Formations Lesson for March 13: Gaining and Losing
John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association
March 02, 2011

Formations Lesson for March 13: Gaining and Losing

Formations Lesson for March 13: Gaining and Losing
John Pond, associational missionary, West Chowan Baptist Association
March 02, 2011

Focal Passage: Matthew 16:21-26

George Bernanos, French writer and soldier during World War
I, once penned these words of challenge to his nation: “Do we wish to
‘influence’ the world or have we seen something that has hit us and overpowered
us and to which we must bear witness no matter what it costs?”

This noted writer posits a paradox much like Jesus’ paradox
in today’s reading — influence or sacrifice, an earthly, comfortable crown or a
brutal cross?

Jesus had questioned his disciples concerning the talk among
people as to the Son of Man’s identity and more directly their thoughts to
which Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
(16:13ff.) Then followed a brief description of what being Christ meant —
sacrifice, betrayal, death and resurrection! A paradox — Jesus presents a
Messiah (Christ) as one who gives up his life loses it in order to gain his
life. Peter, who moments before speaks the divine reality, now has to correct
and refocus Jesus’ ideas “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to
you.” For Jesus those words of disagreement and dismay are not beneficial, but
a hindrance, a scandal (stumbling block)!

As if Jesus’ words were not paradoxical enough he gives them
another one — If you will follow me, you must deny yourself, die to yourself
(take up your cross) and then follow me (16:24).

When did we lose our way? When did Peter’s words of rebuke
become our theology and not Jesus’ words (and example)? In the guise of taking
up crosses we merely redefine our unfulfilled wishes as sacrificial living for
Jesus. Rather than open ourselves to being His loving generous presence, we
dictate a plethora of rules and regulations. This becomes a paradox of service
given in the name of God’s Servant rather than service required.

A number of years ago I came across this short note by Heinz
Zahrat (I cannot remember the source):

“I am constantly reminded of the spectacle of two men on a
scaffold at the top of a cathedral spire, violently arguing over whether the
last bit of ornament should be turned to the right or left, both of them
looking as if they were about to plunge to the street.
“Down below people stand, looking up and have no idea what
it is all about. And because they do not understand it, they turn away shaking
their heads.”

The final paralyzing paradox is that in the name of God’s
kingdom we create mini-kingdoms based on Peterine rebukes and influence and
lose the very ones that that Kingdom receives — no matter the costs.

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