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[Sermon] I'm Fixed Upon It

Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo + March 10, 2024




In his sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Pastor Hector delves into the tensions between human desires for comfort and the call to discipleship. Using Peter's struggle with Jesus' prediction of suffering and death as a focal point, he highlights the need to confront our own fears and insecurities. Ultimately, he reminds listeners that true faith involves embracing the journey of transformation and finding hope in the promise of resurrection.


Transcript

From automatically generated captions via YouTube, with punctuation and paragraphs added by ChatGPT.


Grace to you from God, our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Savior and Lord. And we said.


I was thinking that probably we will have two services today, one for those who are right now, and those that will arrive later at the end of this service just in case. So be ready for that.


David was saying earlier that the psalm that we were singing earlier today will stick in my mind and I said, “No, nothing is taking on my mind anymore at this age.” But it did. It did. Yeah, I'm listening to that psalm. So I am thinking on that what we like to use to encourage one another. And when we say God is good, always all the time, I don't think.


I think yes, somebody told me God is good all the time. All the time. God is good. That's right. And that's how we are going to spend just a few minutes thinking of the goodness of God in our lives. I would like to invite you just to think for a moment on a person who you believe that has changed your life, that has shown you support and that knows you and understands you.


Now think of a person who in your life has brought to you challenges that have helped you to grow. Challenges that sometimes have been hard for you. And sometimes you have wished that that person had never brought those challenges to you. Are you think of any one of them, any person in your life? Right. I believe that each one of us knows someone.

Or maybe you have been someone who has been important, who has brought change, who has challenged someone. Human right is both ways. Again, the same person. They may be the same person. Right? That's life, right? That's how our journey is about in our in our faith journey. But let's think about now of that person or those people or you yourself and the fact that there are times when we lose that person for whatever reason.


Transitions in life, moving out, changing places, or simply because that person comes to the end of that person journey on this earth. I believe that each one of us had experienced that, and I believe that each one of us can relate to Peter and the feelings that were going on in his heart and in his mind that day when Jesus was speaking to them.


Today we read the announcement, the proclamation or their reminder of the Lord Jesus Christ to the disciples. The second time out of four times in the Gospel, according to the Matthew, when the Lord Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to suffer and to die and to be raised again, to be raised again in Chapter 12, the disciples, I mean that the scribes and the religious leaders were asking Jesus for signs.


So that they can believe him. And this right after that, that Jesus refocused them and tells them that he was going to suffer and die to remind them of the mission or the purpose of his life. With us in chapter 16 today, you know, and we heard the gospel. Peter doesn't like the idea, and Jesus has a private conversation with Peter in chapter 17, we have the disciples that went out to cast out demons and they are able to cast out demons.


And Jesus now needs to remind them again what the Kingdom of God, of the reign of God is about. By telling them that He was going to suffer and to die and be raised again, and then chapter twenty is when the disciples come to Jesus. They said, “But Jesus, we left everything that we had to follow you and you come up with this.”


And Jesus once again reorients them and reminds them of his purpose of being with us on this earth. Jesus predicts suffering and death. So the question for us is how to feel about that? What to say about that and what to do with that. You may remember that last Sunday we were talking about Peter's proclamation or our confession.


And I call that a moment of clarity for Peter and the moments of clarity that you and I have in our lives, when we have those moments, when we feel that we know Jesus and Jesus knows this and we are with him on top of the mountain for today's passage. I think that the what the title that will give to this encounter will be a reality check.


And how many times in our lives we have experienced a reality check. Peter and the disciples are reminded of the call to follow and the implications of it. As Bonhoeffer will say. Jesus reminds them of the cost of discipleship like cause Peter has fixed his eyes on his heart upon the ways that he and we think things or others should be or should go, and that that's why he is prompt to respond.


These will never happen to you, Lord Jesus. I will not allow it to happen to you.


And probably we can say, Yeah, Peter, because you and the disciples have seen Jesus power. You saw that day with all those fish in the net, when Jesus saw in each one of you what you cannot see in yourself when you where with Peter and us in the boat and the storm. And you rescued Peter from the waves and from the wind and we know who you are and see your power when even the wind obeys you.


And more than anything else, in the midst of everything that we were missing about you, you entrusted us to be your movement on this earth. The church. And then now they hear that they are going to lose the one that we were waiting for, that they were going to lose their hope, that they were going to lose their life.


How to feel about it, what to do with it. When I was young, many, many years ago, when I was in college, early in the early years of college, I remember that I saw how the conditions of many people in the country where I was born in Mexico were going. The suffering, the despair, the lack of resources, the oppression.


I couldn't handle that. I asked the question why. I wanted to say I will not this happen to my people in my country. At that time I decided I will do something. And what I did and I haven't said this to my parents, so they will not today. But I joined the United Socialist Party of Mexico. I saw that as the way that they wanted to do something about it, to stop it, and to not let it happen.


Where was I putting my heart and my eyes, where I was focusing on and why I don't regret I did it, I can say. But I can tell you that I learned something. God revealed Peter Jesus identity as we were at last Sunday. But now Jesus is telling Peter that He has He has lost the focus of his skull.


His heart was focused on the things of mortals. What does that mean? What does that mean? And I'm thinking that maybe Peter was experiencing some guilt when he heard that Jesus went was going to suffer and die. Probably he was feeling that he was not doing enough to protect the one who had he. He was following.


Maybe Peter didn't know what to do in that moment. And I don't blame him because I believe, again, that you and I have been in that position. The truth is that you and I live a very complex in a very complex journey, faith journey in which you and I encounter complex, interwoven lives, complex interwoven relationships, complex beliefs. We are living in the ambivalence of trust and doubt, confessing and the fear and the fear to the consequences of confessing, of betrayal and remorse, of receiving and loosing.


And because of that, our tendency, it is to take the easy path. As we were reminded today in the young worshipers message, a path of a less pain and we instinctively, instinctively seek avoiding hardship, the hardship of facing the realities that come along with who we are. So how do we react? Why do we react in that way?


We react by retaining what we know, by resisting, By what Is that what we resist? Do we resist that change? Well, actually, change is something that you and I know that is going to happen in our lives. The very fact that you and I are here is because there have been changes in our lives as we develop, as we grow, as we become.


Change is unavoidable. Change is something that many times we want because we don't want to stay in the same places and in the same conditions. We know that change is something that is needed in our lives for us to grow. I believe that we as human beings, we are not so afraid of change as much as be afraid.


Being afraid of loss because there is not much that we can do about losing something of someone who is important for us. And that's why we fixate our minds and our hearts and our wheels. We protest, we resist, and we turn inwardly. And that's what Luther calls same. Because when we turn inwardly, we are not able to see what God is doing in us and through us and around us, through people.


We turn from being the rock into being and a stumbling block for others. Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan.” Jesus rebukes Peter because, not because Jesus is a mean person only, or because he was disappointed or because something has to be said at that point. And Jesus didn't come up with something better than that. That because Jesus loves Peter deeply, so deeply, that He wouldn’t stay quiet.


He had to remind and reorient, Peter, that figuring out faith in this journey comes with challenges and comes with complexity. Just think of our own journeys as individuals in this congregation. You and I experienced pain, suffering, loss, an intense desire to stop any and every source of pain, grief and despair. And that was the reason that I wanted to join the political party.


But as I said earlier, I don't regret it, but I relearn something. And I think that what I learn is that me, in my desire to help, in my desire to see the rain and the will of God happen among my people in my country at that time, maybe I was putting my hope, my focus, my heart and my eyes on politics rather than in the power that is able to change everything else.

And it's above any human organization or institution.


For those of you who have been participating on the Wednesday mid-week services, you may be familiar now with the new words in the Holden Vespers for the MAGNIFICAT, there is a paraphrase is different from what we read in the Bible and the previous version of the Vespers, and it's something that I how come, as I said on Wednesday, I have come to like an event to be able to sing better?


Not very good, but better. And the words of the Magnificat is speak to these and these are the words that we have been singing every Wednesday in that Magnificat out of the desire that the distress God's people cried out for help, for love, for just this. They wanted the power of an army thinking it would ease their pain.


God wiser than all, heard their cry send and sent a child. Funny, right? How that's response God send the child the that would go as far as he could go or could as he as far as he could to show us what the powers of this world, the empires of this world can do, take away life, make us live in fear, and think that there is no hope in our distress.


We won the power of an army to retain, to withhold in our hands those who have become part of our lives. We resist the call to follow, and we react out of love, yet disoriented and confused. Get behind me. Follow me, says Jesus. This faith journey is not an antidote to despair. It is a journey to practice. Leaving out the commitment and the and being open to the promise so that out of death there is life.


Because that's the part that many times we don't hear in this passage of the gospel we read today. Yes, Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan.” Yes, Jesus said, “I'm going to die. I suffer, die, and I will be crucified.” And yet at the very end, what does Jesus say? And on the third day, he will rise again. And I think that's what Jesus was telling, what Jesus wanted to hear and wants us to hear today.


To conclude, as I was reading this, reflecting on this passage, I came across a poem written by Refaat Alareer, who was a Palestinian writer. I don't know if you heard him or read about him, but he died. He was a poet, a professor, and an activist from the Gaza Strip, and he was killed in the war. He wrote this poem called If I Must Die.


So this is just an excerpt of his poem. This is not a whole poem, but I took two parts that I believe to speak for us today, He says in his poem, I must die. If I must die, you must live to tell my story, to sell my things. If I must die, let it bring hope. Let it be a tale.


May the Ministry of Trinity Lutheran Church and Schools, each one of us, be a living example of what following Jesus means: telling the story with actions, focus on God's grace and justice, and being extensions of the life-giving hope that we have received in Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

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