Sun., Sept. 16, 2018 Pentecost 17 Texts: Proverbs 1:20-33, James 3:1-12, Mark 8:27-38
Last week we had a great feel good Sunday with Rally Day. We had the kids here with the blessing of the back packs and we heard a good word from one of our kids that’s all grown up now Tyler Rothbauer and his experiences in working with the Christian outreach ministry Next Step Ministries in Guatemala. When it was all said and done I did have a youth ask me why do we call it rally day? That question stuck with me throughout the week. Because when you have a pep rally, you bring people together to get them pepped up for the big game. When you have a car rally, you bring car owners and their cars together. When church members have been spread far and wide over the summer its nice to have a church rally and bring folks back together from hither and yon.
Rallying is a good thing, but it isn’t always an easy thing. Getting from here to there can sometimes be a big challenge. Whether its coordinating schedules or getting GPS to work correctly coming together, achieving goals, going forward can sometimes look like a challenge that can’t be met.
There's a story of a city slicker that went out to the country to visit a historic sight tucked back into the countryside. He had rushed off without his directions thinking he could find it from memory he soon found out his memory was faulty, and he'd have to stop for directions. After a few wrong turns and no civilization in sight he spotted a farm house with a small produce stand out front. He stopped and asked the old man at the stand how to get to the historic sight. The old man thought for a while and said "Well, you can take rural #81 to #16 but sixteen been torn apart for construction, so I'd guess the better way is to take Olsen over to Sandberg lane but I think last month’s storm washed out the bridge by Gustafson’s. You could take the frontage road to… nope! forgot they're redoing the railroad intersection there and it's a mess. The visitor asked if there were any other routes to which the old man pondered and said " Hmm, I guess you can't get there from here?"
Sometimes it really feels like we can't get from here to there. There are just too many obstacles, or too many miles between us and our destination. Over the summer I began to feel like I couldn't get from here to there on just simple trips like going from my house on Rt. 165 near North Lima to church here. It's a straight shot except when you've got bridges out, detours, road construction. Yikes! Then this past week I tried to get out of the church parking lot and traffice was backed up both ways for what seemed like a mile because of road resurfacing in front of the church. You can't get there from here sounds reasonable sometimes but in reality, with wisdom, patience, and persistence you can.
Our readings today make it clear that we must not practice foolishness no matter how good it sounds- like the foolishness of “you can't get there from here.” Proverbs where we hear about folks who don't think, they just do. "Living without reasoning" is a sure-fire way to wander off the right path and find yourself in deep trouble. Our second lesson follows up on that somewhat with the observation that lots of people fail to not only control their temper but just as dangerously they also fail to control their tongue. Two sure fire ways to get yourself in trouble- fail to control your temper and fail to control your tongue. Scripture warns, living without reasoning is dangerous.
Our Gospel seems to start out on a different path. We have Jesus encouraging people to branch out and find their own path when he asks them, "But who do you say that I am?" Impetuous Peter is the first one to blaze a new path "You are the Messiah." What a trailblazer this guy is! Peter isn't afraid to go where others haven't gone yet. You can just kind of envision how proud Jesus was of this bright student of his that "got it."
As we begin another year of Christian education for ages 3 to 103 this is what we want, to get people to the point where they can see and say for themselves "Jesus is the Messiah, he is God's son my Lord." We want everyone to get from that starting point of who is Jesus to where they can say Jesus is my savior. That's where we want people to get to and we really truly do believe that you can get there from here.
Many of you are saying I've arrived, I don't need no more help. But take a word of warning from our gospel even when we arrive, like Peter we can take a wrong turn. Not more than two verses later and likely on the same day, same hour in which Peter had made that great confession Peter makes this great back slide. His knee jerk reaction to Jesus talking about his cross is to blurt out “Jesus you should never sacrifice yourself for anyone, ever!” Peter rebukes Jesus and Jesus must take his star pupil out to the wood shed and rebuke him in return. “Get behind me Satan, for you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things.”
Why is it so easy for faithful people to take a wrong turn? Have you taken a wrong turn? God can bring you back but only if you heed his directions. A person may be confident, may be smart, may be athletic but all those things don't keep you in God's good graces, only staying on the loving path of Christ can keep you in God's good graces.
This year we will be focusing on Jesus. Our Sunday School will spend the entire year on the life of Jesus, our Adult Forum will look at the Case for Christ. It nice to study peer pressure with youth, parenting with parents but unless we ground ourselves directly in the word of God it’s too easy to go off the path and focus on earthly things instead of divine things. And even easier to finally convince ourselves “we can't get there from here.”
Perhaps you are convinced a marriage can't be saved, a relationship is beyond repair, or you're no longer an employable person, all these statements say, "I can't get there from here." There is hope and we find that hope in God's word where we learn of faithful and flawed people who continue to follow paths of those who went before them and amazingly enough found their way from "here to there."
God can and will get you through this journey, he is the best guide, the best trailblazer, the best navigator we can have. But his advice and guidance is useless to those who don't study, listen, and heed it. Please join us, rally with us in this year’s focus on Bible study and worship. There are many opportunities beyond Sunday mornings: nightly devotions, morning bible reading, tuning in to the Christian music radio station. Yet first and foremost to not be neglected is the basic opportunity each and every Sunday morning to rally here at the cross at good ole Greenford Lutheran.
God can get us from here to there no matter the challenge but only if we put God first, allow God to sit in the driver’s seat of our life. This happens when we can put our mind on divine things rather than simply focusing on earthly things. That means learning like Peter did, just because we accept Jesus as our Savior doesn’t mean we’ve arrived, we still have a lot of following to do. Follow Christ and he’ll show you how to get from where you are to where you need to be. Amen.