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Sermon September 3 2023

Pentecost 14 A 2023 Follow Me Sermon

Matthew 16:21-28

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Have you ever come upon an aggressive driver?  Well, I sure have.  I have seen drivers drive like their hair is on fire or drive like they are mad at the road and want the asphalt to suffer.  I have met drivers who would even make people like Dale Earnhardt pull over to get out of the way.

Have you ever met anyone like that?  Or maybe you have tried to follow someone who is like that.  I remember one Advent Season in a congregation prior to my time here in San Angelo when the congregation went caroling at various nursing homes in the community.

 At the church before heading out we all agreed that we would all follow one vehicle so that person could lead the way.  Well, it did not take long to find out that we were all in for an adventure.  I found myself driving faster than I usually drove, and taking turns at speeds that I am not sure my truck was made to endure.

I found myself gripping the steering wheel tightly and thinking that maybe I don’t need to get to the nursing home as fast as the lead vehicle.  And that maybe I should just slow down and catch up with the lead driver later.   

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? I can assure you that it is not fun.  And it makes most of us want to shout out “Slow down for heaven’s sake.  I want to get there in one piece.”

Now, I told you all this because that is how the disciples felt in our text today.  After Peter had confessed that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus told His disciples that “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” 

“Follow me.”  That sounds simple.  We can do that.  Or can we?  Following Jesus is not an easy thing to do.  When we follow Jesus, we are told we will need to deny ourselves, and pick up our cross.  If you ask me, it sounds like our journey with Christ will be a bumpy ride, and that we will need to hold on, because Jesus travels at speeds that we are not used to traveling.

And Peter is not ready for this.  When Jesus explains that He must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, Peter exclaims “This must never happen to you.” 

Disappointed at Peter’s attitude, Jesus turned to Peter and said to him, “Get behind me Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are stetting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Why?  Because Peter was not ready for the bumps, and the curves, and the speed that we will face when we follow Jesus.  And this is not what Peter expected the journey to be.   

If you ask me what type of vehicle Jesus would drive, the answer I think would surprise you.  Jesus would not drive a sports model, or an SUV, or a pickup truck.  No.  Jesus would drive a moving truck.  He would drive a U-Haul, or a Ryder truck.

Or better yet, a 12 passenger Van.  Why? Because Jesus was/is always on the move.  Like the prophets and messengers that God sent before Him, and after Him, Jesus spent a lot of time on the road.

Like Abraham, God sent Jesus to travel the dusty roads.  Like Moses, Jesus was sent to lead His people out of bondage.  Like Paul, Jesus spent His ministry in motion and on the move for God.  And oh, by the way, the Apostle Paul even met Jesus while he was on the road to Damascus.  

Jesus is on the road because God sent Jesus to go out and serve the whole world.  He was not sent to just sit still.  He was sent to be in motion.  He was sent to make a difference.  He was sent to complete God’s Redeeming Activity in this world.   And all this would happen when Jesus was on the road, and not sitting at home. 

And God sends us out on the road, too.  When we follow Jesus, we find people who need someone to visit them and take care of them.  We find people in prison who need to know that the Lord loves them. We find children who are neglected, or abused, or ignored, or not given the chance to live healthy lives.

Jesus will even lead us to people who want nothing to do with Him or with us. 

Jesus is going to take us to the naked, the hungry, and the thirsty.  He is going to take us to people who need spiritual clothing, and spiritual nourishment.

And He tells us that the journey will not be easy.  It will be bumpy.  It will take us out of our comfort zone.  And along the way we will have to deny ourselves and pick up our cross.

And we will meet people who are not grateful.  We will meet people who will mock us, and yell at us, and tell us to leave them alone.

And we will sometimes fail.  And we will sometimes get lost.  And sometimes we will not see Jesus out ahead of us to lead us, and we will get confused and not know which way to go.   

Even so, there is good news hidden in all of this.  Jesus wants us to follow Him because while doing so we will find true life with Him on the road.  And we will also discover that on the road the Lord will be with us as we approach every twist and turn in life. 

We are not alone.  Jesus is with us.  And He invites us to be a part of His Redeeming Activity.

And so, I say to you this morning.  Ladies and gentlemen; start your engines and get in line to follow Jesus.   

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, strengthen us and give us courage to follow your Son as He guides us through the uncertainties of life.  And grant us a vision of your eternal kingdom that we may participate in your activity in this world.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.