August 22, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: Matthew 16:16
Christ Lutheran Church
August 23, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
"You are the Christ the Son of the Living God." Mt. 16:16
The common theme that runs through all the lessons today is the bold confession that the Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
We first encountered such a confession when we chanted the Introit earlier from Psalm 2. Here King David “confesses aloud the decree” of the LORD, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”
Then in today’s Collect we prayed that we might: “boldly confess Jesus to be the Christ, and steadfastly walk in the way that leads to life eternal.”
But what God’s people often don’t realize is that the Christian confession is not a an internal conversation, but that it occurs here; in Holy Worship; which is the home of confessing the faith. Yet it seems that most Christians like the “idea” of church rather than actual church itself: especially Protestants, especially Lutherans.
What is the evidence? Empty pews.
Do you wish to confess Christ? The church is the time and place; just like with baseball!
If you love baseball then the stadium is the place to be. It is where the game is found “in its truth and purity,” and for baseball lovers there is nothing better than that.
A young person might play little league. Or an older person chance his health in an “over 60 soft ball league”. Still others will watch baseball on TV, enthusiastically discuss it at the local tavern, or even place their hard-earned money down to bet on its outcome.
But that is all secondary because nothing beats being at the stadium, with the best players in the world “bodily present” before your very eyes, playing their hearts out as if there is no tomorrow – and with all the liturgical trappings in play: team shirts, hotdogs, beer and the 7th inning stretch. That is baseball at its finest.
Just so the bold confession of Christ is most perfectly performed when we kneel at the altar, elbow to elbow, and “confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord”
Now we know!
Now we believe!
Now our souls are at rest though “war break out against us.” (Ps. 27)
That is our theme today.
Because there is no other kind.
Wavering religion is no religion at all, just as wavering love is no love at all. And no one, not even Jesus, wants lukewarm Christians, of whom he says in Revelation 3 the he will “spew out of his mouth.”
In today’s Psalm (138) David also makes a bold prophetic confession, namely Jesus is the “Name” and the “Word” of the Lord.
A Lord so mighty in Love and rich in Mercy that he predicts even the block-headed kings of the earth will believe, and “cast down their golden crowns upon the glassy sea”.
And David notes that such confessing results in: increased strength of soul, something we can all use an extra dose of today, now that insanity has gripped the world from Zanesville to Zanzibar. It is at times like this that our faith is tested.
But why does God test our faith? Why does he lead us into times of hard testing, though we pray that he would not?
It is not for his knowledge, dear Christians, for he already knows everything there is to know about us – more than we ourselves even know about ourselves.
The testing of faith is for our benefit, to show us what we DO know and what we DO NOT know. When it upholds us during trials we are able to say: Yes God’s Word and Promises are reliable. But trials also show us where we have failed. Where we need more study, more patience, more prayer, or the personal counsel of our spiritual father.
But there is more. In today’s Old Testament lesson Isaiah prophecies what Peter believed about Jesus when he says: “My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, my arms will judge the peoples…”
Peter recognized every word of this prophecy in Jesus. He is the righteousness, salvation and the arms of God that embraced the world on the cross, and purged us of every black sin.
Many people do not know it, but St. Peter’s Square in Rome is not a square, but made elliptical in shape by two rows of imposing Doric Columns that resemble the two arms, enfolding all the people, for whom the Son of Man gave his life.
We also learn what bold confession means from St. Paul in today’s epistle. He marvels at God’s unfathomable judgments, and inscrutable ways; which we can no more understand than a fruit fly who lands on your computer screen can understand the internet.
But St. Paul makes his bold confession in the Eucharistic assembly: the very one that we are members of today. When he talks of: “offering” our bodies as a “living sacrifice” and calls this our “reasonable worship” he is talking about the Holy Communion that we are gathered to celebrate this very day.
This is the chief place and time that redeemed sinners speak aloud their faith to God. Here we demonstrate that by our worship that: Jesus is the Christ, Anointed by God to be the Savior of the world. And so do not look to any man, or human institution to save you, or fix you, or fill you with gladness: but look to the Living God alone for these “priceless treasures”.
And finally, as regards today’s gospel … the church does something very bold indeed!
She does exactly what Jesus told the Twelve Disciples NOT to do in today’s gospel when he strictly ordered them: not to say to anyone that he was the Christ.
But the church keeps it no secret, instead she publicly preaches, teaches and reaches out to all who will hear that: Jesus is indeed the Christ; the Beautiful Savior who makes his Church beautiful with the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Amen.