Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21, 2011, "Heaven Sets the Pace"

Matthew 16.13-23

Dramatic moment when the salesperson says to us, “Here are the keys to your new car” … and with keys in hand, we open the door, get behind the wheel, start the car, and off we go, proud as punch!
We rent an apartment; sign the papers, write a deposit check, and when the deal is done, the landlord reaches over and puts a set of keys into our hand; we breath a sigh of relief - we have a place to call home!

Keys are important.
When I signed my contract here, I was given a set of keys.
A friend of mine is a security guard; she carries a bundle of keys.
Jesus says to the disciples, I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Please note: Jesus does not give the keys then and there ... not yet, not now, not today … Jesus simply makes a promise … a pledge … a day to come … when the keys will be given.
Until then, says Jesus to the disciples, be quiet.
Keep your lips zipped.
Don’t tell anyone that I’m the Messiah.
People will misunderstand, and you don’t fully understand it either … until certain things have come to pass.

What has to happen?
Jesus has to go to Jerusalem.
Suffer many things in the Holy City.
More than suffer.
Be killed.
Peter protests!
Peter scolds Jesus.
What’s wrong with you?
What do you mean, suffer and die?
We’re gonna go to Jerusalem and win, aren’t we?
Please tell me Jesus.
It’ll be all right, won’t it?
No, Peter, says Jesus.
It won’t be all right.
It’ll not turn out as you want.
It’ll be hard.
It’ll be brutal.
It’ll be bloody.
And if you don’t understand this Peter, then you’re Satan.
And you’re in my way; stand aside.
There is no other way for the Son of God to show the world a different way … a new power … a new way of thinking about God and life and love … a new way of living.
I must go to Jerusalem, Peter, and give everything away, including my life.
Peter is upset.
Afraid for Jesus?
Sure, he’s afraid for Jesus.
But Peter’s afraid for himself, too.
Peter just signed on with Jesus as the Messiah - You’re the One, and I’m with ya’, all the way!
Peter didn’t bargain for this part of story.
The suffering and dying of Jesus is one of the events that has to happen first.

The Cross is the first key.
The first key of the kingdom.
The Son of God must give everything away, even his own life.
But there’s a second key: On the third day, raised to new life … death conquered.
That’s the second key - resurrection and all that follows afterward … 40 days of appearances, the Great Commission, the Ascension, and finally, Pentecost … only then can the disciples understand the story.
With a wonderful promise - What you bind on earth is bound in heaven; what you loose on earth is loosed in heaven!

Now it almost sounds like our decisions set the pace for heaven.
But such is not the case …
There are some translations that help us.
Whatever you prohibit on earth will have been prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will have been permitted in heaven."
Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven."
In other words, we begin to think and act just like heaven.
We begin to have the mind of God. 
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Heaven and earth in partnership.
Bind the wrong.
Loose the right.
Lift up the poor and the downtrodden.
Open doors and turn no one away.
Welcome fresh ideas and daring thought.
Where there’s hatred, stop it.
Where there’s discrimination, put an end to it.
Where war is preached, live for peace.
When the Temple grows too strong, overturn its tables.
When people worship the false gods of nationalism, lift up the name of Jesus!
Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick and visit those in prison.
Jesus knows that the church can go wrong.
Crusades and inquisitions, persecution of Jews, the Nazi Holocaust, hatred and fear of Muslims … women forbidden to preach; slavery approved … rejection of science and child-abuse.
Recently, the public strutting of faith … Perry of Texas and Bachmann of Minnesota, trying to out-do one another - to be Chief-Christian for America, and their fascination with guns  - dear people of God, this is NOT what Jesus gives to his disciples - not guns, but grace … not rejection of some, but welcome to all … not a public strutting of faith, but a private prayer closet
 … not pride and power, but humility and sacrifice.

Jesus called the disciples to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” 
The Cross and the Empty Tomb fill in the blanks and tie it all together.
Only then, Pentecost.
Peter can now tell the world:
Jesus is the Messiah.
Not as we expected.
Not with armies and war horses.
Not with sword and spear.
But by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Follow him.
Learn from him.
Give him your life.
His light will fill your heart.
And your light will shine before others.
With him, in him, and through him, we will change the world!

The Cross and the Empty Tomb - these are the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
With these keys in our hands and heart, the gospel is unlocked, and we change the world.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. 
Amen and Amen!