June 20th 2010 Father’s Day Sermon
By: The sweet Jean Johnson
Many of you have heard the story of the little girl who asked her mother, ‘Where did I come from?” The mother gulped and thought, Ï’m not prepared for this. But here goes.” and she began to tell her daughter about the elements of reproduction. The little girl responded by saying, “Mommy, George says that a stork brought him. Did a stork bring me?” What really was the question?
Questions. We are surrounded by questions. Many can be answered by Goggling on our computers. There are always the libraries with reference books and information in abundance. But what is the real question? Or do we know the real question?
In our Scripture this morning Jesus is asking his disciples. “Who do you say that I am?”
He was not asking about how the crowds or the Pharisees, or the people lined up for healing viewed him. These were his disciples who had left everything to follow him. What did they believe?
Peter was the first apostle to publicly recognize Jesus as the Anointed One. ( This translates into The Messiah or the Christ. Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah.) In the Gospels Jesus talks about himself as the Son of Man, but in John 3:16 John writes “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son.” For John there was no doubt that Jesus was the Son of God. He goes on, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Think about this a minute. Notice how John attributes glory and majesty to Jesus. Adam, the first man, never had that praise. David, the King, was praised, but never at that ;level. Only Jesus received that recognition. The glory was found in his unique relationship to God. Did that glory shine forth? Was there a special charisma surrounding Jesus? What was so compelling about him the disciples left everything behind to follow Jesus?
I got a glimpse of this when a friend was preaching in our Chapel at Westminster Shores. Noel was a United Methodist pastor and her husband, Joel, was also a United Methodist pastor. They went to a meeting where Bishop Desmond Tutu was speaking. After the meeting. Noel and Joel stood out on the sidewalk to greet him as he passed by. The charisma of Bishop Tutu was so great that Joel turned to his wife, after the Bishop had passed, and said,” Ïf he had asked me to follow him I would have left everything instantly and gone with him.” Was that the kind of charisma Jesus had?. Was there something very compelling about him that made men leave their fishing boats and their families and follow him?
Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” What was behind the question? We don’t know. Perhaps he was asking if they knew what the OT had said about him. Maybe he was wondering if they would truly follow him under adverse circumstances. Maybe he wanted to know how close they were to God so that through that means they would know who he was. We simply don’t know.
What about the response Peter gave, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
Where did that response come from? Did Peter really believe it? Was he quoting from the OT? Was he saying what he thought Jesus wanted to hear? Was he being truthful? How did this response change over the years from the time when Jesus was walking on the earth to the time when a scribe wrote this down.
Which is more important, the question or the answer? We normally would say that the answer is most important. But what if the question was not really the question in the questioner’s mind. Could one respond by saying, “Why do you ask that?
Depending on the phrasing of the question, we may get a variety of answers. Some may be true and some may be what the responder thinks you want to hear.
Questions and answers. I will not ask for a show of hands to this question, but I would bet if you were to answer honestly almost every hand would raise. The question is, have you ever doubted the stories of Jesus that have been handed down to us through the centuries?
I have. For decades I could respond very truthfully to the question, do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Of course. It was bred into my bones. Then, oops, as I began thinking about things in my more mature years I thought – I do not believe that Jesus came to save me from my sins. What sins? White lies, callousness toward others’ difficulties, not going to see the sick in the Health Center. an unkind response. These are wrong and I need to correct and repair relationships whenever possible. But does this make me a “sinner and a wretch”? God created the universe and saw that it was good. God created humankind and also saw that it was good. Now stop telling me that I am a depraved, sinful human being. I am good and I have potential and I can be in relationship with this unseen force and power we call God. My mind was what was created in the image of God. Therefore, we can be creators instead of just being the created.
I do not need to pay penance to the church or confess my sins to another human being. Martin Luther took great exception to the teachings of the Roman Catholic church and penned his 95 theses nailing them on the door of the church. Do we take exception to our church? I certainly do in the Presbyterian Church when it comes to the lack of inclusion of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender as ordained ministers. I want to say, “Get off this bigotry and begin to lead the church as Jesus would have done.” I do when they say that only ordained or specially approved persons can serve communion.
In the book Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult Father Michael who had been a Roman Catholic priest for many years, said to Rabbi Bloom, “What would you do if you began to second guess everything you believed?”
Rabbi Bloom responded, Ï would ask more questions.”
How many of us are prone to read books and magazines and newspapers and assume what we are reading is fact, ït’s the truth. Think back to the history books we read and knew they must, of course, be accurate. It took me a long time to realize that history books are “his story” – the writer’s story of the events as he views them. Think then of the untrue facts we have handed our children over the ages, unless we have helped them to think critically. If it is the printed word, it must be true. If the church declares a truth, it must be so. If the government says something is in our best interests, it must be so.. We can take time to snicker at this last statement. If the newspaper prints it, it must be true. Basically, isn’t this the way we act most times?
One of my sons is a foreign correspondent who has lived in many countries in Central and South America as well as Asia. Would he write a story that was not accurate? Not knowingly. He has an unbelievable rolodex of people he can call to verify facts and figures. But sometimes mistakes happen. So, don’t take as factual every piece of information that is written down. Question!
Let us think back to our own faith journey. For some of us Sunday school played a very important part in our understanding of Christianity. For others, hymns have been extremely important. Think about the theology in some of the öld hymns”we used to sing: “bathed in the blood of the Lamb”, “Jesus died for our sins”, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of his spirit, washed in his blood.” “ My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”. Did we ever really think about the words as we sang them? What did they mean? What were the implications? I dare say we sang them heartily, as did I, knowing the words, but not really examining the meaning behind the words.
Yet they played a significant part in our belief system.
You may say, but I don’t know enough to question. If something doesn’t feel right as you read it or hear it, question it. If you can’t get answers, put it on a “back burner” and think about it as you go about your day.
A big question I have been dealing with recently concerns the power of the mind. At the very end of The Lost Symbol Dan Brown states that ” our brains, if used correctly, can call forth powers that are quite literally superhuman. The Bible, like many ancient texts, is a detailed exposition of the most sophisticated machine ever created ….the human mind. The ancients already knew many of the scientific truths we are now rediscovering…our minds can generate energy capable of transforming physical matter …..particles react to our thoughts …..which means that our thoughts have the power to change the world.”” This can burst open the doors of human potential. Is this the same as the power of prayer??????
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in his book Letters to a Young Poet “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer.’”
Our faith is not sunk in concrete. It is not stale and old-fashioned. It is a flowing, renewing, reviving faith that responds to us individually in our culture. Our Christian faith is vibrant and can stand not only the test of time but the questions that flow because of it. So, ask more questions.