Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Who do you say that I am?"

(This sermon is inspired, in no small part, by David Lose's awesome weekly gift to preachers, "Dear Partner in Preaching" found on his " the Meantime" blog.  Lose created and wrote "Dear Working Preacher" while he was at Luther Seminary.)

It is arguably the most important question for us to answer, whether we are 1st, or 21st century Christians:

Who do you say that I am?

"(Jesus) is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

This was Peter’s answer in Matthew’s Gospel.  And here, they get high marks from Jesus.

But what do these words really mean for Peter, the Gospel writer, and those who read them? 

That isn't necessarily clear...

We have certainly tried to explain them.  We have this big Creed that we say every week together:  words that have been worked over by important people in the Church’s history.

These words are well and good for our weekly ritual, in part because they encompass so many possibilities in their potential understanding.  Perhaps they do indeed best explain who Jesus is.

But even if we use Peter’s short version:  “You are the Messiah:  the Son of the Living God”,
What do we really mean with these words?  How would we describe what they mean?

Who do you say that I am?

…another way of saying that, is this:
What do you believe about Jesus?

If I was required to avoid theological language:  if I was not allowed to use any words that required further explanation, I’d make these two statements about Jesus:

—-In Jesus, I see God’s love for the world.

—-In Jesus, I see what is possible through God.

David Lose essentially said the same thing, but in a more classically preacher sort of way…as he self-admits...with “lots of words”.  He wrote:

“I think Jesus is God’s way of showing us how much God loves us and all people. God is so big that I think we have a hard time connecting with God. And so God came to be like one of us, to live like one of us, in order to reveal just how God feels about us. In this sense, Jesus revealed God’s heart, a heart that aches with all who suffer depression and think seriously about ending their lives, a heart that is upset and angry when a young black man is shot dead for no explicable reason, a heart that is torn up in grief at the desperate situation and violence that rips apart the land we’ve named Holy, a heart that loves us like only an adoring parent can and so not only wants the best for us but is always eager to welcome us home in grace, forgiveness, and love. 
But it’s more than that, too. I think Jesus also came to show us what’s possible. And so rather than give into the threat of disease, Jesus healed. Rather than surrender people to demons, Jesus showed compassion. Rather than let people starve because there’s not enough to go around, Jesus fed people who were hungry. Jesus refused to be satisfied or limited by the status quo and invites us to do the same, because if Jesus’ life and death show us how much God loves us, Jesus’ resurrection shows us that that love is more powerful than hate and fear and even death. Jesus shows us, in short, that God’s love wins.”

I think David’s words are extremely well said.  But the question, again, is not what some theologian, your priest, or even what The Church or The Bible says about Jesus.…

It’s Jesus saying to you:  “Who do you say that I am?”

What do you believe about Jesus?

If you use Biblical words like Messiah…or theological claims like “Son of God”…or other deep metaphorical language...that’s fine.

But if you're using those kind of words...layered with generations of symbolism...what do you really understand them to mean???  How would you explain your answer to those with no concept or history of these words?

What do you believe about Jesus?

So, here’s your challenge. 

Come up with a sentence or two that describes what you honestly believe about Jesus.

Then use those words…your confession…to shape the way you live your life in the days that follow.

Be honest with yourself, even if it doesn’t exactly match what Peter says, or what we say in the Creed.

But take heart, and be kind with yourself as well....

This isn't a test you can pass or fail.

And Jesus doesn't ask the question for his sake:  seeking praise of him or God.

Instead, the words you come up with have the power to continually transform your life, and those around you.  As Lose wrote, your words "...are ones of power that will help root us in the love and possibility that Jesus offers." 

“Who do you say that I am?”

What do you believe about Jesus?

1 comment:

tonip1 said...

Awesome Kurt! I will be trying to come up with that sentence.