[Children’s “sermon”: In today’s lesson Jesus asks his disciples who people say he is and then he asks them who do you say I am? They say he is God’s Messiah—that is, a very special leader. More than anything else, Jesus loved all the people and wanted them to be and do who and what God made them to be and do.
If Jesus were sitting here instead of me, He would want you also to be and do who and what God made you to be and do.
So who are you and what did God create to to do? What do you like? What are you good at? What do you find fun and interesting? Do you like to create? Do you enjoy reading? Are you curious about the way things work or why people do and say the things they do? What is your favorite part of school? What do you like to do when you are with a friend or when you have the choice to do what you want? We all have different abilities.
Genesis tells us we are made in the image of God. We are able to love. We can make choices that help the people, animals, and plants around us as much as they help us.
Our Baptism tells us we are a children of God. But we sometimes forget that God is with us, don’t we? Sometimes we forget to love.
But real love does not depend on what we do or think. It depends on who we are. Because you are, you are loved. It’s a freebie. God loves everyone. No one left out. Everyone here is important. At school, all the other kids are important. No one left out.
That’s what it means that Jesus is the Messiah and that is what he wanted his disciples to remember. Everybody matters—no exceptions.]
Jesus’ message of the kingdom, the reign of God is that it is grounded in God’s gifts of justice and mercy. If we live in the reign of God, we have nothing to fear and we have courage to live. There are no substitutions for a life grounded in God’s gifts. Such a life in God is about mutual relationships not just with a few people but with every living thing. The reign of God is about sharing, not grasping. It’s about courageous self-giving love—offering ourselves freely as best as we are able. Sometimes we can give a lot. Sometimes we just can’t. I imagine the foundation of it all is compassionate humility.
Peter reveals one poor substitute for being grounded in God’s mercy and justice in today’s gospel lesson. He rebukes Jesus who has just been telling the disciples he will suffer and die rather than call it quits. Peter had some alternate ideas for Jesus to consider but Jesus knew that the way of love and peace for him would be the way of sacrifice. Jesus rebukes Peter and tells him to remember the priorities of the reign of God (love, everybody matters—no exceptions). The ultimate goal is God’s justice and mercy, not Jesus’ or Peter’s personal gratification or comfort. Peter is confused, just like the rest of us. Then Jesus tells everyone, us included, that if anyone wants to follow him they need to also take up the difficult, painful way of sacrificial love rather than settle for just looking out for their own wellbeing, which really doesn’t work in the end anyway.
James reminds us of another substitute for living in God’s justice and mercy--to use conversations not for building up others, but ourselves. It is easy to forget the cause of love as we fearfully shore up our own inadequacies and anxieties. We do it without even thinking. We live in our own world of concerns and we forget about the difficulty of those around us. Humble compassion draws us to love our neighbor by listening to their concerns, fears, and griefs. Conversation can build community and serve to comfort our neighbor as well as ourselves. But only if we are mindful of the need to remember the other first, to be mindful of our tendency to follow Peter’s way rather than Jesus’ way.
God give us courage to love, in our words, our thoughts, as we set aside our forgetful ways and find the path of freedom. Amen.