'We stand when the Gospel is read because when the Gospel is read in the midst of us, the living Jesus is addressing us in our time and place. It’s not simply a story about what Jesus did a long time ago, but it is Jesus’ message to us for today.'
Proper 7A/The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 25, 2023
St Stephen Lutheran Church
The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz III
does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find
their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find
way of approaching the Bible is to read it like a history of what happened to
ancient Israel, to Jesus, and to the Church. In reading the Bible in this way,
we try to understand what happened when and to whom. This is an important way
to encounter the Scripture. One of the things that the American Church has
forgotten is how important it is for every Christian to know the story of the
Bible – not simply the stories we heard in Sunday School, but its grand
the survey you received in your e-mail boxes on Friday there is a section on
how you currently engage the Bible and what would help you in furthering your
engagement with the Bible. Read that section and answer the questions, and the
other sections as well. If we as a congregation wish to grow in faith and
discipleship, we will have to take seriously the call to grow in our knowledge
and understanding of the Scriptures.
we approach today’s reading from Matthew as a history, we would learn that it
is from the part of the story when Jesus sends out his twelve disciples to
proclaim the kingdom and do acts of healing in his name; a precursor of the
mission they will take up after his death and resurrection and ascension.
Before he sends them, he is preparing them for the opposition they will face
and the conflict that is inevitable. His words are meant to both steel them for
the spiritual conflict and comfort them in adversity.
far, so good. But I have a question: does one ever stand for the reading of a
offense, of course, to history books. But you see, I hope, where I’m going
here. You don’t stand when a history book is read, but you stand when someone
who is important is coming among you. And I’m not talking about me.
stand when the Gospel is read because when the Gospel is read in the midst of
us, the living Jesus is addressing us in our time and place. It’s not simply a
story about what Jesus did a long time ago, but it is Jesus’ message to us for
an understanding is more exciting, certainly, but it’s also a lot scarier. For
Jesus is telling the disciples that they will be maligned, that their lives
will be threatened, that there will be division and conflict in households,
that there is a cross prepared for each of them to take up.
like it’s time for us to go back to reading the Bible as a story that happened
to someone else. But our standing for the Gospel reading suggests that the
words Jesus said to his disciples are also for us. Each of our personal
experiences are different, but if these words are the words of our Lord, they
apply to us.
relationship to our Lord, our creator and our redeemer, is at the center of our
existence. It is not one loyalty we have among others. Even to say we put God
first in our lives implies that there are a number of considerations in our
life which have nothing to do with him, that can come second or third or fourth
or fourteenth and so forth. Soon God gets relegated to a tiny, tiny space at
the top, and that which is ‘less important’ but still ‘important’ takes up all
our Lord is in the center. For God is not a thing among other things. He is not
even the one ‘thing’ we cannot do without. For a thing is that which is
created. But God is the being from whom all things in creation flow. Everything
in creation assumes importance only because it is a gift from God.
we human beings tend to put self in the center and God on the periphery. God
becomes another ‘thing’ in our lives, along with family, country, money, time,
etc. Once we do so, if there is any ‘give’ in our lives that needs to be given,
it is the Lord’s commandment and promise that gets laid aside, as the ‘thing’
that can be easily sacrificed with no cost to our earthly life.
you’re asking whether you are seeking to put the Lord in the center of your
life, then you might ask yourself: are there consequences for your confession
of faith? Are there things you must say or do, or must not say and don’t dare
do, because of what you believe? Does living from the center take your time,
your energy, your resources? Do you treat anyone differently, with more charity,
more patience? If you can say, ‘yes,’ then you can keep seeking to go farther.
If you say ‘no’ to these questions, then you may wish to consider whether God
has become simply another ‘thing’ in your life.
we turn to the Lord and seek to put him in the center, to live out of our
baptismal identities, we arouse opposition within and without. The old Adam or
old Eve in us seeks the dominion of the self, but in others can be aroused
jealousy, anger, and fear. For after all, if you are living from a center other
than self, what is to prevent them from having to give up their selfhood?
tells his disciples, and tells us today, that there will be consequences for
the confession of his name. The world, the flesh, and the devil, as Luther would
say, bands together against us. We need to be prepared to take up the cross.
seems to go to the extreme case, families divided for the Gospel’s sake. And
yet is this so rare? Or, if not common, at least it is not unheard of. More
common is those families and friendships, or churches, which are divided or at
least strained when one or more within them are convinced of some essential
truth of the Gospel which the others do not share. Part of our responsibility
is to treat each other with gentleness when we disagree and as far as possible
strive for unity, bearing with each other in love, but articulating the truth.
Jesus says that we will face opposition, but he never indicates that we should
have been talking mainly about the division that Jesus says will occur because
of his presence in the world. But he does not only warn, but comforts. Several
times in this passage he tells the disciples not to be afraid. And he promises
that if they acknowledge him in the world he also will acknowledge as his own
before the Father. In the same way that the warnings to the disciples were not
simply meant for them but for us, the promises also are for us. We who seek to
live from the center we have been given in baptism will be sustained in that
life by the one who sustains all creation. And when all the things of this
world will have passed away, we will be with the Trinity whose very being is