Mother Susan’s Sermon for August 23, 2020

Sermon 8 23 20

So Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples answer. “Ohhh, they say you’re all kinds of guys come back to life – John the Baptist, Elijah, maybe a prophet.”

“But who do YOU say that I am?” A hush. Of course, after a moment or two of silence, Simon Peter jumps right in and answers the question. Simon Peter was always the kid who had his hand up first. “Me, me, me! Call on me!”

But let’s not get into Simon Peter, as interesting as he is. Let’s get into the question. And then let’s get into us.

“But who do YOU say that I am?”

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? How would you answer that question? Who do we say Jesus is? Who do you say Jesus is?

It’s a really good question. But is it a question we are willing to answer? “Who do you say that I am?”  If we’re Christian, are we willing to take responsibility for answering that question? Are we even willing to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.” If Jesus were to stand in front of us today and ask us, “”Who do you say that I am?” would we be willing to respond? How would we answer?

If we say we’re Christian, can we say who we believe in is? How many of us would find it easier to say we believe in a political candidate than to say we believe in Jesus Christ?

First, who is this Jesus Christ? Do we know?

What comes to mind? When you hear the name “Jesus,” who do you see in your mind’s eye? There’s that usual picture found on Sunday School walls. He’s always wearing a pure white robe. How did it stay so clean?

There are many pictures of Jesus – many of them with blue eyes – that always gets me. He was a first century Jew! A semitic child of the Mediterranean! How was he supposed to have blue eyes? But as is usually the case, we tend see to Jesus in our own image. When I was a little kid, I used to think Jesus was Swedish. Everybody I knew was Swedish so I figured Jesus was too.

But these days we have much more interesting images of Jesus. There are pictures of him laughing, which I’m sure he did. But for some reason we don’t have medieval paintings of him laughing. Apparently laughter isn’t reverent enough. We have pictures of him as an emaciated medieval saint. Why? He was a carpenter, a tradesman in his early 30s by the time he died.  He knew what it meant to work hard with his hands.

Do you have a picture of Jesus in your mind’s eye? Maybe you don’t. Maybe Jesus is a vague figure you can’t quite grasp. Or maybe you don’t feel comfortable letting Jesus be close enough to you to imagine what he looked like. Maybe that’s uncomfortable for you.

But if you are someone who prays, who do you believe is listening? Who are you praying to? Jesus asked his disciples this question — and he asks us this question — who do we say that Jesus is?

Or does he ever come up in conversation?

I know there are Christians who live “removed” Christian lives, who are “Chreesters,” attending church at Christmas and Easter.  (And you know what? I’m happy to see them whenever they’re in church!)  But I am also acutely aware of what the “Chreesters” are missing out on.  Not just the community of the church, but the community of Jesus – Jesus as our friend – who loves us – each of us. He is the one who, whenever two or three of us are gathered together in his name, is with us.

I recall from my childhood years, my early years in Sunday School in the Baptist church, the teachings about accepting Jesus into my heart as my personal savior. We each had to testify to that, but I have to say the whole business of being born again and accepting Jesus into my heart as my personal savior never really connected with me. It was all somehow isolating – meant to be personal, but actually isolating – divorced from, separated from living with Jesus in Christian Community.

I believe that I have belonged to Jesus, been close to Jesus from the miraculous moment of my conception.  I believe that I have always been a child of God. I believe I have always been a member of the community of Christ, the family of Jesus. And you have too! We all have! All we ever have to do is say “YES!”

Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Nothing can separate us from Jesus. We just need to remember that!

But then we come to “Who do you say that I am?”

Who do we say that Jesus is? Do we say anything about him?

Do we ever actually talk about Jesus? If we’re Christians, that shouldn’t be too hard to do.  If we call ourselves Christians, we probably should be talking about Jesus – on a regular basis. He should probably come up in conversation now and then. That’s not too much to expect.

“But, who do you say that I am?” Is that question laden with expectation? I think it is. But not heavy, onerous expectation. No. Honest expectation. If Jesus is behind all salvation, doesn’t he have the right to expect us to say we know him? That we know who he is? I think he does. How do we acknowledge him? How do you acknowledge him? Does this matter to you?

What is our answer to his question, “But who do you say that I am?”

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