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INSTRUCTIONS ARE LIFE OR DEATH
Imagine with me if you can. You're rafting down the Ocoee, splashing through a huge rapid when all of a sudden, you find yourself flying over the front of the boat. You're tossing and turning in the waves, and your mind and body are telling you to get stabilized. Our natural reaction would probably be to get our feet down and stand up, but that's exactly the wrong thing to do. If you tried to stand up in the middle of the rapids, a host of horrible things could happen. You could slip on a rock and hit your head. Your foot could get stuck in a crevice, or you could end up breaking a bone or worse as the current pushes against you.
No, the best thing to do when you find yourself "overboard" (so to speak), is to float on your back with your feet sticking up out of the water in front of you. This way, the current pushes you through the rapid to a calm spot where the boat can pick you up again. You don't get your feet stuck, you lessen your chances of hitting your head, and you increase your chances of survival; just by giving yourself up to the current.
Believe it or not, Christian discipleship works in much the same way, and that is what Jesus is trying to teach the disciples in the reading we heard earlier. As you will remember from last week, Peter has just finished his proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah in answer to Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" Now Jesus is taking a moment to teach the disciples what it really means that he is the Messiah. Last week was Peter's confession, this week is Jesus' teaching about the cost of that confession. And what Jesus tells the disciples is not what they expected to hear; but it is a matter of life and death, just like those rafting instructions.
(From a sermon by Clair Sauer, Inside Out and Upside Down, 8/24/2011)
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