XVII Pentecost

September 16, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

As most of you know, over the course of the last month and a half, I have ended up purchasing two automobiles.  If you don’t know why, just ask me after the service.  It ended up that both of my purchases were Hyundai’s.  I found out something interesting about the symbol that Hyundai uses.

While the “H” in Hyundai’s automobile logo does stand for the company’s name, it’s also a stylized picture: a silhouette of two individuals shaking hands. One individual is a company representative and the other is a satisfied customer. Their exchange is a handshake of trust and satisfaction between company and consumer.  I also wondered if it might represent the hope that one day the Korean peninsula will be one country as the North and South come together as one.

I love symbols and metaphors!  As I read through the Gospel lesson for today, I began to see something that I had not noticed before.  What we are reading is, in a sense, a metaphor for our lives as Christians.  Let me tell you what I mean.

The lesson begins with Jesus and His disciples making their way to the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  St. Mark writes:

“…and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say that I am?’  And they told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.’  And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.’”

How do our lives in Christ begin?  For many of us, they begin with our baptism as infants and, hopefully a life lived within the Church.  But, whether we were baptized as infants or later in life, at some point (if we are to take this life in Christ seriously) we need to answer the question, “Who do we believe Jesus to be?”

The first answers that were given by the disciples are the things that other people have said about Jesus -- ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.’    Often our first understanding of who Jesus is is by hearing what other people say about Him.

But eventually, we need to figure out who Jesus is to us ourselves.  We need to understand who He is to us, not simply what others have said, but who we understand Jesus to be.  This is the answer to Jesus second question -- ‘But who do you say that I am?’

St. Peter’s answer is one that I would hope that we all could echo -- ‘You are the Christ.’

That is, in some sense, the easy part.  It is what happens in our lives after we come to this understanding that is often times the difficult part.  And you notice that Jesus follows Peter’s answer with the difficult part about His being Christ:

“And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  And he said this plainly.”

A life in Christ is not always easy.  Jesus does not promise us that life is going to be a bed of roses.  But when the hard times come, what do we sometimes find ourselves doing?  We act just like Peter:  “And Peter took (Jesus), and began to rebuke him.”

I have found in my own life in Christ that I am often like St. Peter.  I live between the person who is able to profess Jesus to be Christ and Lord and the one who rebukes Jesus because life is hard.  How about you?

Jesus’ reaction to Peter rebuke is certainly strong – “…turning and seeing his disciples, (Jesus) rebuked Peter, and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.’”

But ultimately, what we learn as we live a life in Christ we must follow the path where Jesus leads.  This is what Jesus tells us at the end of the lesson for today:

"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.   For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?   For what can a man give in return for his life?   For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Just like the symbol on my car is a metaphor, so I have found this morning’s gospel to be a metaphor for our life in Christ.  We learn about Jesus from other people’s understanding of who He is in their lives, but we must come to make a declaration for ourselves. 

We sometimes expect a life in Christ to be easy, but it often is not.  We learn as we live a life in Christ day-by-day, that to follow Christ, we, too must carry our own Cross.  But, unlike Jesus, who had to carry His cross on His own, we have Jesus to carry our cross, to walk with us, to lead us from death to life.  AMEN.