Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 31, 2008
Jeremiah 15:15-21 Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21 St. Matthew 16:21-28
I have often been accused of having selective hearing. I keep on trying to explain to people that this is not the case, it is simply a case of old age! But people just don't seem to buy that excuse unfortunately, true though it may be. But have you ever told someone something only to have them completely forget about it or completely mis-understand you? It is almost like they were ignoring you on purpose. It can be very frustrating! But of course, I'm sure none of you wives or husbands have experienced this before. But just bear with me and pretend that you know what I'm talking about.
In the Gospel According to Matthew Jesus lays it on the line. Or I supposed it might be more accurate to say that Jesus tries to lay it on the line with his disciples. But instead of merely ignoring or not hearing (traits that seem to grow stronger as the crucifixion comes closer) Peter goes so far as to rebuke him. This is the same Peter who had already realized that Jesus was the messiah and had proclaimed him as such.
Now from Peter's perspective I can see why he would respond “God forbid” even to his teacher. Peter and the rest of the Jewish nation for that matter, has some very specific ideas about what it is to be a messiah. And even thought it is true that Jesus had his un-messianic acting moments, such as associating with questionable women, hanging out with sinners and tax collectors, that can be excused as minor aberrations.
But there are limits to Peter's tolerance. There are a few hard and fast rules about being a messiah after all! Probably one of the most important of these includes not dieing at the hands of the enemy, the Roman authorities. A dead messiah is not good for anyone or anything.
But even if we were to lay aside the messiah angle for a moment, who wants to hear the terrible news that a leader you love, respect and have followed for the past few years will be killed. I suspected hearing the killed part drowned out everything that followed. It is hard to follow a conversation after hearing something like that.
And how human is that. We hear one part of a message and then totally forget anything that follows as we are struck by the impact of that first news. Even I have been accused of that a time or two in my life!
One thing I have to admire about Peter though. That is he is not afraid to speak his mind. I'm reminded of some of the Psalms. How often do we really want to say something to God but we censor ourselves and not say it. As if God doesn't know what we are thinking already and that we somehow protect God or ourselves by not saying it. I think this passage calls us to the bravery of honesty in our interactions with God. Self-censorship is a futile attempt at dishonest with God.
Peter was all too willing to be himself before God. I think too often we feel that we must be someone else before God. I like the honesty we find in the psalmist who in one psalm is praising God like crazy and the next one is shaking his fist at God in anger. I don't know, perhaps it is that sometimes we worry about being a disappointment to God.
I think that the Christian church needs to work on the entire concept of disappointing God.
One of the best ways to work on this concept is to look at the lesson from the Book of Romans today, particularly in light of the fact that we will be performing two baptisms. I know, some of you were wondering if I was ever going to talk about Baptism today. And I am. But I’m not going to talk about it with respect to these two beautiful children. Instead I’m going to talk about it with respect to us. I say we, because while I get the wonderful privilege of actually saying the words, it is a community event in a very important way. And the most powerful and important words are those in which you as a faith community agree to support these new children in their lives in Jesus.
Now if we thought that being honest with God about our feelings in our lives was hard, be ready to be really challenged! Look at some of the phrases in this lesson from the Letter to the Romans: “let love be genuine,” “out do one another in showing honor,” “bless those who persecute you,” “associate with the lowly,” “live peaceably with all.” These are the lessons we are called upon to follow in the church and are promising to teach our children.
These are the lessons we need to learn to live in our own lives so we can model them successful for Emily and Eva and all the children around us. So we celebrate this powerful sacrament once again and are called on to remember our responsibilities to God and those around us.