The Gospel text assigned for today is the second half of a pair that occurs in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark and Luke). The first part is the transfiguration, when Peter, James and John are taken up the mountain and see Jesus transfigured in glory. The second part is this story of arguments, crowds, fathers, sons and evil. It is a story of the confusion that reigns here on the plain, here at the bottom of the mount. And since they are always juxtaposed the text invites us to ponder, what is the difference between the mountaintop experience and life down below. The big difference is the role of faith. The mountaintop is not about faith, because you see. You might have trouble comprehending what you see. Integrating what you see might be tough. But you don’t have to have faith in it. Life on the plain is about faith. This sermon ponders that difference and the meaning of a prayer, “I believe, help my unbelief”, and prayer in general (“This kind only comes out by prayer”) in the life of faith lived here on the plain.
We create fancy ways of talking about the reality of suffering – like the theology of the cross. If you think words are a bloodless way, there are less attractive ways. Like gated communities, or social darwinism or government programs that can make us feel like we are doing something but really just make us feel better and insulate us from suffering. But those fancy ways of talking at least confront reality.
But at the end of the day, the best teacher is an example. Christ is the ultimate example. He left the mountain of transfiguration for mount Calvary. You don’t get the Christ without the cross. Even more important to recognize those we know personally who have lived the theology of the cross. This sermon tries to point that out. We at St. Mark’s had an example in our midst. Our organist who we memorialized Saturday. This sermon attempts to make concrete what the theology of cross looks like.