It Depends on You
Romans 12:9-12, Matthew 16:21-28
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sept 10, 2023


A few days ago, we heard a lot about hurricane preparedness, and all the steps and phone numbers, and emergency aid available to us.  The importance of watching the storm path and knowing when to act to get to safety.  The tools and items needed to survive in an extended power outage.

In the same sense, Jesus was preparing his disciples for what was ahead, and how to prepare.  He is discussing what they need to do to plan to survive as well.

Peter however, doesn’t like what he is hearing, and I for one can certainly understand his concerns and his comments.

After all, he has been following Jesus around now for weeks, personally witnessing how Jesus has been healing people, casting out demons, and raising loved ones from the dead.  It makes perfect sense that Peter would ask Jesus to not speak of the horrific things that were to come, the death Jesus was to endure.

It doesn’t seem unreasonable that Peter would tell Jesus to forbid it to happen.   Peter had complete understanding that it was in Jesus’ power to be able to do so.

However, Jesus responds to Peter in what may seem a rather harsh manner, calling him Satan and telling Peter to get behind him.

Peter, like Satan in the wilderness, wants Jesus to set himself on human things rather than things of God, the divine.

Jesus refused to be tempted by things of the world, even to save himself from persecution, so as not to be diverted from God’s mission.

Jesus reminds Peter to “get behind him” or as his disciple, to “follow him.”

Just like Peter, our place as Disciples of Christ is to follow the examples Jesus provided in the gospels.

So how do we do this?  And what are the examples?  If we consider, as did Jesus, the things of God, and not the world, we see a stark contrast.  The things of the world do not bring peace or unconditional love.  There is no better description of the things of God than are stated in our first reading in Romans 12:9-21.

I think if I had a tattoo, this would be it, and I would make sure it would be where I could read it every day.

As Jesus calls out Satan who attempts to place Peter as a stumbling block, an offense to God’s mission, we are also reminded not to be a stumbling block for others and ourselves.

Do we need to be saying, “get behind me Satan,” more often to prevent stumbling blocks placed in front of us when something or someone is preventing us from doing what God wants us to do?

It’s our human nature to repay evil for evil, yet we are told in Romans, if possible, rather than seek revenge or get even, we are to take thought for what is NOBLE in sight of all and to live peaceably with all.  It depends on us.

Whether we take up our cross as a disciple of Jesus and follow him, depends on us.  Each one of us, individually.  That cross is heavy; and it take a lot of daily work managing our thoughts and feelings, and being in relationship with God.  The reward is a life of peace and love.

This doesn’t mean we won’t have stumbling blocks before us each day.  If you ever set your mind to get committed, you can count on something popping up that may make you forget your religion.  “Get behind me Satan!”  Although, the more we are able to overcome the stumbling blocks with the help of the Spirit of God, the more peace and love we find.

There is no euphoric life ever after either as long as you walk this earth, there will be stumbling blocks, and it depends on us to keep carrying our crosses.  The recent after effects of dealing with Idalia is a perfect example.

James Boyce says, “To be in on the mission of God’s Messiah is to be blessed with a mind and vision that looks at things not from a human perspective, but from the perspective of what God is about.”

This past week and a half, we witnessed people helping to carry our crosses as part of a community of discipleship.  Linemen that showed up by the thousands to help restore electricity.  First responders ready to rescue those from flooded homes and in need of medical care.  People and neighbors with chain saws, tarps, stump grinders and bucket trucks.  Many watching from far away and near with prayers ascending.

In the goodness of the people we see in helping others, we can continue as a part of the story centered in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.  It depends on you, each of you, to decide if you are willing to offer what God is calling you to give for the good of the God’s mission.  This past week, I witnessed many of you helping others, caring and praying for others.  These are the divine things of God that depend on you.

God’s mission for you may not be a huge thing for you to accomplish.  You can stop with the sweaty palms and the racing heart at the thought of being called into service for God.

We can start with letting love be genuine.  We can hate what is evil and hold on to what is good.  We can love one another with mutual affection, and show honor to one another.  It depends on you, and I include me in that you.  This past week, I witnessed a lot of genuine love.

In our second night of the storm, the heat and humidity became unbearable.  At 4 a.m., I said to Dick, let’s go to the Waffle House.  Now, I certainly was not hungry, but I knew they had A/C, and I was willing to eat anything in order to be cool, and since they are open 24 hours, it made sense, that is until we arrived and they were closed.  So after driving around town for an hour looking for a place that might be open, we gave up and drove back to our driveway where we reclined our seats and slept for 30 minutes before Dick announced that Holt’s Donut Shop was open.  Away we went!

Half asleep while eating my donut, I began to overhear the only other two gentlemen in the donut shop, and it became obvious to me that at least one of them was a pastor, and they were having a Bible study.  One was asked to read a scripture from Acts that I honestly had never heard before where Paul was preaching to a crowd, and a young boy sitting in a window had fallen asleep and fell out the window.  The theme was he had gotten too comfortable.

These guys go on to talk, and one said, “People have just gotten too comfortable and it’s hard to get them to do anything.”  The other responded, “Churches allow all the women to make the choices and the men are inactive.  They wait for the women to do everything.  But I praise God in my church, the men are active, too.”

The conversation continues, “Nowhere in the Bible does it say you will be comfy in your walk with the Lord.”  The other responds, “It’s not the pastor’s job to feed you.  Pastors are putting out the food on the buffet, but they’ve got the fork.”

Now, I will say, I was a bit amused and fascinated at the same time.  I didn’t disagree with a lot of what they were saying, but they just had a different way of saying it.  However, the statement that really stuck with me was, “it’s frustrating when people won’t take ownership of their faith.”

Jesus wanted his disciples to take ownership of their faith.  The survival of the good news of the gospel depended upon it.  It depended upon the disciples continuing to share the good news.

When we take ownership of our faith, we can have a passion to want to do something for God’s mission, rather than waiting to be asked or waiting to see what is going to happen.  Seeing a need, and taking care of it, like getting the parking lot re-striped for parking, is having a passion to want to do something for God.  Stopping by a member’s house after a storm to check on them, even though they haven’t been in church for a while, is having a passion to want to do something for God.  Praying for others you know are hurting or those you know who need healing is having a passion to want to do something for God.  Be part of what IS happening.  It depends on you.

I don’t think there is anyone here that doesn’t want to serve the Lord, or you wouldn’t be here, and we can rejoice in hope, together; be patient in suffering, together; and persevere in prayer, together!  It depends on you, and it depends on me.

Individually, and together, we can contribute to the needs of saints and extend hospitality to strangers.  We can rejoice together, we can weep together, and we can be in harmony together.  It depends on you, and it depends on me.

Take thought, think about what is noble and live peaceably following as a disciple of Jesus.  Everything you do for God’s mission, depends on you.

*Cover Image from Unsplash+, subscription