Friday, September 5, 2008
August 31, 2008 Proper 17 Psalm 43
Judge me, God, and contend my contention from a people not of loving-kindness; from a man of deceit and twisted, let me escape. For You–God, my Fortress, Why do You spit me out? Why do I dress as a mourner walking in the oppression of an enemy? Send Your Light and Your Truth, cause them to lead me; and cause them to bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place. And I will come to the altar of God, to the God of my great joy; and thank You on a lyre, God, my God. Why are you bowed low, my soul; and do you groan in me? Wait upon God; for yet I will thank Him, Savior of my face--My God.
How do you really know that you are on the right track? How can you be sure that the way you are thinking is the best way to think? How can you be certain that the things you are doing are the most beneficial for you and for others? Well, Peter shows us in today's Gospel how not to think or speak as we ought, that's for sure. But the Psalmist today gives us the best answer: that God act first, to send His Light and His Truth, causing them to lead us into the best thoughts, words & actions.
The first thing never to try first is emotions. Sometimes we are tempted to trust our gut, and think, speak & act based on how we feel. Many a failed marriage starts out this way, for example. But as soon as the honeymoon is over and the sentiments of bride & groom begin to change, they think that they aren't *in love* anymore, and seek to break up. How sad that so many today fail to remember that it is *God* who joins together husband & wife, and keeps them together for better or worse.
Peter certainly *felt* that Jesus' imminent suffering & death wasn't appropriate. "Lord have mercy on you" is what he literally says to Jesus. Though Peter felt that Jesus should get the mercy, he failed to see a greater mercy, the loving-kindness of God coming to him & to all people at the +. There, Jesus would give up His body to death, & shed His blood for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins. That same body & blood He gives us to eat & drink this day for your forgiveness, life & salvation.
A second place we should never begin is with logic. What seems right to our simple minds is often not what is best. Like when we think that we know how to grow our church. We are tempted to treat it like a marketplace, seeking to get folks to make their decision to come here in their church shopping. "If we only give folks what they want, we can fill the pews." But this thinking quickly forgets that it is God Who decides to give faith to people, & it is He Who causes them to come to church in the end.
Peter thought it illogical for the Messiah to die. What good would a dead God be, after all? But Peter was not speaking God's word of truth. The devil spoke through him, words of deception. So when God says something, by faith, we simply take it as truth, regardless of whether it makes sense to us. God proclaims His word to you through the simple human vessel of your Pastor, yet you accept it because it is God's message of love to you in Christ Jesus Who died your death so you may live!
A third place we ought not begin is popular opinion, or common sense. We are tempted to fall into this trap each election cycle. Politicians put their finger to the wind, and then promise whatever the majority of people seem to want. Since it works for our leaders, we follow suit, and try to live our lives in ways that bother the fewest people. But common sense isn't all it's cracked up to be. That's why it is only common. It is not as enlightened as God's rather uncommon way of dealing with us sinners.
Peter falls into this trap as well. He is the spokesmen for the 12, after all. He knows their collective sentiments, and that of the many other followers of Jesus. He speaks the common things of men, and misses the uncommon things of God. Yet this is not an unforgivable sin for Peter. His baptism in the Jordan washes away even this transgression. As does your baptism, much superior to the common everyday washings, for it cleanses you from all unrighteousness in Christ Jesus,.
So before you act or open your mouth and insert your foot, be still a moment and know that the Lord is God. Even before you start to think your own thoughts, pause a bit and consider God's way of thinking first. When God's word of light & truth reminds you that you are a baptized child of God, that you are fed from His family Supper table, and that your ears constantly are hearing of His loving-kindness to you in Christ Jesus, then you are prepared by God for your thinking, speaking & acting.