As we start off this morning, I want you to find a blank corner of your bulletin or the hymn sheet and scriptures, and I want you to write on that corner one thing that you are personally good at. What is one thing that you know how to do and do fairly well.
Turn to one other person and share what that one thing is that you are good at doing and sometime recently when you got to use that skill or talent.
Thank you all for sharing! We will turn back to those slips of paper in just a moment, but for now, will you pray with me?
This past Wednesday night during our weekly communion service, we wrestled a bit with our gospel lesson from this morning. Who do YOU say Jesus is? How would you describe him to friends or neighbors?
We talked about our various answers, we had communion and sang and headed home… but one lingering thought has been stuck with me ever since.
This question – “Who do you say that I am?” comes up in two different gospels. Here and in Mark. In Mark, Peter gets the answer right, but is almost immediately berated because he challenges Jesus – he doesn’t want Jesus to suffer and die.
But here, Peter is praised. God bless you, Simon bar Jonah! You are my rock, petra, Peter and on you I will build my church.
The difference between these two is striking. The two gospel passages recount the exact same event, but with very different outcomes. So there is something deeper going on here… the passage is not just telling us about a conversation that took place. It wants to teach US something about how we respond.
In Mark, Peter hears about the plans of God and immediately rejects them. He wants to do it his way, with his idea of success. He already has it all figured out in his mind, and Jesus is getting in the way.
But in Matthew’s gospel, Peter doesn’t even get that chance. Jesus immediately turns to him and says – yep, you are right, that is who I am…. Now let me tell you who you are… really are.
What Matthew does here is share with us a timeless truth… when we meet Jesus face to face – when we recognize who he truly is… then we understand who we are and what we have to offer at the same time. We begin to see how everything we have and everything we are fits into God’s plans.
Last week, in Romans, we talked some about the vine and the branches. The branches have no identity outside of their core, their roots. So as soon as we know who we are connected to, Jesus Christ – we know what we are supposed to do.
I want you to find that piece of paper that you wrote on this morning. It might describe some kind of talent or skill, something you trained long and hard to learn, a gift that came naturally for you. Whatever it is, it is something you see within yourself.
Hanging on to that word or phrase, I want you to hear what Paul writes to us from Romans chapter 12.
You see… he continues his message from last week about what it means to be connected to Jesus Christ.
Hear these words from the Message translation:
Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
This slip of paper does not represent something that you own or possess or even have control of. It represents something that God has given to you. It represents a part of God’s plan for this world. It represents one way in which the Body of Christ, the church, is called to share the love of God.
If you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
We are the body of Christ. We are his living, breathing, hands and feet in this world. In everything you do… let God’s will shine through.