Saturday, August 20, 2011

Who Do You Say I AM?

Proper 16 A      Matt. 16:13-20             August 21, 2008          Rev. Benton Quest
St. Swithin's in the Swamp
A while back, I was driving down the road. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I was maybe driving a little over the speed limit but not that bad. Suddenly, this car comes up behind me and starts tailgating me and flashing its lights at me. I try to figure out if I am doing anything wrong. From what I could tell, I wasn’t doing anything worthy of this person’s anger. Still, the person was behind me, tailgating, flashing lights, and giving me the one finger salute. I was totally confused. I could not figure out what to do to make this person leave me alone. Eventually, the person passed me. While driving past, I was given another one finger salute.
Now what was interesting was that as the car drove past, I noticed a “Jesus Fish” on the back bumper. Wow! This person was publicly proclaiming to be a Christian through the fish on his car, but here he was acting in a way that was anything but Christ-like. He was telling the world that he was a follower of Christ, but his actions were totally disrespectful of Christ.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
The televangelists are on TV proclaiming the love of Christ. They are proclaiming the forgiveness of sins and total salvation. The problem is; this salvation is only for the “good” people. This salvation is only for the people who give enough money. This salvation is only for the people who can help the cause. This salvation is only for the people who do all the “right” things. All you other people? Well, you are damned. You have no hope. The message of love the televangelists are proclaiming is good, but their demonstration of love and grace is disrespectful to Christ.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
“Can you believe she would wear such a thing to church?” one lady says to another. “She looks like a bag lady in that outfit! You would think she could find something better to wear. And what about those kids? They look like thieves and act like animals. We can’t pray with them around.”
Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
On Southpark we have Jesus with his own show on public-access television. Unfortunately, this Jesus is as totally wimpy and really does not stand up to anyone or for anything. This televised Jesus is someone more to be pitied than worshipped.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
If we look at the world, we get a really twisted view of just who Jesus is. When we listen to the world, all we hear is Jesus being used as a means of attack, as a means of judgment, or as a means of escape. In the world, Jesus is often a convenient way to justify a person or group’s pinions. Unfortunately, in our world today, Jesus has become the clay and we have taken the role of the potter, forming Jesus into whatever shape is convenient.
The other unfortunate thing is that in our world, this may be the only view people ever get of Jesus. As people move away from studying the bible, as people move away from continuing faith education, they begin to create Jesus in their own image. They begin to put their thoughts, feelings, and prejudices into Jesus’ mouth. As people loose their perspective on the Jesus of the Bible, then the idea of Jesus as our rather wimpy pal becomes more and more prominent.
So, the world continues to cast Jesus as a wimpy pal. But just who is this so called “wimpy” pal of ours? Who does the Bible say Jesus is?
Well, Biblically, Jesus is the one who fed the multitudes! Jesus is the one who came for the sick and dying! Jesus is the one who healed the lame and brought good news to the poor! Jesus is the one who feeds us today with his body and his blood. Jesus is the one who dined with the sinners and lifted up the oppressed! Jesus is the one who died to forgive our sins and was raised so that we might have eternal life! Jesus stood up to the power structure of his time and sat down so the children could find comfort on his lap.
This Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible is no ineffectual pal. The Jesus of the Bible is not just a weakling who will go along with whatever the structures of the world have to say. The Jesus of the Bible is much more willing to forgive than to condemn. The Jesus of the Bible is much more willing to include than to exclude. The Jesus of the Bible is willing to look beyond the reality of those who surround him and see the magnificent potential that God has created in each. This is the Jesus we Christians proclaim as Lord.
So, if Jesus were to ask each of us, “Who do you say that I am?” What would we say? (Pause) Or better yet! If Jesus asked our friends, coworkers, acquaintances, or people we encounter at Meijer, “Who does this person say that I am?” What would the response be? If Jesus asked our calendar or check book “Who does this person say that I am” what would the response be? What about the next door neighbors, the people who live across the street, the people who live in Johnsonville; for these people, who does the congregation of St. Swithin's say Jesus is? Christ has given us the gift of forgiveness, have we extended that gift to others? Christ has given us the gift of acceptance, have we reached out in acceptance to others? (Small Pause) Have we given that gift of acceptance to ourselves? Christ loves us with an unselfish love: have we spread this love to an unbelieving world?
Now my interpretation may be wrong here, I have not found any of the scholars stating this, but I tend to think at the end of the reading, Jesus ordered the disciples not to tell people that Jesus was the messiah because he wanted the disciples to SHOW the world that Jesus was the messiah.
We know that words are one thing, but actions are another. I may say I love my brother, but if I continually punch him in the eye, you would probably begin to wonder just how deep that love is. Jesus wants his disciples, his followers (that means you and me!) to live in the promises that we have been given and to show the world what it means to have the love of the Messiah! Jesus wants his followers doing more than saying they love him, he wants them out there showing it! 
I worked as a hospital chaplain.  I once got called to the room of a woman who was beaten and raped.  I expected to find a lot of anger, what I found was totally different.  In fact, when asked what the woman wanted to pray for, her request was not for herself but for the man who raped her.  She prayed that he could get help so he would never have to do this to another.  Jesus said to his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
When I worked at camp, we used to have a saying, “YOU may be the only Bible some people read.” It is this calling, the calling to be out in the world, which Jesus sets before his followers. Jesus tells his followers that they are to be out attacking the gates of Hades. Jesus wants his followers to know that the gates of Hades cannot withstand us when we embrace the strength of Christ.
Now, this is not some passive thing like locking the doors against Hades, this is an active thing. The gates of Hades cannot move so therefore we must be the ones that move. We need to be out there spreading the word and showing the world!
What are the gates that Christ has shown us? What strongholds are out there that prevent us, God’s people, from truly living? What battles does Christ have in store for you personally and for you all as a congregation? We may not want to engage in these battles because they may appear to be just too much, but even if these battles appear futile, Christ is asking us to trust in him and go out and spread his love.
Jesus is standing here, before each and every one of us and before us all as Christians. He is looking into our eyes. He breathes in and asks each one of us with hope and love in his voice, “And you, who do you say that I am?”
How will we answer?

No comments: