challenged. We are being challenged by a disease that may harm us or our loved ones. If our faith is not fully rehearsed and prepared, this time will be very difficult. The good news is you now know the work you must do to get your faith into muscle memory shape.
We know the story of Lazarus and his sisters. We see how “out of practice” Martha was. We also see how well-prepared Mary is. In the Scripture just before ours today, Jesus has an interchange with both the sisters. The most striking and the shortest verse in the bible is when “Jesus wept.” He wept because he witnessed Mary, the most faith prepared woman in the world at that time, on her knees crying for her brother Lazarus. He was so moved that he wept at her faith and then brings Lazarus back to life.
The demonstration of faith provided by Mary for the second time, should give us pause to review our own faith. The reflection will be, am I like Mary or Martha? Am I prepared to exercise my faith unconditionally like God does with us or and I a fair-weather Christian? I would like to think we are all prepared to exercise our faith.
Only time we tell.
Go in PEACE