Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
3 September 2023
15 O Lord , you know;
remember me and visit me,
and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.
In your forbearance do not take me away;
know that on your account I suffer insult.
16 Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart;
for I am called by your name,
O Lord , God of hosts.
17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,
nor did I rejoice;
under the weight of your hand I sat alone,
for you had filled me with indignation.
18 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.
19 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.
20 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 .
21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.
I see Isaiah crying out to God, questioning and suffering. I sense Isaiah feels an absence of God. then in verse 19 God answers Isaiah. There is a point at which God tells Isaiah that his problems are his chasing after the world is the cause of his suffering. He needs to turn to God so that people come to him rather than him running after them. We have to understand that this was someone who God spoke to. He still struggles with the world.
Psalm 105.1–6, 105.23–26
1 O give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name:
tell among the peoples what things he has done.
2 Sing to him, O sing praises:
and be telling of all his marvellous works.
3 Exult in his holy name:
and let those that seek the Lord be joyful in heart.
4 Seek the Lord and his strength:
O seek his face continually.
5 Call to mind what wonders he has done:
his marvellous acts, and the judgements of his mouth,
6 O seed of Abraham his servant:
O children of Jacob his chosen one.
23 Then Israel came into Egypt:
and Jacob dwelt in the land of Ham.
24 There the Lord made his people fruitful:
too numerous for their enemies,
25 Whose hearts he turned to hate his people:
and to deal deceitfully with his servants.
26 Then he sent Moses his servant:
And Aaron whom he had chosen.
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ 20 No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I am drawn straight to the statement, 'Let your love be genuine...' however the whole reading requests a very high level of our lives. Surely no one could meet this. To think Jesus lived this way seems unreal. How can Paul expect so much? Did he himself live this way? I personally think we have to be careful. On the one hand, trying to live this way could lead to a lot of mental health issues of failure and pressure to maintain the behaviour from a wrong mental state. The other is to become a self-righteous person turning into judgmental behaviour. I wonder if that is why Paul writes about vengeance. The ability to live this way for me is grounded on how we understand God's grace. It is only out of a heart that lives in and out of unworthiness for God's grace and a sharing of this great gift that the humbleness of God's Spirit can come out.
21 From that time on, 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. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ 23 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.’ 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 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? 27 ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
We see today the follow on from last week's reading where Peter reveals that Jesus is the Messiah. This week Jesus calls him Satan, or more accurately, Jesus is talking about Peter's focus on the human rather than the divine. Last week God revealed Jesus' identity to Peter and this week Satan tempts Peter. I also find this reading interesting, because Jesus calls his disciples to pick up their cross. What is the cross? The other thing is that I came to get the freedom God offers to cleanse me from my sinners, which I believe are my cross, but now I have to carry them, why?
My belief is that I come with my cross killing me on my own. Now I am yoked to God and it reminds me of God's grace to me. I also, if my cross is my life, then I now see my life differently, therefore I see my cross differently. Some, I feel take back the same cross they gave to God. This is doomed for failure. Our faith is not just about God's kingdom in death, but God's kingdom now. If we live in it now it will change us as Paul expects and as Isaiah was called.