Who? Reflections - 8-23-17

 Texts for Sunday  August 27, 2017
 Twelfth Sunday after  Pentecost

 Isaiah 51:1-6
 Psalm 138
 Romans 12:1-8
 Matthew 16:13-20

Today’s Gospel text is called Peter’s Confession. This piece of scripture is foundational to the office of Pope – On this rock, I will build my church. And these verses are one of three places to which the church turns to validate the “Office of the Keys”. In this passage, the keys are given to Peter – and by extension then – to subsequent Popes; I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. But in the other two passages, it appears to be given to all disciples – and by extension – to the Church capital letter C. 

The “Office” is the authority Jesus gives to Peter and/or the Church, which has been variously understood and/or used over the years to codify interpretations of scripture, to set church dogma, to “loose” and “bind” sins, which has become to mean to forgive the sins of penitent sinners and to retain the sins of the impenitent for as long as they refuse to repent – and by extension - to admit or toss people from membership in the Church. So that is that.

This week, though, I’m interested in the part that comes before all that. One way to hear Jesus’ first question to the disciples in this text is “who are people saying that I am?” If the disciples can answer, then they must have been at a coffee klatch at some point where Jesus’ was a topic of conversation. This question wasn’t a systematic theology test of the disciples’ understanding of Jesus’ role in all eternity. Jesus wants the scuttlebutt. These days, he’d find it for himself on Facebook or Twitter or from the opinion page.

This made me ponder what people today are saying about Jesus… And how much disagreement there is on that…. And how bitter that disagreement is…. And how many people get hurt.

Some of the things you might hear:

Jesus is exclusionary – sinners need not apply if they do not repent completely (see the Office of Keys above) and become like “us” and lead a clean life… which like ours.

Jesus is pro-United States of America. We (being white people) are a Christian nation and hold a manifest destiny from God to take what we want. That means that Native Americas, other people of color, people of the Islamic faith, people wanting to move here from other countries to escape violence or poverty …. You, dear reader, can add to the list - who else?

Tied closely to that, Jesus blesses true believers with wealth and health. If you are neither wealthy or healthy, you are obviously not.

I admit I exaggerate. This feels like what I am hearing. Who are people saying I am?

You also could hear the exact opposite of everything listed above.

But, I also have to admit that by jamming these people all together into one, shall I say it, deplorable group, and feeling quite righteous about it, I’m not a rock worth building anything on.

Who do you say that I am?” asks Jesus. 

Love is greater than hate, Lord. Teach me to love.

Your comments are always welcome below.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245