The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 17A (August 31, 2014)
Lessons:Jeremiah 15:15-21 Psalm 26:1-8 Romans 12:9-21 Saint Matthew 16:21-28
Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm: Exodus 3:1-15 Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b
Prayer of the Day: O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
16.21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." 23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27 "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
St. Matthew 16:21-28, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Take Up Your Cross; Follow Me
Peter just doesn’t get it. He has been with the Lord from the very beginning of his ministry. He has had more opportunity than anyone else to learn how Jesus understands his mission. He has called out that profound confession: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God! But he just doesn’t get it. Directly following Peter’s confession, Jesus begins to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Peter just doesn’t get it. Like a fool, he blurts out: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”
To the One who gives his life for us Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” To the One who becomes the sign of our hope Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” To the One whose self-giving service teaches us what it means to be God’s faithful people, Peter says: “God forbid: this must never happen!” Peter just doesn’t get it.
Jesus comes, not to rule the world through military, economic, or social might. He comes to rule the world through love and humility and the willingness to give his all that others might know God’s grace. Jesus comes, not to enjoy the privileges afforded to those who are in positions of power. He comes to give of himself in a way that empowers others. Jesus comes, not to recruit a small group of followers who will help him rule the world. He comes to inspire his followers to lives of sacrificial love that can win over the world. Peter just doesn’t get it.
And sometimes, neither do we. It is easy to become so engulfed in our own preconceptions, that we just don’t get it. God’s word is a radical word. It is a word that contradicts much of what our society teaches us. It is a word that calls us out of our own wants and desires, and places us in the service of people we’ve never met and can scarcely imagine. It is a word that forces us to ask not: “What is good for my family and me?” but: “How can my family and I make a difference, for Christ’s sake, in the lives of others?” (Maybe JFK was on to something after all, back in 1961…)
This weekend’s text asks us whether or not we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, our customs, our preferences, our comforts… This weekend’s text asks us whether or not we are willing to pick up our cross, deny ourselves, lose our lives, and follow our Lord. It won’t be easy. It won’t be without cost. There won’t necessarily be a whole host of friends and neighbors encouraging us along the way. But the Lord assures us that “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it…”
May we be so deeply touched by God’s love, that we become determined to share it no matter the cost. May we be willing to give of ourselves, even when it is difficult, that we might be faithful to the One who died for us. May we find the kind of life that our Christ wants for us. True life. In Jesus’ name.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- How is Peter’s rebuke of Jesus different from his confession in last week’s Gospel?
- How is Jesus’ response to Peter different from what we read last week?
- How is Jesus’ suffering for us related to his command that we “pick up our cross?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- Do I know what it means to live as a follower of One whose love is seen most clearly in his death?
- Am I willing to shape my personal life, my family’s priorities, and my congregation’s mission in a way that shows I am willing to die for the sake of others?
- What most inhibits me from living sacrificially?