Sermon 11 Pentecost – August 28, 2010

August 28, 2011 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

Messiah Lutheran Church
The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III, STS
August 28, 2011

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

We begin this week where we left off last week.
Jesus asks the disciples “who do you say that I am?”
Simon son of Jonah has confessed Jesus to be “Messiah, Son of the Living God,”
referring to him with the ancient titles of the King of Israel.
Jesus declares him right, and blessed; gives him a new name, Peter, and great promises.
But then he does something strange.
He orders the disciples to tell no one that he is the Messiah.

This doesn’t make sense.
After all, we are beginning our campaign season for next year.
If you want to be the President, or the Senator, or the Congressperson,
you start to tell everyone (well, at least everyone in Iowa and New Hampshire)
that you are the right person to be the President of the United States,
to turn the country around, to fix the problems and propose brilliant solutions
and unify the country again.
If you are in Judaea of the first century,
and one of your disciples says that you are the Messiah,
and you say, “You’re right,” then the next step is obvious.
Your disciples start telling everyone that you are the Messiah,
and everyone flocks to your banner,
and you get rid of everyone who oppose you,
and you expel the hated Romans from God’s country.
You lead a successful revolution.
This is the script that has been followed by
political and religious leaders of every age.
The only thing is, Jesus isn’t going to follow the script.

You see, Jesus is following another script.
He is following the script written by God,
which says that might doesn’t always make right,
that the ends do not always and perhaps do not ever justify the means,
and that the blood of those who are murdered in the name of progress,
or convenience, or religion, or hatred, cries out to God from the ground.
He is after bigger game than simply enemies domestic or foreign.
Jesus is hunting the biggest game of all –
the power of sin, which condemns us to separation from God,
the power of death, which dogs us our every waking moment.
Sometimes death is far from our minds
but sometimes it surrounds us and pervades our lives
so that even our life is a kind of living death.
So Jesus the King, God’s anointed one, tells the disciples that he goes to Jerusalem to die.
In the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus tells this story, the storyteller adds,
“He said this quite openly.” Matter-of-fact.
This should not be a surprise, a shock, or even something to get excited about.
But do the disciples ever get excited about it.
Death is the most powerful thing in the universe.
If Jesus dies, then their hope is gone, then God is not victorious,
then what shall happen to them?
And Peter, who has stood for the disciples in their confession of faith in Jesus as Messiah,
also stands for the disciples in their instantaneous rejection of Jesus’ pessimistic vision.

Peter gets a bad rap here.
We shouldn’t think that the rest of the disciples were there saying,
“Oh, I see, Jesus, that makes sense, you’re going to go get crucified, uh-huh, yeah,”
and Peter’s the only one who says, “Hey, hold on a minute!”
Peter speaks for all the disciples, just like he spoke for all of them
when he confessed Jesus the Messiah.
He speaks for us.
Because if we’re following him, and he takes up a cross,
then we take up a cross.
If he is hated, we are hated.
If he dies, we die.
Peter should be commended for having the guts to say what we’re all thinking.
He represents us, both in our faith, and in our unfaith.
The Church through the years has been the community of the people
who have embraced Christ’s call to the cross
and who have rejected him because of the cross.

Take up your cross and follow me, Jesus says.
What can this possibly mean for us?
It means that we do what we do for Jesus’ sake,
and not for our own.
It means that we give up what we give up for Jesus’ sake
and not for our own.
It means that we love others not for what they can do for us
but for who they are in Jesus’ eyes.
The disciples saw the pompous Pharisees and the imperious Romans
and the common folk that didn’t understand or didn’t care,
and they saw godless people.
Jesus saw them and saw people whom his Father had created,
whom he himself had come to buy back for his Father,
and to give them the Holy Spirit.
So he was willing to forgive them their sins,
to live with them, to endure their misguided hatred.
He calls us to that same willingness, to follow where he goes,
to live the way he lives, to hear his call that leads to death and life.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his masterful spiritual work The Cost of Discipleship,
said this about taking up the cross:
it is losing one’s attachments to the world,
and serving others, including bearing with them and forgiving their sins.
As we at Messiah embark on the GROW! initiative,
which invites us to commit to faithful worship, seeking understanding,
and financial stewardship,
we find these challenges to be opportunities to take up the cross.
If we find ourselves spending more per month on entertainment,
on escape from reality,
than on the mission of the church,
we should draw the appropriate conclusions.
Jesus said in another place, “Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also.”
No one is talking about going without food or shelter.
But we spend more on entertainment than on the mission of Christ.
If we find ourselves neglecting the worship of God on Sunday
or engagement with his Word
for the sake of purely personal concern or comfort,
we ought to be honest enough to draw the appropriate conclusions.
“Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also.”
If we nourish anger and bitterness in our hearts
and cherish our independence from others more than our community with them.
we ought to draw the appropriate conclusions.
We have opportunities to take up our cross every day,
to follow Jesus, to be with Jesus,
so that he is the center of our life.

Taking up the cross is living for Jesus in a world that doesn’t want him.
We might want a Jesus who is going to help us out of our messes,
who is going to get rid of our problems with a wave of his hand,
who is going to give them us good things of this life,
but we certainly don’t want the cross.
But Jesus wants to give us his life,
eternal life,
the life that is not afraid of sin, death, and evil,
the life that lives in the midst of sin, death, and evil,
and yet clings to the unshakeable hope that God will be faithful to all his promises.
That’s eternal life now –
and eternal life hereafter will be to see God and the fulfillment of all his promises,
and to be freed from sin, death, and evil forever.

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The need right now… Sermon Rally Day – September 11, 2011

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