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First Sunday in Lent

Readings: Genesis 9: 8-17; Psalm 25: 1-9; I Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1: 9-15

A 1992 movie is one of my favorites.  It features Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Tom Cruise, and Jack Nicholson.  It is essentially a courtroom drama with a team of JAG officers, Judge Advocate General attorneys, led by Tom Cruise, accusing a seasoned Marine Colonel, Jack Nicholson, of giving the order to discipline a young Marine which led to his death.  The movie’s title is “A Few Good Men”.  In the midst of a heated exchange with the Colonel on the witness stand, he declares to the very young interrogating attorney, “You can’t handle the Truth”. 

It makes me wonder; can we handle the Truth?  Can we handle the Truth?  Do we believe the Truth with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength? 

On Ash Wednesday as part of the Litany of Penitence we confessed before God:

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven. 

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved your Holy Spirit.        
BCP, p. 267

Also, on Ash Wednesday

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
BCP, p. 265

However, in the Epistle of I Peter, we heard these words:

Christ…suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the
unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.

Jesus did that for you and for me, for us, the particles of dust that we are.

Do we believe in the Truth?  Do we believe in the Good News?  Can we handle the Truth as it can be defined by the words of the Prayer of St. Francis?

Love is stronger than hate. Pardon is stronger than injury.
Union is stronger than discord. Faith is stronger than doubt.
Hope is stronger than despair.  Light is stronger than darkness.
Joy is stronger than sadness.

To believe in the Truth, to handle the Truth, is to act in concert with the Good News and to partner with others. 

We know it ain’t easy, especially in these times.  To be followers of the way of Jesus adds challenge, adds complication, to our everyday lives.  Perhaps that is why there are fewer who stand with us among our families, friends and neighbors. 

Can we handle the Truth?  I don’t think we can stand solitary, all by ourself.  And, in fact, we do not stand alone.  Today, look around.  We, here today, are bound together as the People of God.  We, here today, are bound by the Righteous One who died and rose again.  As the hymn St. Patrick’s Breastplate, #370, v.6 prays

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ beside me, Christ before me.
Christ beside me, Christ be in me, Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ is danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Friends, Lent calls us to gather as the People of God. 

Friends, Lent calls us to refresh our strength through renewed commitment to the Righteous One who speaks to our deepest heart, to our inmost soul.

Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give
you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle
and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke
is easy, and my burden in light.                         
Matthew 11: 28-30

The Message by Eugene Peterson reframes this passage with these words:

Walk with me and work with me, watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything
heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you
will learn to live freely and lightly.

Amen

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