PROPER 16 (21) Tenth Sunday after Pentecost Year A

Exodus 1:8-2:10 and Psalm 124 •
Romans 12:1-8 •
Matthew 16:13-20

The biblical text was a written work of art, meant to be read -
consumed in fact - time and time again...until it became memory.

Sometimes it's fun to look at different translations to appreciate the
drama that specific words can add. And so, this week, from the King
James Version:

Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. (Exodus 1:8)

Sounds a little foreboding, eh?

Or how about this, from Paul's letter to the church at Rome:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of
God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable
to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this
world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you
may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and

Quite a challenge to be transformed rather than conformed. We feel
confronted by this challenge daily.

Or perhaps from the Gospel of Matthew (imagine the red letters of your
study bible as you read...):

"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not
revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my
church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you
bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth
will be loosed in heaven."

This week as we read the scriptures, we were reminded that life
doesn't always unfold the way that we expect it to. Sometimes it takes
dramatic turns. It's a little bit like being on an ever-changing
amusement park ride. Sometimes its like floating in a swan boat on
quiet water. Sometimes it is like a death-defying set of corkscrews
at 75 miles per hour. Sometimes it is smooth track and other times
it's the classic wooden coaster that knocks your head around and jars
your vertebrae. And you don't really ever quite know what is next.

Joseph has been a favorite of Pharaoh, and as a result, the Hebrews
have been able to prosper and grow in Egypt. But there arose a
Pharaoh that wasn't buddies with Joseph. Gulp. Now, the story frames
the birth of Moses and his placement in the household of Pharaoh, but
let's imagine Joseph's dread as he watched his favor disappear, his
people falter, and grief and fear come upon them. How often are we
moving along when circumstances change and everything we thought we
knew evaporates. (We're thinking, in part, about the economy. How
about you?)

The psalmist is lifting praise for God's saving action. Israel, by
the time the Psalms were written, has seen good times and bad. And
through it all, they've come to respect God's action, even when it
doesn't always make life simple. In general, the psalmist believe
that even the bad times would have been much, much worse without God's

In Matthew's gospel, we see Jesus as he is really getting in to the swing of things. Before this scene he has had a serious interaction with the Phairsees and Saducees, and he has had some sort of shaky interactions with the disciples that seem to have left him a little frustrated with them. He was not being warmly welcomed with open arms. And now
remember that Simon Peter was destined to be a fisherman. But with
Jesus he's become a fisher of men. And he's now being told that he is
the rock upon which Jesus' church will be built. Do you suppose this
was a radical departure from his expectations? And Jesus is sort of
cornering Simon Peter - Who do you think I am? And when Simon Peter
confesses his faith that this Jesus is the Messiah, he's blessed as
the Rock. Umm...change of destiny? And then, by the way, don't tell
anybody. Poor Peter.

Finally, in Paul's letter to the church in Rome, he uses the language
of sacrifice, a concept that would have been well-understood by
observant Jews at the time, and turns it on its ear, suggesting that
the believer should offer themselves as holy and LIVING sacrifices.
This believing stuff...it requires that you give something of
yourself, that you remove yourself from the world in some way, and
that you will use your gifts to the benefit of others. He claims that
we all have gifts - not all the gifts, just a few - that the community
needs. Now what if you want to have the gift of prophecy and get the
gift of teaching? Start teaching.

So what hairpin curves have been thrown your way of late? In what ways
has this ride called life flipped your stomach? Or maybe you're
enjoying a quiet ride right now?

Where is God on the journey?

God, we scratch and fight every day to have things be
a little easier.
And they get tougher.
We try hard to be responsible
and understand
and plan
and look ahead.
And then the things we counted on
and we have to
start over.
Forgive us when we curse
our circumstances.
Forgive us when we are so focused
on the frustrations
of re-navigating.
Be with us as we continue to learn to trust
and keep walking
toward You.

© 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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