September 16, 2018 Proper 19B

Isaiah 50:4-9
4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may
know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he
wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.  5 The
Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn
backward.  6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks
to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from
insult and spitting.  7 The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not
been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know
that I shall not be put to shame;  8 he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my
adversaries? Let them confront me.  9 It is the Lord GOD who helps
me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a
garment; the moth will eat them up.

Letter of James 3:1-12
3Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and
sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater
strictness.  2 For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes
no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in
check with a bridle. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make
them obey us, we guide their whole bodies.  4 Or look at ships:
though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them,
yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the
pilot directs.  5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of
great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!  6 And
the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a
world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of
nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.  7 For every species of beast
and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been
tamed by the human species,  8 but no one can tame the tongue—a

restless evil, full of deadly poison.  9 With it we bless the Lord and
Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of
God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers
and sisters, this ought not to be so.  11 Does a spring pour forth from
the same opening both fresh and brackish water?  12 Can a fig tree,
my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more
can salt water yield fresh.

Gospel of Mark 8:27-38
27 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?”  28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others,
Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”  29 He asked them, “But
who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the
Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about
him.
31 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.  32 He said
all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke
him.  33 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.”
34 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.  35 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.  36 For what will it profit them to gain
the whole world and forfeit their life?  37 Indeed, what can they give in
return for their life?  38 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.”
+ + + + +

Try as we might, we can’t escape thinking
about the perception others have of us.
It’s normal. It’s human.
And, it can be healthy or not.
When ‘what others think’ becomes our
driving force, we lose our integrity.
Behaving as others would have us do, speaking in ways that make us
feel included, and purchasing items to fit in or impress the neighbors
reveal a need to find one’s truest self.
Yet, thinking about how others perceive us
can reveal the connection or disconnect between our actions and
words and our core values and loyalties, including one’s faith.
As the Apostle James writes: Words (and
actions) are powerful. They either convey or deny the faith we
profess.
We can guide our pondering with two questions:
How am I impacting the lives of my human
family, those around me and those afar?
Does my faith make any difference?
Jesus asked similar questions
to his disciples.
Once again, Jesus traveled into Gentile territory.
He and his disciples walked the villages surrounding the great city
that lay north of the Sea of Galilee, Caesarea Philippi.
Then they entered the imperial city,
a city of Roman power and Greek influence,

a city dedicated to the Roman Emperor,
a city devoted Emperor worship
and the Greek god Pan,
a city once the center of worship to the Semite gods Baal.

It was there Jesus asked his questions.
In foreign territory dominated by
barbaric Romans,
in a bustling city of diverse people
holding many various beliefs and values,
Jesus asked:
“Who do people say that I am?”
Afterwards, Jesus looked into the eyes
of his disciples, asking:
“And, who do you say that I am?”
The spontaneous reply came from
the rowdy, reactive Peter:
“You are the Messiah.”
Peter responded, but didn’t comprehend
God’s will for the Messiah.
After Jesus taught the disciples that
God’s Messiah will face rejection, suffering, death and resurrection, he told
them to keep it a secret for now.
But Peter emphatically told Jesus to stop.
Peter didn’t want to hear God’s truth.
It’s reminiscent of the people of Judah
in Babylonian captivity

rejecting and physically abusing
the prophet Isaiah
for proclaiming God’s hope and truth.
Peter had the misperception
that the Messiah would follow
the example of King David
and be a warrior king sent by God
to save Israel from it’s enemies.
But Jesus would have none of that.
Jesus said to Peter:
Get away from me, Deceiver.
You’re thinking of yourself not about God.
Jesus took the opportunity to let everyone know
that a life devoted to following
the Messiah would not be easy.
It is a life of self-giving and suffering
for the sake of God’s love for others.
It is the path of gratitude, blessings and joy,
and the way of the cross.
Yet, to reject this life,
is to reject life in the glorious presence of God.

Back to the earlier questions I posed:
How am I, how are you
impacting the lives of our human family,
those around us and those afar?

Does our faith in Jesus Christ
make any difference in the way
we think, act, live and give?

In closing, I’d like to share an excerpt
from Sharron Blezard’s article,
“This Is Good News?”
“The way of the cross is not about self-
flagellation, destructive behaviors, or
irresponsible actions. It’s not even about pie-in-the-sky eschatology or the
threat of being left behind.
Following Jesus and denying self is about
something much more demanding…
It’s about a 100 percent commitment to use your gifts, skills, talents, and
resources to share the gospel and live into God’s reign right now.
Following Jesus is about publicly proclaiming
with your life’s witness that Jesus matters—more than anything else—
and in him is the source and wellspring of abundant life.
Life with Jesus at the center is full of the things
that money, power and prestige never provide.

With Jesus comes real love, limitless hope,
deep relationship, radical generosity,
and true power in the upside-down,
inside-out vision of God’s ultimate design
for this world.
All-in discipleship is a choice to yoke to Christ

in, with, and among a body of fellow believers that is imperfect, sinful,
redeemed, dying and rising daily to new life,
and wholly committed to being the hands and feet
and heart of our Lord Jesus
right now in a particular place.
It’s the beloved community that together
loses individuality to take up this new way
of being more than we could ever hope
to be alone.”
—Sharron R. Blezard, “This Is Good News?” at
stewardshipoflife.org (2/26/15)