Sunday, August 27, 2017

“A Bunch Of Questions” The Sermon for SUNDAY, August 27, 2017 - 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 16:15
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "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." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

“A Bunch Of Questions”

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

Life is full of questions, Questions abound everywhere. What am I going to do with my life? What will I be? Will the kids turn out all right? What will tomorrow bring?

Not only do these practical question beg for an answer, but also questions concerning my spiritual life. Am I saved? When I die will I go to heaven? Why does God allow such tragedy to exist on the earth?

Then there are the philosophical questions, which comes first the chicken or the egg, how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Or the one I liked in my philosophy class in college was," If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it fall, does it still make a noise?"

We could go on and on. All of these questions have one common element to them which is illustrated by the following story: "A college sophomore tried to prove how smart he was one day by asking his professor the following question, "Is the bird I’m holding dead or alive?" If the professor said the bird was dead, the boy was going to free the bird and let it fly away; if the professor said it was alive, the boy was going to to crush the bird. The professor looked at the boy and said, "My boy, the answer is in your hands."

The common element with all questions is that the answer can and does lie with us. We can search for the answers to most questions. We can find it ourselves or we can surrender the question and the answer to someone else, namely God. But we can do something with all the questions of life and their answers.

I began talking about questions because this morning our gospel lesson and the second lesson pose some questions for us. In the gospel lesson, Jesus asks the disciples two questions: "Who do men say that the Son of Man is?" & " But who do you say that I am?"

These questions beg for answers from us this morning. Let us see if the answers lie in our hands.

In our gospel lesson Jesus asks the disciples what they have heard about about him. Jesus is taking a survey or a Gallup Poll. He hears the answers of the disciples, then He gets close and personal as He asks the disciples,"But who do you say that I am?" Then Peter, good old Peter, responds for the group of disciples by saying: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." In his answer, Peter was saying a whole lot about Jesus. He was saying that he knew Jesus was more than John the Baptist, more than a prophet like Elijah, he knew Jesus was connected to God Himself. So, Peter calls him Saviour, Lord, son of God. Peter knew Jesus was unique, Peter knew Jesus was more than a man with dirty hair, a wrinkled face, dusty feet and soiled clothes, more because this man, who was at the same time God, had changed him. Peter was coming to trust and believe in Jesus more and more. Peter saw past the man and saw the divinity hidden in Jesus so he could cry out, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

I would like to illustrate this idea with a story.

"An organist was practicing one day in a great church in Europe. A man came up to the organ and asked if he could play. The organist looked at him and thought to himself. I shouldn’t let this man play, just look at him, he is unshaven, his clothes are soiled, he looks like a bum. So he told the man no. But the unkempt stranger asked again and again. Finally the organist let him play thinking he couldn’t play very long, for what does a bum know about organs. The bums fingers danced over the keyboard in a way the organist hadn’t heard in his lifetime. The stranger played on and on. The organist was spellbound.

When the stranger got up to leave, the organist could not contain himself and shouted, "Who are you, what is your name?"

As the stranger, who looked like a bum slowly walked away, turned over his shoulder and said, "My name is Felix Mendelssohn."

The organist gasped. He said to himself, "I almost did not let the master play."

In the same way, do you and I see Christ in the kind deeds of others, do we see Christ in the words of comfort offered during trouble, do we see Christ in someone who we regard as less or not as good as we are? Peter saw the divinity in the man Jesus and I wonder if we see and feel the divinity of Christ today?

We can miss seeing Jesus who is all around us and in each of us, because at times we get so caught in the exterior stuff of our faith that we cannot see the God that is beyond all of that stuff to the God who is active, living, and interested in our individual lives.

"Who do you say that I am?" asks Jesus. The answer lies in your hands?

The next few verses of this text are sometimes confusing. Some people say that the rock that Jesus built the church upon is Peter. So the Roman Catholic then says that the successors to peter are the modern Popes.

But some people say that the Rock Jesus is building the church upon is Peter’s confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Peter came to that conclusion because He saw in Jesus something more than a man, something more than a teacher, something more than prophet, something more than a healer, Peter saw in Jesus the image of God.

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Can you say that about Jesus? Can you make that confession of faith in your life? "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

The Rock, beloved, is Peter’s confession. The Rock is faith that sees Jesus as the Christ and the Son of the Living God. The Rock is a confession which looks to the Cross and only to the Cross for forgiveness. The Rock is hope of eternal life based on the empty tomb Jesus left after his Resurrection. The Rock is living daily in the forgiveness that God gave to us in our Baptism. The Rock is trusting in God to keep us and strengthen us with the very Body and Blood of his Son. The Rock is Jesus. And upon it the Church is built. And the gates of hell will never ever ever prevail against it!

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." It is that confession that gave us the church. It is that confession that gives the grace of Christ to the world. It is that confession that allowed missionaries to spread the word of God through the world. It is that confession that allows you and I to live our everyday lives in the forgiving power of Christ through the cross of Calvary and the Easter Resurrection.

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." It is that confession that allows us to handle the brokenness of this world. As we confess that in Jesus is the image of God, we can rely on his grace and mercy to live in this broken world.

It is that confession of Peter’s, that confession that we make daily for ourselves, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.", that gives us the hope and the assurance that one day we will experience the power of the Easter Resurrection.

A closing story says it well:

Dr. W. A Criswell, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas, said on one occasion on an airplane flight he found himself seated beside a well-known theologian. He desperately wanted to start a conversation and they did get to talk. The man told Dr. Criswell about how he had recently lost his little boy through death. Dr. Criswell listened as he told his story: He said he had come home from school with a fever and we thought it was just one of those childhood things, but it was a very virulent form of meningitis. The doctor said we cannot save your little boy. He’ll die.

And so this seminary professor, loving his son as he did, sat by the bedside to watch this death vigil. It was the middle of the day and the little boy whose strength was going from him and whose vision and brain was getting clouded said, "Daddy, it’s getting dark isn’t it?" The professor said to his son, "Yes son it is getting dark, very dark." Of course it was very dark for him. He said, "Daddy, I guess it’s time for me to go to sleep isn’t it?"

He said, "Yes, son, it’s time for you to go to sleep."

The professor said the little fellow had a way of fixing his pillow just so, and putting his head on his hands when he slept and he fixed his pillow like that and laid his head on his hands and said, "Good night Daddy. I will see you in the morning." He then closed his eyes in death and stepped over into heaven.

Dr. Criswell said the professor didn’t say anymore after that. He just looked out the window of that airplane for a long time. Then he turned back and he looked at Dr. Criswell with the scalding tears coming down his cheeks and he said, "Dr. Criswell, I can hardly wait till the morning."

"Who do you say that I am? "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

The answer lies in your hands!


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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Sermon shared by Rev. Tim Zingale on Aug 15, 2005.

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