Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sermon: August 24

“Who do you say I am?” asks Jesus.

A Nice guy, Full of wisdom, Lover of souls A Carpenter, Prophet, Healer

Who do you say I am?

Son of David, Rabbi


Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” A powerful statement of faith to which Jesus blesses Peter. For it is Peter’s confession that has become our belief as we follow Jesus: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

We make this statement our own, at our baptisms or at least our parents & godparents do on our behalf, we declare this at confirmation when we renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and with God's grace to follow him as Savior and Lord. Every time we come here and take communion, eating bread, drinking wine as we remember Jesus, we profess this faith.

As we call ourselves Christian, it is easy to say our faith here, confess it, but our lives should reflect that faith that Jesus is the Son of God all the time. I think of one of Aesop’s fables…

A Hunter was searching for the tracks of a Lion. He asked a man felling oaks in the forest if he had seen any marks of the lion’s footsteps or knew where his lair was. ‘Oh yes,’ said the Woodman, ‘I will take you to the Lion himself.’ The Hunter turned pale from fear and stuttered, ‘No, thanks. I did not ask that; it is only his track that I am looking for, not the Lion himself.’

Our faith compels us not to be just the hunter where we profess our faith but really are not seeking to have our lives really changed, we draw back from actually finding Jesus in our lives. We are just happy looking. No that’s not it. So how does one live one’s life with that faith being proclaimed by who we are?

I think we live it out in two ways, one be being who we each are (who we know ourselves to be deep down), and by trying to keep that faith before us throughout our days. I recently read a story about a man who went to a Nursing Home to visit his wife:

Every day, for years, he visited his wife in the nursing home. She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease; with each day she slipped further and further away in the fog of dementia. Every day he would feed her lunch. He would sit with her and show her the pictures of their children, telling her the latest family news and stories she would forget as soon as she heard them. He would patiently remind her who he was and explain that they were married and had been for the past 52 years and they had two daughters and a son and four beautiful grandchildren. He would hold her hand as she drifted in and out of consciousness. Before leaving, he would kiss her and tell her how much he loved her — and she would never realize nor remember later that he had even been there.

His heartbroken friends would ask him, “Why do you keep going when she doesn’t even know who you are?” And he would always reply, “Because I know who I am.” [From Overcoming Life’s Disappointments by Harold S. Kushner.]

The husband’s faithfulness to his wife and the faithfulness to himself, speaks to me of how we live our lives in faith. There will be disappointments, hard times, but it doesn’t change who we are deep down, our faith can be the rock that anchors us as we live that out in the humblest of deeds.

At our baptisms, we were named before God and the gathered congregation. We were sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. To live out of our baptism is to worship God each and every day of our life, not just Sundays. It is to live as God would have us live in our work, in our play, in all aspects of our lives. If we live our faith only on Sundays then we miss what our faith is all about and we are not whole. If we believe Jesus is the Son of God, if we believe in God’s love, than it is not enough to say it or live it one day a week. We need to live it every day. And it may be as simple as the act of loving a spouse who can’t reciprocate because of disease.

We are challenged to keep that faith before us as we journey each day. There is a famous text from Russia called The Way of a Pilgrim, which chronicles the journey of a pilgrim as he learns what it means to pray unceasingly as St. Paul put it. The pilgrim sees himself by the grace of God as a Christian and wants to deepen his devotion, his faith, his walking with the Lord. Then he learns from a spiritual father what it means to acquire the habit of prayer and do good. And in the midst of his journey he learns a very simple prayer called the Jesus Prayer or the Prayer of the Heart: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” He learns to pray this prayer, using a prayer rope, to direct his thoughts and his heart and he felt peace in his life.

Today, taking his first baby steps on his journey is James Anthony Bender who will be baptized and joins us on our journey like the pilgrim, to live faithful lives, and to remember Jesus the son of God each day of our lives. And in remembering, to live out that truth and faith. May we proclaim in word and deed what we know in our hearts: Jesus is the son of God. Lord have mercy. Amen.

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