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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 8:27—9:1

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.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” (NRSV)

Have well meaning people tried to dissuade you from a tough road? Have you ever had a righteous mission, knowing what you had to do, and faced not only terror but the objections of those who care about you?

“It’s too hard.” “If you were meant to do this, it would be easier.” “You haven’t thought this through.” “Don’t put yourself through this.”

It isn’t hard to understand Peter’s (and perhaps all the disciples’ and the crowd’s as well) desire for a different outcome, a safer path, an earthly victory. They mean well, but they misunderstand the mission. Of course doing the right thing is going to be hard. Jesus will not be deterred.

Jesus attempts to prepare his followers for what is coming; he tells the whole crowd that things are about to get ugly—there will be no earthly profit, no earthly comfort, no ease. But it is not only necessary, it is worth it. This mission is worth everything because it is of heaven.

How many people told Mildred and Richard Loving not to be together? I wonder if the more well-meaning objections involved statements like “I just don’t want you to suffer” or “This is going to be so hard; just give up on this.” Thank God the Lovings remained steadfast and true, insisting that their faithfulness to one another was righteous, good, and worth all the hardships they faced.

How many people have said, “Do you have to go through with this?” and “I just don’t want you to get hurt” when family members have come out as preferring partners of the same sex, or having nontraditional gender identities? Naysayers may have the best of intentions, may claim to love those they are counseling, but when objections attempt to steer us away from truth, away from our souls, they are more Satan than care.

What opportunities have you had to support or obstruct someone’s righteous, terrifying path? What righteous, terrifying paths have you walked?

God, when I have difficult, heaven-seeking paths, help me stay true. When those I love are on such paths, take my mind off earthly things and remind me what souls are worth. Give us all clarity. Help us remain steadfast. God, stay with us when the suffering comes. Amen.

Written by Kat Evans, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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