May God bless us all as we hear from His word this Lord’s Day!
God bless and keep you safe,
13 PENTECOST—8.30.20—MATTHEW 16:21-28
AT&T had an amusing commercial in their “Just Ok is Not Ok” series. Some of you may remember it. The commercial features a sleazy tax preparer named Phil who is talking with a young woman who has come for help with her taxes. Phil says to the young woman, “Leave it to me. I’ll get your taxes in an O.K. place.”
The young woman says, “What?”
Then with the back of his hand beside his mouth, he adds, “Just as soon as my ‘audit’ is over, this gets my undivided attention.”
The young woman looks around his office at some pictures of Phil in exotic locations and says somewhat suspiciously, “You take a lot of trips to the Caymans, Phil.”
Phil says, “Pretty great, right?” Then he adds, “Oh, Phil’s legally dead. Fell off a boat. Going by Dennis now . . . Dennis Celery. Long story.” Then he deftly pushes a piece of paper into a paper shredder. “Oh, you’re not going to want to see this,” he explains.
The commercial ends with the young woman standing to leave while she says, “I don’t think this is going to work.” Phil was faking it and it showed!
Jesus speaks some of the best known and most challenging words of his ministry in today’s gospel: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
What does that mean for our lives? I believe Jesus is telling us how to begin a new life—not by faking our death like Phil in the 1st story did—but by becoming one of his disciples. The keys to that new life are found in these words that we have heard so many times before. Jesus says to his disciples and to us: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” What is it that Christ is asking us to do?
Let’s begin here: The first step to a new life, according our Master, is to deny one’s self. The word Jesus uses for “deny one’s self” can also mean “to forget one’s self.” That is hard, isn’t it—to forget one’s self?
Have you ever heard anyone described as self-involved? Self-involved people are wrapped up in themselves or their own thoughts. They hardly give a thought to what other people are experiencing. Know anyone like that? The truth is that all of us, to one extent or another, are self-involved. Forgetting one’s self is difficult.
But what if we could forget ourselves entirely? What if our thoughts were not focused on ourselves and our need to achieve, to belong, to be happy or significant? What if we could change our mind’s focus from ourselves and our needs to God and His plan for the world? What if we could surrender everything we have and everything we are to God and His will for our life? Would that not mean that we were becoming a new person?
Cody Garbrandt is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter. Cody says he was raised in a family of fighters. In an interview he said, “Surrender is a foreign word to many fighters. It was a foreign word to me in my life.”
Cody says that in the early years of his career, he focused all his energy on being the toughest fighter in the ring. Outside the ring, he spent his time partying including using recreational drugs. But he realized something was missing from his life, and no achievement or drug could fill that hole.
One night, Cody got tired of living in constant conflict due to his inner emptiness. He was so desperate he tried to hang himself. Fortunately, his brother found him and literally saved his life.
After that near tragedy, Cody and his brother began going to church together. Cody discovered there that the true purpose of his life was found in surrendering his life to God. He discovered that his achievements in the ring had no real meaning; his partying did not bring him any lasting joy or pleasure. He had to lay down all the things he thought defined him or gave him worth in order to find his real purpose in a relationship with God.
This former MMA fighter has now found a new life in Christ. As he explains it, “I’m thankful that I’m able to surrender to [the Lord] and I’m not fighting anymore.”
Denying or forgetting one’s self is a difficult thing to do. We like to be in control. But surrendering one’s self to God is the first step in an authentic new life. Does God rule your life or are you, like Phil, simply faking it?
But there is a second step to a new life and it is even more challenging. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross…”
We’ve heard that command all our lives, but what does it mean–“take up your cross”?
One thing it will mean for many of us is that we will have to give up our addiction to a life of comfort. There is nothing comfortable about a cross.
What does it mean to take up Jesus’ cross? I suspect it has something to do with our addiction to comfort. Have you noticed? Some people never want to leave their comfort zone. They never want to do anything that requires sacrifice. They never want to do anything that will cause them the least bit of stress. Forget about asking them to lead a 7th grade Sunday school class. Forget about asking them to do something simple like inviting a neighbor to church. “Oh, pastor, I couldn’t do that. They might be offended.” Yes, and on the other hand, they may have their entire life completely turned around.
You simply cannot serve Christ and always remain in your comfort zone. There are people all around us who are facing some tremendous challenges—loneliness, addiction, depression. Thank God that those early disciples picked up Jesus cross and followed after him so that we know about his incredible love!
Over the ages since those early disciples gave their lives to broadcast the news of God’s love, a host of other people have given up everything to ensure that the Gospel message has endured.
But here is the truth of the situation: if you and I do not pick up the cross in our time–make those hard choices and assume those difficult responsibilities that are required to ensure that the church of Jesus Christ accomplishes its mission—our children’s children will not know the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
The story is told of a worker in an inner-city mission who had given many years to a most discouraging ministry. A friend came to him one day and said, “Why don’t you leave this job before you are broken by its inhuman burden? Why don’t you run away from it all?”
The man replied, “There are times when I would very much like to leave it all. But there is a strange man on a cross with love in his eyes who won’t let me.”
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross.” Then he adds three more words: “and follow me.” What does it mean to follow Jesus? You know what it means. Following Jesus means living a life of loving service just as he did.
Mike Cohen was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 18 years old, but intense chemo and radiation treatment eliminated the leukemia, and Mike returned to the active lifestyle of a healthy young man. He became an avid hiker and biker, taking cross-country trips on his bicycle to honor the cancer doctors who had saved his life.
What he did not realize was that the aggressive treatments for his leukemia had damaged his heart muscle. By the age of 33, his heart was failing. In February 2018 he lay in a hospital in San Diego with a life-threatening blood clot endangering his weakened heart.
There was another young man named James Mazzuchelli. James was a Navy flight surgeon known for his dedication to his country, his courage, and his selflessness. In February 2018 James was killed in a helicopter training mission at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. And so, that night, James’s strong heart was transplanted into Mike Cohen, saving his life.
James’s mother, Christine Cheers, was overwhelmed with grief after her son’s death. The tiny sliver of hope that kept her going was the knowledge that James was still helping people, that he was still living inside each of the donor recipients. She wrote letters to each of the four recipients of her son’s organs.
She heard back from Mike Cohen who sounded sincerely grateful, and he and Christine stayed in touch. They exchanged letters and kept in touch over social media. One year after Mike’s heart transplant, he planned a cross-country bicycle trip from San Diego to Jacksonville, Florida to visit the grave site of the man whose heart gave him new life. Christine Cheers and her husband followed Mike’s cross-country bike trip on social media.
On November 20, 2019 Mike and his friends arrived at the cemetery where James Mazzuchelli was buried. He and Christine hugged each other and wept. And then Mike knelt at James’ grave and thanked him for the gift of life. A friend of Mike’s brought out a stethoscope so Christine could hear her son’s heart beating in Mike’s chest. As Mike Cohen said, “As cliché as it sounds, I wanted them to know that James’s heart was in a safe place. That I was going to do everything I could to protect it.”
When you take up Jesus’ cross, you are taking up his heart. His heart, his priorities, his values, his love now live in you. And your journey through life becomes a journey to honor his sacrifice and protect his heart. You are taking up the very purpose and driving ambition of Jesus’ life: to share God’s love with the world. That’s your cross. And Jesus’ challenge to you is simple: whatever you have to sacrifice, whatever you have to lay down in order to pick up his cross, do it. Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will truly discover a new life. Why fake it any longer? Why not surrender your life to God today. AMEN.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 30, 2020
LECTIONARY 22, YEAR A
The prophet Jeremiah speaks of the incurable wound of his suffering yet finds in God’s words the delight of his heart. When Peter does not 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.
Confession and Forgiveness
All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.
P: Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God, whose steadfast love is everlasting, whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation.
P: Trusting in the mercy of God, let us confess our sin.
Silence is kept for reflection.
P: Reconciling God,
C: we confess that we do not trust your abundance, and we deny your presence in our lives. We place our hope in ourselves and rely on our own efforts. We fail to believe that you provide enough for all. We abuse your good creation for our own benefit. We fear difference and do not welcome others as you have welcomed us. We sin in thought, word, and deed. By your grace, forgive us; through your love, renew us; and in your Spirit, lead us; so that we may live and serve you in newness of life. Amen.
P: Beloved of God, by the radical abundance of divine mercy we have peace with God through ☩ Christ Jesus, through whom we have obtained grace upon grace. Our sins are forgiven. Let us live now in hope. For hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Prayer of the Day
P: O God,
C: 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. Amen.
Special Music: WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS ELW #742
1 What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
ev’rything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit;
oh, what needless pain we bear–
all because we do not carry
ev’rything to God in prayer!
2 Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged–
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our ev’ry weakness–
take it to the Lord in prayer.
3 Are we weak and heavy-laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge–
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In his arms he’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.
Text: Joseph Scriven, 1820-1886
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.
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.
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.”
Special Music: I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY
1 I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know it’s true;
it satisfies my longings as nothing else would do.
I love to tell the story; I’ll sing this theme in glory
and tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
2 I love to tell the story: how pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet!
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
the message of salvation from God’s own holy word. Chorus
3 I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
I’ll sing the old, old story that I have loved so long. Chorus
Prayers of Intercession
P: Confident of your care and helped by the Holy Spirit, we pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need.
A brief silence.
P: God of faithfulness, you bid your people to follow Jesus. Set the mind of your church on divine things. Grant us trust in you, that we lose our lives for the sake of Christ and thereby discover joy in life through him. Lord, in your mercy,
C: hear our prayer.
P: Protecting God, come to our aid as the coronavirus spreads both globally and locally, heal those who are sick, support and protect their families and friends from being infected. Grant us all wisdom and courage as we face this pandemic. Lord, in your mercy,
C: hear our prayer.
P: Loving God, who created us all equal, we lament the ongoing violence in our world and across our country. We lament the loss of lives due to gun violence and racism. We lift up to you the needs of the whole human family for fairness and equality. Lord, in your mercy,
C: hear our prayer.
P: We pray today for teachers who have to work so hard to provide lessons over the internet and other digital ways, and we also pray for students who have to learn and take exams in a way they are not used to. Be with them as they begin this school year. Lord, in your mercy,
C: hear our prayer.
P: God of community, you call us to rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer. Make our congregation a workshop of your love. When we quarrel, bring reconciliation. Help us overcome evil with good. Lord, in your mercy,
C: hear our prayer.
Here other intercessions may be offered.
P: God of all grace, you give us everlasting life. In love we recall your holy ones who now live in your undying light (especially we remember Paul Cassity’s father, Frank). In our remembering, give us a foretaste of the feast to come. Lord, in your mercy,
C: hear our prayer.
P: In the certain hope that nothing can separate us from your love, we offer these prayers to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
During this time apart, it is still vitally important that we keep contributing financially, as we are able, to further the spread of the Gospel both here and around the world. You may give by auto withdrawal, electronically on the website, by mail, or drop it through the mail slot on the office door. We thank you all for your continued support and partnership in the Gospel. Let us pray:
P: God of goodness and growth, all creation is yours, and your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. Water and word, wine and bread: these are signs of your abundant grace. Nourish us through these gifts, that we might proclaim your steadfast love in our communities and in the world, through Jesus Christ, our strength and our song.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come,
thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever. Amen.
As you go on your way may Christ go with you.
May he go before you to show you the way;
May he go behind you to encourage you; Beside you to befriend you;
Above you to watch over; Within you to give you peace.
In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. Amen.
Streams Theme Song
See the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply your sons and daughters,
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
ever will their thirst assuage?
Grace which, like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age.