Question: In the introduction to our Gospel lesson for this Sunday we are told that Jesus with this lesson introduces the ultimate purpose of his ministry.Peter’s outburst about not dying causes quite a reaction from Jesus, mainly calling him Satan! That’s harsh.
I believe the meaning behind this is consistent with what Jesus says about the devil being the prince and ruler of this world. The world he is talking about is the material world. The world of greed where there is never enough of anything and the more you have the more you want.
Instead, Jesus says that those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose it for his sake will find it.
Can someone tell me about an example of that, from your own life or another perhaps example or story you have heard?
Last Sunday we talked about what Jesus means to us from a religious perspective and the answers were varied as they should be because Jesus is for each of us what we happen to need at that time. Every day of life changes that.
The Monday after Joe Herkert’sdeath I was exhausted when I woke in the morning. I was emotionally drained and needed to stay in bed. And I did. At that time for me Jesus was the spiritual rest my mind, body and spirit needed.
I reflected on last Sunday’s service and how the Holy Spirit filled this place with amazing inter-connections among our family of faith here at Advent. The Wistercians, the Adams family, their relatives and close friends filled the front of the church on the pulpit side.
As the service was about to begin Sammy and her boys walked in and sat right behind the baptism family. At that moment I had no idea how interwoven the Herkert’s, the Baptism family and a number of others in worship were.
The passing of the peace turned into a time of tears reflecting both sadness and joy as we had baptized little Max and Ben at the beginning of the service. It turns out that Jason and Michael Herkert had both been baby sitters for the Wistercian sisters, and Christopher Herkert had gone to Mexico on vacation with the family.
Then I learned that Jim and Kathy Awe have been part of that neighborhood group of friends and one by one the list of people who know each other and have a long history keeps growing and growing. I see Jesus all over that kind of thing whenever it happens.
It even stretches all the way to Belgium where I saw a post by Joan Redemer saying that Emily Adams was her children’s first baby sitter. These ties of love and familiarity that bind us together for me is one more sign that Jesus, or the Holy Spirit of God is real and at work.
So the grieving and sadness of Joe’s death interwoven with the joy of a double baptism for long awaited babies for two families with a long history of friendship – that too is the presence of Jesus as promised by the Gospel.
Right about the time that Joe was going through his most difficult time someone posted an anonymous prayer on Facebook. It came when I needed it most and reminded me of the wonderful prayers Joe would say whenever we visited together both at home and in the hospital All of Joe’s prayers were humble and filled with Grace.
Never a complaint, and never a “why is this happening to me?” Instead his prayers embraced Sammy, his boys, their wives and babies, his sister also struggling with cancer and the Advent family whom he would often pray for by individual name.
The prayer I saw on Facebook, and it is printed in our bulletin, goes like this:
“Heavenly Father, lately I have been so worried about things that are out of my control. Help me to trust that you are working every detail of my life out and that I have nothing to fear or worry about. In Jesus name, amen.”
This brief and simple prayer really captures the essence of the Gospel and the meaning of who Jesus is. Remember last Sunday Peter answered the question that Jesus posed; “Who do you say that I am?”
To which Peter answered;
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”
Jesus’ next words are very significant;
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
My interpretation of these words is that religion and theology did not reveal this truth to Peter, but rather he received this knowledge as a gift directly from God. Call it intuition, common sense or spiritual meditation – it does not matter, what matters is that it is the truth.
This God of unconditional love, this God of life, the living God, is born as a human being physically, vulnerable, able to feel pain, sadness, grief and all the other human emotions – yes – this God whom we call Father, Son and Holy Spirit is alive in each and every one of us.
Not because we are Christian, and even less because we are Lutheran, but because we are children of God, loved, embraced and made holy through the promise of the God that has opened his heart and spirit to all of creation.
I think that is what Jesus meant when he said to Peter;
“Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
And I believe this knowledge is the rock that Jesus refers to and not the person of Peter as is traditionally taught. The rock that the church of the living God is built upon is the sure knowledge that God has made God’s self known in the person of Jesus, and his teachings as well as his very life is the “church” that he has founded.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear, as he did a couple of Sunday’s ago saying “it’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles,” a clear reference to religious rules and rituals, “but what comes out of the mouth that defiles!” Also, very clearly a reference to how we live our lives and how we treat other people.
You have probably seen the Ice Bucket Challenge that has swept through the Internet and Facebook these days. That clever idea is likely to result in millions of dollars for research to find a cure for ALS. Last year the organization reports it raised 2.6 million dollars. This year, as of last Tuesday, August 26, thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge the total raised is 88.5 million dollars!
There are multiple stories about who actually started this wildly successful fundraising marketing idea, and perhaps it was simply yet another gift from God.
As we say in the ELCA, “God’s work, our hands.” Or in this case, “Ice buckets.”
In connection with that I want to tell you about Chris Rosati. Rosati, a husband and father, was diagnosed with ALS more than three years ago and has dedicated his remaining days to bringing blessings to others.
He started something he calls the BIGGchallenge.It is an acronym for “Big Ideas for the Greater Good.” A few months ago he challenged the kids in his community to come up with some really BIGG ideas to practice more kindness than is necessary. To video tape the result and challenge others to do the same.
“You have the ability to change the world with just an act of kindness, “ Chris Rosati says on stage. His first BIGG idea was to contact Krispy Kreme in December to “hijack” a delivery truck and fulfill a mischievous dream. To drive around with cops chasing him while he handed out free treats.
He gave away a thousand donuts at cancer wards, children’s hospitals and city parks to the homeless. He had so much fun with this that he has devoted the rest of his life to continue and to encourage others to do the same.
One event was called the “Wheel of Kindness.” Some kids set up a giant wheel at the mall with acts of kindness written on it, had grown-ups spin the wheel, and then do whatever kind thing it landed on.
In another BIGG video two kids decided to take some homeless women out for a once-in-a-lifetime, fancy dinner. One of the women said afterwards;
“I’ve never seen such an act of kindness from a total stranger. I cried. I cried,”said another woman. The events keep growing and spreading as the word gets out.
“Now next year I want bigger,” Rosati says to a student. And the most amazing thing about him is that a lot of people understandably take on a cause that will help them and others diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Rosati, on the other hand, isn’t as interested in fighting ALS as he is in healing all of us.
One act of kindness at a time! “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’”