August 30, 2020, Scripture Readings and Sermon
Message from Rev. George Porter
Rev. Vicki Ix
Romans 12:9-21Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Psalm 26:1-8Give judgment for me, O Lord,
for I have lived with integrity; *
I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.
Test me, O Lord, and try me; *
examine my heart and my mind.
For your love is before my eyes; *
I have walked faithfully with you.
I have not sat with the worthless, *
nor do I consort with the deceitful.
I have hated the company of evildoers; *
I will not sit down with the wicked.
I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord, *
that I may go in procession round your altar,
Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving *
and recounting all your wonderful deeds.
Lord, I love the house in which you dwell *
and the place where your glory abides.
Matthew 16:21-28Jesus 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. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 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.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 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?
“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. 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.”
Sermon: The Rev. Vicki Ix
In the name of our God who created us, who redeemed us and who makes us holy. Amen.
Peter gets in some trouble today. As Jesus prepares to go to Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets, Peter tries to convince the Lord to rethink his travel plan. To say that Peter’s utterance was not helpful would be an understatement. The rebuke he receives from Jesus is strong and unprecedented. “Get behind me, Satan.” Wow!
My heart goes out to Peter as it often does. I have loved him from the moment he bowed down before Jesus by the Sea of Galilee, stinking of sweat and fish, humbled in the presence of Messiah, and deeply aware of his own sinfulness. I love his willingness to leave all and follow and his return to the sickbed of his Mother-in-Law. I love his eagerness to stay on the mountaintop with Jesus, Moses and Elijah, and I especially love his spectacular failure as Jesus faced imprisonment and execution. I don’t love that Peter denied Jesus in his last days, but his fear and weakness makes my own just part of being human, and part of the spiritual journey.
So let’s unpack his big mistake today. Peter does not want Jesus to suffer and die in Jerusalem. “God forbid,” he exclaims. Doesn’t this feel like love for Jesus? Don’t we all cry out at the thought of someone we love suffering? Don’t we all pray death away when someone we love is vulnerable? It’s really hard to fault Peter here, and the smack down he gets feels really unfair. If this Gospel were about the mystery of suffering and death in our lives, the human experience of love and loss, then I would say Peter got a raw deal here. But the commentaries tell us that this Gospel is about something more. It’s about the cost of discipleship.
After three years of public ministry – teaching, healing, and proclaiming the law of love and God’s reign among us – Jesus understands going to Jerusalem will mean an inevitable confrontation with religious authorities. He knows the risk of suffering and death and this makes his determination to go all the more profound. The mission of God is the priority and with the knowledge of the prophets and the image of the Suffering Servant clearly before him, Jesus elects to continue the work, though it seems not without struggle. Jesus accepts the possibility, no, the probability of his own death, but this awareness must have been excruciating. Poor Peter is not seeing the big picture or connecting the dots of the Scriptures as he walks right into this vulnerable place. Perhaps Jesus felt the pain of longing to live and the very human experience of the fear of death. We can’t know his inner life, his grief or his fear, but the passion of his response to Peter shows us a very human savior. “Get behind me, Satan,” is strong language, but perhaps it was also a prayer. Perhaps in rebuking Peter Jesus was also reminding himself that God’s ways are mystery and there is so much we cannot understand now. All we can do is take the next step forward in faith.
We know how the Gospel ends, how God raises Jesus from the tomb and how Peter is entrusted with the great mission of the Church. We know that Jesus lavished forgiving love on Peter and that Peter did not falter on the path to his own crucifixion. True discipleship comes with a cost.
We might not suffer physical death for following Jesus, but a lively, Spirit-led faith journey will be painful in places. We are called to nothing less than the reorientation of our lives and the bending of our wills and the willingness to let go of our agenda for the God’s mission of love. “Take up your cross,” Jesus says. Open your eyes to the suffering of the world and you will suffer, too. Open your heart to the power of the Gospel and your heart might break wide open. Give your life to God through Christ and expect it to be used up. Expect that pointing to God’s reign of justice and mercy and hope will come with a price tag of some kind. But this need not frighten us from leaning in and engaging the way of love. Jesus goes on to tell Peter that even though it feels like we’re losing our lives, we are really finding our life in God. What ever we hold loosely here and let go of for the Gospel of love and justice, will somehow return to us by grace. If we empty ourselves, we will be filled. If Jesus went to Jerusalem for us, perhaps we can go to Jerusalem for him. May we all have the courage and the grace to follow Jesus - wherever that takes us.