Guest Post — Barbara Messner on Matthew 16:21-28

Get Behind Me Satan (Matthew 16-21-28)

“Get behind me Satan!”
he said to one he valued
as rock to build a church on:
worth noting just how quickly
key insights get distorted
by our survival instinct
and lustful need for power
to do away with suffering
and concentrate on winning.

“Oh! Get behind me Satan!”
he said to something in him:
a desperate human longing
to say pain must not happen,
to ask that God forbid it.
He fears that he might stumble
upon the block of safety:
be tempted to act godlike
instead of truly godly,
escape the mortal price tag
of death outside the city.

Cry: “Get behind me Satan!”
Alone upon the mountains
and in the midnight garden
he prayed for dispensation:
“Please let this cup pass from me!
Let’s do without communion
with blood and broken body.
Impervious and immortal,
I’ll lead a better empire
without the need for dying.”

“No, get behind me Satan!”
To be secure and powerful
are common human failings,
a self-defeating cycle
with endless streams of victims.
It’s human to be praying:
“Dear God, don’t let this happen
to us or those we treasure.
We can’t succumb to covid,
or mental loss in ageing,
or be displaced and homeless,
and as for facing dying,
we hope we barely notice
between a sleep and waking.”

But get behind me Satan,
for loving and creating
are forged through death and rising,
and God would rather suffer,
and share in being mortal,
than be untouched and distant,
unmoved, beyond our crying.
Take up your cross and follow
from tomb to resurrection.
Accepting loss means finding
what seems to be a failure
can bring God’s kingdom nearer.

Thanks to Australian Barbara Messner  for this poem, written 27 August 2020

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