21st Sunday (A) August 27, 2017
I was in Wells Fargo making a deposit, when a young loan officer walked over to say ‘hi!’ We know each other from the fact that my credit card number had been used to buy electronics at Best Buy, then Whole Foods, and then the Sprint store. So I was issued a new card and my PIN number simply would not work anymore, and he had reset it five times now in 60 days. I know you are waiting for a connection to anything relevant, and here it is:
He said: “What’s your sermon going to be about Sunday?”
I said that I’m Catholic and it’s only Wednesday.
He is a lay preacher at an evangelical church.
The Gospel is what I just read: “Jesus asked his apostles who they think he is.”
I knew that, so I pumped him for information right there in the lobby of Wells Fargo. He was just starting when the branch manager walked by and the young man shook my hand, and said: “Thanks for banking at Wells Fargo!”
We are 2000 years after Jesus Christ walked the earth—and we have been arguing ever since about who he is.
Our conversation these next weeks is: One Christ, One Parish, One Mission
So the Gospel is very important to answering who Christ is.
Google Christ, and by the time you get to the bottom of page one of 33 million sites, it says that millions of people over the centuries have been killed in the name of Jesus Christ. A footnote to that is that it raised to hundreds of millions killed fighting over ‘Who is God?”
Whose God, whose savior, is correct?—
- 21st Century Christianity (Catholics, Protestant, etc)
- Pope Francis version
- Muslim (the Iranian Ayatollah)
- ISIL (they purify their beliefs by killing everyone who does not believe the same. A few years back they killed James Foley, a reporter—a good Catholic man)
We believe that Jesus grew into an understanding of who he was—not knowing it from the beginning. Therefore, he wasn’t able to be absolutely certain that his mission was the correct and right way to live his life…
…JUST LIKE YOU AND ME
Many of us like John’s Gospel where Jesus just walks through it knowing everything and fully knowing who he was in relationship to God.
It is an inspired Gospel, but it is not the original picture—or earliest picture. Matthew’s Gospel that we read today is much closer to the historical figure of Jesus.
My message today is pretty simple:
At the same time Jesus was asking his apostles, ‘WHO DO YOU…SAY THAT I AM?”…
…the leaders of his religion and the government and Rome (translate that: anyone who could harm him) were saying:
“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
He was seen by his followers as a healer, a prophet, a teacher, a holy man, a loyal friend
They know who he really was (sort of)
But the leaders of his religion said: “You are not allowed to speak for God:
“ WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
And the Governor Pontius Pilate, when Jesus said, “I SPEAK THE TRUTH…”, said:
“TRUTH IS OVERRATED…WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
And the King Herod to him:
”SO YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE GREAT JESUS CHRIST! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
Just like James Foley was murdered by ISIL, Jesus was murdered by the Romans.
And therein is the dilemma for most of us.
We are not perfect and we make mistakes; are often times weak; and fully aware of our own limitations…
….on top of that, we are growing into a better understanding of ourselves.
And if we want to be a good person, we have to make choices—we have to STAND UP.
We are hoping like Jesus that people will see who we are really trying to become, even if not perfectly.
But there is always someone who knows our past, or knows our frailties, and imperfections.
And they say to us; “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
And on a really bad day, it could be a spouse or your kid, or your parent, a classmate, boss—even someone you thought was a friend….
“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE….I KNOW YOU…YOU’RE NOT PERFECT ENOUGH TO SAY THAT…OR DO THAT…”
And so we back down, we walk away, we actually agree, we try to be good, quietly…
…they are probably right—“WHO DO I THINK I AM?!”
So you’re not going to stand up to the Herods in your life? Or even stand up for yourself???
We must hang out with others who will continue like the apostles did—to help us to know who we really are, and to push us to become it.
We are One Christ, One Parish
Going it alone is very, very hard! Openness to each other allows us to be guided as a group, as a parish community.
Openness keeps us from being fanatical—and keeps us from being boring!!
There’s a problem coming your way…
…as Herod mocked Jesus:
“SO YOU ARE THE CHRIST—THE GREAT JESUS CHRIST!!!”
But when you receive the presence of the Lord in our community gathered, and in our communion today:
We believe we become what we eat.
If that’s true:
“THEN YOU ARE THE CHRIST—THE GREAT JESUS CHRIST….”
Alive in the world today, we are the hands and feet of Christ.
We can’t let the Herods—the ISIL’s—the religious ZEALOTS—the people who think they have God, Jesus, figured out (just follow them, they ask…)
We can’t let those people spook us!
We are not perfect; we are all flawed.
But we can’t wait for perfection to be open to God / Jesus Christ using us to live our spiritual life with openness, with constant searching, to journey with people who will challenge us to be strong yet compassionate, to be driven yet forgiving…
…willing to share our beliefs, not force them on people.
We accept our mission:
We support each other in experiencing a transforming encounter with Christ,
who empowers us to become his presence in the world!
We are One Christ, One Parish, One Mission
Yet if we stand tall, people will try to kill us…
…maybe not take our lives like James Foley’s, but try to kill our words, our beliefs, our way of life; to undermine our principles.
Jesus repeats his desire in every age—with every person—every parish:
“WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?”
Then Jesus makes it personal:
“Who am I, to YOU?”