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Lent 2A      
Grace Lutheran Church      
Lakeland, FL    
March 4, 2023                                  

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please pray with me. Holy One, we come to you again seeking your words, your wisdom, your presence. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

It was three years ago that we last had these series of readings. And it was three years ago that several of us attended a workshop at Lamb of God in Haines City with other Lutheran Churches in our area to learn  and wonder and imagine what it will be like as we grow into our life as  a vital and engaging and empowered church in our neighborhood and community. And then over the next week every single thing changed as we found ourselves thrust into what has been referred to ad nauseum as an ‘unprecedented time.”  

It was at that workshop that Sister Michelle Collins who was on the Bishop’s staff at the time and now serves as an Assistant to the Bishop in Winnipeg offered these words about the liturgical year: 

I particularly love the non-identical repetition involved. Every year begins again with Advent and yet this Advent is not the same as the last, not precisely. This is true not only because it begins on a different date each year, but because time continues to move forward, but not in a line, rather in a spiral. Thus we continue to return to the same spot each year, but on a different level, ever moving closer to eternity. (repeat)

Sister Michelle went on to talk with us about our journey in discipleship, both individually and together. Our journey as followers of Jesus, not merely acquainted with Jesus, not merely schooled in his teachings and ways. But actual active followers. And this journey, this following took a very sudden turn the week of March 8, 2020, didn’t it.

Journey and following took on deep meaning for us then as it did for Father Abraham and his wife Sarah. They lived in Ur, the land of Abram’s father, Terah. They had a good life, wonderful households. I imagine that their family dinners were rather grand with children and grandchildren and cousins and all gathered around the table. But the day came when God spoke to Abram and said,  “Pack up. Pack it all up. Leave this land, leave your country, leave your father’s house, leave your kindred. And go. Go to the place that I will show you.”

Scripture doesn’t tell us what Abram or Sarai thought about this. Doesn’t tell us about sad good-byes. Doesn’t tell us about problems with the U-Haul or taping up boxes. Scripture does tell us what God told them – I will show you, I will make your name great, I will bless you – SO THAT (two of the most important words in Scripture) you will be a blessing to others. And Abram and Sarai went.

Three years ago, we too packed up as it were. We left our coffee hours, our potlucks, our choir and band rehearsals, our committee meetings and stepped out on the journey that was before us. And God said to us as God did to Abram, I will be with you and I will bless you so that you will be a blessing to others.

And you know what, God was and we are. God was with us in those days – as God is now – and we are a blessing to others.

Now, in Abram’s and Sarai’s journey, here’s where the spiraling that Sister Michelle talked about comes in to  play. Because God’s words to Abram weren’t a one and done. And their journey wasn’t just from point A to point B. Because when they got to Point B, they were led on to another spot, to Egypt, and then back to the Negeb. And then on to Bethel. And God mad God’s self known to Abram throughout the journey and continued to give words of blessing and of covenant. Covenant promise. I will bless you so that you will be a blessing to others. Your descendants will be as many as the stars in the sky and grains of sand on the shore. Strange words to a childless man in his seventies or eighties. Yet it came about. Throughout the spiraling of their journey, they grew in greater love for each other and in greater love for God and in greater trust in God’s promises. Promises that were fulfilled.

So, too in March three years ago, God made promises to us. God set us on a different course of worshiping and serving and caring and loving. And we tried new things and we succeeded at some and others didn’t go so well. And God was with us and God blessed us. God blessed us SO THAT we could be a blessing.

This past week we said good bye to our brother John LeMond. John who with his wife Barbara joined this community of faith a rather short time ago but quickly became knitted in with us and God’s ministry here. Because of the changes that came about three years ago, we livestreamed the memorial service. It has been shared no fewer than 12 times from our Facebook page alone – I don’t know how often the link to our website has been shared. The service itself was watched by people in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Albuquerque, the UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Taiwan, Myanmar, Laos and untold number of others. Blessed to be a blessing. 

Sister Michelle reminded us in that workshop three years ago of our lives as disciples, lovers of Jesus, lovers of the one who loved us first, lovers of the one who reached out into the empty spaces of our hearts and gathered us up into his embrace. This lover of our souls. This one who beckons us, calls us, entices us, this one. This one who calls us to a journey. Individually and together as a community of faith. Our lives as Jesus’ disciples are not our own – because of his eternal imprint on our lives.

One of those who was beckoned and called was Nicodemus. Nicodemus who came to Jesus in the shadows of night, under the cover of darkness.  Who came to Jesus with questions and confusion and wonderings. Nicodemus who just couldn’t figure it all out. Yet, in the amazing love and grace of Jesus, Nicodemus was drawn into the circle and spiral of faith and belief. Nicodemus who hear these wondrous words of Jesus – I have come not to condemn the world but SO THAT the world might be saved through me. I am the light for all to be drawn to.

Let us come from the shadows of our lives, let us come from our positions of certainty, let us come to a place of wondering and imagining. Let us ask  How can this be?? – not meaning – you’ve got to be kidding me?  But rather, pray Lord, How, indeed may this be.

How can this be Lord, that we make this journey into Lent again and again, year after year and are drawn every closer to you? This life of discipleship is not a linear one, it is not a straight path. It is one of spiraling ever closer and deeper in relationship with God and one another.. 

Our lives as followers of Jesus are nurtured and grown as we gather together around Fount and Table and Word. Because of God’s love for us, poured out in Jesus and in his life and death and resurrection – this Jesus who came into the world not with words of condemnation but rather that the world – the cosmos, all that is, may be redeemed through him.

And so like Abram and Sarai, we step out into the journey knowing and believing that God is with us and that God will bless us SO THAT we may be a blessing.

Thanks be to God.