How To Set Your Mind on Divine Things in Modern America

Reverend Timothy L. Craven

Mellingers Evangelical Lutheran Church

Schoeneck, Pennsylvania

 

 

 

 

Mark 8: 31-38   Jesus says He must suffer, Peter rebukes Him, He tells Peter that Peter has his mind on human things not divine things

 

     In this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells the Disciples that He must suffer and die and be risen again.  Shocked and misunderstanding Him, Peter tells Jesus that Jesus must be mistaken. Peter makes the mistake that people make all the time: correcting God. Not good.  Not a good idea.  Jesus sets him straight and tells him that he has his mind on human things and not divine things.

 

     How does a person set his mind on divine things in modern America?

 

     Once when I was trying to balance my checkbook I starting thinking about the Holy Spirit working in my life and made a four hundred dollar arithmetic error.  The bank was nice but really didn’t care about the account of my revelation.  Rather they were much more interested in the revelation of my account.

 

     And I suppose I can’t blame them.  I mean the bank is full of good people, many of whom are Christians.  But their job is to handle the money not souls. The people there are not about to resonate with my witness and find themselves walking the street without a job because they forgot to make sure I had the cold hard cash.

 

 

     Once when I was trying to balance my checkbook I starting thinking about the Holy Spirit working in my life and made a four hundred dollar arithmetic error.  The bank was nice but really didn’t care about the account of my revelation.  Rather they were much more interested in the revelation of my account.

 

     Once when I was trying to balance my checkbook I starting thinking about the Holy Spirit working in my life and made a four hundred dollar arithmetic error.  The bank was nice but really didn’t care about the account of my revelation.  Rather they were much more interested in the revelation of my account.

 

     And I suppose I can’t blame them.  I mean the bank is full of good people, many of whom are Christians.  But their job is to handle the money not souls. The people there are not about to resonate with my witness and find themselves walking the street without a job because they forgot to make sure I had the cold hard cash.

 

     Peter and the Disciples were thinking like that.  They thought the Messiah was going to put a big hurtin’ on the Romans.  They did not want to hear that Jesus was going to suffer and die, even if He was going to rise again.  What kind of Saviour is going to come into the world and let the bad guys nail Him to a cross?  It didn’t make sense.

 

     But that’s the whole point.  It’s not supposed to make sense!

 

     If Jesus made sense to us He would be more of human things.  As it is, He is both human and divine but is so divine that we humans can’t figure Him out.

 

     Give stuff up, suffer, divine things.  It makes for a long afternoon at the grocery store.

We just want to buy our things, put them in bags and take them home.  We don’t want to wander around all day thinking about eternity.  Most of us have yet to figure out why we have to move the clocks ahead and back one hour two times a year for Heaven’s sake!

   

     Once when I was trying to balance my checkbook I starting thinking about the Holy Spirit working in my life and made a four hundred dollar arithmetic error.  The bank was nice but really didn’t care about the account of my revelation.  Rather they were much more interested in the revelation of my account.

 

     And I suppose I can’t blame them.  I mean the bank is full of good people, many of whom are Christians.  But their job is to handle the money not souls. The people there are not about to resonate with my witness and find themselves walking the street without a job because they forgot to make sure I had the cold hard cash.

 

     Peter and the Disciples were thinking like that.  They thought the Messiah was going to put a big hurtin’ on the Romans.  They did not want to hear that Jesus was going to suffer and die, even if He was going to rise again.  What kind of Saviour is going to come into the world and let the bad guys nail Him to a cross?  It didn’t make sense.

 

     But that’s the whole point.  It’s not supposed to make sense!

     Once when I was trying to balance my checkbook I starting thinking about the Holy Spirit working in my life and made a four hundred dollar arithmetic error.  The bank was nice but really didn’t care about the account of my revelation.  Rather they were much more interested in the revelation of my account.

 

     And I suppose I can’t blame them.  I mean the bank is full of good people, many of whom are Christians.  But their job is to handle the money not souls. The people there are not about to resonate with my witness and find themselves walking the street without a job because they forgot to make sure I had the cold hard cash.

 

     Peter and the Disciples were thinking like that.  They thought the Messiah was going to put a big hurtin’ on the Romans.  They did not want to hear that Jesus was going to suffer and die, even if He was going to rise again.  What kind of Saviour is going to come into the world and let the bad guys nail Him to a cross?  It didn’t make sense.

 

     But that’s the whole point.  It’s not supposed to make sense!

 

     If Jesus made sense to us He would be more of human things.  As it is, He is both human and divine but is so divine that we humans can’t figure Him out.

 

     Give stuff up, suffer, divine things.  It makes for a long afternoon at the grocery store.

We just want to buy our things, put them in bags and take them home.  We don’t want to wander around all day thinking about eternity.  Most of us have yet to figure out why we have to move the clocks ahead and back one hour two times a year for Heaven’s sake!

 

       You’ve seen people who think about these kinds of things all the time.  It’s not pretty.

They’re the kind of absent minded professor types who have to be reminded to eat, forget their phone number and the names of their children.  Who wants to live with people like that?!

     

     Nevertheless, it seems clear that Jesus is commanding us, “rebuking” the Bible says, to pay more attention to divine things than to human things.  I’m not sure we’re ever going to be able to do it in quite the way Jesus has in mind.  We’re more like the Disciples who keep falling asleep when Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before He is captured.  Christ keeps returning and is incredulous at finding everybody asleep while He’s agonizing over confronting and defeating death and saving the whole entire human race.  He must have been very frustrated.  I know I let Jesus down a lot of times.  I bet you do too.

 

     In any event, I think we should try as hard as we can to obey Our Lord and so I’ve done some thinking about how you and I might be able to set our minds on divine things in modern America.  I made a list.  Here it is:

 

1.    Remember While You Are Working Hard And Saving That Everything You Own, Have And Are Will Be Vaporized Into Tiny Dust Particles When The Sun Explodes.

 

Admittedly, this is not going to happen for some time but is a good place to begin if we want to refocus our minds and actions on spiritual things instead of the normal money grubbing selfishness and insecurity which drives our every waking moment.

       

2.    Don’t Worry About Getting Lost.  

 

     One of the compelling motivations which drives modern Americans is the relentless need to keep up the illusion that we actually know what we’re doing and know where we are at all times when much of the time we have no clue about what is going on or what our role in it is.  We spend countless hours of our lives trying to convince ourselves and others that we are smarter and more confident than we really are. If we would just admit we are in the dark we would find ourselves thinking more about divine things because we would realize just how hapless and ridiculous human things actually are. Often the person we look to help us get through our problems is just as lost as we are. The Evangelist Joyce Meyer says it well when she says, “When we have a problem instead of running to the phone, we should be running to the throne.”  

 

3.    Reevaluate Who You Think Your Friends Are.

 

Many times we are attracted to people who represent the kind of image we ourselves would like to project:  people who we or others think are successful or attractive in some way.  Quite frankly, a lot of those people, not because of any malice on their part but rather because of the misguided trust we put in them, are leading us down the golden road straight to Hell.  It’s frightening to us to think that the person who might have our best interest at heart, someone who can lead us to the divine way, is someone who the world rejects, despises, thinks is dumb, walks around in a daze, doesn’t understand the way the world works, wears bad clothes, talks funny and has bad hair.  Is a big dope.  That’s the person who actually is your friend.  Remember, divine way, not human way.  There are no Country Clubs in Heaven.

 

4.    Do Nothing At Least Once A Day.

 

One of the best ways to follow the human way is to be busy all the time.

God made the world in six days and then rested.  I’ve been cranking away for over fifty years and see no end in sight. God’s way is better.

Psalm 46 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  This is good advice.

            Go for a walk.  Read a book. Try to stay away from television and computers.

      Go outdoors.

     

5.    Give Stuff Away.

 

Nothing you have is yours any ay, as your kids probably constantly remind you.  Like Jacob Marley in the tale of Scrooge who forged his chains for Eternity when he thought he was making money, so too our things drag us down and burden us so that our Spirits are not free in Christ.  Remember, the Bible describes the Holy Spirit as wind and breathe of God, not some Cosmic Garage Sale.

       

6.   Stop Trying To Impress Members Of The Opposite Sex.

 

     Except in the case of marriage, if a man starts to say something to a woman that he wouldn’t say to his Mother or if a woman starts to say something to a man that she wouldn’t say to her Father, then these things are human things and not divine.  Forget them and clean up your act.

 

7.   Pretend For Five Minutes That You Are A Member Of Another Culture.

     

      This is a lot harder than it sounds.  Especially if you haven’t travelled much and think that crossing the Susquehanna in a minivan is the equivalent of Hannibal crossing the Alps in the winter on an elephant.  There was a great book in the Sixties, I think it was called Black Like Me:  a guy painted his face black and then wrote about how people treated him.  The idea here is that it’s a very human thing to love our own culture, town, high school team, whatever and hate people from other places.

The divine way doesn’t give a rip about these kinds of loyalties.  This is something to think about as our nation apparently prepares for war.

     One time in a Chinese restaurant I thought I was acting pretty Chinese and ended up ordering a hamburger by mistake.  Pray about this.

 

8.    Don’t Get Emotional About The News

 

Unless the news is about the fish store on the corner which is closing and now you’ll have to drive ten miles to buy fish, getting excited about the news is a sure fire way to be trapped into human thinking.  Most of the news we hear on tv, radio, internet, you can probably get it on your cell phone now too I suppose, most of the news we hear is about stuff we have no control over, is all bad, except for the stupid stories about pets, and may or may not be totally true any way. There is absolutely no point in raising your blood pressure, ruining your day, your personal relationships and, very possibly, condemning yourself to eternity in Hell, by jumping up and down and ranting and raving about politics or the economy or the state of the highways in Pennsylvania which, by the way, are among the worst in the nation, but why lose sleep over this?

 

The divine way is to realize that God is in control and that you are safe and that God loves you just for who you are. Forget the news.  Watch reruns of Mister Rogers instead.

   

9.     Remember God’s God And You Ain’t

 

     Perhaps the best way to put your mind on divine things is to constantly seek out and be in the presence of things, people and situations which you cannot understand.  Observance of and participation in the great mystery of God is one of the ways that we know we are thinking about divine things and not human things.

People like to figure stuff out. God likes to remind us that we  don’t really understand Him.  After all, the sin for which Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden was eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, trying to be as smart of God. God didn’t like that. 

           Remember that person you just can’t figure out, who seems to be the weirdest person on the planet or any other?  Spend time with that person.  If you’re lucky it will be your spouse or someone in your family.  If you’re the kind of person who has figured out everybody you know, you have my sympathy for living such a boring human life.

 

10.    And The Most Important Way To Set Your Mind On Divine Things In Modern America Is To Rely Completely On Jesus Realizing That Without His Help There’s No Way You Can Do All Of These Things And Will Just Go On Thinking About Yourself Like You Do All The Time Any Way.

 

Going to church, reading the Bible, praying, helping people, all these things are good ways to put your mind on the divine.  I suppose it’s possible to be

doing these things and think about human things; I know I certainly on occasion have received Holy Communion while thinking about what’s for lunch, but the Communion is still valid and being in the presence of other believers helps get me back on the right track.

 

     So that’s my list of How To Set Your Mind on Divine Things in Modern America.  

Hopefully, if we can think more about the divine than we usually do then Jesus will be able to look at us and instead of saying as He did to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” at least perhaps might make the suggestion that we walk alongside Him on His mysterious journey to the cross and Resurrection, not completely understanding but moving with Jesus in the right direction.

 

     Good luck and Godspeed.  I’ll meet you on the way.

 

     Amen. 

Mellingers Evangelical Lutheran Church

80 Gockley Road                                      

Stevens, PA 17578

 

(W) 717-336-8800

(F) 717-336-8801

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