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And Who Do You Say That He Is?

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Names and addresses for Sept 11 homecoming

Theme

We seek to know who Jesus was, who Jesus is, and who Jesus can be for us.

Prelude

Welcome

Call to Worship                        One:    We see Jesus as Mary’s son, as God’s holy Son.

All:      We see Jesus as the Christ of God, the way, the truth, the life.

One:    We open our ears to hear his call, “Follow me!”

All:      Christ, we are yours; we give ourselves to you.

*Hymn of Praise                       # 62     “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”

Invocation        (the Lord’s Prayer)       O Jesus of Nazareth, who do we say that you are? A prophet? A teacher? A healer? A performer of miracles? You are all these, and beyond all these. You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, eternal One. You are the Lord. Guide us into abundant life in you. Help us to worship you in spirit and truth.

Gloria Patri

Our  Offering to God                Come, let us bring our offering to the living God.

Doxology

Prayer of Dedication                 Loving God, may these gifts be used to enable others to come to know Jesus Christ as your Son, as their friend, and as their Lord and Savior. May our offerings reflect the compassionate spirit of Jesus, so that others may see your love in us. Amen.

Scripture Reading                     Romans 12:1–8

*Hymn of Prayer                      We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise (insert)

Pastoral Prayer                         Lord, in so many ways you reveal yourself to us, though we do not always recognize you. We yearn to learn more about you through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for the witness and testimony of others. Open our hearts and minds to know more about your action in our lives each day. Enable us to see you more clearly in order that we might follow your Son more nearly.

O God, we know that many people around the world find it hard to believe that there is a God, given the oppression and deprivations in their lives. Some would turn away and reject you, Jesus Christ, because they have not yet found love and care in your church.  Take our lives this day, O God. Transform us into those who are your living witnesses, that all may know your grace through us.    Hear our prayers for others now, that they may be held close to your heart, never doubting that you are waiting to hold and heal all that is precious to them.  The people pray

Spread your justice and peace like a cloud of love around these people, O God. May they know that you will never leave them nor forsake them, Holy Spirit. Turn our eyes towards you, Jesus Christ. Give us glimpses of your divine life as we tread this earth.

*Hymn of Praise                       # 201   “Built on a Rock”

More often than not, finding the hymn that is just right for a particular occasion requires a fair amount of pondering, leafing through hymnals, and imagination. Such is the case with today’s texts, which offer several directions.

Nikolai Grundvig’s “Built on a Rock,” set to the tune KIRKEN DEN ER ET GAMMELT HUS by Ludvig Lindeman, opening line echoes precisely Jesus’ words to Peter in the gospel lesson, while the remainder of the hymn reflects ideas presented in the Romans text.

Scripture Reading                     Matthew 16:13–20

Message            And Who Do You Say That He Is?

Sermon Summary It is good to know what others believe about Jesus, but it is more important for us to know what we believe about Jesus, and how he is the Christ for u     

In a sense, it was like a final exam. The course work of Discipleship 101 had been completed. All that remained was for Jesus to test what the disciples had learned over the past three years. There were only a couple questions. One sounded a bit like multiple-choice; the other was an essay question. The first question required research. The second was based on the disciples' own understanding and experience.

Jesus asked, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Then Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?"

Jesus and his disciples had traveled to Caesarea Philippi in northernmost Israel, away from the distractions and confusion of Jerusalem. Jesus confronted his "students" with the question about the identity of "the Son of Man," Jesus' favorite term for himself as reported in Matthew. The disciples offered a series of possibilities pulled from tradition and from the past. These disciples, who had heard Jesus preach and teach, heal and feed, sought to explain Jesus by pigeonholing him into past identities brought back to life. They reported that some thought he was John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.

When Jesus asked the disciples for their own assessment of who he was, Simon Peter ventured a reply: "You are the Christ."  //////         You can imagine how the other disciples might have reacted to exuberant Peter. He had popped up with the right answer before anyone else. // That "good answer" was rewarded with a blessing. Jesus proclaimed that Peter would hold a special place in the life of the church.

Jesus asks us, too, "Who do you say that I am?" Everything we might have learned or will ever learn hangs on how we answer this. In a way, one's whole life comes down to this question.

When he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Matthew tells us that when the parade had caught the attention of the religious pilgrims who were there for the Feast of the Passover, the crowds began to ask one another, "Who is this?" Some of the crowds offered an answer: "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee" (Mt 21:10-11). It was their inability to correctly answer the question, "Who is this?" that led some to brand him as a common criminal while others lauded him as the Christ.

In spite of the centrality of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, what it says in the prologue to the Gospel of John is still true: "He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him" (Jn 1:10). Similarly, Jesus Christ is in his church, and the church came into being through him; yet the church does not know him well either. We talk about Jesus, sing about him, watch movies about him, teach our children about him, tell our children how much he loves them, and offer prayers in his name - even praying the prayer he taught us - and yet too few really know who Jesus is.

Too few know what happened between "born of the Virgin Mary" and "suffered under Pontius Pilate." M. Scott Peck has called Jesus "the best-kept secret of Christianity." There are some popular books that suggest that all of us need to have a new encounter with Jesus: Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew and Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Those two titles pretty well say it for us. Some of us really never knew Jesus. We may need to meet him again as if we are meeting him for the first time.

A couple things are worth noting about this question that Jesus asked the disciples. The timing was crucial. He did not give a quiz the first day they came together. He did not ask them what they thought of him when he recruited them, when they registered for Discipleship 101. He simply said, "Follow me." I doubt if any two of the original twelve had the same reasons for following Jesus. They may have followed out of boredom with their lives, or fascination with Jesus' new teachings, or simply out of curiosity. It was only after they had spent time with Jesus that they were called upon to make up their minds about him.

As in any personal relationship, our perceptions may change. Our understanding of who Jesus is should reflect a progressive, dynamic relationship. It requires time for us to come to know Jesus.    - William M. Schwein

It is after living with Discipleship 101 and maybe a few higher number courses that we are able to apply the Romans passage to our lives./////

High-tech hobbyists are now cruising the streets, looking for wireless networks and the information that hums across them, called War drivers — the legal ones at least — are quick to say that they’re “just looking” at the availability of wireless networks and the information that hums across them. If you think about it, that’s a good metaphor for the way that most people in our culture treat their spiritual lives. Rather than landing in one spot or another, many people roam the airwaves and byways looking at an ever-increasing number of spiritual options that pop up on the map. They have the world at their fingertips but can’t find a place to belong. They process lots of information, but experience very little transformation.
In Romans 12, Paul encourages his readers to stop driving around the existential block looking for meaning and instead locate in a very specific network neighborhood. He urges the Romans to no longer conform to the wandering patterns of the world but instead “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (12:1).
In other words, Paul is telling them to “park it” — that true worship and spiritual living are not about a search for “what’s in it for me” but more about where we locate ourselves in relationship to the structuring power of God’s grace and love.
We make a connection with God through our willingness to present ourselves fully to God — our thoughts, our actions, our desires, our whole personhood. You might say that true worship, according to Paul, is really “logging in” to what God is doing in the world and putting ourselves under the authority of one divine network administrator. In doing so, we move away from the constant desire for more information to satisfy our intellectual and spiritual searching and instead begin to experience real transformation. Rather than seeking to fill our own needs, we instead seek out and “discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect” (12:2).
A big part of that transformation involves moving from being “war-driven” to “we-driven.” As we put ourselves under God’s authority and leadership, we begin to move away from a focus on our individual lives and move toward a vision of the larger network — the family of God into which we have been adopted by God’s grace through Jesus Christ (8:12-17). Being part of that larger family network gives us all equal access to the love of God and thus we cannot “think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (12:3).
In a culture that is individually focused and consumer-driven, it’s easy for churches and the Christians that comprise them to lose sight of the fact that we are designed for and find our purpose in a larger network. Churches themselves can become isolated networks through which individuals “war drive” in order to get what they think they’re looking for. Brian McLaren, in his book A Generous Orthodoxy says that churches can become “gatherings of self-interested people who gather for mutual self-interest — constantly treating the church as a purveyor of religious goods and services, constantly shopping and ‘trading up’ for churches that can ‘meet my needs’ better.”
Paul would say that there’s no such thing as drive-by Christianity. We are not individual “nodes,” each operating independently and surfing the airwaves for meaning and purpose for our individual lives. For Paul, meaning and purpose are found in the midst of our relationship to God and others. Each individual matters, and the “user” finds his or her place within the larger network.
Paul calls this network “the body of Christ” in which there are many members having different functions but are individually “members one of another” (12:4-5). The overarching protocol of this body life network is unity of purpose and relationship to Christ. Thus, each individual is given access to “gifts” that are to be used for the benefit of the larger body and not for their own personal advancement or gain. To put it another way, individual Christians are not the “end users” of these gifts — God’s grace and love comes through us and our spiritual gifts on its way to someone else.
One of the keys to the functioning of the larger network, then, is for each member to discover and live out the gifts that God has given them. Paul lists several in verses 6-8: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, compassion. The list isn’t supposed to be exhaustive. In fact, Paul discusses spiritual gifts in more detail in 1 Corinthians 12:4-30.
What’s clear is that no matter what the gift is — whether it’s private or public, big or small, upfront or behind the scenes — every Christian is gifted for something that will benefit the larger body. The network is not dependent on just a few IT (inspiration technology) professionals like clergy to make things work. It takes the whole body, working together, to achieve the larger purpose of representing God’s presence and power in the world. Part of our responsibility is to use whatever gift we have for the glory of God and the good of our fellow humans.
Paul’s emphasis on “presenting our bodies” and being part of the body has implications for our individual churches as well as the individuals within them. Not only do we see our individual lives as having significance and giftedness in order to benefit the larger network (which we call the church), but we must also see our churches as having significance and giftedness in order to benefit a still larger network (which we call the kingdom of God).
What would happen if we saw our fellow churches, who may differ from us in polity and practice, not as “the competition” or a collection of vastly separate networks but instead sought out a deeper connection with each other in the name of Christ? What if each church identified what its collective best “gifts” were and used them collectively to benefit the whole community?
What would happen if in our churches, instead of expressing our primary focus as “meeting people’s needs,” we saw our missional priority as helping people discover and live out God’s purpose for their lives?
What if, instead of “attracting” more people through marketing, we put our emphasis on getting people connected to using their God-given gifts in the service of others?
Perhaps there would be fewer “holy hobbyists” war driving from church to church and more people transformed and transforming the world around them.
*Hymn of Response  # 435     “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

*Sending forth              We are Christ’s body, and individually members of one another. This identity does not cease when we exit these doors and disperse to our individual lives. We are united in ministry, even as we are sent to serve. We are equipped with unique gifts of the Spirit — generosity, compassion, leadership, teaching and countless others. And we are called to proclaim the crucified and risen Christ. Go from this place committed to use your gifts to the glory of God. And know that the triune God goes with us. Amen.

*Postlude

Thought for the Day

When Jesus asks me, “Who am I?” I know that it is not enough for me simply to say, “You are the Christ of God.” The answer must become contemporary.

– D. T. Niles

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