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"Who do you say that I am?"

Sermon: August 23, 2020

Romans 12.1-8

Matthew 16.13-16

Affirmation of Baptism

Reading: Romans 12:1-8

1I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Gospel: Matthew 16:13-16

13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 

Dear Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ, the redeemer of the world, the Holy Spirit, who breathes life into all things, and in God the father, creator of all that is, and was and will be. Amen.

In the gospel for today, Jesus asks a very short, ‘simple’ question:

“Who do you say that I am?”

So, how do you answer this question?

The disciple, Peter, responds, “You are the Messiah,

the Son of the Living God.”

Jesus really likes this answer, and he replies,

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,

but my Father in heaven.”

But, back to us, what do we mean if we call Jesus the Messiah,

the Son of the Living God? And another question tied to this one: what difference does it make to believe in Jesus,

how do we live into this believing?

Today, 20 amazing people are making public affirmation of their baptisms. It has been and is a joy to watch them grow into such fine, faithful people of God.

Ok, you fine and faithful people, what is your answer to Jesus, “Who do you say that Jesus is?”

Last Wednesday, we recorded a big part of the service of affirmation of baptism. At that time, and what we will be sharing soon, the kids recited the Apostles’ Creed, naming what they believe Jesus to be. And then they answered a bunch of questions:

You have made public profession of your faith. Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:

to live among God’s faithful people,

to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,

to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,

and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

And they responded, “I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.”

Sometimes, it feels like this affirmation of baptism, or ‘confirmation,’ as many of us grew up calling it, like some sort of graduation event that follows a test to pass.

You know, pass the test, get confirmed, move on.

I was confirmed; and was asked to confess my faith and to respond to these very questions, same as you. What is interesting to me is that the understanding that was behind those responses I gave, way back in the day, has changed, it has not stayed the same. And do you know what, it will be that way for those of you affirming your baptisms as well.

Paul says in the letter to the Romans: “1I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Your faith is confirmed today, not ‘conformed.’ The journey that you are on, growing into whom God is calling you to be, is one of transformation; of learning, of making mistakes, of change. It is not a static life we live, but a dynamic one; always moving, growing.

And you are not on this journey alone. You have a firm foundation to grow with; you do not have to make it all up on your own.

I’d like to share just a few things that I hope will help on the journey of faith that you are already on and that will be your life.

Life itself is holy. We live not by choice but by grace.

Life itself is a blessing.

Every life serves a single purpose.

We are here to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better.

Life is holy. Dear friends, life is holy, all life is holy; your life, my life, the lives of those around us, the lives of plants and animals; all life is holy. Why is life holy, well, it is because of God the creator, who makes everything there is and was and will be. And, my friends, your life is holy because of Jesus. What an amazing thing it is, that God decided to make God’s love for us perfect in Jesus, the Son of God, who became fully human, that joined together with us in our lives, that defeated death once and for all, that forgives, the brings life, that saves, that loves with a love that is indeed holy.

We live not by choice, but by grace.

We did not decide to be born, did we.

But we can make all kinds of choices in how we live our lives;

what those lives look like.

And that is a gift; to be able to make choices.

But the truth of this statement is that life itself is grace, it is a gift. Sometimes it is hard to see this life as grace-filled.

But, beloved by God, it is. You live, because you are loved by God. Every bit of air that you breathe in, is a gift, it is grace. Every bit of air you exhale, every part of you that you share with those around you is a gift given, by you, and by the One who loves you, Jesus Christ.

Life itself is a blessing. This truth might feel kind of tricky.

Life is really hard right now. Our lives are so different than they were just a few short months ago (which, at the same time, feels like it was a long, long time ago). Going to school is different and hard; athletics are different. This pandemic has impacted every possible way in which we live and be together.

There is so much worry and fear and hatred swirling around us that it gets to be hard to see where the blessing in all this is.

Well, the blessing is there. Take a good look at yourself; with all the beauty you see in your reflection, with all the stuff that you don’t like about yourself, with everything that you are, good and bad, and know that you, your life; is a blessing. We are blessed by you! You are a gift given to us with all the love with which God created you!

Every life serves a single purpose. I hear myself say this and I wonder; what is my purpose, what is my single purpose? I think back to all the things I have done with my life; I have been a student, son, brother, husband, father, musician, dishwasher, instrument repairer, cook, house painter, pastor . . . I wonder, did I miss my single purpose?

How about you; what is your single purpose? What are you supposed to do with your life? I can almost guarantee you that none of you will be doing the same thing for the whole of your life. Your purpose will change, what you ‘do’ with your life will change.

But, what I am talking about is more foundational, more basic, actually what you are wired, created to be. What is your purpose, what is all our purposes? It is this: We are here to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better.

Jesus calls each of you, each one of us, to continue learning about God’s creation and love and blessings and grace. And God is calling each one of you, and all of us, to learn to love better.

Just think what this world would be like if we lived into this purpose for our lives, what the impact that would have. Sisters and brothers, such ideas have the power to change the way you see yourself and the world.

So, back to that question Jesus asks:

“Who do YOU say that I am?”

How about this as an answer we can continue to learn about and grow into:

Jesus is the source of our lives; Jesus makes life holy; Jesus continues to bless us and all life, filling us with his grace and love. Jesus is the source of our wisdom. Jesus is God’s love for you and me and for all people and all creation, now, just as before us, and will be after us. Amen.

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