Posts Tagged ‘Simon Peter’

Who Do You Say I Am 8-24-14

This sermon comes from Matthew 16:13-21. Jesus poses the question of “Who Do You Say That I Am?” to the disciples. Peter’s brief but truthful response reveals the God-given aspect of a faithful response to the this question.

You can listen to the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/who-do-you-say-i-am-8-24-14

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

The advantages of social media never cease to amaze me. Admittedly, I am one of those people that very rarely turns on the news, and I can count the number of times that I’ve opened a newspaper in the past year on one hand. (pause) But on the flip side, I carry one of these (hold up smart phone)…and because of my inherent need to be connected, I am bombarded throughout the day with various images and status updates…and if there is any big news of the day, I typically hear about it on Facebook or Twitter…though admittedly, I will catch breaking news on cnn.com, though even that’s a rarity.

I admit it…I am, very likely, addicted to social media…I’m not ashamed…and I’ve come to notice over the years since it has come on the scene that there are definite trends that show up in the feed depending on which “next big thing” is currently in fashion. As of late, my Facebook feed has been littered with back to school pictures from proud parents, countless short videos of individuals getting doused with ice water in support of ALS (and yes I did one of those this week as well)…and finally, various articles or postings in memory of Robin Williams.

I happened to click on one of those postings last Friday…and it took me to a portion of an interview that Williams did a few years back on a cable show called Inside the Actors Studio…as a former community theater actor…I always held that particular show in high esteem…and even though I have no business to think so, I often dreamed of the day when I would grace the stage and have several hundred acting students hang on my every word…hoping to learn something valuable and insightful that they could utilize in their future careers.

But as I sat there and thought about it, I asked myself the question “how much of a narcissist are you?” Seriously…who am I to think that anyone is going to have that high of an opinion about me…but then I thought about it some more and realized that we live in a society where we are always looking for the latest gossip. (pause) Did you hear about this person? Did you see what she did? (pause) And vice versa…it wouldn’t surprise me to hear someone famous ask their publicist “What are they saying about me?” (pause)

Thinking along those lines, perhaps it’s a little shocking…that in today’s gospel lesson, Jesus seems to be the narcissist. Certainly that can’t be true can it? (pause) Well, regardless of the motivation for Jesus to pose the question to his disciples, that is exactly what he does. “Who do people say that I am?”

Imagine that for a moment…you’re one of the disciples…you’ve been following Jesus around for several years by this point…walking all over the place…watching him perform all kinds of miracles…witnessing countless interactions with individuals, both positive and negative…and now after all this time he asks “Hey…what’s the word on the street? Do people have me figured out yet?” (pause)
Uhhh…well…some people think you are your cousin John…and uhhh…I heard someone say you were Elijah…and another guy said Jeremiah…and a lot of people just called you a prophet…I guess that’s the general consensus Jesus.”

But as per usual for Jesus, he plays the question game…and instead of responding to this latest Gospel Gossip report from the disciples…he narrows the question. But who do you say that I am? (pause)

Now its always important to stop and think about the words that Jesus chooses when he interacts with people. Because it always seems like he poses things in just the right way to really open up the mind of the individual…and so we have to wonder why does he ask for general testimony about himself…only to follow it up with the extremely personal question… “Who do YOU…say that I am?”

I found myself coming back around to that question over and over this week…because it is a very important question to think about. And even more important than that, is to know how YOU…will answer it when it is posed in your direction. (pause) As believers in Christ, we WILL be called upon to testify…at one time or another, someone is going find out you believe and they are gonna question you. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to offer your testimony? Are you ready to answer the question Who is this Jesus guy? (pause)

Now perhaps it comes as no great shock to you…but I’ve heard that question before…more times than I can count…blame the day job…and each and every time I’ve been asked the question, I’ve offered an answer…but those answer have varied from moment to moment…they vary because of present circumstances…they vary because of the person asking…they vary period….sometimes my answer is very short and down to earth…and at other times in my history…well…not so much.

Very early on in my seminary education…spring of 2009, I was taking the first of three theology classes…this one taught by a legendary Luther professor named Paul Sponheim. It was his last semester of teaching and I felt very blessed to have him as we read and discussed countless pages of Christian dogmatics.

About midway through the semester, we were given an assignment to write a MONSTROSITY of a theology paper….Sponheim called it our Theological Elephant…because like the worlds largest land animal…it was big…and I hold a copy in my hand right here. Over the course of 9 single spaced pages…and nearly 5,100 words I attempted to answer the question of What or Who is God. Now I could read it to you…but since it comes in at roughly 3.5 times longer than my average sermon…I’m guessing you don’t want to sit here and listen to me ramble on for the next 45 minutes…though if you are interested, I can certainly make it available.

And so I sat and thought about it some more…and I tried to be a little brief…and over the course of a couple minutes…I wrote out a single stream of consciousness answering the question from Jesus…Who do you say that I am? And that came out to be a single page…and 648 words…again…I’m not gonna bore you by reading it out loud…and I sat and thought about it some more…and realized that if someone is actually going to pose the question Who is Jesus, I need to have something a little more concise in mind. So I limited myself to 100 words….aimed at Jesus himself, as if his question to the disciples was aimed at me. (pause) And here’s what I came up with.

You are Jesus son of Joseph, of the line of David. You were with God in the beginning because you are God, and yet you are a man. You came to show us God’s love for all humanity and to get us to live in a way that reflects God’s love for one another. But we fail just as we fail to love God as He loves us. So God did something about and entered our reality as a helpless baby to live and die for everyone else. And then he rose again to create new life out of death.

But then I sat and thought about it a little more…and I went back to the gospel lesson…and I read Peter’s response to the question…short and to the point. “You are the messiah, the son of the living God.” And as I thought about that I was once again thinking about social media and I realized that Peter would be really good at twitter…pithy statements in 140 characters or less…and so in the final revision…I challenged myself to answer Jesus question on twitter…and in answering this very important question of “Who do you say that I am?” I said “Jesus is God’s way of whipping humanities sinful butt back into relationship with him. By dying in our place to create new life in our death.” 140 characters exactly…and if you’re wondering, yes that is posted on my twitter account. (pause).

And now think about all this…and begin to think about your own response when posed with this question. Who do YOU…say that Jesus is? All social media joking aside, Peter seems to be onto something with his short answer…because Jesus not only acknowledges it…he seems to shout for joy at Peter’s words…Blessed are you, for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my father in heaven…and perhaps that offers us just a bit of insight into why Peter’s words are so important.

When Jesus says that this truth is revealed to him…he uses the greek word APOCALYPTO…sound familiar? Sounds like…apocalypse doesn’t it…and it should because they mean the same thing. When this epic truth is revealed to Peter…it is earth shattering…just like the images that we think of when we hear the word apocalypse. And so no wonder Jesus says that this revelation has not come from flesh and blood but God himself…you’ve heard me say it before…faith in Christ is not self generated…it is only by the gift of God that we can come to believe in this amazing…earth shattering…life altering truth.

And just like Peter…or perhaps I should say Simon…receiving this amazing truth from God alters our very existence…For when Simon makes this declaration Jesus gives him a new name…For I tell you…you are PETER…Simon no more…now he is given a new name and with that new name…with this God given understanding of just who Jesus really is…the son of the living God…Jesus bestows the knowledge of his true mission on earth…to go to Jerusalem…where he will suffer and die…and then on the third day he will be raised again…overcoming death. (pause)

And if we stop and think about it…perhaps we see our own faith life reflected in this encounter between Jesus and Peter. For when we receive the gift of faith…and can truly answer the question of who Jesus is for ME…then we begin to understand not only who he is…but why he came…and I believe that just as we saw in the new name for Peter…we too are given a new identity…beloved child of God…and perhaps when I say that, it sounds a little baptismal…I certainly hope so…for in the waters of our baptism we are given this new name…not by flesh and blood but by God himself…and in the waters of our baptism we join with Christ in a death like his…a death that was his sole purpose here on earth…a death, by which God overcame all death…and offers us the promise of new life in Christ Jesus. (pause)

And so today…as we wrap up worship…and head out through those doors…think about the question…and realize today that Jesus is asking you…Who do YOU…say that I am? (pause) Amen.

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