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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost, 2018

Proverb 1:20-33, Psalm 19, James 3:1-12, Mark 8:27-38
“Who Are You, Jesus?“

Today’s Gospel reading begins with Jesus’ questions to His disciples. 
The first one was “Who do people say that I am?” and the next one was “Who do you say that I am?”  These questions, in a sense, serve as the midway ‘Hinge Point’ in the Gospel of Mark.  Before this, Jesus travelled across Galilee and into the Gentile territories.  From here, the geography and theology move toward Jerusalem.  Then he went the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was arrested by the Temple guards of the Sanhedrin, put on trial, and was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate. 

This is the first of the three “Passion Predictions” in Mark’s Gospel. 
We have a question here.  Why did Jesus ask His disciples about both others’ and their understanding upon His identity before telling them of His suffering and death? 
-       Actually, He was asking His people whether they knew of His true identity and purpose driven life.  In other words, He asked them the reason why they followed Himself. 
-       He was also asking them to know of who they were and what their purpose of life was. 

I wonder how many of you have watched the movie, “Dances With Wolves?” 
I remember some interesting names in the movie: Stands with a Fist, Wind in his hair, Kicking bird, Smile a lot, etc.  Think about a dialogue between Kevin Costner, who was named ’Dances with Wolves,’ and Mary Eileen, who acted as ‘Stands with a Fist’. 
-       Kevin says, “How did you get your name? 
-       Mary answers, “When I came to live on the prairie, I worked very hard every day.  There was a woman who did not like me.  She called me bad names and sometimes beat me.  One day when she was calling me a bad name, I hit her.  I was not very big, but she fell down.  She fell hard and did not move.  I stood over her with fist and asked if any other woman wanted to call me bad names.  No one bothered me after that day.   

Now we understand why she was called ‘Stands with a Fist. 
When calling her ‘Stands with a Fist,’ or hearing her name called, everyone might guess her relationship with others, or her behavior pattern, and how she was treated in society.  Every one of us has our own name.  I do not know its meaning exactly until you tell me about it, but I am sure that you guess the meaning of other’s name or their family background / history.  In a word, our names show others who we are.  At the same time, they tell us who we should be and what we should do. 

My first name is ‘KUN’ which means ‘LOCK.’ 
Once I asked my father why he named me ‘KUN- LOCK?’ 
He said, “I hoped you would be a person having a strong mind.”  However, apart from my father’s expectations or desire for me, I do not think I am a strong-willed man, so whenever I think about my name, I say, “Oh, father possessed the gift of foresight.”  Furthermore, I am trying to live up to his expectations. 

What is the meaning of the name, ‘JESUS?’ 
Think about the Annunciation in Matthew.  As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And she will have a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’  Jesus’ name is just like saying, “Jehovah Saves” or “Savior.” 

I sometimes sing this gospel song at Nursing Homes. 
Jesus, you are the sweetest name of all.
Jesus, you always hear me when I call.
Oh, Jesus, you pick me up each time I fall,
you’re the sweetest, the sweetest name of all. 

The angel told Joseph to name his son ‘Jesus’ in order to let him know who his son should be. 
Of course, the name “Jesus’ was quite common in first-century Galilee.  That is why few people might think about its meaning seriously.  What was the disciples’ understanding about Jesus?  There’s a couple of ways we could think about their understandings. 
1)     They might not understand its meaning. 
2)     Or they knew about it, but they might accept its meaning as they wished.  This is more reasonable than the first one when we think about Peter’s confession.  He said, “You are the Christ,” which means ‘the anointed One, the promised Messiah.’ 

The trouble is, heads and bodies do not always see eye to eye. 
To give us its reason, the author of Marks’ Gospel tells us where they were.  It was not in in the temple of Jerusalem, but in the village of Caesarea Philippi.  The village was named after Augustus Caesar and Herod Philip.  It contained a marble temple dedicated to Augustus.  It was a place dedicated to the glory of Rome.  The citizens of Caesarea Philippi often said, “Caesar is lord.” 

In a word, their eyes wandered towards worldly success regardless of their status. 
Not only Peter but also other disciples might be accustomed to judging people / things by the worldly standard.  They were accustomed to Caesarea Philippi life style.  Therefore, I do not think that they could understand Jesus’ suffering or accept His way.  From their perspective, Jesus’ teaching must have seemed tiny and insignificant.  That is why Peter began to rebuke Jesus whom he called ‘The Christ.’ 

They might have expected that Jesus would construct a village named like “Caesarea Jesus,” because the most dominant expectations of Messiah at this time involved One who would deliver the land from Roman rule.  Often this Figure was linked to the line of David. 

This is the Apostle Creed. 
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.  I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.”  Why do you recite the Creed?  Because it is a part of worship service?  No, that is not the answer.  We are determined to declare that we are Christians and Jesus is the Lord in everyday life when reciting the Creed. 

There is an interesting story related to this. 
A young Christian professor told an elderly professor of his anxiety how to show his faith in the classroom.  The elderly professor smiled and answered, “Oh, don’t you worry about it, man!  When I enter the classroom, I usually try hiding my faith.”  The attitude of the old professor is no different to Peter’s case.  The classroom was a Caesarea Philippi for him.  Jesus rebukes Peter and also the old professor and said, “Get behind me, Satan!  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 

Do you remember this passage from John’s Gospel? 
1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  10) He came into the very world He created, but the world did not recognize Him.”  In other words, John says, “In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.  10) He came into the very world He created, but the world did not recognize nor understand the very true meaning of the name ‘Jesus’.” 

One thing we should pay attention to is that Peter did not keep anxiety in his heart but took issue with it.  Is it a good attitude or not?  I do not think that it is good.  He should consider the meaning of the name ‘Jesus’ again seriously, but he did not.  That is why he began to rebuke Jesus the Lord.  The word ‘Rebuke’ means ‘To fix the valuation.’  Peter wanted to impose his views on his master, Jesus because he clung to the culture of Caesarea Philippi. 

Jesus also rebuked him not just to blame him but to open his eyes to see Himself properly / to understand His name and accept it properly because Peter was His man on whose confession He will build His church. 
In verses 35-37, Jesus talks about the matter of saving life and losing it. 
The root of the word ‘Life - Psuche’ in Greek, involves ‘SELF.’  We can read a strong sense of paradox in Jesus’ teaching.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” 

Jesus redefines both Messiah and disciple in this passage.  
To be a follower is not simply to name Jesus with a correct title.  The text implies danger in the hard consequences of following in the way of Jesus, who announces suffering for self and crosses for disciples.  However, we come to know how glorious it is when we know His name and use it as His people.  We read a familiar example in the book of Acts. 

When a lame man at the gate of the temple asked Peter and John for some money, Peter said to him, “I do not have any silver or gold for you, but I will give you what I have.  In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk.” 
-       Then, the lame man jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk. 
-       He walked, leaped, and praised God and went into the Temple with Peter and John. 
-       All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. 

Psalmist says, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.   

We do not have to worry about what others think about Jesus. 
It is each and every one of us to whom Jesus says, “Who do you think that I am?” because He wants us to know the meaning of His name, ‘Jesus,’ have our own testimony of Him, and use His powerful name for those around us, so that they may see and proclaim God’s glory with us. 

We are called God’s blessing!  Amen. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

The First Sunday In Lent, March 9, 2014

The First Sunday In Lent, March 9, 2014
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7;     Psalm 32 (p. 742, Green);     Romans 5:12-19;     Matthew 4:1-11
Sermon – First and Second

Let us pray:  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

1 – The First Man

Lent is a time for review, and so here goes.

Today from the Bible we read again where all our problems began, in the Garden, with a man and a woman, and a serpent.  It is otherwise known as “The Problem Of Evil”.  Our reading doesn’t answer the question of “where” evil came from (the serpent already had its evil designs), but it does answer the question of our human part in it.  The Garden was a place of peace until…until the events described in today’s reading.

To summarize, God gives into Adam’s care the commandment
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
Adam has transferred the knowledge of this commandment to Eve who refers to it as given to both:
“We may eat…but God said, ‘You (plural) shall not eat…”
The serpent questions the commandment, and then denies the consequence of death for those who eat the forbidden fruit.  The serpent contradicts God.  Then, with Adam standing by, the one into whose care God first gave the commandment, Eve took the fruit and ate, gave some of it to Adam, and he ate it too.  Human sin entered the world, and the die was cast.

Denying truth and betraying God.  That’s where it all began, and the infection of sin took root in the human race, of which we are members.

So far, not good.  In today’s diagram we see the shadow of sin cast over a growing human race.

But wait, there is hope.  There is the possibility of the forgiveness of sin when we confess them to the Lord.  So says the Psalmist.  God is evidently a God who loves us, One in whom forgiveness dwells.  But the infection is still there.  What to do in the long run?

2 – The Second Man

Enter God’s solution:  Jesus and the Cross.  For centuries the people of Israel had understood the principle of sacrifice for sins.  They practiced the sacrifice of animals as an acknowledgement of their guilt and as a turning to God for mercy.  In the forgiveness which God offered, something had to die that sin might die.

This, of course, is the essence of what God the Father accomplished through His Son, Jesus.  Jesus has taken upon Himself the sin of the world, has taken it to the grave where it has died with Him, once and for all.  For those who look to Jesus as their sacrifice, that death of sin applies to them.  But there is more.  The One who was sacrificed for our sin was raised from the grave to a newness of life.  Sin in dead.  Christ is alive.  In that new life Jesus continues His work in the hearts of the faithful that the “leftovers” of sin in our personal lives might gradually be purged from us.  That process is called “discipleship”, and our exploration of that must wait for another sermon or two!

3 – Comparing The Two

St. Paul summarizes the story in this way:
18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)

In our reading from Matthew’s Gospel Jesus illustrates this obedience.  In answer to the devil’s temptation Jesus makes these affirmations:
1.  We live, not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
2.  We are not to put God to the test.
3.  We are to worship the Lord our God, and serve only him.

Trust and obedience in the will of God.  Note how these affirmations are the very ones that Adam and Eve failed to uphold.  In Jesus, we are back to the rules of the Garden.  For those who receive Jesus and the work of His Cross, we are back in Eden.  What a transfer!

In our diagram, we see illustrated the light of the Cross.  Those who trust in Christ are living in the triangle.  As the human race increases, so does the triangle.  I want you to note, however, that at the end of history, there are still those who have not bowed in obedience to the Lord God.  It is a tragic fact spoken of in the Book of Revelation.
“As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
The point is, all who are “in Christ” shall be made alive.  To receive Him is to receive life.  To refuse Him is to remain with Adam and Eve in the shadow of sin, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a)

But let’s finish that verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans:
“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

The urging of the season of Lent is to walk in Jesus, the Light of the World.  There we find all blessing and the solution to every and all sin.  May this season confirm in us our need for Jesus, and the healing, glorious presence of Jesus in our lives.