Rev. Frank Basler was called to be Ridgebury Congregational Church’s two-year term minister in 2015 and was ordained the following spring. Currently he facilitates an ecumenical community of practice for senior ministers, facilitates the Bridgeport Council of Churches’ interfaith work, and is building his psychotherapy practice.
Scripture: Mark 8:27-38 (NRSV)
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words[c] in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Reflection: Losing Our Lives
If we want to be one of his followers, Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross. We must lose our lives to save them. Pretty demanding, right?
I am reminded of something Fr. Robert Kennedy said during one of his Saturday morning dharma talks. Speaking within the Zen Buddhist tradition Roshi Kennedy talked about “…rocking the cradle of our non-existence.”
For me that’s a less demanding way of talking about losing our lives – relaxing into the cradling arms of the Universe – letting go of the small self so that awareness of our unity with God can emerge. Fundamentally our egos do not exist. They are products of memory, body sensations and societal constructs. What exists is here-now experience. Reality with a capital ‘R.’ Life with a capital ‘L.” Experience of Presence without an overlay of self-reflection. Self-forgetful living.
The challenge of preaching about losing our lives in order to gain them is that few of our listeners are familiar with the mystical tradition or have contemplative prayer practices. Jesus is using mystical language in this passage. He is “…setting [his] mind…on divine things….”
I believe everyone has mystical experiences frequently – states in which the personal ego merges with the Whole. We talk about “losing ourselves in work,” or being “in the flow.” My hunch is that part of the attraction to watching Olympic athletes is vicariously participating in their ego-less performances.
So, one way of preaching on gaining our lives by losing then is to ask our listeners/readers to reflect on moments of absorption concentration, or flow. For example,
What happened when you recited the Lord’s Prayer a few minutes ago? Were you self-conscious? Probably not. That’s an example of losing your life. So is listening intently when a worried friend describes a problem.
Jesus called people out of their comfort zones. We preachers can do the same, e.g.,
Jesus called people out of their comfort zones. When he asked James and John to leave their fishing business behind and follow him, that must have been hugely uncomfortable. As they dropped their nets and obeyed, they must have been caught up in the present moment, not self-reflective.
Stop for a moment and think of something uncomfortable that you feel called to do despite your hesitation. It could be stopping to help someone whose car is disabled or attending a demonstration. When you and I are called out of our comfort zones, our attention is outwards. We lose our focus on self. In essence, we lose our lives.
Holy One, Strengthen us as we move out of our comfort zones to respond to other’s needs and the needs of the world. May our preaching strengthen others to similarly “lose their lives.” Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the victims and their families of the 477 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
- For front line healthcare workers as Covid cases spike in every state
- For those impacted by Hurricane Ida
- The families and friends of those lost in the 9/11 attacks twenty years ago this week
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the cool nights and morning breezes that hint at autumn
This Week in History:
September 11, 2001 (20 years ago) Two passenger airplanes are hijacked in flight and flown into the World Trade Center in NYC, causing massive fires that eventually collapsed the twin towers killing over 2700 people including hundreds of rescue workers trying to evacuate people from the buildings. A third place was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon, killing 125 people and all 64 people on board the place. A fourth hijacking was presumed to be thwarted when passengers attacked the hijackers, but the plane eventually crashed in a field in western PA, killing everyone on board. Its intended target was never known. The 4 crashes, presumed to be coordinated, were the largest terrorist attack on American soil. In all, 2996 people were killed in the 90 minutes then encompass the 4 crashes and the collapsing towers.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Rev. Frank Basler is an ordained minister in the CT Conference, UCC. He is a “dialogue partner” with clergy and facilitates two communities of practice for senior ministers.