We are now beginning our twelfth day of forty in a symbolic period of time we call Lent. Last Sunday we found the symbolism in the readings telling us that baptism by the Holy Spirit is what speaks to us individually, sending each of us willingly to have our commitment to God be tested. Our Lenten sacrifices are then not to ourselves but to God.
Last Sunday we read from the Book of Genesis and remembered the covenant God made with Noah. Today we hear the words that also come from the Book of Genesis that remind us of the covenant God made with Abram. Two Sundays and two covenants made by God to holy men. We need to see a trend there, one that becomes synonymous with the meaning of Lent.
The word “covenant” means, simply put, “an agreement.” According to Merriam-Webster, the word is defined as “a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement,” which can also be “a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.” To sum all that up in a word, “covenant” means “promise.”
Raise your hand if you are married.
<look for raised hands>
For those of you that are married, I ask you [rhetorically], “Is that a covenant between you and your spouse?”
We live in times where marriage has changed significantly. While divorce has been an accepted way to cease a formal agreement between two parties [more if children are involved], since ancient times, it seems that marriage now represents a limited liability partnership, with an unwritten expectation that at some point in the future “all good things must end.”
Marriage is less about till death do we part, becoming more about an agreed selfishness: until we tire of each other’s company.
This view of personal relationships between husband and wife [no longer that clear cut] has become commonplace in work relationships. No longer are husbands married to a job they maintained for forty years; and, no longer are wives married to running a household and raising children. Changes in the institution of marriage have led to changes in career commitments, to the point that change has become the expectation.
This state of marriage in the twenty-first century becomes the fulfillment of how Jesus spoke roughly two thousand years ago about: “this adulterous and sinful generation.” Our society has found unfaithfulness and infidelity [synonyms for “adultery”] as the norm.
It is from that selfish perspective that many Christians view Lent as some temporal agreement that is based on something an individual decides to do for oneself [hopefully for forty days], rather than the period being seen as a time of review, where one reflects back on the sacrifices one has made over a lifetime, since one became married to God.
This should be how one sees the covenant God made with Abram. One should see how Abram had been tested by God up to that point. Abram’s faith in God had been demonstrated over and over [minimally] for twenty-four years. Abram’s marriage to Sarai was probably then going on sixty years of deep commitment, based on love. Most likely, as a descendant of Noah, through his son Shem, Abram had been baptized by God’s Holy Spirit before marrying Sarai.
The covenant made between Yahweh and Abram was made well before we read that God promised to reward Abram’s faithful service with a son. Therefore, when we hear the words read aloud: “I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous,” we should hear them saying how God already was acknowledging there existed a covenant – a marriage arrangement – so, it was from that arrangement that God then promised to make Abram “exceedingly numerous.”
In that vow made there was an agreement exchanged, where God said, “You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham.” That says symbolically that God promised Abram an eternal legacy; and, in exchange for that ancestry will come a name change.
Ladies here who are married, raise your hand if you changed your name after you became married.
<look for raised hands>
We read in the Holy Bible about name changes and think little of it.
Abram was told by God his name would change to Abraham [and Sarai would become Sarah].
Jacob wrestled with some entity all night long and was then told his name would be Israel.
Jesus met Simon bar Jonah and told him his name would become Cephas [or Peter in English].
The spirit of Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus and after Saul experienced a epiphany, he changed his name to Paul.
In each of those examples the name changes is signified an important state of being that needed to be expressed in the name one would go by in the future. The name of the past was no longer was appropriate.
The name Abram means “Father [Abba] Exalted [Rum],” or "Exalted Father." But Abraham means “Protective [Abbir] Their [Hem]," or "Their Protection."
The name Jacob means “Supplanter,” but Israel means “He Retains God.”
The name Simon means, “He Who Hears,” but Peter means “Stone.”
The name Saul means “Asked For,” but the name Paul means “Small.”
Without going into what those changes in name meant to each individual, consider them all as bearing the same essence of marriage, where a wife takes her husband’s name as hers. See that as a statement of ownership change, from her father’s name, to the name inherited at birth by her husband, from his father. One changed from one family to another.
If you can grasp that as being behind all name changes in the Holy Bible, the point of them all says one changed from being known by one’s human self, to one then known forevermore by the name that says, “I am owned by God.” One goes from the family of man to the family of God.
The name of the flesh has then become changed to the name for the soul.
In the psalm sung this morning, David was heard to say, “My soul shall live for him.” That is a statement of marriage to God, so one is no longer led by worldly ancestry, because one has sacrificed all material concerns for eternal salvation.
In Paul’s letter to the Christians of Rome, he pointed out how the promise made to Abram was not about him being an "Exalted Father," from whom millions of people would become descendants, eventually going by the moniker “Jews.” Instead, the story in Genesis 17 is about the promise of those who would follow "Abraham," as souls living in bodies of flesh “through the righteousness of faith.”
Paul stated, “[Abram] did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old).” Even though Abram, as Abraham, would live another seventy-six years, dying at the age of one hundred seventy-five, at ninety-nine he had given up any expectation that he would become a father, especially with his wife Sarai eighty-nine years of age.
What Paul was saying is that Abram was dead to normal human fatherhood at ninety-nine, but he was reborn spiritually as a new Son of man, who would become the model of “Their Protection,” to souls that would live righteous lives (yet unborn) as had Abram.
Thus, Paul wrote: “Therefore [Abram’s] faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” That, Paul wrote, was for our benefit today, just as it was for the benefit of early Christians in Rome, to whom Paul initially wrote.
The meaning of Paul saying, “It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification,” means that just like the descendants of Abraham would have to have righteous faith, demonstrating personal knowledge of God through marriage to His Holy Spirit, so too will all who will follow in that most divine lineage have to fit that model.
Abram died and was reborn as Abraham. Abram had been handed over to Yahweh in his early youth, shunning the ways of the world, walking with the face of God so he had done no sins. It was that purity of Abram’s soul that was how David could sing, “They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that he has done.”
In the same sense of righteousness, Jesus was sent by God as the fulfillment of the promises of the prophets – the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed. Jesus was then God’s covenant to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, sent as one holy seed that had to be handed over to death, so the Holy Spirit of the Christ could become born into a multitude of nations, all of which would allow God to be their King in heart, through a holy matrimony that would change all their names to Jesus Christ.
Paul, as a Saint, transformed from one who “Asked For” power, influence and wealth [as a Jew of Roman citizenship], into one who knew full-well how “Small” a human being can be in God’s grand scheme of things. As a saint, Paul was Jesus Christ reborn and knew what he was writing about, when he penned the words that say, it was “our trespasses” – now and forevermore – that was why God sent His Son into the world. To save us from the influences to sin that permeate the world, Jesus the seed had to die, so his Spirit could be “raised for our justification.”
Paul was a sinner as Saul, but by being reborn as Jesus Christ his past sins had been erased. That erasure was not by birthright or bloodline. His sins were forgiven because his soul married God’s Holy spirit and he put on the face of God [in the name of Jesus Christ] and walked righteously from then on.
All of this relates to the reading found in Mark’s Gospel.
There, we read that Jesus was teaching his disciples. He was teaching them to become him reborn, but that was flying well over their disciple heads.
It flies over most Christians’ heads today [if not all], because we have been trained to think like the disciples thought way back then: Jesus is talking about his suffering to come, then again for the third time.
We think Peter went to take Jesus aside to rebuke him, because he could not stand the thought of facing the world without Jesus.
We think Jesus singled Peter out by calling him Satan in front of the whole group. Then we think Jesus called everyone around to come join the discussion, so he could tell them they all had to learn to drag a big, heavy, rugged wooden cross from the Roman fortress in Jerusalem to Golgotha, or else they would not be good enough to call themselves Christians.
Christians today think they know some stuff, all because they are descendants of parents who told them to believe Jesus was the Christ and some holy water touched their foreheads once upon a time.
The reading from Mark’s Gospel heard today says Jesus was teaching his disciples what it would take to become nations unto God. He was telling them what it takes to walk righteously while wearing the face of God before them.
First of all, Jesus said in his lesson, they each had to suffer rejection from all the scholars who would tell them, “You don’t have to do anything to gain heaven, other than profess you believe in God [now adding Christ].” Jesus warned his disciples that the elders [now parents that are members of churches], the high priests [now including popes and bishops], and the scribes [now all university and seminary professors of religious studies] will all chastise you for thinking you can talk to God or understand Scripture [now become Jesus Christ reborn].
Jesus then taught his disciples, “Do not be like Nicodemus, who teaches about spiritual matters when he has never known one day of righteousness and never worn any face other than his own to the world.” Nicodemus [like today's priests] did not see how being reborn again. (John 3:3)
When Jesus said he would have to face death, it becomes important for everyone born into a body of flesh to know that he or she is living on borrowed time. The clock of life is ticking.
Newsbreak! Mortal [from “mortalis”] means bound to die – subject to death.
When Jesus said he had “to be killed,” the meaning is he had to change names!
Jesus had to stop being limited by his seed covering that went by “of Nazareth” and be reborn as “the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed.” That could only come after a transition from a lower state of being into a higher state of being. Jesus had to be killed so others could come to the realization that they too had to allow their self-egos to be killed, so they could change names – become in the name of Jesus Christ.
The element of three days has to be views from a different angle that one normally reads words. It makes more sense when read as “days of three,” where “three” becomes the focal point – the Trinity.
One has to stop being self - a loner - and become married to God the Father, becoming His Son, via one’s soul being merged with God’s Holy Spirit.
When that happens the death symbolized by night and sleep is eliminated and one’s soul will be filled with the light of days.
This means rising takes on the spiritual essence of being raised from the mere mortal status of one born to die, so one is reborn with the covenant of eternal life. One is also raised to the level of teacher, as Jesus within needing to always find disciples to lead to God.
Because of the religious educational system that we have allowed to control our souls, we sacrifice our souls by allowing more and more sins to be ignored, seen as forgiven by a fictitious Jesus that no Scripture can verify. We begin accepting the sinful into our midst, so the elders, our high priests, and our scribes are given the right to become bad shepherds and hired hands looking over us. We imprison our souls with a false way of being shepherded.
Peter then reflects that rejection of truth, when he took Jesus aside to rebuke him. When we read that Jesus turned to the disciples, the reality of the words written says something more. The element of turning says the one seeking to be taught the truth had turned to reject the truth told, as the disciples became re-embodiments of a false educational system. The disciples had become influenced by the mythical interpretations of divine prophecy, as they had been taught the Messiah would be a hero warrior. Peter, therefore, did not simply speak his opinion to Jesus, because Peter was speaking what all the disciples thought. None of them wanted Jesus to ever die, because they thought nobody could ever replace him.
Raise your hands if you think you could replace Jesus.
<look for raised hands>
Jesus expects everyone who loves God to become the Christ, reborn in his name.
Failure to see that as Jesus teaching his disciples a most important lesson, led Jesus to tell all his disciples, “Get behind me, Satan.”
All were like the vineyard of God, each staked upright to bear the weight of the good fruit of the vine that would becoming Apostles would bring, each filled with the truth of God and the Christ Mind. The weight of the truth demanded each be firmly planted upright stakes.
Yet, the weight of being disciples hearing Jesus talk about his coming future made them all lean over, falling on the ground. They acted more like Cain did when God rejected his sacrifice of plants on his altar.
God came to Cain and said, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7) Most likely, Jesus said something similar to Peter, after Peter rebuked Jesus.
Still, all the disciples had the same mindset as Peter. All of the stakes in Jesus' vineyard had fallen over. So, Jesus called all the others who followed the entourage around, telling them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
In the same way that Cain ignored God and later went to his brother Abel and killed him out of rejection, everyone sitting at this bus stop can ignore that I am says Jesus says for you to use this period of Lent as a personal period of eternal soul changes. Lent is the time to raise your stake so you become righteous. Lent is not just for forty days [unless you are Jesus, having recently walked on baptismal waters and had the heavens of insight opened for you], but forevermore. Lent is a personal sacrifice that begins when your soul marries God and lasts as long as your soul has life left in your human flesh.
Then, Jesus wants you to know that can only happen by denying self-ego. You all need to know that listening to what your body of flesh wants your soul to do is listening to Satan control you like a puppet on a string. You have to tell Satan to get out of your face, because you can only wear the face of God and be righteous.
You can reject me because no one else preaches that Jesus told all his followers, “If you want to save your soul, then you must lose your way of life."
Only I tell others that they must change their names through marriage to God.
Wo else tells others they must become led by the Christ Mind, so the words of Scripture become clear and so one is able to speak with authority, as Jesus reborn, so that others can come in contact with the truth that is the Gospel. Spreading the Gospel is not reciting Bible verses or professing belief that Jesus is the Christ, because the Gospel means being Jesus reborn again.
The only other choice one can make is to kill a soul's chance of redemption, just as Cain did by killing his righteous brother and being forever banished from God’s grace.
Jesus then asked you - if your are either a disciple or a follower of his - to decide what in the world would make it worth killing a soul, condemning it to eternally coming back into a body of flesh, with as much hope of ever changing one's name as had the soul of Judas Iscariot. Once a Judas, always a Judas.
Thus, Jesus made it clear that anyone who says they seek God, through being a Christian, but then does not walk the walk and talk the talk is a failure, because he or she is too embarrassed to marry God, change names, and become the Son of man reborn.
Can you hear that message that I hear?
<look for heads nodding>
Being too ashamed to be reborn in the name of Jesus Christ is what leads to a society becoming adulterous and sinful, willing to worship sinners as the leaders of churches and change age-old concepts on marriage to suit the lusts of a wayward world.
Sitting tight and playing a role that promotes the destruction of righteousness, because it is too embarrassing to do upright and blameless acts in a society that bows before Satan, means one has that right to do absolutely nothing. That is what they call free will.
One can deny Jesus, rather than deny yourself. One can turn one's back on God, because one wants to remain important in some family that loves to call rejection the ways Jesus says to love, while hating all that speak ill of your ways.
John the Baptist saw a group of those coming to get washed free of their sins and he called them what they truly were, saying, “You brood of vipers!” (Matthew 3:7 and John 3:7)
Jesus saw a similar group and said to them, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to!” (Matthew 23:13)
That “woe” is what all souls who are too ashamed to be reborn in the name of Jesus Christ can expect when their day of reckoning comes. Saying you are “Christian,” but then doing nothing in the name of Jesus Christ makes you are a liar. When your face appears before the face of God, and it is not the face of Jesus on your soul, then expect to find the outer darkness where there is a lot of gnashing of teeth in your soul’s eternal future.
In this time of Lent it is so vital to realize Jesus did not create an organization that could use his heavenly title without paying the price that comes from having stolen that identity. Jesus is the model of all who are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Lent is when one celebrates one’s marriage to God and the Spirit of hope having come upon one’s soul through that marriage.
Lent is not forty days of “playing church,” in some children’s game that pretends to do without something worthless, temporarily. Instead, Lent should be seen like an extended Wedding Anniversary remembrance, just like Christmas should be accepted as one’s second birthday party, remembering when one first became impregnated with God’s holy child known to be reborn in the future.
Seeing Lent as a yearly happening, which always follows the much more enjoyable time known as Mardi Gras [or Shrove Tuesday], makes Lent meaningless. It becomes just like how it is always more fun to celebrate the death found in a sinful world on Halloween, rather than a soul finding eternal salvation in righteousness on All Saints Day. Seeing the seasons of a meaningful church as trivial means there is no true commitment to God, in the churches or in the congregations. There is no true desire to become a Christian, as no one wants to do more than act holy.
If Lent is not when one can truthfully say to others, “I remember marrying God twenty-four years ago [like Abram could have said when God made a promise to him to have a multitude of descendants]” or “This year, I remember when God took me as His wife seventy-five years ago [like Abraham could have said the year before his death],” then one is not seriously considering Lent the right way. Lent must be the sacrifice of self and the eternal commitment to a marriage to God. Anything less makes one a flirt, not a disciple; and, flirts are everywhere in an adulterous and sinful generation.
With there still being twenty eight days left in Lent, let’s hope one can review the lessons of today and have them open up one's heart to that marriage potential.