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13th Sunday after Pentecost, August 30, 2020
Tyler Gubsch
Tyler Gubsch
Sunday, August 30, 2020
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13th Sunday after Pentecost
The prophet Jeremiah speaks of the incurable wound of his suffering yet finds in God’s words the delight of his heart. When Peter doesn’t grasp Jesus’ words about suffering, Jesus tells the disciples they will find their lives in losing them. Such sacrificial love is described by Paul when he urges us to associate with the lowly and not repay evil with evil. In worship we gather as a community that we might offer ourselves for the sake of our suffering world.
There Must Be Another Way
Peter may be the “rock” on which Christ will build the church (Matt. 16:18), but when Jesus reveals the suffering that will come first, Peter becomes a tempter and “stumbling block.” Assuming God must have a different way to save the world, Peter protests Jesus’ suffering and death. Jesus explains to Peter and all his disciples that, in fact, this is the way to life—losing one’s life in order to find it.
By tempting Jesus to an easier way than his journey through suffering to resurrection, Peter personifies a temptation common to all generations of Jesus’ disciples: seeking a way to avoid “losing oneself,” instead of surrendering all to and with the one we follow. Rather than losing our lives—our selves, possessions, and time—we hold on more tightly, afraid of what will happen to our comfort, success, and identity if we let go. Those things we hold onto then become, like Peter, stumbling blocks along the way of self-giving love.
But while “saving one’s life” sounds sensible, those things also stand in the way of the new life into which Jesus beckons us to follow him. Perhaps Peter’s problem is that he sees only the suffering and death, without grasping the new life that comes through it. In times when we too are tempted by worldly ways of comfort and success, convinced that surely God must have an easier way than the way of self-giving love, this gospel reminds us that resurrection and life await on the other side of suffering and death.
This is the way of our God who becomes human in Jesus: emptying himself of power and dignity, losing his very own life for the sake of the world’s life. Seen through the lens of resurrection just ahead on the journey, what other way could there be?
Theological Reflection
The cross is the central image and symbol of our faith. Many church buildings display crosses and many Christians wear the cross as jewelry. We like the idea of the cross as something comforting, but when we see how disturbing it is—that it involves “losing” our lives—we probably echo Peter’s words: “God forbid it, Lord!” (Matt. 16:22). If taking up our cross means dying to ourselves—meaning dying to our own flawed notions of worth, connection, or work, and living into our true identity as unique children of God—then what we “sacrifice” is not necessarily something good or desirable. The least healthy things in our lives are often the hardest things to sacrifice because we feel comfortable with them or because they are self-medication for pain we don’t want to face or bring to Jesus. We may not even like them, but we do them because the truth, the reality, and the healing of the cross seem more painful.
Prayer of the Day
O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Jeremiah 15:15-21
Jeremiah’s delight in the word of the Lord is contradicted by the heaviness of God’s hand upon him and God’s seeming unfaithfulness. God’s tough love to Jeremiah says that if he repents, he will be allowed to continue in his strenuous ministry. Jeremiah is strengthened by the simple words, “I am with you.”
15O Lord, you know;
  remember me and visit me,
  and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.
 In your forbearance do not take me away;
  know that on your account I suffer insult.
16Your words were found, and I ate them,
  and your words became to me a joy
  and the delight of my heart;
 for I am called by your name,
  O Lord, God of hosts.
17I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,
  nor did I rejoice;
 under the weight of your hand I sat alone,
  for you had filled me with indignation.
18Why is my pain unceasing,
  my wound incurable,
  refusing to be healed?
 Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,
  like waters that fail.

19Therefore thus says the Lord:
 If you turn back, I will take you back,
  and you shall stand before me.
 If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
  you shall serve as my mouth.
 It is they who will turn to you,
  not you who will turn to them.
20And I will make you to this people
  a fortified wall of bronze;
 they will fight against you,
  but they shall not prevail over you,
 for I am with you
  to save you and deliver you,
 says the Lord.
21I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
  and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.
Psalm 26:1-8
Your love is before my eyes; I have walked faithfully with you. (Ps. 26:3)
1Give judgment for me, O Lord, for I have lived with integrity;
  I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.
2Test me, O Lord, and try me;
  examine my heart and my mind.
3For your steadfast love is before my eyes;
  I have walked faithfully with you.
4I have not sat with the worthless,
  nor do I consort with the deceitful. 
5I have hated the company of evildoers;
  I will not sit down with the wicked.
6I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord,
  that I may go in procession round your altar,
7singing aloud a song of thanksgiving
  and recounting all your wonderful deeds.
8Lord, I love the house in which you dwell
  and the place where your glory abides. 
Second Reading: Romans 12:9-21
Paul presents benchmarks for faithful relationships with Christians and non-Christians. Love is the unflagging standard of our behavior. When we encounter evil, we do not resort to its tactics but seek to overcome it with good. While Christians cannot control the actions and attitudes of others, we seek to live at peace with all people.
9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
  14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Gospel: Matthew 16:21-28
After Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:16), Jesus reveals the ultimate purpose of his ministry. These words prove hard to accept, even for a disciple whom Jesus has called a “rock.”
21From that time on, [after Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah,] Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
  24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
  27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
God, the creator,  Jesus, the Christ,
and the Holy Spirit, the comforter,
bless you and keep you in eternal love.
Go in peace. Christ is with you.
Thanks be to God.