17th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19, Year B)
O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Jesus 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?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he 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. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But 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.”
He 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. For 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. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those 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.”
Faith from the Margins to the Web Bible Study Group
“It seems to me that they were afraid, but there really wasn’t a need for them to be afraid” Mary Alice offered up. “You got to do the thing that you have been taught, like you have been raised up”
“I used to think that even at 10 or 12 years old, I wanted to argue with God. I knew what I had been taught, that I felt like I wanted to worship God but was sort of trapped in a way” said Jamillah. “It has sometimes felt like all the hard work that we do is what gets us close to God. But maybe God is saying that it is about being a servant, about stepping back.” said Jamillah
“Oh, I can get right next week, or next week, or next week” said David. “I take from this that I need to think about how to really come home. I can keep making excuses, we all can. But, then God is there saying to follow me, to love my enemies.”
“How do you know what God has done?” asked MaryAnn
“Well, I don’t want to play God, you know” said David. “I love God, but sometimes I try to get around all of that love. That’s probably when I need to tell the devil to get behind me.”
“Maybe the hardest part is loving ourselves” said Mary Ann. “I went to a funeral recently and they read that passage about how there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.”
“I ain’t trying to cut you off” said Mary Alice, “but you know, I am thinking about a situation with a friend of mine. We had words before, and we hadn’t been on good terms. She called me today, and asked me to go with her to the store. She said, ‘do you need anything?’ and I said, ‘I just need you to know I will always be here for you.’ And we started to talk, and to realize that it wasn’t about each other that we had been separated; it was about keeping company that was keeping her from feeling the love of God.”
“It’s like when you feel that, when you’re going through a trial, you have to know that God is with you.” said Jamillah.
“Right, and my friend she might not be here forever. She is very sick. Now she needs to know that people are with her, that God is with her” continued Mary Alice.
“All of you are so willing to open up” said Mary Ann. “I’m so impressed with you all the time, Jamillah. You are willing to open up and put yourself out there, and share how you see God with you. I learn so much from you.”
“You know, that idea that the devil is always testing us” said David. “It just does seem like that is the case, and I have to learn, you know, like just does to not get mad at the person but to see that some people are speaking the words that tempt me.”
“It’s interesting” said MaryAnn “because we can see God in other people, too”
“I’m thinking about my sister” said Mary Alice. “My sister, she was a servant in my life. She used to be our rock, when my parents would go out, and she would be our parent. Even when I see her now, I thank her for that and for all that she did for me. I tell her now, even when I see her, and she lights up by sunshine.”
“My mother was like that, said David. “We grew up in the church and she made sure that we felt that love from God.”
Charles said, “You know, I have a lady in my building. She is 97 years old. I help her out and make sure that she gets three meals a day. She doesn’t like to be alone at night. Her daughter came to see her last week, and she was still in the bed when she got there. She was still breathing, but they knew something wasn’t right. Now, she went to the hospital but came back and I said to her daughter, “I’ll check on her for you, every day. I know she needs someone.”
These stories of how we live together in this world show us so much about how God is seen and known in our midst, through temptation and the desire to try to save ourselves. And yet, it is in losing ourselves to greater service that we are found. It always amazes me in these interviews that this is exactly where God finds us.