Is Anything Worth More Than Your Soul?

16th Sunday after Pentecost | September 12, 2021

Proverbs 1:20-33 and Psalm 19 • James 3:1-12 • Mark 8:27-38

Mark 8:27-38 | New Living Translation

27 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”

29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.

33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Under a Clear Blue Sky

September 11, 2001

It was a defining moment of a generation. Much like our grandparents when they thought back to the moment they heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was like the moment our parents heard about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was the shock and the horror of a nation.

September 11, 2001…

Nine-Eleven…

I remember it like it was yesterday…

Today it is twenty years since we learned of the horrific terrorist attacks on our nation. Much like Pearl Harbor, the JFK assassination, the Challenger disaster…it is a moment…a defining moment…a moment that stays with us. People ask, “Do you remember what you were doing…where you were..” and we can immediately respond. We can answer questions like this. I have no recollection of Pearl Harbor or JFK. I wasn’t born before WWII and I was a baby when JFK was shot. But the first defining moment it remember was 1986 and the Challenger disaster. I remember exactly where I was.

Fast forward to September 11, 2001…I can recall many of the details. It was a beautiful late summer morning in Upstate New York. The girls had gotten up for school and had been picked up by the school bus. Pam and James were over at the house. I had a Noon to 8 shift at Radio Shack to go to, but the next Sunday was to be “Salvation Sunday.” It was a denominational emphasis on preaching a salvation message. I had gone over to my office at the church to work on my sermon. Who knew the events that would unfold shortly?

Like I said, I was over in my office and about 8:50, Pam came over and told me that a plane had hit the one of the World Trade Center towers. My thought was that’s a little unusual. After all the weather was perfect – clear, blue sky, no clouds, no fog, visibility for miles. It was that way across the east coast. But at the moment I took it for a freak accident and went back to my work and Pam went back to the house.

About 5 minutes after nine, Pam came back over and said that another plane had struck the South Tower. What? On a clear, beautiful day? It became apparent that the first plane was not an accident and neither was the second. But what was going on? Little did we know the terror that was beginning to unfold. We watched as the images were played and replayed “for those of you just joining us.” When Pam came over and told me, I came back over to the house and watched it unfold. The images were replayed, when all of a sudden we saw new pictures – pictures of Washington DC and what appeared to be smoke rising from the Pentagon…the horror was not over yet…minute by minute we waited…our nation was under attack…from an enemy we didn’t know yet. How many planes were going to drop from the sky? We knew that three planes had crashed, but we didn’t know how many more there were.

I’ll never forget the moment that I watched the first tower collapse before my very eyes. I had seen the plume of smoke. Now what? Soon the newscasters announced the South Tower had collapsed. The tragedy was growing. How many more people would lose their lives. We were just adjusting to the fact that one of the WTC towers were gone, when we heard of another plane down – this one in the fields of western Pennsylvania. Apparently it had missed its target. At 10:30, we watched the second tower fall.

By that point, the FAA had grounded all planes and told them to land where ever they were – and the skies went silent. It was an eventful 1 and 3/4 hours. Like I said, I was scheduled to go to work, so around 11:30, Pam took me to work. Mike and I watched the TV’s on the RCA display. Needless to say it was a slow day…most people’s minds were on the events that had unfolded. However, we had a big day with cellphones and satellite dishes. People wanted to know what was going on.

It was all so surreal…under a clear blue sky.

Today marks twenty years since that event. Last night, we watched a segment on how people let their loved ones know. The final moments of Flight 93 are well documented – the voice mails – the phone calls. Those on Flight 93 gave their lives so that an intended target in Washington DC would be saved.

There were so many that day who were heroes – they never signed up for that job, but they were heroes nonetheless. Today we remember the day that was September 11, 2001

Let me finish with a poem by Michael Brooks entitled Under a Clear Blue Sky


A scene from out of a nightmare.

A plume of smoke stretching to the heavens.  Expressions of shock and horror on the faces of onlookers.  Stunned silence from officials and controllers.  All eyes riveted upon images of horror.

Images.

Repeated.

Over.

And over.

We watch in fascinated horror as the moment of disaster plays again on the screen “for those just joining us,” unable to tear ourselves away.

We hug our children and grope for the words to explain the thing that their innocence has been subjected to until we realize that our presence is what they need most.

Although the distance dilutes the flames, our hearts break as our spirits penetrate the conflagration that hides the human toll from our eyes.

Involuntary prayers follow the smoke on its upward climb, seeking to protect the souls borne heavenward on its billows.

Our pride.  Our confidence.  Our humanity.

Shattered.

In a moment.

In the twinkling of an eye.

Tuesday…under a clear blue sky.

The day the Challenger fell.

Another Tuesday…another clear blue sky.

Again, the smoke.  Again, the horror.  Again, the images.

Images.

Repeated.

Over.

And over.

Our pride.  Our confidence.  Our humanity.

Shattered.

In a moment.

In the twinkling of an eye.

Tuesday…under a clear blue sky.

Once again, we all know the answer to, “Where were you when…?”

In forced communion, we imagine the terror of those within the heart of the nightmare

Within the heart of darkness.

The confusion.  The uncertainty.

The choice.

Fall or burn.

For some…for most, perhaps…the choice is made for them.

As when the Challenger fell, we reach out to our loved ones.  We seek to make sense of the insanity.  We search out some sliver of good from the ruin and wreckage before us.

But it’s difficult…because it’s different.

Challenger was an accident waiting to happen…one that some anticipated, one that some tried to prevent.

But no one deliberately brought down the Challenger.

Yesterday was different.

Yesterday was not merely an attack on America, an attack on the government, an attack on policy.

Yesterday was an attack on civilization, an attack on the rule of law, an attack on humanity itself.

It was an attack on all of us…on each of us…no matter out nationality, our ethnicity, our creed or our color.

The question now is, how will we respond?

The Challenger crew embodied the best of humanity.

Yesterday’s terrorists embodied the words of humanity.

Will we now respond with the best…or the worst…of ourselves?

Tuesday…under a clear blue sky.

–Michael Brooks

Written on 9/12/2001 by Michael Brooks in response to the terror attacks on 9/11.  I used this poem for my sermon the following Sunday, 9/16/2001.  It was scheduled to be Salvation Sunday.  I thought this was a powerful reminder and tribute to remember 9 years ago today — 9/11/2001

Prayer for the Week

O Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow after us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer for the Week

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Feasting on Spiritual Food

13th Sunday after Pentecost | August 22, 2021

1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43 and Psalm 84 • Ephesians 6:10-20 • John 6:56-69

John 6:56-69 | New Living Translation

56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”

59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

60 Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”

61 Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) 65 Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.”

66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”

The True Bread From Heaven

12th Sunday after Pentecost | August 15, 2021

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 and Psalm 111 • Ephesians 5:15-20 • John 6:51-58

John 6:51-58 | New Living Translation

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

52 Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.

53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”


Today we once again in John’s Gospel. We again are in chapter 6 and we are still looking at Jesus telling the people that He is the bread of life. True and everlasting life comes from Jesus. You may remember that there were some arguments with Jesus. The people said that only God can give bread that satisfies – like the manna (which is interesting because manna means “what is it?”) which was given to their forefathers in the wilderness. The people are so confused – not knowing that Jesus is the one that can give real life – and can be what really satisfies us. Combine this with Jesus’ words in John 14 about being the Way, the Truth, and the Life and we begin to get a clearer picture of who Jesus is. It is only Jesus who can truly satisfy the hunger that we have deep within for spiritual things. I encourage you to seek out Jesus who is the True Bread of Life.

Prayer for the Week

O Lord, our heavenly Father, keep your household the Church continually in your true religion, that we who trust in the hope of your heavenly grace may always be defended by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer for Easter Monday

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with reverence the Paschal feast may be made worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.