Proper 16a 2014: Face to Face

Exodus 1:8-2:10,  Matthew 16:13-20

We are in a time of transition. There was creation, and it was good. There was an ark, tevah, built, lined with bitumen and pitch. We are in the time of transition in our bible story, from Genesis, in which there was creation and it was good, and Exodus, in which there was creation and it was good. In Genesis there was an ark, tevah, lined with bitumen and pitch; in Exodus there is an ark, tevah, lined with bitumen and pitch. Our ancient ears recognize the similarity of the words and images. An ark called a tevah exists in two places in Scripture: in Genesis, for the ark which saved human and animal-kind, and in Exodus, for the basket/ark which saved Moses.
Now hear the similarity: there was a creation of the world, and it was good. There was a creation of a baby, and it (creation) was good. There was a saving of the world through Noah. There will be a saving of the people of Israel through the leadership of Moses. Moses will lead the people out of slavery under the Egyptians in Israel. Today we hear about the creation, the beginning of the salvation story of the people of Israel. All of it, all of creating and saving and being, is done at the hand of God; at the hand of God, not at our hand or wish or power. Right now, at this moment, there is not an exodus. There is slavery, cruelty, hard labor, infanticide.

There were also some women at this time, women who “feared their God.” Midwives. Shiphrah and Puah. We know their names. We do not know the name of the Pharaoh, a man of very high power, but we know the names of these women. These women by their actions defy the word of their king in order to obey their God. (They teach us so well.) They know to fear God more than pharaoh, and they are obedient to what God is calling them to do. Shiphrah and Puah, under threat of their lives, follow God’s will. In doing so, they become part of creation, a new creation in the history of Israel, a new world in the flight from slavery, a new start in a journey that will take a very long time.

Through the words of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks the question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The phrase “Son of Man” is a loaded one, but in other ways, this is a generic question. From the old rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar (remember that, anyone),” Jesus is asking “What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening.” What are “they” saying is a safe question, rather unpersonal. We know what we’ve heard: you are … John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

The next question is personal: “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter – showoff – loving, impetuous, present-in-this-moment Peter waves his arms (I made up that part; we don’t know what he did with his arms) and says “I know!” “I know!” “You, Jesus, are the Messiah!”

Our knowledge of Jesus just moved from the generic to the very specific. It is one thing to say that Jesus is someone we already know about, someone fairly safe, a generic sort of prophet. It is quite another thing to be face to face with Jesus and say: “you are the Messiah,” the one whom John the Baptist foretold, the one for whom the world has been waiting. “You, Jesus, are he, and you are right here in front of me.”

What does life look like now? (silence)

God transformed the midwives Shiphrah and Puah that they might change the course of the world. God through Jesus transformed Peter that he might be the foundation of the church. What does life look like here at St. Peter’s when we not only join in the presence of our risen Savior but look Jesus face to face and declare him to be so? What does life look like now?

God transforms us. God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit transforms us. We become part of creation when we follow God’s will for ourselves and for this community. We change the course of the world when we say “yes” to transformation, “yes” to proclaiming Jesus as our Lord and Savior, “yes” to building upon the bedrock that is the church.

The next level of the question is this: who do you say that Jesus is? Not in a generic way or in the way that we proclaim or that your family says or your church says or the creeds say; but who do you say that Jesus is? Think about that, if you will in the next moments, and in the next week. The answer matters. The answer matters because Jesus really is the Son of God, every day. He is not John the Baptist, not Elijah, not Jeremiah, not some other prophet, but the one God sent to us that we might have life. Our confession, our creed of faith matters not for Jesus’ sake, but for our sake (David Lose). Jesus died for our sake. Jesus rose again for our sake, that we might live.

Acknowledging Jesus the Christ is about transformation. It is not like a salad bar, in which we pick this piece of lettuce and think that thought in order to come up with a theological statement. Transformation is about being caught up in creation with God, in aligning our will with God’s, in being taken over to God and not God to us, that we might participate with our bodies in the life that proclaims the Christ. How THEN will we live?

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