August 27, 2017
Listen here or read the text below.
It seems we have only a few occasions in our lives like the one Peter had in our Gospel story today. Where a burst of sterling wisdom erupts—either from us, or from someone nearby—that so clearly reveals the truth or beauty or rightness of the matter that it could have only come from God.
On August 25, 1979, exactly 38 years and 2 days ago, I heard such an exclamation when my beloved Rene proclaimed her wedding vow to me. In her sweet, young voice, she said, “With great joy in my heart, and deep confidence in our God, I ask you to be my husband.”
I have the recording. There’s a catch of pure emotional sincerity and joy in her voice that overrides any nervousness or fear or apprehension that she may have had. I knew then, and I know now that she was, at that moment, truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Take a listen.
And on that day, had Jesus asked, “And just who do you think Rene is?” I would have looked Jesus right in the eye and said, “She is the one who shows me your face, leads me to you, brings out the best in me, and keeps me humble.”
I got it right back then. I know this because after spending the last 38 years discovering who she really is, I would say exactly the same thing.
Peter got it right in responding to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” Without a moment’s pause, he responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
A moment of sterling wisdom, powered by the Holy Spirit.
Put yourself into this story. Imagine you’ve been hanging with Jesus for a while. He says things that make some people upset. He does things that rub some people the wrong way. But in your heart, you know he’s onto something, something you need, something we all need.
Now, imagine that Jesus turns to you, looks you right in the eye and asks, “But who do you say that I am?”
My musings and reflections this week have lead me to discover that there is no one right answer to this question. And when I reflect on my journey of faith throughout my life, I have had many responses, all valid at the time.
Jesus, you are my . . .
Messiah – the anointed one proclaiming God’s kingdom
Savior – offering me forgiveness and another chance
Prophet – calling me to believe the good news
Lord – leading me with power and authority
Servant – showing me how to care for others less fortunate
Teacher – empowering my growth through stories and parables
Healer – restoring people to health and vigor in body and mind
Emmanuel – showing me that you are one of us
Comforter – enveloping me with love and understanding
Advocate – going to bat for me, and having my back over and over
On any given day, when Jesus looks me in the eye and asks, “But who do you say that I am?” my response is different. Today . . . it is:
Friend – showing me how to be trustworthy, faithful, and true to my word.
And then, what do you imagine is Jesus’ response back? See how Jesus responded to Peter with a blessing (“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah”), and an extraordinary gift (“keys to the kingdom of heaven”). How do you imagine Jesus blessing and gifting you?
Here’s what I’m learning. On those rare occasions when the Holy Spirit speaks for you with a sterling burst of wisdom, what follows is first, a true blessing . . . and then a rather hefty responsibility.
We heard about keys in our readings today, both Old Testament and Gospel. Some people think keys represent power. That’s just what Shebna thought as the King’s keeper of the palace in our first reading. So the prophet Isaiah replaced Shebna with Eliakim, who, because he understood the difference between responsibility and power, was given the “keys to the kingdom.” So, in truth, keys represent awesome responsibility. And Peter was given, in effect, the keys to the Church.
Exactly one year ago this weekend, I heard another burst of sterling wisdom from the Holy Spirit through you. As a community, you blessed me as your new Administrator. One of the symbols you gave me was a key, and with it came these words:
Leif, accept this key as a symbol of the trust given to you to unlock the goodness of each person in this parish, and to lock up all that would harm our parish. May this symbol be one that unifies, enriches, and opens us all to God’s great mercy, love, and care.
I have been truly blessed by you . . . thank you. And as I said, with blessing comes responsibility. I have learned a great deal about the awesome responsibility of holding the keys to St Charles. I’ll freely admit the learning curve has been steeper than I imagined, and I know there’s still much more for me to learn. But our journey together continues.
This week, in our Gospel story, Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, nailed it! “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Next week? Spoiler alert! He won’t fare nearly so well.
In the meantime, your homework involves these questions: