Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church on September 3, 2017
[sermon begins after Bible reading; Exodus and Romans reading at end of sermon]
Matthew 16:21-28 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.” 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.”
I often listen to music on the radio on the way to worship, Sunday Sunrise on KBCO is a favorite. One parishioner heard the bass pounding as I pulled into the parking lot and, as I got out of the car, asked if I was getting my pastor jam on. Hadn’t thought of it that way, but yeah, I guess that’s part of it. One recent Sunday morning, a band I didn’t know was playing a song I’d never heard called “Then Came the Morning.” Not a religious song, but I heard Psalm 30 in the music. Regaling my family with the concert video during dinner that evening, one thing led to another and suddenly Rob and I had concert tickets for a three-band evening at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. Being an early to bed person, I was super disappointed The Lone Bellow wasn’t on first. That slot was reserved for Mondo Cozmo, another unfamiliar band. It didn’t take too long before my ears perked up, though. The opening lines of their song Shine goes like this:
Stick with me Jesus through the coming storm
I’ve come to you in search of something I have lost.
Shine down a light on me and show a path
I promise you I will return if you take me back… (my apologies to the band for my vocals on that one.)
The song has a great sound. The crowd of 500 was having a blast along with the band. My ears perked up at the Jesus part. (Shocker…I know.) Some of you have known me long enough to be unsurprised that I did some poking around about the band afterwards. One online interviewer asked an expletive-laced question about the song Shine and whether or not the singer was a religious man. Josh Ostrander answered, “I get asked this a lot, I’m not totally sure how to answer it ‘cause the song seems to be resonating with a lot of people, but for me it’s a song of hope.” His answer seems reasonable answer given that the interviewer was aggressively negative in asking about being religious. Which also is fairly reasonable given that religious Christianity often shows itself in public spaces as ridiculous, repressed or radicalized and sometimes all three at once. Let’s be honest, though. Jesus doesn’t especially help the cause in today’s Bible reading when he calls Peter, “Satan,” either.
It happens fast, too. Just before this infamous Satan slam, Peter moves to the head of the class, getting an A+ for naming Jesus correctly. Now? Not so much. Let’s take a close look at the reversal. The reading today begins, “From that time on…” We can hear this as: [From the time that Peter names Jesus correctly], “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering…, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Jesus BEGAN… This is the first that Jesus’ friends hear about the cross. Those fishers turned disciples follow him around, listen to sermons on the mount, walk on water, and feed thousands. Sure, John the Baptist’s murder was terrifying but that was a one-off. Up to this point it’s been mostly positive.
Peter appeals for Jesus’ safety. Who among us wouldn’t do the same for a friend? But in the temptation of Jesus way back in Matthew’s 4th chapter, Jesus’ self-preservation by avoiding his own suffering was deemed “satanic”. Hence, the name-calling here in the 16th chapter. The cross talk is confusing. Jesus warns against self-preservation in the face of suffering as he tells his followers to “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow [him].” Jesus’ first disciples know that crosses kill slaves and political rebels who defy Rome at their peril. They haven’t seen crosses on top of church buildings and worn around people’s necks. Crosses become a Christian symbol in the 5th century.
Jesus BEGAN to show his disciples’ about suffering and the cross. He knew his teaching about the cross would need some repetition. The cross of Christ isn’t something that’s easy to bear or to understand. We remind each other that the cross is the foundational story of our faith while spending a lifetime working out what it means.
This morning, Phoebe and Benjamin get wet with the waters of baptism. I meet with families several weeks ahead of baptism. These conversations are chances to get to know a family just a bit and also to talk about God’s promises in baptism. We talk about God promising to be present, to always forgive, to form lives that are ever more Christ-shaped, and to keep these promises forever. That first promise of being present is a biggie.
God promises to be present even, and maybe especially, when we don’t feel God is with us or don’t feel faithful or don’t feel worthy. In baptism, God promises to be present with us despite any of our feelings to the contrary. This is sometimes called Theology of the Cross. It means that Jesus shows up in our most confused, messiest, darkest places. The parts of ourselves we don’t like to talk about or show anyone. We all know that we don’t have to go looking for suffering. It seems to be a part of how the world works. Sometimes we do bring it on ourselves. But many times it comes from other people or from the natural world. The times when we seem inclined to say that God is absent is the very time when God promises to be present with us. God, who is Jesus. Jesus, who is God.
Jesus’ unconditional love for all people regardless of class, gender, race, or sin, led to his execution on a cross. Jesus’ death on the cross means that God does not respond in violence. Later on in Matthew, the one who pulls out a sword to protect Jesus from being taken into custody by Roman soldiers is told by Jesus to put the sword away.
Jesus’ death on the cross also means that God knows suffering. More than that, the cross reveals the mystery of God suffering with us when we suffer. For some of us, this promise through the cross of Jesus makes all the difference even as it defies logic. It’s how we survive in the face of unspeakable suffering and loss. It’s how we sit with other people in the face of their unspeakable suffering and loss. The cross tells the truth about how we experience life.
Matthew writes, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering…, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” In this verse, we also hear the truth about how we experience joy. God is a God of resurrection life, too. We heard this in last week’s Bible story about the Egyptian midwives who defied Pharaoh and let the Hebrew babies live. We hear it again this week as Pharaoh’s daughter conspires with Moses’ sister and mother to keep him alive. We hear it in Jesus’ teaching of his disciples that he would be raised on the third day. We hear it in Paul’s letter to the Roman church:
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers…Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep…life peaceably with all…if your enemies are hungry, feed them…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
God is a God of resurrection life through the cross of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.
 The Lone Bellow performs “Then Came the Morning” live on the Honda Stage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4szaR8CJvA
 Mondo Cozmo – Shine (Live from Bardot) on December 9, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN0H6dpa9nU
 Mondo Cozmo interview by Jeff Laufner for RockBandsofLA.com on November 30, 2016. http://www.rockbandsofla.com/mondo-cozmo-shine-and-devine-intervention/
 Matthew 16:21a
 Matthew 16:21b
 Matthew 5-7 and 14 are the chapters that cover these stories.
 Matthew 14
 John Petty. Commentary on Matthew 16:21-28 on August 28, 2017 for Pentecost 13. http://www.progressiveinvolvement.com/
 Matthew 26:50-52
 Matthew Skinner. Sermon Brainwave podcast for Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. Posted August 26, 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org/brainwave.aspx?podcast_id=919
 Matthew 16:21
 Exodus 1:8-20a
 Exodus 1:22-2:10
 Romans 12:12-13, 15, 18b, 20a, 21. (I picked a few of the many beautiful exhortations from Paul in the reading for today.)
Exodus 1:22-2:10 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.” 2:1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. 4 His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him. 5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him. “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”
Romans 12:9-21 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 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.” 20 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.