O God, our hope and refuge,
in our distress we come quickly to you…
We come remembering those who lost their lives
in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania…
We come remembering
and we come in hope,
not in ourselves, but in you…
In commemorating this tragedy,
we give you thanks for your presence
in our time of need
and we seek to worship you in Spirit and in truth,
our guide and our guardian. Amen.
Excerpt of prayer by the Rev. Jeremy Pridgeon, First United Methodist Church, Panama City, Florida, via Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church.
27Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" 28And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." 29He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
34Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Where We Are
The church is more than three quarters of the way through this year of grace that mostly features gospel readings from St. Mark, the earliest, shortest, most concise narrative of Jesus' earthly ministry. In the gospels of Mark and Luke, Jesus' journey to Jerusalem and the cross is particularly incessant and intentional.
Most of the first half of Mark happens around Jesus' hometown area of Galilee; most of the second occurs on the way to, near, and in Jerusalem. After today's conversation in this place of many many deities, Jesus turns his face toward Jerusalem. Surprisingly(!), this is the first place in Mark where Jesus uses the word "cross."
Each of the four canonical gospels brings us the good news of Jesus Christ with its own emphasis. Jesus' first act of public ministry in Mark is an exorcism; Mark's particular concern is freedom from demons and the demonic as well as destabilizing and overthrowing the power and accretions of empire so creation can live in freedom. You may recall Mark's response to "where do we find God?" On the margins, in the stranger and the "other than us." We find God supremely in the vulnerability of a convicted human dying on a cross. Mark's God is far outside conventional political, religious, social, and economic establishments.
Jesus' entire story in Mark turns around in this passage with:
(1) Peter's recognition and public confession of Jesus as Messiah/Christ in verse 29;
(2) Jesus' own passion prediction in verse 31 (the first of three in Mark);
(3) Jesus' call that this time includes the gathered crowd along with his current disciples in verse 34.
Jesus and his disciples are in a Caesarville—Caesarea Philippi at the far north border. Caesarea Philippi was a center of worship of the nature god Pan, the Ba'al place gods, and the Roman Emperor.
Besides dividing the different geographical locations of the two halves of Mark and demanding an answer to the question of Jesus' identity and call, by extension they also ask about our identity and calling as people baptized into Jesus Christ.
Like many during the last three or four millennia, we live in a Caesarville—a place defined by one empire or several. Many many still perceive the USA in this late 2021 as Trumpville. Does Consumerland, Big Pharma Nation, or Mass Violence Villa hold sway and try to have the final say?
Hebrew bible scholar Walter Brueggemann reminds us baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection is a subversive act of renunciation and embrace. (My apologies for not having the book title. The phrase was so arresting I immediately memorized it.) In baptism we renounce Martin Luther's "unholy trinity" of sin, death, and the devil. In his baptismal liturgy, Luther addressed the devil: "So hearken now, thou miserable devil, adjured by the name of the eternal God and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and depart trembling and groaning, conquered together with thy hatred, so that thou shalt have nothing to do with the servant of God who now seeks that which is heavenly and renounces thee and thy world."
The cross Jesus calls us to carry in Mark 8:34 is not the sorrows, losses, struggles, trials, disappointments, and difficulties everyone experiences. Jesus calls us to carry his cross that's a loud "no" to death, "no" to violence, "no" to exploitation, "no" to inequality, "no" to imperial excesses of every kind, "no" to hatred. When we carry the cross of Jesus Christ, we speak a resounding "yes" to life, "yes" to peace, to equality, community, to neighborology, to love, to inclusion, to boundless life for all creation.
Our baptism into Jesus death is at the same time baptism or immersion into his resurrection. It's about the death of the old, but it's even more about the new being, the new creation. We remember and act on Wendell Berry's (and scripture's command) to Practice Resurrection!
Pastor James Howell observes even though he gets the correct answer about Jesus' identity, Peter doesn't get (has zero clue) what that identity implies. Howell adds, "Peter is entirely foolhardy, as are all of us who dare to wield the keys and be the church. We simply stick behind Jesus, a little bit embarrassed over how dumb we can be, and count on his mercy, his mercies plural, and journey with him to the holy city not to assume power but to lose everything."
911 2001 • 20 years • 911 2021
That's all for this week as we remember and grieve 911. On my other main blog I illustrated (and also tweeted) a photograph of the 911 memorial and quoted Psalm 62:5: "Yet my soul, keep thou silence unto God: for mine hope is in him."