+ THIRTEENTH SUNDAY after PENTECOST +
“Take Up Your Cross”
THEME of The Day
The prophet Jeremiah speaks of the incurable wound of his suffering, yet finds in God’s words the delight of his heart. When Peter doesn’t 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.
May God bless your worship this morning.
ORDER of CONFESSION
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“As I live,” says the Lord God, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that
the wicked turn from their ways and live.”
If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins, and
cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We have been called to confess Jesus as the Son of God. How faithfully have we
+ A Brief Silence for Reflection +
Most merciful God, we confess to you our sinfulness, and our helplessness to escape from it. Our lives do not confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We are wicked; we are doomed to die. We beg your mercy for the sake of Jesus
Christ, your Son. Forgive us, renew us, and let your light shine upon us, so
that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your
holy Name. Amen.
The gates of hell shall not prevail! Jesus Christ was given to die for you; for his sake your sins are forgiven in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our God has turned to us and we shall live.
Thanks be to God!
AN ACT of ADORATION
Let us adore our heavenly Father, who created us, who sustains us, who loves us
with an everlasting love, and gives us the light of the knowledge of his glory in the
face of Jesus Christ.
We praise you, O God, we acknowledge you to be the Lord
Let us glory in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became
poor; who became obedient unto death, even death
on a cross; who died and is alive forevermore; who
opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, who
is seated at the right hand of God in the glory of the
Father; who will come again, as Judge and King.
You are the King of glory, O Christ.
Let us rejoice in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the
Lord and Giver of life, by whom we are born into the
family of God, and made members of the body of Christ,
whose witness confirms us, whose wisdom teaches us, whose power enables us to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.
All praise to you, O Holy Spirit.
PRAYER OF THE DAY
O God, 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 his commands; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
FIRST LESSON 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.”]
O 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. Your 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. I 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. Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.
Therefore 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. And 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. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.”
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
SECOND LESSON 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 overcome it with good. While Christians cannot control the actions and attitudes of others, we seek to live at peace with all people]
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of
the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved never avenge yourselves but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “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.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
HOLY 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.”]
From that time on [after Peter’s confession], 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. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But 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.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “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. For 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? 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. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
HOMILY Finding Life
Text: The Gospel Lesson Pr. Jim
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
If you didn’t see it recently on TV, I’m sure many of you have seen Finding Nemo … especially those of you who have children or grandchildren. In the story, a father is looking for his son Nemo … a clown fish who disobeyed his father … gets caught by a dentist and put into the dentist’s aquarium. Nemo escapes and his father finds him in the end. It’s a cute movie that has a spiritual bent to it when you think of God the Father looking for us, while we are simply trying to find life.
We’ve all spent time trying to find life and its meaning … or, at the very least, spent time pondering life during these pandemic days . It’s not that we aren’t alive, but as the Gospel reading for today puts it, “What kind of a deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? [from The Message by Eugene Peterson).” There’s more to life than the good life … isn’t there?
And when we finally have what we think is the good life … then what? The cycle begins all over again because there’s that nagging feeling that continually haunts us deep down inside … “Buddy, you haven’t found it yet.” And the worst nightmare is that when the end comes, we may simply discover that we have only gone through the motions of living. There’s a whole different way of thinking other than “you better enjoy it now before it’s too late. So better to grab it all before it’s too late to enjoy … before you’re too broke to indulge yourself … too weak or sick to enjoy it … or too late to experience it all.” All of which boils down to … we’re looking for life in all the wrong places.
And that’s the exactly where The Gospel intersects our lives on this 13th Sunday after Pentecost. The place at which we look at what this person named Jesus said about finding life.
“From that point on (after Peter’s confession), Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go up to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the religious leaders, be
killed, and be raised back to life on the third day.”
There’s a compulsion about all of this: it’s a must do for Jesus. It’s a turning point for Jesus. From this point on, Jesus teaches His disciples about His suffering and resurrection.
Think about that for a moment. You’ve been following Jesus as your teacher and mentor. You’ve hooked up with Him … at least in part … by your own choice. You’ve hitched your star … your present and future on Him. You’ve left everything behind to follow Him.
Now He’s talking about suffering … of being killed (not just dying) as the result of some kind of confrontation with all the religious leaders you’ve ever known. This is a must do for Him. But why? Certainly, there has to be the possibility of some alternative. Surely this doesn’t have to happen. Jesus just hasn’t thought this through very well.
That’s exactly what Peter thought: “NO WAY, Lord … never, Never, NEVER! It’s not going to happen to you! “
You’d expect a word of praise from Jesus … some kind of “Thank you, Peter, but no thanks.” But remember … we’re trying to find life. Peter thought he had an insight into what life might be for Jesus … and no doubt for himself – an insight that didn’t include suffering, pain, or being killed.
After rebuking Peter. Jesus goes on to tell His disciples …
“If any want to become my follower, this is how you do it--you deny yourself,
take up your own cross and follow me! This, says Jesus, is the way to real life,
and true life--by denying yourself and turning away from the ways of the world.
The other way, the way that is easy, and comfortable, and aims at satisfying your
wants and desires, leads, really, to loss of life--and finally, to eternal death. For
what will it help you if you gain the whole world, and all its pleasures and rewards,
but forfeit true life, in me?"
The problem is we have trouble seeing the two ways of living, as being so clear-cut and black and white. We tend to live our lives in what we perceive as the comfortable gray area—as lukewarm Lutheran Christians … not completely given over to the world and it's ways, but not 100% committed to God and His kingdom, either. And the net result is that being a Christian is not really a way of life—it's more like a hobby … one of our many interests … something we dabble in when we're not too busy with other things. Lutheran are rarely said to be "radical Christians"—rather, we like to call ourselves "mainline"—not rabid about our faith … not out there on the fringe … we're comfortably on the fence. But, Jesus is trying to teach us something about the two ways of life that are laid out before us. He calls us, in response to His cross-bearing … in response to His death and resurrection, for us and for our salvation … to reject the one way and come follow Him on way of The Cross. But to get off the fence … take up our cross and set out on the way is not that easy … not that comfortable … not that conducive to a lukewarm faith. Yet Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me!” Don't just sit there, Jesus says, but come, follow...me!
And just so that we know what that way is like--St. Paul lays it out for us in today’s Second Lesson from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The way of life, in Christ Jesus, looks like this: our love is genuine … we hate what is evil … we hold fast to what is good. We love one another with mutual affection. We outdo one another in showing respect and honor to each other. We do not lag in zeal, but are ardent in spirit, serving the Lord. We rejoice in hope … are patient in suffering. We persevere in prayer. We contribute to the needs of the saints … we extend hospitality to strangers. We bless those who persecute us … we rejoice with those who rejoice … we weep with those who weep. We strive to live in harmony with each other, not being haughty--but humble--living peaceably with all, insofar as it depends on us. We are not overcome by evil, but overcome evil, with good.
This is the way of The Cross, the way of life, and the way of Jesus. This is the way we are called to live as those who have been traced with the sign of The Cross in Baptism. This is new life in Jesus. We are called, as were those first disciples, to be cross-eyed … to deny ourselves … to deny the easy life and take up the life that is sometimes hard and requires sacrifice. All that can be said for this life is that Jesus leads the way.
In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says of this call to self-denial, "to deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ, and no more of self, it is to see only him who goes before you, and no more the road which seems too hard ... all that self-denial can say is: '(Jesus) leads the way, I will keep close to Him." That can be our motto: Jesus leads the way I will keep close to Him! Yes, Jesus lead thou on, til’ our rest is won.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His 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 into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence 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.
PRAYERS of THE CHURCH
With the whole people of God, let us join in prayer for
The Church, the world, and all of God’s creation.
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. Hear our prayer.
God of wonder, the earth is yours and all that is in it. Heal creation and give us eyes to see the world as you do. Provide needed rains and weather conditions to bring all wildfires under control. Protect all firefighters and first responders as they seek to manage further devastation caused by all of the current wildfires. Bring strength, comfort, and relief to those affected by Hurricane Laura. And as the seasons change, pattern the rhythm of our lives in harmony with all creation. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of all nations, you call us to live peaceably with all. Give us ears to hear one another during these days of protests and civil unrest. Calm our anxiousness and bless us with the necessary healing and change that only you can give. Fill all leaders with mercy and understanding, that they advocate and genuinely care for those who are poor and most vulnerable. Bring peace, justice, and calm to Belarus as its citizens seek a more democratic representation and government. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of our salvation, you promise to deliver us. Give those who suffer in any way a strong sense of your presence and love. Work through the hands of doctors, nurses, and technicians to bring healing to John and Shari, together with those we name in our hearts … brief pause … raise the spirits of those who are homebound in our parish, especially Sharon, Joyce, Richard & Doris, Rusty, Bonnie, Vernia, and Elma that they may be assured of your presence through our prayers and acts of service and love. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
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 or disagree, bring reconciliation that your good and perfect will among us and for us may be done. Give us a welcoming heart, that our words and actions may extend your free and abundant hospitality to all whom we encounter. Refresh us with new dreams of being your people in this time and place. Be with us as we gather in assembly this morning to consider extending a second call to Patrick Moore. Help us to discern your will for us in seeking an undershepherd to join us in mission and ministry so that in all things your good and gracious will may be done. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
God of life and grace, you give us everlasting life. In love we recall all the saints who have gone before us with the sign of faith and now rest from their labors. Remind us of everything they have said and done in your Name, that strengthened by their examples we may faithfully give witness to your Name until we, too, are gathered together with them in your eternal presence. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Receive our prayers, merciful God, and dwell in us richly, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
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.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you + peace. Amen.