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February 25, 2018 - God Embraces Our Unknown

Second Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings

There are at least two instances where people have asked me to pray for the unknown. In both cases it was test results awaited for cancer. Nothing unnerves us more than the unknown… the unknown when someone loses their job… the unknown when divorce hits… the unknown when someone loses their spouse… the unknown when someone is awaiting for a transplant… the unknown when someone is deployed… the unknown when someone we know battles addiction… the unknown when someone is diagnosed with terminal illness. 

I am approaching today’s readings it from the perspective of the unknown. I am choosing to do this because of the story of Abraham in today’s first reading. This man was called to embrace the unknown… an unknown land… an unknown time for the birth of his first son… the unknown in the offering his son as a sacrifice. Jesus too embraces the unknown. He knew who he was. His baptism and his transfiguration affirmed him as the “beloved son.” But after his baptism he went into the desert… into the unknown. After his transfiguration he went down the mountain… into the unknown. 

  1. God Embraces Our Unknown. In being called to sacrifice his son, the very son through whom God’s promise of a great nations was to be accomplished, Abraham was pushed to brink of the unknown. It is very possible that we ask the question, how could God ask Abraham to make such a demanding sacrifice? Who asks someone to sacrifice their child? For those of us who know the whole story, God did not ask Abraham what God would not do himself for us. Abraham’s son was spared that day, but God did not spare his own Son. The story of the incarnation is the story of God both entering and embracing our humanity. It tells us that God entered and embraced our life in its totality. God entered the depths of human life, including the unknown. In entering the desert, in experiencing pain and suffering, in navigating through the unknown, in embracing death… God embraced humanity to its fullest extent possible. If there is anyone here in this church struggling with the unknown, please be consoled that God is not someone who does not understand our struggles with the unknown. 
  1. Faith in the Context of the Unknown. Today’s scripture readings also tell us what faith looks like when the unknown hits us. Both Abraham and Jesus show us the meaning of faith. Faith in the context of the unknown is believing that where I dread to go, God is already there. Abraham had no idea that his son would be spared. When he got to mountain to do what God asked of him, God was already there. Jesus had no idea what awaited him as he prepared to die. He even felt abandoned on the cross. Yet God was already there in the empty tomb where he was placed. The best way to counter the paralyzing fear of the unknown is to have the absolute confidence that where I am being led, God is already there. It means to believe that I don’t have to look for God where I am going, but that God will find me there.  
  1. Embracing the Unknown Required Self-Sacrifice. Going confidently into the unknown requires a certain amount of selflessness. Part of the reason we struggle with the unknown might be because we are too afraid to lose ourselves. We live in a time when we are obsessed with ourselves. Have you heard about selfiecinno? Yes, it is coffee with your own image impressed on the froth! Its like you are drinking yourself! How much of me is enough for me? It seems these days that no amount of me is enough for me? The Christian narrative tells a very different story. Abraham embraced the unknown only because he was willing to sacrifice that which was most dear to him. Peter, on the other hand, wanted to stay up on the mountain and keep the transfiguration experience for himself. Jesus teaches them going up the mountain is only one side of discipleship. It is often the easier part of it. There is also a coming down the mountain. It is called self-sacrifice… selflessness. Embracing the unknown is an act of self-sacrifice. A selfish person can never embrace the unknown. 

In the Eucharist Christ embraces our unknown. May our participation in the Eucharist help us to discover Christ in the very places that we find ourselves looking for God. 

- Fr. Satish Joseph