Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear about some of the folks who followed Jesus around, you know the ones who witnessed the miracles, who heard the sermons, and listened in on his sparring with Pharisees and scribes. Today they are asked a very importantquestion from their Master. Jesus asks, “who do you say that I am?” Now, Peter did not hesitate to answer, and with over-zealous glee, immediately shouts, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Sometimes when Peter sounds off so quickly, have you ever just wished you could have been there, and whispered in his ear, “Now brother, don’t speak too quickly, because you know that your exuberance is going to get you in trouble a little later in the story.” Peter, the disciple who claimed he trusted Jesus, when things got tough, or when he faced a new challenge,seems to always lose heart and lose faith. Peter had a hard time following through. When he walked on the water with Jesus and the waves started to toss around him on the sea, or when the soldiers were carrying the Master away to his trial and crucifixion, or when three times accused of being a disciple, Peter turned coat and ran. Peter really was not ready to back up his exuberant words with actions.
Good old Peter; I am so glad he was an apostle, because with a follower like him, I too believe that I can be a faithful Jesus follower. He was always the first to proclaim, but likewise, the first to hesitate and the first to fail. Peter’s story is probably the story of most of us disciples. Quick words and clumsy actions; great intentions and run-of-the-mill responses, may be the nature of following Jesus.
For me, I have to admit that I fail as a disciple more times than I like, but I am so glad that God’s grace is abundant and overflowing. I am so glad that when we fall down along this walk of discipleship, God is quick to forgive, and ready to receive us back. So, how do we respond to that kind of grace? Our response is to offer to God a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Unfortunately, sometimes, our responseto God’s love (like our brother Peter) is just mere words. Another later Apostle, one who like his counterpart, failed in his attempts to follow Jesus too. Today though he tells us how we are to respond to God’s grace.
Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “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.” Worship can be confused with a worship service. What makes worship different from merely saying the prayers, singing the hymns, and receiving the sacrament, is our hearts. Worship is not mere liturgical calisthenics, but it is an ourpouring of our heart to God.
Webster’s defines worship as, “extravagant respect or admiration for, or devotion to, an object ofdivine affection.” Our worship to God is our way of answering the question posed to Peter today, “Who do you say that I am?” If you were asked whether “in your everyday life, Jesus is number one and the one to whom you offer respect, admiration, or devotion, then the answer is right there in front of you, and your heart will make it clear.
Trusting Jesus; Lord of my Life
“Who do you say that I am,” Jesus asked. Peter responded, “you are the Son of God.” Listen closely to his words. The answer Peter gave may sound a little non-committal and slightly impersonal. What if Peter’s response would have been different? What if his words were more like Thomas’ post-resurrection proclamation, in which Thomas called Jesus, “My Lord and My God,” a statement that is based on trust and reliance and intimacy? Thomas, with clarity and purpose, declared his intimate connection to the Master, and did not just identify Jesus’ public persona.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. A woman in the Wal Mart parking lot was asked by a friend, “who is that man standing over there near your car?” She responded, “that is my male civil partner with whom I share a common domicile.” That sounds like a legalistic statement of fact. There is no emotional connection or relational references made between the woman and the man. Let’s try that again. A woman is asked, “who is that man standing over there near your car?” She responds, “That is my dearly beloved husband, whom I love with all my heart, and for whom, I would risk my life!” Do you see the difference? The second response is personal, committed, and from the words, you sense that there is deep intimacy shared between these two people. Trust, reliance, and love shared between two people.
Moments of Change
My sisters and brothers, life’s circumstances are ever-changing. We know that now in 2020 that life today is just not what it was a few months ago. Nonetheless, we can trust Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, even in times of uncertainty and grief. In just a few weeks, your beloved priest Mother Lin will be moving on to a new chapter in her life, and St. Luke’s will be moving on to a new chapter in your lives. Even now, when things are uncertain and the future is not quite clear, I encourage you to trust God’s assurance of his presence, grace, and peace.
In this time of change, you my sisters and brothers can live in the trust and peace knowing that God will not abandon you, nor will God forsake you. Imagine today that Jesus is walking beside you in the days to come. When you feel like you are in despair, he notices, stops for a moment, places his arm around you and asks, “Do you trust me, because you know I am with you.” Then he smiles and just like he did with theearly apostles, asks you to consider, “My child, who do you say that I am.”