Theme for the Week – 31 August 2014

Scripture for the week:

Exodus 3.1–15
Psalm 105.1–6, 23–26, 45b
Romans 12.9–21
Matthew 16.21–28

“Get behind me Satan,” is a famous expression of Jesus, apparently directed at Peter – only shortly after a commendation for divine inspiration about who Jesus really is (see last week). Yet it’s worth asking what is really happening here, and who, or what accuser (the root of “Satan”) is the target.

Someone incarcerated in a “Forensic Psychiatric Hospital” once suggested to me that perhaps Jesus saw Satan standing behind Peter. While this might be dubious from a literal point of view, metaphorically it might make a lot more sense: Peter’s rejection of Jesus’ warning of impending suffering was reminiscent of the accusatory temptations that Jesus had already overcome in the wilderness.

Meanwhile, in a much earlier wilderness, Moses discovered a very present God in a burning bush: “I am,” or “I will be.”  This is no distant God, but a sort of live-in landlord, or a benevolent Rigsby – something that might make us uncomfortable at times.

The apostle Paul reminds the Christians in Rome that the very-present God needs humans to model Christ’s life and ministry in reconciliation and acceptance, and not to usurp God’s place of judgement.

In the end, we have to be ready to reject the accusatory temptations of a world that wants instant gratification and control, to accept the presence of God within our lives, and to respond to the challenge of being instruments of God’s compassionate will.  And we might have to accept that in God’s upside-down world, even those in the custody of a “Forensic Psychiatric Hospital” might have some insight to offer!


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