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Pentecost 12 August 27, 2017 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
PENTECOST 12  Proper 16  Year A
Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, August 27, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Jesus asked his disciples.
By “Son of Man”
he simply meant
“this person standing here before you.”
(Son of Man
being in this case not a title
but a way
of referring to self
without being self-referential.)
If Jesus had been on Facebook or Twitter,
he wouldn’t have had to ask.
Can you imagine
what Herod or Pontius Pilate
or the temple priests
might have been tweeting about him?

But . . .
social media in Jesus’ time
          was the old-fashioned kind,
news, opinions, gossip
          were spread face to face
by people talking with, to, and about
          other people . . .
Jesus had been all around Galilee
and its environs,
preaching, teaching, healing,
doing astonishing things
like feeding thousands
          with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.
Everywhere he went,
crowds gathered around him.
“So,” he was asking his disciples
          “What are they saying
                   about me?”

They were saying
all kinds of things:
John the Baptist,
or a reincarnation of
          Elijah or Jeremiah,
or maybe some other prophet . . .
“But who do you say that I am?”
he asked them.
That’s the important question,
isn’t it,
“Who do you, my followers,
          the ones I’ve chosen
          to be with me,
          learn from me,
          work with me . . .
“Who do you say that I am?”
in a sudden insight
that could have come only from God
          exclaimed, “You are the Messiah,
                             the Son of the living God.”
But he didn’t really know
what he was saying.

His were
flesh and blood expectations:
a Messiah
who would conquer
          the Roman oppressors
                   of God’s people
and establish himself
          as the new King of Israel.
Peter’s mis-understanding
quickly became evident
in the passage following today’s reading,
Jesus predicted
          his suffering and death . . .
An idea Peter vehemently rejected –
Suffering and death . . .?
with his idea
of messiah.
Only after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection
did the true meaning
          of all he had been saying to them,
          all he had been showing them,
                   come home to his disciples.

He had been not just
          God’s appointed agent,
but God among them in human form,
whose victory
over the principalities and powers of this world
would come
          not by military might
but through his seeming defeat on the cross
          by the principalities and powers of this world.
Ultimately the crucifixion
not his weakness,
          but the weakness of his executioners . . .
They could brutalize and kill him,
but they could not keep him dead.

During his life
Jesus had proclaimed and enacted
God’s desire
          for the human community . . .
          which he called
                   the Kingdom of God . . .
not a place,
not an institution,
not a political entity,
but a way of being,
          a mutuality of respect,
          a communion
          into which all are invited,
                    the outcast welcomed,
                    the hungry fed,
                    the thirsty satisfied,
                    the sick healed,
                    the weeping comforted,
                    the needs of each
                             the concern of all . . .
                   the dignity and worth
                    of every human being
                             a given.

After his ascension,
his return to the one he called his Father,
Jesus sent his Holy Spirit
          to animate
          his disciples
                    to continue that mission,
          to guide them
          in living lives
                   conformed to the pattern of his life,
          to equip them
                   to draw others
                   into that life.
“Do not be conformed to this world,”
Paul writes,
“but be transformed by the renewing of your minds,
so that you may discern what is the will of God –
what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We have been baptized
into the glorious liberty
          of the children of God,
our minds renewed,
set free
from the skewed thinking
and false values
          of the dominant culture.

But this freedom of mind
must be continually nurtured
that we not unwittingly fall back
into the false expectations
          and promises of the world . . .
The transformation,
the ongoing renewing of our minds,
          so that we might meet any
                   new challenges
comes through
          to the Spirit’s
                   animating, guiding, equipping movement
created by a disciplined life,
the ongoing practices of discipleship . . .

The ongoing renewing of our minds
comes through
practicing our faith in community,
the church,
strengthened by Word and Sacrament
and by the gifts of each
          building up the capacity of the whole . . .
so that together we may discern and do
          what is the will of God –
“what is good and acceptable and perfect,”
          what leads the world on toward the kingdom.
This discipline is the ground
upon which we must stand firm
in this present age,
the power of evil
to divide, corrupt and destroy
          the children of God
has erupted
in the ugliness of the white supremacy fallacy;
in discriminatory speech and actions against
          people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people,
          Muslims, Jews;
in the nastiness
          that infects our public discourse
                   and sets us over against one another;
and the failure of so many of our elected leaders
          to lead us through and out of this morass.

Father Torvend
prepared for us a resource:
“Charlottesville, Resurgent White Supremacy,
          and Christian Commitments”
an insert in last week’s bulletin,
attached to this past Friday’s Weekly email
available on our website,
and in the entryway.
You can’t miss it.
In it he has given us
a Christian perspective,
a call to commitment to social justice,
          on ways we can
                   effectively respond
          to this present evil.
So let us be ready
in this time of trial,
and in whatever trials are to come,
with a readiness born
          of a disciplined life,
          the constant renewing of our minds,
          the transformation brought about
                    by self-examination and repentance
                             for our own participation
                                       in what ails our nation.

Let us attend
to the meaning of our words
and the witness of our lives,
for God’s kingdom is hastened
or hindered
          what we say,
                   what we refrain from saying,
          what we do
                   what we don’t do,
          what we choose,
                   what we reject,
          what we stand for,
                   what we stand against.
We belong
to the new age
which has come to birth in Christ,
          God’s kingdom,
and we must live in the present
          in the light
          of what is to come.
In all this
we look to Jesus
and his question,
“Who do you say that I am?
Our answer
will be the answer to this question:
Who do we say that we are?