We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who bear their cross and loses their life for the sake of Christ said … AMEN
This is a really tough pericope, the Christians who like the “Name it and claim it” brand of Christianity, the Joel Osteen everything is beautiful and loving, who think that being a Christian is supposed to be a nice, calm sail across the Sea of Galilee, like we said in our VBS this past week. …What? It wasn’t a nice calm sail? There was a storm? Jesus had to calm the storm so the disciples would be saved? That’s not supposed to happen, it’s supposed to be nice and calm to be a Christian. A church sign says “calm seas don’t make skillful sailors.” That is true, if you are on the sea, you will run into bad weather, you have to know how to run your boat in order to keep everyone safe. Jeremiah found out that faithfully serving Yahweh was not an easy way to live. Jeremiah was a priest, you’d think he’d have had things nice and easy, being a priest then wasn’t a lot of heavy lifting, but Jeremiah was used by God to tell Jerusalem the truth. They didn’t like it, they took it out on Jeremiah, they made his life really tough.
I copy in my daily schedule “God’s love is not a pampering love, it is a perfecting love.” How can God really perfect us if it’s all about making sure we are nice and comfy? It won’t. As the sign implies there have to be rough seas in order for us to learn how to be the best sailors we can be, to faithfully serve as sailors. Likewise if we faithfully want to serve Christ He sets some pretty high bars in today’s lesson. I’ve referred to this verse many times, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt 10:34) People don’t want to hear me say this, we want to think that it’s all about peace, that the Lord wants us to live peaceful quiet lives, that because we make the right “choice” when we become Christians we get an automatic pass, nice calm seas. People like to think that Jesus is some kind of salesman, “pick Me and your life will be nice and calm”, we’re so used to all the shilling on television, Christian pastors are supposed to be salesmen and tell you how peaceful and even profitable Christian life is. Then we hit this verse. Farther on we see Jesus sacrifice Himself so that we can be forgiven of all our sins and we think “Jesus took the hit for us and now we can just enjoy life and sail through it.” Then we hit this rock, this passage and like those disciples who couldn’t deal with Jesus saying “you must eat my Body and drink my Blood” and decided “no, this is more than I can handle” and picked up and left. We expected peace and prosperity and now He’s telling us He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword? I don’t want to deal with that, someone must have a better deal for me and they pick up and leave. It often looks as though the people in the world have a better deal, shouldn’t we if Jesus is on our side? Furthermore, He tells us: “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.39 ” I didn’t sign up for that, I don’t want to turn my home, my family into a war zone. A woman on Focus on the Family tells about losing her 21 year old son. Most people in the world would be angry with God, they would reject Him; “how could you let this happen? Why didn’t you protect Him?” We don’t know the mind of God, we can’t reject Him because things don’t work out the way we think they should be. The woman said that she felt that God had failed her and then the Holy Spirit reminded her, our lives her are short, compared to the eternity of our life in the perfection of the resurrection, our lives are a blink. She had Jesus’ promises, over and over again, in the Book of Revelation that the overcomer will be saved. He says in Revelation 2:7: “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” He says it again in Revelation 2:11, 17, 26, Rev 3:5, 12, 21, and Rev 21:7. Over and over that the overcomer will be provided for with eternal life, peace, comfort, but in the resurrection, not in the world. How do we overcome? By trusting like this woman did, she said that she knew the only way she would see her son again was in the resurrection, that she, her son, her entire family would be reunited to eternal life trusting in Jesus. How do we become an “overcomer”? Through our own strength? No! The trials that Jesus tells us will come will be too much for us to deal with. Many of us now know these trials. I was, at best, a “cultural Christian” went to church, on the big ones, Easter, Christmas. Jesus, to me, was a “nice man, a great teacher”, anything more than that just didn’t fit my world view. The Holy Spirit used events in my life to show me who Jesus truly is. The Holy Spirit took me and guided me to where I needed to be in order to know Christ as my Savior, I was saved through the power of Christ, through the power of the Cross, through Baptism which gives me life eternal and through the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. But none of that presupposes that my life will be smooth sailing, free of any storm or turbulence. Others in my own family don’t see it that way, I know exactly what Jesus is saying when He tells us: “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” I would be willing to bet many of you know the same thing. Do we want to be with those we love in the Resurrection? Jesus tells us that we must be “overcomers”, that the only way we will overcome is through the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, through the power of forgiveness in Him who died for us, in whose Name we are baptized, whose Body and Blood gives us life in Him and eternal forgiveness. K A Phinney writes: “The cross God gives you to bear is the very one He knows you can handle. It’s designed just for you, and you will be the one that becomes a better person because of it. Like coal under intense pressure, you will become diamonds. There isn’t another cross more perfect for you, and no one else’s cross can replace it.”1 So yes, we are put under that pressure, but we are never alone under that pressure. Jesus isn’t on the sidelines cheering us on, He has already taken the load of that pressure on Himself on the Cross. He gives us the faith we need in order to endure that pressure and His strength to carry the weight of the Cross. He gives us the courage to deal with the fact that in this world things will not always work out according to our plan. We join with our brother Terry, as the Body of Christ, to strengthen him in his time of trial. Terry just lost his son Shawn Friday night, we pray that Terry knows that the Father is a very real presence with him at all times and certainly through this time of trial. I pray that Terry knows the promises of Jesus, to be an overcomer, even when the world makes it so hard to endure and so easy to reject God. Too often we get our theology from the world. Remember the cheesey old 50’s song?: “Oh where oh where, can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me. She’s gone to heaven, so I’ve got to be good. So I can see my baby when i leave this world.” Pearl Jam redid that in the 90s so we wouldn’t forget cheesey theology. As theology goes, as, heavens, doctrine goes, this is bad, but this is what we, too often take as Gospel. Yes God takes, but it’s as a result of our sin, we are told to overcome, not just be “good”, whatever that really means, but to truly overcome this sin filled world, and the only way that happens is in Jesus. He tells us straight out, there is no peace in the world. Today we remember Saints Peter and Paul, two very different men, but they had Jesus in common. They bore the cross Jesus gave them, their lives were very hard, very difficult and they were both martyred. According to tradition Peter was crucified upside down because he was not worthy of dying the same way the Lord did. As Christian disciples we will have difficult lives, but they are lives that will make us holy, perfect in Him, worthy of Him and worthy of eternal salvation and life in Him. The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.