First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

~Sermon ~ Sunday, September 16, 2018 ~

<sermon title> <date> by Pastor Greg Briggs

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Sermon Title “Who do people say we are?”
  2. Quest for Identity
    1. Today’s Gospel starts off with Jesus asking questions of his disciples that are probably familiar to many of us in various times in our life, “who am I?”
    2. Self reflection – Do you know who you are yet? When did you know who you are? When did it change?
    3. we can define ourselves in terms of
      1. Our age
      2. Our life stage, student, parent, grandparent, retiree,
  • an identity group, like our favorite sports team, hobby, or work
  1. Our mental, physical, or spiritual attributes
    1. Friendly, stubborn, intelligent, creative
    2. Strong, petite, flexible, arthritic
    3. Caring, just, fair, protective, welcoming
  2. Our identity is not just internal, but how we relate to those around us
  1. Who is Jesus in the context of this story?
    1. From clues in the text, it’s pretty clear that Jesus knows who he is, and is seeing how he is being perceived by his close followers and the wider community
    2. Who do others say I am? (Who do neighbors say we are?)
      1. Major religious figures, each with different emphases.
        1. John the Baptist – contemporary religious figure who had run afoul of Herod and been killed. – reincarnated rabble rouser
        2. Elijah – ancient (around 900 years) prophet, miracle worker, and believed to be the harbinger of the messiah
        3. One of the prophets – one of a variety of religious leaders, though not always treated well by the leaders and powerful
      2. Some argue that Jesus wasn’t interested in the responses except to correct the disciples, but I believe there is value in hearing these outside observations
        1. Listen to the commonalities of the options
        2. Listen for who Jesus was not being compared to
          1. Mockers
          2. Uneducated
          3. Powerful leaders
        3. Listen to see if others see us as we see ourselves
      3. Who do you [the disciples] say I am?
        1. Messiah\Christ\Human One
        2. Then talks about suffering, rejection by leaders, killed, then resurrected.
          1. For those of us who know the full story, we know this is how it ends. But for Jewish disciples, hearing this message for possibly the first time, this is NOT the path of the Messiah that they understand. Messiah is to triumph over the world, with military and political might!
        3. This is where Peter is troubled, not with the inaccurate claims of others, but in understanding what being and following Jesus will entail
      4. Discipleship and identity
        1. Peter didn’t like Jesus’ self-definition and the coming results
        2. Ongoing challenge of Jesus’ ministry, everyone is misunderstanding who Jesus is, even his closest followers (but somehow, we think we have him all figured out…)
          1. Sometimes because of self interest
          2. Sometimes because he is something radically new
  • We proclaim Jesus to be messiah, to be Christ, but he didn’t fit the mold of what was expected back then.
  1. Jesus is a radical revolutionary leader, but not in the way that was hoped for
    1. The “conquering of the Roman empire” wasn’t by violence, but conversation, after centuries of oppression
  2. 3 Interim questions
    1. Who are we?
    2. Who is our neighbor?
    3. What is God calling us to do?
      1. Identity and discipleship are in a mutually enlightening relationship
      2. Praxis – doing, then reflecting – both practically and spiritually
  • “If you have come here to help us, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, Australia, 1970s
  1. These questions aren’t just for the interim time
  1. Who are we as followers of Christ?
    1. Individual
    2. Relational \ covenantal
      1. Covenant – seeing others as children of God, their thoughts as worthy as ours.
      2. Congregational
  • Societal
  1. Last week’s scripture and sermon focused a lot on who is our neighbor,
    1. Todays focuses more on personal identity and where that may lead us
  2. But really, these two things go hand in hand
  1. Who will you (his followers) be? And How will you see it?
    1. Echoes his own predictions – may lose their lives, or suffer
    2. “why would people gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
    3. Whoever is ashamed of me and my words the Human One will be ashamed of that person
      1. Echoes today’s reading from proverbs about Wisdom.
    4. Another version of “what is God calling you to do?”
      1. God’s calling is not about benefiting one’s self
      2. Proverbs – the foolish will suffer
    5. How do others view us as Christ followers today?
      1. Overall, White American Christianity has a public perception problem
      2. 2006 poll of 16-29 year olds from Barna Group (an evangelical polling firm) – top three attributes associated with “present day Christianity” (End of White Christian America p. 131-132)
        1. Anti-gay – 91%
        2. Judgmental – 87%
  • Hypocritical – 85%
  1. 7 out of 10 top attributes were negative
  1. Since 2006, that perception has largely gotten worse
  2. But that’s not “us,” that’s those other “us-es.”
    1. That a difference that largely doesn’t matter to the larger society
    2. Affects every church, and how they exist in the community
  3. Who we say Jesus is, and how we live out what Jesus is, shows in how we are seen.
    1. NALT Christians
    2. Red Letter Christians
    3. Importance of collective conversation
      1. Single input – Historical Jesus studies – Jesus ended up looking like author
    4. Being “one of the good ones” is not enough.
  4. Wisdom of listening to others when discerning ourselves
    1. Openness, acceptance of unintended consequences
    2. Scriptures say we are the body of Christ collectively, not individually
      1. Thank GOD for that. Other’s strengths make up for our shortcomings, and vice versa
    3. Proverbs reminds us to rebuke fools,
      1. V 1:22: clueless people who love their simpleness and naïveté, those mockers hold their mocking dear, and fools who hate knowledge?
      2. Irony of hurricane Florence, 6 years ago North Carolina “New Law in North Carolina Bans Latest Scientific Predictions of Sea-Level Rise” in emergency planning
  • When did mocking our opponents become a Christian value?
  1. Who did Jesus say will reject and rebuke?
    1. The powerful – elders, chief priests, and legal experts
    2. Not, the average person, not Wisdom
  • Jesus as embodiment of Wisdom
  1. Conclusion
    1. Knowing who we are is essential to being grounded
    2. Living in praxis and covenant is as essential
    3. Seek Wisdom from Jesus
      1. Listening to your neighbor, not delighting in mockery and ignorance
      2. Knowing that difficulty is a part of following God’s path.
  • Not to be avoided, but to prepared for, knowing that those we encounter are both well meaning and often ignorant of faith
    1. Not to be mocked, but to be shown a better way – not through judgmental or hypocritical piety, but through living and walking the way Jesus did – without condition, speaking to each person where they are
  1. Seek wisdom from each other – both in general, and in this in between time
    1. Learning from you
    2. Learning from me
  • May think the other is offbase some times, but hopefully, still worth listening to
  1. Add to your sense of identity the desire and practices of covenant and praxis.

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