Proper 17A – Matthew 16:21-28
“And on the third day be raised.”
What would you say if I told you that every day is the third day? What would you think if I told you that resurrection is happening every day everywhere? What if I told you that resurrection is happening even in the current political, economic, and racial struggles of today; even in the midst of the pandemic; and even in our divisions and disagreements about who we are and the values we hold?
Well, consider yourselves told because it is. Resurrection is happening.
Can you see it? Are you experiencing it? Is it real for you? If so, what does it look like? Where are you seeing life and more life? What difference is resurrection making in your life today?
And if you can’t see it and aren’t experiencing it, if it’s not real for you, why not? Are you standing with Peter in the “God forbid it” place?
I’ve stood next to Peter and echoed his words more times than I’d like to admit. Maybe you have too. I can only guess at what’s going on in Peter when he says what he does, but I can tell you what it is for me. I’m trying to reshape my life and world to be like I want it to be rather than facing and dealing with what is before me. I want to escape and run away. I’m in denial and sometimes delusion. I’m tired and worn out. I’m anxious and afraid. I feel overwhelmed and powerless. I feel responsible for fixing everything and assume it’s all up to me. I feel like life is a racket and I’m the ball.
Does any of that sound familiar? What’s the “God forbid it” place like for you?
Every time we stand in the “God forbid it” place we are full of forgetfulness.
- We forget that Jesus came that we “may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10);
- We forget that he is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25);
- We forget that he is “the light” (John 8:12) the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5);
- We forget his words, “Take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33);
- We forget that he is “with [us] always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20);
- We forget his promise, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you” (John 14:18); and
- We forget that he is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
Mostly, though, I think we forget that resurrection is not only or even primarily about what happens after our physical death. We forget that resurrection is a present reality happening in the ordinary and everyday circumstances of our lives, that there is no place, no time, no circumstance in which resurrection is not happening. We are setting our “mind not on divine things but on human things,” and we have forgotten all the things Jesus has shown, told, and taught us.
So maybe we need to rethink what resurrection means and looks like. Maybe we need a new understanding of resurrection. Maybe we need to start looking for resurrection in places we never thought about before.
When messengers from John the Baptist ask Jesus if he is the one they’ve been waiting for, the Messiah, the Christ, he tells them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them” (Luke 7:22).
In a recent article the Rev. Dr. Jane Patterson explains that Jesus’ response is not a list of miracles. It’s a guide for recognizing the life-giving power of God at work in the world:
- People are enabled to see and hear what is true without obstruction;
- People who had been excluded and marginalized are at the center of concern;
- Those who had given up hope are finding life;
- An end to poverty is heralded.
(Jane Patterson, “Jesus and the Good Citizen,” 08/20/2020)
Where do you see those things happening today? What does resurrection look like in our country and our lives today? What have you seen and heard?
I recently saw resurrection happening when women and men of professional basketball, baseball, and other sports refused to play. It happened that day Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus and the day Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis stepped onto that bridge in Selma, Alabama.
Last week a young woman I have been helping through money you gave to my pastoral care account drove to South Dakota with a court order and regained custody of her daughter who had been taken and withheld from her the past three months. Their lives were changed and their relationship was restored. That’s resurrection.
A couple of months ago a gentleman sent me half of his coronavirus stimulus check with a note saying, “I’ll be ok. Use this to help someone.” He was attuned and awake to the needs of others, compassion became action, and resurrection happened.
When Jeff called me and said, “Mike, mom’s cancer is in remission,” that was a moment of resurrection.
I see it every time an individual speaks up and steps out for justice and the dignity of another person, when we offer or receive forgiveness, when we recommit to a relationship, when someone goes to her or his first twelve step meeting, when we get through a time in our life we never thought we would. And the list goes on and on.
I don’t want to stand in that old forgetful “God forbid it” place. And I don’t want you to either. I want us to stand together in a new “God forbid it” place, a different place from which we see, remember, and act or, as I said last week, show our work.
God forbid it that we would become the great stone, the rock – or in the Greek, the petros, the peter – that covers the tomb and denies resurrection to another or ourselves.
God forbid it that we would ignore, close our eyes to, or turn away from the hopes and needs of another.
God forbid it that our words, actions, or attitudes would impoverish the life of another or diminish her or his dignity.
God forbid it that we would speak or act with anything other than love and compassion.
God forbid it that we would settle for easy answers, half-truths, or presume to have all the truth.
God forbid it that we would come here each Sunday not expecting the dead to be raised.
God forbid it that we would see each new day as anything but the third day.
God forbid it. God forbid it all.
Now let’s – you and I – forbid it too.