Thursday, February 07, 2013

Take up Your Cross: This Seminary Gig is HARD WORK

Today, I got the opportunity to preach in chapel at school. I forgot to record it, but I thought I would share the text with you anyway. Enjoy!

Mark 8:27-9:1
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
27 And 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 told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” [1]

Someone asked me recently if I’m enjoying seminary. I found that to be a very difficult question. I didn’t want to give them the wrong impression. It’s not that I dislike seminary. It’s just that “enjoy” isn’t exactly the term I’d use to describe the feeling. “Enjoy” sounds just a bit too warm and fuzzy.
I enjoy a good summer novel.
I enjoy a morning cup of coffee. 
This – this seminary gig – is hard.  It’s really hard, this world of commentaries and Q and Augustine and exploring your call and your pastoral identity and 2nd aorist passive participles.  What sicko invented those?
How do you explain that to the outside world, though?  Especially when the general public acknowledges that Jesus WAS a pretty good guy, but doesn’t quite seem to get HOW good Jesus IS.
I know I’m not the only student running around here looking pretty frazzled lately.  Classmates have started simply grunting when asked “how are you.”
Juniors, you’ve probably just gotten the feel for the rhythm of things around here. You figured out the academic pace and suddenly they are talking to you about field education - another ball to juggle.
We middlers had just sort of started to figure out how to balance academics and field ed when advent hit like a mac truck. And what seemed to be about five minutes after advent ended. . . Lent and finals seemed to coordinate their appearance to maximize stress.
Seniors, I don’t envy you your ordination exams, resumes, searches for calls, all while still trying to navigate ordination requirements and classwork and families and the outside world.
This is exhausting and it is easy to lose sight of our purpose here if we aren’t careful.
Our passage from today begins with Jesus walking and talking with the disciples. Who do other people say that I am? Who do YOU say that I am?
Based on his miracles and passionate message about the Kingdom of God, the general public had a sense that Jesus was something special, but He wasn’t the kind of Messiah they were expecting. They recognized that He was different, but they missed the point.
The disciples – they believed there was more to Him than that. They were beginning to see a fuller picture of who the Messiah Jesus is.
This business of following a Messiah who was not the Messiah the world expected was going to be tough. This following is a following that goes against the grain.
Lose your life to save it.
Don’t pursue the world: your soul will suffer.
And do not be ashamed of Jesus or of His words- not any of them.
These words are a challenge.  That much is certain.  They challenge our motives. When we take this passage seriously, we have to face the deep dark reasons behind why we do what we do. We have to look at if we really mean it.  We are forced to explore if we’re walking what we’re talking.
This is a hopeful passage too, though in a funny kind of way. It serves not just as a mirror, but as a reminder.  It’s a reminder that the reason we do what we do is Jesus, the Messiah.
When we take a look at this passage and think – REALLY THINK – about why we are doing what we are doing. . . there is a comfort, an assurance that the reason for taking the difficult road is the ultimate reason – we are following Christ, going His way!
Jesus says that if you really want to follow Him, it’s going to be hard. You’re going to have to die to yourself. Compared to what the people Jesus was talking to in this passage were faced with by the ends of their lives, we have it pretty easy. While our GPA’s may be in danger, most of our lives are not.
On Tuesday, we were treated to a delightful skit depicting James and John dropping everything to follow Jesus.  That road wasn’t easy for them. It makes Christology, Hebrew and Bible Content Exams look like a walk in the park.
Yesterday, we reaffirmed our baptisms – we celebrated grace’s entry into our lives! It is through grace that we are able to make this journey together with Christ.
Today, we celebrate communion.  This is the ultimate remembrance of what Christ was foretelling in this passage. We are not ashamed of His words, rather we remember his words as we break bread and pour wine together.
Let us rest together today knowing that what we celebrate today is a journey. We celebrate a journey with a real and active Messiah. It is a difficult journey, but we are not alone. The Messiah walks with us and we follow with Him. 
Jesus invited anyone who will take up his or her cross to follow Him.  We are in this together with a common purpose.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mk 8:27–9:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 19:14). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

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