Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Who is Jesus to you?


Back to Rendall

It’s my last Sunday at Rendall and it’s been good. I appreciate their generosity of spirit and hospitality. I am thankful to Rev. Dr. Flora Bridges for sharing her congregation with me. I’m happy to look out and see my friend Rabbi Steve Blane and his wife Carol in the congregation this morning…
Steve, Bob and Carol

So….here was my reflection….

Last night was one of those nights when I know I’m not in the Upper West Side anymore.  I’m coming home from an event in midtown, I pass by the Harlem Tavern. They’ve got big black curtains hung up all around so that  no one can grab a peek at the Mayfield-McGregor fight  they’re showing for $40 a person.  So as I start down my street, 115th, I see that there’s a big crowd gathered and a big screen on the side of Wadleigh High School  and coolers and food tables  and everyone’s watching for free…and no one’s asking how….later the police will show up…any time hundreds of black people are together on any street they figure something must be going on..after heightened tensions, the captain shows  up, agreements reached, cheers go up and after a slight reboot delay, the fight tis back up and the street party goes on. 

Bear with me. This is not about a fight…it’s about what I was talking about our first Sunday..capacities assessments, not needs assessments. This neighborhood is blessed with people who with ingenuity and creativity in the face of all adversity can figure out how to solve a problem. Someone figured out how to capture the broadcast and share it with hundreds who could never have afforded to see it. Creativity and generosity. That is a valuable community member. Someone I’d want in my church!

Yeah, it’s been a week. Again. Houston has beennhit by a hurricane. And flooding. The President decided to double down on his “both sides” comments regarding Charlottesville and white supremacists. And actually signed an order banning trans people from the military even when they’ve already risked their lives, called again for building his wall, pardoned a hard as nails sheriff from the Arizona-Mexico border and threatened to kick out immigrant children  born in the US, the ones president Obama called “the Dreamers…”   I think what bothers me the most is what feels like picking on the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Like my parents raised me not to do that. Anyways, just saying…..

So my question for you this week is Who is Jesus to you?  And the second is, Have you seen him around lately?

The first is the question Jesus asks his disciples…Who do people say the Son of Man is?
And they answer, John the Baptist (remember he was recently killed by Herod…may be literal or like Jesus is taking his place..) or Elijah, the one who comes before the Messiah…..Jeremiah or the one of the prophets…eg, the Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet….not a bad  calling, but…

Who do YOU say that I am?
And it’s Simon Peter who says, “You are the Messiah, the Son the Living God…”
And Jesus tells him no human reveled that, but God…so this emotional and impulsive fisher, one who will later abandon Jesus at his moment of greatest need, is the first to see and understand the truth, and so gets a new name, no longer Simon bar Jonah, but Peter, or the Rock…(not Sylvester Stallone or Dwayne Johnson) and this all too flawed human vessel will be the ROCK on which the church will be built..and for that we should be thankful…and also that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it…. I know we think of that as HELL, but for Jesus it was more the abode of the dead…what he was saying, friends, was that you no longer need to fear death……

Like Archbishop Tutu said….
Goodness is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate
Light is stronger than darkness
Life is stronger than death
Victory is ours through Him who loves us.

Then as always, we get some difficult things….
 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.”

What does that mean?  I have to be honest with you…we are not completely sure…BUT…let’s have a try…..

What you hold close here stays with you…if you are open and loving and connected to other people, that stays with you…if you cut yourselves off from others (Like the rich man in Matthew 25) you will have already created your own ‘Hades”….

But here’s a thought…the most powerful way we can loose and bind is through our power to forgive others…when we forgive, both of us are freed…but think on this…Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber say that the church’s most important task is the forgiveness of sins…that most of us (not all) have a harder time forgiving ourselves than others…most of us have  a hard time believing in our own forgiveness…I thought about that and realized it was true….we need to help people believe that their sins truly can be forgiven…set free….loosed on earth, and loosed in heaven

Now here’s the really strange part…he sternly orders them not to say anything to anyone…why?   He didn’t want his identity to get in the way of his message? The time wasn’t right? Or was it that he knew the best way to get them to talk was to tell them not to?

So who do you say that he is?
Where have you seen him in the last week?
Next week, you will celebrate communion….Zwingli said that when we celebrate communion, it is not the bread and fruit of the vine that become transformed into the body of Christ, it is us…we are transformed…we are called to be the living body of the risen Christ in the world….how amazing it would be if people who knew us could see him in and through us….who do YOU say he is?

Let those with ears to hear hear….

As the service ends, we say our thanks and goodbyes. There are invites to come back. I would like that. Now of brunch at the French-African patisserie, Des Ambassades….

Pastor Bob and Clerk of Session Marietta Chisholm

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