It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads or hears my sermon that I for sure wasted four hours of my life on the two-part Bachelor finale this week and y’all – I am so glad it is over! What a hot mess, but everyone seems happy in the end, so – okay?
Let’s all focus on Lent and get caught up in some actual world-changing drama, shall we??
Rehoboth Congregational Church
March 10, 2019
Getting Caught Up In The Drama Of The Easter Story
I have to be honest, on Monday morning, when I thought about the week ahead – which included three funerals, our Ash Wednesday service and our regular Sunday morning worship, I almost called someone else to preach for me this morning.
And then I remembered that I am entirely too much of a control freak to do that.
In all seriousness, though (and not to make this about me or anything, because it is not) I do want to thank you all for the love and support you have given me as I have navigated a particularly challenging and somewhat exhausting week of ministry. Thank you for the kind texts and emails and calls, for the coffee and food deliveries and, especially, for the prayers that held me up as I did this hard, but grace-filled work.
Thank you to everyone who helped out in some way, shape or form with all of our services this week, as well as the regular happenings of our church. I am so grateful for this church, for our village, for the Body of Christ.
One of the reasons that I was hesitant to just call someone else to preach was because it is the first Sunday of Lent and I think it is important for us, amidst the many moving parts that are happening in our church right now, to acknowledge that Lent has begun and really try to enter the season together.
Around 40 of us gathered on Wednesday evening for our Ash Wednesday service. It’s funny, because this is never a well-attended service (although it was better this year because I made the choir sing!); and when I asked people who do not come about it, while some people have a hard time with the timing of it all (being in the middle of the week at night), a lot of people kind of give me a funny look and say, “Isn’t that a Catholic thing?”
In fairness, I grew up thinking the same thing. In fact, the first Ash Wednesday service I ever attended was one that I led as a ministry intern when I was in seminary. But as time has gone on, I really have not only embraced, but also realized just how much I need to mark the different moments of the church year.
And so, for me, Ash Wednesday is not just something you do because that is what some religious tradition is dictating you do, but an opportunity to pause and intentionally enter the Lenten season.
Now, this begs the question, why is it important that we intentionally enter the Lenten season?
Well, I am so glad that you asked.
On Monday night, I was watching The Bachelor (which y’all know is my one vice that I hate that I love but, for some reason, just cannot stop watching); and I will not recap this train wreck for you, but I will say that, all season long, they have been teasing this very dramatic moment, which happened on Monday night. So Bruce comes home and I am very excitedly telling him all about it and, at one point, he stops me and says, “But don’t you know how this whole thing ends?”
Because, if you will also recall, I not only watch the show, but I also read spoilers online so I know what happens before the show actually airs.
And here is the bizarre part about the whole thing (I mean, of course, more bizarre than the fact that I watch it to begin with). It doesn’t really matter that I know how it is going to end; I am still caught up in the suspense and the drama of it all.
Now, I know what you are thinking; she really should have called someone else to preach this morning.
But here is where this comes back to Lent. The same is true of us, as Christians. As people living on this side of the resurrection, we know how this story is going to end.
When we enter the Lenten season, we know that it is going to end with resurrection; but going through this season – with Jesus in the wilderness, gathered around the table for the Passover meal, experiencing the betrayal, trial and crucifixion and then waiting with agony, but also with hope, for resurrection – it is hard not to get caught up in the suspense and the drama of it all.
Because, after all, this is why we gather in the first place. This is why the Christian Church first took form. This is why we believe in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ because that love conquered the grave on that first Easter morning.
This morning’s scripture reading from the Gospel of Mark is parable. And in this parable Jesus talks about a man who planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants, then went away to another country, sending slaves back to the tenants to collect the man’s share of the crops. Each of the slaves the man sent were seized, beaten and killed. Eventually the man decided to send his son, thinking that there was no way the tenants would kill his son; but they did.
So, Jesus says, the man had no choice but to destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others, citing the scripture:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes?
We know what Jesus is talking about here, right? His authority is being called into question and, as people living on this side of the resurrection, we get it! Heis the son that is going to be sent to die; heis the cornerstone.
When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.
The suspense and the drama are building here, too. The chief priests and the scribes and the elders that were questioning Jesus’ authority were starting to get nervous. They knew something big was about to happen and that it was going to change the trajectory of their lives in a way that the world would never be the same.
And maybe it is just because I am a church nerd, but even living on this side of the resurrection and knowing how the story ends, it is hard not to get caught up in it all.
Because no matter what your Christology is – what you believe about Christ and who he was – (which I know we all fall on various ends of the spectrum) I think we can all agree that the Easter narrative is a compelling story; it unfolds the parable we heard in this morning’s scripture reading. This man, who came into our world – our imperfect and broken world – in the most humble and simple way, is the son. He is the son who God called from heaven at his baptism and named, “You are my Son, the Beloved,” whose authority was called into question from the very beginning, who preached a message of light, love and grace, who called others to be in ministry with him, who reached out to the marginalized and the oppressed, who healed people who were sick and in pain. He is the son who invited his friends – who he knew were going to betray him – to share one final Passover meal with him, who died on a cross and who, after three days, was resurrected to new life.
And therein lies the hope of the Christian story.
That light always shines.
That love always wins.
That grace can always be uncovered.
That resurrection is real.
And so this is why I wanted to preach this morning; because I wanted to, as a congregation, intentionally enter the Lenten season together. I wanted to remind you that this season matters, that it boldly proclaims a story that is the reason that we gather in the first place. I wanted to invite you all, even though you know how it ends, to get caught up in the suspense and the drama of it all so that, on Easter morning, you can be just as surprised and overwhelmed by grace as the women who found the empty tomb were.
Consequently, while I was writing this sermon on Thursday night, Bruce came home from choir and I asked him if he wanted to watch the episode of NCIS that I had seen advertised during the Super Bowl that was supposed to be extremely suspenseful and dramatic. Bruce looked at me and asked, “How long ago did it air?”
“Beginning of February.”
“Did you read about it so you already know what happens?’
I think you all know the answer to that question.
It doesn’t matter.
It want to watch it anyway.
Friends, the Lenten season is upon us. And this year, I would encourage you, no matter what is going on in your life – no matter how many moving parts there might be – to get caught up in the drama and the suspense of the Easter story. Because it is compelling, it is real, it is human and it is the cornerstone of our faith.
And so on Easter morning, I want you to feel that hope; I want you to not only celebrate resurrection, but know that it is real and that it is still happening in your life today.
Thanks be to God!