Death Cafes Mark 8: 27 – 38 First St Johns, York, Pa March 1, 2015

For the audio version please click on the link above.

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 know that death in this world is only the beginning of life in the Resurrection said … AMEN!!

I’ve got news for youse, in case you didn’t know it, the world just keeps getting weirder. Shawn Kumm writes about nice little dinner parties that are becoming popular. There’s all the trappings china, linen, small sandwiches, pastries, comfortable coffee house setting, these are known as “Death Cafes”. These started in 2011 by an Englishman named Jon Underwood. “The stated objective is ‘to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives”. I’d say to check it out, they of course have a website deathcafe.com. “Groups gather together to discuss death over refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake -.” Hey we’re all going to die, we might as well eat cake. Pastor Kumm goes on to say “but, ‘with no intention of leading people to any conclusion … or course of action.”[1] Well of course, because heavens, it’s the post-modern age, whatever we say goes, and we’re just going to have our nice little designer eternity, fit to our specifications. Folks, people really live these kind of deluded lives. We have a world that really is out of control. We can’t even stop the radicals in the Middle East who continue to burn alive, decapitate, bury alive, brother and sister Christians. Yet we have those who live deluded, self-obsessed, degenerate lives, sitting around and having little coffee parties, talking about death and coming to no conclusion, but being sure that things after death will be just fine.

In today’s reading Jesus tells His disciples, for the third time: “…the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed…” It’s as if the disciples, like those in their delusional little coffee klatches, simply remain in denial. To the extent that Peter, and yes I really do love that guy, he is a stand up guy and then drops the ball again. A few lines earlier, Peter is confessing exactly who Jesus is, “You are the Christ.” In Matthew’s Gospel Peter goes on to say: “…the Son of the Living God.” Everyone of those disciples that heard Peter’s confession, knew exactly what he was saying. This is Messiah, Mesheach, this is He who has been promised since the beginning of God’s revelation. He’s not another prophet, who were all men. This is God the Son, the Son of the Living God, David’s Son, David’s Lord, He who is the salvation of the world. Jesus has told them twice already, that He would die. Granted, He didn’t exactly fill in the blanks of what His death and resurrection meant to them, but regardless, their reaction was a sort of, … yea OK, but is it possible you might be overreacting just a little.

There’s Peter and he has stepped right up, inspired by the Holy Spirit, but let’s face it, many people have been inspired by the Holy Spirit and have fumbled the ball. Not Peter! I’d like to think that he knew where the inspiration came from and was not going to be denied. Jesus tells Peter in Matthew, “yup you got it, you have been blessed to know exactly who I AM.” But then Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, adds, for the third time, having said that and being recognized as the promised Messiah, men are going to take me, beat me, torture me and then kill me. Well Peter likes the Messiah idea, but ya … no, the killing thing, well that just doesn’t fit into his, still, worldly paradigm. The Messiah is going to physically lead all his followers, as His father David would, and drive out the hated Romans and establish God’s kingdom here on earth. Peter is just not at the point where he can understand anything but that Israel needs to be delivered in the here and now. He cannot grasp Jesus’ eternal perspective. Oh yes, the Kingdom of God is here, Jesus is saying I AM here, but the plan is that the Kingdom of God is not yet recognized.

While Peter gets who Jesus is, that He is the Son of God, Peter takes it upon himself to let Jesus know the being killed part just doesn’t work for him. That Jesus is going to stay alive and be the conqueror king. Jesus certainly will conquer. But not according to Peter’s agenda and drive out the Romans. Jesus will conquer death! He will overcome the true enemy of man, He will be the agent of God’s plan to reconcile man to Himself. He will be the propitiation, the payment, the Redeemer of all our sins. Those who are in Jesus will still be in the world, but now we will be saved from the world. We will now be delivered from the world of death, disease, suffering, evil and in our baptism in the Triune God, be adopted into the family of God, reborn into the Spirit. Still in this world, but now new creations in relationship with God the Father, redeemed by God the Son and guided in this world by God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has to drive these things home. According to Mark’s Gospel, in chapter 10, they were on the road going up to Jerusalem. In just a few days will be the triumphant entry. Jesus will enter into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This is no small thing, he will be hailed by the crowd, cheered welcoming the Messiah, but not in the sense that Peter expects. They are welcoming Him who will deliver them from the Romans. In today’s reading Peter takes Jesus aside to set Him straight; He’s not going to be killed, Peter doesn’t say it, but when Peter criticizes Jesus, it’s to tell Him, “no, you’ve got it wrong, this is going to be the Kingdom where we all rule with you.” The Concordia Self-study Bible’s reads: “Peter’s attempt to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross held the same temptation Satan gave at the outset of Jesus’ ministry (Matt 4: 8-10).”[2] Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, being tempted by Satan: “All this I will give you, he [Satan] said, ‘if you will bow down to me.’” Peter is saying as much as Satan said: “Forget all that dying stuff Jesus, we can do what’s really important, rule the whole world. Don’t worry about salvation for all those people. What’s dying going to do? What’s important is ruling and running Your own agenda.” Of course what would that mean to them, to us, to people all down through history? Jesus didn’t die for us, He didn’t redeem us, He didn’t pay for our sins? The only thing affected is this part of the world and we are not saved in Jesus’ death. Jesus came to redeem us from death, from all the evil of the world, to redeem our sins and give us the promise of eternal salvation. He made that very clear to Satan in the beginning of His ministry and now as that ministry comes to an end Jesus makes it very clear to Peter and by extension us. Certainly Satan was not happy being stripped of his authority and surely Peter wasn’t happy that his vision of Jesus’ ministry wasn’t going to occur. Of course Peter, all the disciples, would be filled with the Holy Spirit and they would come to know how they were saved and they, like us, would know the promise and hope of Jesus in eternal salvation in the resurrection.

Sad, isn’t it? Those people at the coffee houses, who subscribe to deathcafe.com. They don’t have that hope and promise. They think they can talk death to death and they will have their very own designer eternity, probably sitting around a coffee house in their superficial, phoney, non-existent, little eternity.

Sorry to say, they will be lost and condemned. They refuse to be guided by the Holy Spirit to true life in the resurrection and think it’s all about them. So take out that journal this week. Really pray over what Jesus has said, remember that He is summing up His earthly ministry and preparing for His death. He doesn’t want to endure this, but through His love for us, that agape, sacrificial love He has for us, that His Body and Blood will suffer and be spilled as the sacrifice that will conquer all and give us the hope and promise of eternal life in the resurrected world. Write about what that hope means to you and how you can give hope to those you know through Jesus Christ.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

[1] Shawn L. Kumm  “Concordia Pulpit Resources” Vol 25, Part 2, Series B, p 6

[2] Concordia Self Study Bible p 1518

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