“You are not equal to your sins”
“Get behind me, Satan!”
His disciples and all his followers believed Jesus was going to be the new King of the Jews, the one who would free the Jews from the harsh, cruel, and demeaning rule of the Roman Empire. Jesus was supposed to be crowned in glory, royal robes, an army at his side, with maid servants, riches, and great power over his kingdom.
Yet today we hear in our Gospel that “Jesus began to teach his disciples that he 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.”
Jesus’ disciples were so confused. This did not fit in any way with what they thought would happen, so the ever impulsive Peter decides to pull Jesus aside and “rebuke him.”
“Hey Jesus, can you come here? I know you are in the middle of a big speech about your death, but can I talk to you for a minute?” Peter takes him by the arm away from the crowd, looking all around for Roman soldiers and whispers to him, “What on earth are you talking about? This is not part of the plan. You are so close to becoming King and overthrowing these Roman authorities, stop saying these things. Talk like this will get you killed.”
Can you imagine doing this? Pulling Jesus, the Son of God, off to the side to tell him that he is wrong and actually you have a much better sense of what is going to happen.
It might be hard to imagine, but we do this all the time.
I had been working as a chaplain for about 7 years when my youngest finished full-time daycare and moved into half-day pre-school. I was a part-time chaplain working three 8 hour days, so I asked if I could switch my work to Monday through Friday mornings. This way I would not have to pay for after school care, which would have been cost prohibitive, and I could spend more time with my kids in the afternoons. I had actually been talking about this schedule change since my son was born and really thought it would be possible. When I finally asked for the schedule change, my employer would not change my schedule. As a working parent, I felt indignant, resentful.
Now for at least a year, probably more, I had been hearing a strong call to serve as a priest at a church, but I never could imagine how I would be able to give enough to a church community as a young mom. So I never even entertained the idea of looking for a church.
Instead I continued to advocate for a new schedule with my employer, but to no avail. I even then applied for other part-time chaplaincy jobs, but none of them would agree to my schedule.
For years, I thought I knew what my future would look like. I would work while my boys went to school and then I would take care of them after school. Church work was something I longed to do, but that would have to wait until my boys were older. Every time I went to pray and heard the call to work in a church, I would rebuke Jesus, just like Peter did. “No, Jesus. Not yet. I know what is best.”
We all do this from time to time. We think we know what our future should look like and when it doesn’t seem to be working out the way we want it to, we resist it. We may not actually be standing in front of Jesus like Peter was, but we are…. in our thoughts and our prayers rebuking Jesus, “no your plans are wrong. Let me tell you how it is going to go.”
How audacious we can all be at times?
So how does Jesus respond to Peter? How did Jesus respond to me? How does Jesus respond to us?
Notice…Jesus does not say, “Get behind me Peter!”
In fact Jesus does not speak to Peter at all. Jesus speaks to the evil, the sin in Peter and utters these now famous words…
“Get behind me Satan!”
In other words, Jesus does not say, “Get out of my way Peter so that I can keep moving and do what I came to do.” Jesus does not shove Peter aside, step over him, or talk down to him. Instead Jesus tells the evil that is in Peter to step aside so that Jesus and Peter and all his disciples can continue moving forward.
Jesus tells the sin in Peter to get behind him… then Jesus takes Peter’s hand and together they march forward. In fact after Jesus dies and he returns to visit his disciples, he crowns Peter as the rock upon which all the church would stand. Jesus not only does not push aside Peter, he actually elevates Peter.
When I resisted Jesus, when I was anxious about increased work, frustrated and resentful of my employer, Jesus did not shove me aside. He did not remove me and the purpose he gave me. He stayed with me. He stood before me, just as he stood before Peter and pushed aside my worries, my resentment, my frustrations, took my hand and helped me see that serving in a parish could be possible. Jesus would give me all I needed to do the work, and he would help me find a place that embraced my family and my children.
It has been a privilege and joy to step into this call here at Christ Church and work with such faithful, giving, real people as you all are. It has given me so much more than I give. It has in fact elevated me and my sense of call.
When we fight God, God does not shove us to the side to have his way. He does not push us aside and pick someone else. When we resist God, God speaks to the sin in us and tells the sin in us to get out of the way so that Jesus can accomplish in us far more than we can ask for or imagine.
During the season of Lent, we examine our lives. We take time to really look at our sin. When we do this it is tempting to think that we are our sins. We are sinful, broken people. But that is not how our Creator sees us. God sees us as he made us with all the beauty and purposes he gave us. We may fight and resist and fall, but these sins are not who we are. God sees these sins as separate from us and in fact something that can be removed. That is why God sent his only son Jesus to remove our sins because these sins are not who we are. They can be removed by Jesus.
As we examine our lives this Lent remember that Jesus sees you as who he has created you to be and as one song writer puts it so beautifully, “you are not the sum of your mistakes.” You are not equal to your sins. You are beautifully made from dust by the hands of God and Jesus came to set those sins aside so that you can live into the person God has called you to be.
So this Lent, I invite you to look at your sin as something that is separate from you. Perhaps it is currently a part of you, but it is not interwoven in you. It can be removed. You can even imagine it like a ball of yarn or a box of things. Then I want you to imagine Jesus standing before you saying, Get out of our way sin!
Imagine Jesus removing this ball, this box of sin from you, putting it aside. Then imagine Jesus taking your hand and walking forward with you, elevating you, bringing you into who you were made to be. You can imagine Jesus turning to you and saying finally, you are a child of mine made with a purpose and reason. I will never give up on you.