Sermon for Sunday, 21st August 2011 (Ninth Sunday after Trinity/Proper 16)

Aug 19th, 2011 | By | Category: Sermons

“But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

We expect the actions of those in in public life to match their words: it was the message of our general election campaign in the spring and that expectation has become clear as we approach the presidential election this autumn, but if we’re going to apply these standards to public life, then must we not also apply them to ourselves? Does the way that we personally speak, the way we behave, the way we live our lives, match the words we say?

“But who do you say that I am?” asks Jesus

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Every Sunday we come to church and we profess the same faith as Peter. We stand and we join in the Creed and we recite the words that have been recited by countless generations. But when the people in the outside world look at us, what difference do they see? What evidence is there that words are matched by actions? What evidence is there that our faith has integrity?

Peter makes his profession of faith in verse 16 and if we read on to verse 24 we see that Jesus warns that if anyone says what Peter says then they are going to be expected to live up to what they say. There’s no option to say one thing and to do another. If what you do doesn’t match what you say, then you don’t get on the team. Verse 24 says,  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. That’s fairly clear and unmistakable, no option there to be a Christian on a Sunday morning and do what we like the rest of the time.

Claiming to be Christians, saying to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” must mean accepting that he must come first, regardless of whatever priorities we might have ourselves.   If our life is centred on God, then all our priorities will be the right priorities, we will get a right perspective on things and live our life to its full potential.

Jesus makes no promise to the disciples that everything will always go well or that life will always be easy, acknowledging him as the Messiah is not a magic formula that will make all our troubles go away. The teaching that being a Christian can mean expecting to become rich and successful is simply not found in the teaching of Jesus. The ‘prosperity theology’ taught by some of the new churches, the preaching that believing in God will make you wealthy is not something you will find in the New Testament. All of us know that doing the Christian thing is sometimes the hardest choice. Jesus’ promise is not about wealth or success, it is about choosing the way of doing things that is right for our long-term welfare, it is about choosing a way where life has a direction and a purpose, and where it does not end at a graveside.

What Jesus promises to Peter is the keys to the kingdom of heaven; what better offer could anyone ever receive?  Yet, given the best offer there is, how often do we still make other choices? When the best is on offer to us it doesn’t make sense to choose anything else, but we do.

How often do our actions match our words? How often do we sound like politicians whose governance of the country is very far from the words of their manifesto? How many of us can honestly put our hands on our hearts and say that our faith is at the top of our list? Do the things that Jesus asks of us really take first place in our thinking? Being honest, aren’t we very lukewarm? There is always something that seems more attractive, something that seems more important, something else we feel that we need to do.

Jesus offers the way to the kingdom of heaven, yet we have chosen very different ways.  It was said that during the years of the economic boom,  during the time of the so-called Celtic Tiger that Ireland’s new found wealth had caused the country to lose its soul. Now that much of the wealth has disappeared like the fairy gold in some legendary story, there is not much sign that our national soul has been found again.

But can we stand in judgment on national and public life if we too have drifted from our faith, if matters of the soul have been relegated to the point where our social life and all our other considerations take priority over spiritual things. What is the point of having everything, yet losing our soul?

But who do you say that I am?” asks Jesus

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Do our lives match the words of Peter? When we look around us, at our political and public life, we expect to see integrity, we expect actions that match words, but do we see integrity when we look into our own hearts? When we stand to say the Creed let’s think about our own life in the week ahead, will our actions match our words?

“But who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks us. How are we going to answer him?




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  1. I believe The Lord Jesus Christ is God, The Son of God, and The Messiah; as clearly taught in The Bible. The stakes are too high to be wrong about this.

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