Tobias Caskey – Preaching
As it is an honor again to preach here at Westminster by the Sea to celebrate this beautiful day the Lord has made; the 24th Sunday in normal time; the 17th Sunday after Pentecost; we also celebrate Theological Education Sunday. While I was at Dubuque Seminary just recently for the well-defined Intensives, which consisted of classes from eight in the morning till six at night for two weeks; I was told of a beautiful definition of Theology and how Theology seems to fit in the sermon today and all that we are really. Meriam Webster defines Theology as “The study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially: the study of God and of God’s relationship to the world.” Our Professor defined Theology as what all of us are and how we live in our faith and our lives in relationship to God. This seems to state that we live Theology; that we live out our theology everyday in our relationships; in our lives with and in God; that as we create history everyday’ we create our own theology; our own identity in God. Scottish theologian Richard of St. Victor (1110–1173) reflected this early theology. He taught at great length that:
for God to be truth, God has to be one:
for God to be love, God has to be two;
and for God to be joy, God has to be three!
As we look at the scripture today we see a purpose; a purpose of what we are called to be; in this glorious action of the Christ; and how that action is to be acted out in all our affairs. This is the greatness of God; Jesus shows us how to live that we may live for and in God. The story of the scripture today takes place in the village of Caesarea Philippi which would be what is now in modern day Syria. Outside Galilee in the territory of Phillip it had quit an amazing history; In the oldest of its history it was a center of Baal worship known Balinas. The word Banias, a form of the word Panias is what the town is called to this day because of a cavern up on the hillside that was said to be the birth place of the Greek god Pan, the god of nature. It is thoroughly amazing and quite a beautiful reality;
that Peter saw; in a homeless Galilean; a Galilean Carpenter;
where the remnants of Baal; The ancient religion of Palestine;
the God’s of classical Greece; as no doubt the pipes of Pan could still be heard lingering; still lingering in the air;
that Peter saw the son of God. that the presence of the one true God would bring himself to light in such a distorted place; as God always seems to be there for us in the distorted places.
A wandering Teacher of Nazareth; a teacher headed for the cross; the Son of God.
Jesus went on with his disciples to the village of Caesarea Phillipi and on the way, he asks his disciples “Who do people say I am? And they answered him “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others one of the Prophets.”
The place where this text lies, in the center of the gospel of Mark and the relevance; it has in laying down the truth of Who and what Jesus is, is the end of wandering; wandering who this man is for the disciples; who this man is for us. Jesus’ reality of who he is, as Peter states:
“you are the Christ,”
This statement of enlightenment shifts the theological focus of the scripture to what it means for Jesus to be the Christ and what it means for his followers to be Christian; what it means for us to be Christian and what it means for Jesus to be the Christ.
“Who do you say I am” “You are the Christ”
My studies in Dubuque lead me to meet many people that were following the Christ; following the path that God layed out for them, living out their Theology; as I slowly realize throughout my life; as I see more and more the creation of God and all that God is; the beauty of what God does for us and through all of us on a daily basis; everyday; whether I want it to happen or not, the more I realize of the great intricacy of God; That as God is love; for definite as many of the miracles I have seen given for our creation, to our creation, I also see a deeper side of God that orchestrates the world; that as the day begins; as ignited in the book of Genesis; as the world ignites in sound and in color;
It’s living color; as it lives and breathes in every part of creation;
every part of our bodies; living breathing showing its theology of God.
Friedrich Bechner, a Presbyterian Minister says this about theology, he states; “THEOLOGY is the study of God and his ways. For all we know, dung beetles may study man and his ways and call it humanology. If so, we would probably be more touched and amused than irritated. One hopes that God feels likewise.” Beechner says this as an attempt as we all do; an attempt to try to understand; to explain; to put into words what and who God is. After all is that not what we thought theology was? To be able to explain who God is; what and why God does everything God does; why God is?
I was speaking with a man over the past week that made a comment; a comment that I had heard so many times before. He said that religions were made; that God was made for people to be able to explain why and where they came from; As I have heard this voice so many times in other parts of my studies; throughout my studies in history; throughout my life; this train of thought seems to come from many who have either been hurt in their relationships with the people of the Church;
or who have yet to find the truth of the Church in their hearts;
the reality of faith as it works in our worlds;
the truth of the living one in three; three in one; I asked the man after he had explained all of his ideas that in all true reality; what makes you think you or people created God? That in our simple self-centered realities of not even being able to explain what keeps our hearts beating; that we could orchestrate anything as beautiful as this world; as beautiful as all of you are; creations of God; as serene and gracious as the dance of life we lead; the living grace of God the Christ. In the same manner as the Dung beetle watches us in our humanology; we are to be the witness of the loving action of the three in one and the one in three;
Witnesses in this giant living; loving; intricate action of God. As we don’t even know in the beginning of our lives how to tie our shoes, that we could come up; dare I say make up; such an intricate reality of love; to explain anything of this world and why we are who we are. We don’t know.
As Jesus is our verification; a third of the reason why we claim this Christian faith; he shows us in the scripture what it is we are here to do. As we look further in to the scripture, we see our purpose and our message. “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 lives will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.”
Right before this we hear the words,“get behind me Satan” after Peter try’s to rebuke Jesus, this is not because of who Jesus is to Peter but rather that Jesus was tempted as we are in the positions we play in life; that we as God’s anointed can avoid suffering; that we are safe from the slings and arrows of life; As Lamar Johnson says it “ That God’s rule means power without pain; glory without humiliation; this is Peters way of human thinking. Jesus shows him of his error and deadly ways as he is quick to remind, but also quick to remember as we should also remember and live this practice, that we are not saved from pain; that as we are apart of the living action of the Christ that life happens; that things will happen to us; that we are not untouchable through the grace of God, but saved by God’s grace; that as well as telling others of what we see in them we should be weary of acting them out in our own lives. That also as he say’s this historical statement to Peter in his rebuke the words “behind me” and “after me” are identical in Greek translation. That Disciples are to follow Jesus, not protect; guide or possess Jesus.
This sounds harsh at first and might even seem somewhat wrongly spoken that we are not to protect, to guide or to possess Jesus. We should and are called to possess Jesus in our hearts for sure as we are told in Revelation 3: 20 as I read it out of the New Revised Standard Version;
20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.
This is the great reality that if we take God into our hearts that God will live with in us and show us the true unending unceasing pure love that God is; that we can; if we try; as we only have to try with the faith of a mustard seed to be that love to all of creation as God loves all of creation all of us. What Jesus is saying as he speaks to Peter and to all of us is;
that it is not us who orchestrates the world;
That it is not us who calls the shots in this creation of loving living grace given to us
That it is the one and three and the three in one; that did; does; and will do all things;
The three in one stands alone; we did not make them; they made and make us daily. That as much as we think we are the mission of God; that as we act out our lives in this greatness of God’s creation; as we are called in this text to do exactly that; that we do; only because they are. Only because God is; This is easy to know but it is hard to live;
We do not stand alone as we live in the Christ standing with all of God’s creation together.
How quick we are to forget the Lord even in small areas of our lives. But let us remember that as our god is a loving God, that we only have to try our best to live out these ideas.
As Jesus says to the disciples and to us in these last words in the scripture today, the text changes from what being Christ means; to what being a disciple means.
Jesus says as he called the crowds and his Disciples “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 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,[b] will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words[c] 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.”
This is the two ideas brought together; to deny oneself in the reality of God is for us not to live out some rigid denial of asceticism but just to admit that God is God and that we are not. To let God be God;
Not to read the word of God and change it for ourselves but to let God’s word change us;
To let God; the one in three and the three in one show us the path;
That we live in God as god lives in us. “A Person can never possess their own Life.”
St. Gregory of Nazianzus emphasized that deification does not mean we become God, but that we do objectively participate in God’s nature. We are created to share in the life-flow of the Trinity. As Jesus states in the book of John, John 14:3 “so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:3). That as we have been given this gift freely; it is only because of God we are, and we have it; but in that same manner we are invited and called to live this life with God; apart of God; apart of the world; as almost to be seen as the fourth part of the trinity;
To live out God’s love in all we do; to see the miraculous splendor of God’s creation;
to be the miraculous loving splendor of God’s creation;
A part of as apart from.
This could almost be seen as us living a full participation in life; living life; loving life; participating in the Christ; being alive; feeling living; loving as God does and always will. We are invited to be; to be a living part of all of creation; as Jesus says to you “who do you think I am” answer back from the top of your lungs “you are the Christ” let us find God in all of creation; let us live in the Holy Spirit; the Christ; let us be the action of Jesus as Jesus dies for us. And all the people said Amen