Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” [NRSV]
When United Methodist become members of the church we take a vow to pray, to participate, to give our gifts, to serve the church as Christ present in the world and to witness the faith in all we do.
In the past fifty years United Methodist appear to have been convinced that the best method for witnessing our faith comes from St Frances, when said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” By adopting this method one does not have to say anything about her or his faith, we will just hope that what others see in our behavior will be enough to teach them the way of salvation and the witness of the Gospel.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some folks who needed to rewind some behaviors and remember the words that empower our faith.
One Sunday morning I ran in to get a cup of coffee from McDs cafe’ and notice a church member in line infront of me. Their attention was focused on the crew member at the cash register and they were unaware of the line of other patrons behind them. At hand was a dispute of less than four cents of incorrect change. The choice of words that came from this member of the church choir would never have been sung in an anthem around the corner. The tone of accusation and threats of injustice would never have been used by this congregant over issues of poverty and civil rights. After some discussion with the manager and another two minutes of waiting in the line the customer at the counter turned around and was greeting by their pastor and other members. The members response was, “At least I won’t be late to church.” What is the message of the witness?
Who has not seen and heard a tired and hungry child pestering their parent for attention and seen the frustrated parent shout demeaning chain of threats and mixed signals over the parents attention fix instead on the other end of a cell phone. What is the witness?
In politics there is the juggling act of being so politically correct that we ignore the imperative and commitment to witness to the world the passion of our faith in the name of making others feel comfortable. On the other end of the spectrum we see and hear people of other faiths taking to the streets with guns and threats of terror. What is the message? What are the boundaries of when to let our faith show?
The fallacy of trusting St Francis and only our non-verbal actions for witnessing has two problems:
First, often we are not at our best and we are not revealing Christ like behaviors.
Second, just because we are faithful in our actions does not mean that other do not perceive them differently.
Take for example our apparel choices today. One a typical weekend, when folks dress in the school colors and gather outside to cheer and eat, we call it a tailgate party. One of the dangers of worshiping outside today, as strangers walk and drive by seeing out in the world, is they might not interpret this as our worship of God. Others will see that we are stepping beyond the walls that defend and divide us and move into a world that begs for meaning. How do we know at 35 mile per hour what these observers are seeing and believing?
It would be nice to be off duty. But that is not what this passage from Mark is about. Look at the text.
Jesus asks disciples, just as we are asking each other today, Who do people in our town say that Jesus is? Where is Jesus today? What is the church about right now?
The disciples offer up suggestions. Some on target, some not so close. We are always on duty. We are called to teach Christ always and everywhere.
Jesus begins to tell the difficulties, rejections and hardships that being a witness will bring and Peter, one of the core members, reject’s Jesus picture of being the church. Even with good intention, Peter and others in the church, want to water-down the witness of the real need of the church to be Christ in the world, for the world, today.
Who in our town needs the church? Who in our community needs Jesus?
Folks who feel lost from broken dreams, relationship and some who have been hurt by members of churches.
People who need Jesus as people who are so focused on things that they can no longer focus on the good God has for them in the church.
Folks who think they know it all but forget to forgive, to know more about anger than grace, and for those who think they have it all figured out.
What are we to do?
One thing I do know, is that the more we ARE the church, outside of these building, the more people will know the LOVE of GOD outside and inside these buildings.
We have wonderful places to worship and study and fellowship.. and these facilities need more care and attention and funding than think they need. Without them we are subject to the wind, the need for permits and a traditions these structs offer and keep alive.
The call to be witnesses is the journey out the back door.
Our prayers are collective here at times, but more often they are personal times. Our participation, worship and gifts, are directed to this spot. BUT our witness goes FROM this spot into the community and world around us.
What are you taking from what you learn and experience in this fellowship to help the world around you?
Sometime we have to dress like the world to be in a position to model the gift of love, power and grace in a what the world will hear and experience it.
We need to ask for confirmation. “Do you understand what I’m saying” even if we are just speaking with our actions.
Do not be ashamed. Do not be afraid. Dot not forget to ask for feedback, conversation and dialogue.
MK 8:36-38 We are to witness For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” [NRSV]