Scripture/Sermon of the Day.  February 28, 2021

Exodus. 32:1-4

The people saw that Moses was taking a long time to come down from the mountain. They gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come on! Make us a god who can lead us. As for this man Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don’t have a clue what has happened to him.”
2 Aaron said to them, “All right, take out the gold rings from the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took out the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He collected them and tied them up in a cloth.[ Then he made a metal image of a bull calf, and the people declared, “This is your god, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

Mark 8:31-38

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”
34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? 37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Reflection:

I.      In the gospels of Luke and Matthew, while Jesus is in the wilderness, the devil showed him “the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” He told Jesus, “I’ll give you this if you will worship me.”  Jesus said, “Get away Satan!  For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and only serve him.”
        When Jesus was baptized he heard God say:  “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  But Jesus still didn’t know what God wanted him to do.

II.     Maybe God should have said a little more, like “I’m so pleased with you.  Now, listen — stay poor and just walk around Israel and teach people about me.  Feed them, heal them —cast out their demons —LOVE EVERYONE!
        But here’s the problem — if God said that, the devil would say:  “God didn’t say that.”  The many voices confuse us.  One group in America says, “Feed the hungry!”  Another group says, “We can’t afford that!”  Who speaks for God?

III.    The spiritual life is a struggle to understand the voices that speak to us.  In the wilderness, Jesus heard a voice say:  “If you’re the Son of God, turn these stones to bread.”  WAS THAT GOD OR THE DEVIL?  But when he was baptized a voice said: “You are my Son!”  But now a voice says, “Really?  Hmmmm — better prove it.” How did Jesus know who was talking? How do we know?
        Both voices said nice things to Jesus.  God said, “You’re my Son, I’m happy with you!”  And the devil said, “Goodness — you must be starving! — let’s have lunch!” That’s nice — the devil cares about us!  What a great friend!
        That’s what makes this hard — the devil isn’t a monster. HE COMES TO US AS A FRIEND, LOOKING OUT FOR OUR INTERESTS. The devil says “Take care of yourself FIRST.”  Our families FIRST.  Our country FIRST.  AMERICA FIRST.  If I’m white, the devil says, “White people must stick together.  Don’t let that Jew or that black person REPLACE YOU — because they will try.  Look — their numbers are increasing and yours are shrinking!  You must keep yourself first.”  That’s what the devil told Jesus.  Me first, my family first, my country first — my race first.”  “Be the KING,” Satan said.  But what did Jesus tell the disciples?  “You must be the last, the servant of all.”

IV.     I worry that Christians are not hearing that message from Jesus.  They still wear maga hats.  They still say “America First.”  They’re at a convention now in Florida and as you walk into the convention there’s a larger than life-size golden statue of Trump!!!
        We’ve made a god out of him, literally!— a golden image!  That’s why I read Exodus 32:4 today.  The golden calf is right here in America!
         Didn’t anyone say, “A golden Trump — not a good idea.  That didn’t work out well for the Israelites.”

V.      Peter was the closest disciple to Jesus.  So the devil possessed him and made Peter his mouthpiece.
When Jesus told the disciples he would be rejected and killed by the leaders and religious people, Peter — Jesus’ friend, leading disciple, and now mouthpiece of the devil — said, “You’re not going to die Jesus — you will be king, like David.  And we will be your cabinet. —and live in the palace and wear these magnificent robes. We will clap our hands and servants will bring our meals!” 

VI.     Jesus knew that voice — he last heard it in the wilderness. That’s why he said,  “Satan!  Get out of here!”   
        God’s wills us to be a blessing to others, regardless of their race or country or their gender or sexual orientation. God calls us to love and serve others — even to go to the cross for them.  That’s what Jesus told the disciples that day as they traveled towards Jerusalem.