Today we begin our fall sermon series based on the readings from Mark that will take us through the end of October.
Last January Dr. Brené Brown, a leading researcher on shame and belonging, preached at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. It’s on Youtube. I encourage you to watch it.
If you’ve read her latest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest fort True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, then much of what she says in the sermon will sound familiar.
As I read the book, I thought, wow – what she describes and what she challenges us to do sounds a lot like Jesus and the things that he challenges us to or not do as the case maybe.
As she finishes her sermon in the cathedral, Dr. Brown reminds us that as people of faith, we are called to find the face of God in every single person we meet.
And says of all churches, “Where’s the big sign that says ‘Be you. Be Here. Belong.’?”
My colleague Pr. Kim Skelling also listened to the same sermon and developed a sermon series from it! Good idea!! I hope that you will think so, too, as we get our heads around “Be You. Be Here. Belong.”
“Be the You that God has called you to be!”
This time Jesus is traveling through the Roman colonies, and particular to Mark 8:27-38, the outpost of Caesarea Philippi.
This was home to the Greek god, Pan. It was also where the Gates of Hell were located – that place where mortal could pass easily from this world to the underworld.
Pan was the god of pastures, shepherd, and mountain people. It is from this god’s name that we get the word, panic, because it was said Pan could cause enough mayhem and chaos in people so as to win battles.
How was Pan able to do this? By creating confusion, ambiguity and misinterpretation about ourselves and specifically about NOT being ourselves.
As Jesus is about to cross into this land, he must provide clarity, comprehension and certainty about who he is and what he is about.
Standing in a place where no self-respecting Jew would find themselves –in front of the Gates of Hell – Jesus wants to clear a few things up and asks the question, “Who do YOU say that I am?
In other words, do you know me? What is my name? Have you made the connection?
Peter surprises even himself as he blurts out, “you are the Messiah” or “you are the Christ” depending on which version of the Bible you read.
What Peter is saying is tremendous – THIS is what people have been waiting for, dreaming about, hoping since Cyrus. THIS is the one coming from the line of David, promised in the scriptures, who will rescue Israel from oppression and initiate a time of peace.
Christ, the one who is to come at the end of the age, vindicate righteous Israel, pass judgement and justify the Son of Man.
In the midst of confusion, ambiguity and misinterpretation, Peter gets it! Peter states that Jesus is clearly the Messiah and no one else. And there is only one Christ. AND he’s standing right in front of him. This is the one!!
Or is it?
Yes, Jesus is the Christ BUT this is not the messiah that you were expecting.
There will be suffering. There will be death. There will be a resurrection.
What was clear in Peter’s mind is now confused: Messiahs don’t suffer, but Jesus says they do.
Peter cannot understand the ambiguity of messiahs that die even though Jesus says they do.
A resurrection? Once again Peter misinterprets what Jesus is saying but Jesus says they certainly DO have a resurrection.
Peter pulls Jesus aside for a “come to Peter” moment and says, “we gotta talk.”
And Jesus says, “get behind me Satan…” Satan, which means adversary. In other words, “Peter, you’re thinking human.
Human. That’s what we are. That’s what God made us. In his image. How else are we to think?
Made in God’s image but broken and sinful and misguided and confused and panicky and anxious.
And when we’re anxious, we seek to control the situation – any situation by any means.
Peter was panicking and wanted to control Jesus. He wanted to grab him and tell him, NO, you’ve got it all wrong. There’s got to be another way. This is so out of control!
But it IS in control – God’s control.
With certainty, Jesus says, “you want to be my disciple, then you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
Deny myself. Take up my cross. Follow you, Jesus. That’s what disciples do?
Suffering. Dying. Resurrection. That’s what being Christ-like is all about?
That’s not the job description Peter was looking for and not what I’m looking for either.
Don’t get me wrong – the following Jesus and resurrecting part – that’s good. It’s the other two that stop me cold – deny and suffer.
Deny myself? Aren’t I just supposed to show up and be me? I’m not sure this is the “me” that I want to be. And I’m hoping that Jesus doesn’t really mean it when he calls me to this kind of “me” to be!
Denying ourselves is tied to our how we define ourselves.
In the first century, what defined you was your family and the community that you were a part of. People questioned, could anything GOOD come out of Nazareth?
Denying self means to be the you God calls you to be. Child of God. Washed in the waters of baptism and dying and rising again to new life in Christ.
Jesus tells us – loose our lives so that we will be saved. There’s strength in weakness, there’s gain in loosing.
Follow the one who suffered. Follow the one who is crucified. Follow the one who died. Follow so that we might have life.
Using his cross, Jesus lovingly shapes us as his disciples, to be the you, the me, the us, that God has made and called us to be.
Children of God. Beautifully and loving made. Each and every one of us. No exceptions.
Be you. Just as God has made and called you to be.