Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost- Week of September 12, 2021
Begin your devotion time by praying this prayer: Mighty God, you are with us, even when we have to do hard things. Give us the courage to fix our eyes on Jesus and the strength to move forward in hope. Amen.
Reflect on the Way of Love together: This week’s practice on the Way of Love is TURN. Sometimes turning our lives toward following Jesus means that we have to do hard things. What are some hard things people might do when they follow Jesus? What helps us find the strength to do these hard things?
Adult and Small Child
Read: Mark 8:27-38
Reflect: Sometimes doing the right thing is really hard. It was difficult for Jesus, since he knew that for him doing the right thing meant teaching and healing people even though in the end he would be killed before rising again three days later. Most of us don’t have to worry about being killed for our beliefs, but it can still be difficult to follow Jesus and live the way he taught. That’s why he said “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34, NRSV) He knew it would be hard sometimes, but he promised to always be with us and to help us as we try. And he also gave us the gift of one another. Following Jesus isn’t something we do alone. We can ask each other for help, and that can make the hard parts easier.
Respond: Practice the hard work of following Jesus. Talk about times when it’s difficult to do the right thing. Imagine scenarios where it might happen - at school, at work, at home, or at church. It might be a case of helping a stranger, or speaking up when someone is being treated unfairly or talked about. Then role play how you will respond. Practicing now will make it easier when it’s time to do something difficult to follow Jesus.
- Drew Bunting
Adult and Elementary
Read: Mark 8:27-38
Reflect: I don’t always want to do what God asks of me, even when I know it’s the right decision. Often, the most fair and just path is also challenging or unpleasant. Yet, resisting God’s invitation to do the right thing feels like a weight in my chest. It helps to know that God is with me, even when life is hard or scary. I usually feel relieved and lighter inside after I follow through with the challenging task I am avoiding.
Respond: Jesus knew challenges lay ahead and that following the way of love required him to face those difficulties head on. Even when Peter disagreed with him, Jesus insisted that the hard way was also the right way. What challenging action weighs on you, this week? Can you think of something you could do to move toward love, even if it’s a hard choice?
- Lindsay Gottwald
Adult and Youth
Read: Mark 8:27-38
Reflect: In this lesson from Mark, the disciples are learning that there is still so much to learn from Jesus and so much that they don’t know about him. Jesus tells them that he will be persecuted, hurt, and eventually die. Of course, this upset his disciples. Wouldn’t it upset you if someone told you that? NO ONE wants to hear that from their teacher and friend. Sometimes, it’s really hard to hear tough things. Things that we might not want to hear or be ready to hear. But this lesson today tells us the importance of understanding who Jesus was and what his mission was. He came to earth to teach, love, and care for others and to prepare us for his suffering and death. Even his closest followers did not understand the importance these future events would hold. Only Jesus knew the glory that would come through his suffering.
Respond: Sometimes we have to hear hard things. Not everything in life is perfect. We can’t eat ice cream at all three meals and we can’t always get 100s on every exam. Perfection is not always achievable. No matter how hard we might try. We can’t ignore the bad. In this passage, Jesus uses the word deny. Meaning, we must give up something in order to follow him. To be a Christian, we must be willing to learn about his life, take time to pray, and practice making good choices. This is not easy. It means making good decisions every day. Grab a journal (or a piece of paper) and write your answers to these prompts: how can you make good decisions this week to be a better follower of Christ? What might you need to give up to follow him?
- Lauren Wainwright
Adult and Adults
Read: Mark 8:27-38
Reflect: “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks his disciples as they walk. When Peter answers Jesus directly, he says “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:29, NRSV) Peter answers with more than a name - Peter answers with a “what,” a title, a state of being. This title “Messiah” has many expectations with it - ideas of what this person will accomplish on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The Messiah will bring liberation - and perhaps, it is assumed, victory over those who have oppressed them. They will come into power.
Jesus quickly reorients Peter - who isn’t particularly interested in what Jesus is offering, because it’s simply not what he was expecting from the Messiah. Jesus presses on, teaching them that liberation through the Divine is not about maintaining the power structures that exist - and if they aren’t interested in that - if they are ashamed of what Jesus is teaching and claiming - then the life they have set themselves upon, as followers of Jesus, is for naught. There is great sacrifice in following Jesus - not because we will be oppressed for following him - but because following him requires that we give up our passion for power over others.
Respond: Our ideas of “taking up the cross” and “losing their life” have become highly individualized ideas, perhaps because of the sacred stories of our saints and martyrs, some who gave up their physical lives against the state and some who gave up their physical comfort to live out their faith. Looking at contemporary history, we can see that often the sacrifice we’re asked to make is letting go of things we believe about race, class, gender and sexuality so that others might live more fully. Not so different from Peter! This week, take some time to engage a topic that makes you uncomfortable because it’s not what you “know to be true.”
- Regina Heater