A sermon for August 30, 2020, at the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio. The readings are from Romans 12:9-21, and Matthew 16:21-28
Peter is angry with Jesus because the man is going to get himself arrested, or worse, killed, if he carries on this way. And Jesus knows it and he doesn’t even seem to care! Peter cannot understand why it all has to happen now. Why Jesus can’t just take a step back and wait for, I don’t know, a better time to be the Messiah. A better time for the coming of God’s kingdom.
But what is a better time than now to do what is right, to love what is good, to hate what is evil, to bless; to bless and not to kill?
I am angry. I’m angry that a man can be shot in the back seven times and the next act is to shackle him to his hospital bed. I’m angry that a teenager can be urged and encouraged and armed and driven to the occasion to commit homicide. I’m angry that even the weather has turned violent, killing randomly and destroying homes and families, mirroring our own violence against our environment. I am upset that we have not yet found our way into the kingdom of God.
Peter is angry, I’m angry, and we each struggle to see the way forward.
Then there’s Jesus.
Do not set your mind on earthly things, he admonishes. Don’t get mired in anger and defeat. Do heal the sick, do bring good news to the poor, do raise up the broken-hearted; but don’t confuse crucifixion with failure. Don’t conflate the Christ’s arrest by corrupt and complicit authorities with wrongdoing. Don’t give up on God’s will be done. Keep the faith.
Love what is good, hate what is evil and put it away from you. Bless, and do not curse or kill. Do not return evil for evil, but leave room for the vengeance of God, and for the hope of the Resurrection.
To quote from the letter to the Hebrews,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”
He will judge the living and the dead. In his mercy, and in the grace of God’s kingdom, we rest our trust.