Sunday, August 23rd, Pentecost XII, Who do you say that I am?
Exodus 1:8-2:10, Psalm 124, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20
Who do you say that I am? This may be where the evangelicals are on the right track. We as Anglicans never seem to ask that question. We tend to hide behind the concept of faith as a private and personal decision which is no one else’s business. Yet, at some point the question needs to be asked and that is what Jesus is doing.
The lead in gives it context; Jesus asks “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
But then the question; who do you………..
We can study all we want, and do all the research, but in the end it is what we believe, we have to decide for ourselves. And we have to decide with incomplete information regardless of how much information we find.
That is what Jesus is telling when he says; flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
These then is about the Holy Spirit and belief, not proof. The existence of God cannot be either proved or disproved. In fact Karen Armstrong talks about this when she mentions that a third century desert father or mother if asked if God existed, would say no. The reason is that God does not exist in the same way as you and I exist or the computer we are sitting in front of or anything else. God is the creator, and everything else is God’s creation, so there is a difference.
And maybe that is why he ordered them to tell no one he was the Messiah. That is until the time is right. Until his death and resurrection, the concept of Messiah will be one of political liberator for an earthly kingdom and not the Kingdom of God. This means getting caught up in a concept which is too small, and the wrong kingdom.
With this in mind, the idea of the keys to the Kingdom and what is bound and loosed on earth is also in heaven, is not just for Peter. This suggests the concept of forgiveness, that each of us is given the power of forgiveness of others and ourselves, and the spiritual and emotional energy that comes from forgiving and the negative from not doing so. The Kingdom of God is about forgiveness not punishment.
To be forgiven by God is also to accept forgiveness for ourselves and receive this gift.
Unfortunately, I am not preaching this sermon in church with the Eucharist. Then having communion remotely would not work either, because the action of coming forward and putting out our hands to receive is integral to this. I have said before that this is an Altar call. Our bodies in the action are saying yes to God in Christ. We don’t need to express it verbally, if we understand our actions coming to receive are the yes to a relationship with God in Christ which part of an ongoing journey of faith in community.