Posted on Sun, Sep 3, 2017
September 3, 2017
13th Sunday after Pentecost (Remembering Queen Liliuokalani)
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
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.’
The Cross and Self-Denial
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.’
Matthew begins chapter 16 with these verses, 16 with this: “The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus* they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” 3And in the morning, “It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.* 4An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ Then he left them and went away.”
As I have gotten older, I have learned some lessons through unexpected hardships and surprises, and because of this fact, don't get too attached to fixed schedules and the demands of ‘life goals’ too seriously. Why? Because the journey may be begun with certain hopes and goals, but it will be the UNEXPECTED events and calamities that will determine what is really important and what is not.
I’ve made plans, and even dreamed dreams about future plans, but almost every one of my dreams, were either thwarted by outside means. I studied for years to become a wildlife biologist, but with the stroke of a presidents pen, almost every job in my chosen field were wiped. Those dreams were dashed, but that was not the end of the world, and I became a little more informed or wiser. Sometimes there is an unexpected illness or death, or some kind of natural disaster like hurricane Harvey, or human created disaster like the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, life changes, but like the phrase goes, “God’s love never faileth.” And it is in faith that we find hope and strength to help us respond and find new possibilities. In short, I learned that I can choose a path, but in reality I have little control as to the hills, valleys, turns and surprises that life will introduce to that path.
Peter and the disciples knew that they were heading to Jerusalem, but their path was filled with every kind of unexpected surprises and moments of great wonder. Imagine yourself standing with the disciples witnessing the miracles and events the Gospel writer describes to us! They were the ones gathering in all the extra food after Jesus began to feed the five thousand with a few fish and loaves. They were in the boat when they witnessed Jesus walking the sea and calming it with a word. These were hardly routine events to witness, let alone process in their minds.
But then this day, described in the text, arrived they were on their way to Jerusalem with hearts filled with excitement and visions of grandeur! They have seen the power of God, and now they are expecting to see God do amazing signs of ‘glory’ in the holy city of Jerusalem. However, their master does not share their sentiments, or the same images of glory and grandeur.
It seems like Jesus speaks out of the blue, during the disciples anticipation and excitement about going to the big city, Jesus says, ‘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.’
Talk about an unexpected announcement! This is hardly what they expected, unless they allowed themselves to imagine the absolute ‘worst case scenario’ after their arrival. Judas seemed to have been aware of the risk they took by being associated with Jesus as they entered Jerusalem as his disciples, and their connection to Jesus’ counter-culture teaching of love, grace and justice and how much of a threat it would be to the religious and governmental establishment.
But Peter was only thinking as any human would think, the thought alone of his master being arrested by corrupt religious officials who were ‘in bed with the Roman guard’ with the ability to actually fulfill what Jesus had just prophesied, was beyond his worst nightmares. Actually, I believe every one of us in this room would have reacted the same as Peter if you knew that a loved one was in danger. Everyone! If you knew a loved one was going to suffer and die, you would pray, you would consult doctors even the internet, you would look for healers, and you would scramble to save your loved one with every fiber of your body. I know because I have seen you do it, and I too have been in the middle of that battle myself.
As Easter people, we may find ourselves forgetting our shared humanity with Peter, and almost condescendingly think to ourselves, “Peter, it’s okay, Jesus rises from the dead at the end of the story!” If I knew for sure that my son was going to survive when he was in Kapiolani, my heartache, worry and fears would have probably been totally different, if not gone… IF WE KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY, the way we see life becomes very different.
Peter had no clue what Jesus’ prophesy was saying, and especially what it would accomplish, he only imagined in his mind the horrific image of Jesus suffering on a cross… an all to often image people were forced to see in those days. Peter was doing what any one of us would have done…
Jesus wasn't going into Jerusalem to confront the religious leaders with logic and truth. There wasn't going to some kind of religious court to determine who is truly the ‘rabbi’ of Israel. The disciples saw the power of Jesus and they expected to see Jesus use that amazing power of healing, mercy and justice on the corrupt Temple System. They just had no idea what Jesus was going to do when they arrived… they were only sure Jesus was going to “set things straight!” That might mean some divine overthrow with legions of angels, or pillars of fire like a scene out of the Old Testament… they had no idea. They only knew what they had seen and been apart of on their journey to Jerusalem. But their expectations and images of what Jesus would do after he arrived in Jerusalem, were nothing like what any human would expect or believe. We weren't saved by a religious coup d’tat, we weren't saved through a horrific fire from the sky, we weren't saved and forgiven through logic or winning arguments.
We are saved, forgiven, reconciled to God through the Cross of Christ. It is on the cross, that we truly see the Glory of God. People throw the word “glory” around like it is cheap plastic, but when Lutherans talk about the Glory of God, we are talking about Jesus’ faithfulness to our salvation and His journey to the Cross so that we could rise with Christ on Easter morning. We see and are blessed by the Glory given to us through the Cross of Christ!
When we take the entire Pentecostal Gospel message to heart, it changes everything. First we learn that our salvation is not about our doing, Salvation, Reconciliation, Wholeness, Divinity is already as close to us as the air we breathe. Through the giving of the Spirit on Pentecost, we receive a new name as Children of God and are blessed with God’s real and true presence, and that we aren’t on a religious journey looking for our favorite guru with the prettiest words on top of a mountain or selling the most books on Amazon. The truth is that God has promised to be with you here and now, and Jesus promises to never leave you throughout our entire life journey.
After singing the Queen’s prayer, we can see that she had the big picture of faith in her heart. Did she ever imagine herself in confinement and the threats by US marines with cannons within blocks of the palace? Probably not, but did the actions of greedy men diminish her faith, and understanding that God is in control and God is a God of truth, mercy and justice? I don't think so, you can feel her faith through her very own words for the love of her people and the constant faithfulness of our God.
That means, our life is a gift and one of the most important joys we have is the gift of wonder! Through the power of unconditional love, the sting of death is gone, there is nothing to be afraid of, and we have all of the world and our imagine to hope for! We have more hope than we can image because WE KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY!
Through the Cross of Christ, Love has conquered fear… Peter wouldn't understand this until the women would return to the men after seeing the empty tomb to proclaim to the men, Jesus has arisen.
The question we should ask ourselves is NOT, “How do we get to god,” or “will I have enough faith during hard times?” The question we must ask ourselves, in all situations, good or bad is, “Where is love, where is God in this situation?” A faith life is a life fully alive and fully aware of God’s presence and being at peace with the reality of being surprised each and everyday with the possibility of one more opportunity to be encountered by God’s joy, hope, love, mercy and justice in this gift called the present. Amen.
*First Sign: In the Gospel of Matthew’s version of this pericope, Jesus invokes Jonah in a two-fold way: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40). Hence in this image Jonah’s descent into the belly of the whale is a sign of the Lord’s descent to Sheol.
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