Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17

Track 1: This Is My Name Forever

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

Moses had fled from Egypt because he had killed a man. He was hiding out, keeping a low profile so to speak In today’s Old Testament reading we find that he could not hide from God:

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.   (Exodus 3:1-15)

Imagine the shock that Moses must have felt, hearing the voice of God from a blazing bush. He must have been in even more shock when God asked him to go back to the place he fled and lead his people out of bondage. Moses protested:

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He 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 3:1-15)

What does the name of God tell us about God? Does he stand alone? Yes, he is the only one who can say “I Am” without any qualifications. He is not a created being. He is the creator of all things. If no one else existed, he would still exist. He would still be God. He has no limits.

No one defines him. In today’s Gospel reading Peter tries to define God:

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “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 16:21-23)

God defines himself. He is who he is. He will be who he will be. He will do what he wants to do. He is sovereign and Lord of all.

Do we have anything in common with Moses? God may not speak to us from a burning bush, but he does speak to us. He asks us to do things far beyond our capabilities. This is one of the ways we can tell that it is God who is speaking to us.

But to do what God asks of us we must take on the name of God. Reading from Numbers:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.   (Numbers 6:22-27)

There is power in the name of God. The mystery is that God places his own name on us to bless us. He places his name upon us to so that we might have power to answer the call that he has given us. He places his name upon us so that we might be able to accomplish all his purposes.

Are we willing to turn aside as did Moses? Are we willing to listen to God? Are we willing to believe his word to us? And we willing to receive power from on high and do mighty works i his  name? The name that God places on us is the name of Jesus.

And being found in human form,
   he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:8-11)

 

 

Track 2: Understanding the Cross

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

Peter was not prepared for the message that Jesus delivered:

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “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 16:21-23)

He did not understand the message of the cross. In today’s Old Testament reading, Jeremiah was having trouble with the same message:

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 15:19-21)

Jeremiah cold not understand why he was being persecuted. That is what the world does to people of God. Jeremiah did not understand the high cost of following God. 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)

Do we understand the message of the cross? Do we understand the cross? We are to lose our lives in order to find them. We can think of only protecting ourselves, but we will never know Jesus. We will never understand his purpose and ministry. And we will never understand our purpose and true identity.

Jesus told his disciples:

In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:32)

What God told Jeremiah, he says to us:

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.

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Filed under Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year B

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