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Gospel centred sermons, based on the lectionary often in advance.

The Trust Fall Lent 2 B 2024

Feb 24, 2024

Focus Readings Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 Romans 4:13-25 Mark 8:31-38

Trust Fall

Have you ever done a trust fall. I can remember right back to my days at youth group and Year 12 when I lived on the South Side of Brisbane. We were introduced to “new games”. They included things like parachutes and earth balls, but they also included trust activities involving blindfolds and placing yourself in the hands of of others. The iconic activity of this sort was the trust fall. A person would stand on a table with their eyes closed and then fall backwards onto a group of colleagues standing in a line. This wasn’t just for high schoolers or for youth groups. These activities were done at corporate leadership retreats and in the leadership programs of large government departments. Behind this activity is something which is profoundly true. The more trust there is in an organisation, a church, a family, a community, and so on, the better it works, the more that gets done and the greater the happiness of both individuals and the community or organisation.

            But trust comes with risk, cost and vulnerability. Over the years I bet there have been people who have refused to take part in a trust fall because for them the cost is too great. Sometimes they know the people whose arms they are meant to fall into too well. They know their flaws and failures and perhaps with some justification they are unsure if those people will catch them. Sometimes they are so keen on being in control and doing everything themselves that they are unwilling to let go and fall. If they can’t control it they won’t do it.

            In today’s Gospel reading and in Genesis and Romans  we hear two invitations to trust God. One is given to Abram who is renamed Abraham and the other is given to the disciples and also to us. Abram is promised that he and his wife Sarai will be the Mother and Father of many nations even though they are both very old and have no child of their own. In fact God Even changes Abram’s name to Abraham to mean Father of Many.  In Romans 4 and chapter 15 of  Genesis we hear that Abram believed God and God reckoned it to him as righteousness. Or to put it another way Abraham trusted his future, his life to God and God recognised him as his friend, or set right or in the good books. It must have been hard for Abram, he left his old home, went to a foreign land, gave up his old faith probably risking wealth, life and reputation and all at an age when perhaps he might have no future. It would have been easy for him to take control of his own life and say “No thanks” I’ll stick with what I know and live out my comfortable life at home with my beautiful wife. Instead he trusted God. He put on the blindfold and he allowed himself to fall into the unknown and God caught him and kept the promise. In his lifetime he continued to be blessed with wealth and he did have a son with Sarah who in turn had two sons who in turn had 12 sons who were th ancestors of the people of Israel. One of those sons Judah became the grandfather of Kings like David, Solomon, Josiah and Jesus and through them we and all the people of the world have been blessed. Abraham put on the blindfIold and fell and God caught him. God kept the promise made in Genesis 12, 15 and 17 in full. God proved to be trustworthy through famine, war, slavery, exile and occupation.

            The other invitation is made to Peter and the disciples and you and me. Abram wasn’t perfect. There were a number of times when he didn’t fully trust God. By contrast before Easter Peter really struggled to trust God and to trust Jesus. We can’t really blame Peter. Peter has recognised something in Jesus, he has recognised that Jesus is the the promised one, the Christ, the Messiah the anointed one or the one especially chosen by God to be a new king like David to rescue and free Israel. Jesus this new king will bring freedom and full godliness to the nation and perhaps even to the world. His expectations of Jesus are very different to what Jesus says next. “I am going to die on a cross, the most shameful and humiliating way possible and three days later I will be raised from the dead.” The resurrection thing would have made no sense. The resurrection was to be for every faithful Jew, not just for one representative. The death on the cross made more sense but was much more confronting.          If we look across the Bible stories of Peter we see a bit of a pattern of him wanting to be in control, of not wanting to trust Jesus. In Luke when Jesus calls him it is after the huge catch of fish where Peter afraid to trust in who and what he has just seen says “Go away from me Lord for I am a sinful man.” As we heard in the last few weeks when Jesus goes off to pray, Peter wants to bring him back to do more miracles for him, he wants Jesus to follow his script,  but Jesus will not be controlled by Peter. And as well as today’s incident where Peter neither trusts or understands Jesus there are a number of others but the most well known example of Peter’s lack of trust is after Jesus’ arrest. Peter when confronted by the onlookers near where Jesus is under arrest and on trial, denies he even knows who Jesus is, he seeks to save his own life for fear of losing it.

            But just as God proved to be trustworthy with Abraham and Sarah, Moses & Miriam, Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Ruth, David, Esther, Elijah, Josiah, Mary & Joseph, God proves to be trustworthy in Jesus. Instead of following your own plans Jesus tells you, to trust in my way and God’s plans. Let go, deny yourself, and trust me. Follow my example. In some ways for Jesus as the Son of God trusting Gof the Father and the Holy Spirit is no problem. Through eternity Jesus has been in a relationship with the Father & the Spirit that is so close that the early church described this reality as God being trinity, truly one and truly three. Trusting the Father and the Spirit would have been no problem for Jesus as the eternal Word of God. If we remember that Jesus was and still is truly human then the reality of the human experiences of loss, grief, hunger, thirst, injustice, betrayal, denial, torture, crucifixion and death must have all made it harder. It is not surprising that Jesus would say to Peter “Get behind me Satan” . The word Satan can certainly mean the devil, but it mostly means “tempter”. In saying to Jesus don’t take the way of the cross, the way of suffering and death, take the way of control, the human way, the way that Peter and you and me are always tempted to take, Peter was tempting Jesus to take control rather than to trust his human and devine life to the Father and the Spirit.

            Jesus says, NO! That is not the way. The way is not to take control. The way is not to save yourself. The way is to trust me, and God the Father. The way is to deny yourself. For Jesus and Peter and Paul and others, denying themselves and going God’s way, trusting themselves to God meant death and suffering. God probably will not call us to that, but God the Father and Jesus, God the Son, does call us all to deny ourselves, to trust our lives, to give up our lives to them and to the Spirit. We are called to close our eyes, put on the blindfold, let go and fall. It is hard; like Peter sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t.

            We worry. Will God catch us? Is this the end? If I don’t have control, will I survive? But on that score there are two bits of Good news. Firstly as I said a moment ago, the experience of the Bible tells us that God is trustworthy. We may have the blindfold on, we may be falling, but we are falling into the arms of the same One who gave Abram a Son, who rescued Jacob and his children from famine, who brought the people out of exile and who in time rescued us in Jesus. The second bit of good news is that a significant part of Jesus’ sharing his life is so that there is always someone to rescue us, to call us back, to seek us out and carry us back when we try to go our own way, and that is Jesus. He lifts Peter when he sinks in the water, he stills the storm, he does not go when Peter tells him to go. And risen from the dead he forgives Peter, and calls Peter to continue the work. All he asks is a little faith and a little love and even the faith itself is probably a gift. We are called to deny ourselves as Jesus did, to trust God the Father as he did, even if this means the cross. But we are called by the one who shares his death and life with us so when we fail God will still raises us up Just as he raised Jesus and just as Jesus lifted Peter from drowning in the stormy currents of the sea. Put on the blindfold, close your eyes and fall into the strong and mighty everlasting arms of God. Amen