Here is today's message from Mark 8: 31-38 and Genesis 17:1-7

When I was a kid I used to watch a cartoon that most of us have all seen.
Popeye the Sailor Man.
Popeye stories always revolved around a few odd characters.
His girlfriend, Olive Oil, his buddy, Whimpy (who liked hamburgers) and Bluto.

Bluto is the one I want us to focus on, since he was always Popeye’s foil.
Bluto was always messing with Popeye or trying to steal his girl, even physically.
And Popeye always was ready to confront and take on Bluto when he did this.
But there was always one problem when Popeye wanted to do that.

He could not overcome Bluto, (despite massive forearms) because he was weaker.
Despite being the ‘good guy’ in the cartoon story, Popeye was overmatched.
But, as it turns out, he also always had an out.
He would find and take a can of spinach and down that as his source of strength.
Then, Popeye would bust out of shackles Bluto had put him in, smash doors and buildings he put in his way, and totally clobber Bluto.

He even had it as part of his little theme song which said;…
“I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.
I’m strong to the finish, 
cause I eats me spinach.
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man”

So it was that spinach that made all the difference for Popeye in these tough situations.
He always knew and wanted to do what was called for,….but he needed that spinach.
The spinach was what enabled him to do what he otherwise could not have done.

I want you this morning to think about that can of spinach as like ‘faith.
That, without this thing ‘faith’, we too can be weak and unable to do what needs doing.
Without ‘faith’, like Popeye, we may want to do the right thing to do but are limited.
Without being strengthened with faith, we can be weak and get overwhelmed in life.

In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus chastises Peter for not considering divine things.
When Jesus tells them that he must go to Jerusalem and be crucified, they cringe.
Peter is scared and worried for Jesus and says he must never go to the cross and die.
Peter is, in effect, being weak even though he truly wants to stand by and follow Jesus.

Then Jesus tells Peter and the others to be his followers, they must take up their cross.
Meaning they must do the tough things, take the hard road, confront bad guys, in life.
But knowing what is the right thing to do and then doing it, are two different things.
When Jesus talked about their willingness to sacrifice, he knew that only faith would help them do that sort of thing.

Later on in their lives, they had to face situations where they needed to be strong.
When they had to do things that only the strength of faith could enable them to do.
Faith in God and Jesus and all that he said and did with and promised for them.

We also heard God tell Abraham that He had chosen him to father many nations.
Abraham (and Sarah), being old, doubted and felt he was a weak candidate for the job
Yet, by faith in God, Abraham took on the task and actually succeeded in having a son.

In Romans, the apostle Paul writes about how Abraham’s faith made a big difference.
The same held true later for the disciples as they encountered resistance and worse.
It was their faith that strengthened them to where they could do Herculean things.

Likewise, the same holds true for us in life.
Faith is like the spinach that Popeye ate to build up his strength to do the impossible.
Faith is like the spinach that enables us to do tough things we are called by God to do.
Faith is like that spinach in that, without it, we can be weak and impotent against evil.
Faith is like that spinach in that, with it, we can do amazing and Herculean things too!

Now you can have faith in lots of different things.
Faith in the stock market, in the government or democracy, in the wisdom of experts.
You can have faith in another person, in science, or the Yankees chances this year.
You can even have faith in your own abilities or faith in just plain good luck sometimes.

But what I am talking about,….. what Jesus always encourages,….is faith in God.
Faith in God supersedes faith in those other things because God never fails.
The stock market can fall, democracy can give us lemons, experts can be wrong.
Even (or should I say especially) our own abilities can let us down at times.
But God never will retreat, give us mistakes or be wrong.
That God won’t let us down is the basis for faith in all kinds of situations

We may need to face and overcome some sort of adversity in our lives.
We may need to be strong to admit our wrongs and apologize to someone. 
We may need to be strong to do something we’d otherwise emotionally balk at.
We may need to step up and do something that we feel God calls us to do.

Without the strength of faith in God’s wisdom, power, love and forgiveness,…
we can be weak and impotent in our efforts.
Without the strength of faith in God’s ability to help us in trying moments of life,….
we can be weak and unable to act.
Without the strength of faith in God’s being there with and for us,…..
we can be weak and freeze up when times get tough.

So we come to worship and to be strengthened as our faith is fed.
Fed when we hear again of God’s power and wisdom.
Fed again from the stories of Jesus’ love and forgiveness given to us.
Fed, like with spinach, in the stuff that your His does to fill us with faith.
So that we can do the hard things, the impossible things,…. the things of God.