Monthly Archives: September 2017

09-24-17 CHOOSING LIFE OVER DEATH

CHOOSING LIFE OVER DEATH

Philippians 1: 21-30

 

Listen to this description written by an American Psychoanalyst:

Try as we may, it is difficult to conceive of our universe in terms of concord; instead, we are faced everywhere with the evidences of conflict. Love and hate, production and consumption, creation and destructions—the constant war of opposing tendencies would appear to be the dynamic heart of the world.  [People] run the eager gamut of life through hazards of sickness and accidents, beasts and bacteria, the malignant power of the forces of nature and the vengeful hands of [others.] ….Time and time again in the past few years, the swollen waters of the Ohio, the Mississippi, and other rivers have poured over the fields and cities of populous areas, sweeping away the homes and the gardens, the books and the treasures, the food and factories of a million people. Almost at the same time and in the same country, trees died of drought, grass withered in the heat, cattle perished of thirst and starvation, birds and little wild beasts disappeared and a brown-grey crust replaced the usual verdure of landscape. And recently again, the Pacific Coast was shaken by earthquakes …while the Atlantic Coast was wept with hurricanes and devastating storms.

 

These are conditions that can make any of us feel very jaded about the world; about life; about living through such horrors or sorrowful events. It can even make people long for days gone by, sometimes called “the good old days.” When were those days exactly? Because the words I just read were written by Dr. Karl Menninger from Topeka, Kansas. He wrote them in 1938! 1938. [Man Against Himself, Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc. New York; 1938; Harvest Books. Edition 1966, p. 3.]  So why do I share this? There is a temptation for people to see the times in which we are living—with extra hate, extra storms, and extra conflict—as a product of our modern age. But instead it is a product of the human race and nature’s swings from light to darkness.  What’s good to learn are the attitude and outlooks that bode well for our good life on this earth. We think things are bad; but they have been worse, and may very well get worse. How will we cope with that? What will be our life choices?

 

Perhaps you, like I, were asked to read Victor Frankl’s work of non-fiction called Man’s Search for Meaning. I read it in both college and seminary.  It is now quoted in the current Ken Burns television series on Vietnam.  The book is not mainly about life in a Nazi concentration camp; it is about what Frankl learned about people and their desire to live or die.

Listen to this description of that book:

Frankl never gives the reader a linear narrative of his time in the camps—instead he is more focused on how the daily struggles of camp life affected the mental state of its inmates.  As a result, he only gives details about his experience when those details can be used as evidence for his psychological theories. [He said he observed that] the typical prisoner passes through three mental stages: shock in the first few days of his arrival, apathy and “emotional death” once he has become accustomed to life in camp, and disillusionment with life after he has been liberated….The core of Frankl’s philosophy is that a [person’s] deepest desire is to find meaning in his life, and if he can find that meaning, he can survive anything.  [LitCharts Summary]

 

What makes you desire to live; to keep going against hardships? Or do you secretly wish you could die?  In Hospice rooms around the country, people afflicted with an illness can gain hope spiritually and endorphins physically if they are surround by or kissed by those they love. Many of them want to live another day. The human will is powerful in the struggle for life or the desire for death.  In World War II, men would often have a picture of a girlfriend, his wife, or their children to give them the will to live in the midst of war.  On the other end of the spectrum, teenagers who have been jilted by a boyfriend or girlfriend might consider taking their own lives because they can’t see any happy way forward. Who decided that it is a good idea to have high school and college students read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with its tragic final scene? It seems that when we are focused on a purpose for living—a reason for living—many people can continue against mounting odds. Those who lose that focus—like with the death of a spouse, or a child, or a friend—can go through the stages I listed—shock, apathy or “emotional death,” and disillusionment. That is truly the low road, leading people to lose their will to live. But the high road can even lead a man in a concentration camp to see his way forward.

 

The Apostle Paul gives us yet another example of a man who discovered meaning in his life. This man, Paul—sometimes hounded by local officials—found meaning in the shortness of the time he had to get the Word out about Jesus. And, in his letter to the Philippians, which is my text today, Paul shows us how, in speaking to the Philippians—he expressing his joy in them.  Hewas writing from prison; hewas being held under a capital charge, meaning that if he were found guilty, he would be put to death! Can you tell that by reading or hearing his letter, when he says things like: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice! Have no anxiety about anything!” [4:4,6] Had Paul discovered what Frankl had discovered? Who do you know who has figured out the secret of life well lived? And who do you know who seeks death?

 

There are those who have said to me and to others, that they just want to die; they don’t like the world and they have pain or limitations that have contributed to their loss of a will to live. The answer for them is not to pack their bags and go to an imagined celestial railway station, hoping that the train going to heaven will stop to pick them up. They may be making that choice with years of life on earth still in front of them! No. As we learn from Paul in Philippians, the action that must take place is to find new meaning, a new reason, or a new purpose for their life. Likely that will not just fall into their lap as they sit in their chair or lay in their bed. As the Reverend Mother urged Sister Maria in The Sound of Music to “climb every mountain until you find your dream,” people in the ditch of apathy or sorrow will need to find new light in their darkness. Sometimes it will take you, or me, to gently accompany them; to take their hand, as Jesus would, and lead them to new green pastures. There are green pastures. Sometimes our murky sorrow keeps us from seeing them. Paul puts it this way in Philippians 1: “What shall I choose? I do not know. … I desire to depart [meaning to die] and be with Christ, which is better by far [than this world;] but it is more necessary for you [the Philippian Christians] that I remain in the body.” Do you hear how Paul realizes that others are watching him and learning from him? There are little eyes on him, and wise older eyes, just as they are watching you. If someone knows you are a Christian, they want to learn how you handle sorrow, or war, or illness. Anyone, Christian or non-Christian, can fall into bitterness or despair. But if our hope in Christ and the guidance of our New Testaments mean anything, they point us toward Christ and His example of how life is to be lived, and how death is not just your grand day when your prison door is opened and you fly away. Instead, as Paul sees it, it is the last day you have on earth to set an example for others. Paul says it this way: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” That is our charge when we put on the armor or the clothing of Christ. We do not just disengage. We pray; we ask for help; and we fight the darkness that threatens to cloak our eyes and smother our hearts. 

 

God has given every living creature a will to live. Sometimes human beings just think too much, or get their hearts broken, or get filled with disappointments. The Christian life offers no hope to the birds of the air, the animals on the ground, or the fish in the sea other than God created them and loves them. But this book—The Bible—is for human beings to read and use as stewards of God’s world. It is only profitable to human beings who read and follow it. It is a book of faith, hope, and love: qualities that humans desperately need in regular doses so they can assimilate them into their life choices. Paul urges the downtrodden, the weary, or the hopeless to “stand firm.” The difference between those who lived through concentration camps—like Victor Frankl as we heard, or like Corrie Ten Boom in the non-fiction work The Hiding Place—is hope in place of hopelessness.

 

Even John Calvin, the father of Presbyterianism, has a surprisingly optimistic take on Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21:

“Assuredly it is Christ alone that makes us happy both in death and in life; otherwise, if death is miserable, life is in no degree happier; so that it is difficult to determine whether it is more advantageous to live or to die out of Christ. On the other hand, let Christ be with us, and he will bless our life as well as our death….” [Calvin’s Commentary, Vol XXI, Baker Books, p. 42.] Could it be that an attitude that keeps you feeling miserable and victimized on earth will go to heaven with you too?

 

Let me close with one of Jesus’ miracles. In Matthew 14: 22-33, Jesus had just performed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. He sent his disciples off into a boat on the Sea of Galilee and he dismissed the crowds. Jesus was not, at the time, with his disciples. Without Jesus with them, winds whipped the disciples and their small boat. The Bible says those grown men were terrified, perhaps afraid they would drown and die. What was Jesus doing? Why wasn’t he with them? Jesus was praying. Could it be, friends, that when your eyes cannot see Jesus, or your hand does not feel his hand in yours, that Jesus is praying, perhaps for you; perhaps for our broken world; perhaps for your loved ones; perhaps even for your enemies? Jesus is always about the world, and always about those of us who claim to be sheep in his flock. He has not abandoned you.  He is praying for you, praying that you find the faith, hope, and love: the things that he needs for us to have as the body of Christ in the world! This is not chastisement; this is encouragement for those who feel like giving up. Jesus prays for you; and we will walk with you in whatever unfolds in the next chapter of the book called “This is Your Life.” What will that chapter say about the example you set for others?

Let us pray:

Dear Creator God: we never just live for ourselves; we live for you, our Creator; we live for Jesus; we live for those we love; and we live not just for today, but for tomorrow. Clear our eyes and pull the burdens off of our souls so that, with new conviction, we can live through this life, whether it’s troubled or joyous, knowing that Jesus is behind us, before us, beside us and inside us. We show him to others.  In the words of another famous prayer: “Help us to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Amen.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                 September 24, 2017

 

09-17-17 PRAYER OF INTERCESSION AND THANKSGIVING

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION AND THANKSGIVING

 

Dear God, who at times prods us into action and at other times comforts us in our sadness: stand with your people during this time that has affected Caribbean countries along with South Atlantic and Gulf states.  Lives have been changed and, in some cases, homes have been lost. We are told that the most important things to save are lives, but we also have special memories in pictures, baby books, wedding albums, mementos, or libraries. We can feel loss, and many have. We pray for them. For others who have made it through the storm mostly unscathed, we join them in giving thanks. But there will still be anxiety and disorientation for a while.  Prod those who need prodding into action to help others; comfort those who need comforting by putting your everlasting arms around them.

 

You alone are Holy, O God. We praise you and thank you for our Savior Jesus. The Way, the Truth, and the Life  comforts and guides us. Help us to lean on and depend on him!

 

We pray for our four missionaries in South Asia and South Sudan, that they have the resources and the resourcefulness they need. We pray for our Presbyterian Counseling Center in its continuing ministry toward helping to make people and relationships whole. And we pray for Solutions By-The-Sea as Commissioned Ruling Elder Tobias Caskey continues to lead people after incarceration or addiction.
Hear our prayer, O God, and move among us by the power of your Holy Spirit. Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                 September 17, 2017

09-17-17 A LOVE THAT ENDURES FOREVER

(sermon by CRE Tobias Caskey, sorry, no audio available)

As a people, we all have a different ideal of what God is and what God does for us.  Even though we all may have the same core truths of God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, we start to vary from there.  And the same is also true when we start to think of being grateful and what that sounds like as we go through our daily lives, hurricane season and all our problems as a people.  Our shoes don’t seem to fit as we try to walk in the Christ stumbling through life falling down, getting back up again practicing the walk with God; trying to grow faith as we see it.    While we were reeling from the effects of the hurricane we seemed to slip right by 9/11 as some even might have forgotten that it was there.  But as I am a frequent flyer of Facebook, I was reminded of that terrible event by a story about a Franciscan Monk; Reverend Mychal Judge was a Franciscan Monk at the St Francis of Assisi Church in New York City which also houses the Monks and is a center for the Franciscan ministries in the area.  He was very active with the homeless in New York; as well as ministering to alcoholics, addicts and the incarcerated.  Brother Judge was also a chaplain for the New York fire department where he was very active as well.  When the terrible acts of 9/11 occurred, in that same instance that he heard what had happened Brother Judge went out to help in any way he could.  After blessing a fireman in the midst of the turmoil; on his way to help others, he was struck by falling debris and was killed.  He was rendered a hero; There is a stain glass window, that I saw when I visited the Church, at St Francis of Assisi Church to commemorate Brother Judge and of course the events of 9/11; for what he did and the other things he helped to orchestrate in the Dioses of New York still going on and changing that Church today.  Did his shoes fit him?  Therese Lisieux is known as a Catholic Saint, who was a Carmelite nun during the time of the eighteen hundred’s.  She grew up in a family of depth in their spirituality and love of God.  All her sisters became nuns as she did.  She was allowed to join the Monastery at the age of fifteen as was cleared by the Church.  She practiced a way spoken of as the Little way.  She prayed for men to come to God, that were being put to death for crimes they committed; she gave herself to God in service and in deed at the monastery.  The beauty of her comes out in a statement made by one of her sisters, as she stated, “When Sister Therese was baptized was when she stopped being herself and there was only Jesus inside her.  This is the dream and path of all Christian Mystics, as well as our path will lead us in life if we follow as Paul states to us, the way of God; the way of Love.  As my first thought for a sermon on this day; the celebration of theological Sunday was about the great theologians, let us try to remember that we are all in this together.  As different as we are to each other here; as different as we are to the theologians of the past and of the present; we are the same as on people as one love as Paul states; to follow what God has in store for us; with what God has given us to follow it with; Love!!  A love that endures through all things; that shows life in everything.  A love that is God; that knows no boundaries; that is not deceptive; that is the truth; the way and the Life.  As we look into what Paul writes as he shows the way of the life of the Christ as the Holy Spirit dwells in us, as it dwelled in him and the others of the time, I’m’ struck by a quote I heard in one of the readings I read to get ready for this sermon; A man named Coleridge, a writer and scholar said “ I believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God because it finds me”  God’s word can always find the human heart; does it find yours?  The six sins Paul speaks of as the Christless life were based on the time then as much as it is based on the times now.  Chapter twelve through fifteen of the Letter to the Romans deal with practical questions of life and living as the other chapters of the letters deal with different parts of life in the time of the beginning of the Church; as we live in a new time of the same Church; these letters seem to be able to help us in the same manner, as the inspired word of God shows us how to live better lives in the Christ.  Love the true answer to all the questions.  Drunkenness in the time of the letters was looked down upon very shameful.  This was because alcohol was mixed with the water supply; breakfast of the Greeks was called Acratisma and consisted of a piece of bread dipped in wine, they were a wine drinking people; children drank wine; because of the water supply being bad, wine was mixed with the water supply; it was just a part of life.  This makes sense in the early church. If wine was that much of a normal thing and people suffered from alcoholism this would have been treated as a disgraceful act.  Immorality as it was and still is wrong in the eyes of God had a great twist in the explanation of why.  The word for immorality is koite.  Koite literally means to bed as it speaks of a man that basically has lost all his scruples and will find pleasure when and wherever he will.  Envy, shamelessness, and contention; known in the Greek as Zelos, Aselgeia and anderis round out these practices of ungodliness written about by Paul along with revelry known in the Greek as Komos.  As we read this scripture, do we see the practice of it as easy? almost as we don’t even need to be told about it; like duh.  Seems easy right?  As the song that Tina Turner made popular states’ What’s Love got to do with it?  The story of Martin Luther as he became who he was to be in the history of the reformation and all that we as protestants are today, has to do with a life changing experience.  He was walking through a field coming home and was in the middle of a storm.  Lighting striking all around him; raining hard almost as he was being chased by the storm itself.  He prayed to God to help him; to bail him out; he said that whatever God wanted he would do it for him; he said if God got him out of this trouble he would become a Monk.  Some people refer to these prayers as foxhole prayers.  Well he wasn’t struck by lightning and he became a Monk.  He fought the reality of what he thought God to be for a time; and after the deception was taken away from his heart by the beautiful scripture of God’s and he realized that God was love from Paul and the Letters, he walked in a new Grace; a grace of Love; true love; that love that knows no bounds; that endures all things and that is of all things; Gods love. As we grow and regrow; form and reform; as our perception changes every day are we reshaping our hearts along with the Love of God in us to become the true Love of God?  Thomas Merton, a thought to be Mystic who was a monk wrote in one of his many books on spirituality that a Spiritual life is not a mental life.  It is not thought alone.  Nor is it, of course a life of sensation, a life of feeling- feeling and experiencing the things of God.  Nor does the spiritual life exclude thought and feeling.  It needs both.  It is not just a life concentrated at the high point of the soul, a life from which the mind and the imagination and the body are excluded. If it were so, few people could lead it.  And again, if that were the spiritual life, it would not be a life at all.  If man is to live, he must be all alive, body, mind, soul, heart, spirit.  Everything must be elevated and transformed by the action of God, in love and faith.  True gratefulness.  As the scripture reads “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”  To love one another is to do no one any harm.  Love does no wrong to a neighbor.  Love is fulfilling the Law.  This is our action of Gratitude.  This is our reason as to live in the Christ.  For if we only love as Paul states there is no place for sin; for God’s Love rules out all evil.  John the beloved disciple of Christ was said to have heard God’s heart.  What was spoken to John was to love one another.  As he was carried to prayer in exile by his disciples, at the age of ninty, he told them to love one another.  In doing so it would be the action of Jesus; the action of God.  To love as we are loved; a love that endures forever.  A love that will surpass all distain.  The reason why Jesus gave his life for the sin of the world; the reason why we are here today; to love as we are loved.  A true love that will show us the greatness of our faith.  I see it in men and their families all the time at SBTS, a blind faith that they have no control over; no control over any situation their in; such as Hurricane season, or having no power, or having no internet.  A faith to love; Love does no wrong to a neighbor or anything for that matter.  To love is to live in gratitude.  This of course is not easy as it was not easy for the people of the early Church.  But we only have to try.  Our shoes may be too big today; but might just fit tomorrow.  They may be too small next week as if we were only that lucky to be that much love to others.  If you doubt me; don’t take my word for it try it and see it for the truth that it is.  The Love of God living in your heart that you can be that Love to others and to be that love in the gratefulness of the Christ and what God did and does for us everyday.  In the wake of the storm; In the hate of the world; in the turmoil of disasters; our gratefulness can be shown through us as it was and is given to us; we can be the love of God with the faith of a mustard seed and live in the Christ.  Let us pray;  Dearest father as the road seems to be bleak as we may be somewhat shaken in our faith; help us to see your love that we may be that love to others that we may become more and more buried in your loving grace Amen

 

09-12-17 PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

Prayer of Thanksgiving

O God our Help in Ages Past, our Hope for Years to come: so many of us have been spared the ravages of the storm; some have been spared waters that flood and winds that harm. For those without electricity, we pray for comfort; for those hurt, we pray for help.  O Holy One, as we think about others who have had much wiped out, we know how much we have and how much others have lost. As we pray for and act on behalf of others, we can put our words into actions or into financial help. We offer ourselves as we are able, and we offer this prayer of thanks for those who are safe and sound, even if nerves have been rattled, and sleep has been elusive.

Thank you for being our strength and shield, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                                            September 12, 2017

09-10-17 PRAYER (services cancelled due to Hurricane Irma)

Friends and Members of Westminster By-The-Sea,

Another major hurricane will affect our area. It can bring anxiety and even fear. We have had lots of time to heed warnings and to prepare. Now we wait; and wait. It seems like an eternity. But we will get through this. And afterward, help your neighbor as you are able. And we’ll check the church buildings when we are able.

For now, as services are cancelled for safety, Let us pray:

Dear Creating God: you are our protection and strength; a very present help in times of trouble. the Heavenly switchboard must be lighting up with prayer requests. But will you hear our prayers even in the midst of the world’s needs. Yes, you hear us. 1 John 5:14 reminds us: This is the confidence we have toward God, that if we ask for anything according to God’s will, God hears us.” We are thankful for special needs shelters and those who are staffing them. We are grateful that officials have learned from the past and now  have more pet friendly shelters. And we have others who have departed to safer areas.  Hold us, especially tonight, as the winds howl and the rains come down. Shelter us and give us the ability to rest this night, even fitfully. Give us patience as the storm drags on and the rain comes down. Then ready us for the next day to make smart choices before going outside. Most of the time we marvel at creation like sunsets, sunrises, rainbows and clouds. But today we see the power of creation and ask for protection from it. As Jesus calmed the sea, we implore Jesus to calm us and the winds that are heading northward. Bless and keep us.  In the words of the Gospel singer Thomas A. Dorsey: “Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.” Amen.

May God bless and keep each and every one of you.

In His Service,

Jeff Sumner, Pastor

09-03-17 GOOD INTENTIONS THAT BLOCK GODLY PLANS

GOOD INTENTIONS THAT BLOCK GODLY PLANS

Matthew 16: 21-28

 

Have you ever planned to buy a gift for a person, something he or she had been looking for for a long time, and just before you gave the gift, the person says they plan to just go out and buy it?  I’ll give you an example. I like old Hollywood movies and books about old Hollywood. Years ago I got a book on the making of “The Wizard of Oz.” I ate it up. Then I bought a VHS tape of the movie back in the 1990s.  As DVDs and BluRays came out a few years ago, I thought I’d go out and get one to replace my VHS tape. But my family surprisingly balked at the idea, saying insane things like “your VHS tape is just fine!” (They knew something bigger was in the works!) What I didn’t know was that Matt and Vicki had bought me the big 70th Anniversary Wizard of Oz Ultimate Collector’s Edition with a BluRay disc, old movie stills, the making of the film DVD, and lots of extras! I almost messed up their gift by planning to go out and buy a DVD for myself! Sometimes good intentions can block a gift someone plans to give you.

 

Let’s now talk about life … and death … and sacrifice. There are stories of heroes in films, war stories and dramas in particular, when a main character will sacrifice himself or herself to save the lives of many. You’ve seen the characters, begging the star not to take the bullet, or not go into the burning building, or not give up an inoculation so someone else can survive. Sometimes the logic behind a person risking life and limb to save others, or even a pet, seem illusive. But sometimes illogical decisions are made. You may remember Steven Spielberg’s epic, “Saving Private Ryan.”

The film opens with the Allied invasion on Normandy Beach on June 6, 1944. Captain Miller and members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion fight to secure the beachhead. During the invasion, two brothers are killed in action. Earlier, a third brother had been killed in New Guinea. The mother of the brothers is about to receive the grave telegram about their deaths on the same day. The United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, is given an opportunity to alleviate some of this one mother’s grief when he finds out there is a fourth brother, Private James Ryan, who went missing somewhere in France. He sends Captain Miller and seven other people from the Ranger Battalion to go look for Private Ryan and bring him back to his mother.

 

Thirty-five years ago Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan was released. It will be back in theatres next week. Spock was quoted as saying this as he sacrificially moved to save the starship Enterprise and her crew, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.” How logical.

 

But logic doesn’t dictate every situation. Sometimes decisions are based on impulse, or emotions, or on information that others don’t have at their disposal. And sacrifices do not just happen on film, but also in history. Here are some examples that were compiled by Karl Smallwood:

During the Second World War, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient and 1st Lieutenant John Robert Fox was directing artillery fire in the Italian town of Sommocolonia to stall a German advance. While Fox was directing fire, a large German force moved in on his position. Realizing that this force was a huge threat to his men, Fox called a final artillery strike—on himself.

 When his men eventually retook the position, Fox’s body was found next to approximately 100 dead German troops and a medal was placed neatly on his chest.

 

IN 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 smashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River in Washington D.C. in the middle of a snowstorm. All but five passengers were killed. Some 20 minutes later, a helicopter arrived to rescue the survivors.

After getting one man to safety, the helicopter threw a life-ring to a man named Arland Williams. He immediately gave the life ring to the passenger next to him. When the helicopter came back for a third

time, he did the same thing again. And again. When the helicopter came back a final time, Arland was dead. He’d used his last ounce of strength to save a complete stranger.

 

And here’s one more:

Richard Rescorla was instrumental in the evacuation of thousands of people during the 9/11 attacks. As the director of security at Morgan Stanley, Rescorla was a stickler for his building’s safety and held twice-yearly evacuation drills to get people out. When the attacks happened and the tower next to Rescorla’s was hit, he put his plan into action and calmly instructed people to leave, right up until the moment he was killed. Rescorla’s actions were considered instrumental in the successful evacuation of over 2,500 people.

 

What examples of sacrifice. But one of the most powerful, and effective plans was the one the Almighty had to save the souls of his children. With the plan for the sacrifice of the one to save many, the stage was set. The plot was set; the plan was set. The only problem was that some audience members wanted the story in God’s great drama to take a radically different turn. They meant well, but it would have ruined everything. The stage is Matthew 16. To Jesus’ great joy, Simon has just declared that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. The next scene has Jesus giving a bit of the plot away ahead of time: not usually a good thing to do! He says in verse 21, that he must go to Jerusalem, undergo great suffering, be killed, and then rise from the dead in three days. I think the disciples didn’t understand that last part: the good part for us! All they heard was that he would suffer and be killed. They all jumped in to say “No!” not realizing they would have jammed a monkey wrench into the gears of God’s plans. Sometimes our best intentions block Godly plans. So Jesus spoke up, saying their temptation to protect him was going against God’s plan for salvation. Jesus said to Simon Peter: “Get behind me Satan!” What a harsh thing to say to the “Rock,” just named so by Jesus himself. But say it he did. Our impulses are not always the most helpful, like a family member telling a child, “I’ll stay by your side during your whole surgery.” Not possible and not practical. There would be sterility issues in surgery and frantic parental exclamations, as a surgeon would cut into a precious child. Most of the time protocols are created after time-tested experience. Sometimes broken protocols make heroes. But at other times, God is working an eternal purpose out. If only we could see the big picture. Again, sometimes logic is thrown out the window. Jesus put it this way: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find life.”

 

The Rev Amy Ziettlow grew up dancing ballet. She was used to much practice and choreography. In Matthew 16 she imagines Jesus handing out God’s redemptive choreography to his disciples. After Peter’s impetuous confession that Jesus is the Messiah,” she imagines that they are ready to dance something in allegro time, rejoicing, celebrating. Instead, with a persistent adagio, they are stunned to hear Jesus describing suffering, death, and resurrection; no leaps; no pirouettes, just steady trudging.

 

Friends, there is a plan greater than we can dream for our world and for our souls. It is God’s plan. And today, through the simple offering of a Holy meal, you are invited to pray, and to partake, and to put your trust in the one who was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Let us pray:

Take our lives and let them be consecrated, Lord, to Thee;

Take our moments and our days, let them flow in ceaseless praise,

today and evermore. Through Jesus Christ our host. Amen.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                          September 3, 2017