The Second Sunday After Pentecost

2019-06-23 – Year C – Proper 7 – The Rev. Carrie Klukas
Zechariah 12:8-10, 13:1; Psalm 63; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 9:18-24

Lord Jesus today you ask us, “Who do you say that I am?” Help us Lord to bear an answer worthy of your calling, help us to proclaim to the world that you are the Christ. Help us to be faithful people who hear your voice and obey. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

There was a study that was once done in which mothers dropped off their kids at a playtime. The mothers said goodbye to their children and proceeded out the door. Upon exiting the door they went around the building to another door and reentered the building. The kids were then given a chance to talk into a camera and say what it is they thought about their mothers. When the mothers were offered the chance to hear what their children said about them, they each cringed afraid to hear what their kids thought of them. However, as the mothers took the risk to listen to their children’s thoughts and hearts they were blown away. Child after child spoke about knowing their mother loved them and cared for them. The mothers began to weep to hear such beautiful words spoken about them. All the while the mother’s thought the children didn’t hear them or see them. Love had broken into their hearts and in that moment they realized that the children had seen them and had known their hearts. The children in their honest answers had proclaimed to the mothers the truth of their hard work and loving hearts. The mothers in their willingness to risk possible hurt or sadness had heard the truth which they could not see on their own. This research project is very similar to what we hear in the Gospel passage.

Today the passage of scripture we will focus on is the Gospel of Luke. In our Gospel we hear a similar interchange of answers some of which are true and some of which are false. We hear the processing of the disciples with Jesus as to who He is in the world. Sometimes asking someone, “Who do you say that I am?” can be a rather risky chance. Someone might say something hurtful or unkind. Someone might answer in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Someone might say something true that you do not want to be spoken out loud. Asking someone what people think of you opens up all kinds of possibilities. Jesus is being vulnerable with his disciples and showing them the way to interact in the world.

This is a side note to the sermon but really important. Jesus is showing us in this scripture passage that real relationships have moments of conflict or moments of potential heartache. So often in our day to day interactions with one another, we count it as a failure or a sign of a bad relationship if we do not agree or if we have moments of conflict. One of us says one thing and the other person hears something different. One of us makes a decision and the other one does not like it. So often we as people respond in ways that do not help our conflict. Either we act as if we are fine and walk away feeling hurt and wounded allowing these feelings to grow and fester. Or we blow up and just walk away and never come back. Sometimes we go to others and tell them of our offense and never go to the person we are hurt by, therefore gossiping and never healing the relationship.

Jesus, however, shows us the right way to go today. He goes directly to the people he wants to hear from. Jesus doesn’t hide from conflict or possible self- exposure but rather makes himself vulnerable to those closest to him so that he can clear up any wrong conclusions. Sharing our hearts with one another when we are hurt or misunderstanding of another person is the only way that we can have clear healthy relationships. If ever you wonder what someone thinks go to them directly. If ever you wonder about someone’s life, or why they live the way they do go to the person directly. If you feel hurt, looked over, misunderstood, or have miscommunicated with someone go to Jesus ask for wisdom then go to the person for clarification. Real relationships have conflict, vulnerability, and re-clarification; not gossip, hard-heartedness, and blatant avoidance. Jesus longs for us to be real with each other.

Okay, now back to the Gospel; Matthew and Mark locate this incident in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, near the foot of Mount Hermon. This was heathen territory, the worship of the great god Pan being especially prominent. Jesus had withdrawn from Herod’s dominions and from the crowd that had been thronging him. Here he could talk quietly with the disciples and have opportunity for undistracted thinking. Jesus lived a life of deep connection with God the Father and with the people that he lived, worked, and shared life with. In his active ministry years, Jesus would go out into great crowds of people to share the Gospel and the truths of the kingdom of God. Then he would withdraw into quiet usually natural settings to reconnect with God and to teach and talk with his closest companions.

Here we have Jesus sitting and praying with his disciples. He has taken a break from the large crowds and praying with those closest to him. Despite Jesus’ apparent need for refreshment and quiet communing with God, He continues to probe the hearts of the disciples. Jesus loves his people even when he is exhausted He reaches out to them to continually expand their notion of Him. If you are a follower on the way with Jesus you should be growing and hearing more of Him. You should be challenged and continually asking yourself the questions Jesus asks his followers. The question today is, “Who do you say that I am?” The answers were wide and varied and reflected the answers that many were giving Herod. Some believed him to be like John the Baptist who was the cousin of Jesus and known for calling people out of a life of sin. Some thought he was Elijah, a prophet who went about challenging people to turn away from a life of sin to God’s way or law. But Jesus was more than that. Prophet he certainly was; but he was not simply pointing to God’s kingdom some way off in the future, he was causing it to appear before people’s eyes, and was setting in motion the events through which it would become firmly established.

Jesus goes on to ask the question again, “But who do you say that I am?” The original language of the New Testament was greek and in the original language the word “you” was emphasized considerably. Jesus was asking them personally what did they think of him? The personal knowledge of Jesus can not just be taught but rather felt and experienced by individual people. Jesus was making himself vulnerable to his disciples he was essentially asking them what had they seen and experienced as they were walking along the way with him. What did they perceive as he healed people, cast out demons, and raised the dead to life? Jesus was taking a real chance in his relationship with the disciples. What if they saw nothing more than an old dead prophet? What if they thought he was a fine teacher and nothing more?

The first couple disciples deflected the conversation and spoke of what others thought. How often do we hide behind what others think, making statements like,” People are upset about this situation.” When really we are the ones who feel this way but do not want to fully stand in a conflict. How often do we avoid conflict thinking we are being godly when really we are missing out on an opportunity for relational growth with another? Peter jumps in ready to converse with Jesus. He does not fear the conflict or potential conversation. Peter was typically the spokesperson for the disciples. He was bold and brash and lived life whole hog whether for good or for ill as we see later in the gospels. Peter was always willing to engage with Jesus and willing to stand out for his beliefs.

Peter ends up making a proclamation, that Jesus is the Christ. Peter is saying that Jesus is the Deliverer for whom the people of God had been looking for so long. That he and his companions had come to see this was not a human discovery, but a revelation from God. But what ‘Messiah’ really meant they did not know. The definition of proclamation is a public or official announcement, especially one dealing with a matter of great importance. Jesus is quietly proclaiming his divinity to those closest to him. He is teaching the disciples what is to come. The time is not right for this clear statement of truth to be made to the masses. Jesus follows the way of God the Father in instructing those closest to Him and showing the masses that the Kingdom has come before their eyes. He instructs them not to tell others yet but rather there was more to come.

If we have understood Luke’s story so far, with its strong hints of opposition from the Pharisees on the one hand and Herod on the other, it will come as no surprise that Jesus at once tells not just the Twelve but anyone who wants to follow him that there is a dark and dangerous time ahead. The world is being turned upside down, and anyone who wants to come through and be present when God’s kingdom appears will have to be prepared to be turned upside down and inside out with it.

As the Messiah, he must endure suffering and death and then be brought back to life. The disciples, like other Jews at that time, did not think that anything like that could happen to the Messiah. Jesus was probably comparing himself with the many righteous people who had suffered because of their obedience to God and identifying himself as the Suffering Servant prophesied in Isiah 53. Jesus was trying to get the disciples ready for what was to come down the road. Jesus does not paint a way of ease for those of us who follow on the Way of the Cross. Despite what many well-meaning evangelists and preachers have said, Jesus didn’t come with the message that if we followed him we would have an easy life, with everything happening exactly as we would like it. Just the reverse. To save your life, you have to lose it. Sometimes following Jesus means you have to move away, leaving behind family and friends. Sometimes following Jesus means standing up for what is true and right in the midst of great social pressure. Sometimes following Jesus means you will suffer in your body, mind, or finances. The way of the cross is meant to bring us real life and great joy.

Jesus’ swift movement, from asking who they think he is to summoning them to follow him even to the death, shows clearly enough that we cannot separate thinking from action in the Christian faith. As Jesus said earlier, it’s no use saying ‘Lord, Lord,’ if you don’t do what he says. Jesus’ identity and his vocation are tied so tightly together that if you want to have anything to do with him you have to take the whole package or nothing at all. There are no half measures in the kingdom of God.

You can not be sorta kinda in, but rather sold out or not apart of the kingdom of God. This is very difficult for our ears to hear as we live in a world of sampling a little of this and a little of that. However, Jesus can’t be on a smorgasbord of ideas to live your life by. As you draw near to him you begin to see the truth and lies. You begin to hear a calm, peaceful, clear, honest, and convicting voice that leads you in a steady fashion. Jesus is the kind of leader that if following him might lead you to pain and suffering he tells you in the beginning. He is a lover of your soul and He wants you to know that there is going to be a cost to follow him. If you really think about it, there is always a cost or consequence for the actions that we choose in our lives. If we choose a life with riotous living we will incur illnesses, brokenness in our bodies, and typically depression in our minds. On the other hand when we choose the things of the Lord we typically find peace in the midst of storms, order in the midst of chaos, and vision where there once was none.

These momentous revelations of truth and vocation took place as Jesus had been praying. If we want to see Jesus for who He truly is then we have to be a person of prayer. If you want to know Jesus and to be able to answer the question of, “Who do you say that I am?”, then we need to be kingdom people who pray to Jesus. When we pray to Jesus our identity comes from him and we are more able to love others around us. We are less defensive more able to step into hard moments of conflict and not run and hide or run and gossip. Praying to Jesus allows us to follow the way of the cross with our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus’ eyes. In times when I feel really insecure about my life, my choices, the way I appear to others, or where all of it is going, I tell Satan to drive far from me and I turn to the one who defines me and gives my life meaning. Jesus hungers and to give you zeal for life, meaning, and purpose.

Jesus taught that if people try to save their (earthly) lives, they will lose the life that really matters, but if they are prepared to lay down their lives for Jesus, they will know real and abundant life. For on the day of judgment those who loved their earthly lives so much that they despised Jesus will find themselves rejected. While his way is not always easy it is truly rich and meaningful. Your life, when lived for Jesus, can be filled with beauty, order, peace, and purpose. Life without Jesus is typically self-absorbed only thinking of how to make oneself “happy” and harming those around you with your selfish ways. God’s ways are good and when we profess Jesus to be the Christ our lives cannot remain the same.

Professing Jesus as the Christ means a life that is continually transformed. The way I thought a year ago is different from the way I think today. Jesus, as we walk with him, transforms the way we think and therefore the way we live out our lives. This week our Province for the Anglican Church in North America met in Texas and heard some wonderful speakers on proclaiming the Gospel. One speaker shared a story of a man who had begun a journey of seeking out spiritual practices to live in his life, he was a nominal Christian. At the end of the year, this gentleman found himself at the airport for work with a canceled flight which left him stranded in an airport for quite a while. While everyone was treating the flight attendant so meanly this man told her he wouldn’t be mean to her and proceeded to treat her kindly. His colleague asked him what he was eating and drinking that made him different. The man said it is not what I have been eating and drinking but what he had been thinking and believing that has changed him. The man’s life was being transformed by Christ in such a way as to spill out into his normal life. What he was thinking and believing about God had changed him in such a way as to reflect in his everyday life.

Following the way, the cross is meant to change our lives. When you go home today or as you drive please take some time to ask God how have you changed? Ask him how does He want to change you more? In what ways does God desire to move in your life? His ways steady us and make more mature and faithful. So may you enter this week with a deep desire to see change in your life. May you cling to the one who can transform you, give your grace in the midst of real relationships with others, and may you know who you are in the eyes of your Creator and lover of your soul. To God be the glory, now and forever. Amen.

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