Today we read that Jesus was with his disciples and began to prepare them for his journey with them and that he will have to undergo great suffering at the hand of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter, who last week was presented to us as Peter the Rock, is now called the stumbling block. Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him saying, “God Forbid it Lord, This must never happen to you”. And Jesus replies “Get behind me Satan; you are a stumbling block to me”.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
So, what does this mean for us individually and as a faith community? You have heard the phrases “she/he has a cross to bear?” or “you made your bed now lie in it.”
How can we respond to the request to take up our cross and follow Jesus? Well, when we are overwhelmed with burdens, we make a plan. We challenge ourselves to do something to improve the situation. Seek a way to survive and to help and support others who are struggling as we are.
We are given some ideas in our epistle reading.
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. Live in harmony with one another; Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Let’s try to break this down.
Let Love be genuine:
Can you recall a time when you felt a deep genuine love for someone or something? Maybe the birth of a child, a marriage or union, maybe a parent. Or someone very special.
Slide Randy’s Story
I recall back in March when my loving friend Randy was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with the COVID-19 Virus. A few weeks later myself and several others were dealing with the grief of possibly losing Randy and sending him on to meet Jesus. The medical team said they had done all they could and there was no more that they could do for Randy. Then a Healing Prayer warrior started a prayer chain request to imagine all of us circled around the hospital bed holding hands and praying Randy into the arms and genuine Love of Jesus to heal or to take Randy to be with him. From that day on Randy started improving. Randy is scheduled to come home this week. Medical staff and those caring for Randy tell his family that his recovery is nothing short of a miracle. I believe that this miracle was brought on by the Genuine Love one for another and the power of Prayer and the Love of Jesus.
When we have a difficult cross to bear, talk to Jesus in prayer and embrace the response with genuine love and service.
Hate what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Overcome evil with Good.
We may find this a difficult Cross to take up (bear) in order to follow Jesus. There is so much anger, hate, turmoil and discontent in our country and in our world today. I want to challenge each of us to focus on something Good and hold fast to it through the next several weeks.
Pray in thankfulness for the good things. Strive to overcome Evil with Good. Find good stories and people that have found or shown good things from the evil that has disrupted our faith, our country and our world. Make God Smile with our stories and experiences of good.
Serve the Lord, Rejoice in Hope.
Good is better than Evil, Light is better than Dark, Hope is better than despair, and Love is better than Hate.
Persevere in prayer.
Pray without ceasing; love your enemies, pray for Good to overcome evil.
Live in Harmony one with another;
Recall Jesus’ great commandments. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and Mind, and the second is Love your neighbor as yourself.
I ask all of us? Do we throw the word Love around loosely? I love Pizza, I love Chicken, I love that TV show. But think about it. How many times do we use the word Love in our worship service and have we become complacent in reading the word Love? Have we learned these phrases and prayers so well that we just mouth the words and not really think about the genuine love that is expressed in these readings and prayers?
a few examples from today’s worship service,
Holy and Gracious God, we give you thanks for your open arms embracing us in your love.
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Above all clothe yourselves with love.
Forgive, restore and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ that we may abide in your love.
We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable Love.
Graft in our hearts the love of your name.
In closing I would like us to remember some lyrics from the song “Savior Boy” performed last week by Paul LeClair
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is love our God, and be loved in return.