Sermon on Matthew 16:21-30, Romans 12:1-5, Exodus 1:8-2:10
Beloved in Christ we are in trying times as you know. We are in a time of multiple layers of complications, A season of pandemic, a season of unearthing of racism and racist structures in our nation, the school year starting up in a way far different than it ever has before- and about to add to it: election season, which you might say has ratcheted up beginning with the democratic convention last week and Republican one coming up. And as we close in towards November the divisions in our nation seem to get deeper and deeper. Not to mention fires, smoky air and rolling blackouts.
I would like to invite you to pause and ask, Who is Jesus to us in this time? What is happening in your life of faith? How are you changing and growing in your life of faith, and how are you living that faith out?
We will all have different responses to these questions. You might be uncomfortable that I am even asking. You might be eager to share what you see God doing in your life. You might feel unsettled in your faith or like your faith is changing.
No matter what, beloved- be encouraged- for ours is a living faith in a living God. Our God is a God who transforms us and helps us have faith in the first place.
If you read the worship guide this week, I wrote there about how Jesus takes a moment to check in with the disciples, who do people say I am, who do you say I am? It’s a group reflection, a check-in on where their faith was at.
And the disciples start by saying what other people say about Jesus, that foundation or first whisper of belief in him as someone special.
The people thought Jesus was someone resurrected from the dead- ironic if you know the end of the story- Peter confesses Jesus son of the Living God. A God who does not die, a God of life. And life is change.
There is a starting place for our faith. It might start with what other people believe; what people tell us we are supposed to believe. That can be the foundation- but God doesn’t leave us there. God can reveal new insights to us, just like what happened with Peter.
We experience Jesus in different ways at
different moments in our journey of faith. Jesus
declares Peter’s statement of faith will be the
foundation. The faith you start with is the
foundation, but it’s built up from there over
time. Faith isn’t meant to stay the same and
be one thing but grows and changes with you
as you grow and change.
In Romans Paul encourages the Christians in Rome to be transformed by the renewal of their minds, and not to be conformed to the world around them.
Just how God revealed that Jesus is son of the Living God to Peter, God can reveal new things to us, to not leave us in the same place in our faith. The renewal of our minds, as Paul calls it in Romans, that God makes possible.
To build on that foundation. We can know Jesus in new ways in our living faith.
But Peter, even though Peter gave that amazing answer, revealed to him right from God about who Jesus is, in the very next passage Peter is going to get it wrong. Peter is going to tell Jesus he couldn’t possibly be about to suffer and be crucified. Jesus will have to tell Peter, who he called the rock and the foundation, get behind me you are a stumbling block.
We will have times we get it right and times we get it all wrong in the life of living our faith.
But Jesus won’t give up on Peter. Peter will keep getting it somewhat right, somewhat wrong, and Jesus will keep loving him and Peter will later be that star disciple telling the world about Jesus, will be the foundation of the church. But it isn’t a straight line of pure clear understanding for Peter. It’s a much bumpier journey.
And that’s how I feel this time of Covid 19 might be for some of us. Some days I feel full of faith and gratitude that I am healthy and alive and my family is too, and some days all of the ways things are going so so wrong get me down. There is a lot to mourn these days, lives lost, livelihoods lost, changes to our lives, so many celebrations diminished so many opportunities lost. I look forward to November and I worry about not just who will win the election but how the results might be questioned or ignored, and what happens then. This time-all that’s going on, can be a pretty bumpy journey.
In the verses that come after this, we will hear that Peter thought what was of God, the anointed one the Christ the son of the living God, should not endure any suffering. He was wrong Jesus will call him Satan, the tempter, the one who points away from what God truly does want. There are things on this earth that are opposed to God. The letter to the Romans says don’t be conformed to those things that are opposed to god, be transformed into a different direction.
An example of what this can look like comes from this story that I love, of the midwives from Exodus. They are shining examples of what it means not to conform to the things on this earth opposed to god. The new Pharaoh has issued the order of killing all the Hebrew baby boys, he specifically enlists those midwives to do it. But they disobey the order. You might call them the pioneers of civil disobedience. They know God is a God of life not death, that these are God’s people and God doesn’t want a generation of boys to be gone. And when Pharaoh asks why they are not doing what he told them to, they make up a fabrication, they use the way he thinks of the Hebrew people as so different and so threatening against him saying those babies just pop out of these women, they’re not like your kind of women. And from there Moses is born, Moses is saved, Pharaoh tries and tries to hold the people down and oppress but he is confounded by a people who refuse to conform to a way that is opposed to God.
But those midwives, yes I believe they had a foundation of faith, but with that challenge they had to be able to say, well how does the faith we have in the living God we know, apply to this situation we are now living? Do we do as we’re told, or do what we know is right? Are we truthful only or protect life, first? It was a challenge to them, it was a severe bump in their faith journey road.
And that is how it goes. We are where we are in our faith journey, and we approach new situations like those we are living in and kind of test it out: this is what the faith we have had so far is like, how is God inspiring us to not be conformed to anything that doesn’t come from God- how is God revealing Jesus to us here and now? And how can our faith grow and be transformed along the way?
The verse before, romans 12;1 talks about our bodies- our faith is lived in our bodies. To God our bodies are holy, and with our bodies we worship God. In caring for our bodies and in using our bodies in service to others. How we live out our faith is part of how we are transformed as well. As we live out our faith we might face more challenges that help our faith grow and change.
It’s been awhile since I invited your participation in a message, it’s hard through this screen- but let’s take an opportunity today to reflect on our own faith journey. Pretend it is Jesus looking at you today, not to judge but help you know for yourself, Who do you say that I am? Take some time to answer these questions for yourself- and if you want to comment in or email now or later, do that- but at least for yourselves wherever you are at- what is the foundation of my faith? How am I being transformed by God, is my faith changing at all? Who Is Jesus to me today? How is my faith alive and how am I living out my faith? If it’s too many questions you can just pick one.
Be blessed and encouraged, Peter was inspired by God, but even when he was wrong he just kept on that journey of faith. There’s no one way to have faith or live your faith- just as long as you don’t stay stuck. And God is with us on this journey, it’s because of God that we can have faith, it’s because of God we can be renewed and transformed. Jesus is still the son of the Living God- and lives in us today, Amen.