SUNDAY 3 September August 2017, 22nd Sunday
• Jeremiah 20:7-9 • Psalm 63 • Romans 12:1-2 • + Matthew 16:21-27 •
Title: “Back to School”
[__01__] Back to school. Going back to school is different from summer. But, we have this one PAUSE [ ▌▌] button of Labor Day before the PLAY [ ►] (or FAST FORWARD [ ►►] of September.
Peter is back to school this Sunday, being educated on meaning, on the mission, and on the Messiah.
Last Sunday – when it was still summertime – Peter had the correct answer to our Savior’s question of “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). This was Part One.
Peter answers correctly on Part One: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
Peter is singled out and is distinguished from the other apostles because of his inspired answer, being told: “Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you [or, we might say… that Peter – you did not come up with this purely through your own study and intellect], but my Heavenly Father.” (Matthew 16:17)
[__02__] This Sunday, Peter is back to school. It’s Part Two (2). It’s a different story. And, Peter has pressed an incorrect key.
That is, he is told that in addition to success and salvation through Jesus Christ, there will also be suffering.
Back to school always involves suffering. And, Jesus is trying to caution us – and also console us – that suffering, testing, sorrow, difficulty is universal. It will affect all of us.
[__03__] Back to school.
In my junior year of college, I had the fortunate Fall / Autumn experience to study at a university in England. This was a study group for American students, from the United States.
All of us were American citizens and from various colleges around the country. We were of different backgrounds.
What seemed to be a universal experience, a common denominator for all of us was the adjustment to the language and accent of England the U.K.
It is an old saying that we are “two countries separated by a common language.” One example is that if you say something is “quite good” in West Orange, you are giving praise, affirmation, stating the excellence. If you say a the entrée or appetizer is “quite good” in Westminster and London, you mean it’s really not that good. It’s not a compliment to the chef.
So, among all of us as students, there was a universal confusion about many things.
And, there was a universal adjustment not only to vocabulary and slang (idiomatic expressions) but also to the accent.
The same thing happens to a British person coming to the U.S. Universally, they lose some of the their British accent and gain some of the American accent.
And, we changed the way that we spoke, because we were listening and speaking to teachers with a British accent.
[__04__] I noticed that my own speaking changed and endured as a change for several months after I returned to the States.
This was somewhat annoying to family and friends in New Jersey. It did not happen overnight. The accent took a while to acquire…and took a while to disappear. It is now gone, I assure you.
[__05__] However, one of my classmates somehow managed to pick up the British accent within 2 days of arriving. But, she was constantly addressing everyone around her with British slang. I’m not sure how this happened so fast. Maybe she was smarter than the rest of us… or was hers a superficial demonstration?
Everyone knew she still had a U.S. passport.
[__06__] Back to school. It was a universal and commonly shared experience. And, the only way to avoid this was to stay in your dorm room for several months and not go to class which is always an option in college and watch lots of sports, movies and television from the States.
It was a universal experience.
[__07__] Learning a language is something we do, not in isolation, but in community, in relationships with others.
It is universally shared.
I’d like to suggest that our understanding – and learning – about suffering and sorrow is also a common experience, universally shared. It also takes time, often more than one semester or school year.
[__08__] Peter the Apostle is not so sure. He wants to dismiss the role of suffering and the cross.
By the way, Peter is not seeking an exemption – or free pass – for himself. Rather, he is saying that Jesus – as Messiah – should not have to suffer.
But, suffering is universally and often universally shared and known.
[__09__] As a country, we are back to school, learning about suffering. Profoundly and particularly does this apply to the police, the firefighters, rescue works and emergency workers of Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.
It also applies to the victims and the homeless individuals and families of Harvey.
Suffering, at times, reminds us not only of our own personal vulnerability but of the vulnerability and fragility of everyone.
Many a firefighter and rescue worker have taken risks with their own lives and health.
Sergeant Steve Perez, Houston Police Department, gave up his life trying get to work in a flood condition.
Meanwhile, many adults and families have had to wait while children and elderly people were rescued.
And, while you and I might not suffer the loss of our home today, we are called to give back perhaps simply by our own prayer and sacrifice.
When we sit back to our next meal, or turn the key in our front door, could we not surrender a petition for our brothers and sisters? Or, in the spirit of a Lenten sacrifice, maybe we could offer up – or give up – something by fasting or eating less over the next few days. We can take up our cross not only by giving money or making statements publicly but also by what we do in private. Suffering is universal.
[__10__] Telling us about the cross and about suffering, Jesus is also reminding us that we are not alone.
And, rather than asking “why me”, I might ask… “why not me ?”
Jesus is reminding us that suffering – and sorrow – bring us closer to him.
But we do believe that the heroic actions of many rescue workers are inspired by God. They take us back to school and teach us by their actions that God is love.
[__11_] Several years – maybe 10 or 12 years after my year in England, I was in touch with a friend of mine from that time.
I received an email and he had been living in London for several years, married and working for a British company. Like a native, he wrote to me with all the British spellings, spelling, e.g., COLOR = C-O-L-O-U-R …
Outwardly, his accent had not really changed that much over the years. But, in his mind, he had certainly acquired the language, the facility, the ease with everything British.
Outwardly, you and I may appear to be the same to others, But, internally – spiritually – we are changed and also learning the language of the cross, the Word of salvation, as we go back to school each day. [__fin__]