02 28 2021 Sermon
I can’t help thinking about Peter! Peter often speaks what the other disciples are thinking but are afraid to express out loud.
The story right before today’s reading is about Jesus’ identity. I imagine this conversation happening with the disciples gathered around Jesus, sitting on the ground perhaps. It is not clear if it happens right away or days later.
Jesus begins by asking, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples respond, “People say you are Elijah or another prophet.” “You are John the Baptist, returned from the dead.”
Then Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter can hardly contain himself. He has been with Jesus long enough to dare speak out. He has what I like to call gumption. Before he can stop himself, he jumps up from the ground and blurts out, “You are the Messiah!” He runs to stand and face Jesus, and says again, “You are the Messiah!
The other disciples are nodding and cheering and jumping up and down in agreement. They give fist pumps and high fives to each other. “Yes, we agree! You are the Messiah!”
Jesus needs to give the disciples a reality check. “Stop! It’s not what you think. I need to explain some things to you.” And he goes on to talk about the future, how he will go to Jerusalem and suffer and be rejected by the powerful. He will die, and rise again.
But Peter tries to convince Jesus it will be different. “But, Jesus, they all love you. Why will they try to kill you? That will never happen! It just can’t!”
Jesus responds, “You speak the words of Satan, the words of temptation. It must be as I described, believe me.”
There are other people nearby and Jesus raises his voice so all can hear him. “Listen, friends. It’s important that you understand. If you seek power and glory, it will come crashing down on you. But if you seek to serve others, you will discover the glory and power you seek. You must take up your cross to follow me to true life.”
We know how Jesus’ story goes, but while they lived it, the disciples thought they knew what would happen. They believed and trusted, and imagined a very different outcome. They were imagining a messiah like King David, to gather an army and get rid of the Romans. They were imagining a messiah like Cyrus the Persian, who sent the Jewish people home after conquering the Babylonians. They had no idea it would be so very different.
Jesus has come to prove that God will go to great lengths to prove how great the Divine love is. God’s love knows no limits. Jesus must die and be raised for God to make this point. Jesus’ mission is the healing of the world. Jesus’ mission is to give life to all of creation. He doesn’t back down from the powerful; he stands up to them. Jesus has gumption!
For the disciples then and for all followers of Jesus today, the question is, how far are we willing to go to prove our love for God and our love for God’s people? By the time Mark’s gospel was written, in about 65 or 70 CE, James and Peter had already been martyred for their belief in Jesus. How far will we go to carry out Jesus’ mission? How much gumption do we have?
A story. Sister Dede is a member of the Order of Lutheran Franciscans and a dear friend. She has always been a quiet witness for me, not pretentious. The longer I have known here, the more I have grown to admire her. This is her with her daughter.
Her faith in God is strong, forged in a church where the pastor was abusive. Her belief in justice for all led her to participate in protests most of her life.
Now, I am sad, because Sister Dede is dying of cancer; her time is short, so our conversation the other day was special. Dede has had lots of these conversations lately, and she has been amazed at how many people have told her they admired her, as I did. She always thought she was a nobody, invisible to most people. She never realized that her quiet servanthood, her willingness to protest social inequity, spoke so loudly to others.
I said to Dede that I admired her gumption. She laughed at the word, because she never thought of herself as having gumption. She was going to tell her pastor about that word, to use at her funeral.
Today we baptize Tylee. It’s up to the adults in her life to help her know what that means. I pray that Tylee will remember she is baptized, and called to follow Jesus her whole life. And I hope she will have as much gumption as Sister Dede has had.
Taking up your cross means having enough gumption to stand up for what you believe in.
It means not being afraid to say Jesus’ name out loud.
It means risking your reputation and getting arrested for something you believe in.
It means increasing your giving to church and other charities until it feels really good.
It means inviting a friend to join you on Sunday morning.
This week, I encourage you to show your God-given gumption and follow Jesus to wherever he leads you. Amen