Sunday, September 13th, 2015 – Sermon on Mark 8:27-38

Mark 8:27-38

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. 31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

During a typical week, on Thursday’s, Pastor Pam, Nathan, and I meet for about an hour to talk about the upcoming Sundays and what we have planned for worship. A couple of weeks ago, we were talking about this particular Sunday, and I knew that I was preaching, but I hadn’t read the gospel text yet. So I asked, “Well, what is the reading for that Sunday.” And Pastor Pam said, “You know, the one about Jesus calling Peter Satan and saying, ‘Take up your cross and follow me.’”

And as soon as she said those few words, I thought to myself, “Oh yep, I got it. I know that one.”

It’s a pretty well-known text. It occurs in 3 out of the 4 gospels. It comes up multiple times in the lectionary. It has that famous line – For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

Plus, I’d preached on this text before. So I thought, “Yep. Got it. I know this one.”

And therein lies the danger. When you think you know a text. And you start to assume what it says and what it means.

Now, I’m going to confess to you here for just a moment. There have been times where I have written a sermon without fully reading the Scripture text for that day. Because I just assume that I know it well enough. Our sure – feeding of the 5,000. Got it. Sure – parable of the prodigal son. I know that one. But then when I got up to preach on Sunday and I read the gospel, suddenly I wished I had read through the whole thing before writing the sermon. Because there was a line or a phrase or a detail that I didn’t notice before. Or if it was really bad, that line or detail suddenly made it really hard to preach the sermon I’d written.

And that same thing almost happened for today. Because I thought I knew this text. I figured I would preach a sermon about how it’s risky to be a follower of Jesus because he asks us to give up our life – to love the unloveable, to forgive those whom we don’t want to forgive, to share of our resources when we don’t want to share. That was the sermon I was going to preach.

But by the grace of God, I thought to read the whole text first.

Did you hear that last line?

Jesus says – “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Those who are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of them, Jesus says. I’d never noticed that before. Or at least I’d forgotten it. My first thought was, “Whoa. What does it mean for Jesus to be ashamed of us?” My second thought was…that’s not gonna fit very well with the sermon I’m writing. That doesn’t sound like the Jesus I want to preach about. That doesn’t sound like the Jesus who loves the unloveable. And then because I didn’t like that text, and because it didn’t sound nice and loving… my immediate reaction was to protect you from that verse. Or else I wanted to clean it up a bit and not make it sound so bad, or say that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said.

I wanted to sanitize that verse in the Bible, in order to protect you from it. In fact a friend of mine, who is preaching on this text today – he just scratched that line out of the reading. He just decided to ignore it completely and not even read it.

And he’s not alone in that. Out of the many commentaries that I read on this text, only 1…only 1 even spoke of that hard verse. So I would’ve been pretty justified in just ignoring it and protecting you from it. But then my wife, Lauren, sent me an article that had nothing to do with church, but it changed my entire perspective on this gospel reading.

It was an article about a mom who had had a really bad fight with her 15-year-old daughter. In fact, it’s the kind of fight a parent never wants to have. They were arguing over a relationship that daughter was in. Things got out of hand – the daughter called her mom some names and then finished off the fight with those three gut-wrenching words – I hate you. It was the first time she’d ever said that to her mom. And her mom was stunned and didn’t know what to do.

The two kept to themselves for the rest of the evening.

But then, the mother got an idea. She wanted to make light of this painful situation. She wanted to stir up some humor in the midst of a hard argument. The next morning she went to the bakery and ordered an “I hate you” cake. The bakery could hardly believe what she was asking for, but they made it for her. And she gave it to her daughter that afternoon. A cake with her daughter’s words captured in delicious blue icing. And together they laughed and ate cake. It was incredibly healing.

But here’s the point. In the article, the mom said this, “Going to bed that night, I decided I wanted to make certain that my daughter knew that no matter what happened between us — no matter what she said — that our relationship could not be so easily shattered. I wanted it clearly stated that nothing as small as an argument and some heated words — even angry words like, “I hate you” — could damage us.”[1]

She wanted her daughter to know that their relationship could not be so easily shattered. And that made me wonder – why do I assume that our relationship with God is so fragile that it could be shattered by just one uneasy verse?

I wanted to have us to look away from that text, to avoid it because I was afraid our relationship with God was too fragile. But you know what – it isn’t that easily broken. Yes, maybe you feel as though your relationship with God is fragile, but God’s relationship with you isn’t. It is secure. It is built on a rock. Therefore I don’t have to protect you from any verse in the Bible.

In fact, I think we can look at straight on.

Jesus says – “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Maybe it means exactly what it says. Maybe Jesus is ashamed of those who are ashamed of him.

And maybe that’s okay.

In her new book, Accidental Saints, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber lays bear a sin that weighed heavy on her. She tells a story about her congregation member Larry, whom (she admits) she didn’t like very much. And for no good reason. But he loved her as his pastor and he loved their church. But Nadia kept him at arms length, never getting to know him, never helping him get connected to the community.

And then when it came time to send out the mass e-mail to all congregation members, reminding them to register for the spring congregation retreat – she intentionally left Larry email off. Because she simply didn’t want him to be there.

And not long after that, Larry got a brain tumor and a few months later, he died.

And Nadia felt horrible.

“Who does a thing like that?[2] Nadia asks.

And you know, what? I’m willing to bet that Nadia would say that of course Jesus was ashamed of her in that moment! Of course Jesus was embarrassed by her actions. Nadia was clearly ashamed of Jesus’ and Jesus’ words of welcoming all people, even the one’s you don’t like. So of course Jesus was ashamed of her. Geez, Nadia, you’re a pastor in my church and this is how you treat my people?

And if we can be honest with ourselves, of course Jesus is embarrassed by some of our actions too. I don’t have to protect you from the truth of that. You probably already know it.

But too often what we don’t know or what we forget…is that the story doesn’t end with Jesus being ashamed of you. The story ends with Jesus redeeming you and making all things new.

The story didn’t end with Jesus being ashamed of Nadia. Nadia knew this when she confessed this sin to her friend, who then proclaimed God’s forgiveness upon her.

In our gospel reading, remember how Jesus said that he must undergo suffering and rejection and death? And how Peter rebuked him because he didn’t want a god who would suffer and die, but Jesus rebuked him back and called him Satan? Well, I imagine that Jesus was a little ashamed of Peter in that moment. His closest disciple, who still doesn’t get it.

But the story doesn’t end with Jesus being ashamed of Peter. Just two verses after our gospel reading, it says this:

Six days later, Jesus took with him… Peter… and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them.

Jesus rebuked Peter, called him Satan, was likely ashamed by his actions, but the story doesn’t end with Jesus being ashamed of Peter. Jesus did not abandon him. But rather Jesus chose him to come alongside him as a witness to Jesus’ transfiguration.

We all have and will do things that Jesus is ashamed of. But the story doesn’t end there. The story ends with Jesus redeeming you and making all things new. Because as Nadia says, “there is nothing we have done that God cannot redeem.”[3] Nothing.

This past week, a pastor took his own life because his name was leaked and linked with the Ashley Madison cheating website. If only he could have known in a real, real way that the shame isn’t where the story ends with Jesus.

I’m not sure how you deny Jesus in your every day life. I’m not sure of the thing that Jesus might be ashamed of in your life. But you do. And today, Jesus calls us to give that life away. To lose it. To give up those things that we are ashamed of so that Jesus can take them, and give us something new in return. Which is exactly what our sacrament of Communion is for. For you to come forward with that which weighs on you and burdens, and you can just leave it up here. And in its place, receive the body and blood of Christ that is given for you, to take into your body, and make you new again.

May that promise give us the courage to trust that God’s love for us is strong and built on a rock and not easily shattered. Amen.

[1] http://www.xojane.com/family/first-time-daughter-i-hate-you

[2] Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, pg. 15.

[3] Ibid., pg. 18.

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