Listen to this week's Sermon below
"Who do you say that I am?"
August 23rd, 2020
(Revd Jeanette Hamer)
(Readings from Romans 12:1-8 and Matthew 16:13-20)
Click to read HERE
We don’t always find it easy to see links between the readings set in the Lectionary,
but I was excited to immediately feel led to a message from the passages read this morning.
I think that there are two interesting questions raised that delve deep into our own relationship with Jesus.Let’s look first at the passage from Matthew 16.
The disciples had been called by Jesus from their various lives and careers to follow him. They had been taught by him and watched him as he performed miracles and preached to the crowds, attracting both adulation and opposition.
The disciples were constantly having to adjust their thinking about themselves, others and God since they had met Jesus. They had raised questions as he challenged them daily with his words and actions.
And here, it’s almost as though he is springing a test on them.
He starts with an easy question.
‘Who do people say I am?’
They are all happy to chip in with the views of others,
the off pat answers that they have heard,
“Some say John the Baptist,” they answered.
“Others say Elijah, while others say Jeremiah or some other prophet.”
We know the off pat answers too, don’t we?
Most of us are from a generation that grew up with the Bible as part of our school curriculum. Most of us went to Sunday School and also attended church weekly with our families, it was the ‘done’ thing. We know all about Jesus and who he was,
and what happened in his life and short ministry.
But then comes the hard question, for the Disciples and for us now,
‘Who do YOU say I am?’
An unfair question, you may think,
because these men had left everything to follow him.
But what Jesus is searching for from his disciples and from us is more than just knowledge about him, it is faith in him.
Jesus is the key to the whole of God’s relationship with all that he has made.
Knowing about him is not enough;
a day to day faith and living relationship is the only way.
Knowledge and faith are two very different things.
This is a turning point in the Gospel story,
as the disciples, with Simon Peter as the spokesman,
have to turn their conviction into an explicit confession of faith.
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
So the first important question for us this morning, written large in capital letters, is this
‘WHO DO YOU SAY I AM’?
The second question for us is
‘WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES THIS MAKE IN MY LIFE?’
For this we turn to our epistle reading from Romans 12.
The first 8 chapters of Romans have given us detailed teaching about the Gospel and salvation through Christ. These were followed by three chapters about God’s masterplan, part of which Steve preached on last week.
Through God’s mercy we are no longer slaves to sin, we have been set free.
Now, with our reading this morning we are challenged with what this all means to us.
The preceding chapters have set the scene for the next step of faith and this step is taken with a tiny Greek word, oun that means ‘therefore’.
In verse 1 of our reading, it says this,
‘I 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.’
That one word, therefore, shows that this should mean something to us.
The message of the Gospel and God’s master plan is not the end of the story.
We need to travel forward to the practical application
of how we should be living in Him.
If we have turned to Christ as King, then we should act as if He is.
Nothing about the way we live can stay the same.
We need to offer ourselves as a sacrifice to him.
This is not as slaves but as free people.
It involves choice on our part; he calls and we follow willingly.
Worship is more than singing hymns here on a Sunday.
Paul says that there is only one true act of spiritual worship;
it is offering our bodies to the Lord every day as a living sacrifice.
If Jesus is Lord, we must worship him through everything we do with our body, mind and spirit; declaring ‘Jesus we are yours’ through every aspect of our lives.
We must change the way we act towards God and each other.
If there are differences between us, we should bury them
and start looking at ourselves as Christ’s single body, united in him.
The rest of the passage we had read to us points out ways that the church had to change and that message is the same for us today.
Rome, in the times of Paul, was a city that was obsessed with social status.
Each section of society looked down on those who were beneath them.
Paul, in the passage read to us this morning, is telling the Church in Rome
that these status games should stop.
‘Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought’, he warns them in verse 3.
‘Don’t be proud; be willing to associate with others.’
The warning here is to not set ourselves above others in the faith.
We should not think so highly of ourselves that we set ourselves apart.
If we are a united body, then no-one can set themselves up as higher than the rest, implying that they have more faith, belief or knowledge than others.
Being a member of a body doesn’t mean that you can pick and choose what bits you do or refuse to do. We are not called to be judgmental on others;
it is God’s place to judge.
There is nothing ‘me-centred’ about following Jesus as Lord.
We are not following him at all unless we take care of his body, the Church
and take our place within it.
There is both unity and diversity in the Church; we are united in the one body,
and this will be symbolised later as we gather at his table,
but we are made up of many members,
each with the gifts that we have been given through the Holy Spirit.
These various gifts are known as ‘Charismata’,
gifts of grace given by God to each person for the good of the whole community.
Like a human body, the Church is made of many parts.
Each part has a role to play to make the body function.
God has made us different, and we are incomplete until we are fused together
into a local church body.
We belong together.
If God has filled us with his Holy Spirit to empower
some of us to prophecy,
some of us to serve,
some of us to teach,
some of us to encourage,
some of us to give financially,
some of us to lead
and some of us to express acts of Christian love,
then we cannot rest until we have discharged our role in God’s master plan.
We cannot continue Christ’s ministry on earth
unless we unite together in a local expression of his body.
Together we stand as the body of Christ, his church.
We need to acknowledge our own strengths and weaknesses,
not looking to criticize those in the people around us.
We should be thanking God that we are balanced out within our Christian community. Thanking him that we have been called together, and can help each other out.
I would like to finish with an interesting quotation that I have used before,
from Phil Moore’s commentary on Romans.
‘Some years after Romans was written, the Christian philosopher Aristides
was able to tell the Emperor to look at the church in his city,
as a proof that the Gospel must be true.
‘They walk in all humility and kindness, falsehood is not found among them,
and they love one another.
They do not despise the widow or grieve the orphan.
He that has, distributes liberally to him that has not.
If they see a stranger they bring him under their roof
and rejoice over him as if he were their own brother;
for they call themselves brothers,
not after the flesh but after the Spirit and of God.
When one of their poor passes away from this world and one of them sees him,
he provides for his burial according to his ability;
and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed
for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs
and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him.
And if there is among them any man who is poor and needy,
and they have not an abundance of necessaries,
they fast two or three days
so that they may supply the needy with the food they need.
And they observe scrupulously the commandments of their Messiah.’
I wonder how this Village sees us as Church?
Would they write about us in similar terms
on seeing how we behave towards each other and with the community?
Do we share the love of Christ with our community,
as our mission statement printed at the top of our Notice Sheet each week states?
What an effect we could have here in Kirk Michael,
if we truly lived together in unity as the Church of Jesus!
A reminder of the two questions for us today.
WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?
‘WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES THIS MAKE IN YOUR LIFE?’
May God give us grace to live and work to his praise and glory.