Sunday, March 01, 2015

"The More We Share, The More We Have"

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
March 1, 2015

Year B: The Second Sunday in Lent
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:22-30
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

“The More We Share, The More We Have”
            The death of Leonard Nimoy on Friday morning hit me a little harder than I had expected.
            For the past year or so he had been very open about his declining health, repeatedly urging people not to smoke or to quit right away.
            Yet, on some level I think I imagined that somehow he and his buddy William Shatner really would find a way to cheat death like they did so often on Star Trek.
            So, even with the advance warning it still shocked me a little and certainly made me sad to face the passing of one of the towering figures of my childhood, the actor who played the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock.
            At the same time, it was very moving on Friday to read all the tributes to Nimoy from his co-stars and other celebrities, as well as his many fans including President Obama, who admitted, “I loved Spock.”
            Some of you know each day I try to post a Scripture passage or some kind of inspirational quote on my Facebook page.
            Yesterday morning I looked for a quote from Leonard Nimoy and found what I think is a really beautiful quote that may not be logical but happens to be true:
            “The miracle is this: The more we share, the more we have.”
            “The more we share, the more we have.”
            If you were in church last week you may remember that we heard Mark’s account of Jesus’ Baptism.
            We’re told that Jesus comes up out of the Jordan, out of the water of Baptism, the Spirit descended upon him like a dove and a voice from heaven declares, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
            Last week I didn’t say much about the second part of the reading.
            Mark, Matthew, and Luke all tell us that immediately after his baptism, the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan.
            Mark doesn’t tell us the nature of those temptations but Matthew and Luke flesh out more details.
            Out in the wilderness, Jesus is tempted to demonstrate supernatural power by turning stones into bread.
            Satan offers worldly glory to Jesus – all the kingdoms of the world – if he’ll only worship the devil.
            Finally, Satan tempts Jesus to test God by throwing himself off the pinnacle of the Temple.
            Jesus manages to resist those temptations, and more, I suppose, over the forty days and nights in the wilderness.
            We can easily get the idea that’s the end of the story when it comes to Jesus and temptation.
            Not so.
            The great Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis in his book The Last Temptation of Christ imagines the devil tempting Jesus to the end of his life, even as he hangs on the cross, offering the chance not only to live but to live as an ordinary man, married to Mary of Bethany, with children, and a little carpentry shop in Nazareth.
            But, actually, we don’t have to imagine other temptations because we heard a big one in today’s gospel reading.
            The temptation comes from perhaps an unlikely source: Peter.
            After Jesus makes his first prediction about the suffering and death he will endure, we’re told, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”
            A strong word – rebuke – but notice that Peter did take Jesus aside rather than rebuking Jesus in front of everyone.
            But then, Jesus has a remarkably harsh reaction – in front of everyone:
            He says, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
            Jesus then goes on to teach not just his disciples, but the crowd, what it’s going to cost them to follow Jesus:
            “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.”
            The great temptation for Jesus – and the great temptation for us – is to not give ourselves away in loving service to God and to one another.
            The great temptation is to forget – or reject - the miracle that “the more we share, the more we have.”
            Ultimately, Jesus shared - gave away - his life – he never did have a wife and kids and a little carpentry shop in Nazareth – and by giving it all away Jesus gave himself and gives us more  - more than we could have ever expected or imagined – Jesus gives us all the glory of Easter morning, the joy of love and life conquering hatred and death.
            Still, like Jesus, you and I face temptations all the time.
            But, one of the biggest temptations we face is fear that causes us to close ourselves up – fear that prevents us from sharing – fear that prevents us from giving ourselves away in loving service to God and to one another.
            Fortunately, Lent gives us the opportunity to practice sharing more.
            Maybe that means giving away more money to those in need – maybe it means dropping cash or coins – something – into our mite box every day.
            Maybe that means bringing a donation to the food pantry.
            Maybe that means really taking the time to be with the people we care about – to not just texting but actually calling – or, even, if you can imagine, actually spending time together in person!
            Maybe that means reaching out to people we know who are suffering or who are lonely – maybe that means spending time with people we don’t particularly like but we know could use the company, really need a friend.
            I’m sure we can all come up with ways that we can resist the powerful temptations we face to close ourselves up and instead take up our cross and share ourselves – give ourselves away – in loving service to God and to one another – giving us all more than we could have ever expected or imagined.
            As an old friend once said, “The miracle is this: The more we share, the more we have.”