Using God's standards, we see life in true perspective
"Get out of My sight ... you are not judging by God's standards but by man's"
A young woman in college wrote the following letter to her parents, her first in three months:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I'm sorry it has been so long since my last letter, but I didn't want to worry you about the fire in the dorm and my concussion which happened when I fell out of the window trying to escape. I've been anxious to tell you about that nice attendant from the service station around the corner who made me feel comfortable before the ambulance came. I'm out of the hospital now, and feeling fine, especially since that nice attendant offered to let me stay with him at his apartment while they were fixing the dorm. It's such a nice apartment and he's such a nice person. I really like him very much and I know how happy it will make you to become grandparents. In closing, let me tell you that you can stop worrying. There was no fire, I didn't fall out of the window, I didn't have the concussion, I haven't moved into anyone's apartment, there is no man in my life, and you're not going to be grandparents. I told you all those things because I received a "D" in Biology and an "F" in History and I wanted you to put that into perspective.
Perspective: Seeing events in their full context. Viewing facts or events in relation to other facts or events. The drudge of preparing the family for a Summer vacation is endured willingly when seen in the context of the fun everyone's going to have. A medical student grinds it out because he or she knows that hard work and sacrifice are necessary preconditions to becoming a licensed doctor. A good musician puts her or his long hours of practice into proper perspective by acknowledging that the goal of excellence can be achieved only through disciplined preparation. If you want to "get it all together" as the young people say, you've got to put life's events in true perspective, see them as part of a whole. "Perspective"-or, I should say, lack of it-is St. Peter's problem in today's Gospel Lesson.
Jesus tells the apostle, for the first time, that His mission soon would take Him to Jerusalem where He would be made to suffer at the hands of the religious Establishment and then be executed. Peter, who has just acknowledged Jesus as Messiah, is unable to handle the revelation of His impending suffering and death. "God forbid that any such thing can happen to You," Peter says (Mt.16:22). To which Jesus replies, "Get out of My sight... you are not judging by God's standards but by man's" (Mt.16:23). Peter had failed to put this event in it's proper perspective. The revelation of Jesus as Messiah was more easily handled than the revelation of His suffering and death. Peter was not yet ready to see it in the context of God's Resurrection Power. Jesus had said that He would be "raised up on the third day" but Peter, as we know, never did get it all together until the Resurrection Event actually occurred. In the Resurrection Event, the meaning of Jesus' whole life and teaching and ministry becomes clear. We can see it now in full context, in true perspective. And, because of that, we can now see our own life in a new and fuller context, in true perspective.
What Peter was unable to grasp at this time was the story, as we know it, of a man who rose from the dead. A dead man who got up and walked around. Even if that dead man happened to be Jesus Christ, the Messiah, it was still unbelievable to Peter. And, in this age of scientific sophistication, some of us can't get with it either. We come to Church to acknowledge the Resurrection Event in a vague kind of way, but we are not really with it. We accept it much as the little boy who was asked to define "Faith." He said, "Faith is believing what you know isn't true." This kind of faith, this hazy, foggy doubt and skepticism lies at the center of our Sunday celebrations and at the center of our lives. Consequently, let us endeavor today to put all of this in true perspective.
For the New Testament Christians, Jesus' Resurrection was much more than a miracle. Their Lord, who had been crucified and placed in a tomb, confronted them as Living Lord. But, for the New Testament Community, the important thing was not this great miracle. The important thing was that through the miracle they discovered who God is. They came to know God as a God of Resurrection Power. This is who He is; this is how He acts. God moved through this death of Christ and transformed it into victory. God is at work now, transforming death into life, defeat into victory and despair into hope. This Good News turned those despairing disciples into flaming evangelists. It was not just the awesome, stupendous miracle that made them true believers, it was the fact that through this miracle God had revealed to them, as never before, who He is.
What can be better news for us today than that? We're living in a time in which there is so much confusion about who God is-if He is at all. We hear talk about the death of God, the silence of God, the withdrawal of God, the absence of God. There are theologians saying that we should worship without using the name "God" because it's become a meaningless term. People are trying new words for God. One symbol of the confusion is the report of a symposium on cybernetics in which scientists took the world's most advanced computer and fed into it the question, "Is there a God?" After a lot of clicking and whirring, the computer finally spilled out the answer: "No, there is."
God is working now, in the midst of our brokenness and our pain and our disappointments and our fear of death. God's Resurrection Power is working at this moment in your life, calling you forth out of all that debris. Right now your own unique self is being resurrected. He is giving you the strength to confront death and to accept it as the ultimate surrender to His call to new life. God is giving you the strength to love other people and to give them life.
Most persons who visit the beautiful French Cathedral at Reims hear the story of the magnificent rose window which is the crowning glory of that Church. During World War II, that rose window had been shattered. Immediately following the disaster, the villagers went out from their homes and painstakingly gathered up all of the bits and pieces, down to the tiniest little splinter. When the war ended, they called in highly-skilled artisans who built a new rose window, using the shattered fragments of the old.
Don't you see, this is what God is doing, always! He takes the shattered fragments of our broken dreams and frustrations and fear of death and, through His Resurrection Power creates a new life more beautiful than the old. See your life in this true perspective. Unlike the Peter in today's Gospel Lesson, you will be "judging by God's standards," not man's. You will receive the news of Jesus giving His life to God in the light of God's giving new life to Jesus, and to us all.