Sermon for Sunday August 24th. 2014
Today, when we want an explanation or definition of something, we commonly go to Google or Wikipedia and instantly we get an answer. How easy we find answers on internet for our questions! It makes us so confident.
We as Christians also feel confident that we have answers for our questions in the creeds and catechisms; so when we have questions about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and other important topics, we already have given answers. In other words, we could say that our faith has been already defined! We do not need to think about that.
I think that it is good to have been given answers for our questions about faith; they guide us; although we should think that those answers were given for others, in another time. What we commonly do with those answers, is repeat them without any reflection.
Today, the Gospel is not about answers, but about questions. It seems that Jesus`s disciples were having a quiz with such fundamental questions. It seems that Jesus did not define his disciples` faith; he made them to reflect on that.
- Who do people say that I am? – was the first Jesus´ questions to his disciples.
How many answers could we find for this question today?
Today there are different opinions about Jesus and various ways that people live their faith. Some of them reflect who Jesus really is, and others do not. Perhaps, some of them are just popular but not deep ideas about Jesus. I am afraid that some of them just repeat what they have heard from others.
Matthew ́s Gospel, which we have read, reflects that concern, the concern about who Jesus is; because, even in Jesus` time and the first Christians time, people had questions about Jesus.
Matthew presents Jesus in a crucial moment of his ministry. After this moment of openness and sincerity, Jesus will tell his disciples about his death and resurrection; so, Jesus wanted to be sure about his disciples understanding.
Jesus heard different answers to his first question, who do people say that I am?
First responses revealed the different opinions about Jesus, all of them insufficient to answer the question. Jesus was more than a prophet and people had not realized it.
The disciples' initial answers, of John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets, did not get to the truth Jesus sought, and in his next question he confronted them: "But who do you say that I am?"
The disciples had lived with Jesus, at least, during the last 3 years, so, they would have been able to know Jesus closely. They had experienced, his love, his power, his compassion and mercy, his teachings, his way to live and talk about God. So, they should have been ready to respond to Jesus. There, we find them, facing such question! They had no creeds or a catechism with them; but they knew Jesus.
The answer comes from Peter`s mouth when he said: "You are the Messiah [or the anointed one], the Son of the living God." When Peter says “You are the Messiah”, he means “You are the one we have been waiting for”. You are the one who will bring into fruition the Kingdom of God.
Jesus commends Peter for his answer, but also reminds him that this is a revelation of God. It’s not something that Peter had gained on his own; he’d had his eyes opened by God. That this confession has been put into the mouth of Peter, tells us of the important position that Peter had in the early community. At that time, the communities had a very strong emotional attachment with the leadership that had led to the community.
However, Peter was not the first and the only apostle to recognize Jesus as the Anointed One (Messiah); that revelation was given to the whole community. Remember that two weeks ago, we read Matthew’s Gospel, when in midst of the lake, the disciples worshiped Jesus and said: “Truly you are the Son of God”. Also in John`s Gospel, Martha makes same confession: She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” So, for the first communities, the confession and belief of Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, was already a well-known statement. This revelation was not privatized, it was open to all.
Is it Peter, or his confession, that becomes the rock mentioned by Jesus? Both maybe? There are many discussions about that. On what we can be sure is that Jesus is talking here about the new community, the ecclesia, the church, The Sacrament of God to the world. Jesus added: “and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it”. This expression could be understood that death will no prevail against this community. Also Jesus meant that Peter will take a leading role in the becoming community.
It is good to know that our community is based on the understanding of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the son of God; and that we are part of a living community that announces life and nothing will destroy it.
Peter on behalf of the community received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power of binding and loosing. According to Matthew 18,18 and John 20,23, the same power of binding and loosing, is given to the whole community and the other disciples too. “Binding and loosing” here, are related to the church ́s ministry of reconciliation and forgiveness.
The keys of the kingdom here are a symbol of service, but not of dominant power. Our faith is based on the understanding of Jesus Christ not as a dominant king, but as the messiah who came to serve. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Marcos 10,45
Today, as the new community, we are called to be a sign of God in the world. More than preaching rules, statements, requirements, punishment, we are called to bring the message of forgiveness and reconciliation in the world. When we do not accomplish our calling, we let the world stay as it is – in its bondage to sin and death; in doing this, we bind its sins.
How many people wait to be released today? Are we binding or loosing?
Who do you say that I am? – Jesus asks us today
Will we repeat what other people say about Jesus? Or, do we want to respond that question by ourselves based in our experience with Jesus?
May we receive God`s revelation; so that, we can think personally and deeply on our faith
May our faith will lead us to serve God in our brother and sisters
May our faith give us the Key`s Kingdom; so that we can release people for their chains.
Dear God, we thank you for sending us Jesus your son. We come before you today in need of your revelation; so that we can confess Jesus as the Messiah, not only with our lips, but with our actions. We thank you for we are part of a living community; we thank you, for in Jesus we can learn that we are also called to serve our sisters and brothers. Help us to walk in the light of your revelation while we proclaim your love to the world.
R.P. Neli Miranda