|All Saints, Year A||November 1, 2020||All Saints' Sunday, Year A||1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12|
|Pentecost 21, Year A||October 25, 2020||Pentecost 21, Proper 25, Year A||Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; Matthew 22:34-46|
|Pentecost 20, Year A||October 18, 2020||Pentecost 20, Proper 24, Year A||I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Psalm 96|
|Pentecost 19, Year A||October 11, 2020||Pentecost 19, Proper 23, Year A||Philippians 4:1-9|
|Pentecost 18, Year A||October 4, 2020||Pentecost 18, Year A||Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-14, Philippians 3:4b-14, Matthew 21:33-46|
|Pentecost 17, Year A – Elizabeth Heimbach||September 27, 2020||Pentecost 17, Proper 21 Year A||Matthew 21:23-32|
|Pentecost 16, Year A||September 20, 2020||Pentecost 16, Proper 20, Year A 2020 The Season of Creation||Matthew 20:1-16|
|Pentecost 15, Year A||September 13, 2020||Pentecost 15, Proper 19||Genesis 50:15-21, Matthew 18:21-35|
|Pentecost 14, Year A||September 6, 2020||Pentecost 14, Proper 18, Year A||Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20|
|➤Pentecost 13, Year A||August 30, 2020||Pentecost, 13, Proper 17, Year A||Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28|
|Pentecost 12, Year A||August 23, 2020||Pentecost 12, , Proper 16, Year A||Isaiah 51:1-6, Ps 138, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20|
|Pentecost 11, Year A||August 16, 2020||Pentecost 11, Proper 15, Year A||Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Matthew 15:10-28|
|Pentecost 10, Year A||August 9, 2020||Pentecost 10, Proper 14, Year A||I Kings 19:9-18, Romans 10:5-15, Matthew 14:22-33|
|Pentecost 9, Year A||August 2, 2020||Pentecost 9, Proper 13, Year A||Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22; Matthew 14:13-21|
|Pentecost 8, Year A||July 26, 2020||Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 12, 2020||Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52|
Pentecost 13, Year A
Sermon Date:August 30, 2020
Scripture: Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28
Liturgy Calendar: Pentecost, 13, Proper 17, Year A
“Carrying the Cross of Christ” – Gabriel Loire (1904-1996)
Paul writes to the Romans, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.’ 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.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Paul’s stirring words speak directly to us in the divisive times we are experiencing in our country. Human vengeance and personal wraths have been held up in our national discourse as appropriate ways of relating to one another, and as models of leadership, and have led to regrettable norms that are corroding our society, just as vengeance and wrath corroded and played a part in ultimately ending the Roman civilization in which Paul lived.
We Christians have an important role to play in helping to restore civil discourse, to model common decency and to live peaceably with all in such a way that others would desire that peace as well. We are to provide a more excellent way than the ways we see repeatedly modeled for us at the highest levels of power in this nation.
If people know that we are Christians, then they watch us to see how we live, and how we lead. That old cliché, “Action speaks louder than words,” is appropriate here. We all know that hymn that says, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” The ways we act in our lives can give honor to our Lord and Savior and our faith.
In his words to the Romans, Paul went back into his own Jewish training, to the book of Proverbs, to offer his thoughts on how we are to live as Christians in this world.
Listen to this verse from Proverbs.
“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.”
But the ways in which we act can also detract from our witness or completely negate our witness when we veer off into vengeful or wrathful behavior toward one another.
When care, respect and compassion for one another are lacking in our lives and love is in short supply, then our Christian witness gets sold out for a witness in favor of power, focus on the self and a disregard for others for our own gain.
Paul points out that Christians should not provoke strife. Sometimes, the attitudes of others can create strife, but even then, we are not to seek revenge. When a wrathful response is necessary, God is the one to bring the wrath, not us. Paul makes it clear that we aren’t the ones who are to take on the wrath that belongs to God, just as the writer of the book of Deuteronomy makes that point clear to the Israelites.
Meanwhile, we are not just to sit around passively waiting for God’s wrath to fall on our enemies. We are to care for our enemies. As someone I know says, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer.”
Paul again turns to his own training and quotes the book of Proverbs when he tells the Romans to feed their enemies, and to give them something to drink, loosely quoting this verse from that wise book.
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”
Hopefully, these burning coals are the heat of remorse that a person feels upon realizing that wrath and vengeance as a way of treating another person has been a mistake that has hurt everyone.
So, Paul says, we are not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.
Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness for forty days, taunted and encouraged to give in to evil by putting himself and his own needs ahead of the good thing that God was asking him to do, which was to serve God and to carry the news of the Kingdom of God out into the world.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is heading for Jerusalem and he tells the disciples that he will suffer and die before being raised on the third day. No wonder Peter wants to protect Jesus from suffering and death. But in addition to his very real concern for his friend, Peter was also probably feeling his oats as a leader, now that he knew that he was the Rock on which Jesus planned to build his church.
What Peter is saying to Jesus, without realizing what he is saying, is to offer Jesus the same game plan that the Evil One had offered to Jesus in the wilderness. “Use your power for yourself, Jesus,” and then you’ll have what you need to be the Savior of the world.”
But what Jesus knew was that true leadership is vulnerable and risky, open to God’s will, and focused on the welfare of the people rather than the power of the leader. Jesus knew that good leaders are willing to suffer and die in order to follow God’s way and lead to new life for all.
Peter was pointing Jesus toward a worldly model of leadership—personal power at any price.
So Jesus put Peter back in his place. “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me.”
Jesus reminded Peter in no uncertain terms that Peter’s place, as a future leader of the church, the rock on which Jesus would build his church, was not out in front of Jesus, a rock over which Jesus could trip by buying into worldly notions of power. Peter’s place was behind Jesus, as a follower of Jesus, who in turn was following God and pointing to God and giving God the glory in his own leadership.
Jesus blessed Peter by reminding him of his place. Because if Peter had been out in front of Jesus, he never could have followed Jesus. Peter would have lost his way and his vision because Jesus would have been behind him, rather than in front, showing the Peter the way.
A constant temptation for every person in this world is to put him or herself first. Self-preservation, survival of the fittest, “may the best man win” are all temptations that we all face on a regular basis.
Our leaders are the most sorely tempted of all, because of the earthly power that has been placed in their hands. Have you ever noticed how having power just makes some leaders crave even more power?
Jesus reminds Peter, and Paul reminds us, that even as we lead in whatever ways we are called on this earth, that the ways in which we most effectively lead and live together are as followers of Jesus.
So Christian, take up your cross, and follow the way of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another, do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.”
When we do these things, God can lead us to use those crosses we carry as we follow Jesus “to overcome evil with good” and to provide a more excellent way.