Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How do you say that I am?

This week's sermon is based on the Gospel Reading of the Revised Common Lectionary, Mark 8:27-38.

Every week, a group of people gather in this space to sing praise to, offer prayers to, read stories about, learn about, and worship this person called Jesus. Every week, we come together around word, water, bread and wine for this purpose.

But who is Jesus and why do we worship him?
This is the very question that is brought to us by today’s gospel: Who is Jesus? Who do we say that Jesus is?
We have many names for Jesus—you may have learned some of them in Sunday school, confirmation, parents' instructions, or church.
Jesus is the Son of God.
The Second Person of the Trinity.
The Savior of the World.
God with us.
Those are all great descriptions, but what does that mean, really? Who is Jesus?
Well, let’s start with Son of God. Jesus is in an unbreakable relationship with God the parent. That parent/child relationship that never can be erased. But Jesus’ connection is even deeper than that. Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity. This Jesus is a part of God, equal to God, is God. Everything Jesus does in his lifetime on earth is in line with God because Jesus is one being with the Father and the Spirit—so in line with them because he is part of them. One being.
Jesus is God as human—Emmanuel—God with us. God speaks to us and walks with us in Jesus. As God with us, Jesus proclaims and lives a life of radical hospitality and inclusivity. Don’t believe me? Just ask some of the untouchable lepers Jesus spoke with and healed. Some of the children, women, poor, blind, widows, foreigners, strangers, sick and suffering people that society had written off. These are the people Jesus sought out, spoke with, loved, and healed. That’s our example. That’s God in the world.
Savior of the world. Jesus suffered and died on the cross and rose again three days later. He died for the sake of the world, so that we might be saved from the eternal consequences of sin—that is, death. Jesus loves the world and everyone in it. He died that we might have eternal life—Jesus himself tells Peter this is the plan in today’s lesson. Jesus is the Messiah sent to save the world from the hold that sin has on it.
So that’s who we say Jesus is.
How do we go about that?
Well, we have inherited some invaluable gifts as children of God to help us do that. 
Faith given to us by the Holy Spirit, who is God’s continued presence among us. This faith isn’t something we choose, but is a gift. We learn about it through the Word, most tangibly, the Bible. In the Scriptures, the story of God and God’s people from creation through Jesus to the early church are recorded for us to learn about and better understand our faith. We read from it every week so that we might grow and continue to be reminded of this story.
Two more things we are given: baptism and communion. These sacraments—these sacred traditions—are instituted by Jesus himself and promise us that God is with us.
In baptism, we gather around water and word to celebrate our unity with Jesus. We are assured that the Holy Spirit comes to us there not because of what we do, but because of what Jesus has done. Because of what God has done in us. Through baptism, we are joined to Christ and brought into the family of God as sisters and brothers.
Then there is communion--bread and wine. Common physical elements from daily life. Yet through this, we recall Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us, and we are again assured by Jesus that he is here, present in the bread and wine, forgiving our sin and calling us to lead lives like his.
And guess what? We can lead lives like that. We are assured through baptism that we are united with Christ and brought to eternal life. Through communion, we are assured of this and that we are forgiven of our sin. Freed from those worries, we can simply live in response to these gifts.
In worship, we gather around word, water, bread and wine. We receive God’s gifts—God’s word, the Holy Spirit’s presence, Christ’s body and blood. We are assured of our connection to Christ and one another, and of the promises given to us in word and sacrament.
We are freed from the burdens of sin and given eternal life. We can go into the world, knowing—knowing­—that we don’t have anything to earn where God is concerned.
We are free to live a life like we have been saved and given gifts too great to keep to ourselves. We are free to live like Jesus—imitating the radical hospitality he showed to so many, including ourselves. We are free to respond to God’s call in our lives.

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