Sermons by The Rev. Carenda Baker
People were saying all kinds of things about Jesus. People always have, and will continue to say all sorts of things about Jesus. The disciples report on the word from the street. “Some say you’re John the Baptist, come back to life. Others think you’re the great prophet Elijah, returned. And some others think you are another in the line of our great prophets.” All their answers suggest that most Galileans think Jesus is the forerunner of the Messiah. That’s a safe bet. It’s easier to believe a Messiah will come, than to believe one has come. A Messiah yet to come makes no demands, calls for no change. Jesus listens, just taking in the disciples’ report. Then he looks at them and says, “But who do you say that I am?” Can’t you just see it? The disciples’ heads all drop, eyes to the ground, and they intently begin to study their feet. No one wants to be the first to make eye contact with Jesus. Well, there always comes a time when what other people think and say is just not enough. It’s Peter who finds his voice. He has allowed God to show him in his soul who Jesus is, so he breaks the awkward silence and speaks his truth: “You are the Messiah”.
The God who is Love acts – to liberate and save, forgive and heal, acts to empower us to join God in creating that future where everything finally will be reconciled and made whole. So let’s take a look at the condition of our own Christ garment. Where is it frayed, wearing thin, or maybe even starting to tear? Perhaps you are in need of liberation from something that’s dragging you down, holding you back from mirroring Christ’s love. Maybe you have difficulty accepting the fact that God believes you are worth saving. Or maybe there is a situation, a sin, a habit with which we repeatedly wrestle. Perhaps we need assurance of forgiveness and the courage and faith with God’s help, to begin again. Maybe there are tender wounded places in us that need healing, which we keep well hidden. Most of us will have at least one situation where we need the Spirit’s help to put love into action, to let Christ’s light shine through us.
It is a courageous act of civil disobedience that helps change the tide of history. They are the first two links in a chain of many people who will eventually be lead out of slavery and oppression in Egypt by Moses. Liberation starts here, with two women willing to say “no” to an act of cruelty and injustice.
Jesus made an audacious living promise to the disciples. It still sparks hope, leaves us breathless and wondering – could this be true? In these few words of John’s gospel is the pearl of promise pointing to how we can claim a full life in the face of the fear, terror, panic, isolation, loss, and grief that comes to us. The strain and struggle that comes to us simply from living, that comes simply from the very nature of our being alive in this world.
For the sake of our 21st century reality, let’s for a moment write ourselves into Jesus’ story – taking the place of the wounded man, lying by the side of the road. Now ask yourself this question: who is the person that you would rather die than have come help you in a time of need? And who is the person or group whose members would rather die than stop and help you? This is a tough and provocative question, to be sure. Here are just a few possibilities: Imagine an Israeli Jewish man is robbed, and a good Hamas Palestinian member saves his life. A liberal Democrat is robbed, and a good conservative Republican who supports the NRA saves her life. A white supremacist is robbed, and a good black, inner city teenager saves his life. A transgender woman is robbed, and a good anti- LGBTQ activist from Westboro Baptist Church saves her life. .
Jesus offers us God’s invitation to take a different road. Losing life to find life. It’s not a very heavily traveled road because it is difficult, and yet at the same time wondrous. The unexpected lies just beyond each bend – things like grace, beauty, forgiveness, community.
One major key to finding this real relationship with God through Christ which John’s gospel offers us is the practice of ABIDING. . . Learning to abide is about allowing the Spirit to teach us how to live and walk through the full spectrum of life’s tensions – hanging in there with God while God continues to stay with and hold onto us, loving us for now and always.
When we receive bread and cup, we are taking the essence of Jesus, the self-giving life of Jesus into ourselves. St. Augustine would hold up the bread and cup at the Eucharist and say: “See what you are. Become what you see.” Today we would say – We become what we eat – we become Christ’s body and blood – a real presence, with life-giving power.
There is an adult formation series being offered at St. Andrew’s currently, called “Embracing an Adult Faith”.
I invite you to imagine in your mind’s eye that we are all together, just like we are this morning, and we find ourselves facing a wide stream in front of us that runs clear and swift and sparkling. At first it looks like it might be easy to wade in and cross the stream, but once we’re in it, it sweeps us off our feet by its sheer flowing power.