Sermon: Lent 5 RCL B – “Now My Soul is Troubled”

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Things kids wonder about God:

“Why does God stay in heaven and not come down to earth to visit?”

A woman reported that her four-year-old got a bit confused when she taught him that God watches over us. The young boy asked, “Wait, so God is Santa Claus?”

Closely related to that: “Is Santa God’s really rich brother?”

And not related at all: “Is Jesus a zombie?”

An interesting observation: “If God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone… how come He never made himself a wife?”

A good question: “If Jesus doesn’t have a sister, why do I need to have one?”

I would also like to sign up for lessons: “Did Jesus practice walking on water first? How can I do it?”

Finally, a woman reports that her three-year-old found a baby bird in the yard that had fallen from its nest. When she went to check on it the next morning, it had died. She says she took the kids to school and then removed the bird and placed it in the garbage. However, when he got home, the boy asked, “Mama, what happened to that baby bird?” Trying to avoid the issue, she responded, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about that baby bird, he lives with Jesus now.” The boy was thoughtful for a moment and then asked, “Jesus lives in the garbage?”

As we get older, we like to pretend that we know more of God than these children, but in truth, we just have larger vocabulary. For example: Child — is God Santa Claus? Adult — is God omniscient / all knowing. Child — is God in Heaven and on Earth? Adult — is God omnipresent / everywhere. Child — did Jesus have to practice walking on the water. Adult — is God omnipotent / all powerful. Child — Is Jesus a zombie? Adult — is God infinite. Yes, we have the same questions, just a larger vocabulary. God is immutable, merciful, wise, faithful, and so on.

Holy Scripture also tells us about our God: God is a consuming fire, God is my crag and my stronghold, God is a mighty fortress, God is one, God is love.

Not only do these attributes apply to God the Father, but in our understanding of the Holy Trinity, we also believe that these attributes apply to God the Holy Spirit and to God the Son, Jesus. From the Creed of St. Athanasius found in the Book of Common Prayer: “And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.” In understanding the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit we have all these tremendous and powerful ways, as adults and children, of understanding our God, which brings me to my point (Yes, Fr. John, a point please!)…

In our Gospel reading today, the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem that we celebrate on Palm Sunday has just occurred, so we know that Jesus is in Jerusalem, therefore, we also know that the festival about to be celebrated is the Passover. Jew and non-Jews have come to celebrate and among them are Greeks / Gentiles, and they say to Philip, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” The Gentiles coming in search for him must have been a sign to Jesus that everything was in order, for instead of going to see these foreigners, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Then God—Jesus—the omnipotent, omnipresent, the consuming fire, the fortress, the merciful… then Jesus says, “Now my soul is troubled.” I know that Jesus, when he humbled himself at the Incarnation and became one of us, I know that he “set aside” some of the attributes of God so that he might be truly man, but he was still God and inside God… is one… who was troubled. That’s almost scary if you think about it too long, and if you didn’t know who is Dad is, then it really would be.

Jesus has come to Jerusalem, the Gentiles are searching for him, so he knows that his time has arrived and he knows what that means: he just spoke about a grain of wheat dying and in doing so, he knows that he is speaking of his own death and all the pain and horror that is to come before it is finally accomplished. Jesus is troubled. God is afraid.

Now, I know that there are some of you sitting out there shaking your heads and thinking, “Fr. John, you’ve crossed a line this morning,” but let me ask you: is Jesus God? Did he say he was troubled? How do you define “troubled”? The Greek defines it as fear, dread, pain, sorrow, anxiety. Feel free to pick one or all, but what we can’t escape is the fact that our omni-everything God… was afraid, and in his being troubled and his fear, he gathered up the humanity of us all, that he might take it to the Cross. He had to experience our fear so that he could redeem it. And what is our fear? Our fear is that on the day of our judgment we will be found wanting and in being found wanting, we will die eternally—that is our fear. Jesus took up our judgment, our death, our fear, our humanity—he took it all within, within the Godhead itself—the Holy Trinity—and declared: “Behold, I am making all things new.”

John tells us in his first epistle: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him….” …and here it is… “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” We have not been perfected in our own love. No. Our love is as flawed as our understanding of God, but we have been perfected in Jesus and his perfect love for us casts out our own fears of judgment and punishment that we might rejoice.

Through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord said:
“Fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

We joined with the Psalmist this morning in crying out to God: “Have mercy on me… cleanse me… purge me… wash me… block out my offenses… renew me… give me joy.” In all of this, we cry to Father in the same words that Jesus cried, “Father, glorify your name.” Glorify your Son’s name in me. And as the Father spoke to Jesus in the thunder, so He speaks to us: through the perfect love of my Son, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” in you. Se aside your fear and rejoice. The Lord has heard your cries for mercy and He has redeemed you.

This morning, in closing, I would like for us to say together the Song of Zechariah. It is Canticle 16 on page 92 of the Book of Common Prayer. Would you please stand….

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; *
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior, *
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old,
that he would save us from our enemies, *
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers *
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship him without fear, *
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, *
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

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