September 13, 2015, How Long, Oh Lord

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Warm-up Question

I don’t know about all of you, but I love to be right.  I love it.  Sometimes this is a really great quality; it drives me to do extra reading and research until I am sure I have the "right" information.  Other times, it does not bring out the best in me.  It can cause me to do not great things, like bring up an old argument when I’ve found new "proof" that I was right.

  • When was a time you were excited to have the right answer? 
  • How do you behave in an argument?  Do you seek out compromise or hold on tight to your stance no matter what?  How do you behave differently depending on whether you are dealing with friends, parents, or people you don’t know as well?

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long

Last
Wednesday as I sat down to begin writing this post, news broke of the fatal
shooting of journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward.  The horror was magnified as the violent act
happened during a live broadcast. The typical interview dissolved into a
dropped camera, screams, and gunshots before cutting back to a shocked anchor
in the studio. Soon the station was reporting on the deaths of Parker and Ward,
as well as on injuries to the woman being interviewed.  Later that day we heard the alleged shooter,
Vester Lee Flanagan II, was also dead due to a self-inflicted gun wound. 

shutterstock_233436193edit.jpg

We now
hear the shooter was a disgruntled employee who claimed racial discrimination
and sexual harassment pushed him over the edge, but such assertions are not
nearly enough of an explanation or justification for his actions.  We are still left with questions:  Why is there such senseless violence?  Why is life treated so cheaply? Why does this
keep happening over and over again?   Of
course, questions are already be raised again about mental illness and gun
control, but the real question seems to be, “How long?”  How long, oh Lord, how long can we stand such
distress?  

Discussion Questions

  • How did you feel when you heard the news of the shooting? 
  • How do you respond in the face of tragedy?  Do you need time alone to process?  Do you want to work for change and seek out new ways of doing things or does it cause you to shut down and do nothing?
  • When tragedy like the Virginia shooting happens we have a hard time understanding why this could happen. What in your own life do you have a hard time making sense of?  What are times and situations where you feel like things have been unfair?  What problems feel too big to change?

Lectionary 24 / Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 50:4-9a

James 3:1-12

Mark 8:27-38 

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

 

Gospel Reflection

Peter has the right answer. 
Peter has just had his gold star moment. 
He looked at Jesus and said no, you are not a prophet, you are not
Elijah.  You are the Messiah. You are the
one who came to save us.  Bingo!  Peter has the right answer, but he doesn’t
even get a second to savor his success. 
Instead, Jesus begins to talk about suffering and death.  Peter stops him; this is not the Messiah he
wants.

Of course, when asked who Jesus is, we know the right
answer.  We know Jesus is the Messiah,
the one sent to save the world.  Yet, I
often find myself in the same place as Peter wanting to pull Jesus aside and
ask him to be the savior I want, the God I want.

As I am rocked with yet another senseless shooting, as
wildfires rage the west coast, as race relations continue to be contentious, I
find myself growing both weary and angry. 
Where is our Messiah?  Why aren’t
we saved from all of this suffering and death and despair?  Why God won’t you act?

We live awaiting the promise of our Lord’s return and
redemption, but as we wait, we wait in a fallen world.   And if you are like me, you grow weary, grow
angry at this fallen world.  Jesus is not
a superhero savior swooping in to remove us from any suffering, but Jesus is
present in these awful situations.  Jesus
is found in those who are there to help.  Jesus is found those reaching out with love
and compassion; he is found in those working and praying for change. 

Most of all Jesus is found wherever life is proclaimed over
death.  So even as we grow weary, as we
grow angry, we remember our hope is found in Jesus Christ and Jesus will not
disappoint.   We cling to the promise
that Jesus will come again and redeem the world, will come again and right the
many wrongs.  We cannot heal the world
from all the evils we see and luckily we don’t have to, that is the work of our
Lord. We cling to the promise Jesus will come again to redeem the world, so
maybe the real question is:  What will we
do as we wait? 

Discussion Questions

  • The Jewish people waited for a messiah to rescue them foreign opposition and restore Israel.  When Peter named Jesus the Messiah he was most likely looking for a military leader to lead Israel to glory.  How was Jesus an unexpected messiah?  How did he better fulfill the role of messiah? 
  • What does it mean when we name Jesus our messiah?  When and how have you wished God would be different?  When has God played an unexpected or surprising role in your life?
  • Where have you seen God in hard times in your own life?  When has God felt absent?
  • Theologians often call our current time "the already, but not yet" because Jesus has already saved us from sin, death and the devil, but has not yet come again.  So I offer the question again, "What will we do while we wait?"  What are ways you can make the world a little better?  When have small acts of kindness done by others made a big impact on you?

Activity Suggestions

  • Make idols! We are all guilty of trying to make God into the gods we want.  We are also guilty of making other things and people into our gods.  Whatever we give our time, our money and our hearts to become our gods.  Use play-dough to make figures of all the false idols in your life.  When you are done, smash the idols to confess your wayward heart and offer a pray of thanksgiving to our Lord who welcomes back all wayward sinners.
  • What keeps you up at night? List together all of the things that bother you, which keep you up at night, which make you angry or sad or scared.  The list will seem big and intimidating, but start small.  Brainstorm and research the items on your list.  Then create a make a change list and list small (or big) ways you could get involved and work for change.  Encourage every person to commit to doing one thing on your make a change list.  Check in on how everyone is doing next time you are together. 

Closing Prayer

Dear Messiah, We
pray for you to come again.  As we wait,
energize us show your love in all we do. 
Amen