22nd Sunday Ordinary Time Year A


“You are setting your mind not on the things of God, but on the things of mortals.”

Isn’t that an interesting statement?

I wonder what it would mean to set our minds on the things of God?

I believe most of us live in or under the heretical illusion of Christian Triumphalism.

I know that may be hard to hear, and I would like to explain what I mean because it sneaks into our theological imaginations very subtlety and has pervaded the Western Theological landscape.

What does living the perfect Christian life look like to us in our imagination?

Most I think would say, it looks like good people, doing good things, with little to no conflict, no war, no really bad stuff happening, probably something like the land and the people living in harmony, peace, and justice.

It is somewhat of a vision of utopia. A place like the Garden of Eden, rest, relaxation, just wandering through life, enjoying goodness, grace, peace, like “ahhhhhhhhhhhhh” kind of like the very first day of a very much needed and very much deserved vacation.

Our imaginations are very important and necessary in our theological life. Rev. Colleen often speaks about theological imagination. And yet, if we are not careful, and look closely, we can run into some deep problems between imagination and reality.

It is easy to become swayed by the thought that if we are just good Christians, if we just live a good life, we do our best to follow the ten commandments and the beatitudes, that if we do the whole Church thing and pray and do good works, all will be well, with the occasional bump in the road. Hopefully not too big of a bump. Isn’t that right?

Do me a favor and just raise your hand if you think that is something you might have imagined as the perfect world?

Yet, when natural disasters strike, and wars break out, and people young and old die, brutality and corruption happen, and things like Covid19 happen, then our little perfect image of what should be gets torn, or maybe even destroyed. And we ask the unanswerable question….Why?

Why did this have to happen?

Why did my loved one have to die?

Why did racism have to destroy so many lives?

Why do the earthquakes and volcanoes destroy so much?

Why do the fires wipe out lives and livelihoods?

Why, as the infamous book title says:

Why do bad things happen to good people?

That is where the heresy of Christian Triumphalism falls apart and our eutopic Garden of Eden looks more like a desert.

I think that is why Jesus said to Peter ”get behind me Satan, you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of mortals!” So what does it mean to set our minds on the things of God?

I believe it means to accept life and all that it entails on life’s terms.

To accept that tragedy will fall.

That hurt and pain and mystery are a part of the journey, as are ecstasy, sorrow, joy, and tears.

That sometimes life won’t make any sense at all.

That ultimately faith is about trusting in our God, and God’s unending presence with us, even when we are on the Cross, even there God is Emmanuel. God with us.

Because if God is love, and I firmly believe God is, love will prevail.

Jesus’s life proved it over and over. In the good times and in the challenging times, at the wedding feast and at the Cross, at the death of Lazarus and in the Garden of Calvary, God is there.

Maybe setting our minds on the things of God, means ultimately accepting our humanity, knowing that we are more than this transient experience of being human.

And maybe our task is to help others to see in us a glimpse of God, a sliver of hope, a modicum of trust, and a heart overflowing with love.

I think that is what it means for us to lose our life for the sake of Christ!