Text study for Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28
Lectionary texts for August 28, 2011
Old Testament ethics bid us to care for “the widow, the orphan, the stranger.” Romans 12 informs Christians to extend hospitality to everyone — even one’s enemies: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink.” Those are challenging words requiring a difficult response.
How would you feel if our prayer petitions each Sunday concluded, “Into your hands, gracious God, we commend all for whom we pray, all we have forgotten, and those we consider our enemies, trusting in your mercy; through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen”?
If you have ever questioned the need to love enemies and outdo others in zeal in serving the Lord, you understand the disciples, who in raw panic are called by Jesus to “take up your cross and follow.”
Surely the disciples are grateful for their time with Jesus and willing to continue the work of radical hospitality. And, surely they are grateful that Peter takes Jesus aside to openly name this new journey toward death as baffling and avoidable.
In response, Jesus makes this much clear: Peter moves from being named Rock to being considered a pebble wedged fitfully in a sandal.
We are all set off balance by Jesus who calls to us lose our lives to live in God alone.
Thanks be to God we stand on this side of the resurrection where everything has been accomplished for us. In our baptism, we are marked with the cross of Christ. The cross, remembered every time we worship in the name of our triune God, emblazed upon us each Ash Wednesday and celebrated one final time as we complete our baptism in our death, reminds us daily of God’s love for us. This cross we carry on our bodies ultimately carries us.
It is out of God’s love on the cross that we know unconditional love. It is out of the death and resurrection of Christ where we have true love and true life. It is the cross that carries us each day.
- When did you experience the love of God through others who loved “with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor”? When were you the recipient of such mercy? When did you display such grace?
- How do you offer mutual affection to your family, your extended family, your church family, or your neighbors? When did you respond to hurt with grace and forgiveness? How did your response alter the relationship?
- How has the cross of Christ carried you?
- What prayer-filled action could you do this week to display the love of God that carries you daily?
Annette Griffin is interim pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Dundee, Mich.