The Declaration: Who Do They Say You Are? (Manuscript)

Today’s Scripture – Matthew 16:13-20

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:13-20, New International Version).

Last week was an interesting one at my house. For the first time ever, Cindy and I had girls in the house for more than a day. Our oldest, grand girl, Jenna, did spend the night with us a few years ago, but Natalie, the middle grand-girl, had never stayed at our house.

Neither girl was a problem, but when you have only had boys, it is different.

Wednesday at lunch the TV was on. Cindy scrolled through the guide looking. Something came back to me I hadn’t considered in at least 15 years, that’s how long their father, our youngest has been out of the house. But as Cindy is looking, Natalie sees a Frozen.

“Oh Granny, let’s watch Frozen. I am often clueless to such things but not this time. You could have called me a prophet. I knew doubt, before Natalie even saw it, I was watching Frozen. I was right. She eveh pointed out were to watch Frozen, not Frozen II. Frozen is a much better movie, she informed me is better than Frozen II. I didn’t know a five-year-old could be a movie critic but what do I know? I didn’t even know there was a Frozen 2.

About 10 minutes into the movie and neither of the girls are in the room. They were in the bedroom playing. So, the child wanting this movie and the child who loves it are playing leaving Gramps watching though he had zero interest. It was something I never would have done for their father.

I will admit, I am grateful to my granddaughters, Natalie in particular, if they had not gotten me to watch, I might not have a sermon this morning.

Fairly early in Frozen, Anna, the younger sister of the queen select, is out in the cold searching for her sister who has run away. She stops at Oaken’s trading post, for a supplies. While there, a young man enters the trading post. He is Christoph.

He also needs supplies. It is an unexpected winter in summer. No one is prepared. So the proprietor, pointing at supply and demand engages in a bit of price gouging. Christoph calls him a thief. The owner rises from his seat and throws Christoph out.

Who do they say you are? Christoph said he thought the proprietor was, a thief.

The things we say and do can drive what others say about us. And, too a degree that’s OK. I don’t care about snide remarks but I do care when someone uses my example to disparage the Church of Jesus Christ.

But whether the proprietor was ripping off his customers doesn’t matter. What mattered? Christoph believed he wasn’t honest and Christoph said so.

Perception trumps reality. It is my favorite quote. I believed I coined it, but that may not be true. I found it on a podcast and a 4 ½ minute YouTube video.

It simply means, what I believe is more important to me than what is true. Someone posts on Facebook. It fits in your beliefs. Because you want it to be true, you act as though it is and repost. Then because people similar mindsets tend to group together, it grows. Then an atheist grabs it. For arguments sake, he knows the truth and it is not in your perception.

Because of the real truth and the perceived truth you posted, he points out your mistake to the world and calls you a liar or a hypocrite. That’s bad enough but then he lumps all Christians into that same group of hypocrites. While not every Christian is alike, that is his perception and he uses it to trump reality again.

Is it right? No. Does it change reality? Nope. Will Christians take a black eye for it? In at least some circles, probably, maybe even literally.

I know bias moves in both directions. Because of past damage done in the name of Christ, We lost people we likely won’t get back.

We are entering a time of precepted reality. I won’t go into details, I preach sermons, not political speeches, or that’s my perception. Until early November, most of us will speak truth based in our perception. Then we will point to the other side, calling it untrue. It seems to me, both sides will speak some truth, bend the truth, and use “Fake news” to alter reality to their liking.

Some people say perception is reality. That is what Pilate was saying when speaking to Jesus, “What is truth?” We depend on convenient truth not real truth. “Perception is reality” often denies real truth.

A notable citizen says, “Perception is more important than reality. The idea says truth just doesn’t matter.

Years ago Cindy and I knew a strong Christian. This person posted as truth, almost all perceived. I knew it was untrue. I gave the person evidence of the untruth and said why it is important for Christians to investigate and share only the truth. The person wouldn’t admit the truth. What remained was perception masking as truth. That person lost credibility with me. Still it shows, perception does trump reality. What you say matters. Who do they say you are?

What do people see demonstrating the faith we proclaim? This moves beyond words to deeds. How do we proclaim the Kingdom? We say, “…Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We proclaim God’s Kingdom on earth, but, how do we DO to make that real? Who do they say you are?

I believe congregations need at least two ministries. One in the community. Things for Nettie Marshall fit. Our street cleanup on Durst St. says the sign with our name. Or, kids program Crescendo, are but a few.

The other ministry is to the world beyond its city limits. What is Perritte doing beyond Nacogdoches? You pay apportionments. Campus ministry is an example. Churches less connectional, leave campus ministry to college town churches, i.e. us. OK but, some don’t support campus ministries at all. For us, churches pay their apportionments and part of that money goes to campus ministries. While some does go to SFA, some also goes to A&M and some goes to that place in Huntsville and I don’t mean the prison, though some goes there too.

You’ve sent kids to U.M. ARMY. I know about one. They came to the church I served at the time. It wasn’t far, Diboll, a ministry beyond Nacogdoches.

While every church should have ministries in the community and the world, Jesus didn’t say go to Nacogdoches and make disciples. He said all the world, meaning, have both. Two is a baseline. If you can’t have at least two, you probably aren’t doing much for the Kingdom on earth. Who do they say we are?

Go further, all of us should have at least three ministries. First, our church. Do you sing in the choir, help maintain or mow the yard?  Do you make pie crusts or work the bazaar? For the church both are fund raisers, but workers its ministry helping the church maintain this plant as a base for worship and operations. Are you on committees or have responsibilities in the church, you are there? How about crescendo? Nothing says a church ministry can’t be a Mark ministry too. Volunteer once a week at the hospital? Or go to Nettie Marshall volunteering to listen to kids read for an hour or two every week. If we did that, who would Dr. Rodriguez say we are? What about the SFA Wesley? I bet Tom can find a job.

We should all have a ministry beyond our community, something we do reaching beyond Nacogdoches. Have you been on a mission trip? UM AMRY? Have you taught a class for district leader training or one of the many opportunities to be on retreat teams for conference ministries? Ever been in a jail or prison? No, I haven’t quit preaching and gone to meddling? I’m not asking if you’ve been arrested. I don’t need to know. Have you been into a jail or prison in the name of Jesus? I know many haven’t. That’s OK. Some have. It isn’t for everyone. Still, Jesus said, “…for I was in prison and you visited me…” Here’s a place where your dollars lead the way.

The director of chaplains for this region of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, until recently, was Tommy Lyles, a United Methodist elder who served many years as a local church pastor before entering prison ministry. Your giving, supports educational pursuits for clergy. Even if you never go into a prison, part of your giving is a response to Jesus’ words, “…I was in prison and you visited me.” When we are involved in ministry to the world, who do they say you are.

          I won’t ask you to do something, in a general sense I’m not doing. For our church I work with Richard and others to get internet into this room so we can live stream worship and more. Next week we honor our teachers and bless them, students and backpacks. I am making lanyards teachers can hang IDs from. Next Sunday afternoon, I invite you to come with me right after worship and go to Nettie Marshall to lay hands on that building and wrap it in prayer. If ever our schools needed prayer it’s now. It won’t take long. Let’s honor what happens in there for our kids. It’s really more for the community but what if we make that an ongoing ministry of our church. Who do they say you are?

          For the community, once I get the official OK, I will be at Nettie Marshall every week, listening to kids read. I take another day a week and go to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. We have a devotion time. I play guitar and sing with the residents. It’s interesting, residents in those settings often can’t remember their name, but know every word to those old hymns. When they say OK, join me for a time of music and devotion in area nursing homes.

          Then there is the world. Cindy and I actively support two congregations financially. And we Lakeview in an ongoing basis. We believe in the work done there. We also sponsor a young girl in Haiti for her education. An education she likely wouldn’t get if not for the organization we work through. I’ve worked UM ARMY being a work team adult to directing two camps and just about everything between. I’ve had a cabin of kids at Lakeview, hauled water, directed an age level camp and been district registrar.

My point isn’t to brag. I know I can do that much because of my position. I want you to see I’m not ask you to do what I won’t. And, there are things I won’t do. I don’t climb ladders and I don’t mess with snakes. Those two come quickly to mind. Friend, I’m not ask you to do everything, but I am asking you to do something. And, when we do, who do they say we are.

Today finishes our series, “The Declaration,” Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” We have about who Jesus is, the importance of his name, how we know who he is, and about that rock he says builds his church.

Today we finish by asking, “Who do they say WE are?” Who is Perritte Memorial United Methodist Church? The answer can easily be found in our approach to truth and in our approach to ministry. In truth, who they say we are is reflected in one thing.

Sing, “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Amen.

Be blessed.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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