12th Sunday after Pentecost—Year A—Aug 31, 2014
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
Last Sunday we heard Peter get it right! He is praised for his confession: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” However, he does just the opposite this time around. He got the title correct, but doesn’t get what the word actually means—he apparently doesn’t follow “Jesus Logic.”
Many Jews who were anticipating the coming of a Messiah in the first century CE were thinking more along the line of another David…a conqueror, a king, a military force to rival Rome. Peter seems to focus too much on the later of David’s life and achievements, when what David and Jesus hold in common is the unlikely victory in the face of a huge opponent. But even worse than the threat of death before Goliath, is the certainty of death of which Jesus speaks.
What he hears is heartbreaking…who would want their leader, teacher, and friend to die? The beginning of Jesus’ pronouncement is so devastating that Peter seems to stop listening. He cannot no longer comprehend what Jesus is showing him…what the Father in heaven is revealing.
Have you had that experience—when you zone out, overwhelmed by grief or anger?
Jesus shows the 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.” But he gets stuck on the bad news. He doesn’t hear or understand the last part.
But Peter is not alone. We misunderstand or all together stop listening to Jesus sometimes too. We hear that we will have new life as well, but forget that Jesus is the one who delivers it; it is not something we have to earn.
We do not have to make it through life with some heavy burden of a cross on our individual backs in order to earn God’s love and the gift of eternal salvation.
Jesus says pretty clearly “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” In other words, what does it take to be a follower of Jesus—follow him—put his purpose ahead of your own—remember what the cross is really about.
It is almost as if Jesus is speaking in riddles, or at least it is opposite day
- Try to save your life = lose it
- Lose it = save it
- The Rock is now the “stumbling block”
- A Roman execution device conquered death
- …and now is the ultimate sign of LOVE!
This is not quite “Jesus Math,” but it is what I’m going to call from now on “Jesus Logic.” In seminary and theology books, people refer to it as the “Theology of the Cross”—God shows up in the last place you would think to look and defies all expectations.
- God comes into the world through a young woman, as a tiny innocent baby, lying in a manger.
- Instead of fulfilling the common expectations of a Messiah, he preaches and teaches justice, heals on the Sabbath, consorts with the unclean, and DIES…on a CROSS!
When we “take up our cross,” that is what we are taking up…not some abuse to be endured; we are taking up a sign of defied logic. We are taking up a communal reminder of our first priority—Jesus’ first priority—Love. We are putting on the communal good as our goal in life—what we are to strive towards. We are no longer looking out for only #1, but for God’s people collectively. We are taking up a stance of non-violent resistance against all things that defy God and God’s love. The cross is not some burden to be carried, but symbol that once stood for torture and empire, but now stands for new life and God’s kingdom.
On the cross, Jesus showed power through weakness, conquered death by being killed—Jesus turns the world upside down!
Not only does Jesus conquer the worst of enemies—death—through weakness. But also defies logic so much by having someone who he at one point he calls “Satan” becomes one of the most famous and influential followers. This week we see the Rock become the “stumbling block,” but because we are dealing with Jesus logic instead of Human Logic, that is not the end of the story.
From Peter’s example, we can be reassured that it is not about getting it right all time—being able to perfectly articulate theology—but about showing love. Peter didn’t want Jesus to die because he loved his friend, and the people he expected the Messiah to save. It is only after the resurrection that Peter will be able to understand that Jesus’ way of showing love—although not what you expect to see…in fact the last form you would think love could take—is actually so much bigger.
We must remember that love is not about letting ourselves get walked all over. It is not about putting up with anything and everything. It is not about being permissive or keeping the peace.
- speaking a hard truth without condemnation
- standing up against injustice without creating another injustice
- considering the common good as much, if not more, than your personal preference
That is what the life of a disciple looks like. One seemingly weak and unobtrusive, but working to bring about the justice, equality, and love of God’s kingdom into our world here and now. Taking up Jesus Logic and love, and letting it be your guide to follow Jesus. Praying and reading scripture daily, worshipping weekly, so that you can discern God’s will and grow in generosity and giving, service to others, and sharing of the faith.
But the best of news of all probably is that if (or really when) we slip up, and love is not at the center of all we do… When we do not keep our cool, but react in haste… When we let our fears overwhelm us… When we try to take God’s place and save our own lives… God still loves us. We are not perfect, but God’s love is! It makes a great example, for which to strive, and when we stumble and drop the cross, we can pick that example—that we hear in stories, see others embody, and feel in our own lives—and follow our guide Jesus. Amen.
 Matthew 16:16, NRSV.
 Matthew 16:21, NRSV.
 Matthew 16:23, NRSV.
 Matthew 16:23, NRSV.