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Deacon Jim Knipper
25 February 2024 2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B Princeton, NJ
In today’ readings we hear two different mountain stories, two different encounters with God that once
broken open may give some clearer direction about our own spiritual Lenten journeys.
We begin with the story of Abraham and Isaac – one so critical as to who we are in the eyes of God that
we read it every Easter Vigil. The story has its roots in the Sumerian culture – set in the time where it
was commonplace to worship many gods and deemed necessary to make sacrifices and peace offerings
in order to keep those gods happy. With every negative human event experience, the culture perceived
the necessity to increase the value of its offerings. Eventually it would be common for one bring 90% or
more of their harvest to burn at the altar…and when that was not enough in their eyes, eventually human
sacrifice took place.
So, the story picks up with Abraham, who was married many years to Sarah, a woman thought to be
barren – but God had blessed them with a son, Isaac. While this passage demonstrates Abraham’s
unbelievable faith in God – it is a story whose ending is often missed. It begins with God saying to
Abraham, “take your son Isaac, your only one, the one whom you love and go to the Land of Moriah
where you will offer him up as a holocaust.”
It is interesting to note that this is the first time the word love is used in the Bible – and it used by God
describing this father and son relationship and is the basis for which God establishes and defines and
gives name to his relationship with his people and with you and me. And so, they set out on this three-
day journey – all the while Abraham knows what he has to do. But notice Abraham is not overly
surprised…he doesn’t ask God how to do this and doesn’t seem shocked at what he has to do – reason
being: this was not uncommon in his time. He had to be thinking that contrary to what he originally
thought, this must be just one of those gods who must be satisfied with human sacrifice…after all, this is
how gods were – they demanded the things most valuable to you.
And so, Abraham and Isaac climb the mountain and after short preparation Abraham takes out his knife
ready to kill his own son – the one that he loves so much…and it is about at this point that we are
wondering what is God thinking? Is he really asking Abraham to offer his only beloved son in order to
prove that he is a faithful person! But we know that the messenger of God stops the thrust of the knife –
and then what happens next is key part of this story! For God gives Abraham a ram to offer up instead of
his son...an ending that can’t be overlooked - for we have God making a point that was revolutionary in
that time. His message to Abraham was this: where once you believed in a God that demanded the
things most valuable from you – with this gift of a ram, God shows Abraham that this God gives gifts and
graces to you. This God - our God - provides.
This is a whole new day for this culture because this story is not necessarily one about the great act of
faith by Abraham – rather it is about our God who provides. The fundamental belief up to that time was
focused on what one had to do to please God – but this story teaches us that our God is one who loves,
blesses and provides for all his people – without exception.
Today’s Gospel gives us the second mountain experience where we find Jesus taking Peter, James and
John to the top of the mountain. This story of the transfiguration in Mark comes on the heels of Jesus
telling his disciples the conditions of discipleship, namely: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny
himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
2
Deacon Jim Knipper
So, after mulling on those conditions I have to think that some of these simple fishermen were a bit
shaken and wondering what Jesus was even talking about. So, seemingly in response, Jesus makes
this mountain climb with the three disciples where upon reaching the top Jesus is transfigured and
transformed before them. His clothes were dazzling white and he is joined by Elijah representing the
prophet and Moses representing the Law.
Peter, James and John seem to be stunned and confused, as they listened to the proclamation that God
gave: “This is my son whom I love – echoing the words from the baptism of Jesus – and echoing the
words from today’s Abraham story. And what is the one thing God asks? That we listen to his son: This
is my beloved son – listen to him! Reminding us that the words of God’s son will be transformative to
people who listen.
These two mountain stories give us a God who provides – including providing us a son whom he loves
so much…a son who, unlike Isaac, will not be spared by an angel’s hand and a son who God asks us to
listen to.
So, allow me to offer you three ways these two stories can give us added direction about our Lenten
journey.
First – take a review of your Lenten promises or acts of sacrifice and take note: They are all fine and well
– but we have a God that provides and a God who asks us to just listen. So, I invite us to maybe focus
less on what we gave up and instead, look at removing barriers in our lives that prevent us from listening
to God by adding some time of silence into our Lenten promises – so we can be present and open and
available to God.
Second – many, if not all of us, entered Lent with a journey filled with trials and tribulations…or maybe
roads not clearly defined, or pathways burdened with shame and guilt or maybe we are just too busy, too
angry, too hurt or just too bitter to even begin to walk the path – and all that is actually OK. For look who
Jesus took up the mountain to reveal his radiance and glory – three disciples who were not perfect and
at some point denied or failed Jesus during his ministry. But it didn’t matter – Christ knows that they, and
all of us, are broken…that we all have failed our baptismal promises at some point, that at times we have
fled Jesus and have gone back on our word…and that is why we have Lent – to repent – or better said –
to move beyond the mind that we currently have, as did eventually a more humbled Peter, James and
John.
And lastly, find that quiet time – and reflect on Christ transfigured – not only the radiant white
transfiguration that we heard today – but how Christ is transfigured in each of us, in every person around
us and throughout the world. Perhaps we need to begin to see all people – including ourselves – as
transfigured – to see each person dazzling in appearance by the incarnate Word…for starting to see this
way leads us to a place of forgiveness and compassion...a way we can begin to be transfigured and
transformed for each other with Christ, in Christ and through Christ…this day and always.

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Homily: Second Sunday in Lent, Cycle B, 2024

  • 1. 1 Deacon Jim Knipper 25 February 2024 2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B Princeton, NJ In today’ readings we hear two different mountain stories, two different encounters with God that once broken open may give some clearer direction about our own spiritual Lenten journeys. We begin with the story of Abraham and Isaac – one so critical as to who we are in the eyes of God that we read it every Easter Vigil. The story has its roots in the Sumerian culture – set in the time where it was commonplace to worship many gods and deemed necessary to make sacrifices and peace offerings in order to keep those gods happy. With every negative human event experience, the culture perceived the necessity to increase the value of its offerings. Eventually it would be common for one bring 90% or more of their harvest to burn at the altar…and when that was not enough in their eyes, eventually human sacrifice took place. So, the story picks up with Abraham, who was married many years to Sarah, a woman thought to be barren – but God had blessed them with a son, Isaac. While this passage demonstrates Abraham’s unbelievable faith in God – it is a story whose ending is often missed. It begins with God saying to Abraham, “take your son Isaac, your only one, the one whom you love and go to the Land of Moriah where you will offer him up as a holocaust.” It is interesting to note that this is the first time the word love is used in the Bible – and it used by God describing this father and son relationship and is the basis for which God establishes and defines and gives name to his relationship with his people and with you and me. And so, they set out on this three- day journey – all the while Abraham knows what he has to do. But notice Abraham is not overly surprised…he doesn’t ask God how to do this and doesn’t seem shocked at what he has to do – reason being: this was not uncommon in his time. He had to be thinking that contrary to what he originally thought, this must be just one of those gods who must be satisfied with human sacrifice…after all, this is how gods were – they demanded the things most valuable to you. And so, Abraham and Isaac climb the mountain and after short preparation Abraham takes out his knife ready to kill his own son – the one that he loves so much…and it is about at this point that we are wondering what is God thinking? Is he really asking Abraham to offer his only beloved son in order to prove that he is a faithful person! But we know that the messenger of God stops the thrust of the knife – and then what happens next is key part of this story! For God gives Abraham a ram to offer up instead of his son...an ending that can’t be overlooked - for we have God making a point that was revolutionary in that time. His message to Abraham was this: where once you believed in a God that demanded the things most valuable from you – with this gift of a ram, God shows Abraham that this God gives gifts and graces to you. This God - our God - provides. This is a whole new day for this culture because this story is not necessarily one about the great act of faith by Abraham – rather it is about our God who provides. The fundamental belief up to that time was focused on what one had to do to please God – but this story teaches us that our God is one who loves, blesses and provides for all his people – without exception. Today’s Gospel gives us the second mountain experience where we find Jesus taking Peter, James and John to the top of the mountain. This story of the transfiguration in Mark comes on the heels of Jesus telling his disciples the conditions of discipleship, namely: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
  • 2. 2 Deacon Jim Knipper So, after mulling on those conditions I have to think that some of these simple fishermen were a bit shaken and wondering what Jesus was even talking about. So, seemingly in response, Jesus makes this mountain climb with the three disciples where upon reaching the top Jesus is transfigured and transformed before them. His clothes were dazzling white and he is joined by Elijah representing the prophet and Moses representing the Law. Peter, James and John seem to be stunned and confused, as they listened to the proclamation that God gave: “This is my son whom I love – echoing the words from the baptism of Jesus – and echoing the words from today’s Abraham story. And what is the one thing God asks? That we listen to his son: This is my beloved son – listen to him! Reminding us that the words of God’s son will be transformative to people who listen. These two mountain stories give us a God who provides – including providing us a son whom he loves so much…a son who, unlike Isaac, will not be spared by an angel’s hand and a son who God asks us to listen to. So, allow me to offer you three ways these two stories can give us added direction about our Lenten journey. First – take a review of your Lenten promises or acts of sacrifice and take note: They are all fine and well – but we have a God that provides and a God who asks us to just listen. So, I invite us to maybe focus less on what we gave up and instead, look at removing barriers in our lives that prevent us from listening to God by adding some time of silence into our Lenten promises – so we can be present and open and available to God. Second – many, if not all of us, entered Lent with a journey filled with trials and tribulations…or maybe roads not clearly defined, or pathways burdened with shame and guilt or maybe we are just too busy, too angry, too hurt or just too bitter to even begin to walk the path – and all that is actually OK. For look who Jesus took up the mountain to reveal his radiance and glory – three disciples who were not perfect and at some point denied or failed Jesus during his ministry. But it didn’t matter – Christ knows that they, and all of us, are broken…that we all have failed our baptismal promises at some point, that at times we have fled Jesus and have gone back on our word…and that is why we have Lent – to repent – or better said – to move beyond the mind that we currently have, as did eventually a more humbled Peter, James and John. And lastly, find that quiet time – and reflect on Christ transfigured – not only the radiant white transfiguration that we heard today – but how Christ is transfigured in each of us, in every person around us and throughout the world. Perhaps we need to begin to see all people – including ourselves – as transfigured – to see each person dazzling in appearance by the incarnate Word…for starting to see this way leads us to a place of forgiveness and compassion...a way we can begin to be transfigured and transformed for each other with Christ, in Christ and through Christ…this day and always.