08 March 2015, Lent 3
10.30 Sung Eucharist
I Corinthians 1. 18-25; John 2. 13-22
May our minds, Lord, be open to hear your word, may our hearts be open to receive your love. Amen.
During the quiet winter months whilst nature is sleeping, the Church certainly isn’t, as it takes us on a roller coaster ride. We celebrated the joy of Christ’s arrival on earth in December, three months later we mourn his death, only three days after that we celebrate his resurrection and new life.
Between these big events, we have Lent, where we are asked to awaken ourselves spiritually, to prepare, get ready to accept and celebrate the whole point of Christian life – of Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection.
What, though, are we celebrating?
It can seem odd to look forward to Easter with Christ’s death being such a significant part of events. I imagine we are all pretty uncomfortable with death – even though we know it’s something none of us can avoid.
Society at large often seems in wonderful denial – pinning its hopes on the cult of youth – all the millions of pounds spent on attaining perpetual youth. It’s sheer folly. This desire for adults not to age, to remain as youthful, as long as possible, is related to us not being able to face up to our own mortality. We aren’t celebrating youth, so much as, we are fearing death.
As we know, death is one hundred percent guaranteed; acceptance, rather than denial, might seem a smarter way to go. So yes, we are all going to die. And with that, for most of us, comes fear, real fear.
But fear of what, exactly?
Is it fear of losing all that we know, all that we have, losing our families, our friends, those we love?
Is it fear of the unknown, what happens to us, where we go?
Is it fear of oblivion – of our complete non-existence? Full-stop. Our dead end.
Jesus certainly struggled with death, for him it was slow and painful. But he faced his death, absorbed the agony he knew others were going to inflict upon him. Christ sacrificed himself for us, took on the burden of our sin and then through his resurrection, transcended death. Death does not have the last word.
Christ gives us a hope beyond death, a future, a new life. The shock of Easter is not so much with Christ’s death, but his resurrection, where Christ offers us an existence beyond physical death. ‘If you believe in me I will offer you eternal life’.
For most of us, that’s probably a big ask, but then Christ is giving us something quite incredible. Paul tells us in the first reading that accepting Christian belief does depend on your terms of reference.
The Jews demanded a sign that they would understand, the Greeks demanded logic and reason to comprehend. It’s really no different to-day, so many people will only accept God on their own terms or with a level of proof limited to our earthly condition. ‘If I understand then I will believe’. Belief though lives in the heart, which then informs the mind. Most agnostics and atheists work the other way round and so cannot reach belief.
Christ is asking us to believe in Him, then we will understand. He is asking us to look for Him in God’s terms, not under our own terms. He is asking us to yield ourselves, to reach Him.
It is not about his power trip, but the need for us to give up our own power, to be able to search out the God of love. God’s love is beyond ourselves, so we need to reach out to know God and to respond in faith to his love.
In today’s gospel reading, when Jesus said ‘destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up’, he was talking about the temple of his body, of God living within. He was talking of his resurrection and living beyond death, of God being eternal, indestructible. The disciples remembered this and they believed. They believed Christ’s offer for them to join Him in eternal life.
Paul’s first reading message is black and white, we can’t half believe. We either believe or we don’t.
Lent is a time we set aside to allow ourselves to draw back from the business and habits of daily life, to give ourselves time to explore our beliefs, to renew our faith. It is a time for us to renew our trust in Jesus. A time for us to walk hand in hand with the disciples, to share in the strength of their faith.
Treat this time during Lent as a precious gift. A gift of spiritual connection, to renew our trust in Christ.