Sermon for September 12
May the words my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen
Have you ever played the “Guess Who” game? It’s where hints are given and you try to name the person by the hints. For example:
This man was born in Cincinnati in 1911. His real name was Leonard Slye. He began his career playing the guitar, singing, and yodeling. He began his film career in 1935 working in supporting roles as a singing cowboy. He was in a band known as the Pioneers Trio, later to become the Sons of the Pioneers. He became a major box-office attraction in movies, TV, and records under his new stage name—Roy Rogers.
Jesus was sort of doing the same thing Who was he? Who were the people saying he was? And he got answers like John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, and other prophets. But then he asked the question directly to them: “Who do you say that I am?” And it was Peter: “You are the Messiah.” This was the first time in the gospel that a human was correct about Jesus’ identity. Previously, it had been the confessions of demons. In the third chapter of Mark, we read: “Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’” Even the demons knew who Jesus was.
Now the question becomes: who do you say Jesus is? I’m afraid that there are some who might relate to Jesus only at Christmas. And even then it’s the baby in a manger. Even if they would come to a church on Christmas Eve, to them it becomes a lot of pageantry with red poinsettias and Christmas trees with funny looking white ornaments. It’s swapping neatly wrapped packages and helping Santa put together a bicycle. It’s putting a Christmas tree up on Thanksgiving and tearing it down the day after Christmas, the second day of Christmas and saying, “Boy, I’m glad all that’s over!”
Or maybe it’s Easter when people show up to a church early on a chilly Sunday morning in their bright new clothes in a graveyard. They listen to a few joyous hymns, proceed into the church, perhaps listen to a sermon about a man who was raised from the dead, and then go into a large room and eat a hardy breakfast. And the day is pretty much over. They’ve done their duty to and for their God.
It seems that this has become pretty much the norm for our so-called Christian family in the suburbs. There are those who come to church religiously—twice a year! Christmas and Easter. “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man (that’s Jesus) will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” That’s a quote from Jesus from Jesus in our gospel reading today. Who is Jesus talking to? It sounds to me that he’s talking to those who perhaps hear but do not listen.
And so, who is this Jesus? Why do we come together each Sunday, either here in person or through the magic of the internet? We come together as family, a community of believers who worship the triune God. We come not just to hear, but to listen and to participate in the service. We come to find words of encouragement, words of joy, words of peace. We come to find forgiveness, to find strength, to find consolation. Who is this Jesus and why should we listen to him?
Quite frankly, because He is the son of God the Father, part of the triune God. Do we need any more authority? He came down to us as a human being. He became one of us on that Christmas night we celebrate with poinsettias and a tree loaded with Chrismons. We celebrate because God loved us so much, he sent his son to live among us to teach us about our relationship with him and his Father. God loved us so much that he gave his one and only son to die at the hands of other humans as an atonement for our sins. And we mourn his death on Good Friday because it was for us he had to die. But God was not finished. This Jesus was raised on the Sunday morning after he died on Friday. The gates of hell could not hold him! He was alive! He dwelt among us for 40 more days and then ascended into heaven.
God did all of this out of love for us! I would ask anyone. Is this something we are to be ashamed of?
And we come to worship because of this. Worship is a community event. It is meant to be a coming together of God’s children. It is not to be an event in which we are alone. I envision that those who are participating electronically at home or wherever are joining in the responses and hymns so that we are all in community. We send out worship folders to all of you who we have addresses. If you don’t receive one, let us know. We can make sure you receive it.
Who is Jesus? Someone everyone needs to know. In today’s reading Jesus told Peter and the disciples not to tell anyone about him. It was not time yet. But now is the time, especially in this adulterous and sinful generation.
Who is this Jesus? The one who is calling us to be his disciples. The one who is calling us to go out into the world and show God’s love to our neighbor. Who is this Jesus? The one who calls us to worship every time we get a chance. Who is this Jesus? The one who saves our very souls!
Think about where you are in your faith journey. Who is Jesus in your life? We shouldn’t be guessing.