the one about the unexpected story...
September 17, 2018, 7:35 AM

Sermon from September 16, 2018

Text: Mark 8: 27-38

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, one of the tropes of many movies today is the character who always sacrifices themselves so that the rest of the group can survive. In adventure movies, it’s the character who stays behind to hold back the enemies or to make sure the ‘bomb’ goes off. In horror movies it’s the character who runs off into the woods to distract the enemy so that the rest of the group can (hopefully) get away. In a drama it’s the character who tells the others to go and not worry about them because their collective lives are more important than her single life.

In all of those scenarios (that we’ve seen played out on our screens countless times) those characters are rarely if ever the ‘main’ character. It’s always the loveable sidekick, the person who has been a grouse and a grouch the entire film only to finally have a turn of heart in the climax of the movie. Whoever that sacrificial character is, it is almost always a supporting role. Even if it is ever a ‘main’ role, it is never as dire as it is made out to be.

Have y’all ever wondered why this is? Mostly because it goes against our collective psyche for a ‘hero’ to lose. We don’t like it. We actually become incredibly upset in our world and minds when ‘heroes’ do lose. Because that’s not supposed to happen. It isn’t supposed to play out that way.

If our gospel story from this morning had been written today, Jesus wouldn’t say any of the things that he does to his disciples. In fact, even if he did, someone would step in and say, “Not you my Lord, but me. Your life is more important.” It would perhaps be Peter who would be that one to ‘step in.’ It would make sense wouldn’t it?

But, that isn’t how it happens in our gospel text this morning, and that isn’t how it plays out at the end of the gospel narrative.

Jesus begins this short narrative asking the disciples what the word on the street is about him. Who do people say that he is? Some answers are shared with us and I’m sure more were given that day. Most people agree that Jesus is something special. Much like those heroes of scripture from the past. Yet, still there is something different about this one.

The disciples know this. They can see the thread lines of those old prophets being made known in Jesus’ life and ministry, and yet still there is something more to who Jesus is. Peter is the bold one who proclaims who he believes Jesus to be – he is the messiah, the anointed one, the one the scriptures have pointed to and the one the people have waited for.

When you believe someone to be the messiah the next words you expect are probably not the ones that Jesus utters – at least they weren’t expected by Peter.

Jesus tells them not to tell anyone – because his time isn’t fulfilled yet. And then he goes into a scenario that they cannot quite comprehend, understand, or bear to see lived out.

Jesus foretells his suffering and death. He tells them of his resurrection as well, but it doesn’t seem like they hear that.

All that the disciples, and especially Peter, hear is that the messiah is going to die. The hero’s story will have an untimely and undesirable ending.

This isn’t how it is supposed to be. The hero – the messiah – is not supposed to lose. That is not how the world should work. That is not how it is supposed to be. There must be another way. What you say is so ‘blasphemous’ to our ears that we cannot bare to listen or hear.

Lord, you are wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

That’s what Peter does, bold Peter rebukes Jesus and I assume tells him that Jesus is out of his mind for thinking this way.

And, I don’t think we can fault Peter for believing that way, we surely cannot chastise him either. For, I truly feel that if we were in Peter’s shoes, we too would tell Jesus that he was wrong. In fact, we probably do the same thing constantly in our lives today (though, perhaps not as direct as Peter did here in our gospel story).

We live in a world that proclaims that living the life of a faithful follower of Christ will bring goodness and ease. Where we will be showered with blessings and perhaps some fortunes. Where if we just ‘get it right’ and ‘get right’ with God and our Lord then all those little bothers and big obstacles will disappear.

In fact, there were some who believed that if they just prayed hard enough – if they had just the right and correct amount of faith – Hurricane Florence would pivot into the Atlantic, or at least would descend upon people that weren’t as faithful.

Yet, that’s not how it works. That’s not even how it works for the one we follow and cling to.

Jesus states to his disciples that life following him won’t be easy. In fact, it’ll be dangerous. It’ll put you at odds with those around you. It’ll at times be the opposite of what you would expect.

I’m almost certain that Peter and the others were thinking that if this is truly the messiah they hit the jackpot. Who would mess with them? Who could stand against them? Life is going to be grand from this moment on! There will be honor, and feasts, and fame, and value in our lives! All because we are the closest to the messiah. We will have been there from the beginning. The friends of the ‘hero’ prosper too.

I’m certain that Peter thought this way because that is how I would think. That is how many – perhaps even many of you – think when they befriend someone on the cusp of fame or popularity. This is going to benefit me greatly.

Yet, Jesus tells and leads a different story and life. There will be pomp and circumstance, but it won’t be in the ways that you expect. There will be attention and fame, but not in the way you’d want. People will look to you and seek you out, but you’ll be fearful instead of humbled.

The entire time you’ll think, ‘this is not how the hero’s story is supposed to go.’ This isn’t how it is supposed to be.

Yet, we know that God works in ways that we do not expect. Jesus says as much in his response to Peter and the disciples today.

We worship a God and a Lord that cares so much for creation, that cares so much for humanity, that the messiah is the one to boldly lay down his life for the sake of the world. That in following him, we will be led against the powers of the world.

Where the world and those in power might shout that you need to fight and push back violently, our Lord proclaims a different way.

Where the world and those in power might push stories and narratives that make you fearful of the other and the different, our Lord proclaims a different way.

Where the world and those in power might forcefully persuade you to care only about yourself and those closest to you, our Lord proclaims a different way.

Where the world and those in power might demand you follow one way to show honor or else you will be rolled through the mud, our Lord proclaims a different way.

Following that different way puts you at odds with the world. It does. It always has. It always will.

It is confusing. It goes against what we collectively think to be ‘true’ in the world. It rubs against what we might naturally think.

Yet, our Lord proclaims a different way. A way that loves and includes those around us. A way that shines the light of faith into the dark areas of our lives and world to bring hope, justice, and wholeness. A way that puts us in opposition of the powerful.

There are risks – great risks. Yet, we cling to and follow the one whose story didn’t go the way we expected.

We follow the one who did suffer and die and who calls us into that sort of life as well.

But, the good news is, the gospel we cling our hope to, is that even in suffering and death, we know and have faith that that is not the final word. For we believe in the promise and hope of the resurrection.

For Jesus did share with his friends the troubles that were to come, but he also shared the glory of God, the goodness, and the wholeness of what is to be.

We are a people of death and resurrection. We may focus a lot on the death part in our lives of faith, the struggle, the strife, the anguish. But, all of that pales in comparison to the glory that God has already shown and will continue to live out because of what happened after those three days.

In our Lord, the suffering is not the final act. Death is not the closure or end. For we believe and have hope that life abounds and erupts in the places we don’t expect.

Our Lord tells us, invites us into, and shares a story with us that is different and unexpected. It goes a way that we couldn’t anticipate. And thanks be to God for that.



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