The Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 15, 2015
Topic: The essential nature of our spiritual identity
Scripture Lessons (RCL)
As Easter draws close, our Scripture lessons challenge us to take an accounting of our earthly life (of the flesh) versus life that the Spirit gives us. We have one foot in each life, and the balance we take between these lives identifies each of us.
Our physical identity is affected by external forces that can pull us into an addiction for practices and attitudes that rob us of healthy life and relationships.
Our spiritual identity holds onto the truth that we have already been adopted as God’s children.
Today’s Gospel lesson is a piece of the conversation that Jesus was having with the Pharisee Nicodemus. Nicodemus kept thinking about his faith life in an earthly way; in the physical dimension only. Jesus told him that in order to live in the Kingdom of God he must be born again. But Nicodemus could only think in earthly terms: How can you go back to the womb from which you were born?
Jesus was challenging him (and us) to take notice of, and to claim, his spiritual identity.
Moses was instructed by God to craft a serpent of bronze and mount it on a pole; those who trusted in it would be saved from death by poisonous snakes.
Jesus was sent by God to be raised on a cross, and those who trust in what that action stands for would be saved from spiritual death.
In our denomination we make a point to have bare crosses in our worship spaces; they are meant to remind us of the power of the resurrection of our Lord; the necklaces we wear are bare crosses; the crosses in our homes are probably, mostly bare crosses. I was given a crucifix with the corpus as an ordination gift by Fr. Mike Ferrito. I find deep meaning in it. I have placed it near my desk in my home office, and I have found myself reflecting on it during this Lent.
Having a cross with the corpus makes it impossible to miss the message of what the cross stands for. Jesus knew the damage that is done to each one of us through sin; the sins we commit and our sins of omission; but also the sins of others, and the harmful effect that those in-direct sins have on us. Sin travels like an Ebola virus and spreads through families, across the country, and around the globe.
If we understand sin as any action – or inaction – which we allow that ignores our spiritual identity as children of God; that action or inaction deeply grieves God, and it devalues why Jesus went to the cross.
Your vestry and I are reading a book dealing with our need to choose among all the pressures and activities and duties in our life; to identify and prioritize what is truly essential; what holds the most promise of enabling us to deliver the greatest value when it is done exceedingly well. This concept is about focusing our energies on what holds the greatest value, rather than allowing ourselves to be spread so thin that we cannot excel at anything. Making this decision to choose what is really essential to us replaces the option of letting other people, letting our jobs, or letting our culture dictate what will be most important to us.
The crucifix with the corpus of Christ is the most graphic image I can imagine of the essential value Jesus held for the sacrifice he made. And in Scriptures Jesus tells us that he did it to give us the motivation and the inspiration to claim the essential importance of our own spiritual identity.
Paul said that you and I have been raised up just as Jesus has been raised up, so that the life that he modeled and taught would become our way of life.
We are approaching the end of Lent; but will reaching the end of this season weaken our focus on the life Jesus died to give us? Or can we pick up the message of the cross and use that message to inspire our commitment to teach children about our faith tradition; and to re-energize our work with the children in the Sudan; and to re-engage with our Christian roots by joining a Bible study group; and to invest some time in talking about this faith community to our friends and co-workers, and invite them to come with us to church some weekend soon?
It takes a personal commitment from each of us; from all of us; to use the power Jesus earned for us on the cross, to make a difference. Jesus did not say that God loved his faithful followers so much that he gave his only Son. Jesus said that God loved the whole world; the doubters, the unbelievers, the enemies, the slackers, and the followers so much – God loves every human being on this torn apart planet so much, that He sent his Son to the cross to motivate us and inspire us to turn humanity to God and change the way we live.
Jesus said, “Those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” What new deeds shall we embark on as we look to the event horizon and see the corpus of Christ on the cross?