March 5, 2023 – The Second Sunday In Lent

Fr. Cal Calhoun

In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is not only with us on the journey, but IS the journey itself. Amen.

Last week, the First Sunday in Lent, we read, as we always do on that Sunday, one of the versions of Jesus in the wilderness. I talked about the stark nothingness that is the wilderness around Jerusalem, that surprised many on our recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I also talked about our own wilderness. Times when events in our lives shook us, changed our outlook on life, our habits, everything really. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, a divorce or betrayal or the loss of some other relationship, the loss of a job, addiction, illness. These events can bring on a sense of being in the wilderness. And a wondering if there will ever be an end to the wilderness.

Nearly all of us have some experience of the wilderness. We have journeyed through it, or are still journeying through it. And the wilderness is a part of our bigger journey. So, wilderness is both a stage in our journey with God throughout our life, and a journey in itself.

I mentioned last week, that in Lent, we journey with Jesus, to Jerusalem, and to the cross, before we finally arrive at the empty tomb on Easter morning. So Lent, in itself is a journey, and part of our annual journey through the birth, life, ministry, interactions, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

That annual journey through the church year with its seasons, reminds me of our calendar year with its seasons. As I get older…, I seem to be more amazed at the change of the seasons, what happens each and every year in God’s creation. I don’t know if is because I’m getting older? Seems to me when I was younger, it was usually older people who were talking about the weather, the change in the seasons, bird watching, all things for which I didn’t seem to have time. So I’m getting older and I’m hiking. I’m watching the change of the seasons more carefully. And it is amazing! And pretty early this year, we are seeing Spring do it’s thing right now. The difference is so striking from hiking in the winter, when the leaves are gone, the sun is bright, the trees seem white, you can see to neighboring ridges, to hiking in the summer when here in East TN we are under a canopy of leaves, shielded from the sun, everything is green, the trees are darker, the vistas are shrouded.  When I was younger, I felt the winter was a season to get through, back to summer when outdoor activities were… easier? Now I love the winter, I think winter hiking is my favorite.

And these seasons take us from summer, the fullness of life, ordinary life, to the decline of autumn, with its fabulous weather and colors, decline isn’t all bad, to the cold death of winter, and the resurrection of Spring!

Birth, life, death, and resurrection. Does that sound familiar? Like any other seasons we honor?

Our life is a journey. And our life is journeys within the journey. Every year that we journey around the sun, we experience so much. There is the journey through each season. And there is  the cycle, that brings us back to where we were a year ago. But if we are paying attention, each year, each cycle is different from the last. This winter was warmer, but there were those few days of record cold around Christmas. This past Fall was wet, a few years ago Fall was a drought. And with each cycle, we are a year older.

Last week when we talked about our journey through the wilderness, Diana Butler Bass gave us the image of the journey through the wilderness has a map-less journey. A journey without a destination. And in a sense, no two wilderness experiences are the same. Your time in the wilderness won’t be just like mine. So even if I had a map of my journey in the wilderness, it would probably be worthless to you. 13th century mystic Meister Eckhart said the same thing about our journey with God.  It is map-less, without a destination. And the image they shared, is that Jesus, or God, is not the destination, but the road. God is the road for our journey. That has become such an interesting image for me. God, with God’s all-encompassing love is always there on the journey, just like the road is always there. Even when we don’t where the road is going, even when we can’t feel that love, God is always there. Like the road.

Why all this talk about journeys? This Sunday, we hear from Genesis. Abraham, still known as Abram in this part of his journey, is embarking on a journey, solely based on a call from God. Abram is the first human to appear to journey with God, the God Yahweh. We know that earlier in Genesis, Adam and Eve listen to God, and… don’t listen to God. Cain gets angry with God, and Noah listens to God. But Abram seems to be the first to answer the call of God to go. God says to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you… and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” So Abram went. And his journey with God began.

And Abram didn’t know where he was going. Didn’t know the destination. God said I will show you, but he didn’t give Abram a map before he left. It was like the road, the journey was the point, not the destination. Later on, the Israelite followers of Yahweh would put a lot of importance on the land, the place, but Abram’s relationship with God, as was Isaac’s and Jacob’s, and ours, is really about the journey, God is the road. God is the all-encompassing love the accompanies us wherever we are. God is not a destination. Jesus is not a destination. God is the road itself. And the journey is the thing. Like is has been since Abraham, the journey is the thing.

In Lent, we take a hard turn in the journey. We stop and re-evaluate. We look at ways we might deepen our relationship with God. In this community we have 8 Practices of our faith: Prayer, Worship, Study, Serving, Giving, Sabbath, Fasting, and Pilgrimage. We are exploring those practices once again in Adult Formation. Lent is a time to re-evaluate those practices to add something new, to tweak or remove something that is not working. Lent is its own journey and part of the bigger journey.

I pray that you find a way to deepen your journey with God in this Holy season. If you find yourself in the wilderness, I pray you can feel God’s love and that you can journey your way to new life, but not before God shows you what you need to learn. I pray that on your journey you will always know and feel the presence of God’s all-encompassing love.  Amen.

Year A  –  The Second Sunday In Lent  –   March 5, 2023   –   The Rev. Cal Calhoun