Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, February 28, 2021

YEAR B 2021 lent 2

 Lent 2, 2021
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38
Psalm 22:22-30

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

One time, when I was really little, my mother wanted to do some vacuuming, so she took me into my room and put me in my crib and said, “How about you take a little nap.”  And, after she left, I was like, “How about instead I peel back the padding, crawl out through the bottom of the crib, and wander down the block until a neighbor brings me back?”

You see this a lot with little kids . . . and maybe even more so with adults, come to think of it.  Someone says, “Hey, here’s what’s gonna happen.” And they respond, “How about instead, the exact opposite thing happens?”  A fine current example is, “Hey. how about you wear that mask  over your nose as well as your mouth?”  And the answer is, “Hey, how about instead I don’t wear a mask at all?”  

We see a similar attitude with Peter to Jesus in this morning’s gospel reading.  As we heard, “Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering . . . be killed, and after three days rise again.”  And Peter rebukes Jesus for saying this.  It’s like Jesus says, “Here’s the plan,” and Peter says, “How about instead we do the exact opposite of the plan?”  Like, “Here is what must happen.”  And, “Okay, hear me out, no.”

Why is Peter like this?  Where does he get the nerve to tell Jesus that he’s wrong?  Well, Jesus answers that question for us:  “you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things.”  Which is exactly the thing that can be said of each one of us when we are going in the wrong direction:  Setting our minds not on divine things, but on human things.

Jesus says, “How about you feed the poor?”  And our natural response is, “How about I keep all my money in the bank in case the economy goes south again?”  Jesus says, “How about you love your enemies?”  And we say, “How about we bomb them all back to the stone age?”  Jesus says, “How about you love God and your neighbor?”  And we say, “How about we don’t love you with our whole heart, and we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves?”

When it comes down to it, we are resistant and rebellious against the words of Jesus.  And we confess this, every single week!  Even though we have doubled down, we confess.  Confession is actually admitting we have doubled down, right?  Confession means admitting we have been going in the completely wrong direction.  The word repent means to turn around.  And that fits perfectly with this whole idea.  Jesus says go this way, and we say, how about let’s go that other way.  And when we repent, we turn around.  Jesus says, love God and your neighbor; and we confess that we have not loved God and our neighbor.  We turn around.  We repent.

So, Jesus tells Peter that he must suffer, die, and then rise from the grave.  And Peter says, how about no?  Because Jesus has the wrong script, see?  Jesus, their Rabbi, is the Messiah, and the Messiah must overcome oppression and set the captives free and announce the day of the Lord.  The Messiah is victorious, not humiliated.  The Messiah is God’s chosen one, not a religious outcast.  The Messiah is supposed to march into war, not walk into death.

But you know what I think?  I think Peter missed the last part of that whole thing Jesus said.  The part where Jesus says, “and after three days rise again.”  That’s the key to it all, isn’t it?  It’s not the rejection and suffering and death that mark the Messiah; it is the after-three-days-rise-again part.  Peter is rebuking Jesus for saying the Messiah must suffer and be killed, and he is missing the most important part.  How the story ends.  

And then Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  And he adds the part that is hardest to hear: For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 

Peter wants Jesus to save his own life.  To deny the cross.  To walk away from the suffering and gain the whole world.  Just like us.  We want Jesus to stand up to the powers of evil, not suffer and die.  We want Jesus to be a little baby in Bethlehem, not an adult who goes to the grave.  We want our Messiah to be popular, not rejected by the religious leaders.  We want Jesus to be tough for us.  We.  Want.  Victory!

But our victory is in the cross of Jesus.  If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  Jesus leads us on the way—not out of death but into resurrection, which is how the story ends for all of us.  And, yes, on the way to that victory, we suffer.  Even the happiest most satisfying life will still end in death.  And we know that.  We don’t like to think about that, but we all know it.  Which is why we begin our Lenten journey each year with the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Death is inevitable, for all of us.  But because of Jesus, death is not the last word.  

I think we all like to imagine that Jesus will just solve our earthly problems.  In its most extreme form, you could call this the Jesus Saved Me a Parking Spot Syndrome.  Or, that kind of preaching that we call the Prosperity Gospel, where Jesus will make you rich if you just send the TV preacher ten bucks a week.  When we look to Jesus to save us from difficulties in life, well, as Jesus told Peter, “you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  Jesus does not save us from difficult times; Jesus saves us in difficult times, despite difficult times.  In the midst of suffering you are healed; in the midst of rejection you are loved; in the midst of death you are brought back to life.

That is perhaps the hardest thing to hear.  We want life to be easy, and happy, and fun.  And I think anyone whose life is easy, and happy, and fun is not paying attention.  As Jesus says in John’s gospel, “In this world you will have trouble.”  True enough.  But Jesus adds, “But do not be afraid, because I have overcome the world.”  

So, we have to ask, why does Jesus call Peter Satan?  Because Peter is setting his mind not on divine things but on human things.  He wants a world without trouble.  He wants a world where the Messiah rules on this earth rather than on a new earth.  And Jesus asks, “What will it profit you to gain the whole world and forfeit your life?”  Turns out, it is Peter who has the wrong script.  It is Peter who wants Jesus to focus on the here and now, rather than on the new heaven and the new earth.

So what am I saying?  That this life doesn’t matter?  That the suffering we see and feel isn’t real?  Of course not!  And it is our Christian duty to relieve that suffering as much as we are able, wherever we see it.  Because we seek and serve Christ in all persons, just as we promise in our Baptismal Covenant.  But what I am saying is this:  Let Jesus be Jesus.  Do what you can to make this world a better place, yes please!  And take up your cross and follow Jesus on the way that leads to life, yes please!  Because it is in following Jesus that we find life.

In this life we will have trouble.  Yes.  But do not be afraid, for Jesus has overcome the world.  May God give us the strength to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, who will lead us together into new life.  We have all struggled, and, we will struggle in the future.  But we know where the future leads, because God is waiting there, to carry us through, and to raise us up with Jesus every day, and most importantly on the last day.


No comments:

Post a Comment