[For the audio version of this sermon please click on the above link]
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 who are more concerned with the thinking of Jesus and His Church then the world’s said … AMEN!
It has been a challenging week for me, frankly the last few months have been very challenging. In the last week I’ve had to minister to the survivors of five different deaths. This is never an easy part of being a minister/chaplain, you have to look people in the eye; spouses, children, siblings, and tell them yes, this is a tragedy, but God is with them to comfort them. As a minister I have to be that skin and bones, physical representative of Christ in front of them, as I have to when we gather to worship. Of course the most difficult was the passing of our brother John Klahod, who in the short time that he returned to First Saint Johns has made his mark. He and Barb have regularly attended Bible study, Barb helps so much as a greeter and with the parish visitor and on the Altar Guild. John served as the church vice president. They have been very supportive and encouraging through all the changes that God has guided us through as a congregation in the last few years.
Jesus wasn’t political in His thinking, despite popular beliefs, Jesus wasn’t too concerned about who He offended or upset. Just a few weeks ago we read where Jesus told people straight up, you have to eat My Body and Blood. Lots of people picked up and left right there. I’d bet you, Judas or maybe one of the more pragmatic disciples took Jesus aside, “What are you doing? We can’t afford to have people walk out like that! You have to be more political, more tactful.” When he preached in his hometown of Nazareth, people took offense at his preaching. Who is this guy, they asked? We knew Him when He was a little boy, we know His mother and father, his brothers and sisters still live here. And hey we know how He was born … Come on, Mary and Joseph weren’t even married when He was born. Oh yeah, who is this guy to tell us that He has fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah? He’s not anything special.
Jesus wasn’t political or tactful, it’s not that He didn’t care, He cared desperately. But He wasn’t, and isn’t running a public relations firm. He was and is trying to get us to trust in Him, to conform to His image, not ours, not the worlds. God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are vastly different than the rest of the world, polar opposites. The reason the church has gotten to where it’s at is because it has tried over the last hundred years to conform to the world’s view. That’s not what we’re here for. Certainly that’s the way the disciples are acting. Jesus is pushing ahead, back to Capernaum. He has a sense of urgency! Why? We’re told earlier in this pericope: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” His ministry in Galilee is ending, Jesus is now on His way to Jerusalem and to the Cross. There is no time to play, important things are happening. World changing events are about to happen, events profoundly effecting everything man knew and trusted up to that point. The lives of these men and a lot of others in the world and through history are about to be profoundly changed. We as Christian disciples should have that sense of urgency about us. We talk a lot about Supreme Court decisions and Congress, how things seem to be spinning out of control. But we do very little and live in fear that if we boldly proclaim Jesus and His church that we will offend. Then we the disciples are yapping about who will be the greatest! They have no idea what will happen to them. They are so sure that they will be covered in worldly glory. Oh, you better believe that they all “know” how this is going to play out. Peter has flat out pronounced who Jesus is. “You are the promised One, you are the Son of God.” Peter knew that, the Father had put that in Peter’s heart and given Peter the privilege of declaring that Jesus was the One who would deliver the world. But He had first hand experiences to bolster his pronouncements. He had just seen Jesus transfigured and the Father declaring who Jesus is. He had been with Jesus when He had healed at least hundreds of people, raised people from the dead, fed thousands, teach the most profound understandings that anyone had ever heard, that no one in the history of the world had ever taught. But you can bet Peter was involved in who would be the greatest.
Our Savior, God the Son Jesus has done and continues to do so much for His people. He doesn’t do it to be popular, He doesn’t do it for glory and power. He is glorified in Heaven. We profess every week that He sits at the right hand of God the Father, from the most powerful perspective in the universe, all creation. But He doesn’t do it in order to be popular, the guy who is there to be everyone’s buddy. He tells us hard truths and He doesn’t back down from them. Have to tell you, if someone like the rich young ruler showed up for worship, telling me what a great and pious guy he is, I might suffer a little of the world’s thinking, about how he could help this church do great things. Jesus wasn’t impressed. Really? You’re just all that and a bag of chips? Well this is what you need to do. All that great wealth and influence you have, you just go out there and give that to all those people who are truly in need, come back here and then we’ll talk. Well you know what happened, the rich young ruler, packed up his stuff and rode out of town, probably thinking; “there’s no way I’m giving up all my wealth, who does that guy think He is?”. Oh you can bet he was offended. I can imagine what kind of feedback I’d get as a pastor if I confronted someone like that who showed up for worship. Paul puts it best in our epistle reading: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” Enmity seems like a benign word, but it means, hatred, hostility, animosity. We worry so much about being popular and not upsetting, at the cost of standing up for Christ and His Church.
It is not offensive to witness to Jesus and His Church. What is truly offensive is what you say and do that ignores Jesus. The disciples were just so obsessed about worldly glory and right after Jesus had told them, “I’m going to be betrayed and killed!” It offends Jesus when the things you say and do ignores Him and are for your glory in the world, to people who don’t even know Jesus.
The disciples are still all caught up in the traditional view of the Messiah and what they think He will do to restore the worldly kingdom. If you look at the chart included in your bulletin, we’re caught up in what the world thinks Jesus should be, not what He truly is. Jesus has been showing them and telling them what the truth is, that the Kingdom of Heaven is what matters to our eternal life. He’s just told them He will be delivered up and killed. The disciples seem to be thinking: “Oh we don’t want to hear that! That’s too upsetting, that ignores my world view and I’m just not going to think about Jesus being killed. I’m going to live in the world where this whole Jesus thing will make me powerful and popular. They will discover that what happens to Jesus’ disciples doesn’t result in earthly popularity and power. His disciples find that they are shunned, rejected and killed by the world. The world, like the disciples in this pericope, chose to be offended by the reality of Christ’s Word and chose to live in their own world, that will never come true and can actually result in them being cut off from Jesus and true, eternal life in the resurrection.
Take a hard look at your witness, are you more concerned with the opinion of those around you, or your witness to the hard reality of life as a disciple of Jesus?
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.