We find ourselves at the Crossroads

Proper 19 Year B 2021

Proverbs 1:20-33
Psalm 19
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

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.

An anniversary is a time where we pause and reflect.

And each anniversary is different.

With Wedding anniversaries, we celebrate the day, the marriage, the children and the legacy. Some anniversaries are harder. When marriages end in divorce these anniversaries are transformed.

When we remember a loved one who has died, these anniversaries are full of our hearts heavy with emotions.

This past week and weekend, as we remembered the 20th anniversary of September 11th, the news was full of stories of families, loved ones, those who have died, those who have survived that day. There is joy for those who survived and there is deep heart wrenching pain for those lives that were lost.

On the September 12th of 2001, St. Paul’s Chapel transformed from a historic little chapel used for services as an annex for Trinity Wall Street to the main space of sanctuary for those who were doing the rescue work in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Remarked as the “Little Chapel that stood” this little space had no structural damage despite the proximity to the World Trade Center. The only change visible was a fine layer of dust covering the pews because a window had been left cracked the night before.

And on 9/12 the chapel opened as a space for compassion and hope. The sanctuary became a space for those who needed rest, prayer, nourishment of mind, body and soul. Letters streamed in from all over the globe and you have seen the photos of firefighters sleeping in the pews, sleeping in the pews because they lived so far from the site that they could not get home and return in time for the next shift- St. Paul’s Chapel gave the tired, the weary, the exhausted a space to rest. The Volunteers serving in the chapel lived each day into the true meaning of compassion, to hold the suffering and fatigue of those doing recovery work and be present with them.

If 9/11 was destruction, 9/12 was a crossroads.

What would we do, as a nation, as a city, as a family, as the church.

St. Paul’s Chapel chose to fling wide the doors and meet people exactly where they were. Opening to each person for 24hours a day for prayer, meals, rest, and care. The focus was less upon who was whom and instead focused upon the brokenness that needed repair. Words of Comfort, Words unspoken through hugs, compassion needed and received. All gathered there were walking towards the pain so that healing could begin.

In today’s gospel we are at again at a crossroad. Jesus and his disciples have gone as far north as Jesus will go in the gospel of Mark. We are very much outside of cozy hometown Galilee, we are in Gentile country. Here, in Caesarea Philippi (named for the King who claimed he was the son of God) is where Jesus asks that question. The question that all three synoptics ask. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do they say that I am.”

It’s a survey question- what are people saying about me?

What’s the feedback? Tell me.

And they do, they answer the survey question with the things their friends and family are saying- you are a prophet, you are John the Baptist, you are Elijah….. so many wonderful things. Each of these references speak to Jesus’ actions calling for realignment with God, his healings, his teachings. These actions are similar to the prophets, to Elijah, to John the Baptist who had gone before him.

And then Jesus gets personal. He asks directly- Who do you say that I am?

And I can imagine the silence.

The silence of thinking.

Perhaps the disciples needed to journal a bit and think about it.

Perhaps they were afraid of being wrong

Perhaps they agreed with what others were saying and weren’t sure of another answer.

Peter valiantly says, “YOU are the messiah”- the anointed one.

The one we have heard all about…….

Great job peter……. Gold Star!

And then Jesus points out the cross road…..

They will literally begin their turning point here in the gospel. The group will turn back towards the south and the rest of the Gospel will be facing and journeying towards Jerusalem. We know what happens in Jerusalem, the disciples, remember do not fully understand.

The disciples know a Messiah was to come to be militant and fight, rebuild the temple, battle for the poor, attack the oppressors.

Jesus tells the disciples and Peter, as the messiah his fight for the poor will be through compassion. Literally suffering on their behalf, the anointed one will fight in a way that will bind up the brokenness with a love that demands justice and transforms the world with a love that is self-sacrificing and unconquerable.

And at this cross road, Peter chooses to boldy caution Jesus. I can imagine that Peter figured he did so well with that first answer he might have some more wisdom within him. Peter is trying to fit Jesus into his own definition and Jesus meets him where he is and continues to transform his path.

Jesus is clear. SO clear.

Get Behind me Satan, OUCH.

The crossroads.

Jesus says the messiah is willing to walk towards the suffering, not seeking it, but walking towards it to transform the world and the modern understanding of how to move forward, how to bring about community, how to create healing in a world that is so full of pain.

Jesus says to come and eat, seek and ye shall find, sit a while here with me and lean on me. Listen to me, I will give you rest, I will give you living water, I will give you what you need for transformation.

Jesus never claims that the path is easy.

In fact, he speaks over and over again about the suffering and challenges a life of following will look like.

He also leads us through the path together.

To see a third way, a new way.

We are in the midst of crossroads in our lives.

As we remember anniversaries.

How will we react in our pain, our loss, our brokenness? How are we transformed?

As we are in the midst of change,

How will we see open doors and new beginnings at the same time of closing chapters?

How will we walk towards suffering with compassion, knowing that this is what Jesus has shown us as he turned his face towards Jerusalem and transformed what a Messiah would look like?

We are at a crossroad each day that we are given.

It is a time to meditate, reflect and then ACT.

And at that crossroad we are invited to lean in and follow the path for justice and healing.

Mary Oliver in her poem, “What I have learned so far” put it like this: “The gospel of

light is the crossroads of —indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.”

  • Mary Oliver

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