24 Sunday - B

Mark 8:27-38 - "Why Must We Carry a Cross?"
James 3:1-12 - "Good Gossip" by Leonard Sweet
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Introduction by the Celebrant
A. Do We Go Jesus' Way?What are we looking for in life? Good health, happiness in our families, in our job, in our faith, good relationships with ourselves, with people and with God. When Jesus tells us today that we have to follow him in taking up the crosses that come our way, do we accept that as disciples of Jesus today? Do we take that as a part of our faith or do we say, "Lord, everything - but not that!"? Jesus assures us: "Anyone who loses his or her life for my sake will find life, will save life." Come, let us meet the Lord who speaks to us.
B. Do We Know Jesus?
We profess in the Creed, "I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son and our Lord." We say we know who he is, our Savior and our Lord. Do we really know him? To know him deeply we not only have to listen to what he says but to know how he lived and died, giving himself totally to the Father and to people. Even that is not enough: we must follow in his footsteps by giving ourselves like him without reserve to God and to people. Then we will know Jesus from experience.
Penitential Act
A. Do We Go Jesus' Way?
Lord Jesus, you suffered grievously
and you ask us to take up our cross after you.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Jesus Christ, you were put to death
and you ask us to lose our life for your sake.
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you rose again after three days
and you promise us that we will find life with you.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Lord, forgive us all our sins,
save us from evil and death
and lead us to a full and everlasting life. R/ Amen.


B. Do We Know Jesus?Lord Jesus. you are the truth, you are our life;
those who hope in you will never be disappointed.
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, you are the Christ sent by the Father;
your have given your all:
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you are our way.
You tell us to love one another
as you have loved us:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Have mercy on us, Lord,
heal us from our superficiality
and help us to follow you generously
as you lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.
Opening Prayer
A. Lord, Open Our Ears and Lips
Let us pray to God that we may learn
to bear our crosses with Jesus
(PAUSE)
Lord God, our hope and trust,
you have made us for happiness.
When we seek it in glorious dreams
of prosperity, success and freedom from pain
help us to face the realities of real life.Make us accept the uncertain darkness
of suffering and self-effacement
as the price to pay for light and joy.
Teach us the way of your Son Jesus Christ,
who died of his own free will,
that we might live and be happy.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. R/ Amen.
 
B. Do We Know Jesus?
Let us pray that our knowledge of Jesus
may become deep and personal
(PAUSE)
Loving Father,
today your Son Jesus asks of us
who he is, what he means to us.
Help us to come to know him personally
by sharing his very life of dedication to the end
and his unselfish service, including his cross.
May we thus become his friends
who experience him as the life of our life,
and with him become servants of one another
and of you, our living God.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. R/ Amen.
Introduction
This year we have been reading the gospel of Mark each Sunday. Today we come to its centre: Mark built his whole story around the moment of declaration by the disciples about who they believed Jesus really is: 'You are the Christ!' Once, the disciples had recognised his full identity, they were ready to be presented with the demands of being disciples, people who had chosen to follow his way.

Today, this gospel presents us with the same challenge. By assembling here we are declaring our belief in the identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Father. But having declared that faith, we now have to face the challenge of following his way. This way is the way of renouncing self, of taking up our crosses, and of being prepared to see in his way a radically different way of living. (Thomas O'Loughlin)


 Today's gospel is presented by Mark as a single scene taking place at Caesarea Philippi (the scene extends from 8:27 to 9:1); but it is made up of three parts: first, the confession of faith that Jesus is the Anointed One (vv 27-30); second, the prediction of the passion, death, and resurrection (vv 31-33); and, third, that the disciple can expect his / her life to follow the same pattern as that of the Christ (vv 34-35). All these elements of the scene are present also in Matthew and Luke, but the way they follow on from one another in Mark — almost like logical consequences — is found most clearly in Mark and gives this gospel an unique tone.
We tend to break them apart: one bit is 'christology', another is about 'encouraging the twelve', and the other is about discipleship — but for Mark this passage is a unity and it is at the very centre of his preaching. Here it all becomes plain: who Jesus is and his task and his people. Following is about who one follows, who that leader is and what he does, and about what is expected for those who come in the wake of the leader. For Mark, here we have his message in a nutshell. Yes, the Christ will rise, but before that there is the experience of being with him and the cross: his cross and one's own. Once we see this as Mark's core message, it is easier to see why his preaching, in its original form, ended with the death and burial of Jesus. Resurrection is but a promise for the future for those who are, as disciples, carrying their crosses.
 
 Michel DeVerteuil

 Textual Comments

This passage is in three sections, each of which has deep implications for our life of faith. The passage as a whole helps us understand and celebrate our own journey to commitment, or that of someone who has touched our lives. We start, as always, from experience, remembering a time when we got a better insight into the truth of Jesus, we realized for the first time that God truly became a human being among us.

Verse 27a : In this verse Jesus takes the decision to “leave for the villages round Caesarea Philippi.” It was on that journey that he put his question to the disciples. He made a conscious decision, and brought out a new profession of faith from them.

Verses 27b-29 : “Who do people say I am?” We can identify with Jesus. There have been times when we have been in leadership positions in a community and have stopped to look at our work, to evaluate our impact on those around us. “Who do people say I am? Do people understand what I am doing, what I am trying to communicate?” Nowadays we do this systematically with surveys and evaluations.

As Christians entrusted with the mission to proclaim the Good News we often ask the questions: when people look at us, who do they say we are?

We can also identify with the disciples. Every so often we look at the image of Jesus we carry within us – who is he for us? We may find that our image of him has changed over time, become more concrete, more real, and more coherent with our experiences. We celebrate the moments when we have become conscious of our journey to him.

Verse 30 : Jesus often instructs his disciples not to tell others what they have “seen”. We celebrate wise teachers who warned us not to share our deepest insights with those who have not yet made the journey. We would be robbing them of the joy of making their own discovery with its own particular twists and turns. We thank God for the times when we have waited respectfully for others to know Jesus – and learnt something new about him from them.

Verses 31-33 : We remember a time when someone we loved dearly – a friend, a child, a spouse – made a decision which they dreaded and yet accepted as necessary. We knew it would cause them pain, and we wanted so much to spare them! We tried to dissuade them, urging them to compromise and chose an easier path. They refused, and today we are grateful for their integrity.

Or it may be that we ourselves have made that journey, and today we thank God that we were able to.

Verses 34 and 35 are a meditation on the preceding incidents. We must make sure that we do not read them in a vague or abstract way, or as moralizing. We recognize each statement as true, corresponding to experience.

Verse 34 must remind is of concrete ways in which we (or others) “renounced ourselves” and as a result became better “followers of Jesus” – forgiving a person (or group) for whom we felt resentment, not accepting a high position, giving up an addiction, etc.

Verse 35 evokes things that we have risked “losing” and then “found” again in a deeper way – a friendship, prestige, inner peace, a harmonious community or workplace. 

Homily Notes

1. The gospel presents us with a single message in two stages: if you acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, then you embark on a life of discipleship. However, that is too complex a notion to try to communicate to an average congregation of people in various stages of life, with differing levels of religious commitment, a variety of listening abilities, educational backgrounds, and Christian spiritual 'awareness' — all in less than 10 minutes! So it is perhaps better to focus on a single aspect of the gospel and try to explicate that and help people come to a deeper understanding of that one aspect of today's gospel.

2. Two themes come easily to mind.

The first is a homily built around 'the challenge' of discipleship. In its crudest form it sounds like: if you believe, then you must be ready to die for your beliefs. The problem is that unless one is in an extreme situation, this is just'hot' rhetoric that excites a few hotheads in the congregation, but switches off most as a harangue. We can all offer challenges — and they are offered de facto in the liturgy today, but preaching needs to tap into something more reflective. Moreover, if preachers throw out challenges, then it has to be transparent that they are ready to be as daring themselves. Most clerics are seen by the congregations as anything but that: they are company men who keep the show running but are not prepared to offer challenges to their own leaders about discipleship, so why are they willing to throw out challenges to their flocks. So, unless there is a pressing need to adopt the challenge model, leave it alone.

The second is based on the theme of 'faith without words is dead'; and takes the form that belief must involve making a practical difference in the world around you, faith is not 'pie in the sky when you die' but social engagement. However, that can become a simple exhortation to moral or social work rather than a homily which helps people hear what the Spirit is saying (which includes the notion that an incarnational faith must engage with the world around us). To preach that discipleship involves works is either to state the obvious, or else requires that there is some very specific task that a community needs to undertake as part of its particular discipleship — but even then care must be taken that a homily does not become simply an advertising slot for some specific task.

3. An altogether different approach is to focus on the notion of the cross which lies at the heart of Mark's preaching today. Most preachers are so familiar with the cross as a concept, a liturgical object, or even an item of decoration, that we fail to appreciate just how off-putting many people — many Christians included — find it as an object, icon, image, and symbol. The notion of glorifying the image of a tortured, contorted body on an instrument of execution seems to smack of the grotesque. It can appear to glorify all that is vile in human nature, to rejoice in suffering for its own sake, and to be life-rejecting, joy-rejecting, and convey a message that religion is a dismal, dour business.

4. Many apologists then jump up and shout that that is not what it means, that is not how Christians see the world, that is not the message of the cross! Yes, this is all true; but the problem with symbols is that they communicate with us before we hear what they mean. And, in a culture where faith-meanings are not absorbed simultaneously with the faith-symbols, we have a problem.

5. Tackling that problem in the homily situation is a two-step process. First, acknowledge the problem. This will come as surprise to many in the congregation, but it will be useful for that group to realise that many fundamental Christian symbols are no longer 'obvious to all'. However, there will be some people in every gathering who will share this cultural unease with the cross and having that unease openly spoken about is often a great help: the individual is not alone in finding this aspect of faith / liturgy difficult.

6. The second stage is to ask why the earliest Christians focused on the cross as one of their basic symbols — along with baptism and the Eucharist? Why, when they preached that Jesus is risen as their basic message, did they bother with the cross? Christians focus on the cross because of a realistic assessment of what living a life of discipleship will cost. Working honestly, working justly, working for reconciliation is not only difficult, it generates opposition, and often provokes ridicule from others. In every generation Christians have realised that if they seek to follow the way of the Son of Man, then they will encounter the cross.

7. Using it as a symbol is a declaration of what living as a disciple of Jesus will involve. Using it, we can never be accused of making false promises under a 'trade descriptions' act'!

8. This sort of homily is not a theology of the Holy Cross, rather it is following up the notion of the cross as used in today's gospel, and as part of a low level programme of apologetics: giving sisters and brothers answers to the questions round about us.

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Sean Goan

We come now to a crucial moment in Mark's narrative as we hear the first of three predictions of Jesus' passion and death. From the beginning of the gospel there have been many expressions of wonder and amazement at what Jesus has done and these have often been accompanied by the question: 'Who can this be?' Jesus, however, has attempted to keep a lid on the question of his identity, as though he wanted it kept a secret. Now in these important verses we learn why. Jesus is interested above all in the response of faith and that is why he asks the disciples: 'Who do you say that I am?' Peter answers, acknowledging that Jesus is the Messiah. This is a Hebrew word and simply means the anointed one, but in the minds of the Jews of first-century Palestine it means much more. Peter is saying that Jesus is the long awaited fulfilment of the scriptures, the one to set his people free from foreign domination and who would usher in a great period of restoration and renewal. Jesus accepts the title but immediately begins the task of trying to bring his disciples to understand that he is not the type of Messiah they expect. Quite the opposite in fact, for the kingdom he proclaims will meet with fierce opposition and he will suffer the ultimate penalty for his faithfulness to it. What's more is that he expects his disciples to walk the same path.

Reflection

As Christians we pray daily using the words Jesus taught us: 'Thy Kingdom come.' When we do this we are saying that we want the world to be the way God wants it. In other words a place of peace and justice where no-one suffers through poverty, war or oppression. If this is what we want then we must live in a way which helps to bring this about, we must be committed to change. Such a choice might leave us like the Servant in the first reading facing abuse and insults from those who would prefer to leave things as they are. This is what Jesus is talking about in today's gospel: taking up our cross to follow him does not mean we are to go looking for suffering; rather it means accepting that choosing the way of God's kingdom will cost us. In short, faith without works is dead! 

Prayer Reflection 

Lord, we thank you for the quiet times we have taken,
away from the busyness of daily life,
to be with you and take stock of our lives:
long walks on the beach, retreats, quiet holidays.
Away from the pressures of family, co-workers and friends,
those who wish us to conform to whatever image they have of us,
we asked you, Lord, “Who do you say I am?”
and slowly we began to understand our own special vocation,
the life of Jesus within us. 

“True love is self-sacrificing because it is about making choices, and some of these will always be made at personal cost to ourselves. In the name of the God of costly love we take up the daily burden of being open to costly choices. In this way we too will be broken, but broken as bread is broken, in order to be shared.” ....Lavinia Byrne

Lord, we thank you for friends who, at major turning points in their lives,
spoke openly to us as Jesus spoke to his disciples.
They asked us whether we understood what their destiny called them to.
They shared with us quite openly that what they had to do
would entail being rejected by elders, chief priests and scribes,
and even being put to death.
They asked us to have faith that ultimately
their suffering would result in resurrection and new life.
They were laying down their lives for the sake of something higher,
knowing that only by being true to what they believed could they save their lives.
Forgive us that when we did not understand
we took them aside and started to remonstrate with them.
We thank you that when they heard us they rebuked us and told us,
“Get behind me, because the way you think is human, not divine.”

“Death as an image for the path of transformation points to a dying to the world of conventional wisdom as the center of one’s security and identity and a dying to the self as the center of one’s concern. The path of death is also, for Jesus, the path to new life. It results in rebirth, a resurrection to a life centered in God.” ...M.J. Borg

Lord, we know you are asking us once again,
as you did when we first became your disciples,
“Who do you say I am?”
Our childhood images no longer make sense to us,
they seem to have disintegrated,
and we are frightened of being rejected
by the elders, chief priests and scribes within us.
Remind us that we need not be afraid of being put to death
because after three days we will rise again.
How true it is that if we are too anxious
to save things that are precious to us we lose them,
whereas if we are prepared to lose them
for the sake of the higher values of honesty a
we will save them. 

“It is evident that women are meant to form part of the living and working structure of Christianity in so prominent a manner that perhaps not all their potentialities have yet been made clear.” ...Pope Paul VI, On the dignity and vocation of women

Lord, there are women all over the world today
Who feel called to the priestly ministry,
But they are destined to suffer grievously,
To be rejected by elders, chief priests and scribes.
Help them to take up their destiny as Jesus took up his cross,
Understanding the concerns of those who oppose them,
While remaining true to his Spirit within them.
Whatever they lose for his sake and the sake of the gospel they will save it.

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Illustrations: 

1)    You might remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff.  

When he first came to the United States from Russia he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, "On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk--you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice--you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, "What a country!"

Smirnoff is joking but we make these assumptions about Christian Transformation-that people change instantly at salvation. Some traditions call it repentance and renewal. Some call it Sanctification of the believer. Whatever you call it most traditions expect some quick fix to sin. According to this belief, when someone gives his or her life to Christ, there is an immediate, substantive, in-depth, miraculous change in habits, attitudes, and character. We go to church as if we are going to the grocery store: Powdered Christian. Just add water and disciples are born not made.

Unfortunately, there is no such powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations ...

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 2)    "Good Gossip" by Leonard Sweet  

One of the most popular shows from last season is returning this fall with ads asking potential audiences, "What would you do if your weren't 'handicapped' by sight?"

"The Voice" is a talent show that keeps the judges in the dark, so to speak. It requires them to judge all the contestants only on the quality of their voices. The judges' backs are turned and they never see the performer. Power, poise, presence, emotion, erudition, excitement - it all has to be conveyed to the judges only by the sound of the voice - not by any see-me-showmanship. The power to convince, convict, and control is not in the contestants own hands. It is in their tongues.

The power of the tongue was of central concern to James in today's epistle text. And what power it has. Did you know the tongue can lift up to 80 times its own weight? In fact, did you know the strongest muscle in the body is the tongue? The only other muscle that comes close is the masseter muscle - that's the thick muscle in the cheek located at the back of the jaw that opens and shuts your mouth. But it's not technically a muscle, since it's also made up of bones. It does, however, clamp the mouth shut, and the need to clamp the mouth shut is the theme of our text from James this morning...
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3)    Music in the Soul 

Paganini, the great violinist, came out before his audience one day and made the discovery just as the applause ended that there was something wrong with his violin. He looked at it a second and then saw that it was not his famous and valuable violin, but a cheap substitute. He felt paralyzed for a moment, then turned to his audience and told them there had been some mistake and he did not have his own violin. He stepped back behind the curtain thinking that it was still where he had left it, but discovered that someone had stolen his violin and left this old second hand one in its place. Paganini remained back of the curtain for a moment, then came out before his audience and said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I will show you that the music is not in the instrument but in the soul." And he played as he had never played before; and out of that second hand instrument, the music poured forth until his audience was enraptured with enthusiasm, and the applause almost lifted the roof off the building, because the man had revealed to them that the music was not in the machine but in his own soul.

Don't let anyone tell you that the soul does not exist. We were created in the image of God. That doesn't mean God looks like us. It means there is something divine within us.
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4)    The Hill of Crosses 

The people of Lithuania take cross bearing a little more seriously than we do. For them the cross symbolizes faith, hope and love. There are crosses are everywhere in the countryside, on roads, in city parks and village squares. Communities and individuals erect crosses to bring them health and to commemorate events like weddings, births and christenings. Crosses are also erected to commemorate historical events. One of these is the Baltic Way, in which millions of people linked hands stretching across the Baltics from Estonia to Lithuania on August 25, 1989. About 9 monuments commemorate this extraordinary event.

The nation's pride is the Hill of Crosses, located north of Siauliai. Lithuanians erected crosses there as early as the mid-19th century. The Soviet government couldn't tolerate that kind of spiritual expression, so they totally destroyed the hill in 1961, then again in 1973 and 1975. But people kept erecting more crosses, until in 1980 their destruction stopped. Today the crosses number in the many thousands. They are different sizes and shapes, some simple, some ornate, but they immortalize Lithuania's troubles, misfortunes, joys, hope and faith.

For them, the cross is more than a symbol in the church. It is symbol for the world to see. A symbol that will not go away. It is a symbol of sacrifice. A sacrifice that gives each and every one of us hope and faith and courage.

Billy D. Strayhorn, At Cross Purposes
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5)    Who Do You Say He Is? 

If I told you to pull out a piece of paper and write on it who you say Jesus is what would you write? We all have some answer; we all have some images of Jesus. Some of them are the images we learned as children in Sunday school which have proved troubling and we don't' have anything to replace them with. Sometimes we dismiss Jesus on the basis of what we knew about Jesus at age six. Some of us have never examined the evidence for ourselves.

One of my main goals in preaching is to gain a fresh hearing for Jesus, especially among those who believe they already understand him. I'm sorry to tell you this, but you probably don't. Because what happens sometimes is that presumed familiarity has led to unfamiliarity. Jesus is sometimes obstructed by clouds of well-intentioned misinformation.

But ultimately, rather than give you my answer to the question I'd rather challenge you to answer the question for yourself because that's the only answer that matters. Is he Messiah? If that's what you think, what does that mean? Jesus clearly didn't' fit into what a Messiah was expected to be. Messiahs were supposed to have power, were supposed to take charge, were supposed to set things right and free the Jews from political expression. But Jesus refused to stiff arm anybody. He refused to dominate or to take up arms.

Is he Savior? OK. But what is he saving us from and what is he saving us to? Some people clearly had no interest in being saved. When Jesus said the poor are precious and the rich are in big trouble, only those on one side of that equation found it intriguing.

Is he Teacher? Surely, but is that all?

Who do you say he is? Messiah, Savior, Lord, shaman, teacher, friend, prophet, prince of peace?

Now, as you try and answer that question, don't be too alarmed if you cant' nail it down. Even those of us who wrestle with the question regularly find it difficult, because Jesus is sometimes downright incomprehensible; he is often enigmatic, ambiguous. From the very beginning, who Jesus was, what he was about, was far from self-evident. There were people who stood face-to-face with Jesus and said, "This is God incarnate." There appear to be many more who said, "This man is nuts." Although I think that for most of us, the biggest issue isn't that we've listened to Jesus and found him incomprehensible; it's that we've listened to him and found him too damned difficult. 

Herb Miller, Who Do You Say That I Am?
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6)    Defining Christ  

Every photographer knows the importance of having the camera lens in focus before triggering the shutter. You can set the right shutter speed. You can open the lens to its proper setting. But if that lens is not in focus, the picture will be worthless.

Anyone who's trying to sell something these days knows the importance of having an accurate focus on the market for which a product is intended. Whether you're trying to sell soap or soft drinks, it's necessary to know exactly which people will most likely purchase your product. On what age group or sector of the public do you focus your advertising?

So Jesus realized that if people were going to follow him, and if his followers were going to be truly effective Christians in the world, they needed to know exactly who he was. They also needed to know precisely what was involved in being a Christian.

That's probably one reason why he asked this simple, but all-important question in our Bible reading. "Tell me," he says, "who do people say I am?" And a little later he refines the question: "What about you?" he asked them. "Who do you say I am?"

Richard W. Patt, Partners in the Impossible, CSS Publishing Company
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 7)    Many Different Christs Are Offered

Marva Dawn in Reaching Out without Dumbing Down suggests the possibility of different christs today when she writes: At the 1987 Vancouver World's Fair, the Christian pavilion's presentation utilized glitzy double-reversed photography and flashing lasers. When I tried to explain my qualms about the production to an attendant who had asked me how I liked their "show," she protested that it had saved many people. I asked, "Saved by what kind of Christ?" If people are saved by a spectacular Christ, will they find him in the fumbling of their own devotional life or in the humble services of local parishes where pastors and organists make mistakes? Will a glitzy portrayal of Christ nurture in new believers his character of willing suffering and sacrificial obedience? Will it create an awareness of the idolatries of our age and lead to repentance? And does a flashy, hard-rock sound track bring people to a Christ who calls us away from the world's superficiality to deeper reflection and meditation? [p. 50]

Marva Dawn, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down. Submitted by Brian Stoffregen
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 8)    Under Control 

There was a certain bishop, in the horse and buggy days, who had two horses named Pride and Prejudice. He said on one occasion that people thought it was awful that a bishop should be drawn hither and thither by Pride and Prejudice, but he reassured them that it was a wonderful thing that a Bishop would have Pride and Prejudice under control.

That's a wonderful thing for any of us. It is the test of our manhood and womanhood that we are able to deny ourselves. The world says that to be a real man or a real woman we must give in to pleasure, but that's absurd. Any creature can give in to natural impulses. 

King Duncan
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9)    He Is the Son of God 

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
 

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
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10) On Sunday He Is God 

There are very few who in their hearts do not believe in God, but what they will not do is give Him exclusive right of way. ... They are not ready to promise full allegiance to God alone. Many a professing Christian is a stumbling-block because his worship is divided. On Sunday he worships God; on weekdays God has little or no place in his thoughts. I want people to place their faith in Jesus and motivate them to live more obediently.  

D.L. Moody
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 11) Stop Following Your Shadow

There is a fable about a man who lived in the desert. He would wake up every morning and follow his shadow. So as the sun moved across the sky from east to west the man essentially walked in a large oval. At sundown he ended up where he had started. This continued for years. The man walked in circles day after day, following his shadow. One night the man heard the voice of God in a dream while he slept. The voice told him to stop following his shadow. Instead, "Follow the sun," the voice challenged, "And you will experience life as you have never dreamed it could be."

The man thought for many days about his vision of God while he continued to walk around in circles in the desert... 

12) The Speller Boy

Once upon a time there was a very bright young man who was the greatest speller in his school. He won all the spelling bees even when he was in sixth grade. Then he went into the bees with other schools, and finally in the whole city. He kept on winning, easily. He was really good. Alas he knew he was good and bragged about it to everyone who would listen. His classmates were proud of him, but they didn’t like his boasting. He’s really good said one of his friend. But I wish he’d lose because he used to be a nice boy and now he’s a pill. Shut up all the others said quickly, though they had been thinking the same thing.

Well, finally came the big state championship. If he won that he would go on to the nationals – and probably to the Olympics only they don’t have spelling bees do they?

So he went to the match with the teacher who had helped him all through the year. At the very end, only the boy and a very nasty and ill tempered girl remained. He was asked to spell prestidigitation. He said the word and then confidently began to spell.

Then you know what? He blanked out. Completely.

He had no idea how to spell the word. So he missed the third “i”. The nasty little girl, who was also much too pretty, got it right of course. Our hero was very mad. He blamed his teacher and wouldn’t talk to his classmates. He even blamed God. It wasn’t fair, he kept saying over and over and over. I deserved to win. After awhile he got over it.

13) Who do  you  say  that I am?

On  Sunday morning  a  man  showed   up  at church  with  both  of  his   ears terribly  blistered.  So  his   pastor  asked,  "What happened to you Jim?"

"I was  lying  on the couch  watching  a ball  game  on TV while  my  wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game  when  she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone  rang, and  keeping my  eyes  on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my  ear."

"How dreadful," gasped  the pastor. "But how did the other ear get burned?"

"Well, you  see, I'd no sooner hung  up, the guy  called  back!" He just didn't get it. Lots of folks never get it and  never understand how  life really works, even  at the simplest  levels.  That's  why   Jesus  is  pressing  his  followers   and   us  with  a challenging  question  in  todays  gospel:  Who  do  you  say  that I  am? (Msgr. Dennis  Clarke)
 
14)  Shakespeare  and   Jesus.  
 
It was   the  19th  century  British essayist, Charles Lamb, who  snatched the 17th century playwright William Shakespeare from  his  undeserved obscurity,  returning  him   to the limelight of fame. Charles Lamb  was once involved in a discussion on the question, who  is the greatest  literary   genius    of  all   time?   Two   names    finally  emerged:   William Shakespeare and  Jesus  of Nazareth.    Lamb  put an  end  to the debate  when  he said: “Ill tell you  the difference between these two men. If Shakespeare walked into this room right now, we would  all rise to greet him, but if Christ came  in, we would  all  fall down  and  worship. There is  the essential  difference between  the Man  from Nazareth  and  all  other great people  you  can  think of. Jesus  Christ  is God, and  all  others, no  matter what their deeds, are but fools strutting  on  the stage for a brief time and  then exiting. Todays  gospel  describes who  Jesus really is and the unique conditions for Christian discipleship.