March 24, 2019
3rd Sunday in Lent
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Please pray with me,
Gracious God, as you led the Israelites through the wilderness, as you were with Joseph and Mary as they journeyed to Bethlehem, and as you journeyed with Jesus to the cross….you are with us now. Guide our hearts, minds and bodies on this Lenten journey. Continue to turn us toward you, creating within us clean hearts, marking us with the cross, lighting our paths and guiding us every step of the way. In Jesus’ name we pray amen.
On August 15, 1917, Oscar Romero was born. At the age of one, he was baptized into the Catholic church. With a full house with 5 brothers and sisters, as a young boy, Oscar was often found at the local church during his free time. At age 13 he entered minor seminary and was then promoted to the national seminary in San Salvador; and completed his studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained in Rome on April 4, 1942.
He served as a parish priest for over 20 years. In 1977 he was appointed Archbishop of El Salvador. He was appointed, some believe, because he would follow suit of his predecessors. You see, on the one hand, some were afraid that his conservative reputation would negatively affect liberation theology’s commitment to the poor. But on the other hand, those who appointed him did so in hopes that he would keep the status quo of the church agreeing with the rules and regulations of the state.
These rules gave no hope or help to the poor in El Salvador. The church seemed to support the government which stood up for and helped the rich, ignoring the vast growing number of poor people throughout the country.
Shortly after his appointment, Romero presided at a friend’s funeral. A priest who had been killed assassinated. It was in that moment that Romero had a change of heart.
From that point forward, he was a voice for the poor. He felt that the call of the gospel was to give a voice to the voiceless. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture, issues that swarmed through El Salvador in the mist of the civil war they faced through the 1970s and 80s.
Romero preached out in worship and through radio addresses. He said, “I have frequently been threatened with death. I must say that, as a Christian, I do not believe in death but in the resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people. Martyrdom is a great gift from God that I do not believe I have earned. But if God accepts the sacrifice of my life, then my blood will be like the seed of liberty, and a sign of the hope that will soon become a reality.”
It was this day, March 24 in 1980 as he presided at a communion service in a small chapel that he was assassinated. His voice and image lives on in the Salvadoran people and throughout the country itself.
I found this quotation this week from him that I had not yet heard:
The word of God is like the light of the sun, it illuminates beautiful things
But also things which we would rather not see.
It seems to fit with our gospel lesson this day as well as the general theme of Lent as a time of repentance.
We talk a lot about repentance. The word for repentance in Greek, metanoia means “to change one’s mind.” When we think about Lent as a time of repentance and returning back to God, it’s more than giving up chocolate or trying not to swear as much…its deeper than that. It’s bigger than just us and our individual lives. Not that giving up chocolate and not swearing are bad ideas, it’s just that the act of repentance is so much more than that.
When we change or minds, or rather, have our minds changed by God, we are open to seeing the world around us in a brand-new way.
When we hear God’s word, it lights up the world…we see all the beautiful things around us, but we also see things that have been hidden in the dark. The call in the gospel of Luke to repentance is to see the world as Jesus sees the world..all lit up by God's word.
And how does Jesus see the world in the gospel of Luke? Luke’s teachings on discipleship emphasizes the preference for the poor.
Jesus first public reading of scripture in the temple as a boy, he reads “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”
The refrain comes up again in the beatitudes, “woe to you who are rich.”
We hear the story about a very rich man and a very poor man, Lazarus, begging at his gates. We are called to see the vast differences between the rich and the poor.
We hear the story of Zacchaeus. We see how we can change our ways to reach out to treat others fairly and support others in need.
Not to mention, the story of the Good Samaritan, the tale where we learn to open our eyes and see those in our midst, in our community, our road who have been hurt and are in need of compassion, mercy and care.
Because isn’t that our continued call to repentance this Lent and every day of our lives?
We are continually called to turn away from selfish ways and actions to see our neighbors, our friends, our enemies and reach out in mercy, compassion, generosity and care.
We are called to bear good fruit and to do it constantly.
When we turn from our own selfish ways, when we change our minds, to see God’s world around us, we see it in a new way.
We will see things that we have always seen…maybe for you it is the beauty of creation, the joy found in this community, the love found in families and friends.
But, big BUT here, BUT, we will also see things that we’d rather not see.
The harm inflicted on people of other faiths because they do not believe what we do.
The pain families experience through divorce, illness and death.
The impact we have on this earth (God’s creation) through our buildings, roads and vehicles.
The truth behind all the happy posts on social media that our lives are far from perfect.
And the treatment of anyone because they look different, move differently, sound different, love different, smell different, or act differently than we do….
All of these truths exist each and every day of our lives. God’s word shines a light on all of this.
But here's the thing, something holy happens when God's light shines on these truths.
You see, God’s word is a word of promise and hope, so it shines in the midst of violence, and calls voices to rise up praying for peace and working toward solutions.
God’s word comforts the pain of brokenness, death and loss we feel in our families by surrounding us with a family of faith that surrounds and upholds us in times of need.
God’s word calls us to see the beauty of the earth and to raise hands to care for all God has made as we work to protect it for generations to come.
God’s word sheds light on our imperfections reminding each and everyone of us that we do not need to compare ourselves to anyone because we are created in God’s image, loved beyond all measure and perfect in the eyes of God.
And these are the things that we may not want to see, but when we do, we live into the fullness of who God created us and calls us to be every day of our lives.
And that, my friends, is when the kingdom breaks in…again, and again, and again.
So live in that light, serve in that light, love in that light.
And let all God’s people say, amen.