Lent 3 C –

Sometimes the people who come to Jesus for affirmation are left bitterly disappointed.

Those who flock to this bold new teacher – this gentle man of God –

seeking to have their old prejudices propped up, and their favourite suspicions confirmed

are – more often than not – stunned by the way Jesus responds to them.

And the feeling is not limited to Jesus original audience..

The gospel reading this morning is bleak.

Death and destruction, ripped from the headlines.

It follows a line of conversation with which we may be familiar.

(Pat Robertson telling people that Haiti ‘deserved’ their earthquake for turning from God)

and Jesus has a pretty simple – and none too encouraging response

to those who want to know what it takes to avoid calamity.

If destruction is a judgement from God

(and that is how the world has long perceived it)

then how do we steer clear of the wrath –

the earthquakes and accidents that seem to carry a hidden message…?

Jesus is quite clear – you can’t.

Bad things happen.

Your goodness won’t prevent them –

not even your perfect piety will prevent them.

You need to continue in faith – in repentance –

seeking God while he may be found, and all that –

but immunity is not a condition we can expect in this life

Judgement, some call it. The wages of sin – our burden for the failures of humanity –

But what Jesus sees to be saying is “that’s life! So live for God”

I, for one, am never disappointed in Jesus.

Jesus does not ignore the harsh realities of life in favour of some fabulous future.

Jesus let’s the facts be the facts – there is no hiding from reality;

not in religious practice – not in law-abiding righteousness –

not in ‘right-thinking’ about God.

And the prevailing fact Jesus would call to our attention is this:

in the midst of all this bad news – in spite of it – you should still be always trying your best

to recognize the nearness of God – to seek harmony with your neighbour and understand that harmony to be part of what God intended.

today we can explain away

many of the events that once seemed to come straight from the hand of God;

earthquakes – volcanoes – hurricanes.

All part of the natural order of things.

So too, it seems, are the more insidious diseases –

cancer, HIV Aids, ALS, Alzheimers.

Not punishments, just facts.

And Jesus invites us to live with these facts – not to use them as weapons against one another

(you failed therefore God is punishing you…)

Since (another fact) “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”

then there should be no end to the personal misery we suffer –

if indeed God chose to condemn us with an ever increasing litany of disasters –

Truly this is life – the good the bad and the beautiful –

and each of us is given our fair share of comfort and challenge.

In it all we are invited to pursue the things of God –

not so we might remain untouched by trouble –

but so we might live to the best of our abilities.

This is the good news hidden deep within this morning’s gospel

this is the good news of Jesus –

driven to despair and death at the hands of jealous (and frightened) authorities –

that with God’s help – as we pursue God’s course for our lives – we might truly live,

and there’s nothing disappointing at all about that.

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