The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Sermon – 21 August 2011
The Jesus Way
The ship is safe in harbor, but that is not what ships are made for. ~JFK..
When Jesus asks his disciples “who do people say I am?” He is not asking them to cast him in their own image. It is a rhetorical device. He is teaching. He is trying to see just how clueless they are. Here, Jesus is getting a sense of their thinking, so that he can find a way to set them straight.
“Who do people say I am?” asks Jesus.
Who do you say that I am?
How do we understand Jesus? What is the way that we see Jesus? You see, the way that we understand Jesus says a lot about (how we understand church, and also) how we understand the pathways of our lives.
Do we understand Jesus as a teacher who brings wisdom to the world? Do we understand Jesus as a healer, who contends with petty demons and sends people on their way, newly clean and newly healed? Do we understand Jesus as someone who gives us spiritual and psychological peace when we pray in his name? Do we understand Jesus as the Son of God primarily interested in our salvation after death? Do we understand that Jesus is the Son of Man who comes down from the clouds above in order that we might live the life abundant, and so that we might assist with the inbreaking of God’s kingdom, in this place, in this time, now?
What is our notion of Jesus?
Who do you say that I am?
You see, the way we understand Jesus will set down the foundations of our notions of church, and the notions of how we should live our lives. If Jesus is merely about wisdom, then church is merely a place where we fill but bucket of learning. If Jesus is merely an earthly healer, then the church is merely a first aid tent, a place of rest and comfort, but not a place of any transformation. If Jesus is merely a hand-holder who gives us spiritual and psychological peace, then the church is merely a compassionate listener and not demanding much more than that. If Jesus is merely interested in our salvation after death, our church has little role other than to remind us of the rewards after this life is over – and has not much of a responsibility to the world in need today.
Now, you see where I’m going. If Jesus came out of the clouds descending, as the Son of Man, and has truly become incarnate within this broken world in order that we all might live the life abundant, he is demanding more of us than mere rest and peace. If Jesus is truly the mystical Son of Man, the incarnate God in our midst who came to earth, was crucified, resurrected, and ascended, then there is something huge that God is doing with those who are on the pilgrim way of Jesus. If Jesus is truly this God in our midst, the church – this church, even – has a greater calling, and a greater responsibility to help with the inbreaking of God’s kingdom. We have a great responsibility, and a great power, in this world.
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