Lenten Sermon Series: Giving it up – Our Lives
Giving Up our Lives
Lent 5 2016
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Lenten Sermon Series topic this morning is “Giving up our Lives.”
Let me start by reading the little teaser paragraph that the outline I’ve been working off gives:
“God creates life from death, nothingness, and hopelessness. The Bible is full of such paradoxes, as Jesus tells us that those who try to keep their lives will die, but those who give up their lives for others will live. We are used to thinking of life in terms of fixed beginnings and ends, but the story of Jesus calls us to throw away our old categories and embrace God’s larger vision of eternal life that begins here and now.”
My mentor, Father Parke, used to counsel couples prepping for marriage by saying to the man that one of the hardest things for a man to do is to just listen to his wife. What a man wants to do is fix things. When the car breaks down, he wants to fix it. When the pipe leaks he wants to fix it. And when his wife tells him about all the problems and all the little things that went on throughout the day, what he really wants to do is to fix them. What she wants, though, is just for him to listen, uninterruptedly to what she is saying. She doesn’t want him to fix it. She just wants him to hear what she is saying and in some sense, just be present with her.
For a man, to be presented with a problem that he cannot fix is one of the most gut wrenching and frustrating events in life, let alone being presented with a problem he’s not supposed to fix.
When I was doing my Clinical Pastoral Experience at a nursing home in Wisconsin, we used to get together with the instructor daily to talk. One of the things that he said in several conversations with us students was that our role in ministering to people is not about having all the answers. You see, we were all guys in our group. He said our role is not to have the answer but to help people to “live with the question.”
I’m a guy. I hated that statement. I thought to my self “no no no. I’m here at seminary to get the answers to the questions that people are asking about life and God and religion and morals and any other sort of thing that someone might ask a priest short of directions to the next church.”
But I’ve come to realize that what he said is true.
My job as your priest is not have all the answers. I would like to. God knows I would.
My role here, is to share with you the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And to point you to him at every opportunity I can. Sometimes, I fail, because like you, I’m human, and I want to be able to help you and give you the answer to your question.
You and I both need to learn to live with the questions. The whys, the what ifs, the what could have beens, the what happens now questions.
Those are hard questions to live with. They’re hard because we feel, in an inexplicable sense, that life can only happen when we’ve answered those questions. We try to cope with those questions with false answers.
IN the ancient world, they thought that so and so got sick and died because they had done some terrible sin. Sin was the explanation of everything from leprosy to the common cold. So and so was born blind because his parents had sinned.
In our modern world, we think we’ve moved on from such trite responses to difficult questions. But in truth, the secular world has some of the same silly attempts to answer those difficult questions.
Doris day Sang: When I was just a little girl / I asked my mother / What will I be / Will I be pretty / Will I be rich / Here’s what she said to me / Que sera, sera / Whatever will be, will be / The future’s not ours to see / Que sera, sera / What will be, will be.
In our own day, we don’t have songs but we have little quips like “It is what it is.”
And Here’s the “So What” of what I’ve been saying.
We use these answers because we are more comfortable about life with them then living life with out them. We use these little quips, these trite answers, because without answers to these difficult questions we feel lifeless.
The Gospel’s response to these difficult questions is not to some trite answer to numb the question.
In fact, the way that our Lord wants us to answer those questions is the perhaps the most difficult part of being a Christian. It may be in fact why so many people who call themselves Christian really fall short of the mark of living faithfully.
The answer to the question lies in Christ. Not having an answer to life’s most difficult question leaves us feeling lifeless, it leaves us dead.
Paul in his letter to the Colossians Chapter 3, however, reminds us of this: “…you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Attempting to answer the questions which we cannot answer in this world is an attempt to have life. But that life is not the true life which is ours in Christ.
IN order to have that life, we must give up trying to fix the problems we face, and instead turn to God.
Why? Because as I started out this morning saying “God creates life from death, nothingness, and hopelessness. The Bible is full of such paradoxes, as Jesus tells us that those who try to keep their lives will die, but those who give up their lives for others will live.”
It’s ok not to have an answer to every question. It’s okay to hurt and suffer because we don’t have the answers. Men, especially need to hear that. IT’s only when we have died, that our true life, Christ’s life, can truly begin to grow in us.
That’s not easy. No for you, not for me, not for any of us. But it’s what we must do to live faithfully in the Kingdom of God. In order to truly have life, we must give up this old thing we think is our life, so that Christ may live in us.
TO him be the glory, now and forever. Amen.