8/22/99 P13A

“And Just Who Are You?”
Matthew 16: 13-20; Romans 12: 1-8

hat you say about me says more about you than it does about me. In our gospel reading, Jesus may have been wanting to know more about Peter than about what Peter, and the others, were saying about him. As we read the biographies of Christ, we cannot help but recognize that he was on a great mission and that he uniquely knew who he was and what he had to accomplish on his brief visit to earth. He was born to die that we might live, and he never wavered from his march toward Calvary.

But what about the twelve apostles? And the many thousands of disciples? What were they saying about his chances of pulling it off? Most seemed unaware of the significance of his: mission, message, and meaning; which were the motivating forces behind everything he moved toward. The French have a word for it, métier, which finds its origin in the Latin, ministerium, which means ministry, one’s calling, passion, forte or the goal that a person is living one’s life toward. Jesus, the divine Son of God, certainly had his motivation. Here he is attempting to find out if any of his friends and followers shared in his passion.

Peter, the bold one, spoke out with a daring declaration of faith, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” (Mt. v. 16). Who would have expected it from Peter; the uneducated, simple fisherman, who would later waffle in his faith while Jesus was in the trial that would lead to his death. All he seemed to have was a childlike faith, a simple trust in this carpenter from Nazareth. He had boldly walked on the water. I heard a preacher preach on that text just two Sundays ago. Can we forget how Peter nearly drowned when his will to water-walk failed? Then Jesus reached out his hand to him and rescued him.

And then we ask ourselves, could this be the point? Is weak, wavering, Peter the model for our own faith, and is this what it takes to begin this journey toward métier? Maybe its not so much how strong we are when we start the walk as it is that we are still walking at the finish line.

Could Jesus be trying to elicit some staggering statement of faith from us so that he can help us discover that we have begun the journey, or not? Is this the stuff that the Church is built upon? Could this be the bedrock, the foundation?

Initial faith is usually a time of self-discovery of just who we are in relation to the vast scope of history and the plan for the ages. It is finding our place in the mission of Christ. It involves the overwhelming realization that we are caught up in a mighty swirling windstorm of Grace that is sufficient to propel us to the goal line. It not only overflows in an awareness of who we are, but it gives us a vision of what we can become.

Who can deny that the most powerful force in the universe is found in the soul of a singular individual who is possessed by a greater vision and calling, and is this not the unique mark left by the folks who have built the Church of 2000-K?

Many of us recall the fantastic life of the late Bishop Arthur J. Moore who is said to have served as a church leader on all continents. After a youthful sowing of wild oats he was dramatically converted at a camp meeting altar in South Georgia. His life was completely turned around and he soon responded to the call to preach. He became an influential evangelist and was elected a bishop at an early age. As President of The Methodist Mission Board he was influential in extending the church into many new areas. In his autobiography he made the statement that, “God has always been faithful to set before me ever receding horizons.” He always said that whatever accolades people insisted in giving to him should be credited to that initial camp meeting faith experience in Waycross, Georgia. God not only gave him a new life and identity, but provided him with a share in the vision of Christ for his church.

Our Romans text points out that grace calls us, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” (v. 1). It goes on to say that all of us have some unique function to provide in the church. There is a place for each of us to serve. “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” (v. 6). The point being that no list could be long
enough to include all of the functional, productive, ways that we are able to contribute to the continual building up of Christ’s Church.

And thus, we are given keys to the kingdom. If we respond to God’s call we can unlock the doors and allow persons to come in; but likewise, if we do not respond we are contributing to keeping the doors, and influence of the church, locked up. Everyone of us, through our circle of influence and power of personality, hold a key that will assist or hinder someone.

Country churches used to always have trouble keeping up with the keys. It seemed that everybody had attained a set of keys at some point and that they would come and go as they pleased. It usually did not cause any trouble; in fact, many churches were not locked at all. One church in particular had the tradition of not locking any doors. That is, until a stern new pastor was assigned. After choir practice one Wednesday night one of the sisters went to the pastor’s study to phone her husband to pick her up. She found that the room with the only phone was locked. She did not know what to do so she went outside and sat on the curb and cried. Finally, her husband came. When he heard the story he got his tools and went to the locked pastor’s study and knocked the hinge pins out and removed the door. The door has never been seen again, and the preacher was moved at conference.

Just who are you? You are one who has spoken up with an affirmation of Christ as Lord of your life and you have followed his plan and vision for your life ever since. This new life has provided an identity and deep sense of mission for you. You are a keeper of the keys and a minister of His Good News!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

8/22/99 P13A