Summary: About the immensity of God’s love.
1 Lent (C) February 21, 2010
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
St. Andrew’s Church
The best stories are true stories, don’t you agree?
Friday night I saw The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw and I was blown away. I know that I’m late to the party since the movie was released before Thanksgiving, but there were others in the theater who I presume also were seeing the movie for the first time.
If Leigh Anne Tuohy is half the steel magnolia that Bullock portrayed, then she is to be admired, not only for her spunk, but more so for how she lives out her Christian faith. In 2002, Tuohy takes in a homeless son of a crack-addicted mother from inner city Memphis, Tennessee and gives him a coach to sleep on. Over time, Michael Oher becomes a member of the Tuohy family, overcomes academic problems, and learns the game of football. Because of his size and agility he was a highly sought-after prospect and earns a football scholarship to the University of Mississippi where he becomes an All-American. He was a first-round draft pick of the NFL Baltimore Ravens.
All because a wealthy socialite mom took him in and loved him as her own. Which takes us to our psalm this morning. Psalm 91 pictures God as a mother bird sheltering her young under her wings. The care and protection of God causes one to exclaim,
v. 2b "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
Why do bad things happen to God’s people? Sometimes sin and evil happen to us like a bird caught in a snare. The bird was doing what birds do – gathering food, and snap – it’s caught in a trap. Because there is sin and evil in this world, we are sometimes affected when we are just living our lives in our normal fashion.
This morning’s gospel lesson follows immediately after Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and Jesus, “full of the Holy Spirit,” “was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days (Luke 4:1-2). For forty days in the wilderness Jesus was tempted by the devil. After forty days of fasting Jesus is weakened by hunger and the devil pounces. “If you are the Son of God…” challenges the devil.
At His baptism, Jesus’ heavenly Father said, “You are my beloved Son” (3:22). Forty days of fasting didn’t diminish Jesus’ faith in His Father in heaven nor His attachment to Him. The psalmist writes,
v. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
Jesus knew the faithfulness of His heavenly Father. Even in the wilderness, face to face with the devil, Jesus can count on the protection of His Father in heaven.
There’s a scene in The Blind Side when Leigh Anne Tuohy takes Michael Oher clothes shopping in his old environs in North Memphis. She is visibly uncomfortable in the predominantly African American neighborhood. She asks Michael, who is also known as Big Mike if he will protect her. “I’ve got your back,” replies Michael as they walk toward the clothing store.
It’s a beautiful scene with all its contradictions:
- a wealthy white women impeccably dressed
- a large African American youth wearing the only clothes he owns
- the clothing store in a Memphis ghetto.
vv. 5-6 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
Four and a half years ago, Scott Bader-Saye, a professor at the University of Scranton received an email from a Kate Brennan, a former student. Brennan wrote out of a sense of loss – one of her students, Ani, had died. Ani was just seventeen, a senior in high school. One day Ani was in school and then she suddenly came down with all kinds of symptoms: “constant fever, unnatural kidney function, failing vision” (Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, p. 98).
One day, Brennan got a phone call with the message that Ani had 24 hours to live. The next day, Ani died. In her email, Kate Brennan reflects,
There’s no making sense of this loss. Ani emanated an incredibly positive
loving energy and was so talented. [p.97]
Bader-Saye wrote back to Brennan the same day he received her email.
I have thought a lot about God and suffering, and at the very least I’ve
concluded that the banal slogans we sometimes trot out of times like
this are usually unhelpful and sometimes harmful. I’ve heard people,
with good intentions I’m sure, say things like “God wanted another