Sunday, August 23, 2020

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 16 Yr A August 23 2020


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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 16 Yr A August 23 2020

Exodus 1:8-2:10, Psalm 124, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20

 

Two weeks ago we heard Jesus’ followers exclaim, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Last week we heard the Canaanite woman call Jesus into an expansive and inclusive ministry. Today we hear Jesus ask, “who do you say I am.” And Simon Peter announces on behalf of the band of disciples, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

 

Who do you say I am. Jesus asks each one of us this question. Who do you say Jesus is? When you are out in the marketplace in these times when that may be a hard choice, who do you say Jesus is? When you begin to return to work, or school, who do you say Jesus is? When you are sitting in traffic, or having backyard conversations, or deciding how you want to vote, or considering the violent events in our country and our world, who do you say Jesus is?

 

Who do you say Jesus is? Like Peter, I announce Jesus is the son of the living God. But I also think those are just words, unless they are backed up by what I do with my time, my talent, and my treasure, how I make my decisions and how I treat people. But you and I aren't the kind of people who have a ready answer to the question, who do you say Jesus is? The words don't come easily, but I guarantee any words we use fall unmeaning if our lives don't speak of mercy and compassion.

 

Jesus is teaching disciples in these stories. Jesus is trying to impart all he knows and all he is as he prepares for his last days in Jerusalem. In these stories, Jesus is developing followers. You and I are followers of Jesus, and our work is to live the answer to the question, who do you say I am, with our words and with our lives.

 

What you do this week with your live lived as a follower of Jesus, will change the world. In the Exodus story, a single act of resistance saved an entire people. The King had commanded that all male babies be killed. The baby in our story, Moses, was hidden from that awful fate by the midwives who caught him, until the daughter of Pharoah found him and raised him as her own. Moses went on to lead his people out of Egypt into a new land and a new life, Moses led his people from slavery into freedom. Like Shiphrah and Puah, who by their actions saved Moses, what you do this week will change the world. We just don't know how what we do will effect that change, but it will, and it does. And even the ancient story of Moses shows us that what we do matters to God and matters to the world. Who do you say Jesus is? How your life answers that question makes a difference.

 

Last week I said to you that our words matter. This week I say to you that what we do matters. Both are true. Jesus’ teaching is to love your enemies, to come before God in prayer and in worship, and to forgive one another. Out of love, Jesus steps in our place, and Jesus gives his life for ours. This is the kingship through which the God who created the heavens and the earth inaugurates a new creation.

 

Who do you say that Jesus is? This question presupposes that what we believe about Jesus matters. What we believe about Jesus matters to you and to me, it matters to our church, and most importantly it matters to the world.

 

It also assumes a relationship; there is no way to begin to say who Jesus is without the relationship. And in this relationship with Jesus, we learn who we really are. In response to Peter naming Jesus Messiah, Son of God, Jesus tells Peter who he really is. Jesus says, you are Peter, a rock. In this relationship, Jesus knows who we really are, we are named and marked as Christ’s own forever. Jesus names us beloved, the delight of God’s life.

 

So this is not so much about the right answer to the question, who do you say that Jesus is, but it is very much about the relationship the question presupposes. And that relationship is, you are the delight of God’s life. I think this is the most important part of this story. We might not be very good answering the question with words, but we can begin to show the world that Jesus matters, that this relationship with Jesus matters.

 

That brings us to the image that is presented in Romans, we, who are many, are one body in Christ. This is an amazingly counter cultural image, one body, with different graceful gifts. This new creation that God inaugurates in Jesus is all about a completely new way to live on this earth. We live not for ourselves, but for the greater good of God’s creation. Do not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the relationship, and the amazing and abundant love that God has for you.

 

How do we live in the world as the body of Christ?

How do we live in the world as the delight of God’s life?

How do we live in the world as people to whom Jesus matters?

How do we live in the world as agents of new creation?

How do we live in the world as a people transformed by God’s love?

I think we do that by showing forth love not only for those it is easy to love, but for those we count as enemies as well. I think we do that by showing mercy and compassion. I think we do that by caring for God’s creation. I think we do that by showing up in our lives with intention, with love, with mercy, and with compassion.

 

So now we come back to the question, who do you say that Jesus is? This is not just a rhetorical question. We must answer it. I want you to know your answer to it. Your answer to it matters, because what we do matters, what we say matters, and that can change the world. And our world needs changing. Who do we say Jesus is?

 

Jesus is God in our midst.

Jesus is the love that wins.

Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the Light.

These are words, words that matter. And this is a life that matters. When we say these words, with Peter and the disciples, as followers of Jesus, and as part of the body of Christ, we stand for love, we stand for truth, we stand for light. We speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, we love when hate seems pervasive. We include when others call for exclusion. We must stand against powers and principalities that would condone and cause violence against any group of people.

 

Like the midwives who caught Moses as he was born, and chose life over death, today, we must be midwives. We must choose life, we must choose love. Our lives will tell the world who Jesus is. Amen.

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