Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17A

Track 1: I Am Who I Am

Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

We are familiar of the story where God called out to Moses from a burning bush that did not consume itself. What a spectacle this must have been for Moses. The ensuing conversation is all the more incredible. God tells Moses that he wants him to go back to Egypt for the purpose of liberating the Hebrews from captivity. Moses responds:

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’“ God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.   (Exodus 3:11-15)

In the past, the Hebrew people referred to God as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now God is telling his chosen people through Moses his title which had never been given before. This signals a new relationship between God and humankind. It signals a new era of intimacy in which God may be approached personally.

But who is this God? He is Yahweh, the great I AM. He is the creator and the source for all life. God is absolute reality. He is utterly independent. He depends on nothing to bring him into being or support him or counsel him or make him what he is.He is sovereign. He is Alpha and Omega, he beginning and the end. It is hard to actually translate his name. Many scholars believe that the most proper meaning may be “He Brings into Existence Whatever Exists.”

God tells Moses that Yahweh is his name forever. Every generation should from this moment on should call him this name.

The psalmist writes:

Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,
and speak of all his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Search for the Lord and his strength;
continually seek his face.   (Psalm 105:1-4)

Yet the children of Israel did not call upon his Name. They did not seek his face. the name Yahweh came to be regarded by Jews as too sacred to be spoken, The temptation for all of us is to become so pious that we dismiss the opportunity for intimacy with God.

Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. He is calling out to us. He came that we might have a relationship with God. God wants intimacy with us. He paid a great price that we may have that intimacy with him. Why do we turn aside?

Jesus paid a price. We must also pay a price:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?   (Matthew 16:24-28)

The great I AM is the only reality. Are we ready to find our true life in him?

 

 

Track 2: Smarter than God

Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Yet when Jesus went on to explain that the Messiah would be crucified, Peter would have none of it. Peter rebuked Jesus:

“God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”   (Matthew 16:21)

Before we are too hard on Peter we bust ask ourselves: Have we ever questioned God’s purposes? The Prophet Jeremiah did so. He was a great prophet of God. Nonetheless, he found that his ministry was costing him more than he bargained for. Thus he complained to God:

Why is my pain unceasing,
    my wound incurable,
    refusing to be healed?
Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,
    like waters that fail.

Therefore thus says the Lord:
If you turn back, I will take you back,
    and you shall stand before me.
If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
    you shall serve as my mouth.
It is they who will turn to you,
    not you who will turn to them.
And I will make you to this people
    a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
    but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
    to save you and deliver you,
says the Lord.   (Jeremiah 15:18-20)

We remember that Job of the Old Testament was enduring great suffering. He held his peace for a long time. Finally, however, he grew fed up and wanted to know why God was allowing such terrible things to happen to him.

When things seem to go badly for us we are tempted to question God’s fairness and purpose. His answer may not be what we are looking for, at least this seemed to be true for Job, Jeremiah, and Peter.

God answered Job this way:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.   (Job 38:4)

God answered Jeremiah this way:

If you turn back, I will take you back,
and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,
not you who will turn to them.   (Jeremiah 15:19)

Jesus answered Peter this way:

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”   (Matthew 16:22-23)

What do these great men of God seem to have in common? What was motivating them to question the authority and understanding of God? Perhaps they thought they could explain things to God so that he could understand what was going on. Does that sound like any of our prayers?

From the Gospel appointed for today we read:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?   (Matthew 16:24-26)

We cannot understand the thinking of God by our own thinking. We cannot understand the purposes of God by our own purposes. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit[e] set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit[g] is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.   (Romans 8:5-8)
God wants to give us a new worldview – his worldview. No doubt we will have to give up our right to be right. No doubt we will have to given up any thinking that we are smarter than God. Every time that we do we are given new understanding and revelation that brings joy to our heart. We move closer to an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and all loving God.

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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A

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