PROPER 16 (21) Tenth Sunday after Pentecost Year A
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18), Year A

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17), Year A

Exodus 3:1-15

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b

Romans 12:9-21

Matthew 16:21-28

 

Sometimes we are given tasks that seem impossible.

Losing weight.

Living within our financial means (personally or nationally).

Allowing a teenager to make his or her own (potentially painful) choices.

Telling the leader of a country that he should let all of the slaves go.

Blessing those that cause us harm.

Feeding our enemy.

Giving up all the other things of life to focus on following where we are called.

How are we supposed to achieve these things? Part of the difficulty is that we are drawn to fulfill these tasks and take on these callings. Sure, some of us are highly driven and disciplined folks who can simply choose to do one thing or another without much of a question. But what about the rest of us mortals who struggle with greed and ego and self preservation and control issues and such?

Certainly we see examples of tasks that seem impossible throughout our own lives and also all through scripture. In this week's scriptures we see some significant challenges being laid down.

In the story of Moses found in Exodus we find Moses finding himself talking with the presence of God in a bush that is on fire. Now that is an important part of the story, but the burning bush is not the thing to remember about this passage. The important thing here is to pay attention to what God says to Moses in / through this bush. He tells Moses to go in to the house of the Pharaoh (the family / house that raised him) and tell the Pharaoh that he should let all of the Israelites (who happened to be a great source of slave labor in Egypt at the time) freely go back to their homeland. Seems like a tall order. Sure, God (through the voice of a burning bush) offers Moses some reassurance that he will be supported and God will make it all happen, but Moses still had the job of going in to deliver the message to the Pharaoh.

The selection we have from Psalm 105 is recounting this story (years and years and years later) of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egpyt. Moses's responsibility was high and the impact of his faithful following had lasting impact.

Jesus continues the trend of suggesting seemingly impossible tasks in this section of Matthew. "Those who will save their life will lose it, those who lose their life for my sake will find it...if any of you want to become my followers, deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me." These must have been (and still are) fairly radical and inflammatory words to those who were just hanging around on the edges following Jesus around. Again, Jesus does suggest that help and reward will be offered to those that follow him, but he also is putting a seriously challenging task in front of folks.

And then we see the ways Paul was encouraging the followers of Jesus in Rome to live. Again, as we remember that many of the letters Paul wrote and that we have collected in our bible were him offering direction of how they (as the new and often only followers of Jesus in the neighborhood) should behave and interact with the world. And this is a great example of the ways Paul (like Jesus did) encouraged his readers to go literally above and beyond the modern and conventional expectations. He sets a high bar because he understands the stakes to be high.

 

Help me God

to see past my own amazement

at your presence

in my life

to DO something

that honors you

and brings the Kingdom

to light as you will have it emerge.

Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

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