“Show Me Your Work”
The Sanctuary Sermon for 8/30/20
The Sanctuary Sermon for 8/30/20
“Show Me Your Work” Matthew 16:13-20
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Do you remember in school when the teacher would come in and say, “Please clear your desks. We’re having a pop quiz today?” That’s how I want to begin this sermon, with a pop quiz.
So, what do you think, did Peter get it right in today’s gospel when he said that Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the living God?” Let’s have a show of hands. Who agrees that Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the living God?” Okay. Looks like everyone. Anyone disagree? No? Everyone agrees with Peter.
Congratulations. You gave the correct answer, but here’s what I wonder: So what?
What does it mean for you today that Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the living God?” That question is at the center of a conversation I’ve been having with myself for years but even more so in light of everything that has happened over the last six months. I don’t know about you, but I feel an urgency and intensity about everything these days, including this question about who Jesus is. Maybe you feel that too.
So, what does it mean for us today to stand with Peter and say that Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the living God?” The last six months have held this question before me – before us – like never before. I think we are discovering a larger and more relevant understanding of what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
Here’s what I mean by that. I always thought I knew or had some idea of what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah. It used to be mostly a Sunday morning kind of question, but now it’s an everyday kind of question. It used to be about the future, but now it’s about the present moment. It’s no longer only or even primarily about saving souls, it’s about changing hearts. And if Jesus is not changing your heart and my heart then he is not the Messiah of our lives. And if he is our Messiah then he necessarily changes how we live.
Division and distancing characterize our lives today and yet I have never been more aware of our interconnectedness and the ways we, for better or worse, impact and affect each other. The boundaries of my life, my family, my needs, my community, my people – are being expanded. It’s really not all about me, where I live, or the United States.
So, when the Messiah says something like “love your neighbor” I’m having to redefine who my neighbor is and what that’s asking of me. And if I follow this Messiah as “the way, the truth, and the life” how does it shape my deepest relationships and other friendships? Am I discerning between the light and darkness in what I read and post on social media? What happens when his way, truth, and life conflict with the way, the truth, and the life of my friends, my family, or my country?
And how many more times must the Messiah say, “Peace be with you,” or “Do not be afraid,” before I take those words to heart? If he really is my Messiah, then I have to look at the values I hold, the priorities I establish, and the truths I claim for myself and see if they align with his. When he says, “Follow me,” or “Come and see,” do I go, or do I blaze my own trail?
It seems there is not a part of my life over which he does not want to be the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Sometimes I take comfort in that and frankly, other times I take offense.
Those are the kind of things that come up for me when I think of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. What about you? In what ways does it matter or make a difference in your life that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God? Is that just a title we give him or is it asking something of us? Is it changing how we live, and if not, why do we come here Sunday after Sunday?
I ask these questions not just of you but of myself. I ask them because at times I struggle with the gap between knowing the correct answer and living that answer. Where does that struggle come up for you? When have you lived in the gap between knowing the correct answer and doing something with it?
I think that’s what Jesus has set before Peter today. I think that’s what Paul was writing about in Romans chapter 12 when he warns us about being conformed instead of transformed. And I think Jesus experienced that gap in the Garden of Gethsemane as he struggled with what he knew to be his Father’s will.
Here’s the rub. It’s not enough to just give the correct answer. I learned that from my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. White. One day right before recess, she asked me to come up to her desk. She told me that I was one of her favorite students. I was thinking, Yes! I’m in! I was like, woot, woot! Then she said, “Arthur, you have an artistic talent and I want to help you develop that in your cursive handwriting. Will you let me help you?” I was still like, I’m one of her favorites! So of course, I said yes. “Good,” she said, “I want you to stay in during recess this week and practice your handwriting at your desk.” What the what? “At the end of the week I want you to show me your work.” Hmmmph. I was bamboozled right there in front of my classmates. So, I watched my 5th grade crush Vicky through the windows swing on the swing set with Eddie, who used to be my friend, during recess for a week. Show me your work she said. Whatever. Then I remember how excited I was when we got our math books that had the answers in the back. Do you remember that? I had always struggled with math and I thought to myself this year is going to be different, I’m one of the favorites! Rubs his hands.
My homework didn’t take long that first night. In fact, it was the easiest assignment ever. When Mrs. White gave it back to me every answer was correct. But there were no stars or smiley faces, and I didn’t get a 100%. I got an F and a red ink note that said, “Show me your work, Arthur.”
I wonder if that’s why Jesus “sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” Maybe he is less interested in our answer and more interested in seeing our work. Seeing us live it out. Maybe Jesus is saying to us, “Show me your work.”
Maybe Jesus is saying to us, “Show me what the kingdom looks like in your life, in your relationships, in your context.”
The kingdom comes locally, temporarily, intermittently, episodically in our particular circumstances through what we bind and what we loose. The kingdom comes, is actually here, is really real, whenever we find the lost, heal the broken, teach the nations, bring Christ to all, and make music in the heart.
You see, the kingdom is not a reward for these works; the kingdom is these works. Wherever these works are happening, there is the kingdom. The kingdom is about what we do and how we live. The kingdom is what life looks like when we respond to what God is calling for. The kingdom comes every time you and I give existence to the insistence of God.
Riddle me this. Have you ever thought of yourself as having the responsibility of giving existence to the kingdom? Have you ever thought that God might need you as much as you need God?
We can stand up every day and declare that Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the living God” but what difference does that make if we are not loosing people from their guilt, shame, fear, or anger? What difference does that make if we aren’t loosing people to go in peace? What difference does that make if we are not binding ourselves to each other in love, compassion, forgiveness, hospitality, healing, hope, and prayer? What difference does that make if we are not binding up the broken hearted?
I don’t want to just give the right answer. I want to be the right answer, don’t you?
We’ve each been given the keys of the kingdom, the power to bind and the power to loose. What are you doing with that in your life today? What are you unlocking for yourself? And what are you unlocking in the life of another? In what ways are you binding yourself to the life of another for his or her well-being?
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Show me your work.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day. Amen.