27 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 the disciples answered Jesus, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And Jesus sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of humanity 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. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, Jesus rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34 Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of humanity will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of God with the holy angels.”
Please pray with me this morning, church:
Sometimes the enormity of the world’s grief
Feels like too much, and we struggle to know
Even where to begin.
Reassure us, this morning. Encourage us and
Walk with us in love.
Use our hands to love and serve your world.
I’ve told y’all before about how I have a terrible memory. Where I put my keys, when important dates are, what I had for lunch yesterday… It’s just best not to rely on me to remember. Anything.
But there are some things that will never leave me.
People, places, moments…that are seared into my consciousness. Things I couldn’t forget if I tried.
I’m not someone who’s overly nostalgic. I tend to be a very forward-looking and forward-acting person. I think history is useful, and we can certainly learn from it, but I try to generally stay more grounded in the present, and think and act toward the future.
I found myself mostly avoiding interviews and shows on the radio over the past week that were remembering 9/11, 20 years ago. Not that I don’t remember or didn’t want to remember certain parts of that day or the days after, but there are also memories associated with 9/11 that are painful—parts of the aftermath of that day that I don’t think we, as a nation, want to repeat…decisions that were made, blame that was placed, people that were treated a certain way…
But yesterday I listened to former President George W. Bush speak at a memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where United flight #93 was brought down in a field by 40 brave souls, doubtlessly preserving countless others, and former President Bush contrasted the spirit he felt in these United States in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 with the spirit across these United States he feels now 20 years later.
And it’s hard to disagree because when I think about then and I think about now, I really feel as if that spirit couldn’t be more different.
In the face of tragedy, he remarked, the people of the United States came together, stood shoulder to shoulder, and reached out hands and did what we could to help our neighbors in need. There was a deep sense of unity and togetherness, a sense that what was best for those most in need would truly be better for all of us. And I think about now, and I reflect on how divided everything feels—about how divided we feel—and it makes me incredibly sad. It’s a lot. And there are times when you just don’t want to continue doing it anymore. You wonder where you’ll find the will and energy to keep pushing through.
I thought about that spirit former President Bush talked about…that united spirit in the face of tragedy…and I’m reminded of just how close and how familiar we are, here, with tragedy, collective tragedy. Hurricanes, illnesses, deaths, climate change, discrimination, struggles with family and relationships…we’re a people who know tragedy. 4 years since Hurricane Harvey. 3 years since the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School. 1 year since Hurricanes Laura and Delta wreaked havoc over our neighbors in western Louisiana. Just 2 weeks since Hurricane Ida devastated the area just east of that. 18-19 months since we started feeling the effects of this global pandemic we’re still living through.
We know tragedy.
And we also know the spirit of people, not just our neighbors, but also people of faith, we know the spirit of people and that feeling of resolve and resilience in the face of such awful tragedy. We know what it feels like to be uplifted by someone reaching out with a helping hand. We know what it feels like to reach out your own hand to help someone up. At the end of the day, tragedy does not prevail.
We help. We do what we can to alleviate the immediate suffering and we resolve to do better next time, to ensure that tragedy doesn’t happen again.
This is what “God’s work. Our hands.” is about. It’s about recognizing the need in our community, in our country, and in our world, and living out our faith in such a way that seeks to do something about that need. “God’s work. Our hands.” is a simple recognition that no one person can do everything, but every single person can do something. And when we do that something together, the impacts of what we do are so much bigger and so much greater than we could ever do on our own.
You have the ability to make an incredible difference in this world.
In the face of tragedy, sometimes we can feel frozen, unsure of what to do or how we can help. “God’s work. Our hands” is about taking just one small step. Letting God use your hands to do something that may feel small or insignificant, but friends, I assure you, there’s nothing small or insignificant about the impact you’re making, about the real and tangible difference you’re making in the lives of real people.
That is not a small thing.
This is what it means to pick up and carry the cross and follow Jesus. The cross of Christ isn’t an easy thing to carry, but it isn’t a burden. Carrying the cross of Jesus is reaching out into your neighborhood and into the world with love. It’s doing small things with great love. Like Jesus.
Doing God’s work with your hands.
At this time we’re going to spend some time in service and we have lots of opportunities to serve. You’ll see stations set up around the Sanctuary and gathering space. You can visit all of them, you can visit one of them, you can visit none of them. But we encourage you to spend some time in love and service of people that you may never meet.
We have spaces to learn, spaces to advocate, spaces to reflect and pray…however you would like to serve today. We’ll spend about 15-20 minutes in service, and we’ll regather for Communion.
Pastor Janelle is going to tell you a little bit more about the stations we have set up.