20 September 2012

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 21 - 30 September 2012

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
Psalm 19:7-14
James 5:13-20
St. Mark 9:38-50

Background: Ecstatic Prophecy
In the first reading for today we have an instance that may reflect the time in which it was actually composed, or we may have an early memory of first instances in Yahwism in which there is ecstatic prophetic utterance.  Certainly at the time of the Isaiahs, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others there were plenteous examples of prophetic ecstasy in which the prophet goes into a type of trance and offers visions of what God was saying.  This is not like divination, which uses some other object to “divine” what the god was saying.  Here it is language or even movement (cf. II Samuel 6:14) that mediates the message.  Oddly enough, the prophets that grace one of the scenes in Monty Python’s Life of Brian probably fairly represent their behaviors.  This office and the ecstasies that accompanied it were not peculiar to Israel, and may indeed have been either borrowed from the surrounding Canaanite culture, or brought from Mesopotamia.

Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29

The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at."

Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the LORD became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the LORD, "Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,' to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, 'Give us meat to eat!' I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once--if I have found favor in your sight--and do not let me see my misery."

So the LORD said to Moses, "Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you."

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, "My lord Moses, stop them!" But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!"

In these passages from Numbers we witness a thread of complaining that surfaces often in the accounts of the wanderings in the wilderness.  Here it is instructive for us to see that it is not just the tribes of Israel that are wandering in the desert, but that there are foreign elements as well.  Described as “rabble” or “riffraff (Alter) they bring a different complexion to the whole.  Soon Israel as well is complaining about the privations of the wilderness.  Moses is faced with issues of leadership, and of nationality as well. It is odd, that hearing the complaints of the people about food, Moses in turn complains to God that the burden God has given him is too great. 

Once again we hear the story of the manna given by God, along with the fowl.  That however is not the main point of juxtaposing this reading with the Gospel for today.  It is in verses 24-29 that we see the point.  Moses gathers elders and shares with them some of his “spirit.”  These then begin to prophecy (see the Background above) and their ecstasies are constrained to the area in the Tent of Meeting.  Such ecstatic behaviors would not have quelled the complaints of the crowd.  The actions of Eldad and Medad, prophesying in the camp itself is anxiously brought to Moses’ attention by a young lad, and Joshua urges them to be suppressed.  It is here we come to the point.  In a spiritualization of the role of leadership and its burdens, Moses looks forward to a time when all would share in the spirit with which he was invested.  “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets.”

Breaking open Joshua:
  1. What kind of complaints do you have for God?
  2. What do you think of the leadership of your Church?
  3. How do you participate?  How do you prophesy?

Psalm 19:7-14 Caeli enarrant

The law of the LORD is perfect
and revives the soul; *
the testimony of the LORD is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just
and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the LORD is clear
and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean
and endures for ever; *
the judgments of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.

By them also is your servant enlightened, *
and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often he offends? *
cleanse me from my secret faults.

Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; *
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight, *
O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

The initial verses of this psalm devote themselves to the beauty of the cosmos, and at verse 7, suddenly shift to comments on the Law of God.  It may be that two separate psalms have been spliced together (a common practice, actually, in the Psalter).  The initial verses picture God as a solar deity, riding the heavens.  In the ancient near east, and indeed in Greece (Apollo) the connection between the sun and wisdom is frequent, so the splicing my represent a mild monotheistic diatribe against such pagan deities.  There is both an objective approach to the Law of God (The Lord’s teaching is perfect) and a sensual approach as well (Sweeter than honey).  The poet is clear that in spite of the attractiveness of God’s intents for humankind, they are not always accomplished.  The psalm ends with a prayer for forgiveness and amendment of life.

Breaking open Psalm 19
  1. How do you perceive God’s law for you?
  2. What is your reaction to it?  Is it indeed like honey?
  3. How do you deal with your failures?

James 5:13-20

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

These final verses in James seem to be a catchall of various instructions for the Christian life.  Addressed are the notions of healing, confession and forgiveness, prayer, and reconciliation.  It is a wealth of actions that ought to be discussed by any Christian congregation.  In our own time we have seen the restoration and effective use of prayer, laying on of hands, and anointing in the reformed liturgical churches, and even in the Roman church it has moved beyond its extreme cause to a more general opportunity for healing. 

Breaking open James:
  1. Do you avail yourself of healing?
  2. Have you had others pray for you?  What was the result?
  3. Have you ever had a private confession and absolution?
 Mark 9:38-50

John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell., And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

"For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

This reading continues from the Second Passion Prediction that was read last Sunday.  Here the theme moves to questions of authority.  Like the instance with Moses and the two elders who prophesied in the camp (see the First Reading) here the disciples (John in particular) are exercised about someone who was “casting out demons” in Jesus name.  Although this authority is “tightened up” in the later Church, he Jesus takes the same mind as does Moses, and is not jealous about his gift. 

What follows are a series of sayings that have been appended to the “casting out demons” saying.  What Jesus wants to maintain is the relationship of the individual to the Kingdom of Heaven, and hopes that no one in his party will become an obstruction to that relationship.  The salt sayings are related to the use of salt and fire in sacrifice, and may bring the collection of sayings full circle, back to the Passion Prediction – for now the disciples will be “salted with fire” as well.  Here the fire may well be the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Breaking open the Gospel:

  1. What authority have you taken to do things in Jesus’ name?
  2. What has been an obstruction to your faith?
  3. Are you salty?  How?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

18 September 2012

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 20 - 23 September 2012

Jeremiah 11:18-20
Psalm 54
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
Saint Mark 9:30-37


Background:  Jeremiah
Following the writing of Proto Isaiah in the late eighth century, and the early part of the seventh century BCE, Jeremiah came from a priestly and wealthy family.  He was called to his ministry as a prophet in 626 BCE and was largely responsible for moving Jewish theology from a temple/community-centered enterprise to one that acknowledged the individual’s relationship with God and that spiritualized many of the concepts of Jewish practice at the time.  Like first Isaiah, Jeremiah had to deal with the politics of his time, making difficult pronouncements to the Judean monarchy.  Although he was active in the time of King Josiah’s religious reforms, he also dealt with other kings who were not as committed to the Yahwistic religion of Judah.  He lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BCE, and was exiled to Egypt where he probably died.

Jeremiah 11:18-20

It was the LORD who made it known to me, and I knew;
then you showed me their evil deeds.
But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
And I did not know it was against me
that they devised schemes, saying,
"Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will no longer be remembered!"
But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously,
who try the heart and the mind,
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.

Often called the “Weeping Prophet”, we can see in Jeremiah’s life the cause of such an emotional response to the people’s reaction to his work and ministry.  In this oracle of judgment we hear Jeremiah’s revelation that YHWH has made him aware of the enmity born him by others.  Jeremiah is blunt in his descriptions of the ill will born him by the unnamed people, and he describes himself in terms of innocence and weakness (like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter).  He is equally blunt in his description to YHWH of what he wants to happen.  He expects God to try them, and in God’s “righteous judgment” to obliterate their cause.  It is not clear to see why this reading was paired with the Gospel for today.  Perhaps the conflict of the disciples in determining who “would be greatest” is seen in the purposes of those who attempted to negate the prophet’s cause.

Breaking open Jeremiah

1.     Do you have enemies?  Do you share or understand Jeremiah’s psychology about enemies?
2.     What do you expect to God to do about your enemies?
3.     What might your prayer be?

Psalm 54 Deus, in nomine

Save me, O God, by your Name; *
in your might, defend my cause.

Hear my prayer, O God; *
give ear to the words of my mouth.

For the arrogant have risen up against me,
and the ruthless have sought my life, *
those who have no regard for God.

Behold, God is my helper; *
it is the Lord who sustains my life.

Render evil to those who spy on me; *
in your faithfulness, destroy them.

I will offer you a freewill sacrifice *
and praise your Name, O LORD, for it is good.

For you have rescued me from every trouble, *
and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.

As we have examined the Psalter over the last year, we have become aware of many of the psalms that are constructed of “stock phrases” that are either borrowed or repeated in other psalms.  This lament/supplication we hear a call for help, motivation for the call, a prayer of confidence, and finally a thanksgiving.  The cause of the psalm is indicated in the initial verses, which are not used here, where it is described as a psalm sung on stringed instruments.  It is described as a “maskil” of David when the Ziphites came to Saul and said, “David is hiding among us” (See I Samuel 23:19, and 26:1).  A free-will offering is a completely voluntary sacrifice not mandated by either ritual or vow.

Breaking open Psalm 54:
1.       What laments have you had in your life?
2.       What was your prayer about them like?
3.       How has God rescued you?

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

In this continuing reading from James, we come to the heart of his message.  Taking certain Hellenistic themes and virtues, James attempts to convert his hearers into those who will choose God over the world.  To make this clear he elicits a series of comparisons (wisdom from above vs. earthly, unspiritual wisdom; gentleness vs. bitter envy and selfish ambition).  The final appeal is that his readers should “submit themselves to God” and by so doing resisting the devil.  What James writes against here is the “double-minded” person who would be all things to all people.  James insists on a Christian focus.

Breaking open James:

1.     In what ways is your life double-minded?
2.     How do you strive to be single-minded.
3.     Is one more Christian than the other?

Mark 9:30-37
Jesus and his disciples went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."

Last week we heard Simon Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi, but also heard his rebuke of Jesus’ prediction of his suffering and death.  Interposed between this second prediction of the passion of Jesus and the first is the account of the Transfiguration, and a healing/exorcism story.  Now again Jesus bluntly tells the disciples what to expect (betrayed, killed, raised).  Peter is not alone in his misunderstanding - however, the others are equally clueless.  This is the pretext then for an argument among them regarding who might be the greatest.  Again Jesus calls them to account in the same manner that he called Peter to account.  He reminds them what it means to be “first.” Several comparisons follow, some verbal and some actual (being the last, being the servant, being a child).  The final statement about welcoming encapsulates Jesus announcement of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Breaking open the Gospel:
  1. Do you have any sympathies for either Peter or the disciples?
  2. How do you react to Jesus’ hard words?
  3. How are you a servant?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

07 September 2012

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 19 - 16 September 2012

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 116:1-8
James 3:1-12
St. Mark 8:27-38

Background: Caesarea Philippi
This place name is so associated with this confession of Peter that I thought it might be interesting to talk about the place.  Located near the southwestern base of Mt. Hermon in the Golan Heights area, it is the site of a spring and grotto and thus several shrines devoted to the god Pan.  Originally the site was named either Banieas or Paneas, reflecting the cult that had developed there.  The site is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, but is mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (and also in Thomas).  It was first settled by the Ptolomies (Hellenic rulers of Egypt) in the third century BCE.  Pan was the god of “desolate places”, so the site seems appropriate to that.  It is, however, located close to the Way of the Sea, the trade route that stretched from Mesopotamia into the Levant, also the route of ancient armies.  In 20 BCE, Paneas was annexed to the Kingdom of Herod the Great, and in 3 BCE Philip the Tetrarch founded a city there.  In 14 AD it was named Caesarea Philippi in honor of Caesar Augustus.  In the Gospel account, Jesus doesn’t enter the city but is in the region.  It is here that he asks of his disciples, “who do people say that I am?” 
Isaiah 50:4-9a
The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens--
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

The Lord GOD helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?

In a section of IInd Isaiah called “Hymns to the New Jerusalem” we have today’s reading about “Israel in darkness” or the Third Suffering Servant Song.  Who is the servant?  To the eye of IInd Isaiah it is the collective whole of Israel.  In this understanding, the prophet encourages the people to have open ears, awakened each morning to the Word of God.  Listening to the Word and then structuring life around its understanding is a dangerous thing in the mind of the prophet.  “I gave my back to those who struck me,” seems to indicate how others treated those who listened and acted on God’s Word.

The second section (verses 7-9) contrasts good and evil in the context of the courtroom.  In a virtual pun (the word disgraced is a form of the verb to buffet seems to bind the two sections together. The prophet states his case directly with declarative sentences and sharp questions.  The last sentence of the song is elided from the reading, but is helpful here.  “See they will all wear out like a garment, consumed by moths.”  The notion of cloth or of clothing becomes a metaphor for the person of the enemies, those who persecute the hearers and doers of the Word.  God’s help and redemption is stated succinctly in this verse that concludes the song.

Breaking open Isaiah:
  1. How do you hear God?
  2. Have you ever been derided for your faith?

Psalm 116:1-8 Dilexi, quoniam

I love the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, *
because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.

The cords of death entangled me;
the grip of the grave took hold of me; *
I came to grief and sorrow.

Then I called upon the Name of the LORD: *
"O LORD, I pray you, save my life."

Gracious is the LORD and righteous; *
our God is full of compassion.

The LORD watches over the innocent; *
I was brought very low, and he helped me.

Turn again to your rest, O my soul, *
for the LORD has treated you well.

For you have rescued my life from death, *
my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.

I will walk in the presence of the LORD *
in the land of the living.

In this Thanksgiving Psalm, in the Hebrew, the first verset ends with the name YHWH, so that the sentence more correctly reads “I love when the Lord hears.”  That construction places the emphasis on the trust that the author has in God’s ability to hear and then to act.  Somehow the author has encountered death either through a personal tragedy, or in battle.  It is in this situation that he utters his plea, and “the Lord hears.”  The prayer is not only directed to God, but to the individual’s soul as well, “Turn again to your rest, O my soul.”  God’s intervention has returned life to a sense of normalcy and calm.  The phrase “I shall walk before the Lord” (in our reading, “I will walk in the presence of the Lord”) is an idiom expressing not only life’s journey with God, but also continued service to the God who has delivered the author from the threat of death.

Breaking open Psalm 116
  1. How do you speak with God?
  2. Does God listen to you?
  3. How do you know, and how do you react?

James 3:1-12
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue-- a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

We continue with our continuing reading from the Epistle of James.  In James 1:19, James encourages his readers with the discipline of being “slow to speech.”  This section expands on that injunction by instructing his readers on how to teach, or how to use the tongue.  Various tools are mentioned, such as the rudder of a ship, or the bridle of horse, to bring to the reader’s mind the controls that are needed for Christian speech.  Other examples are used by the author such as a forest fire, or the cosmic reach of an untoward phrase.  An interesting set of contrasts concludes the second paragraph, where blessing God is contrasted with the curses with which we beset our God-created neighbor. 

Breaking open James:
  1. Who does James want us to be “slow of speech”?
  2. Have you ever regretted something that you have said?
  3. How did you redeem yourself?

Mark 8:27-38
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

The confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi is both a mountaintop experience and the nadir of misunderstanding.  At first blush, Peter seems to get it, understanding the “who” and role of Jesus.  What follows however is akin to the contrasts that James notes in the epistle.  Peter wants to dissuade Jesus from his talk of suffering and rejection.  Jesus sees in Peter’s speech nothing other than Satan, the argument of evil against his ministry in the world.  From this incident comes a sermon on denial and salvation, both tied together in the Christian effort to model Christ.  Of special note is the use of the word “ashamed”.  It not only distances us from the embarrassment of the Suffering Christ, but also distances us from the One who sent him.

Breaking open the Gospel:

  1. Do you have any sympathy for Peter in this situation?  Why?
  2. What do you think that Jesus means about denying yourself?
  3. Are you ever ashamed of your faith?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.