Weekly Reflection (24th August 2020)
Good morning. How are you today? Once again, a very warm welcome to each of you as we share this short time together. I pray the past week had not been too cold for you. Hopefully this will be the last week of wintry weather for us. For those of you who enjoyed snow where you are, it is again a reminder of the beauty of winter. However, there are promising signs of spring as flower buds appear and more flowers starts to bloom. I look forward to spring and the easing of restrictions that has protected us in our state’s darkest days. May I begin with a prayer of Thanksgiving. It is a beautiful prayer of remembering God’s blessings in our lives.
Let us pray:
God of all blessings, source of all life, giver of all grace:
We thank you for the gift of life: for the breath that sustains life, for the food of this earth that nurtures life, for the love of family and friends without which there would be no life.
We thank you for the mystery of creation: for the beauty that the eye can see,
for the joy that the ear may hear, for the unknown that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder, for the expanse of space that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.
We thank you for setting us in communities: for families who nurture our becoming, for friends who love us by choice, for companions at work, who share our burdens and daily tasks, for strangers who welcome us into their midst, for people from other lands who call us to grow in understanding, for children who lighten our moments with delight, for the unborn, who offer us hope for the future.
We thank you for this day: for life and one more day to love, for opportunity and one more day to work for justice and peace, for neighbours and one more person to love and by whom be loved, for your grace and one more experience of your presence, for your promise: to be with us, to be our God, and to give salvation.
For these, and all blessings, we give you thanks, eternal, loving God, through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.[i]
The Prayer of the Week
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
Creator God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you: teach us to offer ourselves to your service, that here we may have your peace, and in the world to come may see you face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 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. 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.”
Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
But who do you say that I am?
Jesus asked this question of the disciples in the district of Caesarea Philippi. This is a beautiful place. It is in the wooded foothills of Mount Hermon. A spring of water comes out of a grotto creating a small stream that gives birth to the Jordan River. Its significance reaches back to Alexander the Great who established a temple to honour the Greek god of nature, Pan. Later it became a Roman imperial city, an administrative centre, renamed to honour Caesar Augustus.
Jesus travelled all the way north from Galilee, to the very edge of Israel, to an historic place that represented creation, pagan idolatry, and political power and only then asked his questions. “Who do people say that I am?” “Who do you say that I am?”
The options have not changed much over the years. Some say John the Baptist – an edgy religious teacher, a spiritual revolutionary. Others say Elijah – a miracle worker who channels the power of God. Still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets – one who speaks on God’s behalf to challenge both the people and their leaders. Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t disagree with any of that. But the real question is the one that follows. “But who do you say that I am?”
Now he gets personal. Standing there, so close to the earthly power centres of pagan religion, emperor worship, and political power, Jesus draws his line in the sand. He asks his disciples, and he asks us, “Who am I, to you?”
We only hear Peter’s response. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” You, not Caesar, are the chosen one, the anointed one, the Saviour, and Lord of all. You are the Son of the living God, not the ancient gods of nature who were so quick to bless earthly power, to welcome Caesars into their pantheon of divinity. Peter got it right.
Jesus quickly affirms Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.” That’s an interesting title. Remember Jesus’ words from verse 4 of this chapter? “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”
Today Jesus asks us, “Who am I to you?” Am I just a spiritual sideshow or Lord of your life? Am I a magician, a miracle worker, good only for your entertainment or perhaps your rescue? Or am I the embodiment of the living God? The Messiah who saves you from eternal condemnation to give you eternal life? The Lord of your life and Master of the Universe?
Martin Luther taught that anything we look to for status, identity, and security is our idol. Who will it be? An idol or living God? Caesar or Jesus? The gods of culture or the Lord of Creation? What will our answer be to Jesus who asks us everyday, “Who am I, to you?”
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, we don’t always, or even often, live out who you really are in our lives. Our vision is so easily clouded, eyes blinded and our ears dulled by the worldly voices that call for our allegiance and devotion. We need Peter’s insight that comes only from your Spirit, that we might declare, believe, trust, and follow you daily as our Master and Saviour. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.[ii]
The Morning Collect
Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are created and by whose love we are redeemed: guide and strengthen us by your Spirit, that we may give ourselves to your service, and live this day in love to one another and to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the Lord bless us and keep us; the Lord make his face to shine upon us, and be gracious to us; the Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace. Amen.[iii]
Thank you again for sharing this time together. Do have a safe and joyful week. May we not forget to praise God each day this week. Till we meet again here next Monday. God bless you and your loved ones.
[i] Vienna Cobb Anderson
[iii] Numbers 6.24–26