8.24.2011

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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