Sunday, August 30, 2020

13th Sunday after Pentecost Sermon Stumbling block or a Rock?

Live Service Video         

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

This is a 6 minute video prayer for our centering and gathering time today



Opening Prayer

Ritual of Welcome for Virtual Worship

 Taken from the book emergence  blessings and rituals for unsheltering.


God is good! All the time! Welcome to the church in Diaspora on this blessed Blursday the 30th day of the 8th month of the year of coronavirus 2020! But who’s counting?


Welcome if your watching in hi-def, low-fi, or have to keep rebooting your screen or your soul because it’s so worn out. When glitches and hiccups happen, remember God dwells in the interruptions, too.


Welcome to you if you are Old or young, or a little bit of each; queer or straight, or  a little bit of each; doubting or believing, saint or sinner, or a little bit of each. Welcome to people of all colors, all genders, all body shapes and sizes, all physical, mental and emotional abilities and moments.

Because we are here and there and everywhere, yet somehow still together as One today, this Body of Christ is whole and a little more perfect.


Now remember you have a whole body even though it sometimes seems-staring into screens-that you are nothing but eyes and brains. Welcome all of yourself to this moment, with a hand on your heart, and one on your belly, breathing more deeply, remembering that in many languages ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ are the same word.


Now reach out your blessing hands in every direction.

Welcome the creatures you are sharing space with, then your neighbors, the strangers afar to this moment of peace and worship. Send out peace with your body, and feel it echo back.



let us begin today’s worship



Call to Worship #1:

L: Give thanks to the Lord!
P: We will sing God’s praises!
L: Seek the Lord and God’s strength.
P: We continually seek God’s presence in our lives.
L: Remember all the wonderful things that God has done.
P: Praise the Lord! AMEN.

The God of Abraham Praise # 24


(All candles lit.)


Matthew 16:21-28

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time on, 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. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 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.”

The Cross and Self-Denial

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 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?

27 “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. 28 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 word of God for the people of God!


P:        Thanks be to God



Sermon   Stumbling Block or Rock?


Peter has just proclaimed who the disciples say Jesus is “the Messiah the Son of the living God!” but then Jesus swears them to secrecy…why? Well today’s Gospel gives us a hint.  The disciples do not fully comprehend what it means to proclaim such a truth. The disciples do not comprehend the full weight of what is about to occur.


And Peter who had everything right just a few lines ago now gets everything wrong…there is much work to do.


“Peter acts like a spokesperson for the other disciples, but in another sense he speaks for himself. It is he alone to whom the divine revelation has been given; he is the only one about whom the special beatitude is spoken. (“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by the Creator in heaven.” Matt. 16:17) He is singled out as distinctive, honored by being the peculiar recipient of a heavenly gift.

            Then something drastic happens in the narrative. Jesus begins to talk to the disciples about the immediate future, the journey to Jerusalem, his suffering, death, and resurrection. Peter again becomes a participant in the conversation, in fact an aggressive participant. He feels strongly that he must dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem and meeting such a dire fate.”[1]


You’re Not in the Driver’s Seat

21-22 Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, “Impossible, Master! That can never be!”

23 But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.”


“Security. Influence. Power. It is hard to resist their glorious lure.


Perhaps that is Peter’s challenge. He cannot help thinking that his close association with the Messiah will right all that is wrong about the world.


But Jesus’ announcement of the death-dealing events about to unfold in Jerusalem point to anything but the glory of security, influence, or power. What about the new church, and its authority to bind and to lose? What about withstanding the power of death (“the gates of Hades”)? How can these things happen if God’s own anointed one is to be tortured and executed?!


No wonder Peter protests. “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you!” Jesus’ response is swift and to the point: “Get behind me, Satan!”


Even in translation, the similarity to Jesus’ command to the devil in the wilderness is clear: “Away with you, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10). Could it be that Peter’s fervent wish, that God would prevent the horrors about to be visited upon Jesus, is something like the Tempter’s offerings in the wilderness?”[2]


Here is an interesting play on words in the Gospel…In the desert, with the tempter, Jesus says go away the word he uses is hypage. But to Peter Jesus adds opiso mou, hypage opismo mou. Behind me or after me…when Jesus called the disciple he said literally come opismo mou, come follow me.


Jesus is reminding Peter that he is getting ahead of himself and he needs to follow.  Jesus is basically saying know your place man you still have much to learn.


“This is not the first time Peter falters, nor will it be the last. To be sure, Peter is the first to follow Jesus when called (Matthew 4:18-19) and he gets top billing whenever disciples’ names are listed in Matthew (for example, Matthew 10:2; 17:1; 26:37). He is an eager student, unafraid to ask for an interpretation after Jesus tells yet another enigmatic parable (Matthew 15:15). Nonetheless, Jesus calls him out for his “little faith” when fear gets the best of him as he steps out of a boat into stormy waters. Peter-the-Rock sinks like a stone (Matthew 14:28-33).


Later, Peter bravely vows to stick with Jesus no matter what happens, boasting that even the threat of death could never cause him to deny his Lord (Matthew 26:33, 35). He fails miserably in fulfilling both promises, staying far away when Jesus is arrested (26:58) and denying him repeatedly while Jesus faces trial and torture. He is nowhere to be found at the crucifixion, while the power of government-sanctioned violence is inflicted upon the Messiah.


The soaring height of Peter’s commitment is matched by the depth of his failure to follow.”[3]


I love Peter, Peter is my middle name. I am proud to say that I have, many times, lived up to Peters reputation.  I have failed my proclaimed faith many times and I will again. It is what it means to be human and a follower of Christ.


24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?


Mitzi J Smith professor of new testament reflects on this passage…


“Returning to addressing all of his disciples, Jesus admonishes them: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” This is a new teaching in light of Jesus’ imminent death. If Jesus’ disciples choose to continue following him, they must be willing to deny themselves (and not Jesus, as Peter will do in Matthew 26) and be able to envision the fate of the cross. Judas had it backwards; he thought he could pursue money and power and then follow in Jesus’ steps. Judas didn’t believe that Jesus would really lead them to the cross (Matthew 26:14-16, 47; 27:3-10). Jesus taught that “the one who wants to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit him if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what will he give in return for his life?” (Matthew 16:25-26). These words are reminiscent of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness: The devil dared Jesus to save his life (by turning stones into bread so that he could eat), lose his life (to cast himself down off the highest point of the Temple mount and God’s angels would save him), and to gain the world while forfeiting his life (to acquire all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshiping the Satan). Before beginning his public ministry Jesus settled the question of his priorities; he sided with the poor who do not have the power to turn stones into bread; he refused to trivialize life and sided with those who are defenseless from the daily onslaught of violence; and he turned down ill-gotten material prosperity and power predicated on allegiances and partnerships with evil and oppressive forces.


Perhaps Jesus is also saying that if one thinks she has it all figured out (like Peter), she does not; that when we think our theology and faith is tight, right, and infallible, it just might be oppressive and death-dealing.”[4]


Wow I heard that! I am happy to admit I do not have it all figured out.  I am happy to admit that what I do have figured out today may be wrong tomorrow. If anyone preaches otherwise run! If someone says they have the absolute truth…Run!  Look at our history and how we have understood what Jesus and the bible has taught us.


Romans 13 alone has been used by “European royalty, going back as far as the Holy Roman Empire, to remain in power.

— Loyalists used it to promote obedience to King George and to counter the American Revolution.

— Southern slave owners used it to justify the subjugation of fellow human beings.

— Adolf Hitler used it to manipulate Christians and to sustain his power.”[5] Jeff Sessions used it to justify the policy of separating parents from Children

Ephesians has been used to justify spousal abuse

Politicians use Mathew 26:11 “The poor you will always have with you as a justification for cutting social programs.


David Gowler from Emory university explains it is because of the invisible gorilla in the room…

“Emory's Gowler cites a famous experiment that shows how people's perceptions can be easily skewed.

Researchers asked participants to watch a brief video of six people passing basketballs to each other. Three of the people are wearing white shirts, and three are wearing black shirts. The white shirted people pass one ball among themselves; the black shirted people do the same.

Viewers were asked to count the number of passes the people in white shirts made to each other. In the middle of the video, a person in a gorilla suit walks slowly into the middle of the frame, faces the camera and beats his chest before walking off.


Almost half the viewers did not see the gorilla because they were focused on counting the number of passes made by the people in white shirts, Gowler says. He's shown the video to his classes, and they miss the gorilla by a similar percentage. By focusing on the white shirts, their brains filter out the black shirts -- and the gorilla along with them.


People say they want to know what the Bible means, but they often miss the meaning because they're so focused on "what they expect -- or want -- to find," he says.”[6]


That is one factor, people are focused on what they want to find, the other is the bible is a living document.  As we grow and live into its revelations, as we learn what the challenges of Christ’s teachings are we can see more clearly what our call is. Just as Peter grew into understanding what his call was. And though Peter learns for every two steps forward, much as all of humanity, he seems to take one step back.


 “Peter declares that his loyalty to Jesus will withstand the threat of death; that though the crowds forsake Jesus, he will not. We sometimes prefer to see Peter as weak, rather than as human. Perhaps Peter saw himself as superhuman. I don’t think Jesus calls us to deny our humanity but to commit to following him while fully accepting how vulnerable our humanity will be if we choose to be revolutionaries. Jesus was willing to be God’s revolutionary Messiah knowing the violence that could be done to his body as a consequence of pursuing justice, love and peace instead of the privileges of empire.”[7]


This what Jesus means by take up your cross, but for many of us, the concept of taking up the cross has become boring and inconsequential.


Clayton Schmit from Lutheran theological states;


“We have heard that we should take up our cross. To some degree, we followers of Jesus do this gladly. We especially do those things that are not too dear. We serve on boring church committees, bearing our cross without complaint. We give more than we think is financially prudent and hope it doesn't put a dent in our lifestyle. We help out those people who annoy us, thinking we are bearing a burden. The list of little crosses is endless. But, the passage pushes--and so the preacher must push--deeper. To take up the cross is to deny oneself, not to safeguard one's way of life by chastening it with little taxations. This leads only to "forfeiture" of life. Jesus demands more. The Messiah requires more.


The problem is we are pretty poor at cross bearing. The disciples wouldn't have thought themselves any better. They had seen crosses and knew how life-crushing they were. For them, the thought of carrying a cross was a life and death matter. In the end, many of them did die because they followed the Messiah. For us, to bear a cross is a metaphorical idea. No one really expects to die in the process. But, even to deny ourselves seems too much to ask. We aren't much good at that either. Here is both the challenge and the good news in this text: If we follow Jesus, we will be seriously called to bear certain crosses and lose hold of our lifestyle, if not our life. Yet, in all our weakness and human mindedness, it is Jesus' own death on the cross that enables us to do what we cannot.


God's power is revealed not in walks through the porticos of power, but through the dusty alleys of weakness and misery. That is where Jesus walked. That is where he leads us to walk. That is where he strengthens us to bear the burdens of discipleship. It is his burden we take upon our shoulders. It is his strength that bears the weight. We do nothing on our own, but he can do much through us. Without him, Peter was no rock, but a stumbling block. With him, Peter was the church. With him, we are not powerless to deny ourselves but able to bear all he may give us. Lloyd Ogilvie once put it this way: "We say, 'But, Lord, I cannot.' And God says, 'I'm glad to hear you say that. Through you, I can.'"[8]


When it comes down to the day to day we are nothing but copies of Peter. We are mere mortals. We are human.  We sometimes get our understandings of the Gospel wrong.  We feel there are tasks so great we cannot make a difference. We feel the task is too great and we are powerless especially when confronting empire.


Yet if we pause…if we pray…if we boldly step into the true messiness of ministry, we too can be Peter.  Not stumbling blocks but Rocks upon which a church is continuing to be built.





A call to prayer



God of All,
gather us into a time of prayer
for our family.
Expand our vision
to understand each human being
as our sister or brother;
and enlarge our hearts
to offer love for each other,
even as you love each of us.
Be with us now as we pray for members of your family.







God of Grace and God of Glory #436


Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us


Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom 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 kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen




Invitation to the Offering


Offering our gifts to God is a holy act. In this sacred moment, let us offer our gifts and our lives to the holy work of God.


Donate Here!


Doxology #778


Praise God from whom all blessings flow;

Praise God, all creatures here below;

Praise God for all that love has done;

Creator, Christ, and Spirit, one.


Offering Prayer


In gratitude for your amazing works in the world,
     we offer our gifts to further your work, Holy One.

Bless us as you blessed Moses before us,
     that we may be a blessing of your holy work.

Guide our steps, and bless the offerings we bring,
     that the world may be touched by your holy love.






The office is open for regular hours

We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry




I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in


Take My Life, God let It Be #448



Benediction/sending forth

Go into the world with peace and joy, delighting in the diversity

and blessings that God has lavished upon each one. Celebrate

the good news of the love of God with all people and offer peace

and blessing to each one. Go in peace. AMEN.


Just a note Bible study is on summer leave…


Keep an eye out for a bookstudy this fall with Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss and Kathleen Oliver






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