Proper 19(B): Lose to Win!
By: The Rev. Mashaun D. Simon
Before I started writing this, I spent hours going through my files of sermons looking for my old notes. I felt as though I had preached a sermon from this text before and I wanted to see where my head was at that time.
After about 30 minutes of searching, I was reminded of the moment I preached the text. It was during my time as program coordinator for Columbia Theological Seminary.
It is a familiar text – one where preachers from far and wide have lifted the text to make the point of Jesus’ divinity and purpose. They have used this text to make the case that Jesus truly is the son of God, that his purpose was to come among us to save us from ourselves, and that while he understood this, he wanted to ensure that his disciples understood it as well.
Preachers have preached about how and why Jesus needed and wanted to prepare his followers for what was to come to them, what would happen to him, and how they needed to brace for what was to come when he would be gone.
During the sermon, I highlighted the 2012 hit by Fantasia Barrino, Lose to Win from her fourth studio album The Side Effects of You. I talked about how the song was an instant hit, becoming an anthem for many fans of the 2004 American Idol winner. I talked about how she explained during an interview that the song, according to the Grammy award winner, was not just about the realities of a failed relationship – but also the realities of anyone who may experience setbacks in life, love and career.
“When I say lose to win I don’t want people to think I’m only talking about love,” Barrino said in a 2013 interview. “There’s people out there who’ve lost homes and jobs…I want them to know sometimes you have to lose those things for God to put the right things in your life.”
If it makes you cry, cry, cry
Can’t get no sleep at night?
Sometimes you gotta lose to win again.
Through the sermon I attempted to bridge the similarities between Barrino’s hit single and Jesus’s engagement with the disciples. I talked about how at the beginning of the new academic year, students, faculty and staff would have to lose, to lose old ways of thinking, old practices, old habits to prepare for the next – and how Jesus attempted to do the same for his disciples as he was on the eve of his destiny.
I can imagine that the disciples, as they were engaging with Jesus at this point in Jesus’ ministry, full of hope. Here was the fulfillment of the many prophecies – their savior, their Messiah, here to rescue them from the oppressors’ snare. They could not have imagined the possibilities of heartache, of pain, of struggle. And when Jesus their Messiah began to forewarn them, it was a possibility they did not want to hear. They could not fathom.
This scene in Mark’s telling of Jesus’ ministry follows a series of miracles. The curing of a deaf man, the feeding of thousands, the healing of the blind man – countless signs and miracles as reported by Mark. While on their way to Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks, “Who is it people say I am?”
As the disciples respond, Jesus then asks a very pointed question: “Who do YOU say that I am?” Simple question, right? Jesus knew that in order to truly know him. They had to be able to fathom the repercussions and consequences.
Jesus was being like that drunk uncle at the family gathering: saying things that did not need to be said or that others did not want to be known. And Peter did what any matriarch or patriarch would do: he attempted to intervene before what was about to be said would embarrass the family.
Because this is not supposed to look like that, right?
This possibility of suffering, of potentially having to lose out is not something any of us are ready to embrace or fathom. But suffering, struggle, especially for something worth struggling for, is integral to life, to purpose, and especially to ministry.
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,[i] will save it.
What is my point?
The one thing I appreciate about the sacred text is that the text has a way of being contemporary without us realizing. We are living in some extremely interesting times. It seems as though chaos is all around us. But with that, we have choices.
For some, society seems chaotic. For some, their hope is shaken. For some, they are craving more but having no idea of how to get to where they think they want to be. And for others, the inevitable has been unavoidable.
Yet in all of that, the sacred text is still a resource. And at this moment, regardless of what is and has been, God is still concerned about us. God is concerned, but are we most concerned about?
Are we focused merely on human concerns, the needs of the present that we consider to be most important that are actually fleeting and selfish?
When I preached this text before, I encouraged those in the congregation to lose themselves; to sacrifice for the sake of truly being God’s beloved community. And I think the same is still true today.
God, I believe, is calling us to be selfless; to be focused; to be better and to be concerned about those things that God is most concerned. And it is not and will not be easy.
There will be those who will reject us, that will threaten us, that will hate us, that will feel threatened by us because of how we push against the status quo, the normal, the comfortable.
““Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,” Jesus said.
Sometimes, we have to lose, to win again!
The Rev. Mashaun D. Simon is a writer and preacher from Atlanta, Georgia. Currently, Mashaun serves as Communications Manager for Spelman College. Mashaun is a licensed and ordained preacher and serves on the ministerial staff of House of Mercy Everlasting in College Park, Georgia. Mashaun is also a member of the Board of Directors for AID Atlanta and a member of the Advisory Board for the Counter Narrative Project. He holds a professional writing degree from Georgia Perimeter College, a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Kennesaw State University, and a Master of Divinity from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.