There have been several times when someone has come to church and one of the entrance doors has been left ajar or unlocked. It is imperative that whenever you leave the building that you check to see if all the doors are locked and latched. Please allow the door to shut and then gently pull on the doors to see that they are latched. Thank you.
Message by Pastor Pokora – August 23, 12th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Friday newspaper carried an article about Illinois’ Governor Pritzker and Iowa Govenor Reynolds and their unsuccessful and controversial efforts to stem the tide of coronavirus infections in both states.
Iowa certainly has its hand full dealing with the pandemic. The big issue right now is how to re-open schools this fall with either virtual or in person classes.
The struggles in Illinois and Iowa pale when compared to the endless controversies engulfing our national political scene in this election year. Charges and counter charges fly back and forth between the political parties and even within parties. Donald Trump tweets and is countered tweeted. What a chaotic political scene unfolds before our eyes.
Lately I find myself continually reading the news each morning about our state and national government, as the charges fly back and forth. I wonder who is telling the truth and who is trafficking in fake news. Often I wonder who these people in government are and where they come from and what they intend to do. I’m not sure what they are up to.
It is this personal sorting out process that underlies our gospel for this Sunday. Here we learn Jesus travels to the district of Caesarea Phillippi. Along the way he asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” This is no abstract inquiry. Jesus wants to know what people are saying about him and what expectations they have of him.
The disciples offer a mixed response. They says, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” In other words, ordinary people are unsure what to make of Jesus, though they recognize him as some sort of holy man.
Jesus, then, pursues a different line of questioning. He asks them, “But who do you say I am?” Now he gets up-front and personal. The Apostle Peter, who has never been afraid to take the bull by the horns, replies, “You are the messiah, the Son of the living God.” Bingo. He hits the nail on the head. He knows the true identity of Jesus. Jesus is the Messiah
Jesus affirms Peter’s response by saying, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” Here Jesus doesn’t play Alex Trebeck, asking Jeopardy style trivia questions. These are not questions for the sake of questions. In other words, Peter goes the heart of issue. God acts in Jesus. Jesus is no ordinary prophet or religious mystic or preacher. He is God’s Messiah sent to redeem the world and all humanity
Now Jesus turns the tables and focuses on the identity of Peter. Some people view Peter as little more than a poor fisherman, while others recognize him as a disciple. But he is more than that. Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” As most of us know, the name Peter means rock in Biblical Greek. He receives a new identity; he is the rock that nothing will defeat Peter. God has makes him strong. He will become the very foundation of the church.
Some people believe the church to be simply one well meaning organization among others. After all, churches dot street corners across our nations and around the world. But the church is more than a building with a steeple and an altar filled with do gooders. We recall what the Apostle Paul taught about the nature of the church in his letter to the Romans, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” To the Corinthians he says: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” The church is the body of Christ on earth. Through the church God redeems fallen humanity and renews creation.
With his new identity comes new responsibility. Jesus lays out that responsibility for Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The church acts in the place of Jesus. The mission and ministry of the church are not something dreamed up, but the extension of God’s purpose through us into this world.
We learn a great lesson from this story. Like the disciples, Jesus asks us who we believe him to be. We confess by faith that Jesus is the Christ sent to redeem us from us sin and grant us new life. Based on this confession of faith we acquire a new identity. We are children of God. And children of God, the Church in this age shall be built on us. We become the body of Christ in this world. God acts through us. We may question how Christ acts through us. Let me use this illustration from lore surrounding the great Polish pianist, Paderewski.
A mother hoped to encourage the piano skills of her young son. She bought two tickets to a Paderewski performance. When the night arrived, she found their seats near the front of the concert hall. They eyed the large Steinway placed by itself on the stage. Soon the mother discovered a friend to speak with and failed to notice her son slipped away.
When the recital was scheduled to begin, concert hall lights dimmed, the spotlights came on, the Steinway was bathed in light. Only then did this mother notice her son seated up on the piano bench. He began innocently to plunk the keys in a rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. The audience roared, his mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, Paderewski himself appeared and moved quickly towards the keyboard. “No, don’t quit, keep on playing,” he whispered to the boy. Reaching past him with his left hand, the Master began improvising a bass part, and then with his right hand, he reached around on the other side of the boy to add a running obbligato. The crowd was spell bound and the piece concluded to thunderous applause, as the boy announced, “I didn’t know I could do that.”
That is the way it is with us as the church. We look at what we can accomplish, and we are like the small boy sitting at the piano in the Paderewski concert. Our efforts seem insufficient and clumsy. But God sits beside us and creates an greater work, than anything we can achieve.
Today we celebrate our new identity as children of God. Like the Apostle Peter, we acquire that identity through our confession of Christ as Messiah. We act out of that new found identity. God does for us what he has done for the church through out history. He multiply our efforts, he leads us, empowers and inspires. May you in the week ahead daily confess Christ as Lord and may God multiply the good work you do.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Annual Delegate Assembly: The Annual Delegate Assembly is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, August 27th at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2601-15th St, Moline, IL 61265. Registration begins at 6:30 pm and the meeting will commence at 7:00 pm. The evening will include music, words of witness from our clients, and special reports.
Thank you for your contributions and support throughout the years!