Isaiah 51:1-6, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20

“Voices”

P   Our friends, Munchie the Chipmunk and Beaky the Bird are joining us today. 

B  Hello!

M  Um… hi…

P   Are you okay, Munchie?

M  I’m a little nervous…

B  What are you nervous about?

M  They can SEE me…

B  So what? They could always see you.

M  Yeah, maybe, but I couldn’t see them!

B  Oh… okay…

P   You’re not alone, Munchie, in getting nervous in front of others.  Many people are okay visiting with friends, or one-on-one with just about anybody, but put them in front of a larger group of people, and they prefer to stay quiet.

B  What’s wrong with them?

P   Wrong with them?  Nothing. Some people communicate more quietly than others.

M  And SOME are just LOUDER!

B  I LIKE being LOUD!

M  We know, right?

P   Yes, some people like being louder, and there’s a whole lot of variety in between.

M  Sometimes people can’t hear me, and I HAVE to talk louder.

B  What did you say?

M  I said, Sometimes people can’t hear me, and I have to talk louder!

B  Sorry, didn’t catch that… Tee Hee…

P   I think Beaky’s playing with you.

M  Ha.  Ha.

B  You shouldn’t have said anything.  I was wondering how loud Munchie could get…

M  Peter wasn’t nervous.  Peter just came right out with Jesus being the Messiah.

P   Yes, he came right out with it, this time.

B  But not always?

P   No.  And sometimes, when he was wrong, he takes Jesus aside, almost like he tried to hide it in more private conversations.

M  Is that because he knew he was wrong?

P   I don’t think so.  I think it’s more that when he was right, it was the Spirit of God inspiring him in a way that couldn’t really be controlled.

B  So calling Jesus the Messiah was the Spirit speaking?

P   Could be! And Jesus says something like that when he says to Simon Peter that Simon had been blessed, and that he really didn’t come up with that revelation on his own.

M  Do revelations ever come to the quiet ones?

P   Often.

B  Yeah, actually, I sometimes learn from you, Munchie.

M  Thanks. It works both ways…

B  Thank you.

P   Yes, it does, and sometimes, the quiet ones need to learn how to speak up, because bad things can keep on happening if no one says anything, and the loud ones need to be careful not to drown out the softer voices, because the loud ones aren’t the only ones with good things to say.

M  You’re saying that God can use everyone!

B  And you didn’t really say it, but everyone needs God!

P   You’re both right.  Let’s pray.

B  I’ll do it! Dear God, help me to use my loudness for good things, and help me to hear the quieter voices, too.  Lead us and guide us so that your good news spreads throughout the land.  Amen!

All Amen.

“Foundations of Faith”

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

There are people in this world who believe that in ancient times, people (or beings) from other planets visited this one, and used their superior technology to accomplish feats that many believe would have been impossible at the time on this world.  Others are appalled at the thought that any such creatures could even exist, let alone have visited this planet.

Some people believe the earth is flat and cannot fathom why others believe this planet to be a sphere.

Some believe the moon landing was a hoax.

I hesitate even to mention the wars that take place over stories of creation…

Why do I raise these issues today?  I raise them as a way to try to explore how belief works, and why we find people so adamantly opposed to one another on things that people on both sides believe to be foundational, inviolable, true and unarguable.

Let’s be honest:  People argue about many things. 

We argue about wearing masks, because some believe it mitigates the transmission of the Coronavirus, and others believe that masks do no good, or even if they do, that people ought to be able to choose for themselves whether they wear them.

We argue about the virus itself, whether it’s real, or whether the proclaimed danger is primarily hype. 

I remember a horror story I saw a long, long time ago which depicted the souls of an entire village of people native to a community that had been captured onto the film of a camera wielded by an unscrupulous unbelieving photographer.  The tale in my memory is nebulous, but I seem to recall really scary things happened as those souls strove to escape their captivity.  It was all based on a belief that images captured on film contained the souls of those who’d been photographed.

Why do we believe what we believe?

Some people who are raised in the faith of Jesus Christ find themselves at some points challenged to prove their allegiance. Maybe someone scoffs, and demands a scientific explanation on why we believe what we proclaim, and such explanation evades us.

Or, something so bad happens, we’re unable to justify what we’ve always claimed.

Maybe others who claim the same faith are discovered to have behaved poorly, maybe even claiming that poor behavior to be applauded by God…

So how is our faith sustained, when assaults of all kinds rise up against us?

When Peter spewed forth that famous proclamation of faith, “You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God,” Jesus didn’t say, “Great job, Simon, you have earned yourself the top score, because not only did you figure it all out, you were also brave enough to say it in front of everyone else, even though the Scribes and Pharisees would label you blasphemous for saying so.”

No.  Instead Jesus says, “What a wonderful gift you have received, Simon!  In honor of this gift, we’re going to tie this to your extra name.  We call you Peter, petra, which means ‘rock,’ because this gift is the rock solid foundation of faith.  Remember this.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to hold fast.  Sometimes we even find ourselves walking away, returning only when something either pulls at us or shoves us back into fold. Why?  Why do we believe what we believe?

How many of you had to memorize Luther’s Small Catechism at some point in the past?  When we get to the article of the Apostles’ Creed which addresses the Holy Spirit specifically, Luther says something very similar to what Jesus says to Peter in today’s reading.  We cannot create faith in ourselves by scientific or philosophical proof.  Faith is created when the Holy Spirit calls us, inspires us, enlightens us, and gathers us.  Blessed are you, because God has gifted you with faith, and what God has given can never be destroyed. 

This faith, this foundation can, however, be nourished, as you look to the quarry from which you were hewn, as you practice the gifts of the spirit, of generous love toward God and neighbor.  Celebrate the call of God’s Spirit, and trust in God’s gifts of forgiveness, inspiration, and joy—in the truth we cannot prove scientifically, that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the living God, and calls us to live as Christ in today’s world.

How do we best express God’s love?  However we do that, we do so in Jesus’ name. Amen