Monday, March 2, 2009

Radical Renovation: Living the Cross-Shaped Life

March 1, 2009
First Sundy of Lent
Radical Renovation: Living the Cross-Shaped Life*
Mark 8:27-38
*I am indebted in my Lenten preaching preparations to the book of the same title by James A. Harnish.

Do you ever watch Ty Pennington’s Extreme Makeover? More than once I have watched it. Ty brings a crew in to renovate the home of some needy family. Perhaps there are allergies or mobility concerns or space issues. Certainly some renovations and cleanup need to happen. But almost always I am amazed at the total renovation that happens. What in my mind could have been a simple fix up always ends in a radical renovation of the whole house and property. Sometimes even taking the house down to the foundation. But the home is always rebuilt beautifully for its intended purpose.

Peter is not ready for the extreme makeover Jesus is about to unveil.

The gospel begins in a beautiful place today. The disciples and Jesus are walking and talking and teaching. In their recent memory was the feeding of the 5,000 and amazing healings of Jesus. In his teaching, Jesus wonders aloud, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples venture a guess: John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet. Jesus pursues them further: “Well, who do you think I am?” Peter is always willing to jump in with an answer right away. Peter steps up to the plate. “You are the Messiah!” Peter clearly had it right, because Jesus says, "Shh!…keep the secret."

Now Peter has his own idea of what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah. Perhaps it was what others in his day thought the Messiah was to be. The Messiah was to be a military and political power. The Messiah would come in and rule the land. The Messiah would exercise worldly power over others, especially over those who had power over the people of God prior to the coming of the Messiah. That’s what Peter knew the Messiah was supposed to be about.

So when Jesus in our gospel provides a different image of the Messiah - when he begins talking about the Messiah needing to suffer and die - Peter can’t take it! He pulls Jesus aside. The scripture says he “rebuked” Jesus. It’s the same word that is used to describe the way Jesus “rebukes” evil spirits. Peter is calling Jesus’ statement “evil”. At the first sign that Jesus’ kingdom doesn’t look like Peter expects or wants Peter turns to head in an opposite direction. Peter will have nothing of a radical renovation today.

I wonder if we don’t have a little Peter in each of us? When being faithful means something we haven’t expected, do we run the other way? Do we draw a boundary around what we will and won’t do for our faith? Do we prefer to have just enough faith to have it benefit us? And if it gets difficult or uncomfortable or unexpected, will we head in the opposite direction?

Do you remember when you invited God into your life? Did you invite God in to re-decorate your life? Did you even tell God the rooms of your life you were willing to have him re-decorate?

God, You can have my Sunday mornings – well, 1 ½ hours anyway. You can re-shape my marriage – it needs it anyway. But hands-off my relationship with my mother – that’s beyond repair. And steer clear of my wallet – that’s my business, not yours.

When we invite God into our lives, God doesn’t intend a simple redecorating. God intends nothing short of a radical renovation, a total reconstruction of our lives, a reorientation of the way we live; so that Jesus Christ can take up residence in our lives; so that through us God’s kingdom can come in the here and now!

Jesus rebukes Peter for “setting his mind on human things”, for wanting things to be safe and comfortable, for the inward, selfish focus of Peter, for not setting his mind on things of God, for not being able to see his life and world through God’s eyes, for not living the “cross-shaped life.”

Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” If we are to follow Jesus, we must walk the way of Jesus. We have to allow Jesus to reconstruct our selfish, inward focus. We must set our minds on things that are of God. We must allow a radical renovation that has at it center the “cross-shaped life.”

Through the traditional disciplines of Lent, disciplines like prayer, worship, study, fasting, we invite the power of the Holy Spirit to reshape us, to reshape the way we think, act, and live, until we resemble more and more of the ways of Jesus as he journeys toward the cross. That’s what it means to live the cross-shaped life. That’s what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus: to mirror the values and priorities and actions of Jesus; to care for the poor and the oppressed; to heal and make whole; to welcome others in ways the world does not; to live the “cross-shaped life”; to serve and surrender, to love and to reconcile, to sacrifice and to hope.

Will you take on an intentional journey this season of Lent? Will you invite God into the house of your life? Will you ask God to renovate your life? Will you give Jesus Christ every corner and crevice of your life? Will you not refuse God’s radical reconstruction in any part of you?

May the Lenten disciplines you choose this year, be it daily prayer or study or fasting or worship, draw you into the radical renovation that will set your face toward the things of God so that Jesus Christ can live within you and God’s kingdom can be born through you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Becky Jo Thilges, Lead Pastor
Homestead UMC, Rochester, MN

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