Genesis 9:8-17, 1 Peter 2:21-23
Rev. Estelle Margarones
Last week we talked about listening to God and intentionally making changes. The journey of the Exodus is one account of a person—Moses--listening to God and moving forward in faith. Another Biblical account of change is easily found in Genesis, in the story of Noah and the Ark. Noah had only a short time to prepare for the flood, but he trusted God and did what God asked. Today's Scripture tells us that now the flood has passed and God has made a covenant with Noah and all living things on the earth.
A covenant is a sacred bond, a pact, a deal, a holy agreement, signifying an ongoing relationship.
God made a perpetual covenant. That means that God bound Godself to all of humanity forever. The good news is that we're covered by this holy contract.
Are we, like Noah, keeping up our end of the bargain? Are we being good stewards of the earth? Taking care of the animals? Taking care of each other? Are we being grateful for what we have instead of griping about what's been taken away? Are we praising God for new beginnings instead of complaining about things being different than they once were?
The Lenten Journey is one of reflection, where we look at our relationship with God. Christ came here to walk among us to lead by example and show us how to live.
How do you walk in His steps?
Last year, I was visiting friends in Putnam Connecticut. We went to a little antique shop and I picked up a few items including this book. It has a picture of Jesus on the cover and it's called “In His Steps” by Henry Altemus. It was published in 1899 and I'd like to share a little bit of it now.
It was Friday morning and the Rev. Henry Maxwell was trying to finish his Sunday mornings sermon. He had been interrupted several times and was growing nervous as the morning wore away, and the sermon grew very slowly toward a satisfactory finish. “Mary”, he called to his wife, as he went upstairs after the last interruption, “if anyone comes after this I wish you would say I am very busy and cannot come down unless it is something very important. Yes, Henry. But I am going out and you will have the house all to yourself.”
The minister went up into his study and shut the door. In a few minutes he heard his wife go out and then everything was quiet. He settled himself at his desk...and began to write. His text was from First Peter, chapter two, verse 21, “For hereunto were you called; because Christ also suffered for you., leaving you an example that you should follow his steps”
Reverend Maxwell was interrupted by a knocking at the door. He tried to ignore it, but the person persisted. With some annoyance, he finally opened the door to see a scruffy stranger there. The man explained that he was out of work and asked the minister for help. The minister explained that he had no job and when the young man asked about a referral, he simply said that he couldn't help. (pp. 5-7)
On Sunday morning, people arrived for church in their Sunday best. They listened attentively and sang the hymns wholeheartedly. Reverend Maxwell preached his sermon and the people enjoyed what he had to say about Following Jesus. But suddenly, a man's voice came from the back of the church. He walked to the front to face the congregation.
It was the same man who had come to the minister's house. He told the people that he'd been out of work for ten months. His wife had died four months previously and his little girl was living with a former co-worker until this man was able to find a job.
He asked, “What do you Christians mean by following in the steps of Jesus? I tramped through this city for three days trying to find a job. I supposed it's because of the way I look that you've lost your interest. I'm not blaming anybody, just stating facts. ” (p. 14)
Now, I'm sure it hasn't escaped you that of particular interest, is that the minister in this story is happy to speak of religion, but not necessarily live it.
Now I want to share a story of a person living his religion. It is also reason #398 that I love my auto mechanic!
My mechanic is honest, trustworthy, fair, and he cares about his customers as much as he cares for their cars. He once gave me five dollars off an oil change because he had a coupon in a mailer that week. (I didn't have the coupon...and, in fact, I didn't even know about it, but still, he gave me that break.) This is the same man who left his garage at 7am to come to my house to put air in my completely flat tire so that I could drive it to his garage to have a new tire put on. The wind chill was below zero that day and he had no gloves. You see, he doesn't usually leave his heated garage. He could have waited until some of his crew came in and sent them down to help me, but he gave of his own time and talent. When he looked at the tire, he assured me that there was no need to buy one—he could repair it...and save me close to $100.
A week ago Friday, my check engine light came on. I called the garage and asked their advice. Could I drive to Maine this weekend with the 'check engine' light on? One of the crew told me that I'd probably be fine, unless the light was blinking. Then he said he'd check with the boss.
A minute later, he was back on the line to say that they would make time for me. The shop owner would hook it up to the computer to see how serious an issue it was. He was able to determine that I could make the drive to and from Maine so, after church last Sunday, I went to visit my mom, my sister, brother in law, 2 nephews, several cousins, and my 89 and 93 and a half year old aunts.
I wasn't charged for the time, the diagnostic, or resetting my car's computer. The gift my mechanic gave me was much more than monetary. The peace of mind was priceless.
I asked my mechanic's permission to share this story and I invited him to church. That's when he said rather sheepishly, that his kids go to religious education classes, but he doesn't always go to church.
So I hold up two stories today, one fiction about the minister talking the talk. And one true story about the mechanic walking the walk.
I submit to you that my mechanic was keeping the covenantal relationship. A check engine light often points to emissions problems. By correcting the issue (as he did this past Thursday), he was being a good steward of the earth. By making sure that I didn't have a code that signaled imminent danger, John took care of me and those around me by making sure we were safe.
What does it mean to you to follow in Jesus steps? And how are you living it? How are you actively seeking God and reflecting God's light back into the world?
During this Lenten season, we're very aware that when we follow Jesus, the walk will lead us to the Cross. Ultimately, we will rejoice because we know that the Cross isn't the End, but in fact the Beginning!
But still, the walk isn't always easy. In fact, sometimes it's downright difficult.
Will you follow in His steps? It may mean giving of your time and talent without compensation (as in the case of the diagnostic I had done a week ago Friday). It might mean having a difficult conversation. Sometimes it means speaking the truth in love, knowing that what you say may not be what the other wants to hear (as in the case of the $254 repair I had done last week). And it may mean graciously putting up with the way things are, even as you seek to change things (as in the case of driving an older car that does occasionally need repairs until I can buy a new one).
First Peter says, “Jesus suffered for you, leaving you an example” and we're told that we should follow in His steps. Jesus led by example. Are you willing to push yourself past your comfort zone to follow?
During this Lenten Journey, we remember that Jesus walked to that Cross. We will share in the joy and promise of the Resurrection, when we follow in his steps! Blessed be and Amen.
*In His Steps, Charles Sheldon, published in 1899 by Henry Altemus (Philadelphia)