Posts Tagged ‘Mark 8:27-38’

Who Am I 9-16-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 8:27-38, Jesus poses a question “Who do you say that I am?” Its a big question, and a difficult one to answer. And yet its worth pondering on.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here: (note this looks differently than simply listing the link as in past postings…listen by clicking the orange play button in the top left corner).

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

A few days back I had a conversation with an old friend…and we got to talking about the irony of cell phones.  Pretty much everyone walks around with a phone in their pocket these days…which means that it should be incredibly easy to get a hold of each other.

And yet…no one answers their phone do they? Maybe we can blame it on caller id…when the phone rings…if its not someone’s name, or a number that we recognize…we let it go to voice mail don’t we? This was what my friend and I were discussing…and in the midst of this discussion she said “You know, its probably the telemarketers fault.”

She said it in passing…but that statement stuck with me long after the conversation was over…and it made me think back to my younger years, before everyone had a cell phone…when we’d answer the old landline at the house…and that coupled with remembering countless conversations with telemarketers…calls that would go along these lines…Hello…a long pause while the robo-dialer connected on the other end…and then…Hello…is this Mr DaHlen? (cringe and hang up the phone).

It was in this moment that I recognized a pretty major pet-peeve…I hate it when names get mispronounced…an issue that happens with my last name with a LOT of regularity. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know why this bugs me so much…but it does…it feels like the person calling me by name really doesn’t know me…and vice-versa in the times when I’m the one doing the mispronunciation, it probably feels the same way to them……and I can only think that it points to a sense of unfamiliarity…a lack of understanding…or relationship…whether intentional or not…its just not a good feeling.

And I can’t help but think that this sense is present in our gospel for today…this lack of understanding or familiarity…and Jesus is still making the rounds during his ministry prior to his intentional turn towards Jerusalem and what will ultimately culminate in his death.

We are right about the half-way point of Mark’s gospel with where we pick things up today. And it would seem that Jesus thinks its about time to check in and see what people are saying…and so, as he walks around with his myriad of followers in tow, he asks the simple question.  Who do people say that I am?

The disciples respond with the various chatter that they’ve heard. Some call him John the Baptist…others Elijah or one of the prophets…and none of these are really out of line…his ministry and his message certainly have similarities with these different figures who came before in Israel’s history.

But Jesus apparently isn’t satisfied with this answer…because maybe its not enough to simply explore what people in general are saying…and so he gets a little more personal, particularly with the 12 disciples as he asks Who do YOU…say that I am?

I can’t help but think that this is a good question…an important one…and one that the disciples should really be able to answer by this point. They’ve been following Jesus for a while…clearly they’ve formed a solid connection and relationship…they’ve seen the miracles and listened to his teaching time after time after time…if anyone should have insight into just who Jesus is, its them.

And as we hear…Peter takes his normal role as spokesman with a divinely inspired response…you are the Messiah…the Christ…God’s anointed one. Peter is the first person to give Jesus this name…this identity…and Peters not wrong…but he is still in error.

Because as soon as Jesus starts to reveal to them what it means to be THE Messiah, Peter starts squawking…rebuking Jesus…which leads Jesus to start some pretty major rebuking of his own…Get behind me Satan…you have your mind set not on divine things…but on human things. (pause)

Here’s the rub. Sometimes I sorta feel bad for Peter when I come across this story…of course he’s got his mind on human things…he’s human…just like we are. So come on Jesus…maybe tone it down with calling him Satan…that seems a little on the harsh side. (pause)
And yet…its worth noting that Peter’s expectations of the Messiah, whatever they point to…are off.  It stands to reason that his expectation is more of a political figure.  The kings of old were anointed to be rulers…and prophecy had stated that the Messiah would again sit on David’s throne.  All signs probably pointed him in this direction…and Peter’s own experience with Jesus might have pointed that way too…somehow he’s made this assumption…although it would seem, based on Jesus’ response…that Peter is unfamiliar with just what the truth is of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah.

Now, all else aside…I can’t help but think of the magnitude of this question from Jesus in the first place. Who do you say that I am? (pause) I don’t think he’s merely posing this question to 12 dudes who followed him around for 3 years prior to his execution on the cross…but I think this is a question that Jesus poses to each one of us…and it’s a hard question.  Who do you say that I am?

I think this is a hard question because our answer not only reveals something about how we think of God…but it also reveals something about us doesn’t it? Think about that question and how you would answer it.  Is Jesus just some wise 1st century Jewish rabbi?

Is he someone who showed up to tell the religious elite that they were doing it wrong?  Is he just some nice guy in a story that may or may not be true? (pause) Or if we go with the title assigned to him today…what does it mean that he’s the Messiah? What does the anointed one of God mean?

What are some of the other names or titles that we use when we think of Jesus? Lord…the lamb?  Emmanuel. God…the Son…savior, teacher, friend?  These are just a few of the various titles that we can and do apply to the one who our faith is named after. But I wonder, do any of them really do justice…or is Jesus, God in human form…the all-powerful creator of the universe made man…simply too big for any of us to wrap our limited understanding around…even though we try to do just that on a pretty regular basis.

The thing is…every time we try to assign meaning or identity or whatever we want to call it…all we pretty much end up doing is placing God in a box…even if that particular box might be an aspect that’s true…we can not begin to limit God to anything that we can come up with…because our assumptions, no matter how good our intentions…will always…fall…short.

I really doubt that Peter had poor intentions when he pulled Jesus aside to dispute the very notion that the Messiah would suffer and die at the hands of the religious and politically powerful…much less to suffer the utter indignity of the cross…a cursed death intended to be a brutal example of what would happen to you if you opposed the Roman government.

And yet…this is the reality of Jesus…and what does that reveal to us? That maybe, just maybe the Messiah is one who will ALWAYS align himself with those who are marginalized…those who the powerful say are unacceptable or even less than human…and that not only will Jesus be found with them…he will love them…and will show us, time and time again that there is another way to live in this broken and yet wonderful world that we have been given.

Maybe the Messiah is the one to show us that there is a way that we can chose to love one another and treat everyone as a fellow human being, regardless of social standing or status…but that’s a challenge to those whom society deems to be the powerful…and those with the illusion of power will often do anything to hold onto it…and this is why Jesus died.

Because in the life of Jesus, the one called the Messiah, God was showing us that there is another way…and that we can live in harmony with the world around us…and those that we share it with…and even with the one who made it…and the world…said…no. The cross, tame as it has become for us over the course of 2000 years of history and separation…the cross was a BRUTAL answer to the new way of life that God was showing us, something we call the kingdom of heaven…but the cross wasn’t the last word…because 3 days later he rose again to show us that not even death can silence the love of God that is actively breaking through into our reality. (pause)

Now I need to back up just a bit…and come back around to Peter…because I still think its harsh to consider Jesus’ response…Get behind me Satan…but its worth noting that Jesus doesn’t say Get away from me…he simply says get back in line behind me…and Satan is simply a Greek word for an adversary…so he isn’t actually calling Peter the devil here…Jesus is telling Peter that he needs to come back behind Jesus…and keep following him…even if that leads to the torment and torture of the cross.

Peter didn’t have the whole story yet…because he hadn’t seen the resurrected Lord…the living Lord who is a physical example that not even death can beat the good news that God has brought into our realty. Maybe Peter was singing a different tune once Easter rolled around and he saw things first hand.

And here’s the thing that we have in common with Peter…even with the benefit of hindsight…we don’t have the full picture yet either. Yes Jesus is alive…yes the tomb is empty…yes it is finished…and yet, we still view all of this through our limited human understanding.

But there will come a day when we will see these things clearly…a day which has been promised by the very one who lived and died and rose again in the first place…and in the meantime we live in hope and expectation of that day, and not only that…but we live out each day as if it is true…whether we can wrap our heads around it or not.

Jesus asks us…Who do you say that I am? (pause) It’s a big question that we need to continue to ask ourselves…and as we do so, let us each continue to follow the one who makes the promises to us…for that is our place in our identity as followers of Christ…we follow behind him, whether we really get it or not. Amen

Human Moments 9-13-15

In this sermon, based on Mark 8:27-38, I explore an example where the Apostle Peter displays typical human tendency. It gives us a good reminder of the human condition that we all share.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to notice a new tendency…when I get together with my friends…we very rarely create new memories…mostly, we just sit around and talk about our old memories…we share stories…often times punctuated with great laughter, about the old times…the silly things that we did in our younger years.

I’ve been noticing this for several years now…and it happened again quite recently as I got together with an old friend for lunch. Now this particular friend hails from this area, but we got to know each other in college, meeting during our first year at the community college close to where I grew up, growing close through those first two years before transferring to Iowa State together and even spending one year as roommates before life started taking us in different directions.

Sure enough though, life has brought us back together here…as he lives with his family in Council Bluffs and I am here in Underwood…and so periodically we’ll get together and reminisce about the old times. Inevitably…each and every time we do that…two inside jokes come up that we still get a kick out of. One of which shines a light on the positive side of our nature, and the other one…well not so much.

First off, the negative one…We both hated our first year college English class. We just hated it…and so as we always joked around about how we wanted to act out. To be sitting there during lecture…and without warning…completely out of nowhere…stand up, throw the table over…and storm out the door…only to step back in a moment later to sheepishly say “Sorry, I forgot my books.” Needless to say, we never acted on that impulse…but we still laugh about it.

But on the other hand…the second joke that we share certainly reflects a little bit better on us as individuals…and its actually a touch of advice that I pass on to students from time to time…I’ll be honest, I can’t remember where I first hear this…but if you ever want to score points with a teacher when you are sitting in a really boring lecture…simply make eye contact with them as they are making a point…then when they pause…nod your head…say “Nice”…and then act like you are writing down some notes based on what they were saying. (pause) We tried it once in Biology…works like a charm.

Two old jokes…two different situations that reveal opposite sides of human nature…and specifically MY nature…that I can ponder on being super respectful and attentive…and at the same time I can ponder on being an unruly menace.(pause) But…isn’t that human nature? (pause)
That we can have big victories one moment, and turn into complete boneheads in the next.

And if we were to try and identify a character from the Bible that best embodies this back and forth tendency…it would have to be Peter. (pause) Perhaps I’m the only person that thinks so…but I’ll stick by it…perhaps only because I relate to Peter so much…I see so much of myself in how Peter is portrayed throughout the gospels…the top of the class one minute and getting crabbed out for being stupid in the next.

We certainly see that very thing in today’s lesson don’t we? As Peter, in one spirit-filled moment, with no prompting what so ever…correctly identifies Jesus as the Messiah…the one anointed by God…or more specifically in Jesus’ case, anointed by the Spirit…to usher in a new era…an era where the kingdom of Heaven has come near to us all.

And then…seemingly a moment later…having heard Jesus discuss just what the reality of being the Messiah truly means…Peter spouts off…and rips into Jesus…Peter tries to teach the teacher…Peter tries to master the master…in short…Peter doesn’t think…or perhaps one could argue that Peter thinks too much…and Jesus immediately cuts him down to size.

But certainly this isn’t the only time that we see Peter display the polar opposite of human tendency is it? Peter is the one who displays enough faith in Christ to literally walk on water in one instant…only to be way-laid by fear, and nearly drown because of it.

Or in another instance…Peter pulls a sword to attack those who are arresting Jesus in the garden…only to tuck tail and run away, before ultimately denying Jesus 3 times in a row.

Peter is always the one to spout off impulsively because he doesn’t know what else to say…and yet Peter is the rock on which Christ builds his church. (pause)
I thought a lot about that very fact this week…not just this one instance when Peter rips Jesus a new one only to have Jesus turn around and school him in the art of rebuking…but the fact that we have so many instances…so many stories where we see both sides of Peter…the triumphs and the failures…the faithful moment as well as the faithless ones.

And as I thought about those…I realized that recognizing these moments about Peter…these honest moments in the scripture begins to reveal a great deal about that same human nature…those same back and forth tendencies that we all share.

And we do don’t we? (pause) Because life is messy…and faith is messy…and sometimes we get it…sometimes the Holy Spirit shows us something so clearly in one moment…but it’s not long before life gets in the way…life with all its imperfections…and not only that but our warped sinful reality gets in the way and what was once so clear now seems so unlikely…so muddled…perhaps even impossible. (pause)
But now here’s the thing…if that was the end of the story…and all we had to learn today was that human nature is fickle…then I think the gospel would have ended right there…but it doesn’t? (pause) Because Jesus goes one doesn’t he? And we hear that he calls the crowds together…not just addressing Peter currently sitting in bonehead mode…not just the 12 disciples reeling from the fact that Jesus has called Peter Satan…but Jesus calls everyone together…and publicly talks about what it means to be his follower.

Words about denying ourselves…and picking up our crosses…and why? Well, because the cross is pretty much the end all-be all for us isn’t it? And when we stop and think about it…the cross is a pretty ugly deal…and no matter how much we might try to polish up the image, the truth about the cross is bloody and brutal.

The cross…crucifixion…was torture to the nth degree…a method of drawn out death that the Romans perfected as a warning to everyone that if you step out of line, this is what happens…and in the midst of this brutal death…God meets us. (pause)
And so…Jesus seems to be showing us here that to be his follower means that we need to honest and realistic about things. We need to call it like it is…and sometimes this brutal honesty means we need to be honest with ourselves. (pause)

And perhaps Peter is getting the short end of the stick here…as he often times seems to throughout scripture…but when we’re honest about our own existence…I think we realize that we all experience the same ups and downs…We all experience moments where it feels like we can do no wrong, only to have that pedestal that we have placed ourselves on knocked right out from under us. (pause)
But as we sit here…perhaps stewing in our own juices that being honest about our experience…about our own reality means owning our own imperfections…as horrific as they might be…there’s another point that I need to make. (pause)

Because we are given another example of just what it means to be human…and that example…is Jesus Christ himself. (pause) Jesus…the one who rebukes Peter in this instance…telling him that he needs to set his mind on divine things will soon find himself in the middle of a dark garden at night…in the midst of such excruciating stress that he’s sweating blood…and asking the Father to take this cup away from my lips…and yet…Jesus also utters these words…Not MY will…but your will.

Jesus, while being fully God…was also fully human…and as a human being he DID NOT…want to experience the torture that awaited him…just as we do not want to experience those moments when our human nature leaves us looking foolish, or silly, or stupid…or worse. (pause)
In today’s story, Jesus asks an important question, one that we all need to answer…Just who is he? Is he the Son of God…the one who came into our reality to bring the kingdom of heaven near? The one who eats with sinners…the one who takes the cross to conquer death? Or is he just a man that lived and died?

Sometimes when we are honest with ourselves…the answer that we give to that question is the logical one…that there is no way that this can be true…but on the other hand…sometimes we answer that question empowered by the Holy Spirit, who gives us the gift to believe that which cannot be proven…we answer through the power of faith…

And depending on who’s paying attention…either one of these answers can seem to be either really smart…or really stupid…and that’s part of the human condition as well…that the work of redemption that God is up to through Jesus Christ isn’t completed yet…and because of that people will respond differently in any given situation…just as we ourselves respond differently…because that is part of what makes us human…that we are flawed…that we are wishy washy…and yet praise be to God that he accepts us anyway…no matter how we respond. Amen.