AD SENSE

22 Sunday A - Take up your Cross

From the Connections:

THE WORD:
Peter’s confession of faith (last Sunday’s Gospel) begins a new phase of Matthew’s Gospel.  As he makes his way to Jerusalem, Jesus’ teachings will now be addressed primarily to his disciples on the events and work that awaits them in Jerusalem – and beyond.
 
The hostility between Jesus and the leaders of Judaism is about to reach the crisis stage.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims unambiguously that his mission as the Messiah includes suffering and death.  Peter is sharply rebuked by Jesus for his seemingly innocent remark that Jesus should be spared such a fate, but Jesus sees Peter’s refusal to accept such a possibility as a “satanic” attempt to deflect the Messiah from his mission of redemption.  To avoid suffering and hardship in order to opt for the easy and safe course is purely human thinking, an obstacle to experiencing the life of the Spirit. Authentic discipleship involves taking on the cross and “denying oneself” -- disowning ourselves as the center of our existence and realizing that God is the object and purpose of our lives.
 
            
HOMILY POINTS:The cross we are asked to take up is not easy: it represents a value system that runs counter to our own; it compels us to make choices we would rather not make or opt for.  The life of the true disciple of Christ is one of generous, selfless and sacrificial service to others in order to bring the joy and hope of the resurrection into our lives and theirs.
Christ’s call to discipleship compels us to make choices we would rather make, to embrace values that run counter to the world’s, to the take the difficult, painful first step toward reconciliation and peace, to put aside our own sense of victimization in order to seek peace and justice and healing for others.  In “denying” ourselves we discover the life and love of God.

Jesus asks his disciples to detach from the ephemeral and shallow in order to attach to the lasting, fulfilling things of God: compassion, reconciliation, justice.   
The Flying Eagle Patrol

When Brian Doyle was 13, he spent a “life term” — all right, 14 days — at a Boy Scout summer camp.  Young Brian quickly established himself as the worst camper there.  Tracking, swimming, canoeing, archery, woodcraft — the bespectacled Brian exhibited no talent or competence whatsoever.  His happiest times were just sitting on a knoll among the trees watching for birds and wondering about lunch.
Writing in The Christian Century (June 28, 2011), Brian remembers his experience with the Flying Eagle Patrol with surprising wonder and gratitude.
“I wonder now that the Flying Eagle Patrol was so gentle to me, it’s most useless member, and these were the years when boys were cruel to each other, for fear of being least and weakest; but they were kind, and I remember their totally genuine delight when I earned my single merit badge, for making both a roaring fire and a stew.  I remember their faces, around that startling fire, how they laughed — not at me for having finally done something well, but at the surprise of it; the gift of unexpectedness, perhaps.  Or maybe they were smiling at my probably hair-raising stew; but they ate every scrap of it, and the one among us who was best in the woods was the Eagle who quietly washed the pots and plates.
“Perhaps all these years later, I should remember my helplessness . . . but it’s the pots clean as a whistle that I remember, and the whistling of [a fellow] Eagle coming to retrieve me from my knoll high above the seas of trees.”
The Flying Eagle Patrol not only taught young Brian how to survive in the woods but also mirrored Jesus’ vision of a community  of disciples grounded in his example of selflessness and service.  Such a church, centered in the reality of the cross and the certainty of the resurrection, represents a value system that runs counter to our own; it compels us to make choices we would rather not make or opt for, to put ourselves and our own needs second for the common good, to step back to lift up the fallen and slow down to enable the weak and struggling to play their part in the life of the common good.  The life of the true disciple of Christ is one of generous, selfless and sacrificial service to others in order to bring the joy and hope of the resurrection into our lives and theirs.  Scouts honor!   
**********
ILLUSTRATIONS: 
1.     From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection 
Valerie Price, Maximilian Kolbe and Dom Helder Camara:
Here is the story of three Christians who accepted the challenge of Christian discipleship given in today’s Gospel, by “denying themselves, taking up their crosses and following Jesus." Twenty-three year-old Valerie Price went to Somalia to work as a nurse. She wanted to help people who had nothing. She wanted to offer them a better way of life. Valerie was concerned about her safety, but nothing could stop her from doing her work. She was put in charge of a feeding center in Mogadishu. Through her efforts, children who had been near starvation were fed. Valerie even established a school so the children could learn and have some hope for the future. She became nationally known for her committed service.  Valerie, however, was killed by armed bandits outside the school she had started.   She was willing to risk her life to help other people. 
Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland.

It seems that his early years – while good – were not that remarkable. He was devoted to Mary. He became a priest.  His faith was important to him. But when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Kolbe saw the writing on the wall.  He knew that if he were to be a person of Faith – and be true to his Faith – he would probably have to suffer.  In February 1941, because he spoke out against the horror of the Nazis, he was arrested and imprisoned at Auschwitz.  On July 30, 1941, a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz, and in retaliation, the commandant of the camp lined up the inmates of cellblock 14 and ordered that ten of them be selected for punishment. They would be consigned to an underground bunker and starved to death. Ten men were selected. One of them, Francis Gajowniczek, cried out in tears, “My poor wife and children! I will never see them again.” At this point Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to take his place. The commandant accepted his offer, and so Fr. Maximillian Kolbe assumed his place among the condemned. By August 14, Kolbe was dead, his body cremated in the camp ovens.
Dom Helder Camara was an Archbishop of the poorest and least developed Archdiocese of Brazil.  But he has been described as "one of the shapers of the Catholic Church in the second half of the twentieth century." Early in his life, he was part of a conservative political movement inspired by Italian Fascism. But as he became more and more involved in pastoral work in Rio de Janeiro, he became increasingly affected by the poor. In trying to relate the message of the Gospel to their sufferings, he underwent a radical conversion which finally reached the point where he himself was labeled a Communist and called “the red bishop.” His was an outspoken witness for peace and social justice in a land ruled by a brutal military dictatorship. Dom Helder’s message was reflected in his style of leadership.   Instead of a pectoral cross of gold or silver, he wore a simple wooden cross. He moved out of the bishop’s palace and lived in a much poorer house.  He encouraged the training of lay catechists and opened the seminary doors to lay people and women. His own door was always open to any who sought him, and he presented himself as truly the servant of the people. His house was sprayed with machine-gun fire, his diocesan offices were repeatedly ransacked, he was banned for thirteen years by the government from any public speaking, the newspapers were not permitted to mention his name, and even the Church in Rome continually questioned his orthodoxy. When he retired as Archbishop of Recife, his conservative successor reversed nearly all his initiative. He died on 27 August 1999, aged 90. But his spirit lives on.  
Valerie and Maximillian Kolbe and Don Helder Camara did not choose to suffer – they chose to live the Gospel, to be true to the covenant God offered them. Valerie wanted to serve the poor – she didn’t want to be shot to death. Maximillian Kolbe wanted to preach the Gospel in every way possible – he didn’t want to be starved to death. Don Helder Camara wanted to be with his people – he didn’t want to be reviled.
Jesus’ call to be extremophiles or "extreme-lovers."
Probably, you've never met these creatures called "extremophiles." This is because they are extremely small microorganisms which live in environments where the Fahrenheit temperature ranges either from 170 to 215 degrees (water boils at 212 °F), or several degrees below freezing point -- or in acidic media. One such extremophile is Pyrococcus furiosus. Pyro is only one of many microorganisms attracting the attention of scientists today. Biotechnologists are learning a lot from such microorganisms living way out there, in dangerous places like hot springs, polar ice caps, salty lakes and acidic fields. They live in conditions that would kill humans and most plants and animals. Extremophile microbes are also busy industrialists, reports The Futurist magazine, because they produce enzymes that are enormously useful in the food, chemical, pharmaceutical, waste treatment and other industries. Suppose you need an enzyme to replace bleaching by Chlorine.   If so, you contact Diversa Corporation, a California biotech firm, which tells you that a bleaching enzyme produced by a Pyro and some of his hyperthermophilic relatives living in the steaming geothermal springs of Yellowstone National Park could provide an alternative to chlorine in paper-whitening processes. (Cynthia G. Wagner, "Biotech Goes to Extremes," The Futurist, October 1998). Today's reading points us to the Greatest Extremophile of all time. In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus reveals himself to be an extremophile, showing his disciples that "he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised" (Matthew 16:21). When Peter objects to this extremely painful prediction, Jesus rebukes him sharply: "Get behind me, Satan! ... you are setting your mind not on Divine things but on human things." He then tells his disciples: "If any of you wants to become my follower, you must deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (16:24-25).
*************
2.     From Fr. Jude Botelho’s Collection
 
Going out of her way

Valerie was a nobody. In 2010, though, 23-year-old Valerie Price went to Somalia to work as a nurse. She wanted to help people who had nothing. She wanted to offer them a better way of life. Valerie was concerned about her safety, but nothing would stop her from doing her work. She was in charge of a feeding centre in Mogadishu. Through her life-saving efforts, children who had been near starvation were fed. Valerie even established a school so the children could learn and have some hope for the future. Valerie was fortunate to see some of the fruits of her labours. Earlier this year Valerie made the national news. She was killed by armed bandits outside the school she had started. Valerie was willing to risk her life to help other people. Jesus tells us that in losing her life she actually found it. Application: Are we ready to put ourselves out, endure hardship, or even lose our lives for Jesus?
Gerard Fuller in ‘Stories for all Seasons’
 In today’s Gospel, just as Jeremiah spoke of his sufferings, Jesus seems to prepare his disciples for his approaching passion and death. Like Jeremiah, Jesus has to face the consequences of his relationship with God and his mission on earth, which will lead to his passion and violent death. Peter tries to deflect Jesus from the path that lies ahead. He is like so many of us who want to protect those whom we love respect and care for. Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him, saying, “Lord! This must never happen to you.” “Don’t talk about suffering! Can’t we find an easier way? Can’t we compromise and find an equitable solution that does not cause pain?” Jesus denounces Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” Then turning to the crowds Jesus puts the demands of the Gospel with all that they entail. Whether anyone comes after him is voluntary, but once they choose they must know that His path is not an easy comfortable path, it demands constant self denial, a saying ‘No’ to oneself and ‘yes’ to God. He then placed before them this paradox of Christian and human life. “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it.” Strangely, those who are truly living are those who have never stopped finding ways of loosing themselves in other people for Jesus’ sake. 
The agony of life
There is not one of us who would not wish to shield those we live from suffering. The parent is always on the lookout to protect the young from all the human hazards that face every child on the road to maturity. To spare a loved one pain brings a deep fulfillment and joy. St Peter was no exception. The bond between him and Christ had grown deeper over the previous months so he was horrified when Christ spoke of his future suffering in Jerusalem. Peter would have none of that nonsense. He assured Christ that such talk was out of place. But of course, it was not out of place. In God’s plan Christ was to suffer and die on his road to resurrection and glory, on his journey to open up for us the eternal life of God. In his agony, Christ was lonely and afraid but he knew that the Father would not desert him no matter what happened. The road of suffering is the road of life travelled by many. It is good to know that Christ travelled it despite Peter’s protests which we hear in today’s gospel. It is reassuring to believe that the Father will never desert us no matter what our agony.
Tom Clancy in ‘Living the Word’  
Losing to win
In the 1984 Olympics at Los Angels, 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton became the first American girl to win a gold medial in gymnastics. To accomplish this extraordinary feat, she had to make sacrifices during her two years of intensive training prior to the Olympics. While other teenagers were enjoying themselves with a full schedule of dating and dancing, Mary Lou Retton could only participate on a very limited basis. To improve her skills she had to practice long hours in the gym; to nourish her body properly she had to practice long hours and to increase her confidence she had to compete frequently in meets. But what Mary Lou Retton gave up in terms of good times and junk food was little compared to what she gained when she won her Olympic gold medal. What she lost in the usual social life of a teenager she found in the special setting of becoming a champion gymnast – acceptance, camaraderie and respect. Mary Lou Retton’s Olympic experience illustrates somewhat Christ’s paradox in today’s Scripture: “ Whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’.
Saving one’s soul
“What good will it do you, even if you gain the whole world, if you lose your soul?” These are good words to recall when we are faced with important and difficult choices. Here is a modern example. The scene: a prison for political prisoners neat Moscow (during the era of Stalin). Ivan, knew at once that they wanted something from him. “Would you like a remission?” they asked him. ”What do I have to do?” he asked. “We’d like to transfer you to another prison to take charge of an important project. If you agree, you will be free in six months.” “What is the project?” “We want you to perfect a camera that works in the dark, and another miniature one that can be fitted to the jamb of a door, and which works when the door is opened. We know you can do this.” Ivan was perhaps the only person in the whole of Russia who could produce a blueprint for these devices. After seventeen years in prison the idea of going home appealed to him. Here surely was the answer to his wife Natasha’s prayer. All he had to do was invent a device that would set him free. “Could I not go on working on television sets as I am at present?” he asked. “You mean you refuse?” said the general. Ivan thought: Who would ever thank him? Were those people out there worth saving? Natasha was his lifelong companion. She had waited for him for seventeen years. “I couldn’t do it,” he said at last. “But you’re just the man for the job,” said the general. “We’ll give you time to make up your mind.” “I won’t do it. Putting people in prison because of the way they think is not my line. That’s my final answer.” Ivan knew what his ‘no’ meant. A few days later he was on a train to Siberia to work in a copper mine where starvation rations, and probable death awaited him. No fate on earth could be worse. Yet he was at peace with himself.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’ 
The cost of discipleship
Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison or ten thousand days (approximately). Before that he was on the run for a couple of years. Of the time he was on the run he wrote later: It wasn’t easy for me to separate myself from my wife and children, to say good-bye to the good old days when, at the end of a strenuous day at the office, I could look forward to joining my family at the dinner table, and instead to take up the life of a man hunted continuously by the police, living separated from those who are closest to me, facing continually the hazards of detection and of arrest. This was a life infinitely more difficult than serving a prison sentence. (Long Walk to Freedom, 1994, Little, Brown and Company) What drove him to make such great sacrifies was his love for his country. This was the ‘cross’ he carried because of his love for his people.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgie 
Crossroad to life!
In the 1998-99 persecutions against Gujarat’s Dangi Christians, many tales of faith fortitude went unrecorded. I still remember the battered and bleeding youth, Sitaram Devasyabhai, who told me, “I will not give up Christianity even if they kill me!” earlier in Karota village of the Dawada mission where I served as priest, Poslabhai Vasava confessed, “I find great strength in Jesus crucified although friends joke that I adore a helpless, naked deity.” A young Christian from Mumbai, Neil Gaikwad gave witness to self-sacrifice. For twelve hours during torrential rains that submerged Mumbai in July 2005, he swam to save the lives of 60 people trapped in a bus. Eyewitnesses said, Neil must’ve gone up and done 40-50 times to take people out.” Texan Lance Armstrong too combated cancer and went on to win the prestigious Tour de France cycle-rally on July 24, 2005, for an unprecedented 7th time in succession. Neil and Lance demonstrate that life comes through dying to self, and all Crossroads lead to Heaven.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Gospel Deeds’ 
The Folded Page
“Up in the attic of an old house,
as raindrops pattered down on the roof,
I sat paging though my old schoolbook.
“I came to a page that was folded down.
Across it was written in my own childish hand:
‘The teacher was right; now I understand.’
“There are many pages in the book of life
that are hard to understand.
All we can do is fold them down and write:
‘The Master says to leave this for now.
It’s too hard to understand.’
‘Then, someday in heaven,
We’ll unfold the pages, reread them, and say,
‘The Master was right; now I understand.'
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’ 
"I won't do it! That's my final answer."

In a prison for political prisoners near Moscow, during the Stalin era, Ivan, a prisoner and expert in physics and optics, sat facing the prison governor and army general. Ivan knew at once they wanted something from him. "Would you like a remission?" they asked him. "What do I have to do? What's the project?" he asked. "We want you to perfect a camera that works in the dark, and another miniature one that can be fitted to the jamb of the door, and which works when the door is opened." Ivan was perhaps the only person in the whole of Russia who could produce a blue print for these devices. After seventeen years in prison the idea of going home appealed to him. Here surely was the answer to his wife Natasha's prayer. All he had to do was invent a device that would put a few unsuspecting fools behind bars in his place, and he would be free. "Could I not go on working on television sets as I am at present?" he asked. "You mean you refuse?" asked the general. Ivan thought: Who would ever thank him? Were those people out there worth saving? Natasha was his life-long companion. She had waited for him for seventeen years. "I couldn't do it," he said at last. "But you're just the man for the job," said the general. "We'll give you time to make up your mind." "I won't do it. Putting people in prison because of the way they think is not my line. That's my final answer." Ivan knew what his 'no' meant. A few days later he was on the train to Siberia to work in copper mines where starvation rations, and probably death awaited him. No fate on earth could be worse. Yet he was at peace with himself. Jesus talked of losing life, but he also talked of gaining life. This death to self is, in fact, the entrance to a higher life. It is death for the sake of life.

Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday Holy days and Liturgies'

Film -The Devil's Advocate

When a talented small town Southern lawyer Kevin Lomax, discovers his client is guilty, he goes to the restroom to compose himself. He returns to the courtroom, humiliates the prosecution's young witness and emerges victorious. Soon after, he is offered an opportunity to join a prestigious firm in New York. His wife is uncertain about the move and his very religious mother is against it, but he joins and strange things happen in New York. Kevin's wife is lonely and hallucinates, Kevin's confidence in his work begins to falter, he is attracted to a female lawyer and his relation with his wife suffers. He gets a wealthy but guilty businessman acquitted of murder charges. Kevin's wife claims that she has been assaulted by John Milton the company's head. When Kevin confronts Milton he discovers that Milton is the devil incarnate who offers Kevin the world and the opportunity to sire an Antichrist. Milton reveals that Kevin is actually his son, and Kevin put a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. Suddenly, Kevin is back in the restroom where he had gone to plan the next move for his guilty client. He decides to do the right and noble thing - to discontinue defending the client, knowing that he will be disbarred. But as he leaves the courtroom, a journalist asks Kevin for an interview that will make him a celebrity. The Devil's Advocate deals explicitly with sin and the screenplay raises themes of God, the devil, salvation, damnation and freewill. The film is about choices people have to make to live an upright life with all its challenges, or to live an easy life that leads to doom. Jesus, in today's gospel, reminds us that we have to make a choice for him or for the Satan. The way of the devil is attractive and comfortable. The way of the Messiah is the way of the Cross, hard, challenging but in the end fulfilling.

Peter Malone in 'Lights Camera..Faith!'

It wasn't easy...

To play the role of a leader, a prophet is never easy and entails readiness to face hardship and suffering. Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison or ten thousand days approximately. Before that he was on the run for a couple of years. Of the years he was on the run, he wrote later in the Long Walk to Freedom: "It wasn't easy for me to separate myself from my wife and children, to say good-bye to the good old days when, at the end of a strenuous day at the office, I could look forward to joining my family at the dinner table, and instead take up the life of a man hunted continuously by the police, living separated from those who are closest to me, facing continually the hazards of detention and arrest. This was a life infinitely more difficult than serving a prison sentence."
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Homilies'

Losing to gain

In the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, 16 year old Mary Lou Retton became the first American girl to win a gold medal in gymnastics. To accomplish this extraordinary feat, she had to make many sacrifices during her two year period of intense training prior to the Olympics. While other teenagers were enjoying themselves with a full schedule of dating and dancing, Mary Lou Retton could only participate on a very limited basis. To improve her skills she had to practice long hours in the gym; to nourish her body properly she had to follow a strict diet, and to increase her confidence she had to compete frequently in meets. But what Mary Lou Retton gave up in terms of good times and junk food was little compared to what she gained in self-satisfaction and public acclaim when she won her Olympic gold medal. What she lost in the usual social life of a teenager she found in the special setting of becoming a champion gymnast -acceptance, camaraderie and respect. Mary Lou Retton's Olympic experience illustrates Christ's paradox in today's scriptures.
Why do injustices prevail?
Eugene Orowitz was a skinny, 100-pound sophomore at Collingswood High at Collingswood, N.J. One afternoon the gym coach held classes in the middle of the track field to show the kids how to throw a javelin. After instructions he let the kids try their hand at it. The longest throw was 30 yards. "You want to throw it too, Orowitz?" the coach asked Eugene. The other kids laughed at Eugene. Someone shouted "Careful! You'll stab yourself!" Eugene pictured himself as a young warrior about to battle the enemy; he raised the javelin and threw it over 50 yards till it crashed into the empty bleachers, its tip broken. The coach ignoring his feat, looked at the broken head and said, "What the heck Orowitz, you broke the thing. It's no good to the school any longer." That summer Eugene began throwing the javelin in a vacant lot. By the end of the year he threw the javelin 211 feet, farther than any high schooler in the nation. He was given an athletic scholarship at the University of Southern California and he began dreaming of the Olympics. Then one day he didn't warm up properly, and tore the ligaments of his shoulder. That put an end to javelin throwing, his scholarship, and his dreams. Eugene dropped out of college and took a job in a warehouse. -The tragic story of Eugene Orowitz raises a vexing question. Why does God let misfortune wreck the lives of so many good people?

Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'
*************
From Sermons.com

I like the story of the young man, eager to make it to the top, who went to a well-known millionaire businessman and asked him the first reason for his success. The businessman answered without hesitation, "Hard work." After a lengthy pause the young man asked, "What is the SECOND reason?"

We want to deal this morning with the lure of the easy way. Jesus and His disciples were at Caesarea Philippi. Their ministry to this point had been a stunning success. Crowds pressed in on them everywhere they went. People eagerly reached out to touch this attractive young teacher from Nazareth. The disciples themselves were caught up in the excitement of it all. Jesus asked them, "Who do you say I am?" and Simon Peter answered enthusiastically, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" It was one of the most dramatic moments in the disciples' pilgrimage with Jesus.

Then Jesus changed the subject. He began to tell them that the crowds would soon turn against Him; He would be crucified, on the third day he would be raised. The disciples didn't know what to make of all this. Simon Peter took Jesus aside: "Forbid it, Lord, that these things should happen to you." Jesus' response to Simon Peter is as harsh as any words in the New Testament: "Get behind me Satan! You are not on the side of God but of man."

Perhaps Jesus called Simon Peter 'Satan' because of Jesus' experience in the wilderness immediately after His baptism by John. In today's parlance, it was there that Satan revealed to Jesus the way to make a million dollars in three easy steps turn stones to bread, leap off the pinnacle of the temple, "Bow down and worship me!" I see Satan not as a red caped figure with a pitchfork but dressed in a $400 suit and offering in a glib and polished tongue instant success, instant glamour, instant gratification. We can see Satan almost anywhere today. Jesus encountered him this time in Simon Peter: "Forbid it, Lord, that you should have to suffer and die."

If there is any doubt that Jesus is resisting the lure of the easy way, listen to the words that follow: "If any man would be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

We are the devotees of the easy way even though everyone in this room knows two important truths. 
1.     The Path to Personal Success Is that of Self-Denial. 
2.     Self-Denial Is Essential to the Salvation of the World.
___________________________
Although autumn does not officially start until September 23, we all know that this weekend, Labor Day Weekend, signals the end of summer. The "holiday" season is over. It is time to "get back to work" Tuesday morning. And we all, all generations, know it - whether we are in kindergarten class or on a corporate totem pole. After Labor Day it is "business as usual." No more holidays.
Holidays used to be "holy days," times to mark the moment by calendar days which paid special attention to historic happenings, commemorated special events, and celebrated significant milestones. Instead of acknowledging the sacrifice of the saints, this weekend is all about one last barbecue, one last swim in the lake, or maybe one last packing up a kid heading off to college. It is a "holiday" that is important, but not really a "holy day." 
One of the least celebrated, but most participated in "holidays" in the United States falls on April 17, although it is "moveable feast," depending on who is in office and how active our politicians. It will probably get pushed back a few days more in the next several years, but right now the "holiday" of note falls on April 17. 

Anyone know what I'm talking about? It is "Tax Freedom Day." From January 1 through April 17 all the income you earn goes to pay your taxes. Not a fun fact. But as of April 17, or 18, or 19, depending upon your tax bracket, you are free. For the rest of the year you are working, and earning a living, to support your own family, to pay down your own mortgage, to keep your own bills from taking over your life. But for 107 days of the year, everyone is working to pay off their taxes. And we're not the only ones. Someone described London as filled with "the exhausted, the timid. The burgled, raped, assaulted. Overtaxed. Under-­rewarded. Choked on thin air. Allergic to everything."
Not good. Yet that is definitely NOT the biggest crimp in our lives. The tax crunch is not the biggest elephant­-in-the­-room blocking our creativity and missional life. We might spend 107 days or almost one third of a year paying off our federal tax bills, but we spend the rest of the year, except for a few brief "holiday" moments, paying "time taxes." Life imposes "time taxes"...
___________________________ 
It Is Not I 

It is said that St. Augustine was accosted one day on the street by a former mistress sometime after he had become a Christian. When he saw her he turned and walked the other way. Surprised, the woman called out, "Augustine, it is I". Augustine as he kept going the other way, answered her, "Yes, but it is not I." 


It is an amusing story - one that comes close to making the same point the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer made when he wrote "When Christ calls a man to follow him, he calls him to die." 
Richard J. Fairchild, "In the Way or on the Way"
_______________________________
Taking Risks for Faith 

It doesn't seem to me that many of us are risking very much for our faith. I once heard someone describe the average Christian today in terms of a person dressed in a deep-sea diving suit, oxygen mask firmly in place, marching resolutely into the bathroom to pull the plug out of the bathtub. An old slogan says: "Expect great things from God; Attempt great things for God." We're pretty good at the first; not so hot with the second.

Remember the words of Shakespeare: "Our doubts are traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win, By fearing to attempt." (Measure for Measure, I, iv.) Peter at least dared to attempt.
Donald B. Strobe, Collected Words, www.Sermons.com
________________________
Costly Grace

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all he his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. 
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God. 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
______________________________
You Can't Take the Cross 

Recently I ran across a story that absolutely amazed me... and yet it's a story that may well represent the "cater-culture-give-'em-what-they-want world" in which we now live. A church wanted to improve attendance at their major worship services, so they hired a powerful advertising agency to come in, study their situation, and make recommendations.
The ad agency did their research... and then suggested to the church that they should get rid of all the crosses in the church... because the crosses might send a negative message to prospective young worshippers!

Now, I'm sure that in its history, that advertising agency has come up with some brilliant ideas... but, in my opinion, that was not one of them! We can't get rid of the cross! We don't want to get rid of the cross. The cross is the dramatic symbol of our faith, hope, love, and forgiveness. The cross is the powerful reminder of God's sacrificial and redemptive love for us. And the cross is the constant signal to us of how God wants us to live and love today... as sacrificial servants. We are not called to be prima donnas... We are called to be servants. We are called to take up the mission of Christ... and to emulate the servant spirit of our Lord. 

James W. Moore, Choosing the Way to the Cross
____________________________
Your Place is Behind Jesus 

One of the early church fathers, a man named Origen, suggested that when Jesus said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan," what he actually meant was, "Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It's your job to follow me in the way I choose, not to try to lead me in the way YOU would like me to go." Certainly what Jesus said immediately after his rebuke of Peter would support that interpretation. He told all of his disciples, including Peter, that not only did HE have a task that was set before him by God, but that THEY also had work to do. "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me," Jesus said. "Get on this new thrill ride with me. There will be many dangerous twists and turns in the tracks, but I promise you it will never be dull. It will mean putting someone other than yourself first, being concerned not so much with what YOU want, but what God wants for you. It won't be easy and sometimes it won't be much fun, but it will never be boring."
Johnny Dean, Life on the Roller Coaster
________________________________
He's Going to Make It Hard on You 

Bob Hodges, a Presbyterian minister in Rogersville, Tennessee, tells about duck hunting with a friend of his on Cherokee Lake in East Tennessee. His friend, Riley, who had just recently given his life to Christ, began to ask some serious questions about his Christian pilgrimage. Riley's old friends were making it very difficult for him to remain consistent in his obedience and commitment to Christ. They seemed to delight in trying to get him to fall back into the old patterns of life. They ridiculed him for spending so much time with "the preacher." Riley asked, "Why is it that I'm having more trouble since I became a Christian than I ever did when I was lost? Everything seems to go wrong. I'm having such a struggle!"

Bob Hodges spoke up, "I'll tell you why, Riley. A couple of ducks fly over and you shoot. You kill one and injure the other. They both fall into the lake. What do you do? You have to get out of the boat and go pick up the ducks, but which one do you go after first?"

"Well," Riley drawled, "that's easy. I go after the injured one first. The dead one ain't goin' nowhere!"

Hodges said, "And that's the way it is with the devil. He goes after injured Christians. He's not going to bother with the man dead in his sin. But the minute you give your life to Christ, you'd better get ready; the devil is going to come after you. He is going to chase you; he's going to make it hard on you." 
King Duncan, www.Sermons.com, adapted from Don Emmitte
____________________________________
A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain. 
Mildred Witte Struven
______________________________
Our Logo 

Marketing experts are always quick to tell start-up businesses how important it is to develop a corporate logo. "Brand identity" they call it, pointing out that symbols serve to generate not only product familiarity but also identification with the overall philosophy of an organization. As the authors of one book on logo design state, "The success of any business or organization lies in its ability to persuade its audience to do what it wants. The ultimate goal of any designer when creating a logo is, of course, to develop a rhetorical and informative mark - one that not only identifies the company and its business, but also helps persuade viewers to respond in a specified manner."
For Christians and other religious groups we might agree that the same holds true. The old adage, "a picture's worth a thousand words" reminds us that even around the spiritual dimensions of our lives we can be consistently and powerfully moved by a single sign or symbol. For the Jewish people it is often the Star of David, for Buddhists, the figure of their enlightened teacher, and for us as Christians the central "logo" of our life together is the cross, that sacred sign of God's sacrifice offered through Christ. Through this marking we're continually reminded of God's undying love for the world and of our call to love and serve one another throughout the course of our earthly existence. 
Lael P. Murphy, Come Survey the Wondrous Cross as a Symbol of Our History
______________________________________
The Sacrifice Play 

Sacrifice is not a word we use much these days, is it? When was the last time you used it or thought about it in terms of your own life? When was the last time you sacrificed anything for anybody? Come to think about it, there's only one sport as far as I know where the term is actually used. Do you know which sport that is? You can almost hear Harry Cary announcing it over the radio, "And there it goes, a long fly ball to left; easy out, but the man on third tags up and trots home. Sacrifice fly."
What a great idea -- you're out, but you helped someone else score a run. Baseball is one of the few sports where you lose but the team still gains. Do you remember the way comedian George Carlin spells it out in his routine about the contrast between the hardness of football and the softness of baseball? He says: In football you Tackle! In baseball, you "catch flies..." In football you Punt! In baseball you "bunt..." Football is played on a Gridiron! Baseball is played on a "field..." In football you Score! In baseball you "go home..." In football you Kill! In baseball you "sacrifice..." 
Baseball may be the only sport where you actually can hear this word. It's one of the few places anywhere that you hear it in a self-centered, take-care-of-yourself, don't-worry-about-anybody-else society...

21 Sunday A -Who do you say I am

Andrew Greeley: 
Background:
This story was intended for those followers of Jesus who were worried about the possibility of government persecutions, opposition from other religious groups, and the very slow (as it seemed) progress of Christianity.   
The story says that, as President Roosevelt said when he was inaugurated on 1933, the only thing to fear is fear itself, blind unreasoning terror that paralyzes our every action.   
While the story was told to reassure the very early Christians, it applies to us as much as it did to them. 
Story:

Once upon a time a group of young hikers were  wandering through dense woods. They were singing and having a grand time. As the sun begin to go down, some of them got worried. How are we going to get out of here, they wondered. Their leader, a young woman who was more familiar with the woods better than the others, said confidently don’t worry, I’ll get you out.  I know my way around out here. Well, then it got very cloudy, and there was lightening and thunder and the rain poured down. They ran for cover to an old broken down lean to. It rained for two hours.  

By the time it stopped, it was very dark. The sky was hidden behind clouds and there was no moon to peak out. Blair witch project, someone muttered. One of the girls screamed. One of the boys said there is an animal out there., a big animal and I can hear him. Another girl began to sob and cried out. I’ll never see my family again.  

Take my hand, said the girl who knew her way around. I know the path even in the dark. Well, they stumbled and bumbled through the forest, tripping on tree roots and bumping up against trees, and hearing all kinds of witch like noises. They all blamed their leader for getting them lost. Some said she was going in the wrong direction and threatened to start out on their own, but they were afraid to do that. Then they got very mean and nasty. Are we there yet they moaned like little kids in a car. They were about to break away from the leader. She said just a couple of more minutes.  
You know what happened?  

They stumbled out on the road and their SUV was right there.
**********
ILLUSTRATIONS: 
From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 
1.     What is in a name?
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The Journal of the American Medical Association did a study on the names of people in the medical profession in the United States. Doctors’ names included: Needle, Probe, Lance, Ligate, Drill, Scope, Bolt, Pin, Croak and Klutz. On the up side, we find physicians named Fix, Cure, Heal, Brilliant, Able and Best. A vet’s name is Dr. Fish. There is an Episcopal priest in New York City named Donald Goodness. Do names make a difference? Can a person’s name determine his or her destiny? If you had the choice, would you pick Dr. Brilliant or Dr. Klutz? Many actors will take a stage name because their real name is considered unattractive, dull, or amusing for the wrong reason, or because it projects the wrong image, or is considered too “ethnic.” Today’s gospel describes how Jesus who gave Simon a new name Peter made him the bedrock foundation of his Church 
2.      "Suppose Jesus were to come here."
Without the 19th century essayist Charles Lamb, William Shakespeare would be “missing in action.” It was Mr. Lamb's essays that snatched the 17th century playwright from undeserved obscurity after he had been famous for Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes. One night Lamb and his guests were chatting about the Bard over Spanish port and Cuban cigars. "Supposing," one asked Lamb, "Shakespeare were to stroll into our dining room at this moment." The essayist replied, "We would raise a glass of port to the great man." "Supposing," asked another, "Jesus were to come here." Lamb answered, "We would all get down on our knees.” There is the essential difference between the Man from Nazareth and all other great people you can think of. The Christ is God and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but fools strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exit.” (Fr. Gilhooly) 
3.     Mount Rushmore National Memorial:
When one thinks of South Dakota, one thinks of Mount Rushmore. Carved into the mountainside by Gutzon Borglum are the heads of some of the great leaders of the United States. It's ironic that this monument is in the heart of an area sacred to the Lakota and Dakota people whose ancestors possessed the land centuries before George Washington's family came to America. Thousands of Americans visit Mount Rushmore each year. Many come away with flags, patriotic symbols and T- shirts reading, "God Bless America." Perhaps they feel a rush of pride and make resolutions to be better Americans in the future. Let us remember that Christians are part of the rock. Jesus built his Church on the rock of Peter as a reward for his great confession of faith in the divinity of Christ. The members of the Church are given a new face on the same rock, the face of Jesus, as they proclaim his love, mercy, forgiveness in their daily lives. 
4.     Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador,
assassinated in 1980 while defending Jesus, said eloquently: "Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed or laws to be obeyed. Rather, Christianity is a person. Christianity is Christ." 
5.     "To draw out all his savings?"
A teacher was giving her students a lesson in logic. "Here is the situation," she said. "A man is standing up in a boat in the middle of a river, fishing. He loses his balance, falls in, and begins splashing and yelling for help. His wife in her riverside house hears the commotion, knows he can’t swim, and runs down to the bank. Why do you think she ran to the bank instead of calling for help?" A girl raised her hand and asked, "To draw out all his savings?" In today’s gospel, the disciples are faced with a similar situation – like being in class when the teacher asks a very important question. We want to seem intelligent so we blurt out an answer – not always the right one – but an answer nonetheless. In today’s gospel lesson Peter blurts out an answer that is theologically correct, inspired and amazing.  
6.     Fr. Herbert O’Driscoll uses a wonderful image to explain the structure of the Church.
His idea is to look at all of the last 20 centuries as rings of time, or as concentric circles of time. Today's Christians, in the 21st century, are in the outermost circle, farthest away from the center – which is a Cross. We are brought into the circle, into the faith, in large part because somewhere, somehow, someone in the circle just before ours took us by the hand and said, “Come,” and so drew us in. That is one very important reason why we are here. That person was able to do this for us because someone had taken him or her by the hand and had drawn that person in. And so it went, back through all the centuries until we reach the hands that had actually touched the mark of the nails. In this way, Christ builds his church. We constantly re-live this Gospel story. When we say to Jesus, “You are the Christ,” he says to each of us—“You, too, are Peter, you too, are a rock, and with you, also, I am building my church.” What happened to Peter continues to happen and actually includes us. 

7.     "But how did the other ear get burned?":
On Sunday morning a man showed up at church with both his ears terribly blistered, so his pastor asked, "WHAT happened to YOU?" "I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear." "How dreadful," gasped the pastor. "But how did the other ear get burned?" "Well, you see, I'd no sooner hung up and the guy called back!" He just didn't get it. Lots of folks never get it, never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That's why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us — so insistently in today’s Gospel: "Do you understand who I am," he asks, "and what my being here means for you?" (Msgr. Dennis Clarke)
***********
From Sermons.com 

Jesus and his disciples ventured into the District of Caesarea Philippi, an area about 25 miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The region had tremendous religious implications. The place was littered with the temples of the Syrian gods. Here also was the elaborate marble temple that had been erected by Herod the Great, father of the then ruling Herod Antipas. Here also was the influence of the Greek gods. Here also the worship of Caesar as a God himself. You might say that the world religions were on display in this town. It was with this scene in the background that Jesus chose to ask the most crucial questions of his ministry.

He looked at his disciples and in a moment of reflection said: "Who do men say that I am?" The disciples begin sharing with Jesus what they have heard from the people who have been following Jesus: Some say that you are Elijah; others say John the Baptist, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. It's always been this way, Jesus as seen by the masses is seen in so many different ways.

You can speak of Jesus as prophet, holy man, teacher, or spiritual leader, and few will object. But speak of Him as Son of God, divine, of the same nature as the Father, and people will line up to express their disapproval.

Who do people say he is? Who do you say he is? And what are we called to do? Let's take a look at the answers to these three questions... 
___________________________
Sin is less something we succumb to or fall into than it is something we are seduced by. And the greatest seduction is pride. Pride is holy halitosis. Like all bad breath, you're the last person to know you have it. 

Last week in Zurich, the pride of a gold medal champion, a 3000 meter steeplechase runner, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. French runner Mahidine Mekhissi, already a two time European champion, found himself in the final 100 meters of his race. He was well ahead of the rest of the pack. After a long backwards glance confirmed his apparent victory over the trailing field of runners, Mekhissi began to celebrate early. He stripped off his jersey. With the jersey went his identifying race number. He put the jersey and number in his mouth as he cavorted to the finish line, taunting his competitors with the pride of victory. 


Mekhissi's antics did not sit well with his colleagues. Or the race authorities. After multiple complaints were filed by the other competitors, Mekhissi was disqualified. He won. But he lost. He won the race. But he lost the game. Mekhissi was so proud of his prowess that he managed to turn a clear victory into a humiliating defeat. 


The line between pride as honor and pride as hubris is often a hair's breadth distance. The honors that come with personal accomplishments are worthy and welcome. Showcasing one's successes is a bit trickier. Proving one's skills and self-worth in action is one thing. Proclaiming in words one's worthiness to the world is another. 


Our reading for this morning is a portion of Paul's communication to a Gentile congregation in the heart of Rome... 
_________________________
The Authority of the Church 

There is general agreement that the phrase "the gates of Hades" is poetic language for the power of death (see Isa. 38:10). What is meant is that the congregation of the new covenant will persist into the age to come despite all the efforts of the powers of darkness to destroy it. "The gates of Hades" may here represent a defensive posture: death will strive to hold in its prison house all who have entered its gates, but the Messiah's congregation will triumphantly storm the gates and rescue those destined for the life of the age to come. 


Douglas R.A. Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, John Knox Press,1993, p.191
__________________________________
Without the Struggle, There Are No Wings 

A family brought in two cocoons that were about to hatch. They watched as the first one began to open and the butterfly inside squeezed very slowly and painfully through a tiny hole that it chewed in one end of the cocoon. After lying exhausted for about ten minutes following its agonizing emergence, the butterfly finally flew out the open window on its beautiful new wings.

The family decided to help the second butterfly so that it would not have to go through such an excruciating ordeal. So, as it began to emerge, they carefully sliced open the cocoon with a razor blade, doing the equivalent of a Caesarean section. The second butterfly never did sprout wings, and in about ten minutes, instead of flying away, it quietly died.

The family asked a biologist friend to explain what had happened. The scientist said that the difficult struggle to emerge from the small hole actually pushes liquids from deep inside the butterfly's body cavity into tiny capillaries in the wings where they hardened to complete the healthy and beautiful adult butterfly. The lesson? WITHOUT THE STRUGGLE, THERE ARE NO WINGS.
 


Collected Sermons, David E. Leininger
_______________________
The Triumph of Jesus 

In 1896, after fifteen centuries, Athens renewed the Olympic Games, thus fulfilling the dream of Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France. You can imagine how proud the Greeks were to host the first modern Olympics. You can also imagine how disappointed they were at their athletes' lack of success in event after event.

The last competition was the marathon. Greece's entrant was named Louis, a shepherd without competitive background. He'd trained alone in the hills near his flock. When the race started, Louis was far back in the pack of marathoners. But as the miles passed he moved up steadily. One by one the leaders began to falter. The Frenchman fell in agony. The hero from the United States had to quit the race. Soon, word reached the stadium that a lone runner was approaching the arena, and the emblem of Greece was on his chest! As the excitement grew, Prince George of Greece hurried to the stadium entrance where he met Louis and ran with him to the finish line.

In this sports tale we have something of the history of the human race. Most historical figures make their impact, achieve a measure of fame, books are written about them, but as the years go by they begin to fade. Less and less is written or spoken of their lives until they rest in relative obscurity.

With Jesus Christ, however, one finds quite an opposite phenomena! Christ started from way back in the pack. He was born in relative obscurity, never had many followers, commanded no army, erected no edifices, wrote no books. He died young, was buried in a borrowed grave, and you'd think he'd be quickly forgotten.

But, no! His reputation has grown so that today he is worshiped on every continent, has more followers than ever before, sixteen times has his picture been on the cover of Time magazine, and his sayings have been translated into more than 200 languages.
 


Stephen M. Crotts / George L. Murphy, Sermons For Sundays: After Pentecost (Middle Third): The Incomparable Christ, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
___________________________
Call Him God 

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis addressed the inclination to say nice things about Jesus, but to stop short of calling him God. 


He wrote, "I am here trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any of that patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. Nor did he intend to." 


C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, MacMillan, 1943, p. 55-56, with thanks to Paul Janke
_______________________________________
 Public Notions of Jesus' Identity 

Some, said Peter, say that you are Elijah. Now why would people think that Jesus was the long deceased prophet Elijah. Elijah was, of course, a highly revered personality in the religious life of the Hebrews. His defeat of the 450 prophets of Baal on the top of Mt. Carmel was a story that was known even by the little children. It was a commonly held belief among the Hebrews that one day Elijah would return and that would mark the end of the world. In the very last passage in the Old Testament, in the Book of Malachi, we find these words: "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes." 


Most of you have read Charles Schultz's comic strip Peanuts. One day we see that the television is on but there is no one in the room listening to it. The announcer is talking about a golf tournament that is in process. He says: Smith has to make this putt to win the championship. There will be no tomorrow." And just as he says, "There will be no tomorrow," in walks Lucy. She immediately goes into a panic and starts running around and yelling to the other children: The world is coming to an end. They just announced it on television. Her panic quickly spreads as we see all the peanuts kids as they go wildly screaming about. Finally in the last square we see all of the children huddled on top of Snoopy's doghouse waiting for the end of the world. And Charlie Brown finally speaks up with a puzzled voice: I thought that Elijah was supposed to come back first." 


Well Charlie Brown knew his Bible. Elijah was supposed to come back before the end time. When the disciples told Jesus that some people thought he was Elijah, they were expressing a common thought among the people that the end was very near. 


_______________________
A Point of Reference 

The state highway department in Pennsylvania once set out to build a bridge working from both sides. When the workers reached the middle of the waterway, they found they were thirteen feet to one side of each other. Albert Steinberg, writing some time ago in the Saturday Evening Post, went on to explain that each crew of workmen had used its own reference point. No wonder they did not connect.

In that same article Steinberg tells about a small disc on the Meades Ranch in north central Kansas where the thirty-ninth parallel from the Atlantic to the Pacific crosses the ninety-eighth meridian running from Canada to the Rio Grande. The National Oceanic Survey, a small federal agency whose business it is to locate the exact positions of every point in the United States, uses the scientifically recognized reference point on the Meades Ranch. So far, no mistakes have been made, and none are expected. All ocean liners and commercial planes come under the survey. The government can build no dams or even launch a missile without this agency to tell it the exact location to the very inch. "Location by approximation," the article goes on to say, "can be costly and dangerous."

That's why there is so much chaos in our society today. Everyone's using their own reference point. What we need is a universal reference point so that we can say, "Here. Here is how the good life is lived."

For Christians there is such a reference point - and that is Jesus. What would Jesus do? That is the question that continually helps us in our quest for right living. Jesus not only revealed the character of God but he also patterned the ideal life for humanity. 


King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
________________________
 One Generation Away from Extinction
 
It has been pointed out that the Church is always one generation from extinction. If we don't spread the Gospel, it will be just one generation away from disappearing from the face of the earth. It's a compelling idea, isn't it? It enhances our sense of Christian responsibility. We need to get out there and work for the Gospel or the Church could fade into history.

Perhaps you have heard the old story about Jesus appearing in heaven just after his resurrection. Jesus is giving a progress report on all that has happened while he was on earth. Moses is there and he asks him, "Well Jesus, did you leave things in capable hands?" 


Jesus responds, "I did. I have left behind Mary and Martha and Peter and the other disciples."


Moses said, "What if they fail?"
Jesus said, "Well, I have established the Church and filled it with the Holy Spirit and they will carry on."

And Moses said, "What if they fail?"
Came the reply, "I have no other plan." 

There's a great tension there. God is at work here in our church but we've been given the keys of the Kingdom. We have work to do and Christ calls us to it. The prophet Micah put it this way: "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with thy God." 


Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
________________________________
 People See Things Differently

 People see things differently all the time. For example, three people - a minister, an archaeologist, and a cowboy - were getting their first look at the Grand Canyon one day. The minister exclaimed, "Truly this is one of the glories of God!" The archaeologist commented, "What a wonder of nature this is!" And the cowboy said, "Can you imagine trying to find a lost steer in there?" People see things differently.

The Messianic hope of those in the Jewish community who held such a belief was that the Chosen One would reestablish the supremacy of Israel among the great nations of the world. The assumption was that this would be accomplished in a violent and vengeful manner, with the forceful overthrow and total destruction of the current ruling powers. But before this happened, the prophet Elijah would return to herald the coming of the Chosen One. As a result of these hopes, Jesus had to somehow communicate to his disciples and others who had such high hopes for him that what he was offering was something completely different from what they expected.