From the Pastor

esus asked [his disciples], “But 
who do you say that I  am?” Peter 
answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 
And he sternly ordered them not 
to tell anyone about him. 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. (Mark 8:29-31)

When I was in school, taking various 
courses, I loved how the courses 
dove-tailed into each other. Studying 
history, literature, sociology and science 
all at the same time made connections 
between what was being 
discovered and written and done at a 
given place and time interactive. I 
always wanted to study which influenced 
the other first – for example, 
did politics influence writers most, or 
vice versa. How much did each discipline 
influence and direct the others?

On a recent Sunday the Gospel text 
above was coupled with a text from 
James. And two of our small group 
studies, one past and one present, 
all seemed to fall together into a
deeper pattern. Let me explain…

In our recent small group study of the 
Book of James, led by Francis Chan, 
James writes of the dangers associated 
with the tongue. We get an 
example in Mark’s gospel, in that 
Jesus wants to quickly correct what 
the disciples might be saying about 
him and his identity. The expectation 
that the word “Messiah” carried with 
it for the everyday Jew of the era is 
that of conquering hero and great 
general. Jesus, on the other hand,
does a complete reframing when he 
begins to reveal his fate: suffering, 
torture, and death, and further invites 
his disciples to follow him in that 
way: “Take up your cross…”

Of course, Peter can’t help himself, 
as he lets his tongue do the talking, 
taking aside and rebuking (!) Jesus 
(lending reason to James’ cautions 
about the tongue being a powerful
Jesus equates Peter’s rebuke to 
Satan’s maneuvers to get Jesus to 
do God’s will his own way, (cf. the 
temptations in Matthew 4:1-11) by 
wowing the people, first by providing 
bread from stones, then a miraculous 
show of God’s protective power, 
and finally winning back the 
world by the false worship of Satan. 
In this case, Peter’s way is the misunderstanding 
Israel holds that they 
are of supreme importance as far as 
the kingdom is concerned. They 
cannot fathom that God is fighting a 
far bigger battle here, one with sin, 
death and the devil, which have held 
sway so much farther back than simply Rome, Israel’s current masters. 
This battle goes back to Eden, and involves all of humankind. God is dying to reclaim all that is his – literally!

As Jesus corrects his disciples’ understanding of just what the Messiah is all about, I can’t help but wonder just what it is in our belief system and values that he would want to correct. Because in the same way that Peter and the disciples are challenged, first to “not tell anyone about him,” ostensibly since their portrayal of him is incorrect and
limited, perhaps our portrayal of Jesus is also limited, by our world view, our narrow understanding of what God is really about, what have you. Perhaps I have a view of Jesus that is just as shallow – you know “Jesus and me” rather than Jesus for the world. And then, just maybe we don’t know what it means to take up our cross in a culture in which we have been so completely enmeshed. In our current small group study, In
the Dust of the Rabbi with Ray Vander Laan, we are being challenged to think of ourselves as believers who are counter-cultural, who in the image and likeness of Christ
present to a very complex and competitive world a simple love for God and for one another that is exemplary and thus desirable for others to participate in.

So here’s the question all of this raises: What might our actions and words be saying about Jesus that he would caution us not to do or say? And another is like it: What message and image about Jesus do we hope to portray to a world desperately in need of him? Maybe Jesus is reframing us for ministry in our world as we consider what it means to represent him to the folks around us. After all, “You are the only Jesus some people will ever see.” The scripture say it this way, ‘No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us’ (1 John 4:12).

Power to you,
Pastor Pastor Pat

October 2018
Caring, Growing, Serving
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