Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
Pr. Dean Lueking asks in his commentary on today’s Gospel "Can the hard word of the cross of Christ and the reasons he had to endure it even get a hearing in an atmosphere so unwilling to allow the truth that purposeful living comes by dying to the well-stroked ego and that fulfillment is the secret learned through servanthood?"
I think the answer to his question is no and yes.
Very few people truly do not believe in a higher power of some sort or another. Many of the non-church going folk I bump into talk about how God exists to make their life better. God has many names, but most importantly God exists to comfort me in my distress, heal me when I am sick, help me succeed in school and work, and help me find the perfect life companion, the perfect deal on life’s big purchases such as cars and houses and investments. God definitely wants me to get the promotion and makes lots more money. The list goes on. But, the basic understanding is that God wants me to be happy and successful and demands nothing of me.
With that frame of mind the answer to Pastor Lueking’s question is “no.” In such a way of thinking there is no place for the cross as sacrifice and a life that is cross bearing.
The answer is yes, when people from all walks of life and all income levels gather around the Word of God and Sacraments. We come because despite the amount of money we have in the bank, despite our success, despite the clothes that we wear, despite how things look on the outside, deep down we are incomplete without the cross.
The cross of Christ is the truth. Jesus sacrifices his God-human self on the cross so that we may know God’s love. We are incomplete without God. We are in deep need not only of human forgiveness, but of God’s forgiveness. We are in deep need of knowing that our future is secure in God.
Yes, the call to discipleship has a hearing with us. A life intentionally, purposefully lived has a hearing with us. In response to God’s love for us, we love others. Love is not always easy. The way that discipleship is carried out is in the mundaneness of life. Decision to check on and care for the elderly neighbor whose family has moved away; decision to raise the grandchildren because the kids are making selfish decisions right now; decision to be fair to and pray for the difficult person in our midst.
The Apostle Paul offers additional words about discipleship. Discipleship is not about becoming a missionary and going to a far away land. Discipleship is about bring the mission of God into our ordinary lives. Hear again what Paul says in Romans 12:
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;[b] do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[c] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Yes, we do hear the call to discipleship. For the cross of Christ is at the center of each of our relationships and in the midst of every situation we find ourselves.
Next week we will have an opportunity as two congregations to come together for worship together at Gloria Dei at 10:30 Sunday morning. And, we will have an opportunity together to extend hospitality to strangers and sit with people we do not know when we serve Sunday dinner at Broadway Christian Parish after worship. If you are not serving, I invite you to join me in the dinner, as we are representatives of Christ to our neighbors. All God’s people say…Amen.