Welcome to LSTC
The following sermon was preached by Terry Baeder, Director of Field Education, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Sunday, August 24, 2008.
Matthew 16: 13-20
When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They responded, "Some say John the Baptist, ...others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, the Rock, ...and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. 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." Then he firmly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Welcome to LSTC. But, saying that begs a question -- why are we here?
We've heard the word "journey" this morning a lot - and "transition" ...and "transformation."
In fact, they are good metaphors for this process we are about to engage in.
I remember my first day at seminary-a long time ago: It was a time of transition for me.
There were things I had to leave behind: family, friends,
the woman who would become my wife, ... all my security blankets;
there was an element of loss.
But... I was also excited about my journey.
It felt like I was allowing my whole self, my body, mind and my spirit -
to be challenged, ...to grow.
Each of you has traveled a long way - geographically, ...emotionally, ... spiritually.
How many of you have thought - today I begin to create a new me?
And ...you have come to this place-- LSTC. Story about the first week here and
dinner with some of the international students -
ended the evening singing ----- in 5 different languages.
Some are here because LSTC represents an urban, international community
where we will be exposed to, excited by, and challenged by...
a multiplex, moving montage of culture, ...spirituality and ...community.
I'm Glad that you have chosen LSTC for your "journey."
For this time for each of us to take stock of our ...selves,
to grow, stretch, reshape and re-mold myself.
It is, in fact, ...a "Baptismal moment:" Luther said,
each morning I splash water in my face to remind myself of my baptism,
and say, "I am a child of God - the old self has passed away/
new "me" is born today.
...Journey ...transformation! Welcome to LSTC!
Today's Gospel is full of that kind of journeying, ...transforming ... Baptismal language.
And... interestingly enough, the "journey" begins with a unique location.
Much like coming to LSTC, the disciples are entering the district of Caesarea Philippi,
about 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. An interesting spot:
it had morphed from a Canaanite site for the worship of Baal,
into a fabulous temple for the Greek god Pan.
Then Herod the Great turned it into a temple to Caesar Augustus,
and later Herod's son Philip enlarged the town
and dedicate it to Caesar and himself.
Caesarea Philippi ...an urban, international community.
And it is important, at least to Matthew, that Peter calls Jesus "the Messiah"
...in the shadow of a Roman temple,
...amid a multiplex, moving montage of culture & spirituality;
... in a place that was overrun by ..."Messiahs," like Caesar and Phillip!
In the shadow of the Roman temple, ...Jesus asks his followers, ...
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
And you can see the disciples looking around nervously,
Man, we don't wanting to attract the attention of a Roman soldier.
Can you hear their tentative answer? "Some say John the Baptist,
others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
They can't arrest me for saying what other people say, can they?"
But Jesus doesn't let them off the hook:
"So... who do you say that I am?"
Peter calls Jesus "Messiah," ...a bold, daring confession.
The Messiah is the "anointed one, ...the long-awaited king
who will come to save his people from oppression.
See: Peter's confession is not... polite church talk - it's a courageous political statement.
Each one of us is here, ...because, on some level, ...we have made that kind of "bold confession"
We all have different stories, ...unique stories that brought us here.
Yet, woven into the fabric of each of our stories,
each of us... somehow ...moved by the Holy Spirit,
encouraged by family and friends,
fired up by the incredible challenges God has laid in front of us,
... each of us has acknowledged, "you are the Christ,
the Son ...of the God ... in whom we live and move and have our being!"
And... Each one of us has chosen to come to this place, LSTC,
Because... this is the place where God will challenge us.
Hyde Park, ...Chicago, ...this urban, international community,
LSTC, where we will be exposed to, excited by, ...challenged by
a multiplex, moving montage of culture, spirituality and community.
Now... Jesus must have been really excited by what Peter said.
"You ARE the Man, Peter! You are "the Rock" ...and on this rock I will build my church,
...and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it!"
Peter's confession: ...the foundation stone on which he will build the new Christian community.
Each of our confessions now become the "living stones"
that continue to build God's Kingdom.
But... (heh )...notice what happens to Peter.
It's not in our text, but it is the "rest of the story."
Jesus is so excited by Peter's confession,
that he begins to share with us what it means to be the Messiah.
But Jesus' explanation about suffering and death ...is NOT what Peter expected;
it's not what he wanted to hear.
Welcome to LSTC! Sometime our dreams, ...our hopes, ...our..." confessions"
take us to a place that feels strange, ...uncomfortable ...vulnerable.
We may even be confronted about how our actions or our words
are destructive of God's Kingdom.
Here is the reality - It's not easy being green!
It's not easy being a child of God.
Baptism is a burial. Living out our faith is tough, ...treacherous, ...tedious.
We may start over each day, ...but each day will bring new challenges.
- We will struggle to live together in community ...with roommates and classmate,
...with a broadly diverse community where each of us is unique;
and we will struggle to understand that "community"
in a world where it is easy for each of us to feel marginalized!
- Welcome to LSTC ...where we will test the language of community
... in a world that is driven by self-interest;
we will be challenged to understand forgiveness, ...in a culture that cherishes retaliation.
- Welcome to LSTC ...where we will work hard at compassion, at respecting and honoring each other,
trying to show each other dignity and encouragement,
when it would be so much easier to fall back into judgment and gossip
- Welcome to LSTC ...where we will be called (heh)...to worship and praise,
but we will be tempted instead ...to criticize and complain.
Welcome to LSTC: an urban, international community
where we will be exposed to, excited by, and challenged by
a multiplex,... moving montage of culture, ...spirituality and ...community.
Welcome to LSTC: where sometime our dreams, ...our hopes,(heh) ...our confessions
take us to a place that feels strange, ...uncomfortable, ...even vulnerable.
Welcome to LSTC: where ...moved by God's Spirit,
renewed daily by the splash of Baptismal hope,
resurrected daily the snap of broken bread and the splash of wine,
we dare to be community, ...the body of Christ.
Welcome... to LSTC.
Now may the peace and power of God, ...which is beyond our human understanding,
set us free ...to be the daughters and sons of God!