May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
A number of years ago,
Nicolas Sparks wrote a book called the Notebook.
Its popularity increased as it was adapted for a movie.
The story is a love story:
About a couple—with the wife dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.
She lives in a care facility, and her husband visits her regularly:
Always with a notebook in hand.
The husband reads from his notebook:
A series of flashbacks:
From when they were young:
Reading their love story over and over again:
In the hopes that his wife will remember some of it.
Many can relate to this story.
The love story.
Or even those who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
The wife in the story does not remember who she is,
And so the husband reminds her over and over again.
He tells her who she is, and who they are together.
Their story is important, not only to her, but to him.
It gives them meaning and purpose in the midst of tragedy.
How often do we need to be reminded of our own stories?
As we continue to grow and change as people faced with a variety of circumstances:
We can lose sight of our true selves:
And we need to be reminded of who we really are.
In today’s Gospel: We hear a lot of things that we hear in the season of lent:
Actually, this is the same story that we heard on the 2nd Sunday of Lent this year.
Jesus tells his disciples that he must suffer.
Then he will be killed.
And after three days, rise from the dead.
Jesus knows his own story,
And he does not make excuses about it.
In fact, Mark tells us that:
“He said all this quite openly.”
Jesus understood his belonging in God’s story:
And all that that would mean.
Later, he asks his disciples, the crowd, and ultimately us:
Two very important questions:
“Why would people gain the whole world, but lose their lives?
What will people give in exchange for their lives?”
One biblical translation called “The message” puts it in this way:
What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you:
The REAL you?
What could you ever trade your soul for?”
Jesus wants to know our stories:
Wants our stories to be a part of HIS story.
And the answers to these questions reveal who we truly are:
And what we believe about our stories and identities.
The answers to those questions also reveal who we believe Jesus is.
Do we believe in the story that he tells?
The Jesus that Peter says is the Messiah?
Do we believe in the Jesus that will be rejected by so many:
And left to die on a cross, only to be resurrected?
Do we really believe all of these stories?
Do we believe in the ministry of suffering and self-sacrifice?
It’s a tough one.
Either Jesus is crazy:
A con man:
What he says is TRUE.
In your own life:
If Jesus were to look at you and ask,
“Who do you say that I am?”
How would you respond?
If someone were to ask you who you are:
What story would you tell?
One could interpret Jesus’ words today as saying:
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead.
Don’t run from suffering. Follow me, and I’ll show you.”
“Don’t set your mind on merely human things:
Follow me: And I’ll show you the Divine things that are a part of you.”
This is a different message than what we hear from the world around us:
And even from our human nature that seeks to avoid pain at all costs.
God is calling us into a different way:
To be a part of a different story than the one the world is telling us.
The same is happening in the book of James today:
When James warns us about the words we speak:
How damaging our words can be if we’re not careful.
And that what we say: And HOW we say it:
Reflects our faith:
And ultimately, our very self.
What we say:
Reflects WHO we are.
God is asking us to offer our whole selves:
Our time, our talents, our treasures:
And especially our sufferings.
And to trust that we will be led into a more meaningful life than what we could come up with ourselves.
Flannery O’Connor, An American writer put it this way:
“Just being who you are, not justifying or apologizing
it sounds so easy.
It’s a life work not to get caught in producing, performing, proving:
keeping accounts of indebtedness,
waiting for gratitude, reward, ambition:
manipulation, staggering self-pity.
but cultivating: the habit of being.”
It is cultivating a habit of being:
That tells God’s story:
And Hearing it echo in our own.
It’s cultivating a habit of being:
That is able to just be:
To be where we are:
In all joy, in all suffering.
It’s cultivating a habit of being:
To be not only who we are called to be:
But to remember who we really ARE.
And like the couple in The Notebook,
May we remind each other of God’s story:
God’s LOVE story to us:
And to the whole entire world.
May we remember the love story that isn’t even over yet:
The story that is ongoing:
And even when we lose our way:
To have the courage to keep writing the story:
Bit by bit:
As we remember who we really are.
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