Rev. Lyle McKenzie Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria
Proverbs 1:20-33 / Psalm 19 / James 3:1-12 / Mark 8:27-38
There’s a blessed lot going on today: Holy Cross, Holy Creation, Holy Baptism, Holy Communion – Holy, Holy, Holy. There’s a holy lot going on, and what’s it mean, what can we do?
And, holy, there’s a lot of red. If you didn’t get the memo, or in this case never saw the newsletter, you’d think there was a secret dress code. If you’re not wearing red, be assured you’re okay. There’s no dress code. It’s just a “Holy Red” Sunday.
It’s Holy Cross. It’s a “lesser festival” on September 14 that we transfer to the closest Sunday because of our name – Church of the Cross. Eleven years ago we celebrated the dedication of this building addition that we’re worshipping in and the new entrance, elevator and connecting spaces, on the festival of Holy Cross. And we continue to remember the anniversary, and give thanks! for the faithfulness of God and the people of this community and beyond that make all this possible, and how it serves the life and work of the congregation and community.
The festival itself celebrates the Holy Cross of Jesus. As the Gospel reading today shows us, that’s not simple. The conversation between Jesus and the disciples begins with Jesus asking the question, who do people, and then, who do you say that I am? Peter’s answer is the right one, the Messiah, in Hebrew meaning, God’s anointed, or in Greek, the Christ. Peter’s right, but Jesus tells them not to tell anyone. Why? Because typical Messiah understanding led to images of earthly triumph over enemies and regaining and amassing power. That’s still operating in full force in our time. That’s not what Jesus means, it’s not what God’s plan for Messiah is. When Jesus describes quite openly that it means undergoing suffering, rejection and death, then after three days rising again, Peter tells Jesus off, making it clear there will be none of that on his watch. (Note the connection to the second reading from James, which is essentially, “watch your tongue.”) Well Peter doesn’t and Jesus doesn’t back. Telling Peter off with the truth that any deflection from God’s purpose of faithfulness that will inevitably lead to conflict with those in power and even death, is the temptation work of Satan, so get behind Jesus and follow.
That’s not easy to hear especially when spiced with words about being ashamed of one another. But by the Holy Cross, all of this happens as Jesus said. Jesus goes through this suffering, rejection and death and after three days rises again for the sake of Peter and all Jesus’ followers, for all humanity and the whole of creation, to redeem every adulterous and sinful generation that will choose earthy things and power over heavenly ones most every time. And this Holy Cross of death and new life will be marked on us at the waters of Baptism and on the day of our funeral, and signed on and over us and most everything we do in between, to remind us, return us to, the promise of the Holy Cross, that no matter the degree of our failings, the depth of the suffering, in our lives, in our world, there is no place, nothing, that God will not suffer with us and this world, and cannot and will not redeem from suffering and death, to life!
Sometimes we have only this to believe, to hold on to. On Friday night watching the news and seeing images of children starving to death in Yemen, bringing us to tears, it is only to this Holy Cross that we can cling, that God holds each child, and begs us and this world to respond with help and hope as we can.
Holy Cross… and Holy Creation… We continue to recognize this time of creation with earth dyed fabrics, a wall of wonder at God’s creation, an earth loom, daily challenges, words and songs calling us to see the connections and interdependence of all creation and ourselves as very dependent creatures within it. The Holy Cross is present in all of creation, and maybe especially where it is straining under the weight of our human abuse. Even more severe storms, dying whales and islands of plastic in our oceans can also overwhelm us. But gratitude, humility, and hope are what the Holy Cross brings into focus, calls us to see in all creation, and to follow, working and striving for the wellbeing of the earth and its creatures as we can.
Holy Cross… Holy Creation… Holy Baptism. This gift of water and words, today for Jacob, every day for everyone, is a gift of the Holy Cross of Jesus. These waters of creation, elemental connection between ourselves and God and all God has made, join us to Jesus and his Holy Cross of sin and death and new life. Why talk of death and sin around such a beautifully perfect newborn child? What’s the matter with us? Well, we’re followers of Jesus and the truth of the Holy Cross in this temporal, broken world and every mortal life; And! of God’s promise of resurrected life, new life, ever rising out of death, in this world, in our lives, even the tiniest of them like Jacob’s, now and forever. And that’s a promise we want to give to every child, every new life, in the Holy Cross of Christ Jesus.
Holy Cross; Holy Creation; Holy Baptism; Holy Communion… A table, a meal, a host, food and drink and sharing together… it’s this meal we return to every week, every time to receive again God’s gifts of grace in bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus given through the Holy Cross to feed us and the world with hope and new life, and reconnect us to one another and all creation and our common purpose to feed a hungry world, that all have enough: food, compassion, care, shelter, security, education, health, community, hope, especially those in the tent city we closed down this week leaving people with few other places to go… enough; enough for them as God intends for all in this world and all creation. This meal of thanksgiving is a Holy Communion with their suffering and God’s desire that all have enough in all creation in the Holy Cross of Christ Jesus.
Holy, Holy, Holy, there’s a lot going on today, in our world, in your lives, in our life together; a holy lot of death and life. And today, Holy Cross Sunday, with all God’s Holy Creation, with the grace of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, all in Holy Red, all of it, all of you, all of us, all things earthly and divine, are held in and through and with and under the Holy Cross of Christ Jesus, that graciously holds the truth of the struggle, the suffering, the rejection and the death of Jesus and this world and everything in it, and! and! and! the life! the new life! of the risen Christ Jesus, to redeem, to give hope to make new every Holy moment of every Holy day, in every microscopic particle in this whole, Holy cosmic creation. Thank you God for the Holy Cross of Christ Jesus and the life you give through it, now and forever, let it be so, in all our relations, Amen.