Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Sermon - October 18

October 18, 2020
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96:1-9 (10-13)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22


Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.  

Alright, friends, it’s another wonderful gospel reading this Sunday. 

As we first read it at our weekly clergy Bible study, we all shuddered just a bit to think about how to preach the good news of Jesus Christ that we hear shared in this text. 

So, let’s get to that good news, shall we? 

It’s going to take a little bit to get us there, but we will get there, together. 

We are still in the Gospel of Matthew and now the Pharisees and the Herodians are trying to entrap Jesus…so they pose this question, that is exactly that: a trap. 

The question, is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not? 

If Jesus says it’s lawful, then he is siding with and supporting the Roman control at the time. 

If he says it’s not lawful, then he’s not following the rules of the land. 


It’s a no win, really.


As General Akbar says in Return of the Jedi, It’s a trap! 

No seriously…it’s a trick question. 

They are trying to entrap Jesus…to find a way to snare him. 

In the words of the Beastie Boys, listen all y’all it’s a sabotage! 


They are looking for a way to catch Jesus off guard, to make him say something that gives them reason to arrest him, to turn him over to authorities and to stop his preaching and teaching. 

But Jesus doesn’t fall for it. 

He doesn’t skip a beat. 

He shifts the conversation on a sharp pivot. 

Leading them to leave amazed…probably thinking what just happened? 

We were asking him about taxes and the emperor…and now we need to think about what is the emperor and what is God’s? 

He sends them of…heads spinning, minds whirling, and thoughts set on fire. 

 

And maybe after initially hearing this passage from the gospel that’s where you are too. 

You heard the words - entrap, Jesus, taxes, hypocrites…maybe other words jumped out for you and you heard them and just started pondering, your head starting spinning, your mind started whirling…and you’re not sure what the right answer is to the question asked of Jesus and what is the gospel lesson about anyway!?! 


Let me stop you right there…because guess what? 

It’s a trap! 


As they ask this question of Jesus, he realizes…I mean he already knew, but here Jesus names that the temple, the holy space, God’s house, is being occupied by the values of the world. 


Let me say that again…the image of the world…through coins, and emperors and taxes are finding their way into the church, and this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, Jesus pushes back. 


Jesus pushes back, as Jesus always does. 

Against the ways of the world that wiggle their way or drive their way into God’s holy space.

 

Jesus pushes back, as Jesus always does.

Against the ways of the world that wiggle their way…or drive their way into God’s holy space. 


In case you didn’t hear it yet, Jesus pushes back…

Against the ways of the world…

Against evils of the world…

Against the devil and all the forces that defy God…

Against the powers of this world that rebel against God…

Against the ways of sin that draw us from God…


Did those last three sound familiar? 

They might have. 

They come straight out of the baptismal liturgy. 


And the cool thing about today?  There will be a baptism, yup. 

Following the service, with just immediate family, to maintain the health and wellness of the littlest among us, we will welcome Owen Henry Brown into the body of Christ…

into the family of God….

into a community of faith that seeks to live out our baptismal calls daily…

into a community of faith, that like Jesus works to reclaim church as a holy and sacred space. 

But to do that…I mean really do that; we need to work together. 


So, let’s work together, right now to claim the holiness of this space, the Body of Christ, the church, gathered together, today. 


Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God? 

If so say, I renounce them.


Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God?

If so say, I renounce them.


Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw us from God?

If so say, I renounce them. 


Yes…for this space to be holy and sacred…we must remember to constantly cleanse our hearts and our minds as we are drawn together each week. 


And when this space is sacred…

And when this space is holy…

We are able to actively respond to God’s word and God’s call in our lives and in our world. 


When we are able to gather together in a holy and sacred space, we are able to talk about things that weigh on our hearts and our minds in a place that is guided and guarded by God’s love and grace. 


When we are able to gather together in a holy and sacred space, we are able to listen to and respond to challenging questions, enter into difficult dialogue and work together for the sake of the gospel being at work in the world. 


Friends, if this sacred space doesn’t allow us to hear God’s call for justice and peace…

If this sacred space doesn’t allow us to wrestle with our faith and how to be a faithful Christian in the world today, then the evil is still here…and the devil is at work.


But, big but, BUT….when we gather, on holy ground….open to the world of God and how it may challenge us or comfort us or call us…or do all three to any number of us on a Sunday morning, then we are church together. 


When this ground is holy and sacred, the work of God can be done. 

When this ground is holy and sacred, together, we can live out our baptismal vows. 


Together, we can…

live among God's faithful people,

hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper,

proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,

serve all people, following the example of Jesus,

and strive for justice and peace in all the earth. 


That my friends is our response as we were washed in the waters of baptism…

That my friends is who we are called to be, together.

That, my friends, is who we are able to be when we gather on holy ground…

With ears to listen to one another…

With words to respond out of care and compassion to one another…

With hearts to love one another…

And with actions that live out God’s love and God’s grace in the world around us. 


Together, we come to this space. 

Together, we are washed in the waters of baptism.

Together, we are called into the Body of Christ, to live out our baptismal calling. 


Together, we are called to reclaim this place as holy and sacred space…where the cares and worries of the world can be civilly discussed, prayed about and acted upon as we respond to a world in need with God’s love, forgiveness and grace. 


Together, we are church…in the world, where a message of love, forgiveness and grace is so desperately needed. 


Together. 


And now may the peace, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Sunday Sermon - Oct. 4

 October 4, 2020

18th Sunday after Pentecost

 

Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 80

Philippians 3:4b-14

Matthew 21:33-46

 Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Woah…just another great parable from Matthew’s gospel again, right? 

And with those zingers at the end…

Jesus says, have you never read in the scriptures?

And therefore, I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people what produces the fruits of the kingdom. 

Tough stuff…

But there must be good news somewhere, right? 

It may be tough to find in the gospel lesson and maybe because when we hear this, we don’t think Jesus is talking to us or about us. 

You see, we are still in the thick of all these conversations where the chief priests and Pharisees and people in the temple with religious education and authority are wondering where Jesus gets this authority he is preaching and teaching with. 

Maybe we hear this passage and think, he is addressing a certain group of people at a certain time so they hear a certain message. 

That is most certainly true. 

Yes, Jesus is addressing the people around him and specifically pointing out those in his midst, the teachers and leaders in the temple who had become so focused on the laws of the faith that they had forgotten about living the faith. 

It seems that that religious leaders of Jesus’ time were more focused on following the law than being shaped by the law to show and share God’s love with others. 

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time were doing what they thought was good, and just and right.  But in their following of the law…they lost sight of why they were doing it.  And in terms of today’s parable with the terrible tenants, they may have even forgotten that they, too, were tenants of God’s kingdom.  That they, too, were stewards of God’s creation, God’s temple and God’s love, but they were acting in such a way that they seemed to think it all belonged to them. 

When you think you’re doing something right…and then someone calls you out on it…it doesn’t feel good. 

You wonder why it’s not right…it’s the way we’ve always done it. 

We don’t want to change…we know from our life experiences – what we have been taught and what we have personally experienced is true….and we will move forward based on that gained knowledge and experience. 

So that chief priests and Pharisees are like…wait, what?  We’re the tenants who are not giving the produce to the landowner…and we think that we own the land now, so we’ll kill the heir so that it will be ours forever…wait…what? 

They are caught.  Between doing what they have known to have been good and right and true….and that is no longer the case. 

Maybe they are struggling to fully come to terms with who this Jesus is and what he is teaching. 

Maybe they are struggling with Jesus’ teaching, struggling to be open to a new or different way of experiencing God’s love and how they are called to be faithful stewards. 

In their mind, they probably thought they were fine stewards of God’s creation, God’s kingdom, God’s temple and God’s salvation. 

Yet, here comes Jesus…like he always does….breaking into the old…and breaking open a new way to feel, see and experience God’s love for all of God’s people. 

Leave it to Jesus…the savior of the world…to bring forth a new experience, new views, new teachings – yet all coming from the same God – the God of creation, the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of Moses and Miriam, the God of the laws found in the very scriptures the religious leaders had been prayerfully reading, studying and living out in their day to day lives. 

Just when you think you’re getting it just right, bam!  Jesus is like…but what about if you experienced God’s love and grace through a tax collector, the poor, the sick, the lame, or the outcast? 

Or, Jesus says, what if the tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor, the sick, the lame, and the outcast experienced God’s grace and then opened your eyes and your life to experience it? 

Woah…

Hard stuff.  But good stuff.  Amazing stuff.  Amazing grace. 

That’s the good news in this parable…the hard stuff but at the same time the amazing stuff.  That just as Jesus challenges the chief priests and the Pharisees, we too hear and heed a question and call. 

It’s one that we’ll talk about in our Bible study on Tuesday evening as we dig a little deeper into this text together.  But I want you to hear these two questions now:

What does it mean to you to be a faithful steward? 

AND

Will we have the courage to be faithful stewards, bearing fruit? 


These are tough questions that come as a call from Jesus. 

What does it mean to you to be a faithful steward? 

Let’s just remember for a moment that all that we have, and all that we are…it doesn’t belong to us.  It’s God’s.  All of it.  God’s. 

So, thinking about all that you have and all that you are, what does it mean to you to be a faithful steward of all that you have?

Each of us will answer differently. 

In just a moment we will hear how our young and young at heart are faithful stewards, we will hear how they share and show God’s love. 

We each respond out of God’s abundant grace and gifts differently. 

And that’s okay. 

Some days we will respond generously…giving abundantly out of what we have been gifted. 

Some days we will be less generous, we will worry about having enough and we will hold on a little more tightly to the abundance God has given us. 

Some days we will be faithful stewards, bearing fruit.  Showing grace. Working for justice.  Giving voice to the least among us.  Standing with those who have been exploited or abused.  Speaking words of love to words and actions of hate.  Renouncing evil and all it’s forces that we see around us. 

We will experience each day in a new way, because we are on a journey.  As Paul writes in the letter to the Philippians,

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesu has made me his own. 

That, my friends, is the good news. 

That on this life long journey while we press forward, we know that we have already been claimed by Christ.  We know that Christ Jesus has made each of us his own. 

Called by Christ, Gathered in Grace… we press forward, joyfully serving in the vineyard here and now. 

How do you know you are claimed by Christ? 

Just look in the mirror…at the cross on your forehead.  The one you received at your baptism. 

In addition to chalk this morning, I was tempted to hand out sharpies so you could trace the sign of the cross on your forehead.  I decided against it.  Or the idea of a Snapchat filter that shows the cross on your forehead?  But remember dear ones, that you are named and claimed and called by Christ to work in the vineyard here and now.  To share and show God’s love here and now.  

You can do it. 

You are equipped with a cross on your forehead and abundant love and grace in your heart. 

Show and share that love with others in all that you say and do. 

And may the peace, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Sunday Sermon - September, 6

 September 6, 2020
14th Sunday after Pentecost
 
Ezekiel 33:7-11
Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

I’m glad we are reminded in today’s gospel less that wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, Jesus is there among them. 

I’ve often heard it said, wherever two or three are gathered, there is conflict. 

Am I right? 

Not always….but as soon as there is more than one individual present, there is the opportunity for different ideas, practices, or beliefs that can either open up the door for dialogue, discussion and growth or it can cause arguing, shouting, not listening and in essence shutting the door, if not slamming it on any future conversation. 

So, it is good for us to be reminded, today, and every day, that wherever two or three are gathered…Jesus is among them. 

And while it is all too easy to get caught up in the step by step actions that Jesus talks about today, and turn it into a neat plan for conflict resolution, the gospel lesson goes beyond that. 

It’s important for us to read this lesson in the context of the rest of the chapter of Matthew.  Chapter 18 begins with the disciples asking Jesus…who is the greatest?  To answer the question, Jesus places a child among them…saying that whoever is humble and welcomes this child…welcomes Jesus. 

Then Jesus, with the child still in their midst, talks about putting a stumbling block in front of children…it’s better to tie a millstone around your neck and be cast into the sea…and to cut off the parts of the body that cause you to sin…

And then…(we are almost to today’s passage, I promise) Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep and how the shepherd will leave the 99 to go find the one that is lost. 

And now we’ve made it to today’s lesson and Jesus’ guidelines as to how to respond to someone who sins…but we do so in light of the previous verses. 

It’s important for us to know that Jesus has been talking with his disciples about how actions of humility and welcoming the smallest among us is living into the kingdom of God here and now. 

Jesus has been talking with his disciples about how we are called not to get in the way of welcoming the least of those around us into the kingdom. 

I mean, in the center of this conversation on greatness and who is welcome into God’s kingdom is a child.  In Jesus’ day and in our day, children are those among us for whom we are called to care for, love, teach, nurture and welcome. 

And the message of the lost sheep?  Clearly God wants all of God’s children safely in the kingdom.  So much so, that the other 99 are left so that the one that is lost, the one that is hurt or the one who has been abandoned is brought back into the fold, or in this case literally brought back into the flock. 

All of these lessons and the one we hear today are about being in community. 

A friend and colleague of mine, Pastor Carol Kehler talked about this gospel being about the 3 Rs. 

Not reading, wRiting and aRithmatic….although with school starting back up, those could be the 3 Rs that pop into your mind. 

The three Rs Pastor Kehler talked about were:

Relationship

Reconciliation

Restoration

First of all, this lesson is all about relationship. 

In the beginning when God created us, God did so in relationship with God and into relationship with one another. 

We are created to be social beings, some more social than others, but in the overall picture we were created to be together, to live in community. 

God created us and calls us to live in community. 

So how is it that we choose to be in community? 

How do we engage with one another? 

I think when we are together there are some times that we do this really well. 

We are welcoming, we are open, we are ready for diversity and the beauty of God’s diverse kingdom to envelope us and be present in and among us. 

I also think, that when we are together there are some times that we don’t do community as well as we could.  I mean, we are human right? 

And human beings are messy. 

We fall short of one another’s and God’s expectations. 

We hurt each other - knowingly or unknowingly.

We fail to see beyond ourselves…and the ways we can mend and heal relationships…because it’s just plain hard. 

Allow me this brief side bar…

Being a pastor is pretty great. 

And it’s wicked hard. 

We (pastors) are called to a specific community to love and serve a group of folks who are at the same time - faithful and beautiful but also messy and broken.

And so, we, as pastors, come.

We deepen our relationship with God and with others. 

We listen.

We love.

We get connected. 

And then we get hurt. 

And it’s hard. 

I have had friendships that developed in the context of a faith community that are not a part of my life any more. 

Sure, you would think the pastor could and would be humble enough and flexible enough to repair any broken relationship in her life…but I haven’t. 

I struggle to forgive.

I struggle to mend broken relationships because I’m not sure what they will look like, or if they will be healthy for me - or the other person - especially if one of us has been hurt or betrayed. 

It’s hard. 

But life is hard. 

Being church is hard.  Because we are called together into this wild community of beautiful, faithful yet messy and broken individuals….and in this community we learn to listen, to love, to forgive and to move forward together. 

Called together into this community is hard…but also so incredibly life giving, because we are not going through it alone. 

I mentioned 3 Rs at the beginning of the sermon, so I guess I should at least tell you the other two….

The first one was relationship. 

The second one is reconciliation. 

Because of God’s great love for us, Jesus calls us and wants us to be reconciled in this community.  To repair broken relationships.  To talk through and work through the differences among us, so that we may welcome others into or back into this flock. 

Reconciliation – the act of repairing what was broken…so that life in this community, life in this nation, and life in God’s creation can be restored. 

That’s the third R – restoration. 

Just as the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to bring back the one, God desires all the lost, lonely, forgotten, and forsaken to not just be welcomed back, but to be brought back into the fold. 

That is the ongoing restoration of God’s kingdom…and the Body of Christ. 

The healing and mending of broken relationships, through reconciliation so that the kingdom can be restored. 

Day by day it happens. 

Day by day new cracks and breaks happen.

So, day by day we are called through our relationship with God and one another to reconcile our differences and work towards the restoration of the kingdom here and now. 

Dear ones, I hope you know that as the gospel calls us into relationship, reconciliation and restoration…we know that this is a place where all three of these can and do happen. 

Together, by the grace and love of God, we are community together. 

And for that, we give thanks to God. 

And now may the peace, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Sunday's Sermon - August 30, 2020

August 30, 2020
13th Sunday after Pentecost
Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Hey friends, remember last week?  When in the gospel reading Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” 

And Peter responded…  “You are the Messiah.  The Son of the Living God.” 

He gets it.

He really gets it. 

And then this week…he doesn’t. 

There’s this scene in one of my favorite movies that kept popping into my head as I thought about Peter getting it and then not getting it. 

The movie is The Goonies.  It’s a great adventure flick from the 1980s and a group of kids who search for treasure.  In one scene, Chunk – one of the boys bumps up against a water cooler, which back in the day was a big glass bottle…unlike this plastic one.  He bumps it, catches it before it falls…and says, I got it, I got it, I got it.  (Drop) I don’t got it. 

It made me think of Peter and how in one moment he proclaims who Christ is, and in the next moment, he doesn’t comprehend the fullness of who the Messiah is and what being the Messiah means for Jesus life and death. 

And for me, it’s all about grace…that last week Peter proclaimed Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the Living God and is named the Rock and this week,  he is shocked by the role that the Messiah must play and is rebuked by Jesus, called Satan and goes from the Rock on which Jesus will build the church to a stumbling block to those in the faith. 

It’s all about grace, because time and time again, we, like Peter, get it right.  We see God at work in our world, we tell others about where we see God at work in our world, and the message of the gospel is proclaimed through our words and actions.  The kingdom of God is revealed.  Woohoo! 

It’s all about grace, because time and time again, we, like Peter, get it wrong. 

We – either by doing something or not doing something – we become stumbling blocks to ourselves and others around us eager to grow in their faith and relationship with God.  And we fall short.  We stumble…causing others to stumble as well. 

I’m not sure if you had a chance to see a certain video this past week, but I encourage you to check out the Opening Day video for the Reading School District.  Any Reading teachers with us today? 

**I shared the link to the video on Trinity's Facebook page after worship, but here's the link for you: Reading School District Opening Day Video 

It opens with the Superintendent speaking about the beginning of the school year and he is about to explain how it’s like the Robert Frost poem, when he is pleasantly interrupted by “Kid Superintendent” who is basically a kid version of the superintendent. 

Kid Superintendent steps in insisting that we all need a pep talk. 

He lifts up how 2020 has been kicking our butts…and then names all the feelings the watchers may be having like feeling anxious, overwhelmed or nervous…and says they are all okay. He mentions that he’s worried himself and everybody else. 

He reminds us all that we are doing the best we can and that’s all that matters. 

He reminds us to be good humans. (Unless you’re an insect or a blobfish.)

He reminds us to sprinkle kindness.

He reminds us to give one another grace, not grief. 

 I know that I am not doing justice to this video…

But he reminds us to give one another grace, not grief. 

In the midst of challenging times, we are encouraged to give one another grace, not grief.

Grace in our listening to one another.

Grace in our actions towards one another.

Grace in our presence with one another. 

Grace in our reactions when things don’t go the way we thought they would.  And when plans change, and change, and change again. 

When we talk about grace it is the love and mercy given to us by God – not because of anything we have done, but out of God’s great love for each and every one of us. 

Thank God we begin worship together the same week after week after week: In confession, with one another. 

We, you and I, together, we confess our brokenness, our need for forgiveness. 

We, you and I, together, confess that we have turned from God and given ourselves into the power of sin. 

We apologize and repent. We ask for forgiveness of our sins…known and unknown…things we have done and things we have failed to do. 

We ask God to turn us away from ourselves, our selfish words and actions and towards God once again. 

Thank God we start worship this way every week.  I don’t know about you, but I need it.  I need to confess.  I need to admit my failures, faults and foibles. 

I need to be forgiven by a loving God.  One who loves and forgives over and over and over again.

I need to hear those words.  You are forgiven. 

I need to be turned again and again…away from myself and towards God in the world around me. 

To see the beauty in creation.

To see the face of Jesus in my neighbor.

To feel the love of God as we hold one another in our hearts and prayers and journey together in faith and life. 

Know that you are abundantly washed in the grace of God this day and every day.  The abundance of God’s grace flows and flows and flows…into our hearts and lives…and out of our words and actions as we live our lives each and every day. 

And here’s the thing…some days that grace will wash over us and we will respond out of that grace with love and grace to all those around us.  Like when Peter named Jesus as the Messiah…I got it! 

And some days, that grace will wash over us and we will not respond…or we will hold onto that grace for ourselves…because we’re human and that happens to all of us.  Let when Peter didn’t like how Jesus described what must happen as the Messiah…I don’t got it!

But on those days when the grace flows in and out…we are representing and presenting the kingdom of God here and now. 

As we go about this week, I encourage you to respond with grace, not grief.  Some days will be easier than others. 

But each and every day…each and every moment, we have the opportunity to live out from and respond with grace. 

We will ebb and flow in this river of grace. 

We will live and learn washed in God’s grace.

And we will do all of this as the Body of Christ, together. 

And now may the peace, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen. 


PS.  Want to watch me drop the water jug?  It's in this clip on Trinity's YouTube channel

PPS.  Want to watch Chunk drop the water jug?  Check it out: "I got it!" - Chunk   

 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sunday Sermon - August 23

August 23, 2020
12th Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

Please pray with me,

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Every so often on Fridays when I share the noon devotion I lead the watchers in what I call the Friday Five.  It’s simply a time for me to ask five questions…sometimes serious, sometimes thought provoking and sometimes downright silly.  But it’s a time for folks who are watching to respond not just to the question, but also to each other’s responses.  It’s fun to watch the interaction…an interaction that would happen in this space after worship, or in the social hall with coffee and a donut on a Sunday, or at a meal on a Wednesday night.  It’s a joy for me to see that the relationships begun within the confines of this space are still growing in depth and connection even though our face-to-face gathering have been fewer in number than we would like. 

So, today’s sermon comes with a question.  It's the Sunday one. 

Because the question, itself, is presented in today’s gospel, from Jesus himself. 

Technically, there are two questions. 

The first one is a little more general…Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 

Jesus seems to be gathering info as to how people have heard about the Son of Man and how they explain who he is. 

It’s easy to answer that question, right? 

It’s simpler to answer a question that is directed towards or about someone else.  Yes, he or she says the Son of Man is…John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or, you know, one of the other prophets. 

You’re basically saying what you have heard others say.  Which is what the disciples are doing here. 

But then the conversation becomes more direct. 

Jesus says, “But who do you say that I am?” 

Gulp. 

Right? 

Jesus turns to the disciples and says, but who do you say that I am?”

And Peter responds, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 

Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.

Points for Peter! 

Jesus replies, Blessed are you…for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my father in heaven.  Peter is named the Rock, and on this Rock, Christ will build his church. 

And so it seems that after round one of “Who is the Son of Man” that Peter does fairly well.  But tune in again next week to see how he fares in round two. 

But seriously, that question, though. 

But who do you say that I am? 

Christ asks the disciples…and we find ourselves responding to the very same, daunting, question. 

Who do you all say that Christ is? 

Theologian and professor at Luther Seminary, Karoline Lewis describes this question and this passage of text as drawing us into a ‘come to Jesus meeting.’  Have you heard of a come to Jesus meeting? 

Outside religious contexts, come to Jesus refers to a meeting or moment where one undergoes a difficult but positive and powerful realization or change in character or behavior.  (dictionary.com/slang)

It’s when you are called out or called up to see the truth or faults in your own ways, words or actions.  It’s like you are being called to meet Jesus to explain something. 

It’s not used very often in a positive way…it’s less like a reward and more like a ‘you’ve just been paged to the principal’s office’ and the rest of the class goes, “ooooooohhhhhhh.”

The expression has morphed into being understood as a transformative meeting or moment – like a hard talk, a wake-up callfacing the facts, an interventionseeing the light.

So, in this question, “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus, in essences is inviting us into a hard talk, a wake-up call, an opportunity to open our eyes and face the facts…and opportunity to see the light. 

We talked around and through this question at our Pastor’s Bible study this week.  And as we did, we realized that the question, although it is always the same from Jesus, has different answers from each of us. 

And it’s a wake up call each time we hear it because it demands us to deeply and critically think about how we know who Jesus is AND how we see Jesus in the world around us. 

It’s hard to answer this question because we are called to see, I mean really see, Jesus at work in the world around us….and we may not be ready to really see what Jesus is up to in the world, let alone share that with others.    

We may not feel strong enough.

Or brave enough. 

We may not think we have the words to tell others who Jesus is in our hearts, in our homes and in our lives because it may not be the Jesus that other people expect to hear about or that we are ready to talk about.   

Yet, here we are, faced with this question. 

So, friends, who do you say that Jesus is?

To be fair, if I’m going to put you on the spot, I should probably offer to go first…

I say that Jesus is a savior.  One who loves us so much that he gave up his life for each and every one of us…that each life on earth may be saved. 

I say that Jesus is a prophet in our midst, raising the voices of our brown and black skinned siblings so that we may hear the years and years of unjust treatment and policy.  Jesus is a prophet in our midst calling us to soften our hearts and our own selfish ways to enact real change. 

I say that Jesus is a prophet raising the voices of our LGBTQ+ siblings and helping us to see that each of them is made in God’s image, holy and perfect and beautiful…just like you and me. 

I say that Jesus is teacher, who each and everyday has something new (or old) to teach us about God’s creation, about our relationships with God and our relationships with one another. 

I say that Jesus is truth teller…calling us out for our own individual wrongdoings…and when doing so shows unconditional love for us in spite of our faults and failures. 

I say that Jesus is a table turner over-er…he’s flippin’ tables, people. 

He’s shaking up the way things have been because they have not been fair for all of God’s children.  And change is possible. 

I say that Jesus is a comforter…a person to turn to when I am hurting, sad, angry, frustrated, feel cooped up (due to a pandemic), lonely…you name it.  Jesus is ready, with outstretched arms to provide a place for respite, calm and holy rest. 

I say that Jesus is justice and passion and care and presence and most importantly (to me) I say that Jesus is love. 

Yes, Jesus is love.  

Jesus is the love that encompasses all differences of age, gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, race, economic background, wealth and status. 

Jesus is the love that heals our broken hearts, comforts our weary souls and embraces us for who we are the exact human beings the God created us and calls us to be.  

Jesus is love…and so much more. 

So, friends, who do you say that Jesus is? 

Take sometime this week…or tonight around the dinner table…to talk about who Jesus is to you.  You are welcome to respond right now or to this post or in an email to me.  I’d love to hear how you answer this question and how we as a community of faith can grow deeper in relationship with each other as we learn more about who Jesus is together. 

And now may the peace, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.