Worship August 23, 2020
I welcome you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
All are welcome today to this celebration of God’s love!
Lord be with each one of us today. We have come seeking your guidance and direction for our lives. Help us recognize the gifts you have given to us and enable us to put these gifts to good use in your world. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
And now join in singing “Christ For the World We Sing”
Hymn UMH # 568 (verses 1, 2, 4) Christ For the World We Sing
Hello, I am Don Ripperton reading scripture taken from the book of Matthew chapter 16: verses 13-19.
Please pray with me
Gracious God, as we turn to your Word for us, may the Spirit of God rest upon us. Help us to be steadfast in our hearing, in our speaking, in our believing, and in our living. Amen.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Hear what the Spirit is saying. Amen
There are many ways to answer Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?”
But only one answer opens the doors to the kingdom of heaven.
It is the task of all Christ-followers to proclaim the good news of Christ, the Son of the living God, in the world
Clair Sauer, a United Methodist pastor says “I can still remember the first time I ever drove.
I was anxious to get started, so within a week of my 15th birthday, my Mom took me to the Driver’s License office, and I got my learner’s permit.
That afternoon, she took me out for the first time.
I only drove on our street that day, we worked on stopping.
She would point at a mailbox and tell me to stop there, and I would.
We did that for about thirty minutes, and that was it for my first drive.
Over the next year, my Mom, my Dad, and driving instructors worked with me to help me learn how to drive.
I think I had pretty good training, but that didn’t change the fact that when I got my driver’s license soon after my 16th birthday, my parents were nervous!
They let me drive to school and to church and other activities, but for the first several weeks (maybe even months), you could see the insecurity in their eyes every time they handed over the keys”.
I remember the agonizing and worrying about the safety of our children as they took off in a high-powered machine by themselves.
Isn’t this a natural reaction for most, if not all parents.
Parents can’t help but wonder if their child has the maturity to handle such responsibility.
We might ask the same question about Jesus giving Peter the keys of the kingdom as he did in the Scripture read earlier.
This is Peter after all. Don’t get me wrong, but could we make the claim that Peter has the maturity even of a 16-year-old?
Peter seems to be constantly missing the point, and he regularly talks before he thinks.
Just a few verses after this encounter, Jesus calls Peter “Satan” for setting his mind on human instead of divine things!
And then later, Peter denies Jesus three times!
How could Jesus possibly give the keys of the kingdom of heaven and build the church upon someone so unstable?
Clearly, there are some things that Jesus knows that we don’t and to understand it fully, we need to go back to the beginning.
Do you remember how this whole conversation started?
Jesus asked the disciples a question. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Immediately the disciples started throwing out answers.
And it seems that their responses depended on what particular group they were a part of — whether they are partial to John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or some other prophet.
If Jesus were in our mist today and asked us that same question, we might reply with names like Martin Luther, or John Wesley, or Billy Graham.
I say this to make the point that people today and yes, even the disciples, project onto Jesus their cultural, or theological, or denominational leanings.
So recognizing this tendency, Jesus now asks the disciples a more pointed question, he asks “What about you? Who do you say that I am?”
The disciples are silent this time, well except for Peter, who, as he often does, quickly speaks up in reply, and says “You are the Christ, the Messiah, Son of the living God.”
If Jesus is surprised by Peter’s response, he doesn’t show it.
And he responds now directly to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (Hell) will not overcome it.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
By the sound of it, Peter got a serious promotion, he really can handle those keys!
If there was any doubt about his authority among the other disciples, surely this cleared it up!
Clearly, Peter has an important job now!
That’s why we have all those jokes about someone dying and meeting St. Peter at the Pearly Gates of heaven, it comes from this passage!
You’ve heard a joke or two like this, right? “A fellow finds himself in front of the Pearly Gates.
St. Peter explains that it’s not so easy to get in heaven.
There are some conditions before the gates are opened.
So Peter begins asking questions:
- was the man religious in life?
- Did he attend church?
The man replies that he did not.
St. Peter told him that’s bad and continues with the questioning.
- Was he generous?
- Did he give money to the poor?
The man explained that he did not.
St. Peter told him that that too was bad, but still searching for some redeeming quality, Peter asks more questions.
- Did he do any good deeds?
- Help his neighbor?
This time, the man just shook his head.
St. Peter was becoming concerned. Annoyed, Peter says, ‘Look, everybody does something nice sometime. Work with me, I’m trying to help. Now think!’
‘Well,’ the man says, ‘There was this old lady.
I came out of a store and found her surrounded by a dozen bad guys.
They had taken her purse and were shoving her around, taunting and abusing her.
I got so mad I threw my bags down, fought through the crowd, and got her purse back, finally helping her to her feet. I then went up to the biggest, baddest guy and told him how despicable, cowardly and mean he was and then I spit in his face.’
‘Wow,’ said Peter, ‘That’s impressive. When did this happen?’
‘Oh, about 10 minutes ago,’ replied the man.”
All the St Peter and the Pearly Gate jokes have the same sort of theme.
Someone dies, they get up to heaven and meet up with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.
But when Jesus announces that Peter will be the keeper of the keys, he is referring to the role of Christ’s followers (the church) here on earth, not to decisions about who enters heaven and who doesn’t.
Those decisions are left to Christ alone.
And the role of the church in the world does not rest on the person of Peter, but on Peter’s witness!
Notice, that Jesus wasn’t responding to Peter’s particular strengths and accomplishments as a disciple; remember, Peter was often being scolded by Jesus.
Rather, Jesus was responding to Peter’s testimony; his proclamation that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
The rock is not Peter, but Peter’s testimony.
This is a significant lesson for the church to understand today.
The church is not founded on Peter, just as it is not founded on John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Martin Luther, or John Wesley. The church’s power and stability does not come from some authoritative person, but from the testimony of the church in the world!
And that means our church is only as powerful or as fragile as each of us in our own faith.
Did you catch that? The church is only as strong as the faith of the people in it!
How’s that for pressure? I feel it, do you?
We hear this passage, and the mental check-list pops up. “Peter holds the keys to the kingdom. We’ve got to be ready to meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. Okay,” we think to ourselves.
“That means I need to sin a little less, give a little more, and worship more often. Okay. I can do that.”
And all of those things are important, we do need to do them, but Christ’s question points to a greater priority; faith, belief, our response to Christ’s work in our lives.
If the strength of the church in the world today were measured only based on your faith, your testimony of Christ Jesus, how would it be doing?
That’s convicting, isn’t it? That questions makes it personal – If the strength of the church in the world today were measured only based on your faith, your testimony of Christ Jesus, how would it be doing?
It’s no wonder the church seems to be losing its foothold in the world!
We talk about our faith among ourselves often, but how are we doing when it comes to sharing the good news with others?
It’s hard, I know it’s hard but how are we doing. Recently someone asked me what my vision was for our congregations (Mora and Ogilvie) 50 years from now. My easy, quick, snide comment is “what do I care I won’t be here”.
What if the disciples had had that same attitude? Well, if they had, the church would not be in existence today.
Christ’s question of Peter and the other disciples is a question for us all.
- “Who do you say that I am?
- What is your testimony of me?
- What is your experience of the living God through my witness and presence?”
The future of the church rests on our answers to these questions, and whether or not we are taking our answers out into the world!
This is the rock on which the church is founded. This is the source of Christian authority.
This is the key to the kingdom!
That Christ’s followers are boldly and faithfully proclaiming the good news of Christ in the world!
The history of Christianity confirms how vulnerable the Christian church is.
We have numerous examples in the last 2,000 years where we have become complacent as Christians.
In all denominations, in every church, we can see how easy it is to slip into this form of idolatry where we rest on someone else’s confession of Christ.
“How is Christianity in America?” someone might ask. “Oh, we’re good. Billy Graham had all those revivals, and all those people came to Christ. The church is really strong!”
Well folks, Billy Graham’s last revival was in 2005. Who’s been sharing Christ with others since then?
John Wesley died in 1791. Who’s been helping the poor and fought for justice since then?
Christ last walked this earth 1,987 years ago. Who’s been teaching about God’s kingdom since then?
Friends, if you and I aren’t doing these things, then who is?
That’s why Christ called Peter “the rock,” the foundation of the church, and gave him the keys of the kingdom; because his testimony, OUR testimony, is the future of the church!
This passage is not a mandate to turn inwardly in self-righteousness, seeking to make ourselves worthy of God’s presence.
Rather, it is a call outward; a call to move beyond our comfort-zone, to get rolling, to step outside the walls of the church, to stop worrying about what the church can do for me, and to start sharing the good news of Christ in the world.
We need to give our testimony!
And when a whole community testifies to the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, think of what can happen.
The church gains authority and power and strength. The church becomes a living witness, the only living witness, that can bring life and hope!
There are many ways to answer Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?”
But only one answer opens the doors to the kingdom of heaven.
So let’s get rolling and start proclaiming the good news of Christ in the world today!
Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Lord, many of us grew up in a time during which thinking highly, in a spirit of appreciation, about our talents was considered bragging. We were taught not to discern the difference between acceptance/appreciation and haughty behavior. And so we belittled the gifts you gave us. We believed that they were not good enough, and ultimately that spilled over into a concept that each of us was not good enough to serve. How foolish we are! You lavish your love on us every day. You do not demand that we earn it. You give it freely, just as you have given each one of us special and unique gifts. We can recognize the gifts in others. Now help us claim the gifts you have given to us and to use them in your service. Enable us to encourage others to identify their special talents and to find ways to help one another. We offer this prayer in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
And now in the words Jesus taught His disciples, we too pray…
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Join together in meditating, humming, or softly singing Jesus Calls Us
Hymn UMH # 398 (verses 1,2,5) Jesus Calls Us
The Apostle Paul, in a letter to the church in Corinth, defending his ministry as “an apostle of Christ Jesus and to direct the congregation in the way he thought they should go. In this letter he addresses the topics of generosity that comes from God and the generosity that glorifies God. Verse 7 of chapter 9 says 7 Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver.
Prayer of Dedication
We thank You today for Your blessings that you bestow upon us all. Father, I pray for our congregation today. Lord, may we all give with gladness and sincerity. Father, no one ever gives a present to someone with reluctance and we should never give You what already belongs to You with reluctance either. Bless these tithes and offerings this day. We love You, Father! Amen
HYMN TFWS #2129 I Have Decided To Follow Jesus
Go into the world with peace and joy, delighting in the diversity and blessings that God has lavished upon each one. Celebrate the good news of the love of God with all people and offer peace and blessing to each one. Go in peace. AMEN.
- Thank you to Don and Jacki for sharing your gift of music with us.
- Lawn Chair Worship continues through mid-September (weather permitting) at 10:30 Sunday morning in Mora. Church leaders meet again August to determine the plan going forward. Ogilvie continues at 9am each week.
- Online worship and mailings also continue so please if you have health conditions that put you at a higher risk for contracting the COVID virus, please allow yourself the privilege of staying home.
- If you want an Upper Room daily Meditation publication, please let the church office know and we will make sure you get one.