In church this morning the priest read the following words from Matthew:
“Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “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 will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:21-28)
The sermon was appropriately about servitude to God and being willing to pick up the cross and follow.
Every time there is a Eucharistic service in an Episcopalian Church when Rite II is spoken (as it was this Sunday) we hear the priest pray:
“We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly kingdom where, with all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation. By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.”
Today, the priest said that we need to be led to fully understand the lessons that are read in church, which come from the Holy Bible. He recalled how Paul wrote to the Romans and told them how to behave as Christians. In those words Paul mentioned the word “evil” three times, with the priest recalling verse 17 (a): “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”
That instruction can be difficult to understand, when one recalls how Paul had prior stated (in verse 9b): “Hate what is evil.” So often Christians think hate is itself an evil, which should be reason to self-flagellate, in the name of love, whenever our emotions clearly tell us, “Hate!”
We have examples of this natural emotion coming out in the reading from Matthew. Simon Peter hated what he heard Jesus tell him and the other disciples. Peter called Jesus aside to sharply criticize and reprimand him. Then, Jesus hearing that attitude coming from a disciple spoke back equally sharp, exclaiming, “Get behind me, Satan!”
Jesus – our role model – did not patronize Simon Peter and say something emotionally calm and collected, such as, “Rocky, ole chap, I see what you mean. You have opened my eyes. Now, I will ponder your advice. Thank you so much.”
Appeasement loves face-to-face meetings.
Jesus did what any loving parent would do when a child is learning a most bad habit that needs to immediately be ceased. He slapped some sense into Peter. He called a spade a spade. Peter’s hate was brought out by Satan, while Jesus’ hate was brought out by God.
Remember, Jesus only spoke what the Father wanted said. Thus, Jesus saying, “You, Peter, are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” God was then saying that Satan rules over the human brain.
Simon Peter was excused for speaking up for Satan that day because he was still just a disciple, regardless of how important in that clique Simon Peter’s brain thought he was. As just a disciple, he was still setting his mind on human things.
Paul gave us a to-do list of things Christians will find their job details, roles and responsibilities are, when employed as a slave to God. That list can only be accomplished when one’s mind is no longer focusing on human things. When one’s mind can only can see divine things, then one is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Alas, as the priest pointed out, we define a “successful life” in terms that a human brain measures … in wealth and fame (a definition of “success”). It is difficult to choose servitude as a lifestyle, when society trains the human brain to think in terms of having the servants working for you … not the other way around.
Well, this dilemma is why people hear and recognize the prayer the priest says aloud, each time the Rite II service is conducted, and few grasp the meaning. Those who are freed from slavery miss the point, as it takes a servant to understand that prayer.
After praying that the congregation will accept the wine and wafer as symbolic reminders of what Jesus said in his final Passover Seder meal, asking for the Holy Spirit to come upon those ceremonious partakers, the priest prays:
“Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
This asks for those kneeling at the altar to be sanctified, which means a prayer that those supping with the Holy Spirit will be Saints, via the union of the kneeler with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. If one is so united, then one has become a disciple that no longer thinks with a brain led by human things. Instead, a servant’s brain is led by the Mind of Christ. To pray that one is acceptable to God, through that Holy Spirit inspired thought, then one can instantly make up a to-do list like Paul sent to the Romans, which is what God finds acceptable in His servants.
This is that Paul list: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21)
With that mindset in place, we can then understand the priest’s prayer when he says, “In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly kingdom where, with all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and daughters.” Time is full when past, present and future have all been rolled into one. The future is assured of knowing “that heavenly kingdom,” when our brains move aside and let “all things [be] in subjection under Christ’s [Mind].” One is like all others who have gone before, go now, and will again go … as Saints … with sanctified minds. Everyone’s soul is then related to Jesus, as all become the “sons and daughters” of God … elevated well beyond the heritage of human parents.
When this becomes clear, out of the fog of routinely memorized prayers, one begins to understand that Jesus of Nazareth is not a human being that runs a business, called a Church. Jesus was never the CEO, CFO, COO or Owner-Operator of any building or institution known then or today as a capitalized “Church.” You cannot get in touch with Jesus by looking up a telephone number for any Church and ask whoever answers, “May I speak with the “head of the Church?” and, after being put on hold, then hear Jesus Christ say, “Jesus speaking. How may I help you?”
The “Head of the Church” means the MIND that leads ALL those who have transformed from human-things-mental-dwellers into those who serve only God, with a Christ Mind that dwells solely on divine things. Therefore, THAT CHURCH is an exclusive collection that is not welcoming to Satan followers. Only Saints are allowed membership into that Church, because the Christ Mind is in everyone’s head.
By realizing the meaning of that part of the priest’s prayer, it makes perfect sense when he or she then says, “By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever.” Every part of every true Christian is Jesus Christ. By Christ we are with Christ. We set aside our brains to be in his Mind. We become Christ reborn, as he in our bodies, through the Holy Spirit. As servants, we are due no recognition for what we do in the name of Christ, because all honor and glory is due the LORD. Our name is sacrificed on the cross we bear, so we can be resurrected in his name – Jesus Christ.
I hope all who regularly go to Episcopal churches around the world can see the meaning of the words that have been prepared for priests to pray mean. The words come from minds set on divine things, not human things, long ago. The head of the Church of Christianity actually filled the brains of those who wrote the Prayer Book. In the fullness of time since, to now, when the Church has morphed into some political influence that wants to attack hate with more hate, rather than hold fast onto that which is good and focus thought on that which is noble in sight, it helps to be nudged back to reality.
We need to see ourselves as disciples who just witnessed Jesus bitch-slap Simon Peter for trying to act like some high and mighty self-righteous dude. Then, in awe, we must say to ourselves, “Rut row. I better re-think this … seriously and sincerely.”
Jesus said, “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 will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” Christians have to ponder: “Am I denying myself?”
Or, “Am I in denial of Christ within me?”