Yogi Berra, manager of the NY Yankees once said, “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six,” and “Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets,” and “I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.” This great philosopher also once said, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” And when we come to forks in our roads we do have to take one of the two roads don’t we? Today I want us to consider what fork, what path we are taking. You know when I drive to the church every day, I can choose from four options. I can take Spring Hill to Deltona and go north to the church, or I can drive Elgin to Mariner to Northcliffe and go south on Deltona to the church, or I can drive Elgin all the way to Deltona and then go south to the church or finally I can drive over on route 50 to Deltona and go south to the church. All of those way work and yet I usually take the same path, the Spring Hill to Deltona to church because usually it is a little shorter time-wise. The point though is that there are paths that all lead to the same place. From most of our houses there are different ways to get to the same place. But when we are speaking about spiritual locations, when we are talking about getting from here to heaven or getting from here to God it is a little different. And that is what our Scripture lessons talk about today.
Today we are going to look at all three of our scripture passages we will start with the gospel lesson. In our gospel lesson we see Jesus rebuking Peter. The reason is because Peter has just told Jesus that Jesus must NOT undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and be killed. But then Jesus, raises his voice so that Peter really pays attention and so that all those around can hear him and he tells him that he, Peter, is setting his mind on human things not on divine things.” Peter is naturally enough only looking at the situation from a human point of view. But as followers of Jesus, we have to look at the divine perspective not the human point of view. The human point of view sees only what is important right now and right here. The human point of view sees only today’s values and what are the current social perspectives. The human point of view only sees what is temporary and does not consider what is eternal. But in contrast, looking at situations from the divine point of view is quite a bit different. The divine point of view looks at what is important from an eternal perspective. The divine point of view looks at what God says is important and what God values is not usually what humanity values. What God says is right or wrong is many times much different than what our society says is right and wrong; one only has to look at what plays on our televisions, or listen to the lyrics of popular songs, or look at modern art to see and understand this. We, as followers of Jesus though are to have the divine not the human point of view.
Further Jesus tells his disciples and those who are considering becoming his disciples that those who want to follow him must deny themselves. And how does that work? How can people deny themselves? Are we supposed to say, “I am not really here? I doubt my existence?” No, certainly not. As Christians we embrace our existence and individuality. The Greek word, aparneomai which we generally translate as deny can also be translated as disown, or renounce or disregard. So we can think of Jesus saying that we need to disown or renounce or disregard ourselves. Using those terms we are to understand it is not so much a denying ourselves so as to think we are not here as much as it is a replacing of ourselves, that is, our desires and our wills with something else. And with what do we replace our wills and desires? We put Jesus and his will in place of us and our desires. Just like a soldier does not follow his own will, but follows the will of his commanding officer, we follow the will of Jesus. Just like an employee does what his boss says and does not follow his own desires, we do what Jesus wants us to do. It is not as though we do not have our own desires or wills, we do, but instead of doing what we want we do what our Lord Jesus wants us to do.
And here is where we look at Abraham as an example of how we should be. We are told in the Genesis passage that Abraham was 99 years old and God appeared to him and told him to “walk before me and be blameless. I will make a covenant between you and me and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Now you need to understand that Abraham was indeed 99 years old. Not only was he 99 years old but his wife Sarah was 90 years old and she had gone through menopause and was no longer even able to conceive and bear children. They had both waited for years and years hoping and believing for a child and nothing. No pregnancy, no indication that she had ever been with child; not even a miscarriage. Yet God Almighty has just appeared to Abraham and promised him that he and Sarah would have a child.
It is about this situation that Abraham and Sarah were in that the passage in Romans is talking. Clearly neither Abraham nor Sarah can produce a child by the normal way. The normal way won’t work anymore. Instead now they need a miracle. If in fact Abraham and Sarah are going to have a child it has to be God doing it. God has to divinely intervene to make it work because those two old people cannot produce a child together anymore. And so what happens? We are told that Abraham believes God. Hoping against hope he believed that he would become the father of many nations because why? Because he believed God and God had told him that this was going to be the case. He believed what God told him. Sarah believed what God told them.
Neither Abraham nor Sarah were looking at their situation with a human perspective. From a human perspective it was crazy to think that a 90 year old woman could conceive and bear a child. It was crazy. But from a divine situation it was completely believable. As the Lord told Sarah, “Is anything too hard for God?” And the answer of course is ‘No, nothing is too hard for God.”
For us today, looking at what Jesus told us, it is pretty hard. It is hard to replace ourselves. It is pretty hard to set our wills onto the back burner and choose to do what God said. It is hard to forgive when we feel slighted; it is hard to be patient when we feel irritated; it is hard to choose to do what God says to do and believe his standard is correct when all around us we hear that God’s way is intolerant and too restrictive and even unloving. And yet, Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and follow him. He tells us to disregard our wills and choose what he tells us. He bids us to look at our lives with the divine perspective NOT the human point of view.
It is the 2nd Sunday of Lent. There is a fork in the road. What way is the correct way to God? There is only one way—it is the way of Jesus. I know in my life there are areas where I have my will and I am not so eager to set it aside to follow Jesus; I am looking with a human point of view, yet he calls me and he calls you to follow; he calls us to see and believe in the divine point of view like Abraham and Sarah. So let us all continue to work on following him.