Cathedral News, September 3, 2017

 
 
 

I have a good friend who attends Alcoholics Anonymous and is a devotee of the Twelve Steps of alcoholism recovery. I believe we all have some form of dependency in our lives and AA’s Twelve Step wisdom can benefit anyone who endeavors to live a more balanced life by calling upon God, one’s Higher Power, instead of turning to harmful behaviors, mood-altering substances or negative, self-destructive thinking.

My friend admitted once that the hardest step for him was the Third Step: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.” It was difficult for him because as an addict he has a history of readily turning over his life to something outside of himself. But turning over his will is another proposition entirely.

I share this challenge and I’m especially aware of it as my priesthood ordination nears. What God is calling me to do and what I’m willing to do aren’t always one and the same. I’m quite willing to turn over my life to further the Gospel in the world, but there are times when I want to negotiate with God as to how exactly that will happen.

Today’s Gospel once again calls the disciples to “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” How many times have we heard this passage and how many sermons have we heard on it. Can we read this passage and hear it as if for the first time?

I like this part of Matthew’s Gospel because it represents a shift in Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching to a focus on taking action. After it was made clear that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, he predicts his own passion, death and resurrection and Peter wants nothing of it. Peter receives a strong rebuke from Jesus because in a sense, Peter isn’t working the Third Step. He doesn’t like what is being asked of him and wants to change the way things will be done. He wants to assert his own will and Jesus calls him out on it.

The legendary Harvard University chaplain, the Reverend Peter Gomes, told a story of a fundamentalist preacher citing Matthew 8:12, where the wicked will be thrown into the depths “weeping and gnashing their teeth.” An old toothless parishioner asked what will happen to those who have no teeth to gnash and the preacher immediately replied, “Teeth will be provided.”

We are called to use whatever we have to become active Christians, and whatever we need to do so will be provided. Like Peter, we may want to assert our own will over and beyond what God is calling us to do. Even if our will isn’t in agreement with God’s, taking up one’s cross isn’t convenient necessarily and sometimes calls us to move beyond the perceived confines of our lives to embrace God’s will.

Read the rest of the announcements.