2nd Sunday of Lent - February 25, 2018 (Thoman)

Holy Spirit (SH/HT)

Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 | Rom 8:31b-34 |  Mk 9:2-10

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

I. School violence has come home.

So often we – or at least “I” – think of school shootings, and even most violence,
as happening in far away places – places like Colorado, California, Florida. But, as
you know, even we, in our more quiet corner of the world, have been effected by
the violence in our country. Whether the threat on Friday was credible or not, the
effect is the same: school administrators made the decision to cancel school in the
entire community for the day. This disrupted the lives not only of the students,
but the whole school system, extending the school year, causing parents to
scramble for child care, effecting grandparents who may be transporting grand
children or called upon to babysit, perhaps affecting work schedules and generally
causing dis-ease among all of us. Not only did it have practical effects, like altering
schedules, but more so, it cast fear, concern, distress into the human heart.

This is what we call social sin: the sin of a single individual has ripple effects
among relationships – and in this case, uncountable relationships in the entire

Violence has become for us, living in the 21st century, a challenge we must
deal with almost every day.

II. But the scriptures are not immune from violence either – although the violence,
in today’s scriptures, are of a different sort – the context of violence in these
selections from scripture is the context of sacrifice.

The story of Abraham and Isaac is at least as equally unsettling as the stories of
violence we treat today. Why in the world would God ask Abraham to kill his only
son, Isaac – his son for whom he long prayed, his son who was God’s gift?

Responses to that question vary, but the one that relates to our concerns today is
that it was a further test of Abraham’s fidelity: it was a test of his commitment to
the covenant. For Abraham, disobeying God’s command was unthinkable. He was
demonstrating the faith and trust St. Paul will discuss centuries later: If God is for
us, who can be against us? Abraham would have believed that God is completely
on his side.

And we come to the question of sacrifice in the gospel as well. Another son is
to be sacrificed – to be killed – as a result of immeasurable violence – and in this
case it really does happen. God sacrifices his only Son – for our sake. He takes
upon himself all of our sins – our personal sin and our social sins – and offers
himself in sacrifice.

Later on, Paul would reflect upon this as he writes to the Romans. He is
appealing for unity among the Christians in Rome and teaching who this God
really is that they have given their hearts to. Unlike the gods of other nations,
this One God knows no limits in love. Not only did the Father sacrifice his only
Son for their sake, but now that Son who suffered and died for us turns around
and is our biggest advocate in heaven! It doesn’t get any better than that.
If God is for us, who can be against us? The answer to that question is: no one!

III. In the face of gun violence in schools…gun violence in our society…and the fear
that is cast into our hearts – what do we do? We do what we always do when
faced with the trials of life – whether it’s violence or anything else – and that is
lean into our faith.

Abraham was willing to sacrifice his future, his son and everything else in
order to be faithful to God. His ultimate trust was placed in God. In our heart of
hearts we know this is where each of us should be. If God is for us, who can be
against us?

Most likely, the central prayer in our heart today is the question of violence.
Reaffirming our faith, deepening our trust, being inspired by Abraham leads
us to an answer to that prayer. Paul’s question must sit in our heart.
IV. And another part of our response is to enter into the experience of sacrifice.
Lent is the season which draws in to the whole sense of sacrifice. We talk about
prayer, fasting and almsgiving throughout this holy season. We, too, “sacrifice,”
although we don’t come close to giving up our life. But we do share in the
sacrifice of this season – in some small way we offer of ourselves for the sake of

It may be

  • we become more charitable…or less judgmental…or cause a certain sin to loose
    control of our heart.
  • our prayer may become more full whereby we embrace the prayer petitions of
    so many suffering and hurting people in the world
  • our prayer may deepen and we grow even more committed to God
  • our fasting teaches us we find ways to live more simply and more wholesomely

In some way our sacrifices become an offering and are joined to the sacrifice of
Jesus himself. Our sacrifices become part of the redemption of the world whereby
we add a little more sanity…a little more civility…a little more love…to the chaotic
world in which we live.

….and in this way we help to counter the violence among us and become a
force against it.
Fr. Dwayne Thoman