Texts: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16;Psalm 22:22-30;Romans 4:13-25;Mark 8:31-38
For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them; *
but when they cry to him he hears them.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied,
and those who seek the LORD shall praise him: *
“May your heart live for ever!”
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart bless you, Oh Lord, my rock and my salvation. Amen.
Did God demand that Abram walk blameless before him before God would bless him? Did Jesus know for sure that God would raise him from the dead before offering up his life for humanity? “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” Born in this earthbound kingdom, we, like Peter, cannot grasp the math of the Kingdom of God. In this world one plus one equals two and hundred year old men and women cannot have children. If we would seek to follow Jesus and find the peace and joy that God offers, we will need to let go of all we understand about the Meritocracy of earth and ask God to help us learn the ways of His Kingdom of Love.
“If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.” In this world we want to believe that every action brings a defined and specific reaction. We learned our sums in school and want to believe they apply to everything. We conveniently forget that we also learned algebra and that like life most times there are multiple factors involved that we are unaware of. Rather than acknowledge what we know about life we become angry when our expectations aren’t met. Even if our math could be applied none of us are capable of following the rules. All have fallen short of the glory of God. Even the best of us have lied, or stolen, or lusted, or desired what isn’t our, or put our trust in something other God. Under the law those failures put us in violation of the law and the penalty is death. As Paul tells us, if we put our trust in the law we nullify the power of faith and make all of God’s promises void ending in eternal death but if that were not bad enough, we limit the our possibilities and live angry lives hoping for results that aren’t guaranteed. God offers us a better way.
“For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” Even if our efforts could gain us everything in this life we would forfeit eternal life. We seek guarantees in a life where we don’t have all the answers. Instead of acknowledging our limitations we declare “I have this” and work harder thinking more will guarantee God’s blessings. God promises us a better way with so much more. God is love. While we were still sinners God sent Jesus to die for us. But he won’t force us to love him. In a fallen world He can’t guarantee our success but he does guarantee his love and promises. All God asks is that we put our trust in him. Jesus demonstrated what true love looks like and he calls us to follow him. Following him requires sacrifice and often hardship and yet, God created us and knows all the possibilities. If we follow Jesus there are no guarantees we will achieve what we want but God knows us and promises us that we will gain more than we thought possible. God is able to give us far more abundantly than we ask or imagine.
Yes, if we sacrifice in our love of God we will be rewarded and yet God is about more than possessions and Kingdom math is also about spiritual things. Too often we limit ourselves to earthly treasures but God promises treasures in heaven. Abraham gained a son and became the Father of nations. He and his wife Sarah also gained the fruits of the spirit. As they trusted in God they gained love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the treasures of heaven. When we pursue God there are no guarantees we will get the things we want but we gain his treasures too. God loves us asking nothing in return for that love and offers us eternity when we place our faith in that love.
When we limit ourselves to the quid pro quo math of this world or only reach for what we think is possible we miss out on a much bigger life. Jesus told us that he came to give us life and life more abundant. When we know we are loved by God and trust in his promises it frees us to reach further and love deeper. We do these things not because of what we will gain but because we seek to be the people God created us to be. Did any of you watch the final game of women’s hockey in this year’s winter Olympics in South Korea? For the last twenty years Canada has won the gold medal. America last won the gold medal in 1998. The American’s wanted to win but they knew nothing was guaranteed and played full out holding nothing back. The Canadians felt that they were the heir apparent and played as if the gold medal belonged to them. When they lost in triple overtime, they were angry because they expected to win and life did not give them what they expected. The Americans were joyous, not just because they won, but because they played with all their heart hoping to win but without expecting anything. The Canadians pulled off their silver medals on the podium still angry over their loss. We also saw this demonstrated in the women’s individual figure skating finals. The Canadian skater, Kaitlyn Osmond, had no guarantee she would place in the finals. She had failed to skate well in any of her free skates all season. At the Olympics she went full out and when she finished she was in the top three. The joy evident in her face shined brilliantly and yet she finished third. When we strive out of love there is joy in our effort.
Now we may never participate in something like the Olympics but we make impressions on people every day in our interactions. It is easy to understand why someone is joyful when they win a gold medal but what about when that person is having a horrible day? When we are joyful in difficult moments it is then that we give people pause. When we are kind to others on our worst day it is those moments that people will remember. Sometimes we show God’s power most fully in our weakest moment. Peter expected Jesus to demonstrate God’s might through power not weakness. Jesus accomplished God’s greatest work and saved us in his lowest moment. May each of us live our lives to the Glory of God in hope that our joy will encourage those in need and reveal a different way, the way of the Kingdom of Love.