Reflection for Sunday – August 27, 2017

Readings: Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11: 33-36; Matthew 16: 13-20
Preacher: Dr. Denise Mack

Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” When I raised the question to residents of two nursing homes I was not surprised to hear, repeatedly, “My Lord and my Savior” and “The Son of the living God.”

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” was Peter’s response. Martha said much the same, “You are the Messiah, The Son of God” (John 11:27).

God is pulsing through us, empowering us to not merely repeat those words but to live them, to demonstrate what they mean by how we act, what we do and say, how we motivate who to do what? Why? When? We respond to Jesus’ question with our lives.

A woman in her twenties answered Jesus’ question with, “A very good man who helped many people.” While she didn’t say what Peter said, her actions look like God is working through her. She is a young mom, aunt, daughter and caregiver for people with disabilities. Her children have disabilities as well. She asked a gathering of many faithful people to pray for her sister in law who has to be flown from her home town to another state where the medical care and technology can better safeguard the birth of her twins. This caregiver’s compassion gives us a glimpse of the kindom of heaven.

The Gospels and our own experience tell us God speaks and acts in and through people. Peter let God speak through him in today’s Gospel scene. He denied him in others. As Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?”

Peter’s failings and our failings draw us to call out to Jesus with hearts in need of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He will help us imitate him in our own unique and imperfect way as we keep watching him heal a bent over woman, a blind man, a bleeding woman, a man with a withered hand and more. He is still feeding the multitudes, building the kindom of heaven, rebuking unjust leaders and overturning money changers’ tables, especially when they overcharge people who are poor.

Jesus washed feet and asked his followers to do the same. Since people who walk dusty roads are not often at my door, I better find other ways to “wash people’s feet.” Parents and caregivers may not realize they’re imitating Jesus and encountering him as they wash feet.

As we imitate Jesus in our unique and imperfect way we grow in relationship to him and strengthen our discipleship. We are the hands through which God fulfills the prayer Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our world is sorely in need of glimpses of heaven on earth. We saw the vitriol and carnage of Charlottesville but it is not widely known that clergy from many faiths witnessed to peace there as they comforted the injured, prayed, counseled, assisted and supported people even as some of them were being assaulted, themselves.

Pope Francis is giving keys to the kindom of heaven to all of us to unlock doors to refugees, to homeless people and more as he sponsors Muslim families with the help of the community of Sant’Egidio. Pope Francis urges every faith community to sponsor a refugee family and assures us the worst refugee problem since WWII will be solved if we do!

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). And he assures us we will welcome Him as we welcome the stranger, visit the sick, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, give food to the hungry (Matthew 25:31-46).

In troubled and joyful moments we call Jesus, the Christ, by many names: Bread of Life (John 6:32), Good Shepherd (1Peter 5:4; John 10:11), Deliverer (Romans 11:26), Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22), Holy One of God (Mark 1:24), Jesus (Matthew 1:21), King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15), Lamb of God (John 1:29), Light of the World (John 8:12), Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15), Morning Star (Revelation 22:16), Only Begotten Son (John 1:18), Our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), Redeemer (Job 19:25), Resurrection and Life (John 11:25), Son of God (Matthew 2:15), True Vine (John 15:1) and more. My prayer is that each of us not only calls him by name but serve as he served.

Denise Mack