September 3, 2017
Pentecost 13A
Matthew 16:21-28


In this week’s Gospel Jesus makes his first “passion” prediction. “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.” Peter and the disciples are not ready for this announcement.   Surely Jesus’ inspiring words, his new teachings, his challenging of the religious authorities, his great miracles; Surely they are all leading to the overthrow of Rome and the restoration of David’s Kingdom! Peter responds, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”


One of my favorite scenes from “The Last Temptation of Christ” is the scene in which Jesus is headed for Jerusalem.   Two of the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest, arguing about who will sit at Jesus’ right hand when he comes into power. Another disciple is asking everyone what they will ask for when Jesus becomes king, “You know that we’ll be in the inner circle, we can ask for just about anything. I’m gonna ask for more sheep!” And Peter wants to know when the army of angels will be joining them for the great battle that is about to take place.


The disciples just don’t get it. Their minds are set on earthly things, within fallen human limitations, without a true vision of the kingdom of God, stuck in a theology of glory. Jesus is headed to Jerusalem to die, to reveal the brokenness of the sacrificial system, to submit to death in order to expose the emptiness of death, to set us free by way of the cross.


Today’s gospel challenges us with a paradoxical truth, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”


And this is good news because while we love the glorious moments of life, those mountain top experiences, we also know those things don’t last forever. Unfortunately they come and they go. And life in between those glorious moments can often be hard and painful, challenging and perplexing, and at times empty and alone. So it is that God chose the cross, to meet us, not occasionally on the glorious mountaintop, but most deeply and profoundly in the midst of our everyday life.


In choosing the cross Jesus chooses to find us in our sorrow, our pain, and our weakness. In choosing the cross Jesus chooses to enter into the world’s distress and suffering. In choosing the cross we find ourselves present with Christ, in a place of love and transformation for each of us and for all of creation.



      1. Love Rains on You




In the middle of the pain hear your lover say
Hold onto the emptiness that comes to save
In the silence of the night, the hollow of the day
Don’t become your fear, hear the artist say


I am there, creating in you
In the mystery of life and death everything’s made new
Love rains on you


The sojourner must cry along the less traveled road
But with every step taken the dream takes hold
Only the empty heart can hold life that’s true
A strange peace and a strong love waits for you


For I am there, creating in you
In the mystery of life and death everything’s made new
Love rains on you


As the rain begins to fall, take the risk of letting go
The world may pass you by, but you’ll never know
In the renewal of the mind, the transformation of the heart
A new age dawns, faith becomes art


For I am there, creating in you
In the mystery of life and death everything’s made new
Love rains on you


For three long days love rains on you
For three long days love rains on you
For three long days love rains on you
Life begins, All things are new



The way of the cross is long, let us go together
The way of the cross is difficult, let us help each other
The way of the cross is joyful, let us share it
The way of the cross is Christ’s, for Christ is the way, let us follow
The way of the cross is open before us, let us go:
with the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



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