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Mk 8:31-38 · Ro 4:13-25 · Ge 17:1-7, 15-16 · Ps 22
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Why Must We Carry a Cross?
Mark 8:31-38


You might remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff. When he first came to the United States from Russia he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, "On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk -- you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice -- you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, "What a country!"

Smirnoff is joking but we make these assumptions about Christian Transformation that people change instantly at salvation. Some traditions call it repentance and renewal. Some call it Sanctification of the believer. Whatever you call it most traditions expect some quick fix to sin. According to this belief, when someone gives his or her life to Christ, there is an immediate, substantive, in-depth, miraculous change in habits, attitudes, and character. We go to church as if we are going to the grocery store: Powdered Christian. Just add water and disciples are born not made.

Unfortunately, there is no such powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations. A study has found that only 11 percent of churchgoing teenagers have a well-developed faith, rising to only 32 percent for churchgoing adults. Why? Because true-life change only begins at salvation, takes more than just time, is about training, trying, suffering, and even dying (adapted from James Emery White, Rethinking the Church, Baker, 1997, p. 55-57).

Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him. Why? Peter believes the kingdom of God can be obtained instantly by force. Peter has a worldly view of the Kingdom and Jesus is speaking about a heavenly kingdom. For a moment I would like you to listen to this story with new ears and see Jesus through the eyes of Peter and the rest of the disciples. Get rid of all your notions about who Jesus is. Take away from your mind Jesus as the Son of God. Strip from your memory that he died on the Cross and that he did that for your sins. Forget that Jesus ever said love your enemies or love your neighbor.

Now I want you to think of Jesus only as a military leader. Imagine that your country has been invaded and is being ruled by godless men. Sense, now, that the tension is mounting and you are about to go into battle. That you are about to conduct a coup d'etat. That you and this band of ruffians are going to attempt to overthrow this government by a sudden violent strike. That the odds are stacked against you but you have a very strong belief that God is on your side despite the overwhelming odds.

Now you are thinking like Peter...

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SERMONS.COM
Leonard Sweet's Sermon

The Big "W"
Mark 8:31-38

There are two kinds of dogs in this world (not people this time!). There are the dogs who eat everything and anything - toss them a bit of anything, meat, cauliflower, mushrooms, shoe leather - and it will be snapped out of the sky and scarfed down without hesitation.

Then there are the dogs that approach every tidbit offered to them with suspicion. They stop, they sniff, they consider, and then they finally tentatively accept the goodie offered to them. The spoiled doggie message being sent here is that the gift you offer is accepted with the attitude that "I am doing you a favor by eating this."

The "scarf hounds" joyously wolf down whatever comes their way from our hands because they trust that we are always offering them something good, something that they want and they need.

The "spoiled dogs" also show up for treat time, but they convey an attitude that suggests that we need them to be there. Those pampered pups take their invitation as a given, and their finicky feeding manners emphasize that they are "gracing us" with their presence and their acceptance of what we offer to them.

Did you come to worship this morning as a "scarf hound" or as a "spoiled dog"? Are you here because your soul trusts in God's providence and presence, and hungers for the divine gift of being able to draw near to God? Or are you here because you are doing God a "favor" by showing up? Do you somehow imagine that God needs your presence and the witness of your worship in order to validate God's divinity?

In this week's gospel text Peter once again demonstrates his ability to get everything right, and then with the next breath get everything wrong...

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