In last week's Gospel, Jesus begins to prepare his disciples for his rejection, suffering, and death. Peter, refusing to believe that this would be the path of the Messiah rebukes Jesus. As Father Jaime outlined in his sermon, Peter's inability to accept Jesus as he was called to be mirrors our own tendencies to construct a God or Jesus of our own liking. We have our own understandings, images, and ideas of what God should be and, as Peter, must be reminded: "Get behind". Father Jaime echoed this reminder that we are called to follow Jesus and the loving example that he set - not use Jesus to fit our image of what we believe a messiah, God, or salvation should be.
Jesus call is "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."
To underline this call, Father Jaime cited the novel Silence. In it, author Shusako Endo tells the story of Rodrigues, a Portuguese Jesuit priest who travels to Japan to investigate reports that his mentor has committed apostasy. After being captured and confronted with brutal torture for his faith, Rodrigues is forced to consider the nature of suffering, martyrdom, salvation, sacrifice, and that of a "Silent" God who faced the same reality.
What is suffering? How do we "suffer well"? How do we teach others to process emotions, suffer, grieve? How can we better respond to the call to deny ourselves and what does it mean to "take up" our cross? These are just a few of the questions we posed one another as we processed and responded to this challenging message.
When we think of the season of Lent, we’re called to reflect on the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. This narrative is outlined only briefly in Mark but it is expanded in both Matthew and Luke. Jesus has just been baptized by John, newly ordained by the echoing voice of God calling out, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” and immediately thereafter, scripture says He is commissioned by the spirit and “sent out” into the wild.
We’re told, “He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”
This is the foundation of our Lenten tradition. 40 days in the wilderness. 40 days excluding Sundays until we arrive at Palm Sunday and Jesus’ glorious procession into Jerusalem and the first steps in his march towards the cross.
Those 40 days are marked in very different ways but they’re seen as a time of commemoration and contemplation. It is a time of sacrifice and preparation.
When I asked some of our parishioners what Lent was to them, I received a range of answers. “You give up something to remember the suffering and passion of Christ”
“I never really know what to give up for Lent. I’m only 13”
“I hate that people use lent to go on a diet… ohhh I’m going to give up meat for lent”
“During Lent I give up bourbon and drink cheap white wine”
“Lent is 40 days to reflect on sacrifice and on yourself. To reevaluate your priorities. Lent is not about penance but about moving on and absolving yourself from past sins.”
Lent is a lot of things to a lot of people. But what were those 40 days to Jesus? After John had pronounced that He was “one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I’m not worthy to stoop down and untie.” and the voice of God pronounced “You are my son”, why then did the spirit lead Him out into the wilderness?
Join St. Stephen's for our traditional Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday Celebration and Service!
Tuesday, February 13th we'll host our Karaoke & Pancakes Shrove Tuesday event. It's always a blast so come ready to sing your heart out and eat fluffy, buttery, syrupy, divine goodness to your hearts content!
Wednesday, February 14th will be a bilingual service in recognition of Ash Wednesday to mark the opening of the Lenten season.
We hope to see you there!
Last Sunday, St. Stephen's celebrated our dear friend and Rector, Jaime Edwards-Acton, for 20 years of ordained ministry. He truly is a man who means so much to so many... not to mention his family who have shown such tremendous commitment to our community!
Jaime is taking a well-earned and oft-delayed vacation this week after we had the opportunity to thank him for his powerful service to St. Stephen's, to Los Angeles, and to each of us who have been blessed to have been embraced as part of this community... which, for St. Stephen's, means everyone, ever.
Thank you Jaime! Here's to 20 more years of kicking over tables with your scuffed Doc Martins!
St. Stephen's is a community where all voices are heard. This is just a taste of what our community cares about.