Lent 2

In the name of God: help us to imagine a better world and a better church through your eyes.  Amen.

There’s an episode of the classic old sitcom, The Golden Girls, when Rose is up for a reporting job at their local television station.  As a sort of audition, she was sent to cover a dog show, and report on it from her human interest angle about how people and their pets often look alike.

Just as she was beginning to film her report, however, an armed robber burst into the room demanding that everyone hand over their valuables.  With Rose and her cameraman hunched under a table, he asks her, “What should we do?”  Rose’s answer was determined.  She said, “A good reporter always gets the story.  We’ve got to get the story.”

Later, when she comes home, the girls have heard about the incident and they learn that Rose didn’t get the job.  Rose is just as baffled as they are, and so they watch the tape.  It turns out, Rose got the story, but not the story of the robbery.  She continued to capture the original story of the people and their pet lookalikes…  The video shows her hiding under other tables, trying to interview people in the room, while the robber is shouting over everyone in the background.

When she was signing off she said, “And I’ve also been told there was a robbery here today!” and we see the police hauling off a man in handcuffs in the background.

I was thinking of that today, because Rose so spectacularly buried the lead of the real story from that day.  And in today’s Gospel reading, it feels a little bit like Mark has buried the lead – maybe even Jesus did, too.

The reading begins sort of dismally – “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed…”  It’s not until after we’ve heard all of that that we get to the most surprising (and most important) news of the day.  He also says, “and after three days [this Son of Man will] rise again.”

It’s like Rose saying, “Oh, and by the way, there was also a robbery here today!”  It almost overlooks the biggest part of the story.

Up until that point in history, the first part of the story, though dismal, is not all that unexpected.  Lots of people had undergone great suffering.  Many had been rejected by the religious leaders.  Some had even been killed.  But the news here isn’t the suffering and the death – the news is the rising again.

It’s easy for us to fall into that same kind of trap.  When we face something that’s new for us – something that is unexpected or unforeseen – it can be easy to get trapped in the worry; to overlook or maybe even to minimize the good because we’re so concerned about the change and what all could go wrong.

But it’s important to remember: while the suffering of Christ is certainly a very real part of the story, it is not the whole of the Gospel.  It’s nowhere near the most important part of the Good News of God in Christ.  The Good News is so much bigger.  The Good News – the true Gospel – is that God chose to be with us in the person of Jesus, and that God then showed us the path to new life through the Resurrection.  The real Good News is that the suffering and degradation and death that is so common in this world has been shown to be so much less important than we might have otherwise thought it was.  The Good News is that God is showing us another way.

The Son of Man will rise again.  In that context, nothing else really matters.

It’s a lesson that we’ve too often lost for ourselves in the church.  We get so carried away with the mechanics of our lives – what we do to exercise our faith; our preferences and habits and expectations – that we can miss the bigger story.  That bigger story is that through Christ, all the physical things of the world that pull so much of our focus are stripped away.  That through Christ, we have an unexpected path to a closer relationship with God.  That through Christ, all shall be well.  Even if it’s not at this moment, the promise is that we are not left alone, and that through Christ, God is with us through it all.

Here at St. David’s we’re on the cusp of some change.  We’ve been talking about it for a while, and the wheels are still in motion.  And with change, there’s always some uncertainty, and there’s always some give and take.  But I pray that we’ll not be like Rose or the Gospeller, Mark.  I pray that we won’t bury the lead.  I pray that we won’t get mired in the mechanics to the degree that we can’t see the bigger picture.

Of course, the bigger picture is a healthier future for this parish, but in the greater scheme of things, even that is just mechanics.  The real bigger picture is our commitment to hearing God’s call in our lives and in our ministries and committing ourselves to following Christ with faith into the unknown.

The future is always unknown, but every now and then we’ll actually wake up and notice it.  That’s when we tend to freak out.  But it’s important to remember that worrying about an unknown future just means that for a moment we’ve paid attention.  In fact, nothing has changed.

I encountered a quote several years ago that’s really stuck with me, and it’s something I try to remember to turn to when I find myself consumed with worry.  The words are simple: “Worry is a misuse of imagination.”

That’s all worry is.  Imagination.  Imagination is one of God’s greatest gifts.  It’s how we come closest to living in the image of God for which we were created, because it’s a conduit to creativity.  But like all gifts, it needs to be tended and cared for.  We need to learn how to use it for good.

How might our lives be different if we committed to stop using our imagination to envision that dismal reality that introduced our Gospel reading today?  What if, instead, we used our imagination to envision that last thing: the rising again?

Imagine a world where that’s the focus of the church.  Imagine a world where we don’t get lost in mechanics but commit to focusing our imagination and our functioning to bringing about the Resurrection – to being conduits of the path that Jesus paved for us.

What would our community of faith look like if we made that commitment?  What if we committed to using our imagination every chance we got, and using it to envision Resurrection realities?  Just imagine what we could do…  Just imagine who we would become…