Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ at Hope Lutheran Church,
I guess I just have one thing to share today-love one another. Jesus said it again and again-and he showed it endlessly. Love one another. Our world is so filled with division and anger and fear-the best thing we can do for us, for our community, for our church, and for the world is to simply love another. Do we have to agree on politics? No. Just love one another. Do we have to agree on how things are going with the pandemic? No. Just love one another. Do we have to agree on how to fix the problems we see in our society? No. Just love one another. Try to do something kind for another person every day. Pay God’s blessings forward as you show God’s love to others. In this time-and for all times-just love one another. Jesus said so!! I am praying for each of you with love. Pr. Jen+
PRAYER OF THE DAY Let us pray. O God, we thank you for your Son, who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. Humble us by his example, point us to the path of obedience, and give us strength to follow your commands, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
READING Matthew 16:21-28 After Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:16), Jesus reveals the ultimate purpose of his ministry. These words prove hard to accept, even for a disciple whom Jesus has called a “rock.”
A reading from Matthew. 21 From that time on, [after Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah,] Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
HOMILY You’ve heard of Operation Desert Storm, the code name for the U.S. invasion of Iraq back in 1991but do you know anything about Operation Moolah? It was a genuine military operation in the early ‘50’s aimed at enticing North Korean pilots to defect during the Korean War. It was called Operation Moolah because the first pilot to defect with his Soviet-built MiG-15 fighter plane would be offered $100,000 – a lot of moolah, or money in those days. If you were to look up the names of other military operations, you would notice that most somehow describe the mission’s objective or the mode in which the mission was to be carried out. Desert Storm, for example, was called that because the U.S. military was intent on whipping up a storm as it raced across the Iraqi desert to capture Baghdad.
~~~In our Gospel today Jesus defines the divine mission for both himself, the Christ, and for us, Christians-Christ followers. . Had he given the mission an operational name it would have been “Operation Cross.” Peter, however, objected to this. He felt that the mission should instead be called something less frightening like Operation Couch. But it is the cross, and not the couch, that defines the mission for Christ and his followers. As Jesus said, those who don’t accept this are allies of Satan and will lose their life for eternity.
~~~In our Gospel last week, we heard how Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. Do you remember Peter’s wonderful answer? He said: “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” Jesus must have beamed – the way a parent does when for the first time baby says, “Mama” or “Dada.” For this rock-like confession Jesus gave Simon, as he was formerly known, the nickname “Cephas” or “Peter” which means “rock.” But in today’s Gospel the Savior called Peter, “Satan” and told him to get out of his sight! What happened? While Peter had a divine understanding of Jesus’ identity, his grasp of Jesus’ mission was just plain wrong. Really wrong.
~~~~It all derailed when Jesus told his disciples clearly for the first time that “he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, an on the third day be raised.”. What? Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God suffer and be killed in Jerusalem? That couldn’t be God’s plan. Yet when Peter expressed as much to Jesus whom he had taken aside as if he was a little kid who needed a talking to, Jesus whirled on “Rocky” and retorted: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
~~~Cephas was now Satan? Hadn’t Peter meant well by insisting that Jesus didn’t have to suffer and die? He may have meant well but Peter had inadvertently lobbed at Jesus one of the temptations Satan himself had used in the wilderness after Jesus’ baptism. Satan had told Jesus that if he wanted to receive glory and honor from all the nations, he didn’t have to die on the cross. He could just bow down to the Devil instead. Satan was offering Jesus a crown without the cross. But Jesus knew that there would be no crown FOR US if HE did not endure the cross.
~~~“You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” Jesus told Peter. Did you notice that Jesus equated “human things” with Satan? Whenever someone thinks that he just needs to follow the Golden Rule, to just be good, and “do unto others as he would have them do unto him,” these seemingly pious thoughts cause great delight in hell. You see, Satan’s goal is not to make this world a living hell where murderers and child molesters roam the streets uncontested. He’s quite content to have a world full of well-meaning folks who help the shut-in down the street and who return dropped $20 bills instead of pocketing them as long as these people think that by doing these good acts they don’t need the cross of Christ. Wrong. Really wrong.
~~~~If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross, we would still be on the hook for our sins. Sinners left to fend for themselves. Jesus understood well that the mission outlined for him was defined by the CROSS and not the COUCH.
~~~The cross, however, doesn’t just define Jesus’ mission; it defines the mission for all for us, too. Jesus put it this way: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?”
~~~Jesus’ cross was made out of wood but what does your cross look like—the cross you take up? Christians often list things like migraines, loneliness, a learning disability, unemployment, family problems, a bad back… While these are challenges that are in our lives, they are not the cross Jesus speaks about here. Look carefully again at his words. How does Jesus say a Christian takes up his cross? By denying ourselves and following him. Here’s what that looks like. When you want a Starbucks but instead put a bag of non-perishables into the food pantry. That’s following Jesus by putting others first and understanding our goal in life is to serve, not to be served. Or listening to and praying with a friend who needs help. Or calling a lonely neighbor.
~~~Is it hard to do? Yeah-sometimes it is. That’s why Jesus compares it to carrying a cross and not to lounging on a couch! Denying ourselves is hard because by nature every breath we take is in the hope of accomplishing our will. We are born self- centered creatures. And as we grow older we simply get better at hiding our self- centeredness and our desire for comfort and ease but we’re still always thinking: “If only I had…then I would be happy.” It never works out that way though does it? As soon as we upgrade to the smart phone we think we need a smarter one. As soon as we get that high def TV screen across a wall in our house, we start wishing we had a better sound system. But Jesus solemnly warned: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
~~~ The cross, not the couch! That’s our mission. Deny your desire to accumulate more stuff and ignore your longing to get your way. Instead lose yourself in Jesus. That’s not as scary as it sounds. If you want to save your life, then lose it in Jesus. Entrust your life to him whose every word, every thought, and every deed was never for his comfort and convenience but for the benefit of others…and still is. That’s why we can deny ourselves and say “no” to our temporary, earthly wants and desires. Jesus knows what we need and he will provide it. Spend your time and energy serving him now as you put others first…serving God and sharing his love as we are led by the Spirit—living the cross shaped life of loving God by loving others. Carrying the cross is not optional. If we refuse our cross, we’re also rejecting his cross — claiming that Jesus’ suffering and death makes no difference to us at all.
~~~Peter must have been astonished when Jesus called him Satan. But had he really listened to Jesus he would have known that while the cross defined Jesus’ mission, it wasn’t the end. Jesus also plainly taught his disciples that after he was killed he would rise again three days later. The cross is NOT the end for us. Those who continue to put others first, motivated and empowered by Jesus’ forgiving love, will one day find that the cross has given way to the crown – a crown of everlasting joy when Jesus raises us from the dead to be free forever from our sins and their painful consequences-that’s our Baptismal promise!!!!! But before the crown comes the cross. Get off the couch and take up your cross as together we are led by his Spirit to serve God and share Christ’s love with all. Bear it. Every day. It’s worth it. Amen.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
Confident of your care and helped by the Holy Spirit, we pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need. A brief silence.
God of faithfulness, you bid your people to follow Jesus. Set the mind of your church on divine things. Grant us trust in you, that we lose our lives for the sake of Christ and thereby discover joy in life through him. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God of wonder, the earth is yours and all that is in it. Heal your creation and give us eyes to see the world as you do. As the seasons change, pattern the rhythm of our lives in harmony with all creation. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God of all nations, you call us to live peaceably with all. Give us ears to hear one another, even those we name as enemies. Fill all leaders with mercy and understanding, that they advocate and genuinely care for those who are poor and most vulnerable in their communities. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God of salvation, you promise to deliver us. Give those who suffer a strong sense of your presence and love. Accompany those who are uncertain, raise the spirits of those who are despairing, and heal the sick (especially). Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God of community, you call us to rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer. Make our congregation a workshop of your love. When we quarrel, bring reconciliation. Help us overcome evil with good. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God of all grace, you give us everlasting life. In love we recall your holy ones who now live in your undying light. In our remembering, give us a foretaste of the feast to come. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
In the certain hope that nothing can separate us from your love, we offer these prayers to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
BLESSING Almighty God, the Father, + the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with us now and always. Amen.
DISMISSAL We go in peace with grateful hearts for all God has done for us as together we are led by the Spirit to serve God and share Christ’s love with all! Thanks be to God!!!
Hope Lutheran Church-Gulf Cove
14200 Hopewell Ave, Port Charlotte, FL 33981
Church phone: 941-697-2345
Pr. Jen Schaefer-cell-813-391-2027
Pr. Jen’s email:
Our purpose at Hope is that we are led by the Spirit to serve God and share Christ’s love with all!
We welcome all who worship with us today. Please complete one of the visitor cards at our guest table. If you would like to make Hope your church home, please speak to Pastor Jen. Everyone is welcome at Hope Lutheran Church.
Next Week’s Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-11, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20
The July thru September Word in Season Devotionals are available on the narthex table.
Altar Guild – Barb & Larry Brady Ushers – Alan & Cindy Beicht
Please call the church office or email Pr. Jen with any prayer requests you may have so they may be shared with the congregation.
Please continue to hold in prayer:
Laura Everill, daughter of Phyllis and Tom Agness, residing in a healthcare facility
Walter Crowley, husband of Kathryn & father of Ginger Toomire recovering from pneumonia
Joyce, sister in law of Elaine Dougan, recovering from brain cancer surgery
Joanne St. Amand as she mourns the death of her husband Arthur
John Greene, Millie’s husband, recovering from surgery
Suzette, Katie McClay’s friend who is recovering after colon cancer surgery,
Florence, Bob Kostrowsky’s aunt who is recovering in New Jersey
Lois, Lorraine Maass’ friend, in need of God’s healing presence
Lorraine Maass for safety in travel and God’s comforting presence
Cheryl Burke who is in need of healing
Ava for healing
Pr. Marilyn Robinson for healing and a safe move
Barbara brady for healing after hand surgery
Jean and Bob Schleuter in need of God’s presence and peace
For all in the path of storms or fires
Those who are in need or ill in any way, those who are lonely, those who are frightened, those who grieve, those caring for those who are ill, those who are victimized by racism.
NEW AT HOPE
JESUS LOVES YOU MINISTRY have an immediate need for bottled water, disposable razors and a countertop microwave.
BIBLE STUDY ON THE ACT OF THE APOSTLES ONLINE!!!!
Pr. Cheryll Armstrong-Kaukis is hosting a new Bible Study based on the amazing book of Acts. If you would like to be a part of this group, please contact either the church office or Pr Cheryll directly at and let her know to sign you up! Please join us as we discover anew the growth of the church in the earliest days and how that impacts our faith today!!
MASKS – Our supply of masks is getting low. Any donation of additional masks would be greatly appreciated.
HOPE’S LOVE PANTRY. If anyone would like to donate nonperishable goods for our pantry, please put items on the shelves of our pantry located on the walkway to the left of the main entrance. Also, please let people in our area who may be in need, know that they may take some food from our pantry. No need to sign up. It is anonymous, no questions asked.
NEW FM RADIO STATION. Anyone can now listen to worship in their vehicles by tuning into FM Radio station 88.3. All services will be broadcast on radio station FM 88.3.
HYMN REQUESTS If there are any particular hymns that you would like to hear at worship, please submit the names to Pastor Jen at . If our licensing agreement permits, look forward to hearing them soon.
HOPES AND DREAMS FOR HOPE – If you have a suggestion for a Hope or Dream for Hope Lutheran Church, Pastor Jen and your council would love to hear it. Please feel free to place any Hope or Dream in the mailbox in the hallway leading to the Fellowship Hall. All requests will be kept confidential and you will receive a timely response.
BIBLES AND BAGELS (or muffins or individually wrapped goodies) Please join us Mondays from 10:00 – 11:00 AM for Bible Study and sharing in the Fellowship Hall. Physical Distancing and sharing in Scripture and discussion are blessings we can share together!! All are welcome!!