10 and 11 March, 2016 Fourth Sunday of Lent B Homily
Second Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
My sisters and brothrers in Christ.
The Second Book of Chronicles describes the complex relationship between the LORD and the people the LORD chose to “make his own”.
The relationship, like most relationships, is complex due to our human needs to “hear”, “see”,“know”, “control”, “survive” have a life and things that are to our own “liking”.
The story of salvation that the two books of Chronicles in the Bible tell a story of a people who, much like ourselves, tend to look for short cuts, the easy way in and out, tend to self interest if not selfishness.
The main character in the “story” is believe it or not, the LORD. The main character is not me or you or us.
The LORD tends to be, in the end, forgiving of our individual and community failings.
The LORD is so forgiving that our faith in the LORD is tested not by how predictable and profound our personal and community failings are.
Our faith is tested by the promise that the LORD is able to forgive us no matter what.
It usually does not take a newborn much time at all to learn how to “cry” for attention.
The love of the LORD is more constant than even the love of the most loving mother we can each imagine. For most of us, hopefully, that person would be our own mother.
The Book of Chronicle today winds up the story of our the Chosen people’s pettiness, selfishness and the LORD’S constant forgiveness by telling us how fierce and effective is the LORD’S care for us.
The LORD prompts Cyrus, the King of Persia (Syria) to issue this proclamation fulfilling the Prophecy of the Prophet Jeremiah:
“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia:
All the kingdoms of the earth
the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me,
and he has also charged me to build him a house
in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people,
let him go up, and may his God be with him!”
Cyrus does not even believe in the LORD but is prompted to let the LORD’S people return from exile to their home in Judah and even build a “house” (Temple) for the LORD in Jerusalem.
This LORD is a God who will stop at nothing to care for and protect the Chosen People.
The passage from Ephesians today summarizes a further proof of the LORD’s care for the Chosen People.
Chronicles spoke of exile and the infidelity of the People.
Ephesians speaks of our being “dead” because of sin.
The LORD cares so much for us that, in Christ, by grace we are “saved” and “raised up with him (Christ Jesús)”.
Today Jesús speaks with Nicodemus (means “the People’s Victory”). Jesús speaks to Nicodemus in the “dark” since Nicodemus is afraid to be seen with Jesús. Jesús is no friend of the authorities. Nicodemus is an authority and befriending Jesús is not good for his career or life expectancy.
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Moses “lifted up” the image of a serpent on a pole so that those who had abandoned the LORD and been bitten by poisonous snakes would not die.
Looking upon the “up raised” pole saved people from death by the poisonous snakes.
Jesús will be “lifted up”.
This does not refer to Jesús ascending to the LORD after Pentecost.
This “lifting up” will be on a “wooden pole”, the cross.
We know the story of Jesús carrying his cross before he died.
I would like to make a personal aside that has relevance to carrying crosses.
I am towards the front end of the birth order in my family.
By the time my youngest sibling was born I was making suggestions as to what the next child should be called. I had a penchant for creative middle names. This may have been because I did not have one.
The youngest sibling turned out to be a boy. My mother did not honor my request to have the child born on my birthday but did manage to have the birth three days after my birthday.
The name I suggested was “Christopher”.
Words and therefore names are important.
Both words and names matter a great deal.
Have you met anyone who did not like their name or changed their name?
Christopher means “Christ Bearer”.
This name implies “protection” as well as “carrying” or “toting”.
Have you ever had the privilege or carrying the cross in a procession?
How many of you have carried the cross in a Procession on Good Friday?
The biggest cross I have ever carried, literally speaking, in my life is the one standing outside between the entrance doors of this church.
The older I get the more “help” I accept in getting from the entrance of this Church to here before the altar on Good Friday.
The person who carries the procession cross literally carries for us and with us the image of Christ.
Gazing on the cross, even if we cannot see who is carrying it, reminds us of what happened when Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.
People who gazed upon the serpent lifted up before them did not die.
What do we see when we gaze upon the Cross as it makes its way through the church at the beginning and end of each Eucharist?
The Cross literally leads us to worship the One who, “though we were dead in our transgressions, through grace in Christ…raised us up.”
That image of Christ, nailed to a cross, reminds us that Christ gave his lif for us and gives us life.
A mother once told me of her two year old son pointing to the front of church. She could not figure out what he was looking at.
When the cross came down the aisle towards the little boy pointed and said: “It is Jesús, I love him very much.”
That child looked on the cross and was able to “bear” the message of the cross of Christ.
In truth we are each Christ bearers. Therefore we too each bear the Cross.
We too share the glory in being raised up with Christ to the LORD.