Lectionary Sermon (Gospel) for October 3, 2021

Mark 10:2-16   Divorce, a Path of Pain

Throughout my service to my Lord, I have had occasion to help people through many different crisis that can erupt in a human life. Of all the different problems that can hurt a person, I believe the most painful, most damaging, the hardest crisis a human being can be forced to endure is that of divorce.

In the book of Malachi, we find what the Lord God thinks fo divorce, “For I hate divorce, says the LORD, the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.” (Mal. 2:16 NRS)

Now, note, God hates divorce not the divorcee. God hates divorce because it is a pain God deals with all the time. God, the Holy Trinity, knows experientially the pain of divorce.

Too bad the church does not follow the example of God. It is said that divorce is really an unforgivable sin in the church. People are isolated, ignored, insulted, and emotionally injured by the church because of a divorce. In one denomination I served in a divorced person could not serve in leadership.

The one institution that could be of significant help during a time of devastating emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical trauma, the church adds insult to injury.

We are told in the passage that the Pharisees, the Biblical conservatives of their day, came to Jesus. We are told they came to “test him.” When it says they wanted to test him they we not trying to find out what Jesus knows. No, they are trying to trick him, to get his to say something they can use against him, how they might discredit him through their “superior” insight.

The topic they choose to attack Jesus with is the issue of divorce.

The legal reality of Jesus day was highly skewed toward men. All a man had to do to divorce his wife was to give her a document saying they are divorced. If the man didn’t want to take the trouble of giving him soon to be ex a paper indicating they were divorced all he had to do was say, “I divorce you three times and the deed was done. It was much harder for a woman to divorce a man.

The question they ask Jesus has to do with what is legal, not what is right. We human beings can create laws that allow us to sell other human beings, discriminate against people, and even take their property legally through the law of imminent domain. Whereas laws may make things legal, they do not make things right.

Jesus knows what they are up to. Jesus answers them by going to the authority the Pharisees love to quote (when it was to their advantage). What does Moses say?

They reply, “They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” (Mk. 10:4 NRS)

Moses allowed divorce does not erase God hates divorce. We are dealing with a human issue so serious it is more important to understand than to be legal.

Jesus’s words, captured and inspired in the writing of Mark gives us insight into the purpose of marriage and the reality of divorce. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you.”

Because God understood that when it comes to true love, true commitment, true faith, and true understanding God knew human beings can be hard. God knows we can develop a stubborn attitude toward changing one’s behavior. This is our hardness of heart, our stubbornness, and insensitivity.

Divorce may be legal but it still is not right in the eyes of God. I am not talking about who is to fault. Even the Lord granted an exception due to not being sexually faithful. The issue is not really about what is legal. This issue is the purpose of humanity and the place of love that is solidified in commitment.

Jesus, in speaking further with his disciples on this subject, again shows the seriousness of divorce. Jesus says, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus adds a new dimension to the discussion, adultery!

Now wait, is Jesus get legalistic? The capital sin of adultery! Yes, divorce goes against God’s plan for humanity. The damage of infidelity is a cesspool of shame, guilt, hurt, pain, selfishness. Adultery is not viewed as a capital crime anymore; it is not even considered a crime. For goodness sakes, there are many “Christian” organizations that overlook it or at times even encourage it. Many would say it is not a sin. So how do we receive these words?

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So, they are no longer two, but one flesh.   Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mk. 10:6-9 NRS)

With these words Jesus ties the institution of marriage with the very act of creation itself. God created this institution with the idea of people being able to grow in love and intimacy and to engage with God in the on-going act of creation through the birth of a living eternal soul. God still creates human souls within the context of a relationship between a man and a woman. Yes, with the birth of children, a marriage, family, union souls are created that have the capacity to love.

But even more. Jesus grew up watching a man deeply love a woman. It was modeled for him by Mary and Joseph. Jesus knew the spiritual power this flow of God instituted as marriage could have. Jesus knew how important it was that this relationship should be to each and every human being and how in its own way could be a means of grace framed in love in a world yet to be redeemed.

Note, this is not a fairy tale kind of interpretation. Jesus drives home the seriousness in framing those harsh words about the consequences of divorce. Jesus know it is hard. Jesus knows a marriage relationship is hard work and next to our relationship with God should be the we work on our hardest (Both who have shared the vow) to make the marriage succeed.

There is a congregational vow that I always offered at the end of any marriage. I ask those who have attended to understand the seriousness of what they have witnessed. They had witnessed two people make a vow to strive to succeed in this marriage. Will you vow to do all in your power to help them in any way you can to succeed? If so, say I will.

I believed Jesus would probably expect a community that claims to follow him to be more interested in a loving marriage that honors God and both partners. 

Lectionary Sermon for September 26, 2021

Mark 9:38-50    God’s on My Team’s Side, Not

Imagine if you would this conversation taking place today instead of over 2000 years ago. The disciples coming to Jesus tell him their trademark was being violated. We need to sue those people who use your name. At the very least a cease-and-desist order should be issued.

Here is the thing, Jesus does not copyright anything. Jesus does not sue. Jesus speaks with wisdom. Jesus speaks with understanding. Jesus understands the battle very well. If someone is doing good in Jesus’s name, then the person is not an enemy but an asset. Those who are not against us are for us.

I have been doing some theological work on suffering. Our world is full of suffering right how. Developed nations are experiencing death from the pandemic in ways all to common to the vast numbers in less developed countries.

Suffering is. It is likely that most people will experience suffering in their life. This common experience that is both individual and communal. Suffering, however, is not what God desires. Suffering must be resisted individually and collectively.

Our world is a very competitive world. I believe this is both good and bad. It is good when we are competing to make each other better (a rare event in our world). It is bad when its processes and goals are not for the good of the community. Jesus is not about competition. Jesus is about the human condition. Jesus knows just how spiritual perilous human beings are. We need all the allies we can get.

To drive the point home. Jesus makes it very clear that to be a stumbling block to anyone who is striving to accomplish good in Jesus’s name because they believe in him it would be better if they drown. Jesus also makes it clear that those who would even do the smallest act in the name of our Lord would be rewarded.

Here is the problem. Jesus disciples had this problem, and it continues in the church today. And what is this problem? The problem is competition.  The disciples did not like any unauthorized competition moving in on their perceived territory. What about the church today? Do we have any issues of competition? If we say we don’t we a deeply self-deceived.

There are over 10,000 Christian denominations in the world today. Are they working for the good of the Kingdom or for their own kingdom? Are they challenging our “territory?” Should they all stop the way they follow Jesus and instead come and follow Jesus the way we do? Do we have the right to say that another denomination is wrong, and we are right? No, we do not! We can say, we believe the way we believe God wants us to believe but we cannot judge the way anyone else believes. We can discuss why we think they are wrong. We can learn to defend why we believe what we do, but that does not change the reality. Those who are not against us are for us in this world of spiritual war and strife.

Jesus does not what his disciples having any doubt how serious the issue of the Kingdom was to God and what was at stake. However, as we look at verses 43-48, we are looking at what is a landmine for many who cannot image a true reality of eternal existence called Hell. (Gehenna)

There was a time that a Christian preacher who did not mention hell in a sermon would be seen as not doing their job. Today, it is rare if a preacher comes even close to talking about hell. A preacher would be accused of using scare tactic. Most people would mentally quit listening to anyone who tried to preach a sermon concerning Hell.

Hell is the ultimate suffering. Let me say that again, “Hell is the ultimate suffering. Jesus obviously understood it to exist. Jesus felt comfortable (or compassionately distressed) enough with the topic to use it in this teaching. Why does Jesus bring up this subject at this time?

Let’s look again at the flow of the passage. Out of a discussion concerning an individual who was doing spiritual work in Jesus’s name the story moves to a warning about what happens if we cause someone to stubble in their faith. Jesus then couches sin in its most serious consequence, so serious that Jesus uses exaggerated word pictures to relate the seriousness of what is being said. We need be careful here with how we understand what is being said.

Jesus does not what us to cut off our hand, our foot, or pluck out our eye. This is the exaggeration I speak of. This kind of language is intended to get our attention and make an impression.

First, these examples drive home the point that there is no excuse for sin. If something seems to be an excuse for sin, deal with it radically. It is a threat. It will be used against you.

Secondly, it calls us to look at our behavior in self-examination that understands how serious sin is and how deceptive it can be. The gruesome acts that Jesus recommends in order to avoid sin, they paint a picture of pain. Sin will bring pain. Sin only gives its pleasure for a season and then will come the pain.

Thirdly, we must be proactive, we must examine and act. This is no time for doublemindedness. To continue allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is not acceptable. We are in a battle for eternity. We cannot allow jealousy, competition, judgementalism, pride, or anything else distract us from the struggle of this world. A struggle with the effects of sin.

Lastly Jesus’s words speak of a situation, a condition, a place, so horrid that it is described in terms of worms and fire. Worms and fire. Not doves. Not peace. Not quiet. Worms and fire.

Jesus says these words out of deep concern for his disciples and for those who would be disciples. Pray for, support, encourage, speak well of any who are seeking to do good, “In Jesus name.”

Shame

1 Samuel 20:30 Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? (1 Sam. 20:30 NRS)

A father, a very powerful father, attempts to shame his son. Here shame is used as a tool of compliance or instrument of correction. Saul intends for his words to find their mark. Saul intended to inflict an emotional wound upon his son. Saul insults Jonathan’s mother and at the same time shames Jonathan.

The object of shame David. Saul seeks to use the friendship between David, son of Jesse, anointed of God, and the King’s son, His son, Jonathan, the son of Saul, the current King of Israel. Saul wants to kill David. Jonathan does not budge. Jonathan stays true to his friend but tries still to honor his father. For Saul it is an either/or while Jonathan is seeking a both/sand.

Jonathan does not deserve this load of pain. Pain, not just because of his friendship with David, but because Jonathan loves his father dearly. Family pain, well, sometimes it is a thorn in the flesh. Seldom, in fact, no one ever in any situation deserves to manipulated with shame.

I believe some of the worst emotional suffering that one can bear is when that shame is connected to family. We know how dangerous domestic violence can be. We know, or should know, that no one can hurt us more than someone we love. When shame is allowed to poison a relationship, it is very difficult to recover.

And then there is that shame that only we ourselves know about. That shame we hold secret. It is painful but we cannot let it go out of fear or because we believe the pain is partial punishment for what we have done. This hidden shame can actually produce physical events in our lives.

I am sure those who read this blog have an experiential experience with shame to some degree and still often have physical reactions when any memory connect to the shame comes to mind.

One of the most challenging potential obstacles to our spiritual health, growth, and strength is an entity (entity being defined as something that has separate and distinct existence and objective or conceptual reality) called shame.

Shame as an entity can be a shadow always floating in the depths of our unattended thoughts. It works to belittle, to minimize, emotionally bully us as it works in our lives, in our thoughts, our dreams, our conscious and subconscious minds.

I am indebted to the spiritual direction offered by Catherine Skurja, in her book Paradox Lost (Whitaker House. Kindle Edition.) This book reminded me of the spiritual struggle for our hearts and minds. Shame seeks to tear us down and never builds us up. What is worse, shame is hard to overcome.

Skurja provides a good practical theology of shame.  She writes, “• an inner sense of being completely diminished or insufficient as a person. • the self-judging the self. • a moment of humiliation so painful or an indignity so profound, one feels one has been robbed of her or his dignity, or exposed as basically inadequate, bad, or worthy of rejection. • …the ongoing premise that one is fundamentally bad, inadequate, unworthy, or not fully valid as a human being.[1]

She then gives us a method for facing these issues when they come up. They are prayers of paradox. You answer shame with truth and love. Shame says, you have failed miserably. I for one would have to answer, “Yes, I failed miserably, and I am called by God.” Thank you for this blessing, Lord.

Her ultimate advice and (which I believe underlines her whole understanding of the dangers on the spiritual quest) “When in doubt of what God is like, we can look to Jesus. If we want to know what it means to be fully alive, we can look to Jesus. If we desire deeper intimacy so we can live the truth of the first commandment, we can look to Jesus.

Skurja, Catherine. Paradox Lost . Whitaker House. Kindle Edition

I highly recommend this book for all who follow the path lest trod.


[1] Skurja, Catherine. Paradox Lost . Whitaker House. Kindle Edition.

Imagination in Check

I am reading a book published by Spiritual Directors International© on using the arts in spiritual direction. I believe using art in spiritual direction is a very positive tool that benefits both the director and directee. I am enjoying the book very much. However, I do have some concerns. I cannot justify using misleading (bad) theology in artistic expression unless there is a very compelling reason. The following is taken directly from the book I am reading.

“And God stepped out on space,” The dancer enters with long slow steps, her form, voice, and breath becoming an image of God at the foundation of the universe. Now stretching her arms into the emptiness of infinity she pronounces: “And [God] looked around and said, ‘I’m lonely—I’ll make me a world.’”[1]

Imagination, especially spiritually directed imagination, must always, always be based on sound, orthodox theology. For me that would include the Apostle’s creed and the theology I have gained from studying the Anglican approach to faithfulness (discipleship) in Christ. The Triune God I know, love, and worship is never lonely.

The God I love had a desire to create. The word desire is not adequate. What God wanted and did is that well beyond our comprehension this side of heaven. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in perfect unity, perfect love, never lonely and created us for a purpose much to wonderful for us to yet comprehend. And, if we accept what Augustine said for himself, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” This is what we seek as well.

If there is one thing I have found in current practice of spiritual direction is that there is a limited emphasis on doctrinal correctness. I am not talking about being a fundamentalist. I am talking about the place of the Triune God in our spiritual direction practice and purpose.

Obviously, I am not a universalist. I do believe there is a path to God and there are false paths that can deceive (I have found plenty of those). I am seeking to build my faith through experiential trust, past education, and active prayer to be on the right path. I can only judge what I believe is the right path. I cannot judge the path of another.

When I am “holding space” for another, I do so as a guide who is willing to listen intensely and compassionately to what another is saying and to share the routes, rituals, and readings in the journey I have found useful. I seek to ask questions of those I direct which may stimulate their spirit or invoke the Holy as we both seek discernment from the actions and acts of our lives. The language of art can be very helpful in seeking discernment and in expressing personal emotion. I am thankful for the boundaries that I submit to in faith so that truth and trust are primary values.


[1] Beckman, Betsey. Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Arts to Spiritual Direction (Spiritual Directors International Books) (p. 11). Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Lectionary Sermon for September 19, 2021

Mark 9:32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. (Mk. 9:32 NRS)

The Way of the Servant

Jump forward to after Jesus had gathered the disciples together for the Last Supper. Judas went to betray Jesus. The disciples fail to stay awake in the Garden and when the time comes for Jesus to be arrested there is chaos. Why, why were the disciples not prepared? Why did this surprise them? Listen again to verses, “for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again. But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.” (Mk. 9:32 NRS)

Jesus had tried to get them ready. He avoided the crowds so he could prepare his disciples for what was to come. Jesus wanted them to understand. But they would not. We are told they were afraid to ask. What does this mean? Why would the disciples be afraid of Jesus unless they were afraid of learn and accepting what Jesus was saying?

We human beings have an amazing ability to be selective in our hearing and understanding. A person smokes and is warned that they may get cancer. They get cancer and say why me? A person is told that they need to get a Covid-19 vaccination, or they will eventually get Covid. They don’t get the vaccine and get Covid. Why, likely because they did not get the vaccine. Selective listening and understanding.

The disciples did not want to hear Jesus was going to die. They especially had difficulty with the rising again part. If Jesus were dead, how would he rise from the dead? No, the disciples are not really wanting to understand Jesus. Besides, why talk about death when they had something more important in their minds to figure out. They are maneuvering for positions, for places in a pecking order, a hierarchy so to speak.

Jesus asks them what was so seemingly important to them. “But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.” (Mk. 9:34 NRS) Isn’t that is what is important? Your position? How many of us have been asked pecking order questions? Questions like, “What do you do for a living?” Or where did you go to school, where do you go to church, where do you vacation in the summer, what are your pronouns, etc… These questions help place you in an order of importance, relevance, or whatever another’s mind creates. We all do this. We do it subconsciously. We can learn to limit this activity but not escape it. It is likely one of the aspects of deciding for ourselves what is good and evil.

Jesus knows if the disciples cannot get past this test, this temptation, this being tied to the way of the world they will not survive what is to come. They must grasp this truth Jesus taught and lived, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

So, he teaches them through the actions and example of a child. Who is this child Jesus picks? We are not told. We are told that Jesus took a little child and put the child among them. Was the child afraid? Was it a boy or a girl? We are not told. I don’t believe questions like this can help. What we need to focus on is what Jesus says.

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (Mk. 9:37 NRS)

In the Gospel of Luke, we find almost the same words as in Mark, but in Luke we see how what the Lord is teaching ties in with this child. Note, “and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”” (Lk. 9:48 NRS)

We Westerners tend to romanticize this story and make it look like Jesus had a special relationship with the children when in fact the story is to show that Jesus special relationship was with all men and women as well as children. Jesus was authentic, trustworthy, and did not try to hide his private life. Allowing the children into his life was proof of that authenticity.[1]

Thus, in this simple statement Jesus sets the foundation that is required to have a relationship with him that is in line with the reality of God’s Kingdom. Our Lord’s actions and words define the requirement for leadership, serve. If we are to learn the true power in leading one needs to grasp the depth of what Jesus says about serving.

In this passage Jesus reveals that human beings need to desire to be a person who would welcome another person or persons even if that person or persons cannot help you in any way and likely will require you to help them. In this act of welcoming in Jesus’s name that sets the reality from which you operate. To accept one in Jesus’s name indicates a willingness to accept others in the same way Jesus would, in the love of and for God. In our willingness to accept this is also an implied responsibility to help.

Next Jesus states that we just do not welcome a child, a person in Jesus’s name we also welcome Jesus. This act of hospitality not only brings us into a relationship with the one we welcome we also are in fact welcoming Jesus. Now remember, Jesus is dealing with the wrong views the disciples have about position, power, authority, and purpose. He reminds them that he has called them and will empower them to be different. In a later discussion Jesus tells the disciples, “It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26-28 NRS)

It is Jesus that defines our faith. It is Jesus who is our intercessor before God the Father. It is Jesus who is the example to follow if we wish to grow in the Kingdom of God.

And lastly, to connect with Jesus means you are connecting with God. You cannot welcome one without the other. God always has been, is, and will remain a God who reveals in truth and calls us to faith in mystery. There is no room for human ambition in the Kingdom. It is ambition that brought about the downfall of Satan. It was ambition that led to the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Instead desire to be one who welcomes the child in every person. Desire to be the one who hears the words at the end of life, “We done good and faithful servant.”


[1] Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.

Would Jesus wear a mask?

Week before last, I was at home suffering with what I felt would turn out to be Covid-19. Yes, I have had both shots. I try to always wear a mask. Still, I came down with something that made me very sick. Fever, chills, upset stomach, joint pain, loss of taste, and the list could go on. I had not felt this sick since I spent three days in the hospital in a septic state several years ago.  So, I scheduled a covid-19 test. I was thinking I was a breakthrough case. The Covid-19 test results came back negative. I got my shots last December and I will get the booster shot as soon as they are approved.

With Covid being part of our daily lives, it is easy to think you have gotten it when you get any kind of sickness during this pandemic. Covid has created a state of fear that is perceived as well as actual.

I know of many people who have gotten sick with covid. I know several of these people did not get vaccinated and do not believe in wearing masks. I have a hard time understanding these people. Why are they willing to put themselves and others in harm’s way? Do they really not understand how dangerous a virus Covid-19 is.

However, I should not be surprised. We live in the culture of me, what I want, what I believe, and I what is in it for me. It seems as if 50 percent of the people in this culture have this mind set (about as many that vote for Trump). I am sorry if it sounds like I am bringing politics into this but sadly politics has tied itself to this virus.

As a believer and follower of Jesus I believe what Jesus directs us to do, put others first. The prime directive of our Lord was for us to love God and each other. It is not an act of love to put one’s own selfish desires and personal “freedom” before the good of others. Would Jesus wear a mask? Of course, Jesus would wear a mask.

I am sure there is someone somewhere who would say, “I have faith that God will not let me get Covid.” That is not faith, that is foolishness. God has given us common sense (some of us). When Jesus was tempted by Satan to step off the top of the temple so that the angels would rescue him Jesus replied, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (Lk. 4:12 NRS)

In this fallen world in which human beings die I believe we should do whatever we can to promote life. Wearing a mask and getting vaccinated promotes life. And remember what our Lord’s attitude toward our doing those things which show we care for others and care about what the Lord desires for us to do. When we do it for the least of these, we are doing it for our Lord.



Discernment, Discernment, Discernment

It is frightening how often we human beings face a situation in which we must make a decision that will affect the lives of others. Will the choice we make be one that promotes good, or will our choice empower evil? All too often many of us make decisions without thinking only later to regret what we have done. While there are individuals who have been given the spiritual gift of discernment most of us have to work at the practice of spiritual discernment.

As a spiritual director I have no doubt that the level of usage of the tools of discernment is influenced by our motivation, values, and priorities. The more our motivation is centered in our desire to be influence by the Holy Spirit and a humble commitment to spiritually advance the stronger our faith will be. However, even our motivations should be examined, and the principles of discernment applied.

It is the motivation, or the spirit behind the action, that determines whether the action is part of the solution or part of an ongoing problem.[1]

When examining our motivations, it is important to be totally honest with oneself. This is not always easy. We human beings are very good at self-deception. If you are not sure of why you do something, write down all the reasons why you think you might be doing something (i.e., for payment, position, pleasure, power, etc.). Which of your motives are based on serving the Lord and others? After you have done this make a list of benefits of what you are doing. Then make a list of the consequences of doing what you are doing.

Finally, look over the material and ask God to help you truly understand your motive.

If your motive is pure and fits within the motives our Lord, we should then continue in confidence. If a person is not such of their choice, perhaps they should re-evaluate what we are doing or why we are making the decision we are making.

Never has the need for discernment been so great. There are so many things that can tempt, distract, deceive, confuse, and damage us spiritually. Thankfully we have a Lord that understands what we face and is willing to walk with us and guide us if we will but be open to direction.


[1] Skurja, Catherine. Paradox Lost. Whitaker House. Kindle Edition.

Lectionary Sermon for September 14

Mark 8:27-38   Who IS this Guy

An egotist pastor was travelling with a younger friend when the pastor asked his friend, “How many great preachers do you think there are in the world right now?” He friend replied, “One less than you do sir, one less.”

As human beings, we like to be affirmed by others about our identity and worth. Most of us do care what other people think of us.

Jesus asks his disciples a serious question, “Who do people say that I am?”

Why does Jesus ask his disciples this question? Is there any evidence of what motivated Jesus to ask such a question?

Well, we are told that Jesus wanted to avoid any kind of seeming political motive.

John 6:15 Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king,1 He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself. (Jn. 6:15 CSB)

If we read ahead know what is to come when Jesus travels to Jerusalem. There, again, the crowds try to make him King. First there is the record in Mark, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” Mark 11:10 Next, a parallel passage, John 12:13 “took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel”

Jesus did not want to be identified with a social, political revolution. This was not Jesus’s intent. Jesus made this clear when tempted in the wilderness. Jesus is shown all the kingdoms in the world. Satan offers them to him as a temptation. We are then told, “Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'”

Jesus had one agenda and it was the will of the Father. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth. Jesus, God incarnate, has no interest in the kingdoms human being build. They will all pass away. Jesus is interested in us and hopefully we are or hope to be interested in him.

When Jesus asks this question, he knows the disciples are struggling with what is being said and what they themselves will or will not believe or accept. Some of the followers had left Jesus because of what he was saying. The populous, the ever-possible mob, had all kinds of ideas about Jesus.

No one was ready for the suffering servant. The concept of a spiritual leader who must die for the sake of others is not the kind of Messiah the people were wanting. We know the disciples were not ready. We find that out when Jesus tells the disciples the suffering he is about to go through, Peter tries to confront Jesus about this. Peter cannot accept this. Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him he is being like Satan. Peter just does not understand, yet!

It is hard to understand how seeming weakness is strength. It is his hard to understand how the first will be last, how surrender is victory, and how death become life? Paradoxes every one of them. Not either-or choices but both-and choices.

Jesus is the God of paradox. Jesus, God incarnate who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended in Hell. On the third day he arose from the grave, ascended into heaven and sits by the right hand of the Father from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. Jesus who is completely God and completely human, the grandest paradox. This is our statement of faith. Our embrace this faith opens up for us the opportunity to

The disciples tell Jesus what they are hearing. Some think he is John the Baptist come back from the dead. The big problem with this is that Jesus was alive at the same time John was. In the Gospel account of John (not the same John) we are told, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”

 (Jn. 1:29-30 NRS)

John the Baptist is clear the Jesus is greater than he. Jesus does not fit the place of Elijah. John the Baptist did and claimed to carry that torch,

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, “John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with1 the Holy Spirit and fire. (Lk. 3:15-16 NRS) We are told of John, “He (John) went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” (Lk. 3:3-6 NRS)

Jesus himself deals with this idea concerning Elijah, And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.” (Matt. 17:10-12 NRS)

OK, what about the idea of Jesus being a prophet? Even Islam says Jesus is a prophet.

A prophet is someone who speaks for God. Jesus did not have to speak for God. Jesus was God. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.

The Father and I are one.” (Jn. 10:28-30 NRS)

Peter gets it right even if he does not yet fully understand. Jesus is the Messiah. Messiah in Latin is translated Christ which in turn translates to Anointed. Jesus is God’s choice as the one who can bring us back into the Divine Community. Jesus is the one who shows us what real love means. Jesus is the one who can forgive us, restore us, renew us, revive us, and call us to life as it was intended.

I know we were not there the day Jesus spoke these words. Yet, these words are not confined to written pages. These words can speak to our hearts. The question is still, “Who do you say that I am and what does this mean for you tomorrow, today, or even right now?”

What is your answer?